Tag Archives: Economy

‘Canada’s moment as an economic standout is over.’

“Canadian employers created barely any jobs in July, surprising forecasters and reinforcing the Bank of Canada’s decision to keep interest rates low.
Statistics Canada’s monthly tally of hiring and firing produced a net gain of 200 positions last month, as a 60,000 increase in part-time jobs marginally outweighed a 59,700 plunge in full-time positions. …
“There is little job growth in Canada and the degree of slack in the labour market remains elevated,” David Watt, chief economist at HSBC’s Canadian unit, advised clients in a note.
Canada’s moment as a standout among the world’s richer economies is over. The country weathered the financial crisis relatively well and gross domestic product and employment rebounded to pre-recession levels faster than most of its peers. Economic growth now is coming much harder. For the better part of the year, Canada has tended to follow monthly gains in hiring with offsetting declines in the weeks that follow. …
The labour participation rate, which measures the percentage of the population either working or seeking work, dropped to 65.9 per cent, the lowest since October 2001. Employment in goods-producing industries has shrunk by 56,000 positions this year, reducing the headcount to its lowest since January 2012, according National Bank Financial. …
Canada’s economy is need of a jolt that just isn’t coming.
The Bank of Canada has signaled its readiness to leave its benchmark lending rate unchanged at 1 per cent for a considerable period, yet it is wary of cutting borrowing costs because that could prompt highly indebted households to take on more credit.”

– from ‘Surprisingly negative jobs report supports low-rate stance’, G&M, 8 Aug 2014

Canada’s housing price bubble has been the result of 12+ years of too-cheap money rather than growth in real economic fundamentals. At some point prices will reconcile with fundamentals. – vreaa

‘The Extra Breadwinner In The Family’ – ‘Does your house make more than you?’

Another nation, but just as relevant (and equally unsustainable) here in Vancouver. – vreaa
[Remember the Vancouver dentist who reportedly said that he "made more on the sale of that house than he made in his entire career"? (VREAA, 21 Aug 2011)]

“With house prices growing faster than incomes in many parts of the UK, is your house making more money than you do?
Thanks to an extra breadwinner in the family, Rebecca Fletcher, her husband and two daughters are living the good life in a rural cottage deep in the Hampshire countryside.
The extra breadwinner is their old family home – a three-bedroom, terraced house in south-west London which Mrs Fletcher, a primary school teacher, and her husband, a London solicitor, bought in 2007.
They paid £450,000 – right at the top of the house price boom of the last decade.
When house prices fell after the 2008 banking bust, they feared financial disaster.
“We thought, ‘Are we ever going to be able to move out of this house – are we ever going to recoup the money we’ve spent on it?'” says Mrs Fletcher.
Their fears proved unfounded.
In 2009, prices in south-west London started rising, and went on rising. By the time they sold their former home last August, the price was £655,000.
According to calculations done for the BBC by Lloyds Bank, in the 12 months before the sale, Mrs Fletcher’s London home had increased in price by about £100,000 – more than she and her husband’s earnings put together.”
– from ‘Does your house make more than you?’, Michael Robinson, BBC, 1 Aug 2014

‘Extreme Speculation’ – “The problem is that the diversion of resources into investments that are only justified by the stream of new money and artificially low interest rates will destroy wealth at the same time as it is boosting activity.”

The Vancouver RE market can only be understood as part of a global phenomenon of too-cheap money encouraging ‘extreme speculation’. -vreaa

“When the central bank pumps money into the economy and suppresses interest rates it creates incentives to speculate and invest in ways that would not otherwise be viable. At a superficial level the central bank’s strategy will often seem valid, because the increased speculating and investing prompted by the monetary stimulus will temporarily boost economic activity and could lead to lower unemployment. The problem is that the diversion of resources into projects and other investments that are only justified by the stream of new money and artificially low interest rates will destroy wealth at the same time as it is boosting activity. In effect, the central bank’s efforts cause the economy to feast on its seed corn, temporarily creating full bellies while setting the stage for severe hunger in the future.
We witnessed a classic example of the above-described phenomenon during 2001-2009, when aggressive monetary stimulus introduced by the US Federal Reserve to mitigate the fallout from the bursting of the NASDAQ bubble and “911” led to booms in US real estate and real-estate-related industries/investments. For a few years, the massive diversion of resources into real-estate projects and debt created the outward appearance of a strong economy, but a reduction in the rate of money-pumping eventually exposed the wastage and left millions of people unemployed or under-employed. The point is that the collapse of 2007-2009 would never have happened if the Fed hadn’t subjected the economy to a flood of new money and artificially-low interest rates during 2001-2005.”
– from ‘Setting the stage for the next collapse’, Steve Saville, The Speculative Investor, 22 July 2014

“Yellen will not use interest rates to head off or curtail any asset bubbles encouraged by the extremely low rates that might appear. And history is clear: very low rates absolutely will encourage extreme speculation. But Yellen will, as Greenspan and Bernanke before her, attempt to limit only the damage any breaking bubbles might cause. … I had thought that central bankers by now, after so much unnecessary pain, might have begun to compromise on this matter, but no such luck… The evidence against this policy after two of the handful of the most painful burst bubbles in history is impressive. But not nearly as impressive as the unwillingness of academics to back off from closely held theories in the face of mere evidence.”
– from Jeremy Grantham’s latest newsletter, GMO Q2 2014

“What’s the worst that can happen? You can’t pay your mortgage, so sell your house! No fear.”

Hannah Sung, Globe&Mail: “According to the numbers Canadian’s are carrying more debt than ever; which seems like a worrisome place to be. So I decided to ask people: ‘What is your biggest financial fear?’.”

Man1: “That’d be my mortgage. Actually, I just lost my job, about a month ago. Believe me I’m really happy about it; I can go back to school. I really don’t want the fear to come in front of me. What’s the worst that can happen? You can’t pay your mortgage, so sell your home! No fear.”

Hannah Sung: “‘What is your biggest financial fear?’.”

Woman: “The stereotyped idea of graduating and living in your parent’s basement.”

Hannah Sung: “What is the best way to manage the stress of being in debt?”

Man2: [looking concerned] “Try to think positive. I just had a job interview.”

- from ‘The fears that grip Canadians as debts rise, housing prices fall and incomes stall’, Globe and Mail video, 9 Mar 2013

Housing Makes Up 20% Of Canadian GDP – “This heavy reliance is not healthy. We basically borrowed our way out of this recession. Now, it’s payback time.”

“If the city is any indication of what’s going on in the country, it’s over-reliant on its housing sector.” – Herbert Crockett, a retired World Health Organization executive who lives in France says of Toronto.

“We basically borrowed our way out of this recession. Now, it’s payback time. We will be in for a period of long, slow growth.” – Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at the investment-banking unit of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

“It did seem a little unusual to have every policy maker in Ottawa hectoring Canadians about their excessive debt levels and yet the economic incentive for the average Canadian was completely slanted to taking on debt and not saving. The realist in me would admit it was the only tool the Bank of Canada had. The reality was, they really could not lift interest rates.” – Douglas Porter, chief economist at Bank of Montreal.

“As an economist working for a Canadian bank, I can’t go into a client meeting and have someone not ask me about housing in Canada. For U.S. investors, they are still a little gun-shy about what happened in the U.S., and I think they worry the same fate will happen to Canada.” – Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets LLC, Royal Bank of Canada’s investment-banking unit, in New York.

Meantime, the share of GDP linked to housing, including construction and renovation, soared to more than 20 percent. A similar U.S. measure peaked at 18 percent in 2005. Canada’s share of construction jobs in total employment was 7.3 percent in January, above the 4.3 percent in the U.S.
“This heavy reliance is not healthy,” CIBC’s Tal says. “I expect to see some softening.”

- excerpts from ‘Canada Losing Debt Halo as Bull Market Housing Peaks With Carney’, Bloomberg, 26 Feb 2013 [hat-tip Nemesis]

As we have been saying here for years.
What percentage of Vancouver’s GDP is linked to housing?
– vreaa

High Paid Vancouver Workers Choosing To Live In The U.S. – “The cost of housing is four to five times what they are accustomed to; He did not want to move because he can have his $400,000 mansion in the U.S., versus getting a little home for $1-million in Vancouver; There are other really pretty places out there.”

Eric Murray is chief executive officer of growing clean-tech company Tantalus Systems, based in Burnaby, B.C. Mr. Murray, however, lives in Raleigh, N.C., where he owns a 3,500-square-foot house and puts his three kids through private school.

He is a Canadian, with several family members in Vancouver. But when his career trajectory sent him to Raleigh, he decided to stay put. Mr. Murray is one of a growing number of workers in the Lower Mainland who live in the U.S. You could call them cross-border jobbers.

“My father’s entire family is in Vancouver, so for our relationship, it would be great if I lived there,” he says in a phone interview. “But for me to pick up and move from Raleigh, where I have a fully wooded lot, and a very nice home, and I can send my kids to private school, this sort of stuff – to do that in Vancouver, I just can’t swing it economically. When we looked at this whole thing, we knew we would have to compromise on housing.

“Absolutely, I would live in Vancouver if I could afford it.”

Technology is the third-largest contributor to B.C.’s gross domestic product, says Bill Tam, president of the B.C. Technology Industry Association. He says there is demand for about 4,000 more employees in the industry, and the majority of qualified people come from the U.S.

“Especially in the Vancouver area, technology has been one of the faster growing industries,” he says. “So when companies have had to expand and recruit managers to come here from the U.S., some have relocated to places like Blaine, Wash., close enough to commute on a daily basis. That’s the level of creativity they’ve had to resort to.”

Others, he says, fly in from more distant U.S. locations, like Mr. Murray. Mr. Murray used to fly into Vancouver every other week. These days, he’s flying in every third week.

“When they come across and recognize the cost of housing is four to five times what they are accustomed to, they end up being commuters,” says Mr. Tam.

Sierra Wireless CEO Jason Cohenour, who was travelling and couldn’t be reached for comment, works in Burnaby and lives in the U.S. Tom Ligocki, CEO of Richmond-based Clevest, says he has several employees who live in a golf course community at Semiahmoo Resort, near Blaine. One of his engineers, Jeremy Westbrook, commutes from his home near Blaine to work in Richmond. It takes them about 30 to 40 minutes to make the drive.

“None of the folks in the U.S. want to move to Vancouver,” he says. “The simple example that I heard from one gentleman is that he did not want to move because he can have his $400,000 mansion in the U.S., versus getting a little home for $1-million in Vancouver.” …

“There’s no point in even talking about the Vancouver market. We are just talking to them about directly moving to the Semiahmoo resort,” he says, on the phone from a conference in New Orleans. “If you can’t bring them to Vancouver, that’s the only option we have.

“And they do certainly make very good wages,” he adds. “These are high-end experts that we are hiring.

“But all these folks are used to living in a house. They are used to American comforts, and they are well paid, and they can afford to have a nice luxury home wherever in the U.S.”

“I get into this discussion all the time with guys. Vancouver is great. The mountains and ocean are super. I get that. I would love to live there. I have a lot of family there. But I don’t see how the economics would work for a young person trying to do both of those things, unless they had a similar opportunity in another really pretty place.

“And I have been in a bunch of different countries and there are other really pretty places out there.”

- from ‘Some Vancouver workers have been priced right out of the country’, Kerry Gold, Globe and Mail, 22 Feb 2013 [hat-tip Aldus Huxtable]

Smart business people know: Vancouver RE is woefully overpriced.
– vreaa

“My friends who are westside realtors are cutting spending budgets and dipping into savings now to keep things going.”

“My conversations with friends who are westside realtors over the past few months (I know a few – hey everyone wanted to be a RE agent for a while, it seems) [reveal that things] are not good (for them). Telling me they are cutting spending budgets and dipping into savings now to keep things going.”
Girlbear at VCI 11 Feb 2013 2:51pm