“The lack of buyers is sobering evidence that Canada’s housing boom, which began in 2000 and bounced back to life after the financial crisis of 2008-09, is now over.
Nervousness about the outlook for house prices, and the effect on the economy if they slump, is casting a pall over the last few months in office of Mark Carney, the Bank of Canada governor who will take over at the Bank of England on July 1.
Mr Carney, who will appear to face questions before the British parliament for the first time on Thursday, was courted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s government partly on the strength of Canada’s relatively strong performance compared with other large economies. Just as he is leaving, the shine is coming off that record.
Worries about Canada’s house prices and rising consumer debt prompted Moody’s, the rating agency, to cut the credit ratings of six of the largest Canadian banks last month.
Mr Carney deserves neither all the credit for Canada’s successes nor all the blame for its failures. The economy has been driven by forces beyond his control, particularly events in the US, and he has shared economic management with ministers and government agencies. The biggest changes in the housing market last year were the government’s moves to cut back the availability of mortgage insurance provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a state-owned company.
Nevertheless, it was the decisions by the Bank of Canada under Mr Carney’s leadership to cut interest rates during the crisis and hold them down subsequently that enabled a surge in household debt and house prices. While American consumers were running down their debts, Canadians were adding to theirs, so that by the end of last year household debt was 165 per cent of income, in the same territory as the peak in the US at the start of the crisis.
House prices, meanwhile, rose 23 per cent in the three years to April 2012.”
– from ‘Canada housing cloud cast over Carney’, Financial Times, 6 Feb 2013
Yes, Canada’s housing boom is over.
The Financial Times makes the same observations about Mark Carney’s tenure that we discussed here (VREAA 26 Nov 2012) when his move to the Bank of England was first announced.