(The Canadian Press)

Bank of Canada holds rate, forecasts decline in GDP of 7.8% this year

The report pegs the annual inflation rate at 0.6 per cent this year

The Bank of Canada is holding its key interest rate at 0.25 per cent in response to what it calls the “extremely uncertain” economic outlook from the COVID-19 pandemic, and plans to keep it there until the picture improves.

In its updated outlook, the bank said Wednesday it expects the economy to contract by 7.8 per cent this year, driven downward by a year-over-year contraction of 14.6 per cent in the second quarter.

The report pegs the annual inflation rate at 0.6 per cent this year, rising to 1.2 per cent in 2021 and 1.7 per cent in 2022.

Its inflation target is 2 per cent, and the bank said in its policy statement it will maintain the current rate until that target is achieved.

The rate will have to stay low to provide “extraordinary monetary policy support” to help recuperate from the economic impact of COVID-19, it said.

The forecasts included in the Bank of Canada’s monetary policy report also come with a caution that the numbers could be thrown off.

The bank’s outlook is based on the assumption that there won’t be a broad-based second wave of the pandemic, that lockdowns will be gradually lifted, and the pandemic will have run its course by mid-2022 thanks to a vaccine or effective treatment.

The monetary policy report said there isn’t enough information to forecast how deep the economic scarring will be from business closures or widespread job losses.

It’s also unclear how quickly consumer demand will recover through changes in spending habits, work patterns and social behaviour, the report said.

Still, the central bank said it appears the country has avoided a worst-case scenario envisioned by the bank in its last report in April.

The central bank’s key interest rate has been at 0.25 per cent since March when it was rapidly dropped in response to the economic fallout from COVID-19.

Governor Tiff Macklem has seemingly ruled out any further drops and has said that the central bank doesn’t plan to raise the rate until well into an economic recovery.

The Bank of Canada’s June interest rate announcement came on Macklem’s first day on the job as the country’s top central banker. Though he was only observer during the June round of deliberations by the bank’s governing council, he endorsed the decision to keep the rate on hold.

The report Wednesday said growth will pick up beginning in this quarter, the third of the year, with the country recouping about 40 per cent of the drop in output from the first half of 2020.

Much of that will be driven by the reopening of businesses and partial rebound in spending, the bank says.

But after an initial, quick bounceback, Canada will enter what the bank calls a “recuperation phase” where the pace of recovery will slow.

“As reopening progresses, many people will probably continue to fear contracting the virus, and uncertainty about job security is likely to persist,” the report said.

“Both consumer and business confidence are therefore expected to remain subdued, restraining spending and employment, particularly in activities that involve in-person interaction.”

The bank said the pandemic will continue to affect consumer and business confidence during this phase amid widespread changes in the economy, including the energy sector where low prices and reduced demand have put production well below its pre-pandemic path.

As well, the shock facing the oil sector has “renewed questions about the likelihood of pipelines being developed,” the report said.

Some lower-income workers, disproportionately affected by job losses or cuts in earnings, “will face prolonged income losses” and push more households to the financial brink, the bank warns.

While higher income households may have excess savings to spend during this phase, some households will prioritize paying down debts, or padding rainy-day funds due to the uncertain economic environment, the report said.

Heavy discounts on unwanted inventory and smaller-than-planned price increases for firms will also act as a drag on inflation, which the bank expects to remain weak before gradually getting back to its two per cent target.

Housing activity is also expected to slow over the next few years with the ripple effects of the downturn, and lower immigration, the report said.

The central bank said it will provide a more detailed analysis of its long-run assumptions for the domestic economy when it updates it outlook in October.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Canadian distillers petition government to lower excise tax rate

Distilleries, like Kimberley’s Bohemian Spirits, wish to see excise rate match United States’

RDEK lends support to group seeking a weir on Lake Koocanusa

Regional district to send a letter to province, feds supporting local concerns over reservoir water levels

Smoky skies bulletin issued for Kimberley, Cranbrook

The area is likely to be impacted by wildfire smoke over the next 24 to 48 hours: Interior Health

Kootenay Savings donates to regional health care initiatives

Kootenay Savings has donated $20,000 to health care efforts amid the COVID-19… Continue reading

Local shares his story of life and death on the St. Mary River

Aric Keane hopes sharing his story will show that even with experience, the river can be dangerous

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Conservation seizes fawn illegally kept captive in Vancouver Island home

A Comox Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read