Canada Crisis: Second Rate-Cut Of The Year

On July 15 (Wednesday), Canada’s central bank AKA Bank of Canada (BoC) cut overnight rate by 25 basis points (bps) from 0.75% to 50%. This is the second rate-cut this year. First rate-cut took place in January. Not only rate-cut, but lower growth forecasts.

BoC expects Gross Domestic Product growth to be 1.1% year-over-year (Y/Y) this year, down from its 1.9% forecast in April. Policy makers said that Gross domestic product probably “contracted modestly” in the first half. However, they did not call it recession. ‘‘The lower outlook for Canadian growth has increased the downside risks to inflation,’’ policy makers said.

Bank also reduced the net exports contribution to GDP by 0.8% to 0.6% from 1.4%. A stronger U.S. economy and a weaker Canadian dollar should contribute to higher export growth.

Bank of Canada's July Forecasts. Source.
Bank of Canada’s July Forecasts (Page 14). Source.

There has been a big shift in the inflation tone over the past few months:

April: “Risks to the outlook for inflation are now roughly balanced”

May: “the Bank’s assessment of risks to the inflation profile has not materially changed”

This time (July): “The lower outlook for Canadian growth has increased the downside risks to inflation”

“The Bank anticipates that the economy will return to full capacity and inflation to 2 per cent on a sustained basis in the first half of 2017.” In the April’s forecasts, the bank expected the economy to return to full capacity at the end of 2016. I can tell that the Bank is running scared.

Damages from low oil prices has been extensive.  Canada is the world’s fifth-largest oil producer and lower oil prices will definitely not help the economy. The damages from lower oil prices shrank the economy in the first half of the year.

Recently after Iran deal has been reached, oil prices fell sharply. It’s currently trading around $48. If the the deal is finalized, it won’t be very good for Canada economy since Iran might want to double its oil production, leading to much lower oil prices.

The bank also said “Additional monetary stimulus is required at this time to help return the economy to full capacity and inflation sustainably to target.” If conditions get worse, they will cut rates again.

Oil is not the only problem for Canada. Other concerns are potential bubbles in housing and consumer debt.

According to BoC’s Monetary Policy Report (June), “the vulnerability associated with household indebtedness remains important and is expected to edge higher in the near term in response to the ongoing negative impact on incomes from the sharp decline in oil prices and a projected increase in the level of household debt.” (Page 30).

Over the past few years, housing prices in Canada have skyrocketed. Lower borrowing costs will just add fuel to the fire (DEBT + HIGH PRICES IN HOUSING MARKET WITH LOW INTEREST RATES = NOT A GOOD COMBINATION) . There just might be a bubble in the housing market. But, BoC does not think so.

The next BoC meeting is on September 9th, about a week before the U.S. Federal Reserve meeting, the day that many believe lift-off from the zero interest rate policy will take place. CPI and non-farm payrolls data for July and August will decide whatever the Fed will hike or not.

Rate-cuts and plunging commodity prices, especially crude oil, has caused sell-off in Loonie. Ever since the first rate-cut of the year (January), Loonie (CAD) has weakened significantly. With strengthening dollar (USD), USD/CAD has skyrocketed. When looked at monthly chart, USD/CAD has developed ‘Cup and Handle’ formation. While this is a sign to short USD/CAD, I would be very careful because fundamentals for CAD are too weak. If I were to short it, I would put my stop above the resistance line (Bold Red line).

USD/CAD - Monthly
USD/CAD – Monthly


Liar’s Poker Player, Greece, Loses: Falling Further Through The Wreckage In Greece

Greece had a close call to exit from the 19-member euro-zone (Grexit) following months of uncertainty. Alex Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis were playing creditors for fools and bluffed too much. Now, they have lost “Liar’s Poker”.

Two weeks ago, more than 61% of Greeks rejected a deal in a referendum that included pensions overhauls and sales taxes. Then on Monday morning, Greece finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, resigned after Eurogroup participants called for his resign because his absence from its meetings. Before the vote, he said he would resign if Greeks voted “Yes”. He is replaced by Euclid Tsakalotos, who has been involved in talks with European and International Monetary Fund (IMF) creditors.

Then, Euro leaders said that July 12 (Sunday) would be “deal or no deal”.  Several days before July 12, Greece Prime Minister Alex Tsipras provided the same type of deal that Greek people voted “No” for, but with little bit tougher austerity. He broke his promise to Greek people.

Over the weekend (July 11-July 12), Euro leaders clashed over the deal. On July 13 morning (Monday), deal was reached. Euro-zone leaders agreed to give Greece three-year bailout up to EUR 86 billion ($93 billion) of aid which Tsipras accepted. This time, he absolutely broke his promise to Greek people.

The deal is much tougher and harsh, for Greece and its people, than the deals in the past few weeks. The deal also includes 30-year, euro-50-billion state privatisation programme. Half of the fund will be used to recapitalise Greek banks, while the remainder will used for debt servicing and other economic needs.

On late July 15 (Wednesday), the Greek parliament approved the deal. In 300-seat chamber, 229 voted to approve the deal and 64 were against it. There was 6 abstentions and 1 absent.

On the morning of July 16 (Thursday), after leaving rates unchanged, European Central Bank (ECB) President, Mario Draghi stated in the press conference that Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) would be increased by 900 million euros ($979 million) over a week. There were reports that Greece asked for $1.5 billion ELA assistance.

On the same day, the Eurogroup finance ministers agreed to the launch of bailout talks and approved 7.2 billion euros ($7.6 billion) in bridge loans for three months. It will allow the Greek government to pay off upcoming payments. On July 20 (Monday), Greece is due to pay 3.5 billion euros ($3.8 billion) to ECB. Greece also has to pay about 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) of arrears to the IMF. This bridge loan will “buy” time until the bailout is finalized.

Greek banks are scheduled to open on July 20 (Monday) after a 3-week closure. However, capital controls, or restrictions on cash withdrawals will remain in place.  Daily cash withdrawal is limited at 60 euros.

Despite more aid being given to Greece, the country’s debt level is still a major problem. The country has about EUR 320 billion debt ($345 billion), close to 200% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Source can be found here 

There are many calls for a debt haircut (not what you’re thinking). Debt haircut is reducing the amount of money owned. For example, if  someone owns about $10,000, but cannot pay it all. Creditor can try to accept to get paid a fraction of $10,000, say $4,000. After all something is better than nothing.

Some people including Christine Lagarde, managing director of IMF, disagreed on debt haircut. She said debt relief was needed. Extension of Greek debt maturities, extension of grade periods, and reduction of interest rates would be enough, she said.

Even though the deal gets finalized or not, Greece loses. With the deal, life gets harder. Without the deal and exit from euro-zone, life gets much harder.

I learned one important lesson over the past few months. Anything can change anytime. Greece’s current deal might fall through any moment. So much uncertainty has caused EUR (Euro) currency to move around in different directions.

Ever since the deal was announced, EUR/USD has been falling.

EUR/USD - Hourly
EUR/USD – Hourly

I have been short on Euro for some time now and I will continue to be short. Even with deal close, tough challenges remain ahead. ECB might increase or even extend its Quantitative Easing (QE) program, giving support to the European stocks and causing Euro to weaken further. I believe EUR/USD will reach parity level in the next 6 months.

Once the Greece drama settles, more focus will be on the fundamentals in the euro-zone outside of Greece, which accounts for more than 98% of the region’s GDP.

No clear road ahead, still. What’s next?

Disappointing Jobs Report – Bye Bye July Rate-Hike

Last Thursday (July 2, 2015), non-farm payrolls report for June for disappointing. 223,000 jobs were added in June, vs expectations of 231,000, compared with an average monthly gain of 250,000 over the last 12 months. Although payrolls grew slightly, the unemployment rate ticked lower to 5.3% from 5.5%. While this may sound to be a good thing, it is not.

Unemployment rate fell due largely to a sharp decline in labor force participation, which fell by 0.3% point to 62.6%, the lowest level since October 1977. Decline in labor force participation shows more people were discouraged by the poor employment prospects that he/she is not actively seeking employments. Therefore, they are not reflected in the unemployment rate. Bottom line: they lost confidence in the jobs markets.

Revisions to the previous months’ job totals has been negative. April fell from 221,000 to 187,000 (-34,000) and May fell from 280,000 to 254,000 (-26,000), bringing losses of 60,000.

Total Non-Farm Payrolls – Monthly Net Change – 2014-Present
Total Non-Farm Payrolls – Monthly Net Change – 2014-Present

Job gains/loss:

Professional/Business services: +64,000. I believe it was largely due to college students who recently graduated or got a job while in school.

Health care: +40,000. ObamaCare continues to boost earnings for health care industry. Recently, health care stocks have been hitting all-time highs.

Retail: +33,000. Well it is summer, isn’t? It’s no wonder more jobs were added in retail.

Restaurants/Bars/etc: +30,000. One word, Summer.

Mining: -4,000. Oil decline has been hitting energy industry hard. Total decline in the industry now stands at 70,000.

While employment numbers are important to the Fed to justify the time to begin normalizing policy, I believe wage growth and Consumer Price Index (CPI) are more important. July rate-hike is off the table largely because wages remained flat. Average hourly earnings in the private sector stood at $24.95, unchanged from May and up 2% from a year earlier.

Average Hourly Earnings - 2014 to Present
Average Hourly Earnings – 2014 to Present

On July 17, CPI report for June will be released at 8:30 AM EST. It will be very important to watch for it. Any spending reports such as Retail Sales will also be important to watch out for because consumer spending makes up 70% of all economic activity. Retail sales account for one-third of it.

I strongly believe September rate liftoff is possible. If future CPI, average hourly earnings, and employment fall in any way, chance of liftoff in September will be reduced.

Following the release of the report on Thursday, US markets were mixed while US Dollar was down. US markers were closed due to 4th of July holiday. The United States is 239 years old.

Standard & Poor 500 ( “SPX” on ThinkorSwim platform) – Hourly
Standard & Poor 500 ( “SPX” on ThinkorSwim platform) – Hourly
US Dollar ( “/DX” on ThinkorSwim platform) – Hourly
US Dollar ( “/DX” on ThinkorSwim platform) – Hourly


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