Low interest rates have 'done their job', says Poloz

Bank of Canada's next interest rate announcement is set for July 12

Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz holds a news conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Dec. 15, 2016. Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz used a history lesson Tuesday to make a case for a policy mix frequently promoted by the federal government -- an openness to more foreign investment, immigration and free trade. In a prepared speech, Poloz said Canada has seen these ingredients produce positive economic results in its past, including the freer-market colonial times, the early 1900s and the post-Second World War era. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick


OTTAWA – With the Bank of Canada nearing its next policy decision, governor Stephen Poloz is reiterating his message that his 2015 interest-rate cuts appear to have done their job.

Poloz said in an interview broadcast on business news channel CNBC that the Canadian economy enjoyed “surprisingly” strong growth in the first three months of 2017 and he expected the pace to stay above potential.

The Canadian dollar climbed to 76.44 cents US, up from an average price of 75.83 cents US on Tuesday, as the comments increased speculation about the possibility of an interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada.

If the central bank raises its key interest rate, the big Canadian banks will raise their prime rates, driving up the cost of variable rate mortgages and other loans and lines of credit tied to the benchmark rate.

Poloz credited the two rate cuts introduced by the bank in 2015 for helping the economy counteract the effects of the oil-price slump, which began in late 2014. The reductions also helped increase the speed of the adjustment, Poloz added.

“It does look as though those cuts have done their job ,” said Poloz, who was in Portugal on Wednesday to participate in a forum hosted by the European Central Bank.

“But we’re just approaching a new interest rate decision so I don’t want to prejudge. But certainly we need to be at least considering that whole situation now that the capacity, excess capacity, is being used up steadily.”

More “hawkish” statements in recent weeks by Poloz and the bank’s senior deputy governor, Carolyn Wilkins, have suggested the bank is moving closer to its first rate increase in nearly seven years.

A softer-than-expected inflation report last Friday led some analysts to believe the bank might wait until the fall or later before introducing a rate increase.

But economists interpreted Poloz’s latest remarks Wednesday as a signal the bank may even hike the benchmark as early as its next scheduled announcement on July 12.

“He’s not going to give it away, but that’s a pretty solid signal that a July rate hike is very much on the table,” BMO chief economist Doug Porter wrote in a research note to clients.

Desjardins senior economist Jimmy Jean wrote: “This does not sound like a central banker who was profoundly shaken by the weaker-than-expected (consumer price index) numbers of last Friday.”

The bank lowered its rate twice in 2015 to the very low level of 0.5 per cent to help offset the effects of the oil-price shock.

Poloz said the drop in oil prices set Canada’s economy back _ causing the central bank to compensate by lowering interest rates – but that growth has rebounded with an “encouraging” pace in recent months.

While he said he expects growth to moderate to a more normal level, he predicted it would remain “above potential.”

Poloz also said virtually every major area of the world seems to be gaining economic momentum – with the United States “way out in front.”