The Steele Group's Q2 2023 Newsletter
Halfway through 2023 we have seen the S&P has entered bull market territory and inflation continues to be the leading economic story. Domestically, a string of hotter-than-expected CPI data coming since the Bank of Canada (BOC) declared a pause in January forced the BOC to hike the policy rate earlier this month to 5.00% - the highest since 2001. Canadian inflation has been edging lower thus reducing pressure on the central bank for another interest-rate hike after July. Year over year the consumer price index rose 2.8% in June, compared to 3.4% in May. The deceleration of both headline and core inflation will likely give BOC Governor Tiff Macklem and his officials some room to hold interest rates steady at their next decision if output and jobs figures show signs of a slowing economy.
Similarly, inflation has continued to trend downward in the US from the peak of 9.1% in July 2022 to 3% on the June inflation reading. U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) Chair Jerome Powell said in June that the right conditions are “coming into place” to get inflation down to the 2% target, however “The things are in place that we need to see, but the process of that actually working on inflation is going to take some time,”. Most economists have forecasted that a rate hike at the Fed’s next meeting in late July is all but assured. What actions the Fed might take after that remains much less clear. Fed policymakers have indicated that they expect to raise rates twice more this year, yet they may not follow through if economic data suggests that inflation is falling quickly back to their 2% target as seen in the chart below.
While inflation shows signs of slowing down, one area of concern both in Canada and the US is housing. In the US, home construction surged in May and prices have ticked up, even with interest rates at a 15-year high. The resilience has surprised some economists. The S&P runs a Case-Shiller Home Price Indices which are a group of indices that measure real estate or housing prices and they track changes in residential home prices throughout the United States. Case-Shiller Home Price Index data from the prior five years is seen in the following chart.
Likewise, Canadians are seeing the pace of housing prices picking up again with shorter listing times. In an April Ipsos poll, a record 63% of Canadians not already in a possession of a home said they had “given up” any hope of owning one. As of the most recent numbers from the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average price of a Canadian home has bounced back to $716,000. Even adjusting for inflation, that’s nearly three times higher than the average Canadian home price in the year 2000.
One of the fundamental challenges is that the pace of population growth is greatly outpacing even the boldest projected housing developments. For reference Canada’s population increased from 35 million in 2013 to 40 million people in 2023 with the majority of increases taking place in the last couple of years. The federal government has committed to continued record setting immigration targets which will ensure continued pressure on housing prices.
The Steele Group does not see short-term changes in this housing trend and we highly recommended that individuals seeking to buy a home have a well-defined financial plan in place. More than ever, it is critical to leverage all possible government programs such as the RRSP First time Home Buyers Program and the recently introduced First Home Savings Accounts (FHSA). Our team is happy to assist with this conversation.
For months the fear of a hard landing due to interest rate increases was being reflected in the 12-24 interest rate market being lower. The concept of a soft landing is when a central bank seeks to raise interest rates just enough to stop an economy from overheating and experiencing high inflation, without causing a severe downturn. Soft landing may also refer to a gradual, relatively less painful slowdown. However, the combination of a strong housing market and strong employment throughout both the US and Canada will likely result in current interest rates staying at these levels for the longer term.
Overall equity investors are seeing a modestly growing economy which can positively impact stock market growth. The information technology (IT) sector led the stock market advance in the quarter. Fervour around AI and the potential for a boom in related technology drove chipmakers higher. The consumer discretionary and communication services sectors also performed strongly. Underperforming sectors included energy and utilities. For fixed income investors, unlike the last 15 years, these investors will now be rewarded with higher interest rates as their bonds roll over into new, higher yielding rates.
Lastly, on June 23rd TSG hosted Jonathan Lo, Vice-President, and Portfolio Specialist from AGF to speak on several of AGF’s leading investment mandates. Jonathan spoke on the implications recent markets had on AGF’s portfolios, areas of future growth such as AI, and addressed questions submitted by clients. To listen to the full discussion you can find the replay on our website: www.thesteelegroup.ca.
As always, we are here to support you in achieving your financial goals. If you require any assistance or have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out to Cliff, Mario, Mark, or our TSG team.