BMO CEO Says Canada Should Prepare Housing Fixes But Not Act Yet
(Bloomberg) -- Bank of Montreal Chief Executive Officer Darryl White said Canada’s policy makers should work on preparing measures that could rein in the country’s surging home prices, but hold off on implementing solutions for at least a few weeks.
During the coming weeks, provinces may be introducing another round of restrictions to combat a surge in coronavirus cases and the federal government is scheduled to release its first full budget in more than two years, both of which could affect the housing market, White said in an interview after the company’s annual meeting Wednesday. With the market “evolving weekly,” the government should hold off on major changes until it sees how those factors affect the situation, he said.
“If I were a policy maker in this environment, I would be fast at work at preparation, but not necessarily quick to pull the trigger because I’d want to see what the next few weeks bring,” White said. Home values in Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, continued to swell last month, bringing average annual price gains to more than 20%.
Bank of Montreal, Canada’s fourth-largest lender by assets, is forecasting 6.5% economic growth for both Canada and the U.S. this year. The recovery will gather strength in the second half of the year, with both consumers and businesses ramping up spending, White said.
Bank of Montreal’s credit-card data show consumers have already started booking vacations and hotel reservations for later this year, and companies also are showing signs they’re ready to resume investing in their businesses, White said.
“Lots of our bankers are in conversations with folks about getting back on the front foot in terms of capital-expenditure plans,” White said.
Despite the strong rebound, White sees inflation remaining relatively tame. Longer-dated bond yields, which rose earlier in the year, have leveled out in recent weeks, signaling that markets are convinced central bankers will keep short-term rates low for “a good period of time,” White said. The bank expects 2022 inflation of a little more than 2%, White said.
“If that were the outcome, that would be a pretty elegant landing to how the recovery plays out,” White said. “Based on what I see today, that’s a reasonable bet.”
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