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Bank of Canada Hold Key Rate

Best be getting used to this: Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, has again maintained interest rates at 1% and remains on track to not budge from that position any time soon as upside and downside risks remain balanced amid moderating growth.

This marks the 11th straight time the central bank has held rates at the 1% level, since a 25 basis point increase in September 2010. Since 2000, the bank has employed eight fixed dates a year when it makes decisions on the key rate. Economists expect the bank to keep interest rates at current levels until as late as next year.

The bank’s statement contained a few contradictions: It says the last quarter was stronger than expected, but growth in the future will moderate. Yet the economy will return to capacity quicker than expected.

Huh? Here are the main takeaways from the bank’s statement:

Canada muddles through, more or less

The overall outlook for the Canadian economy remains “little changed” from the bank’s October monetary policy report, with “more momentum than anticipated in the second half of 2011,” but comments Tuesday show a mixed picture with growth “expected to be more modest than previously envisaged.”

On the one hand, the bank has pushed up the schedule for the economy to return to full capacity by one quarter, to the third of 2013, and projects growth of 2.0% in 2012 and 2.8% in 2013 based off 2.4% growth last year. “While the economy appears to be operating with less slack than previously assumed, given the more modest growth profile, the economy is only anticipated to return to full capacity by the third quarter of 2013, one quarter earlier than was expected in October,” he said.

On the other hand, Mr. Carney expects the pace of growth to be more modest than previously thought, largely due to outside factors. “Prolonged uncertainty about the global economic and financial environment is likely to dampen the rate of growth of business investment … Net exports are expected to contribute little to growth, reflecting moderate foreign demand and ongoing competitiveness challenges, including the persistent strength of the Canadian dollar,” he said. Of note, the loonie spiked to a two-week high against the greenback earlier Tuesday.

Household debt still a problem

“Very favourable financing conditions are expected to buttress consumer spending and housing activity,” he said. “Household expenditures are expected to remain high relative to GDP and the ratio of household debt to income is projected to rise further.” The Bank of Canada has been harping on this for a while, but the conditions created by the lengthy low interest rate environment have led Canadians to borrow and spend. Debt-to-income ratios have hit repeated record highs in the past few years, and the trend is expected to continue.

If not hawkish, at least less dovish

The outlook for inflation remains stable for now, with dynamics similar to those in October, but Mr. Carney characterized the inflation profile as “marginally firmer.” Inflation is expected to slow in 2012, before rising again to 2% in the third quarter of 2013 as excess supply is absorbed, wages grow modestly and expectations remain anchored. “Several significant upside and downside risks are present in the inflation outlook for Canada. Overall, the bank judges that these risks are roughly balanced over the projection horizon,” he said.

Europe: Still a big mess

“The sovereign debt crisis in Europe has intensified, conditions in international financial markets have tightened and risk aversion has risen,” Mr. Carney said. “The bank continues to assume that European authorities will implement sufficient measures to contain the crisis, although this assumption is clearly subject to downside risks.” Children, of course, already know the schoolyard rhyme about what happens to “U and Me” when you assume anything.

The rest of the world: Not much better

“The outlook for the global economy has deteriorated and uncertainty has increased,” the bank said. In the United States, while the GDP rebound in the second half of the year was a welcome surprise, the bank remains bearish on the pace of growth in 2012 due to household deleveraging, fiscal consolidation and spillover from Europe. Chinese growth is also slowing as expected, to a more sustainable pace. Commodity prices, except oil, are expected to be below levels forecasted last October at least through to 2013.

Financial Post

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Do your homework first… read the fine print – Rate of 2.99 to good to be true?

Although you will never hear any bank say that publicly, this is what is going on. Recently there has been some industry chatter about a few banks offering a sub 3% 5 year fixed product. One particular institution is bragging about their 6 billion dollar portfolio under administration, this product, and how great it is. At first glance you might think ” WOW, that’s awesome!” However as with all mortgages, you have to dig a bit deeper to find out the real nuts and bolts of this sub 3% offer. It’s a great offer alright for the bank, not for you; the consumer.

Based on an average mortgage size of $250,000, that’s 24,000 Canadians that negotiated directly with the bank who will feel ripped off once they find out about their terms and conditions. I am very pro client / consumer, and my job is to look out for their best interests so I simply can’t endorse this product. Consumers though need to know why they shouldn’t either. This product is priced well below the market average for 5 year product, and does not come without it’s “catches”. It’s definitely buyer beware and the bank will not tell you this.

Some of the features (or non-features you might say) are:

Minimal or no pre-payment privileges

This product has extremely low pre-payment features. On a monthly increase basis this could mean nothing to less than half of what the industry norm is. Lump sum payments may also be nothing or less than half the industry norm and if allowed only once per year. Pre-payment features are extremely beneficial and allow for strategies to be put in place. Lack of strategy means lack of interest savings for clients and consumers.

Fully Closed

When I say fully closed, I mean just that. A borrower cannot get out of the mortgage, unless they sell their place if at all. Who wants to sell their place if they want to refinance? I don’t know too many people that would. If borrowers do sell their place, a substantial penalty such as a 6 month interest penalty typically applies.  Borrowers may be offered  a reduced penalty (3 month) if they choose to refinance with that same bank however this still does not offer a borrower access to the entire mortgage market. It also confines them to more inferior product. If a borrower is going to pay a penalty, they rightfully should have the opportunity to entertain superior product. The average mortgage is in place roughly 3 years before being paid out or refinanced. Life just happens. More than likely a borrower will need to do something with their mortgage during their current mortgage term.  To be locked down by these terms and clauses makes absolutely no sense.

No guarantee of best rates upon renewal or refinance

Banks know that consumers may not know the mortgage market at any particular point in time. What’s happening in the mortgage world is usually not on the forefront of people’s minds. When it comes time to renew or refinance borrowers can be offered a rate as high as 1% above the market norm and not realize it. When a borrower asks the bank to do better, they may be offered a discount further however that .5% “special” discount doesn’t look so good when the rest of the market is priced much lower. This amounts to more interest the borrower has to pay over the course of their mortgage. This is more money for the bank that should be staying with you.

Your mortgage will also be registered as a collateral charge.

Beware of this one as it is a very sly practice among banks. What does a collateral charge mean to a borrower? The bank will instruct the lawyer to register the title as a running account. More than likely you running account will have a global limit of the property value itself. This doesn’t mean you are going to get this money, it just means that your property is fully tied up. If you choose another lender at renewal, legal fees apply. A second mortgage or Line of Credit can’t be put behind this product because the bank has tied up ALL of your equity. No matter which way you turn, the bank has shackled you to more costs and fees.

The lesson here is that rate is not everything. Product and Strategy is. Borrowers need flexible product to execute strategy.

Contact me for more information or apply online at http://www.mortgageplayground.com

 

 

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No BoC rate hike until Q1 2013: poll

No BOC rate hike until Q1 2013

A deteriorating European economy and weak global growth will keep the Bank of Canada from raising rates for at least another year, though an interest rate cut looks highly unlikely, according to a Reuters survey.

The Reuters poll of 41 economists and strategists released on Tuesday showed the median forecast for the next interest rate hike was pushed back by three months to the first quarter of 2013 from the fourth quarter of 2012 projected in a November poll. The Bank of Canada’s target for the overnight rate — its main policy rate — has been at 1% for more than a year.

“The longer we spend struggling with slower growth and the longer we go without the Europeans coming to some cohesive policy solution, the worse the economic drag will be,” said David Tulk, chief Canada macro strategist at TD Securities.

“You get the sense that growth I think is likely to remain lower for longer, just like interest rates.”

Investors in the first quarter of 2012 are expected to focus on the heavy supply of eurozone debt coming due, with fears about a possible lack of demand at auctions. Italian and Spanish bond sales in particular are viewed as the next big tests.

 

Some Canadian economic data has also been worrisome. A Bank of Canada business survey on Monday showed an increasing number of firms are pessimistic about the rate of sales growth, further reducing pressure for the central bank to take interest rates higher.

The most recent domestic jobs report also disappointed, reversing a trend that saw Canada outperform the United States both during and after the global financial crisis.
Monthly employment data on Friday showed Canada missed forecasts while the U.S. beat them. This gives the Bank of Canada even less impetus to tighten policy before the U.S. Federal Reserve, which has said it expects to keep its key interest rate near zero through mid-2013.

But many analysts expect an even longer pause, and bet the Fed’s next move will be to stimulate the economy, rather than tighten monetary policy.

“If the Fed comes out with its published interest rate forecast at the end of the month and says the consensus points to an even longer hold than the middle of 2013 then that could handicap the Bank of Canada to an even greater extent,” said Derek Holt, vice president of economics at Scotia Capital.

Yet many analysts say the case for an interest rate cut is difficult. Governor Mark Carney has repeatedly warned about the dangers of Canadians borrowing too much as a result of very low interest rates. Data last month showed the level of household debt swelled to another record high in the third quarter.

“A cut in the policy rate anytime in 2012 is extremely unlikely. It would take a global recession of 2008 proportions for the BoC to even consider cutting policy rates,” said Carlos Leitao, chief economist at Laurentian Bank Securities in Montreal. “In our view, 1% is the new, effective, zero-bound.”

Of the 41 contributors, 35 see a rate hike happening after the second quarter of 2012. Five forecasters — BNP Paribas, Capital Economics, Goldman Sachs, IFR Markets and ING Financial — predicted a rate cut across the forecast horizon, up from only three forecasters in the last poll. All five expect the cut by mid-2012.

The possibility of an ease has been anticipated in overnight index swaps for some time, though the timing has been pushed out.

Forecasts for official interest rates at the end of 2012 also dropped from the previous poll — with the median target declining to 1%, from 1.25% in November — indicating one less rate increase next year than was previously assumed.

Interest rate expectations for the four quarters of 2012 have been downgraded continuously in all nine global Reuters polls conducted since last January, with the target for the first quarter of 2012 revised down to 1% from 2.25%.

The poll showed a 99% probability there won’t be a change in rates at the next policy announcement on Jan 17.

 

© Thomson Rerters 2012

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2 Out of 3 Don’t Shop at Renewal

Thank you to one of my fellow brokers for writing this article.    Consumers are becoming slightly more educated about shopping for a mortgage, but clearly not enough, that means we have alot more work to do to make sure consumers are much more informed about their options when shopping for a mortgage wherever they are in the mortgage process.  READ ON…

Every now and then we see a mortgage stat that’s a jaw-dropper.

This finding from Manulife Bank is one of them. It suggests there are a lot more people with money to burn than one might expect.

Manulife recently surveyed 1,000 Canadian homeowners between the ages of 30 to 59. Among respondents with a mortgage, two-thirds (65%) did not compare mortgages from more than one lender when they last renewed.

More specifically:

  • 20% stayed with their current lender after maturity and did not negotiate
  • 45% stayed with their current lender and tried to negotiate a good deal, but did not shop around
  • 35% compared mortgages from several lenders and choose the best overall lender and product.

The youngest group (ages 30-39) was most likely to shop around (41%), but was also most likely to
accept their current lender’s offer without negotiating (24%).

We asked Doug Conick, President & CEO of Manulife Bank, why on earth people would give so much power to their lender.

“Most people lead very busy lives and may not have the time or expertise to fully investigate their options,” he said.

“Through our debt survey we’ve found that only about 3 out of 10 Canadians work with a financial adviser to manage their debt more effectively.”

“With busy lives and a lack of advice for most, this decision often gets left until very close to the renewal date, causing borrowers to follow the path of least resistance and renew with their current lender.”

“The unfortunate thing,” he added, “is that this could end up costing them a lot of extra money and keep them in debt longer than they need to be.”

That’s for sure.

In our experience, people who auto-renew often pay 1/2%-3/4% more than necessary, or worse! In fact, we’ve seen innumerable people sign renewal letters at their bank’s “special offer” rate, which is usually well above the market. (Example: Today’s 5-year fixed “special offer” bank rates are 3.94% to 4.09%. That’s up to 80 basis points above competitive rates on the street.)

Even a 1/4% rate difference amounts to over $4,000 more in interest over five years, on a $200,000 mortgage with a 20-year amortization. That’s money that could normally go towards prepaying a fat chunk of principal.

It’s hard to fathom why anyone would let a lender pick their pocket like this. At the very least, folks must find it within their strength to lift up the phone and call an independent mortgage planner.

Even if you’d rather stay with your current lender at renewal, seek out a second opinion. You absolutely owe it to yourself to keep your lender honest by surveying the market.

Of course, this all begs the question of why someone would ever want to deal exclusively with a lender that aims to maximize the interest they pay…but that’s a story for another day.


Sidebar: The report also confirmed, yet again, the various studies which show that people underutilize their prepayment privileges.

In the last year, out of respondents with a mortgage, 70% did not make any extra payments.

By far, the most common reason cited for not making an extra mortgage payment was “a lack of extra money.”

 canadianmortgagetrends
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Mortgage Rates – How to protect yourself when they increase – Video message!

Heres a video I personally did on how to take a proative approach to protect and prepare yourself with rising interest rates in the future and save thousands of dollars! Click below to view video

Inflation Hedge Strategy - Learn to protect yourself from rising rates

Lisa Alentejano

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Is it time to lock in your mortgage?

Do you lock in your mortgage or not?

Heres an interesting article on things to consider when locking in  your mortgage or at least considering renewing your mortgage for a better rate.  Lots of things to look at when rates are at an all time low.  You can imagine consumers are taking a good look at their mortgage and where they want to go with it. Small differences in rates can save  you thousands over the longer term.  As most of us have a mortgage for years, take advantage of at least looking at your current mortgage and consider whether making a change could be beneficial.   As always any questions or comments please feel free to contact me at 1-888-819-6536.

The gap between short-term and long-term rates has shrunk enough that it might be time for anyone renewing a mortgage to consider locking in.

Moves last week by the major banks to reduce the discount on variable-rate mortgages comes as the discounts for long-term mortgages have gotten as steep as they have ever been.

“What seems to be happening is they are focusing their attention on fixed rates. We are starting to see some aggressive competition on four-and five-year products,” says Gary Siegle, a mortgage broker and Invis Inc. regional manager in Calgary.

How aggressive? Try as much as 190 basis points. A five-year, fixed-rate mortgage with a posted rate of 5.39% is now being offered for 3.49%.

For whatever reason, the four-year, fixed-rate mortgages are being priced even more aggressively.

Mr. Siegle says he can lock consumers into a four-year, fixed mortgage for as low as 3.09%.

The discounting comes as variable-rate products, linked to prime, have become more expensive. Short-term money has become more expensive in the bond market, forcing banks to reduce discounts.

The banks traditionally move their prime rate with the Bank of Canada rate. With no flexibility there and existing customers getting huge discounts based on old deals, banks are forced to raise rates for new loans as short-term money gets more expensive.

The trend began in April when FirstLine Mortgages, a subsidiary of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce known for its low rates, cut its discount on variable rates.

Others banks were slow to follow, hoping to make money on volume. But refinancings have dried up under tougher mortgage rules and sales have slowed, creating the need to tighten profit margins on variable-rate products.

Today, the discount on a variable-rate mortgage is about 55 basis points off the prime rate of 3% – in other words, 2.45%. Compare that to 3.09% on a four-year mortgage and the premium to lock in is not that much.

“This gap is about as narrow as it goes,” says CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal. “It reflects a flat yield curve, which makes it difficult to make money in this business.”

Mr. Tal says variable-rate mortgages tend to be more attractive when there are inflation expectations not yet expressed in short-term rates. This time, he says, the bond market is depressed, anticipating recession, and that has shrunk spreads dramatically.

The one thing keeping people in short-term money is the sense that there is no urgency to move because the U.S. Federal Reserve Board has pledged not to raise rates for two years, which also effectively ties the hands of the Bank of Canada.

“We know the five-year rate is attractive, but we also know short-term rates are not raising,” Mr. Tal says.

What does that mean on a practical, dollars-and-cents basis?

Let’s use the Canadian Real Estate Association’s 2011 average sale price forecast of about $360,000 and assume a 20% down payment and a $288,000 mortgage.

At 2.45%, your monthly mortgage payment based on a 25-year amortization would be $1,282.98. At 3.09%, your monthly payment rises to $1,376.28.

But even at the gap, you would pay about an extra $7,000 in interest to lock in over four years.

Ultimately, the $7,000 amounts to an insurance policy. You get payment certainty for four years, but at a price.

If rates climb 200 basis points on your variable-rate mortgage, it could cost you $22,000 more in interest over four years. The reality is that rates wouldn’t jump at once and, therefore, increases would likely be gradual.

Moshe Milevsky, the York University finance professor who wrote the oft-quoted study that variable-rate mortgages do better than fixedrate mortgages 88% of the time, said if you start thinking about it like insurance, it comes down to your risk tolerance.

“There are people who pay a lot for protection on their portfolio; there are people who pay a lot for life insurance,” Prof. Mr. Milevsky says. “If the premiums are low enough, you might say, ‘Sure, I’ll pay.’ But if you have a tight budget, every basis point counts, and it might not be worth it.”

To me, he still has the ultimate answer for the tough decision whether or not to lock in.

“I still don’t get why more Canadians don’t split their mortgage,” Prof. Milevsky says. In other words, locking in half of the mortgage and floating with prime on the other half.

“When is a bank going to come to the realization Canadians hate making this choice?”

He’s right. Even with rates this low and the gap between short-term and long-term rates this narrow, it is still a tough call

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Condo for the studious kid?

Summer is drawing to a close and if the student in your household is studying in Toronto, they may be moving back into residences or private rental accommodation.

However, some parents are choosing to buy a place for their offspring, and perhaps some friends, to live in for the duration of their studies. While it may sound like a great investment, your financial planner will be getting you to ask some tough questions.

Ask yourself: “Can we afford it?” says Carol Bezaire, vice-president, tax and estate planning at MacKenzie Financial in Toronto, who reccomends planning ahead by asking: “‘What are we going to do with this property if our child doesn’t go to school or drops out?’ Down the road if the child decides they want to stay in the place, ‘What kind of arrangement with the child are we going to have?’ ”

Ms. Bezaire recommends getting legal and tax advice when drawing up an agreement between you and your child. If you charge your child rent, they can write it off as a tax credit. However, you will need to record the rent as income on your return and you will be liable for tax on any capital gain when you sell the property. If space will be rented to non-family members, Ms. Bezaire says, you must get tax advice on operating a business rather than a personal arrangement.

The type of housing stock available may also affect the rent-versusbuy decision.

“As a market investment, condos have definitely grown exponentially. In Q2, we had 9,445 condos sold,” says Pauline Lierman, senior research analyst, Urbanation in Toronto. A lot of that is due to the fact that students have a desire to be in the city, but there is a shift away from the houses that are broken down into units. “Families are moving back in and buying them and converting them back into singlefamily units, so you’re getting areas where there isn’t as much supply of the traditional type of student-ghetto housing.”

Some parents – particularly from overseas – have been planning ahead.

“Some projects have been very successful in their marketing to forward-thinking families,” says George Carras, president, RealNet Canada. “They may consider that, ‘My child is much younger, we like Canada and we’d like them to come to school in Canada. So let’s just invest in the condo as possible accommodation.'”

Mr. Carras says such purchases tend to be focused around University of Toronto’s and George Brown’s main downtown campuses.

“You can start to see some of the development acquisitions and interests taking place further north,” Mr. Carras says. “For Seneca, [there’s interest in] some of the growth that’s taken place in and around the Sheppard corridor. You’re within a reasonable distance to the school but you’re also accessible to public transit.”

While your child studies, many new and resale condos will come up for sale in the GTA. Mr. Carras and Ms. Lierman both say continued population growth, coupled with a decline in single-family home construction, means there will likely be decent demand should you decide to sell the condo when your child graduates.