"History, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in.... I read it a little as a duty; but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars and pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all - it is very tiresome." Jane Austen spoken by Catherine Morland in 'Northanger Abbey'
As the U.S. Energy Information Admin EIA.gov noted in their December 12, 2018 report:
"...concerns about the pace of global economic growth in coming months have led to related concerns about the pace of oil demand growth."
The Canadian Dollar continues to plunge. That means our import costs go up and our net trade has been negative 8 out of the last 11 prints; ie: we Canadians buy more than we sell which is ok if we have the income to service the debt, but as the Chinese economy slows and they buy less of our resources, our incomes as well as other countries incomes are going to diminish.
As Rick Ackerman reminded his clients on December 30, 2018:
A further, significant strengthening in the dollar will tell us when the Deflationary endgame for the global economy is gathering force. It will crush debtors, bankrupt creditors and lop at least four or five zeroes worth of funny money from the banking system’s quadrillion-dollar shell-game. I have written extensively on why hyperinflation is extremely unlikely to settle debts that have become vastly too large to repay. If you cannot understand why, let me pose this question: Do you actually believe the banksters will let you pay off your mortgage with a few hundred-thousand-dollar bills that you’ve peeled from your wallet? If you answered in the negative, you are implicitly a deflationist.
Since the start of ZIRP and NIRP it has been difficult to "be a deflationist" as we watched the global bubble of everything inflate; resource assets, equities, debt and of course real estate which Canadians with the help of foreign laundry services have pushed real estate prices into the top tiers of global pricing. In November 2018, I posted "Dirty Real Estate" which highlighted the "Vancouver Model" that has spread throughout Canada.
The C.D. Howe Institute study estimates of money laundering in Canada range from $5 billion to $100 billion. C.D. Howe Report, September 2018
e don't even know what the "value" of the crime is, but we know what the effect has been in terms of FOMO debt taken on by Canadians. Real estate prices have peaked in Canada and as they drop, the FOMO crowd has a tough choice to make: turn debt into equity quickly by selling the asset or stay in for the long haul and meet the amortization obligation. If it's the former, look for price drops to happen quickly as vendors compete for a diminishing supply of buyers; if it's the latter look for a slow Japanese style deflation and a return to savings as noted in my 2012 post "What Do You Do During a Housing Bust".
A return to savings will eventually allow the pendulum of capital investment to return to productive use. But asset deflation is in view now and we don't yet know it's future length of trend.
One asset class that retains value and even grows during a broad deflationary event is precious metals; and that canary in the coal mine is happening now. See my ongoing chart study of "real" gold and real estate.
And below, see Chris Kimble's
December 31, 2018 note to clients:
Currency depreciation on top of foreign buyer taxes and real estate sales that are plunging against a backdrop of rising inventory is evaporating paper profits for would be Canadians.
Locals whether they own or rent are not spared either. A dropping CAD is raising import costs while the Trumpster builds a wall of worry out of trade tariffs and that worry is especially provoking to the over leveraged in Canada.
Is King Dollar Creating A Bullish Head & Shoulders Pattern? by Chris Kimble June 28, 2018
Clearly, capital likes to go where the return on investment is high especially in productive sectors like manufacturing where competition for buyers is cutthroat.
The chart above shows that Canadian manufacturing wages have jumped 21% in the last 7 years while in the U.S. they have gone up only 12% and in Mexico they have DROPPED 7% to US$2.10 per hour. (no typo - that's US$2.10/hr)
Canadian households have become highly indebted (168% debt to income) via government insured credit and animal spirit peer pressure. The IMF has been sounding the alarm bell at least since 2011 "Households, however, already have done enough borrowing, at least when it comes to real estate. Any further buildup of debt only risks a painful collapse." That's what they said 5 years ago.
Canadians are just $200 away from being overwhelmed by debt, new survey finds Financial Post September 28, 2016
And here we are now trading real estate to each other at prices far greater than most places on the planet and that has attracted global capital into Canada to buy our hovels (speculative consumption). It's kept the F.I.R.E. service sector fully employed but has done very little for long term productive investment because long term bond yields cannot compete with flipping real estate. In the last 43 months, Vancouver single family detached house prices have gone up 1.7% per month or 20.4% per annum for nearly four years!
The latest sales/inventory ratio suggests that the risk of sentiment change is occurring in Vancouver (not yet in Toronto); but our very high labour cost relative to our U.S. and Mexican trade channels is going to put pressure on the Bank of Canada and the Federal Government to let the CAD/USD continue dropping (Bloomberg May 2016) "Currency depreciations would help many of the U.S.'s G7 partners (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, & EU) a lot while hurting the U.S. little, if at all. In other words, a G7 currency war would be fine as long as the U.S. remained a pacifist."
A lower CAD/USD will help Canadian exporters to some degree but not enough to compete directly with Mexico and other low labour cost and low-bar regulatory regimes (China, Vietnam, Indonesia etal). A lower CAD/USD will also put more inflationary pressure on import costs into Canada reducing disposable consumer income that will affect consumption of domestic services including the demand for credit while debt repayment schedules may have to have their amortization terms lengthened especially if earnings growth slows.
ITEM: BlackBerry Abandons Its Phone New York Times September 28, 2016 - In recent years, BlackBerry has cut thousands of jobs and closed several operating centers, including one in this city (Halifax), over the last three years. A company spokeswoman declined to discuss any future layoffs.
A lower CAD/USD will not be favourable to the foreign buyers of Canadian real estate who purchased in the last 7 years if their own currencies do not drop as much as the CAD. Will they continue to hold a wasting asset that produces a negative cash flow?
The hysterical mania of buying real estate in Canada will come to an end when we see listing inventories rise, perhaps in 1Q 2017 if a shift from greed to fear manifests.
And from CNBC, September 27, 2016:
"Vancouver in Canada has been identified by Swiss bank UBS as the global financial center with the riskiest housing bubble."
In the meantime, "The OECD warns that a low-growth trap has taken root, as poor growth expectations further depress trade investment, productivity and wages." Sept 21, 2016
As I have been reporting for some time now on my Household Debt chart, net Federal Direct Investment is going offshore not coming onshore. This has been the case for the last 18 years and the current energy sector dismay is not helping. But service workers in the F.I.R.E. sector are happy enough as foreign capital flows into Canada buying up negative yielding houses. ITEM: "70 per cent of all detached homes sold on Vancouver’s west side were purchased by Mainland China buyers" National Post November 2, 2015
and now... an inflationary tale
But as I have been reporting on my chart mashup of Canadian Household Debt, GDP, Foreign Direct Investment and Balance of Trade; Canadian capital investment is flowing offshore to where the low labour rates are. Not only that but as I reported at the end of July in this chart mashup, the private sector is switching back to saving (hoarding cash) while Canadian corporate profits and GDP drop Q/Q.
Mortgagor Surveys in 2015
Workin' for a Livin' - Huey Lewis & the News - 1982
In a June 9, 2015 note, David Rosenberg chief economist at Gluskin-Sheff, currently thinks "...the Canadian dollar could head as low as the mid-70s coming under pressure as oil prices fall further in the global glut and if the Fed hikes interest rates in September. Since there's "zero chance" the Bank of Canada will follow suit, foreign investors will have even less incentive to be in the Canadian bond or money market." Financial Post, June 9, 2015
Well a mid-70 cent is what it was in the pit of gloom in March 2009 and in terms of FX, we are almost there without any major correction in North American equity, bond or real estate markets... yet.
Commodities on the other hand are depressed (peaked more or less in 2011) and getting more so as the USD climbs the worry wall.
The other target low that might need a retest of course is the January 2002 post-dotcom crash low when the Loon looked like a 60 cent dollar. Market makers don't like the long side of the Loonie trade anymore as the Net Speculative Positions Chart below suggests.
A revaluation of the Canadian Dollar down is not good news for foreign owners of Canadian assets or consumers of imported stuff (that's everybody in Canada). The black swan for real estate in Canada could be more of a loon; a crazy loon if market rates in the bond market continue their uptrend.
The average price comparison of Vancouver, Toronto & Calgary Single Family Dwellings denominated in CAD and USD along with notations of significant changes in the spot price of WTI crude oil and the currency spread is on my monthly UPDATED CHART HERE.
But according to the charts above, they suggest that the remaining productive Canadians have already spent their future earnings and are liquidating their savings.
The top panel shows Canadian Retail Sales with and without auto sales since the Pit of Gloom in March 2009. The lower panel shows the Canadian Balance of Trade as well as the Current Account in the same time frame as retail sales.
Notice in the top panel that retail sales ex-auto have plunged and are nearly at the March 2009 Pit of Gloom lows. It might be cheaper than last year to drive to the mall but when you get there, imported goods (including refined fuel) require more of those 78 cent dollars. If Canadians are not in the stores buying stuff, employers will reduce labour costs (fewer hours or more automation) and manufacturers will produce less for this market.
In the lower panel, the Canadian Balance of Trade is plunging into deeper negative readings than at the pit of gloom as the export trade gets swamped by higher import costs on a low CAD.
The Current Account overlay remains at pit of gloom lows and the only way to reverse the deficit trend is to increase exports, decrease imports, depreciate the CAD, increase domestic savings or reduce domestic and or national borrowing or a combination of the above.
Mortgage debt requires a long term transfer of savings to transform the liability into an asset. A $100,000 loan at 3% with monthly payments over 25 years requires a repayment of $142,263.39 and does not account for increases in interest rates over 25 years.
The additional $42,263.39 of interest payments is coming out of savings but not going into productive investment. A mortgage is not an investment or a savings plan.
If the collateral securing the mortgage depreciates faster than the loan principal outstanding, debt revulsion will trump consumption desire.
4 of the last 6 months of Canadian
trade balances have been negative
Big media has been spinning the low CAD as a net positive for Canada. But it's not working out and probably explains in part the sudden decision by the Bank of Canada in cutting its key lending rate another 25 beeps on January 21, 2015, depressing the CAD/USD even further, but:
"There is considerable uncertainty about the speed with which this sequence (increased foreign demand, stronger exports, improved business confidence, investment and employment growth) will evolve and how it will be affected by the drop in oil prices. Canada’s weaker terms of trade will have an adverse impact on incomes and wealth, reducing domestic demand growth." (Bank of Canada)
Export countries want their currency to be valued less than their customer's currency so that they can 1) undersell the competition and 2) try to increase inflation (which increases tax collections). Neither is working. While exports rose 1.5% in December 2014, imports rose 2.3 percent with gains in 8 out of 11 import sectors. The main contributors to the increase in imports were energy products, motor vehicles and parts, as well as metal and non-metallic mineral products. Although Canada is a net energy exporter, its economy measured by GDP is that of producing 30% goods and 70% services (Stas Can Nov 2014).
Global oil demand growth remained at a relatively suppressed 585 kb/d y-o-y in 4Q14. There are several reasons why lower crude oil prices so far seem to have failed to stimulate demand. Those include heightened deflationary risks in both Europe and Japan; adverse revenue impacts on net-oil-exporters; a global trend towards reductions in energy price subsidies and/or increases in oil consumption taxes; and the heavy falls experienced by many currencies, versus the US dollar, negating the impact of lower crude prices in domestic currency terms. Reflecting the downwardly revised macroeconomic backdrop, mid-January saw the World Bank revise down its 2015 global economic growth forecasts to 3.0%, versus 3.4% in June 2014, still an acceleration on 2014 (+2.6%) but notably less-so than previously assumed. (International Energy Agency)
New Record Lows on the Baltic Dry Index Chart
"When inflation expectations are solidly anchored, as is now the case in Canada, there is no reason to fear deflation." said senior Bank of Canada deputy governor Agathe Côté, and yet many analysts are expecting the Bank of Canada to lower its central bank rate again at its next scheduled rate announcement on March 4, 2015. (Canadian Press via CBC News Feb 19, 2015)
"The best tar-sands companies need to get $50 per barrel for their oil to break even. The rest need between $50 and $90 per barrel. Today, a barrel of bitumen sells for just $56."
November 10, 2014 Quote from Matt Badiali, editor of S&A Resource Report
"Investors in Canadian oil sands are at a heightened risk of companies wasting $271 billion of capital on projects in the next decade that need high oil prices of more than $95 a barrel to give a decent return.", the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) revealed today."
November 4, 2014 Quote from Carbon Tracker Initiative
THE TRUE COST OF OIL
Garth Lenz, November 2011 TEDx Victoria BC
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Rudyard Kipling 1897
Demand is Local
Supply is Global
As the USD strengthens, the U.S. consumer inflation rate continues to drift down as it takes fewer greenbacks to buy imported goods. I guess it's too soon to yell deflation or pull out the Japan chart, but down is down.
Meanwhile in Canada and Australia where they dig the earth, the strengthening USD is producing the opposite effect, the CAD and AUD are weakening which is good for exporting the stuff coming out of the ground but with it comes more imported goods price inflation (buyers require more CAD & AUD dollars to buy the same amount of stuff) and that has egged on the real estate inflationistas who continue to drive the price of their local real estate up the left side of the Eiffel Tower. Sure, those imported countertops, appliance suites and appurtenances are going up in price; but that stuff is a wildly depreciating asset.
What about China? The bottom panel of the chart mashup above shows us that the CNY is also being depressed (via FX markets and the Princeling cliques) against the USD and that drives up their import costs on global resources and reduces the value of their already imported commodity stockpiles used to bankroll the shadowy (unregistered? - unregulated?) secondary financing market.
The weakening CNY is pushing imported Chinese consumer costs up and producer prices down. (March 2014: Chinese consumer prices were up 2.4% Y/Y and producer prices were down 2.3% Y/Y and down for the 25th straight month)
The Chinese housing index has rolled over on a steep dive (bottom panel of chart above and below is a China chart mashup from Bloomberg's Tom Orlik showing the ongoing Chinese deceleration).
History, Charts & Curated Readings
"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement; and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana Vol. I, Reason in Common Sense