Bank of Canada deputy Macklem says economic momentum softer than anticipated

KINGSTON, Ont. – Bank of Canada senior deputy governor Tiff Macklem said Thursday the economy is expected to pick up this year, but sounded a note of caution amid a soft housing market and weak export demand.

“Near-term momentum now appears to be slightly softer than previously anticipated,” Macklem said in a speech at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

“The strength and durability of the pick-up in growth through 2013 and beyond will depend critically on how successful we are in regearing our growth to exports, investment and innovation.”

The Bank of Canada is expected to update its economic projections later this month when it makes its next interest rate decision on Jan. 23.

The central bank’s overnight rate has sat at one per cent for more than two years.

In its monetary policy report in October, the Bank of Canada predicted the economy would grow by 2.2 per cent in 2012, 2.3 per cent in 2013 and 2.4 per cent in 2014.

Macklem is considered by many to be the front-runner to replace Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, who is leaving later this year to head the Bank of England.

In his speech, Macklem reiterated many of the same themes Carney has hammered on repeatedly in recent months including concerns about consumer debt.

He noted that Canadians are more indebted than the Americans or the British and housing activity is at a near record share of the economy.

“These trends are not sustainable,” Macklem said.

“The good news is that there are now signs a gradual correction of these imbalances may be under way. It is too early to tell whether it will continue, and there are risks on both sides.”

The Bank of Montreal noted that Macklem stuck to the script.

“As far as monetary policy comments were concerned, we got a blend of governor Carney’s “Guidance” speech from last month along with the recent policy announcement,” BMO senior economist Michael Gregory wrote.

Macklem’s worries about a softer than expected economy follow a report last that month that the country’s gross domestic product rose just 0.1 per cent in October after a flat September and a 0.1 per cent contraction in August.

However, Statistics Canada said last week that the Canadian economy created 40,000 jobs in December, adding to 59,300 created in November.

The unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.1 per cent, its lowest rate in four years.