Economists are calling for the Bank of Canada to cut the overnight lending rate on Wednesday as fears around the coronavirus’s economic impact increase.
In a research note on Monday, CIBC Capital Markets chief economist Avery Shenfeld wrote that Covid-19 cases on the U.S. West Coast make the virus’s spread within Canada “inevitable.”
A rate cut is “far from an ideal weapon” but couldn’t hurt, he wrote, especially since the Federal Reserve has signalled its intent to cut the overnight rate.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Friday that the U.S. central bank would “act as appropriate to support the economy” in the face of risks posed by the coronavirus after stock markets saw their worst week since 2008. The Fed’s next rate decision is March 18.
The Bank of Canada (BoC) waiting until April to lower the 1.75% rate “would look out of sync with the evidence,” Shenfeld wrote. CIBC is predicting a quarter-point cut this week, another cut in April and a 75-basis-point reduction for the year. CIBC expects the same from the Fed, which cut rates three times last year.
The C.D. Howe Institute’s Monetary Policy Council said the BoC should cut this week and again in April, holding at 1.25% until 2021, citing concerns about the coronavirus.
“At this point, it is impossible to know how large and long-lasting these effects will be, but their implications for Canadian exports and consumer and business confidence are clearly negative,” a report from the council stated.
Declining long-term interest rates show that markets expect central banks to cut, the report added, and “the Bank of Canada should validate that expectation.”
In a report on Monday, Scotiabank vice president and head of capital markets economics Derek Holt also called for Bank of Canada cuts this week and in April. He cited developments in the domestic economy as reasons for cutting, but said the virus has increased the chances.
“The BoC needs to cut and was arguably already behind the curve before the coronavirus emerged as a rising threat,” Holt wrote.