(New throughout, adds focus on foreign home buying, inflation,
comments from deputy governor; adds byline)
By Nicole Mordant
KELOWNA, British Columbia, March 25 A lack of
data on foreign buyers scooping up property in Canada has made
it tougher for the central bank to understand housing market and
financial system risks, a senior bank of Canada official said on
Overseas home owners could respond more quickly to house
price shocks, potentially exacerbating price moves, Deputy
Governor Tim Lane said.
But he also noted any indebtedness they have would have less
impact on the Canadian financial system assuming their money
comes from abroad.
Foreign buying has helped pump up Canada's housing market,
particularly in major centers like Toronto and Vancouver. But
Lane noted it is hard to get data on how much foreign buying is
"It's hard to know to what extent we have Canadian
households getting more heavily indebted to buy the new homes
and to what extent we have foreign residents who are doing
that," Lane said.
"If they're not borrowing from the Canadian financial system
then it doesn't create the same immediate financial stability
risk," he added.
Lane also told the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce the impact of
low oil prices might drive growth "well below" 2 percent in the
first half of the year.
The central bank has forecast growth will average 1.5
percent in the first half of 2015. The bank unexpectedly cut
rates in January and markets see a more than 70 percent
probability they will hold in April.
The drop in energy prices could push total inflation briefly
negative, though the bank would not consider that to be
deflation, Lane said.
"Once that effect has dissipated, we expect inflation to go
back to close to 2 percent. And so, for that reason, we don't
see deflation as being a likely scenario in Canada," Lane said.
While it is more likely that oil prices will eventually be
higher than where they are currently, persistently low prices
could make some Canadian production uneconomical, he said.
Oil is a major export for Canada and the recent slide in
prices has started to weigh on growth. Lane repeated that low
prices will have an overall negative effect on the economy, with
the timing of positive offsets uncertain.
(Writing by Leah Schnurr and Randall Palmer, editing by Jeffrey
Hodgson and David Gregorio)