* Carney says new language means rate hike less imminent
* Third-quarter growth forecast cut to 1.0 percent from 2.0
* BoC sees more slack in economy than previously thought
* Data revisions imply household sector more vulnerable
By Louise Egan and Randall Palmer
OTTAWA, Oct 24 Canadian interest rate hikes have
become "less imminent" as the economy slows, Bank of Canada
Governor Mark Carney said on Wednesday in unusually explicit
comments likely aimed at clearing up confusion over the central
bank's recent statements.
The bank has been signaling since April that it will
eventually raise its overnight rate from the current 1.0
percent, making it the only central bank among major
industrialized economies to lean toward a rate hike.
But a speech by Carney last week, ironically about greater
monetary policy transparency, was widely seen as less hawkish
than before, and a majority of analysts in a Reuters poll had
predicted the bank would soften its language on rates.
The bank did soften its tone on Tuesday, but not by as much
as the market had expected, and some concluded that it was
perhaps even more hawkish than before.
Carney set things straight in a news conference on
"The case for adjustment of interest rates has become less
imminent," he said bluntly.
"But it is important to recognize ... that over time rates
are more likely to go up than not," he added.
The Canadian dollar weakened and bond yields
"This is by far the clearest communication we've had from
the BoC over the last tumultuous nine days," said economist
Derek Holt of Scotia Capital. "That's as clear a signal as any
that the BoC is more dovish with its latest statement and
(Monetary Policy Report)."
Canada recovered more quickly from the global financial
crisis than other major economies and interest rates are
expected to rise well before they do in the United States and
other countries as its economy continues to absorb excess slack.
Carney said exports will recover gradually as U.S. demand
recovers. He admitted concerns about household debt, which has
soared to record highs helped by ultra-low borrowing costs.
WORRIED ABOUT DEBT
The confusion reflected a perception of mixed messages in
the central bank's interest rate announcement on Tuesday, when
the bank altered previous language to say a withdrawal of
monetary policy stimulus was only likely "over time."
It had previously said it would withdraw stimulus to the
extent the economy continued to expand and absorb excess slack,
making it easier to predict when that might happen.
But the bank also highlighted the possibility of using
monetary policy to rein in that rising personal debt. That
hinted at a rate hike aiming at financial stability, something
done only in extreme circumstances by a bank whose mandate
normally targets 2 percent inflation.
Carney said the central bank would be up-front about its
intentions and that it has no plans to use debt levels as a
reason to act for now as it assessed the impact of tighter
mortgage rules and other regulatory measures.
"The cumulative effect of those measures has not been fully
been felt. So we with others are monitoring the impact of those
steps," he said. "Monetary policy can play a complementary role,
it's not the first mover in any of this."
Mark Chandler, a strategist at the Royal Bank of Canada,
said the overall message was that the market should not price
rate cuts into their forecasts, as was the case until this week.
"They've been surprisingly obstinate in their commitment to
eventually raise rates, they're not pulling back from that," he
WEAK THIRD QUARTER
The bank on Wednesday halved its forecast for third-quarter
growth to an annualized 1.0 percent and said the degree of slack
in the economy had widened to two-thirds of a percent from about
half a percent in the second quarter.
But the lower third-quarter growth estimate partly reflected
temporary disruptions in the oil sector, and the bank painted a
brighter picture of the following two quarters.
It forecast average growth of more than 2 percent through
2014 as foreign demand for Canadian exports recovers.
The bank also said recent revisions to the household
debt-to-income ratio, which has approached levels seen in the
United States before the housing crash, implied "a more
vulnerable household sector than previously thought".
It saw signs of overbuilding in the housing sector despite a
decline in housing investment in the second and third quarters.
But the bank also said heavy debt loads might be making
consumers more cautious, and tighter mortgage rules were
expected to contribute to a more sustainable housing market.
Canada's housing market dipped during the recession, but
quickly bounced back, with rising prices and bidding wars in key
But house prices dipped 0.4 percent in September from
August, the Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index
showed. The year-on-year rise in prices slowed for the 10th