- Why tariffs could still hurt Canada
- Global markets on the rise so far
- New York poised for stronger open
- Canadian dollar at about 78 cents
- What to expect from housing, debt reports
- What to watch for in U.K. Spring statement
- What else to watch for this week
President Donald Trump’s new import tariffs may yet hurt Canadian industry if foreign steel floods our market.
As The Globe and Mail’s Steven Chase, Adrian Morrow and Greg Keenan report, the Canadian government is also on guard against this, though, at least partly, for other reasons.
Mr. Trump last week unveiled tariffs of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, but exempted Canada and Mexico indefinitely, the assumption being they can remain exempt if they play ball on renegotiating the North American free-trade agreement.
As Mr. Chase, Mr. Morrow and Mr. Keenan report, the exemption hinges, too, on Ottawa not allowing foreign producers to get into the U.S. via Canada.
Borden Ladner Gervais managing partner Alan Ross, partner Denes Rothschild and associate Danielle Ridout looked at the issue through a different lens, that of the potential impact on the Canadian steel and aluminum sectors.
“While the exemptions for Canada and Mexico are good news for steel and aluminum businesses, as well as businesses with cross-NAFTA-border integrated supply chains in those countries, Canadian and Mexican businesses are still likely to be impacted by the new tariffs,” Mr. Ross, Mr. Rothschild and Ms. Ridout said in a report.
“There are real concerns about foreign steel and aluminum, which are effectively tariff-barred from the U.S., flooding the Canadian and Mexican markets,” the BLG lawyers added.
“This may be good news for some Canadian and Mexican businesses, but bad news for the Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum industries – although the news would be much worse if they were subject to tariffs on exports to the U.S.”
Mr. Rothschild added in an interview that he doesn’t expect “huge change,” but that “the reality is that there’s excess capacity globally.”
Thus, further disruption would make a difference.
Steel coming into Canada could be predominantly from Asia, though, “I’d think it would be a diversified group,” Mr. Rothschild said.
There’s another way of looking at this, of course, and that’s the potential for Canadian companies to pick up market share in the U.S. as other exporters are forced out of the market by the tariffs.
And there’s a “good chance” of that happening, Mr. Rothschild said, though the U.S. could well reconsider the exemption if Canadian steel started to flood its market.
The more likely scenario, however, is that this all gets settled before that could occur, he added.
The tariffs would, of course, hit the Canadian economy if Ottawa were to lose the exemption should NAFTA negotiators fail to make nice, something observers don’t expect to happen, but keep warning us about, nonetheless.
“If the tariffs eventually extend to Canada (i.e., if Trump doesn’t get his way on NAFTA), its economy could slow a few tenths, with Quebec and Ontario taking the brunt of the impact,” said Bank of Montreal senior economist Sal Guatieri.
“U.S.-bound shipments of steel and aluminum are just over 1 per cent of GDP,” he added.
“The economy will be hurt even in the absence of tariffs, as noted by Bank of Canada deputy governor [Timothy] Lane, because the uncertainty will affect investment decisions.”
Regardless of how it turns out for Canada, the U.S. economy will feel a pinch.
“The tariffs will extend an upswing in steel and aluminum prices and users’ input costs,” Mr. Guatieri said.
“Industries, such as fabricated metals that operate at capacity, will likely pass along the cost increase, cramping spending power,” he added.
“As one example, Americans could pay about 1 per cent more for an automobile, or just over $300. Sure, they won’t stop driving, but they will have less money to spend on other stuff. The direct impact of the tariffs on GDP could be 0.2 per cent, or somewhat less if Canada and Mexico (which supply a quarter of the U.S.’s foreign steel needs) get an extended pass.”
Investors are still enjoying Friday’s strong U.S. jobs report, with global markets up and New York poised for a stronger open.
Tokyo’s Nikkei gained 1.7 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 1.9 per cent, and the Shanghai composite 0.6 per cent.
In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 was up marginally by about 6 a.m. ET, with Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 up by between 0.3 and 0.7 per cent.
New York futures were up, and the Canadian dollar was at just about 78 US cents.
“A relief rally boosted Asian stock markets overnight, after Friday’s U.S. jobs report hit all the right notes,” said Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group.
“The impressive number of jobs created versus the weaker than forecast wages data meant that the strengths and weakness of the report whetted risk appetite perfectly. The economy is clearly booming but future inflation concerns have eased following January’s report, allowing the stock markets to charge higher.”
If you own a home and/or are deep in debt, read ’em and weep when this week’s reports on housing and credit are released.
But if you’re a federal or provincial policy maker, you’re just a couple of cards away from a good hand.
Both reports come Thursday, one from the Canadian Real Estate Association, the other from Statistics Canada.
Both will be something to watch for among governments and regulators, who have acted forcefully with measures to tame bubbly housing markets and ensure mortgage lending isn’t out of hand. Then there are homeowners fretting over the declining values of their properties.
First up is Statistics Canada’s widely watched report on debt and wealth in the fourth quarter.
The Bank of Canada noted just last week that consumers have recently shown restraint in their borrowing habits.
But Thursday’s reading is for the period in the run-up to the new mortgage qualification rules from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, the commercial bank regulator, so it obviously won’t reflect the current regime.
The key measure of household debt to disposable income stood at just over 171 per cent in the third quarter, which means we owe $1.71 for each dollar we’ve got to spend.
Thursday’s measure could well mark a fresh record high, said Bank of Montreal senior economist Robert Kavcic.
“While the Bank of Canada highlighted slowing credit growth in its latest policy statement, that became more pronounced early in Q1 as housing activity slowed,” Mr. Kavcic said in a report on what to expect from Statistics Canada.
“Still, the historically high debt levels do suggest the economy is more sensitive to interest rates, one reason for caution within the walls of the Bank of Canada,” he added.
“Considering both sides of the balance sheet, Canadian households look less levered, with debt-to-assets and debt-to-net worth both well below peak levels. That said, net worth dipped from record levels recently, and that trend could continue in Q4 with Toronto single-detached home prices still falling.”
Which brings us to 30 minutes after the Statistics Canada report, when CREA releases its look at February home sales and prices.
We’ve already seen results from several local real estate boards, and Mr. Kavcic expects the national report to show a February drop in sales of 12 per cent from a year earlier, and a fall in average prices of 5 per cent.
The MLS home price index, which is considered a better measure, should show a slower rise of 6 per cent.
Of course, the national numbers get skewed by Vancouver and Toronto, the latter having seen a sales decline of 35 per cent in February from a year earlier.
“Other major cities didn’t see as dramatic declines, but the overall picture is subdued, with Vancouver sales down 9 per cent year over year, and Calgary down 18 per cent year over year,” Mr. Kavcic said, noting Montreal “bucked the trend” with a 5-per-cent gain.
“One of the key price themes is ongoing double-digit gains in the Toronto and Vancouver condo markets, even while detached home prices are falling.”
The rest of the calendar:
Monday: No limit?
This is one of the slower days of the week, but we’ll see if stocks can pick up where they left off after a tumultuous week that saw President Donald Trump unveiling tariffs on steel and aluminum, and the Bank of Canada sounding a cautious tone that nonetheless suggests higher interest rates this year.
The S&P 500 ended the week with a 3.5-per-cent gain.
“For equity investors, the TSX faces the reality of softer growth, less-than-friendly relative policy dynamics (be it on the fiscal or trade fronts), and an increasingly challenged domestic oil market,” said BMO’s Mr. Kavcic.
“So far this year, the index hasn’t shown any sign of reversing its underperforming path.”
Tuesday: Royal (and) flush
Her Majesty’s Treasury releases a Spring statement that will be scoured for details of the Brexit divorce from the European Union.
This is like a mini-budget that basically sees Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, the equivalent of our finance minister, respond to fresh forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.
“It is quite likely that while we’ll see a number of revised forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, it is likely to be a low-key affair,” said CMC Markets chief analyst Michael Hewson.
“The Chancellor will be pleased to see that he is on course to reduce government borrowing by at least £10-billion more than expected due to higher-than-expected tax receipts,” Mr. Hewson added.
“He is likely to find himself under pressure to loosen the purse strings, however that may have to wait until October when we have a better idea of the type of deal that is on the table from the EU. We are expected to see some detail on the EU divorce settlement payments in the wake of the recent deal signed by Prime Minister [Theresa] May in December.”
Also on tap is the U.S. report on consumer prices, which economists expect to show a rise in annual inflation to 2.2 or 2.3 per cent. On a monthly basis, expect 0.2 per cent.
Investors will watch for what it suggests about the next moves from the Federal Open Market Committee, the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting group, which meets again in a couple of weeks.
“The risks that inflation will accelerate faster than the Fed currently expects are mounting,” said Toronto-Dominion Bank senior economist Leslie Preston.
“The FOMC’s next announcement is on March 21, and a hike at the meeting is essentially a lock. We currently expect three 25-basis-point moves in 2018, but the risks are skewed to more hikes rather than fewer.”
Later in the morning, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz speaks about the jobs market at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
Watch, too, for quarterly results from Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. in the wake of the tragic events in Parkland, Fla.
“The recent decision by the U.S. sporting goods retailer to stop selling assault rifles in the wake of the recent school shooting saw the share price drop sharply, prompting some criticism from some parts of the U.S. gun-owning lobby,” CMC’s Mr. Hewson said.
“In any event, the company, like most of the U.S. retail sector, has been struggling to cope with the Amazonification of the U.S. retail space, having downgraded its outlook for the year in one of its updates last year.”
Wednesday: Implied odds
Key economic reports from China include measures of industrial production, retail sales and fixed-asset investment.
“We think that industrial production growth slowed in the first two months of this year, partly due to continued disruptions from the anti-pollution campaign,” said Chang Liu of Capital Economics.
“Meanwhile, slower infrastructure spending probably dragged down fixed investment growth. We expect that retail sales growth edged down a touch too, given the recent softening in consumer confidence.”
Today also brings the latest look at U.S. retail sales, expected to show a rise of 0.3 per cent for February.
There are also quarterly earnings reports from Empire Co., Quebecor Inc., Seven Generations Energy Ltd. and Stella-Jones Inc.
Thursday: Full house
Besides the Statistics Canada and CREA reports on debt and housing, there are a handful of quarterly results, including those from Adobe Systems Inc. and AutoCanada Inc.
Friday: Go fish (or cut wood)
Observers expect Statistics Canada’s monthly report on manufacturing sales to show a decline of up to 1 per cent in January.
“Disruptions to auto production will once again play a part due to shutdowns at an Oshawa plant, which should drive a sharp decline in transportation equipment sales,” TD said in a lookahead.
“Meanwhile, the broad decline in exports bodes poorly for factory output as a whole,” the bank added.
“Energy should provide an offsetting source of strength on higher prices for refined products, though we see headwinds to forestry products after the U.S. resumed collecting duties on softwood lumber.”