The last three weeks of market volatility have had a profound effect in driving demand for risk-free, liquid government investments. The Bank of Canada has been a recipient of some of this inflow, as demonstrated by the 5-year benchmark government bond rate:
Speculators would have made a fairly good gain had they bought around 3.1% and sold today at around 2.6%. Of course, the best trades are done in retrospect, so this is just like saying that I could have picked the last 6 digits of the lottery and won a million dollars. Whether the yield will go lower or not remains to be seen.
What this does mean, however, is that 5-year fixed rate mortgages are likely to drop from their existing levels of around 4.54% (at ING Direct) or 4.39% (a typical mortgage broker) to something down 25 basis points or so. I would expect the 5-year rate to be around 4.25% for most retail customers. I generally ignore the posted bank rates since they are always inflated and when negotiating, they usually have a standard rate that is a good percent and a bit below those rates. Competition has whittled that process down to a formality of just asking, but I am sure there are some financially uninformed people that believe the posted rate is the only one they can get.
The Bank of Canada will be raising the target (short term) rate on June 1. This is inevitable, but the question is whether they will be raising 50 basis points or 75 basis points. Right now the 3-month banker’s acceptance futures (the only short term interest futures instrument actively trading in Canada) is implying a June rate of 0.81%.
My prediction is that the Bank of Canada, on June 1st, will raise the overnight target rate 0.5% to 0.75%.
Since this is mostly baked into the markets, the effect this will have on longer-term rates is nil. However, for those that are on variable rate mortgages, they will be paying 0.5% more since the prime rate will go up a corresponding amount. On a $300,000 mortgage, this would mean $1,500/year in payments or about $125/month additional.
My projection for the end of December will be 1.5%, down from 1.75% as projected a month earlier. My prediction is that rates will go up another 0.25% on July 20, 0.25% on September 8, no change on October 19 and up 0.25% on December 7.