Monday, September 7, 2009

The Training Wheels Economy

Looking at the most recent National Accounts data from Statistics Canada provides a sense that the Canadian economy can’t quite stay upright on its own. Luckily, the Government and the Bank of Canada have committed to stabilizing the economy until it can, sort of like a set of training wheels on a bike.

For its part, the Bank of Canada has committed to keeping its target rate at an effective lower bound of 25bps until the second quarter of 2010. The fiscal stimulus proposed by the Federal Government is projected by the Bank of Canada to contribute about 2.3% to GDP over the next year and a half, including close to half of the Bank’s projected growth for 2010.

So how long might the economy need training wheels? Well, personal consumption and residential investment seem to have turned, which is normally the case at the end of a recession. However, if this recession is anything like the past, private sector investment in non-residential structures and machinery and equipment may not recover for a while, particularly if bank lending remains tight.

Non-residential investment in structures and M&E contributed an average of about 1% to annual real GDP growth from 2003-2007 before subtracting growth in 2008 and 2009. The fiscal stimulus should go a long way in replacing that growth in 2010, but if consumption growth stalls or the loonie creates a larger than expected drag on exports, we could be looking at keeping the training wheels on for an extended period. If not, a 1980-1982 style double-dip recession is a real possibility.

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