Canadian Economic Outlook for 2012

Roller Coaster Ride

It’s the time of year when we shake off the old year and look ahead to guess what the new one will bring. 2011 was a mixed bag of economic drama: real estate, stock market, jobs and other indicators seemed down as often as they were up. It was an uncertain year money wise.

What about 2012? The verdict is mixed, the debt crisis in Europe being the pivotal factor. If these nations can get a grip on their monetary problems, the rest of the world should see gradual growth. If things slip into meltdown, we could be looking at a global double-dip recession.

In Canada, the numbers over the last month or so look promising and predictors seem to be leaning towards the former, more positive, scenario — with the debt crisis worsening in early 2012 but improving by mid-year. Here’s what’s up for the year:

Economic Growth

Our economy is going to grow this year, but not by leaps and bounds. Expect about 1.9% growth in GDP, according to the Bank of Canada. RBC is forecasting as much as 2.5% growth.

At the end of 2011, the BOC had expected GDP growth in Canada for Q3 to hit 2.0%.  Actual growth turned out to be 3.5%. And in Q4 they expect 0.8% growth, while most analysts think Q4 growth in Canada was about 2%.

Only time will tell if we will once again surpass the forecasts.  And if so, for how long can  it go on?

Interest Rates

Low, low, low! With all this uncertainty, and inflation numbers looking very low, there are few plans here or south of the border to raise rates. Some are saying we won’t see a rise in the overnight rate of 1% until 2013.

Until the worldwide economy has truly stabilized, you’ll be able to get those dirt-cheap mortgage rates and loans, so enjoy them a little longer.  Experts predict that once rates start to raise at the end of 2012 or in 2013, the increase will be slow and steady, going up 1-3% by the end of 2013.

To keep on top of interest rate changes, check out the Mortgage Rate Outlook Panel for a monthly prediction on whether or not rates will go up, down or stay the same in the short term.

Real estate

The predictions, of course, depend on where you live. Experts are saying the high-flying Vancouver and Toronto markets are overvalued and we should see a correction. But with high gas prices and job growth focusing on cities, there’s still a lot of interest in living in our biggest centres.

One thing the experts seem to agree on is the oversupply of condos in these cities. They’re expecting a dip in prices and buyers getting pickier about location, square footage and outdoor space.

Check out Melanie’s post from yesterday to find out more about what’s in store for Canadian’s when it come to home prices, home sales and housing starts in 2012.

Currency

With ongoing problems in the US and overseas, economists are predicting weakness in the US dollar and the Euro throughout the year. As a result, the Canadian dollar is expected to stay high in 2012.

Employment

The jobs story has been much worse in the US than it has been here. Already in late 2011 the US jobless rate moved down and is around 8.6% right now. Experts are predicting a modest descent through 2013 to around 8%.

Here, our situation is better, and we’re hovering around 7.4% unemployment right now. It’s predicted Canada will see a jobless rate of about 6.9% by mid 2013. Better news still: those experts think wages will start to rise and skills shortages will make looking for a well-paying job easier for some.

Regions

The prairies are so hot right now. Alberta and Saskatchewan have low employment rates and high growth, and those are expected to continue into 2012.

All in all, I’d say it’s not quite time to break out the champagne over the economy. 2012 promises to be another roller coaster ride of ups and downs, but those who can manage their money wisely and keep their debt to income levels in check, will come out on top.

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