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Why the Bank of Canada’s ‘wait-and-see’ approach is best for homeowners and the economy: report

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The Bank of Canada has stepped to the sidelines since it last hiked the overnight rate, which influences rates on the mortgage market, this past October.

Leaving the policy rate at 1.75 percent since then is a departure from the central bank’s gradual efforts to push interest rates higher: The Bank of Canada has embarked on five consecutive hikes, beginning in July 2017.

Though the bank has not been as aggressive of late as market watchers might have predicted if asked last year, in a report published this week, TD economists Beata Caranci and James Orlando suggest this tempered approach is indeed the right one for the Canadian economy.

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For the past 10 or so years, they note, Canada has been able to count on the energy sector, housing, or both for economic growth. That isn’t the case today.

“Now we have a situation where both are going through what could be a prolonged adjustment period to a lower level of activity. This warrants a Bank of Canada pause,” reads their co-authored report titled “Patience is a Virtue.”

While lower oil prices and pipeline delays have been battering the Canadian economy, until relatively recently housing had picked up the slack. But with Canadian home prices posting their biggest decline since 1995, the economy is now facing another headwind, a situation TD nonetheless expects to clear up in the first half of the year.

“Our expectation is that evidence of housing stabilization and a rebound in the energy sector should become apparent in second quarter data, offering the central bank more confidence to resume its normalization process with interest rates thereafter,” the economists continue, saying the next rate hike is likely to occur in July.

However, TD notes that the data may not show the anticipated uptrends and risks may emerge.

“Household leverage and elevated sensitivity to interest rate changes have long been highlighted as the biggest risk to the economy,” the report states.

While TD’s view is generally in line with that of other big banks, there has been increasing speculation that the Bank of Canada may be encouraged to reverse at least one of its recent rate hikes in the event of a prolonged downturn in the housing market.

But BMO Chief Economist Douglas Porter isn’t buying that scenario.

“Another round of sour Canadian home sales figures, and a further cooling on household borrowing, seems to have awoken some of the big bears on Canadian housing,” Porter writes in a separate report.

“But before everyone goes all ‘sell Canada on the coming melt in housing’, we would just point to a variety of countering facts,” he adds.

For starters, policymakers were aiming at curbing out-of-control price gains when they implemented mortgage stress testing, hiked rates, and implemented foreign-homebuyer taxes in BC and Ontario — with that accomplished, more action isn’t likely for the time being.

Further, banks have begun cutting rates for five-year fixed-rate mortgages, the most popular type of mortgage for borrowers in Canada.

“As we have pointed out at every available occasion, do not forget that Canada is currently experiencing the strongest population growth in a generation,” Porter piles on.

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New home? Prepare for the unexpected

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(NC) Buying a house, getting married or having your first baby are all major life events that are likely to affect your finances. But whether you’re in the midst of a major life event or not, it’s important to check in on your finances regularly to maintain good financial health.

Your financial health encompasses things like your spending, savings, borrowing and future financial plans. It also means dedicating a set amount of savings for unexpected future events. It can even include optional credit protection insurance, such as TD protection plans, to help cover your debt balances in case of death, a covered critical illness or total disability.

Even though it can be tough to think about the unexpected, life is unpredictable and it’s important to plan for the unexpected. Find more information at td.com.

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Mortgage pitfalls to avoid

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(NC) Throughout life, you may have moments where you’ll make a large purchase or invest in a costly item, like your family home. But whether you’re in the market for your first new property or already have a mortgage, leaving this asset unprotected can be costly.   

Insuring your housing financial debt, as well as debt for other big-ticket items like a new boat for your lakefront cottage or keepsake jewelry like an engagement ring, is a smart investment in your well-being.

To help protect your debt balances like a mortgage, your bank may have optional credit protection insurance products.

“Your home is one of your biggest assets, yet illness can happen at any stage of life. Worrying about your mortgage when the focus should be on health isn’t a situation anyone would wish for,” explains Shirley Malloy, vice president at TD. “Fortunately, we offer mortgage protection to provide coverage for your outstanding balance should you face a covered critical health event.”

Mortgage protection can be purchased whether you’re in the process of applying for a mortgage or already have a home financing solution. But what about protection options for credit card debt?

“Given the unprecedented circumstances of this year, many Canadians are trying to plan for the unexpected to protect themselves and their finances,” says Malloy. “TD balance protection plus is an optional product designed to help you deal with your credit card payment obligations in the event of a covered event, such as loss of employment.”

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Is your internet too slow? It’s probably not you

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(NC) We all know the aggravation of a school lesson that just won’t stop freezing or the family video call that looks more like a photo montage. And, as we adjust to the impact of COVID-19 on our day-to-day, that slow connection can have frustrating consequences.

Working from home and learning remotely, both need fast, stable internet, something not enough Canadians have yet. Even if you have fast devices in your home, if the infrastructure in your area is not optimal, your connection won’t be either.

Right now, cities have the infrastructure needed to ensure access. But rural and remote communities are hugely underserved, with fewer than half having high-speed internet, and fewer than a third of households on reservations have high-speed connections.

Fortunately, change is coming. The Universal Broadband Fund is backing projects across Canada right now to ensure the reliable, high-speed internet connections families need to work, study, access services online, and safely stay in touch with each other.

The fund existed before COVID, but as a response to the pandemic, its timetable has been moved up by four years to a target of 98 per cent of Canadians with high-speed internet access by 2026. With the faster pace, at least 90 per cent of us should be connected by the end of 2021.

The fund is focused on improvements in rural and remote communities across Canada to fix the disconnect between internet access for urban and rural households.  This means more remote work opportunities, better access to remote learning and safer access to healthcare, no matter where you live.

It’s not just for good connections at home, either. The improvements mean much better access to mobile networks on highways between remote communities. The result is better, safer navigation and access to emergency services for your family, even on the road in the middle of nowhere. Mobile projects will be focused on serving Indigenous communities and the roads leading to them.

The shape these improvements will take in your area will depend on where you live. Canada is huge, and its communities are hugely diverse, with diverse needs. Keep an eye out for local projects — they’re a small part of something much bigger.

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