Canadian economy starts the year on a rebound with 0.6 per cent growth in January

Canadian economy starts the year on a rebound with 0.6 per cent growth in January

The Canadian economy grew 0.6 per cent in January, the fastest growth rate in a year, while the economy likely expanded 0.4 per cent in February, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

The rate was higher than forecasted by economists, who were expecting GDP growth of 0.4 per cent in the month. December GDP was revised to a 0.1 per cent contraction from zero growth initially reported.

January’s rise, the fastest since the 0.7 per cent growth in January 2023, was helped by a rebound in educational services as public sector strikes ended in Quebec, Statistics Canada said.

“The more surprising news today was the advance estimate for February,” which suggested that underlying momentum in the economy accelerated further that month, wrote CIBC senior economist Andrew Grantham in a note.

Thursday’s data shows the Canadian economy started 2024 on a strong note after growth stalled in the second half of last year. GDP was flat or negative on a monthly basis in four of the last six months of 2023.

More time for BoC to assess

The strong rebound could allow the Bank of Canada more time to assess whether inflation is slowing sufficiently without risking a severe downturn, though the central bank has said it does not want to stay on hold longer than needed.

Because recent inflation figures have come in below the central bank’s expectations, “it appears that much of the growth we are seeing is coming from an easing of supply constraints rather than necessarily a pick-up in underlying demand,” wrote Grantham.

“As a result, we still see scope for a gradual reduction in interest rates starting in June.”

WATCH | Bank of Canada left interest rate unchanged earlier this month: 

Bank of Canada leaves interest rate unchanged, says it’s too soon to cut

The Bank of Canada held its key interest rate at 5 per cent on Wednesday, with governor Tiff Macklem saying it was too soon for cuts. CBC News speaks with an economist and a couple who might be forced to sell their home if interest rates don’t come down.

The central bank has maintained its key policy rate at a 22-year high of five per cent since July, but BoC governors in March agreed that conditions for rate cuts should materialize this year if the economy evolves in line with its projections.

The bank in January forecast a growth rate of 0.5 per cent in the first quarter, and Thursday’s data keeps the economy on a path of small growth in the first three months of 2024. The BoC will release new projections along with its rate announcement on April 10.

Growth in 18 out of 20 sectors

Growth in January was broad-based, with 18 of 20 sectors increasing in the month, StatsCan said. The agency said that real estate and the rental and leasing sectors grew for the third consecutive month, as activity at the offices of real estate agents and brokers drove the gain in January.

Overall, services-producing industries grew 0.7 per cent, while the goods-producing sector expanded 0.2 per cent.

In a preliminary estimate for February, StatsCan said GDP was likely up 0.4 per cent, helped by mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction, manufacturing and the finance and insurance industries.

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