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MNI (Ottawa)

The Bank of Canada has enough evidence in hand on inflation and a tight job market to lift interest rates next week, Stephen Williamson, who has been a visiting scholar at the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve, told MNI.

“The Bank of Canada really needs to get going here” and should hike at the Jan. 26 meeting, said Williamson, a Western University professor in London, Ontario. “You can be fairly gradual about it” and avoid worries about “driving the economy off a cliff” he said, saying a hike every other meeting could work.

Bets on Governor Tiff Macklem waiting until at least April to lift the record low 0.25% rate -- guidance he gave just last month -- are being torn up this week. Reports have shown two-thirds of executives see inflation topping 3% over the next two years and CPI at the highest since 1991 when the BOC adopted inflation targets. While some economists maintain the BOC will wait until March to ensure the economy returns to full potential through the most infectious wave of Covid yet, Williamson said evidence from the UK and elsewhere suggests Omicron will cause less of a hit.

“The Covid situation, there's reason to be optimistic about that,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty rapid infection, but it doesn't make people that sick.”


That leaves policymakers with inflation that's been higher and lasted longer than predicted, and a job market that appears tight. “The labor market is pretty much back to where it was pre-pandemic,” Williamson said.

The BOC has said it wanted to wait until the "middle quarters" of this year when the economy would reach full output and inflation stabilizes around 2%, and that price gains would slow to around that mark in the second half of 2022.

The Bank’s communication on measuring the economy’s “output gap” has always been a little vague and gives it “a lot of wiggle room to do whatever they want to,” Williamson said.

The BOC could look to bring its policy rate back towards 2% over a few years, something like its own estimate of a neutral setting, he said.

Canada "doesn’t look like an economy that’s in dire need of monetary stimulus,” he said. “It looks like one where monetary policy should get back to normal, it seems pretty clear to me.”

MNI Ottawa Bureau | +1 613-314-9647 |
MNI Ottawa Bureau | +1 613-314-9647 |

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