The Bank of Canada hiked its key overnight interest rate by a quarter-point to 3.75% as expected on March 7th, but signaled that its current tightening cycle may be drawing to a close. The BOC also noted that the Canadian dollar, which rallied to fresh 14-year highs last week, has risen more than the bank had assumed in its January economic assessment.
The central bank changed its language to suggest future rate hikes would not be automatic, using the phrase "may be required" instead of the words "would be required" that it had used in January and February. Recent data do not alter the bank´s outlook for growth and inflation and its assessment of risks. "Consistent with this view, some modest further increase in the policy interest rate may be required to keep aggregate supply and demand in balance and inflation on target over the medium term."
The rate move marked the bank's fifth increase in a row. Falling energy prices reduced Canada's exports in January by more than expected from December's record levels and shaved 17 percent off the country's substantial trade surplus. Statistics Canada said March 9th, the trade surplus fell to C$6.35 billion ($5.47 billion) from December's C$7.69 billion, which was the second highest on record.
"If energy exports were excluded, the total value of exports would have been virtually unchanged from December." Instead, exports fell 3.3 percent to C$39.98 billion from C$41.32 billion in December. Imports were unchanged at C$33.63 billion.