Canada Rebels against the Destruction of the Loonie

The fear of “currency instability.”

“Without precedent” — that’s what National Bank of Canada’s chief economist Stéfane Marion called the wholesale destruction of the loonie.

The Canadian dollar is in a tailspin. Rarely has it tumbled so far so fast, and against so many currencies. The steepness of the CAD’s depreciation against the USD is without precedent, -33%, or 3.5 standard deviations, in 24 months.

In the two weeks so far this year, the loonie has dropped 5.8% against the euro, 5.3% against the greenback, and 8.6% against the yen. “Even the likes of Norway (+5.4% against the CAD) and Sweden (+3.9%) are mocking the once-mighty Canadian dollar,” Marion wrote in the note. “Australia and New Zealand? Not to worry, they are also gaining ground against the CAD.”

The Canadian dollar plunged to a fresh 13-year low last week and hasn’t recovered since, hovering at US$0.688, below $0.70 for the first time since spring 2003.

People are getting alarmed. A lot of consumer goods are imported, including 81% of fruits and vegetables. The plunging loonie makes them more expensive for Canadians: meat prices rose 5% last year, fruits 9%, vegetables 10%. The average household ended up spending C$325 more for food in 2015 than in 2014, according to the Food Price Report. And it’s likely to get worse.

When Stephen Poloz became governor of the Bank of Canada in 2013, he set out to hammer down the Canadian dollar. In 2015, he redoubled his efforts. He relied on ceaseless jawboning. He even invoked the absurdity of negative interest rates. And he cut the overnight rate twice, the infamous surprise cut in January and the telegraphed cut in July, at a time when the Fed was flip-flopping about raising rates.

“He has impoverished Canadians,” Jeff Herold, CEO at asset manager J. Zechner Associates, told the Toronto Star. As the paper put it:

Canadians tend to notice when their buying power shrinks relative to their US cousins, especially given 90% of the population lives within 100 kilometers of the US border.

But consumers aren’t the only ones worried. National Bank of Canada’s Marion:

Currency instability has become a concern, and we think the Bank of Canada must take note. For Canadian businesses, currency depreciation has already sent the price of machinery and equipment (73% of which is imported) to a new record high. This is bound to complicate Canada’s transition to a less energy-intensive economy.

His chart is eloquently fretting about a “disorderly depreciation,” as he calls it, of the Canadian dollar (via NBF Economics and Strategy) and hints at worse to come:



Interestingly, all four of the chief economists of Canadian chartered banks who sit on the Monetary Policy Council advised against a rate cut. As the press release suggested, the recent sharp decline of the Canadian dollar weighed heavily on voting decisions, with some members seeing a possibility that damage to public confidence from further precipitous declines might outweigh any beneficial effect to trade-oriented sectors of the economy.

National Bank was in that camp. In our view, a January 20 rate cut would risk feeding expectations of negative interest rates in Canada and send USD/CAD to 1.50 or higher.

From 1.45 late Monday.

“A volatile currency is every bit as harmful to planning as volatile inflation,” warned Douglas Porter, chief economist of BMO Capital Markets. “I’ve always found it interesting that the Bank of Canada is so concerned about keeping inflation stable to help businesses and consumers plan, and yet it’s almost as if the currency is a complete afterthought.”

Even the coddled exporters of manufactured goods, which are supposed to benefit more than anyone else from the destruction of the loonie, are getting cold feet.

Jayson Myers, CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, the country’s largest trade and industry association, told the Toronto Star that exchange-rate volatility was impeding business decisions and that the constant talk of further rate cuts was fanning concerns about the shape the economy is in. And that’s bad for confidence, he said.

He went a step further: “My advice right now would be to even take a look at increasing interest rates by a quarter of a point,” he said. “Interest rates are low already. A little bit of dollar stability would be better.”

The Bank of Canada has a dubious theory: Grow the economy by slashing the purchasing power of consumers, on whose spending the economy depends, and by strangling the ability or willingness of companies to buy imported equipment and machinery to expand their operations and drive the economy forward.

Consumer confidence already plummeted to the lowest level in two years. And companies’ hiring and investment intentions plunged to the lowest level since 2009. So this is going to get rough. Read… Canadian Stocks in Bear Market, Loonie Swoons, Crude Crashes to $16, Consumer & Business Confidence Dives

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  56 comments for “Canada Rebels against the Destruction of the Loonie

  1. Mike R. says:

    All seems logical to me. Isn’t the Canadian Fed intentionally importing inflation because the economy is tanking and they have a huge debt overhang. They can’t let deflation set in.

    This is the same playbook the US Fed used as well only they had to use QE because the dollar is much stronger since it is a reserve currency.

    What am I missing here?

    • Mark says:

      You are missing nothing, we are not reserve currency, we are not superpower, our politicians and bankers have no balls, we elected kid to run (ruin) country etc…
      We are just spare tire in car with broken engine.
      Sad but truth.

      • MAS says:

        Agreed. You wanted change Canada you got it !!

        • c smith says:

          Yes, I note that the outright collapse of the Looney accelerated markedly upon the election of Justin Trudeau.

      • laom sigmons says:

        sounds like the U.S., England, Germany and every other Western failure nations

  2. rich says:

    On the other hand, if you can stand the cold weather, it’s not a bad thing t to have US Dollars when shopping for real estate in Canada. Can’t help but like the price of this waterfront classic:;jsessionid=FFBC21C8F27354C1864E972937DEBAD4

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Indeed! And you’ll be buying at the peak of the magnificent Canadian housing bubble.


      • rich says:

        Buying in a bubble, but at a better than 30% discount. On the other hand, the guy who shares my driveway, here in coastal NC, turned down $1.35 million for his 1,800 sf Intracoastal waterfront home on a much smaller lot. Homes here are now selling for almost as much as they were in the bubble peak year of 2006. Consequently, there’s certainly more money to be lost buying my neighbor’s home for his asking price of $1.5 million, than there would be paying $119,000 for that similar sized, Nova Scotia house.

        Meanwhile, look what one could be buying for $1.7 million (USD) in Nova Scotia.

        Compare that to a similarly priced crack shack in West Palo Alto. There are bubbles, and then there are real bubbles. That said, I’ve never been to Nova Scotia nor Palo Alto.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          I live in San Francisco… talk about a housing bubble!!!

          So here is an interesting trade: sell your totally overpriced home in San Francisco, convert those US dollars into beaten down loonies, and buy a totally overpriced home in Toronto at a discount! Better yet, pocket those loonies for better days and borrow at ultra-low mortgage rates to buy that overpriced home in Toronto. Now, if you can put that mortgage into an LLC, you can let the bank have it back if the market crashes on top of you. That cuts your risk down a lot. And look at all the possibilities if the market doesn’t crash (unlikely), and if the loonie rises once again (very likely … we just don’t know when).

        • hidflect says:

          In today’s market, house prices seem to be largely determined by the number of jobs available in that area. Livability runs a distant second. I would say this is a reflection of the fear and insecurity people are feeling in this century. We seem to be moving to the Bangkok style economy. Islands of extreme wealth surrounded by seas of depressed pools of labour from which the enthroned elite can draw upon when required.

      • Mark says:

        I would rather put now US$ in TSE and buy some Canadian stocks.
        It is win-win situation for you guys.

    • Mark says:

      It is called ice rink with view (not waterfront classic) in Canada.
      One of the things Poloz must keep going is Canadian house zeppelin.
      If this bursts we are….screwed BIG TIME.
      Happy shopping.

    • Lee says:

      Well yeah, cold weather and snow……………….and I doubt that you could go swimming even in summer.

      Been to PEI and Nova Scotia. Nice places to visit in summer. Visit Peggy’s Cove if you have the chance. Lobster was very good and cheap.

      I grew up in North Dakota and had enough of winter weather although I do miss ice fishing!!

      What are the taxes on a place like that? Electricity?

      Does Canada have restrictions on who can buy property like we have here in Oz?

  3. MAS says:

    The CDN dollar is tied to Oil. When Oil goes so does the CDN Dollar. Look at the Oil to Dollar charts. You’re looking at a 64 Cent dollar and I’ve heard ramblings of a CDN Dollar as low as 59 Cents. It’s going to be low for a good 15-20 years, get used to it. It’s happened before, it will happen again.

    And with the Libtards promising to run a massive deficit for the next 4 years at least ( 8 – 10 years if they re elect the moron ) it’s going to get extremely bad for Canadians. Between a low dollar, massive deficits, carbon taxes and a pop of the housing bubble, I’d get the hell out of dodge if you can.

    • c smith says:

      “The CDN dollar is tied to Oil. When Oil goes so does the CDN Dollar.”

      And when Canada can’t SELL OIL because of goofy politicians, the CDN dollary REALLY goes down!!!

    • OutLookingIn says:

      Dollar versus oil to a certain extent, but not all.
      WTI is a much higher quality (low sulphur) crude than the CDN counterpart, which is high impurities and much more expensive to refine. As a consequence the CDN crude sells at a much deeper discount than spot. Pressuring CDN producers at both ends of the market.
      The US dollar is just the best looking corpse in the morgue!

    • ucde says:

      “massive deficits”

      Deficit spending is a good thing. You are conflating households with the currency issuer. When the currency issuer is generous, everybody benefits. When deficit spending contracts, we get depressions and recessions.

      Its not the only dynamic, but its one that conventional economics and mainstream thinking has got completely wrong. You want the government to spend a lot, way more than they tax. That’s the only way the private sector can experience a surplus.

      Lower deficits has been EU policy for some time, called austerity, its written right into the maastricht treaty. Results aren’t good. The US actually slashed the deficit from 1921 to 1931 and then something bad happened, I heard. The deficit is your friend.

      • Raging Ranter says:

        High deficits are not sustainable long term. And Canada enjoyed its best economic growth ever after both the federal government and provinces slashed spending in the mid-1990s and brought their budgets into surplus, running surpluses for many years. The Keynesians were crying foul the whole time the cutting was going on and they were proved spectacularly wrong.

    • Joe E says:

      “Libtards”? MAS, don’t even bother commenting since nobody takes you seriously with language like that.

  4. Ptb says:

    Canada is going on sale, but does anyone want to buy into the management they currently have? This devaluation keeps up and they’re going to have some serious political upheaval as most Canadians I know are getting pretty upset about the combination of a devaluing currency and a very bloated government.

  5. Bob Borgeson says:

    It is hard to understand the thinking of central banks when they destroy the income of people with money in the bank.we are close to retirement and looking at the used car salesmen running most of the companies in the stock market and our response to cutting interest rates is to spend less.Pretty simple really.We are from Saskatchewan but now in Florida as we had committed last year.Our response is half as much eating out and half as much golf.We are from the edge of an oil field.A friend of our son sells heavy US trucks.As of 2 months ago he had sold one truck for 2015.I think the high US dollar is going to devastating for the US exports as people simply don’t have to buy at the same rate.Cut back 20% in buying and see what happens

    • Petunia says:

      Bob, as I hear Canadians complain about their economy I wonder how they manage to spend the entire winter in Florida. Even if they mostly eat at home, that is some feat. Florida is over run with Canadians here for the season, November to March. I have had some good paying jobs and never could take more than 2 weeks off. As a Floridian, I am not complaining only wondering.

      • Kira says:

        Most of the Canadians who stay in Florida for the winter are retired, and have good retirement incomes. They likely bought condos or timeshares when the prices were reasonable. They need to spend extra on health insurance, but I would guess most other expenses are reasonable and even less expensive than in Canada (think fuel and food). Entertainment (eating out/golf) would add to costs but are discretionary.

        The other Canadians who visit for a week or two, either stay with family (see above) or get deals on accommodations and attractions.

        • Jack says:


          Those “Canadians who stay in Florida for the winter are retired, and have good retirement incomes” are going to be former public service workers; i.e., teachers, cops, docs, nurses, and politicians from all levels of gov’t, etc. They’re the only ones that have a reliable pension income, protected against inflation, etc.

      • Bob Miller says:

        Excuse me. “Over run with Canadians.” I get the point, I think, but a nicer ways to say it would be welcome. If it were not for these wonderful Canadians coming here in the winter, the golf course I live on would be a field full of weeds. Let us count our blessing. Come on down Canadians. Bless you.

        • Petunia says:

          I was very clear that I wasn’t complaining about them being here, only wondering how they manage it. They may all be retired but many don’t look much older than 50. That may be saying something about how their govt treats them, as opposed to how ours treats us.

          I did hear from a Canadian doctor once that he has an earnings cap on his income, so he stops working when he reaches it and comes down here. There must be a lot of doctors from Canada down here.

        • polecat says:

          golf is highly overrated……..i’ll take the weeds….on offence Mr. Miller !

      • West says:

        Have you been to Arizona? Canadians blew up their housing bubble and used the proceeds to reinflate the Phoenix bubble. It will be interesting to see when they start leaking air in both of their properties in two different countries.

    • Ptb says:

      Global trade is grinding to a halt and the USD is in a bull market. I’d say this puts a US recession at about a 90% probability. Keeping ones ‘powder dry’ would be a smart move at this time. Assuming one has any powder to keep dry.

      • walter map says:

        “I’d say this puts a US recession at about a 90% probability.”

        An easy bet there. ShadowStats says the US has been in recession for some time. Astute realists will tell you the last recession never ended: it just looked that way because of QE-driven asset bubbles.

        Poloz pulled out all the stops to sink the loonie, so of course he succeeded.

        • d says:

          “Astute realists will tell you the last recession never ended: it just looked that way because of QE-driven asset bubbles.”

          Thank you.

          QE 1 was necessary and good, it was the parachute that stopped complete annihilation.

          IN 20/20 Hindsight. QE II and III should have gone into infrastructure (Replacing some of the jobs china has stolen), instead of the same path as 1.

          08 should have been a double dip event. QE II and III have simply pushed out the time frame on the chart. Where we are probably going now/soon, unless a miracle occurs, is leg 2 of the classic double dip.

          Regular market forces can only be manipulated away, for so long.

          The FED is not clairvoyant.

          They did better than the sit on hand’s policy’s of 1929. The error, is they are overloaded with Academics, who see Finance (banks and stocks) as the whole economy, not as something that services the working Economy.

          The FED also had to deal with a POTUS, out to destroy the American middle class, as to many of them were white for his liking.

          Hard to generate a real recovery in those circumstances.

          Then, add china.

  6. Terry says:

    It sure takes a lot of piling on of debt by governments (all levels), businesses and households in this country to keep our way of life going.

    The following numbers are taken from the Statistics Canada website:

    At the end of September, 2015 the total debt outstanding in Canada (bottom line of the credit market summary data table) was $6.70 trillion.

    At the end of September, 2014 the total debt outstanding was $6.17 trillion. In the one year period from the end of September, 2014 to the end of September, 2015 it increased by $530 billion. This is an increase of 8.5%.

    The approximate beginning of the global financial crisis was June, 2007. At the end of June, 2007 the total debt outstanding was $3.99 trillion. In the last 8-1/4 years it has increased by $2.71 trillion. This is an increase of 67.9%.

    Looking at the total debt outstanding in Canada of domestic non-financial sectors (17th line up from the bottom of the credit market summary data table):

    At the end of September, 2015 the total debt outstanding of domestic non-financial sectors was $4.86 trillion.

    At the end of September, 2014 the total debt outstanding of domestic non-financial sectors was $4.54 trillion. In the one year period from the end of September, 2014 to the end of September, 2015 it increased by $323 billion. This is an increase of 7.1%.

    At the end of June, 2007 the total debt outstanding of domestic non-financial sectors was $2.84 trillion. In the last 8-1/4 years it has increased by $2.02 trillion. This is an increase of 70.9%.

    The start date of this Statistics Canada data table can be changed by clicking on the “add/remove data” tab at the top of the page.

  7. Markar says:

    Yet, most analysts are expecting a rate decrease this week, with neg. rates on the horizon. Should do wonders for the looney!

  8. Robert says:

    “The Bank of Canada has a dubious theory: Grow the economy by slashing the purchasing power of consumers, on whose spending the economy depends.” A vibrant economy requires production, especially value-added, not consumption. Cutting taxes for manufacturing and streamlining their bureaucracy, IMHO would be useful. The irony is that the looney had achieved parity with the dollar after they had run 9 straight years of balancing their budget(and offering savers a higher rate than was available in the U.S.) while the U.S. national debt soared- the U.S. debt continues to soar and yet it has gained 30%.

  9. Nicko says:

    The sooner the Great Canadian Housing Crash commences proper, the better off we’ll all be.

    • Shawn says:

      Absolutely, and add to that, the Great California housing bubble currently underway as well. Would love to see all these smug yuppies who bought at the top get burned.

  10. Shawn says:

    “Now, if you can put that mortgage into an LLC, you can let the bank have it back if the market crashes on top of you.”

    Wow I never thought of that. I’m sure it is harder to do than it sounds.

  11. Paulo says:

    Meanwhile in Canada:

    Last year was outstanding for tourism. This year is forecast to be better.

    Logging and sawmilling still doing fine.

    Lower mainland with miles and miles of hot-house products doing very well selling into the US market.

    Plus there are solutions to a low loonie which is also a plus:

    Buy local and cut back on fluff habits, (California strawberries, etc). Do you need to eat Kiwis in winter? Learn to distinguish ‘Needs’ from ‘Wants’.

    Buy Canadian wine and liquor as needed.

    Cut back and hunker down. Quit whining and start smart shopping.

    Enjoy your single-payer health system and know you won’t go broke if you get sick.

    The downturn started long before Harper got the boot. There would be no difference with who might be in power. While I hate Trudeau, his cabinet is 25% smaller. We’ll just have to see how his Govt handles the slowdown. Unless you are leveraged in the high-price home market (Toronto, Vancouver, etc), the rest of the Country could care less if you are underwater or walk away from your purchasing foolishness. If you stampede into buying at the top of the market, more the fool you. It isn’t exactly a new problem and is not only a Canadian problem. It has happened before and will happen again. Buyer beware. I have a nephew who bought a dinky rancher in the Bay Area for $750,000 (US). He is a salary wage earner. I could buy the same home here for less then $200,000 Cdn and make the same wage.

    As for selling US property and buying in Canada, (at the top of the market?) are you going to live here? Do you think it is wise to invest in a country you don’t understand or cannot legally reside? Will you rent it out and use a property manager to look after your interests? What will your investment look like when the market tanks?

    I have a buddy who bought a waterfront Condo 6 years ago on the west coast…beautiful Uclulet. At the time I said I did not think it was a good idea and that it was overpriced. In this current ‘bubble’ it is worth approx 25% less than when he bought it. When he purchased it there was no limit to the hype; The Chinese were coming, the new golf course was underway, blah blah blah. Well guess what?, Chinese are urban people and do not like to live in west coast resort towns. Golf is a dying industry and past-time, with courses going bust around the world. Like I said, buyer beware.

    I am 60 and retired 3 years ago on a modest pension and investments. Usually, once per year I vist my sister in Washington State. This year she will instead visit us. I will take her salmon fishing. We used to like going to the Oregon beaches. This year we will simply stay home and watch the whales while we fish and go prawning. Not too hard to take.

    Yeah, there is a lot of doom and gloom about Canada. I just have a few questions about it? How’s that water in Flint? How are the aquifers doing? How’s Philidelpia making out with their slums? (and so many other cities) Trump? Come on!! Is that all you have going forward? Trump or Hillary? Scary stuff. Long term, do you think this is such a terrible place to live and invest? Boy, I sure don’t.

    Like I said, buyer beware.

    • Nicko says:

      Agreed. I think Trudeau the Second will navigate this crisis and move Canada onto bigger and better things. He’s the best thing to come along in decades. Canada is still a young, quickly growing, progressive society, filled with endless potential.

      • Vespa P200E says:

        Oh really? Sarcasm? So ya think the young libertard progressive Trudeau will save Canada? Pass that smoke this way or whatever you are drinking.

    • polecat says:

      If I, as a non arrogant yank(waves from across the Juan de Fuca), who’s been trying to scale down for the last 7+ yrs(no debt, but currently unemployed) what should I consider if wanting to immigrate across the water. Any thoughts Paulo???

    • Raging Ranter says:

      Sorry but buying Canadian can’t ameliorate the costs of a falling currency. Trade 101 – when imports become more expensive, competing domestic products also become more expensive. Back in the post war era, politicians used to love the idea of import quotas, since they “restrict imports without raising prices”. Or so they thought. (And yes, politicians used to say exactly those words.) They were wrong. Domestically produced competitive and substitute products invariably rise in price when shielded from foreign competition, whether through import quotas, tariffs, or a devalued currency. There is no free lunch, and “buying Canadian” will be but a brief temporary reprieve from the inevitable price increases.

  12. Vespa P200E says:

    Time to go to Vancouver BC?

    Sure why not? Everything with “45%” discount? Loonie’s 45% depreciation in 1.5 yrs (par to $1.45 CAD to 1 USD) – just nuts.

  13. Bruce Adlam says:

    The USA can’t sit there they will not be able to compete

  14. nick kelly says:

    I have actually felt the sting of this C$ crash. I sold my house in August 2014. The Royal Bank RBC, asked me if I wanted a US$ account- what a hint that was! I was getting treated like a preferred customer and was too stupid or lazy to react.

    Moving on, I seem to recall that one or part of the Feds mandate is to preserve the purchasing power of the US$.
    That is what seems to be missing from the BOC mandate.
    A currency should be a store of value- a safe place to keep your grub stake, nest egg, whatever.
    By the way when Daddy T got through with the C$ it was 62 cents. If that happens again we may as well just dollarize (US) like Panama and then we can save Governor Poloz’s salary

    • Boris says:

      “A currency should be a store of value- a safe place to keep your grub stake, nest egg, whatever.”

      Got gold?

  15. kayjay says:

    I am surprised that there are so many Canadian loonies who traverse this site;;;;;;;;;; The problem in Canada arose with their dumb conservative PM;;; the current Governor of their Central Bank is also a conservative appointee.

    Canada was a lovely country till they embarked on this population-growth oriented immigration policy and in the last several years of letting the Chinese bid up the price of real-estate by asking them to “invest” what is it a million bucks to become a resident. Also, I notice that their environmental policies are not the greatest considering enviro-destruction of the black-sand oil and logging.

    So, I say good luck to salmon fishing, and prawns and the National Health System. Keep up the social services and keep the stupid Tories out.

  16. memento_mori says:

    I dont think Poloz will cut rates tomorrow, the cut is coming in march in all probability if things continue deteriorating. I dont know the rest of canada, but Vancouver is the place where the canadian immigration policy would first show its failure.
    US keeps its immigration more or less diversified, whereas Canada is taking most its immigrants from China and India. This has created enormous segregated cities in BC with Richmond being almost exclusively chinese and surrey almost exclusively Indian. And the trend continues. Multicultural societies are hard to impossible to build. Europe showed already that multiculturalism was a total failure and is back now with integration /assimilation policy for new immigrants.
    It will fail also in Canada. I could see that, BC society was not multicultural, they barely mix, it is rather a mosaic of different ethnicities that are held together by the law of the land.
    A low dollar will further exacerbate the real estate prices in Canada as more people will look to RE as a safe asset and the cheap mortgages will entice even more people to get in the RE bandwagon. Looks to me that 2016 will be a winner again for RE in Canada.

  17. night-train says:

    One very small insignificant anecdotal observation. Reading about the CAD/USD value, I decided to check out a Brigham tobacco pipe (made in Canada) at several Canadian on-line stores. They had prices in both CAD & USD. The CAD was less, but only about 10%. I checked the same pipe at my US on-line retailer and it was about 30% lower as regular price. I found that puzzling. Any thoughts from our Canadian cousins, or fellow Americans appreciated.

    • TheDona says:

      Aggressive low margin online pricing. Brigham is focused on it’s wholesale distribution. It may have some contractual “pricing” if sold in Canada. Plus the shipping is pretty expensive going out of or into Canada. So at the end of the day, how much is the true cost if you bought in US and had shipped there?

      Conversely I buy my daughter’s asthma inhaler from a Canadian pharmacy for $20. Priced at $162 at US CVS. Flat rate shipping cost of $10 so I still come out way ahead.

      Whatever the business model or regulations…all I care about is the total cost to me.

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