Fitch on Canada: Not the Next Japan, But Worries Increasing
Once such tea leaf includes Canadian household debt. While both US and European markets delevered substantially following the market crisis, the same cannot be said for Canada according to Fitch's Global Head of Sovereigns James McCormack. 'Household debt levels in Canada are now roughly 100% of GDP and still rising,' said McCormack. The same can be said for corporate leverage in Canada, which is also rising in contrast to the US, Europe and Japan. That said, the Canadian banking sector remains among the strongest in the world. So while there are some 'red flags' to monitor, 'we're not in a position to be suggesting that there's imminent danger around the corner,' said McCormack.
Another area of concern is Canada's housing market. When asked by BNN's Catherine Murray on whether Canada is primed for a hard or soft landing for housing, BMO Financial Group Chief Economist Douglas Porter said it depends on the market in question. For instance, Porter pointed to a 'real risk of a hard landing in Vancouver' while the fate of Toronto's housing market is more uncertain. And without government intervention to cool it down, Porter said Toronto's home price growth could reach a pace that will eventually lead to a hard landing. Conversely, most of the rest of Canada is what Porter called 'well-behaved' in terms of housing discipline, with signs of strength emerging in markets like Ottawa and Montreal.
Increasing interest rates remain a worry for Fitch. While rising household, corporate and government debt in Canada exacerbates the concern, McCormack was quick to point out that scenario is not Fitch's base case outlook. Porter's overarching worry, in contrast, is if Canada is locked into a slow motion, milder version of what Japan has been in for the last 20 years. McCormack deemed that scenario as unlikely for Canada in part due to the bursting of an enormous real estate bubble that led to Japan's extended period of stagflation.