The Bank of Canada and the U.S. Federal Reserve are about to part ways, a rare separation that will ensure downward pressure on Canada’s currency. Some will cheer that prospect, as Canadian goods and services will have a price advantage in the U.S. market. The tradeoff is that domestic companies will find it more costly to import state-of-the-art equipment to retool, and to invest in growing markets abroad. Exports could thrive, but productivity may suffer.
All of this crystallized amid a cascade of economic data, monetary policy announcement and speeches over the past few days. Fed chair Janet Yellen on December 2 stated as clearly as central bank lexicon will allow that she will recommend raising America’s benchmark interest rate when she convenes the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee later this month. It would be the first increase in nine years. The day the Fed raises its target lending rate from zero, “is a day that I expect we all are looking forward to,” Yellen told economists in Washington. Key in her remarks was an emphasis on the importance of staying ahead of inflation. The Fed wants to raise borrowing costs, but very slowly, which means it must get started so it can leave a decent interval before the next increase. “Were the FOMC to delay the start of policy normalization for too long, we would likely end up having to tighten policy relatively abruptly to keep the economy from significantly overshooting both of our goals,” of price stability and full employment, Yellen said.
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