Canadian home re-sales remain at lowest levels in six years

Canadian home resales and prices rebounded in March from a dismal showing a month earlier, but remained below historical averages.

MLS home sales rose 0.9% nationally while the benchmark price rose 0.8%, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) reported last week. While the results are an improvement from February, both sales and prices were down from a year earlier as homebuyers grapple with stricter mortgage rules and rising rates.

Sales activity remains at some of the lowest levels recorded in the last six years, CREA said. It’s the latest in a string of data that show sluggishness in the housing sector after policy makers tightened borrowing regulations, partially in a bid to slow runaway growth in Toronto and Vancouver.

“March results suggest local market trends are largely in a holding pattern,” Gregory Klump, the realtor group’s chief economist, said in a news release.

Nationally, sales were down 4.6% and benchmark prices fell 0.5% from a year earlier.  Sales were also almost 12% below the 10-year average for March. That said, in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, sales were more than 20% below their 10-year average for the month. By contrast, activity is running well above-average in Quebec and New Brunswick.

In Toronto, sales rose 1.8% and benchmark prices gained 1.5% from a month earlier. Vancouver sales were down 5.8% while benchmark prices in the Pacific coast city fell 0.5% in March.

Canadian retail sales bounce back after a months-long slump

Canadian retailers emerged from months of slumping sales with a sharp rebound in February that may ease some worries about consumer weakness.

Retailers posted a 0.8% gain in sales on the month, Statistics Canada reported last week, versus economist expectations for a 0.4% gain. February’s increase was the strongest since May 2018, and follows six straight months of negative or flat readings, including a 0.4% decline in January that fuelled concern about slowing household consumption.

A pick-up in retail sales was expected on the back of rising prices for gasoline, but the numbers suggest Canadians were in a spending mood beyond the extra cost of filling up their tanks. New car dealers saw a 3.1% increase in sales, while strong gains were also recorded at general merchandise stores (+3.8%) and supermarkets (+1.6%).

However, after posting gains in December and January, sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were down 1.6%. Despite this decline, sales remain above the level in November.

Retail sales at electronics and appliance stores (-3.5%) were also down for the third consecutive month.

The overall retail figures will restore confidence the nation’s economy is poised for a better start to this year, after the economic expansion nearly came to a halt at the end 2018.

While first quarter GDP numbers won’t be released until the end of next month, there were a series of negative readings in February for exports and manufacturing that raised questions around growth for that month. February GDP data is due April 30.

In volume terms, retail sales were up 0.2% in February.

Sales were up in only five of 11 subsectors, but those sectors were the largest ones and represent 73% of total sales.

Excluding autos, sales were up 0.6%, topping expectations for a 0.2% gain. That follows a 0.6% decline for this gauge in January.