By Theophilos Argitis and Greg Quinn
May 10 (Bloomberg) -- Canada’s economy is seen by economists as able to withstand any weakness in commodity prices as it taps strengths that include political stability and the best fiscal outlook of any Group of Seven country.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s election victory last week allows him to move ahead with his deficit-cutting plans, and provide certainty in policy making that will help support Canada’s currency, said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates in Toronto.
“Canada as an attractive place to invest transcends the commodity story and a lot of that has to do with political stability and fiscal integrity,” Rosenberg said in a telephone interview, adding “the long-term trend line” for commodities “is still pointing up.”
Jim Flaherty, Harper’s finance minister, will speak today at the Bloomberg Canada Economic Summit in Toronto, in his first major remarks following an election that came the same week investors knocked $99 billion off the value of commodities.
Other speakers include Frank Stronach, the founder of Aurora, Ontario-based Magna International Inc., Peter Munk, chairman of Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp., and Donald Guloien, CEO of Toronto-based Manulife Financial Corp.
The Bloomberg Canada Economic Summit will feature 11 panels with topics ranging from the outlook for Canadian equities, to the global influence of Canada’s banks, to the climate for foreign investment.
Major Commodity Exporter
The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Index of 24 raw materials fell
11 percent last week, the most since December 2008, as slower growth in U.S. services and fewer German manufacturing orders stoked concern the economic recovery is faltering. The index rose as much as 2.8 percent yesterday after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said commodities may recover.
Canada is the only G-7 economy that is a major exporter of commodities. Canada is the biggest foreign supplier of oil to the U.S., and as recently as January was supplying the country with twice what Saudi Arabia does.
“Commodities have cooled off but I don’t necessarily see that this is a horrible thing long-term,” said Stephen Lingard, senior vice president of Franklin Templeton Multi-Asset Strategies in Toronto, which oversees about C$8.3 billion ($8.6
billion) in assets. “Even producers don’t want to see oil at $130, $140 or $150 a barrel because it will begin to weigh on some of these big export markets from a demand scenario.”
Since May 2, Canada’s dollar has gained 2 percent against the euro, while declining against the U.S. dollar like most other major currencies. The currency advanced 0.5 percent yesterday to 96.18 cents per U.S. dollar at 4 p.m. in Toronto, from 96.66 on May 6. One Canadian dollar bought $1.0397.
“If we get down close to par on the Canadian dollar I think it’s going to become a screaming buy” in the longer term, Rosenberg said.
The victory by Harper, 52, came three weeks after the International Monetary Fund predicted the world’s 10th largest economy will expand 2.8 percent this year, while inflation will end the year near the Bank of Canada’s 2 percent target. An average unemployment rate of 7.6 percent will be bettered only by Japan and Germany in 2011. Canada’s net debt, a measure of indebtedness that takes into account the value of assets such as government pension funds, is the lowest in the G-7 and half the level in the U.S.
Certainty in policy making sets Canada apart from other major industrialized countries, Rosenberg said. The U.K. and Germany are run by coalition governments, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan have become unpopular with their electorates, while in the U.S., Democratic President Barack Obama must negotiate with a Republican-run House of Representatives.
“Canada is viewed as a bastion of political stability,”
Harper’s Conservatives won 167 districts, above the 155 needed to take control of the 308-seat legislature.
“You can do away with some of that uncertainty with respect to Canadians being sent back to the polls on a fairly regular basis, so we have a better outlook for fiscal spending from this side,” said David Tulk, Chief Macro Strategist at TD Securities in Toronto. Canada’s fiscal health is “night and day” compared with the “situation to the U.S. and many other developed markets.”
Canada weathered the financial crisis better than the rest of the G-7 even as pressures from abroad tipped it into recession and sent its jobless rate to a four-year high of 8.7 percent in August 2009. Toronto-based Royal Bank of Canada and the country’s other 20 banks received no public money during the credit turmoil, and the country’s financial regulations have inspired regulatory overhauls elsewhere.
Harper pledged during the campaign a review of government spending to find C$4 billion in annual savings, which would be used to balance the budget in three years and finance election promises. Control of the legislature may make it easier for him to move ahead with spending curbs, said Mark Chandler, head of Canadian currency and rates strategy at Royal Bank of Canada’s RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.
“I suspect the end game for this is to try to get down the deficit a little bit quicker,” Chandler said in a May 3 telephone interview. “You probably have more scope to do that under a majority government.”
Harper has been in power since 2006 without holding a majority, meaning he’s had to rely on support from opposition lawmakers to pass laws. Under Harper, program expenditures have increased by 40 percent to C$245 billion as the Conservative leader sought to placate opposition parties and win favor with voters.
The Conservative platform, which commits to reintroduce measures from the 2011 fiscal plan that wasn’t passed before the election was called, projects a C$2.8 billion surplus in the fiscal year that begins April 2014.
[QUOTE=Raug;4025553]Might I add that Conservative in Canada are far away from what you'd consider Conservative in the States.[/QUOTE]
Very true. And Conservative in America changes drastically from national to local levels. I live in a pretty red area of the country...and we have Dems here screaming (literally screaming) at town meetings for the local governments to scale down their size and for taxes to get lowered....and all the Republicans vote consistently for larger government and higher taxes.