Amid the noise of volatile-but-improving economic indicators, mortgage rate hikes are likely to repeat like a chorus in the coming months.
Canadian banks are raising interest rates on mortgages, marking the beginning of a trend as they correlate with rising bond yields and expected monetary tightening.
That’s making a strong case for borrowers to lock into fixed rates before it’s too late, said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist with CIBC World Markets. “The window is closing.”
TD Canada Trust and CIBC both announced Monday hikes to their residential mortgage rates, the first increases since changes to the rules of borrowing were announced by the federal government last month. The other big banks where expected to follow the moves shortly.
Effective Feb. 8, the interest rate on the banks’ benchmark five-year closed fixed rate mortgage will increase 25 basis points to 5.44%. The country’s other major lenders are expected to soon follow suit.
Toronto mortgage broker Paula Roberts said rising borrowing costs will compel more of her clients to abandon ultra-low variable rates in favour of higher, fixed-rate mortgages.
That can be a tough decision for borrowers to accept higher payments, but not one that should strain a mortgagee’s finances, she said. “If you can’t afford [your payments] ... that’s a problem,” Ms. Roberts said. “That’s why the government has changed the rules.”
In two stages over the past year the federal government announced changes to the conditions of mortgage lending — shortening the maximum amortization from 35 years to 30 years and requiring borrowers to qualify for a fixed-rate plan, even if they are opting for a variable rate.
Many who only qualify under the old rules, however, will try to secure mortgages before the shorter maximum amortization periods come into effect next month, Ms. Roberts said.
“There are going to be a lot of people that will enter into their agreements by March 18.”
Much of the momentum in mortgage rates can be attributed to a bond selloff and rising yields across the board. That effect is partly a reflection of building global inflationary pressures as well as a global economy that is proving more robust than expected.
“In my opinion, the bond market will not be the place to be over the next six months, and if that’s the case, you will see mortgage rates continue to rise,” Mr. Tal said.
In addition, anticipation of increases to the Bank of Canada’s benchmark lending rates is building, also contributing to rising yields, which puts pressure on fixed-income mortgages.
If there was any lingering doubt that the Bank will soon raise rates, last week’s jobs report erased them. The report showed Canada added four times more jobs than expected in January.
“[It] creates a fairly powerful story for the Bank of Canada, which is clearly concerned on the domestic front,” said Camilla Sutton, chief currency strategist at the Bank of Nova Scotia. “I think there’s a material change.”
So do investors. The probability that the central bank will boost its key policy rate by May, as measured by overnight index swaps, jumped to almost 75% after the jobs data.