— Canadian housing starts jumped much more than expected in September, helped by a surge in the condominium sector, suggesting Canada’s property boom stayed intact last month and should help the economy avert recession.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said on Tuesday that starts rose to seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 205,900 units last month. August starts were revised up to 191,900 from 184,700. September starts far exceeded the consensus expectation of analysts, who had called for 188,000. Driving the gains were a jump in construction of multi-residential buildings such as condominiums.
“Housing starts picked up in September due to an increase in multiple starts in the Atlantic region, Quebec and in British Columbia,” Mathieu Laberge, a deputy chief economist with CMHC said in a statement. “Multiple housing starts are expected to move back toward levels consistent with demographic fundamentals in the near term.” The agency said urban starts increased by 8% to 185,900 units in September, with multiple urban starts up by 14.2% to 118,000 units. Single family housing starts in urban areas decreased by 1.5% in September to 67,900 units. Rural starts were estimated at 20,000 units.
CIBC World Markets economist Emanuella Enenajor said in a note to clients that while multiple starts are widely expected to scale down in the months ahead, residential construction could be a plus for GDP in the third quarter. Canada’s economy contracted marginally in the second quarter, partly due to the supply chain impact of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. There had been fear the economy could shrink again in the third quarter, meeting the textbook definition of a recession. But recent data has been encouraging.
A report on Friday showed Canada created six times as many jobs as expected in September, helped by an economy that is largely humming along even as other rich nations struggle with debt and slumping confidence. Canada’s housing sector has played a major role in the recovery. The country avoided the subprime housing boom that drove the United States into recession and helped trigger the global financial crisis. Property prices and sales briefly weakened after the crisis. But the Bank of Canada’s decision to cut interest rates to a record low, which pulled mortgage rates lower, fueled a fresh boom. The housing boom was helped along by the fact Canada’s conservative banks escaped the crisis largely unscathed and were able to keep lending. The fear now for many policymakers is a fresh asset bubble could be in the works.
© Thomson Reuters 2011