Alberta's economy supported by surge in oil production, says RBC economics



    TORONTO, Oct. 12 /CNW/ - Alberta will remain among the growth leaders
from 2007 until 2009 notwithstanding uncertainty in the energy patch,
according to a provincial economic outlook released today by RBC.
    "Alberta remains perhaps the most outstanding example of the key reasons
why the Canadian economy is marching to the beat of its own drummer and, as a
result, we have revised upward our growth forecast for Alberta's economy to
4.5 per cent in 2008," said Craig Wright, vice-president and chief economist,
RBC. "Higher oil prices for a longer-than-anticipated period and strong
agricultural conditions are the major factors behind our positive outlook."
    The RBC forecast notes that Alberta's housing markets are the most robust
in Canada, and take-up rates on new extended-amortization mortgage products
are the highest in the country. An exceptionally strong housing market,
coupled with a solid fiscal position should help catapult the province as the
country's growth leader in 2008, placing it significantly ahead of its nearest
rival - Saskatchewan - on most indicators.
    However, there are several sectors that are near their peaks. Despite its
strength, the housing market is showing evidence of cooling as a result of
modest declines in sales-to-listings ratios and softer house price gains in
recent months. Likewise, the provincial government's surplus position has
softened as natural gas royalties have cooled off from their 2005 and 2006
peaks. The additional boost to consumer spending in 2006 as a result of the
prosperity bonus cheques was only temporary, and while retail sales growth
remains strong, they are past their 2006 peak.
    According to the report, caution is warranted for Alberta's energy
sector. Oil prices are poised to drop while natural gas prices are already low
and discouraging further drilling. Changes in the tax treatment of the energy
sector, the possibility of higher royalties, and the risk of federally imposed
carbon taxes also represent modest downside risks to the investment and growth
picture in an environment of a strong Canadian dollar and mounting cost
pressures.
    Across the provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to be the
growth leader this year, with Alberta moving into the lead in 2008, rivaled
only by Saskatchewan. Manitoba's steady growth and inflation rates will keep
it in the middle of the western provincial pack, and B.C.'s growth rate will
move slightly downward. RBC's forecast for Ontario's economy has been revised
downward to the bottom of the pack among all the provinces. Quebec should fare
somewhat better than Ontario next year, until currency depreciation, lower
energy prices, improvements in the U.S. economy, and capital spending lift
central Canada's manufacturers and exporters. While P.E.I.'s growth prospects
are modest, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are well-positioned for better
long-run growth as a result of renewed prospects for several large-scale
capital projects.
    The RBC Economics Provincial Outlook assesses the provinces according to
economic growth, employment growth, unemployment rates, personal income
growth, retail sales, housing starts and the Consumer Price Index.
    According to the report (available online as of 8 a.m. E.D.T., at
www.rbc.com/economics/market/pdf/provfcst.pdf), provincial forecast details
are as follows:

    
                      Real GDP          Housing starts        Retail sales

                                          Thousands
                  07     08     09     07     08     09     07     08     09
                  --     --     --     --     --     --     --     --     --
    NFLD.        7.5    0.5    1.0    2.4    2.1    1.8    9.5    6.0    2.0
    P.E.I        1.9    1.8    1.4    0.6    0.6    0.5    9.0    4.5    3.7
    N.S.         2.4    3.1    3.5    4.7    4.4    4.0    3.8    4.9    6.5
    N.B.         2.5    2.8    2.6    4.1    3.8    3.4    5.6    4.5    4.0
    QUE.         2.1    2.3    2.4   51.5   47.9   42.6    5.0    4.5    4.0
    ONT.         1.9    1.8    2.5   68.6   66.5   60.5    3.6    4.0    4.5
    MAN.         3.4    3.0    2.5    5.8    5.4    4.7    8.7    5.7    3.0
    SASK.        4.8    4.3    3.2    5.8    4.8    3.5   12.5    9.5    6.0
    ALTA.        5.0    4.5    3.0   48.5   41.2   35.0   10.5    9.8    8.5
    B.C.         3.1    2.9    2.8   37.2   32.3   26.8    7.2    6.3    8.0
    CANADA       2.7    2.5    2.6    230    210    184    6.0    5.6    5.5

                     Employment              CPI

                  07     08     09     07     08     09
                  --     --     --     --     --     --
    NFLD.        0.8    0.1    0.3    1.3    1.4    1.2
    P.E.I        1.3    0.4    0.2    1.5    1.7    1.6
    N.S.         1.3    1.2    2.0    1.7    1.3    2.0
    N.B.         2.0    0.8    0.9    1.8    1.4    1.6
    QUE.         1.9    0.9    0.8    1.9    1.6    1.5
    ONT.         1.4    0.9    1.0    2.0    1.8    1.7
    MAN.         1.4    1.0    0.4    2.4    2.1    1.8
    SASK.        2.4    1.0    0.8    3.0    3.0    2.3
    ALTA.        4.9    2.0    1.8    5.4    3.3    2.8
    B.C.         3.2    1.9    2.6    2.1    2.1    2.5
    CANADA       2.2    1.2    1.2    2.3    2.0    1.9
    





For further information:

For further information: Craig Wright, RBC Economics, (416) 974-7457;
Derek Holt, RBC Economics, (416) 974-6192; Jackie Braden, RBC Media Relations,
(416) 974-2124


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