Cooling housing market deflates Alberta's economy, says RBC



    TORONTO, Oct. 8 /CNW/ - According to the latest provincial forecast
released today by RBC, Alberta's economy will continue to shift down a few
gears for the rest of 2008, but is expected to pick up the pace in 2009.
    "We have reduced Alberta's economic growth rate for 2008 to 1.9 per cent,
down from 3.1 per cent as previously forecast," said Craig Wright, senior
vice-president and chief economist, RBC. "A combination of continued cooling
in the province's housing market, stagnating consumer spending and slower
growth in the non-residential construction sector have led to a weaker
economic outlook for the rest of 2008."
    Following years of significant investment in the energy sector which
helped bolster activity in most other sectors, Alberta's economy has started
to slow. This is most evident in the housing market where sales of existing
homes have decreased considerably since their 2007 peak. Prices are now
reversing some of the spectacular gains of recent years. With the easing of
earlier shortages and plenty of new supply coming to the market, housing
starts have plummeted since the first quarter of 2008.
    Another sign of a slowdown is weaker growth in consumer spending. Retail
sales are stagnating after averaging 12 per cent annual increases over the
past three years. According to the report, consumer confidence is no longer
sky-high as residents shun big ticket items such as motor vehicles. While
non-residential construction activity remains elevated, growth has slowed
considerably this year.
    On a more positive note, net migration into Alberta has improved recently
and is likely to quicken demand for housing and consumer spending in the
period ahead. This migration jump might also help reduce bottlenecks at major
construction projects and promote growth in capital spending, noted Wright.
    The outlook for provinces has generally darkened as a result of the
recent dramatic turn in the year-long financial market crisis. The U.S.
economy now appears to be in recession with Europe, the U.K. and Japan also
sinking fast. While Canada is in better position with its financial sector
less heavily impaired, overall growth will be substantially weaker than
previously anticipated.
    Among the provinces, Saskatchewan will lead the way this year and next in
terms of economic growth, with Manitoba closely behind. The Atlantic region is
expected to display continued resilience and should sustain a moderate pace of
expansion for the most part. Conditions in the most western part of the
country are on a deteriorating path. Eroding housing situations and rapidly
slowing growth in consumer spending have prompted downward revisions to the
forecasts for British Columbia and Alberta. With weak external trade
continuing to exert a toll, cracks have appeared in the domestic foundations
of Ontario and Quebec. Ontario will likely see its growth evaporate.

    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.      9.1    0.2    1.3     2.6    2.8    3.0     9.0    8.0    4.0
    P.E.I.     2.0    1.9    1.4     0.8    0.7    0.5     7.7    5.5    3.5
    N.S.       1.6    2.0    2.0     4.8    4.2    3.2     4.2    5.5    4.0
    N.B.       1.6    2.0    2.5     4.2    4.1    3.3     5.7    5.5    4.0
    QUE.       2.4    0.7    1.2    48.6   45.7   39.0     4.6    5.5    3.5
    ONT.       2.1    0.0    0.4    68.1   75.0   66.5     3.9    5.0    2.8
    MAN.       3.3    3.1    2.3     5.7    5.4    5.4     8.8    8.0    5.5
    SASK.      2.8    3.9    3.5     6.0    6.8    5.3    13.0   12.0    7.5
    ALTA.      3.3    2.2    3.0    48.3   30.2   31.3     9.3    1.5    6.5
    B.C.       3.1    1.2    2.1    39.2   34.8   26.0     6.7    3.0    6.5
    CANADA     2.7    0.9    1.5     228    209    183     5.8    4.7    4.3


                  Employment                CPI

                07     08     09      07     08     09
                --     --     --      --     --     --
    NFLD.      0.7    2.0    0.6     1.4    3.1    2.1
    P.E.I.     1.1    1.7    0.5     1.8    3.8    2.4
    N.S.       1.3    1.1    0.9     1.9    3.6    2.3
    N.B.       2.1    0.9    0.9     1.9    2.2    2.1
    QUE.       2.3    0.8    1.1     1.6    2.5    2.0
    ONT.       1.6    1.5    1.2     1.8    2.6    2.0
    MAN.       1.6    1.8    1.5     2.1    2.5    2.6
    SASK.      2.1    1.6    2.0     2.9    3.4    2.7
    ALTA.      4.7    2.6    2.1     4.9    3.7    2.9
    B.C.       3.2    2.4    1.4     1.7    2.5    2.0
    CANADA     2.3    1.6    1.3     2.1    2.7    2.2
    





For further information:

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


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