RBC says momentum in British Columbia's economy starting to slip



    TORONTO, Oct. 8 /CNW/ - According to the latest provincial economic
outlook released today by RBC, weakening trends in key sectors of the domestic
economy will slow British Columbia's economic growth to 1.2 per cent in 2008
and allow for just a moderate re-acceleration to 2.1 per cent in 2009.
    "If the housing market is a gauge of the economic situation, then
conditions in B.C. appear to be slipping fast," said Craig Wright, senior
vice-president and chief economist, RBC. "While this slippage in the housing
sector is not symptomatic of a generalized weakening across the province's
other key economic indicators, it is consistent with a less rosy economic
picture for the next several months."
    Housing resale activity has plunged, reaching its lowest levels since
2001. At the same time, a surge in supply has significantly dampened house
prices, which have even started to decline in Vancouver. Looking at the recent
low sales-to-listing ratio, prices could well deteriorate further. Since its
peak late last year, new home construction has also trended lower and is not
expected to improve quickly as the market absorbs newly completed units.
    Unless the U.S. housing environment stages a surprising turnaround, the
deep slump in the forest products sector will persist through next year. As a
result, external trade will remain under intense downward pressure. Exports
are down modestly year-to-date on a nominal basis but the decline in volume is
likely much steeper given the price increases of several key commodities like
lumber, pulp, newsprint and coal. Job creation has virtually stalled since the
spring and consumer spending is showing signs of weakness with growth in
retail sales slowing significantly.
    Nonetheless, British Columbia's economy continues to be firmly supported
by investment spending both in the private and public sectors. In particular,
development of natural gas opportunities and infrastructure building ahead of
the 2010 Olympic Winter Games will remain catalysts for growth going into
2009.
    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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