To cut or not to cut, that is the question. And fortunately for Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, it was a pretty easy question. A lagging US recovery, China’s downturn, lower oil prices and “bad weather” all contributed to this interest rate cut. “I wouldn’t describe it as a close decision,” he told the press, “It’s a decision where we had a number of trade-offs on the table. It requires a lot of deliberation and a lot of inputs, not a mechanical decision. Not even close.” But whereas Poloz admitted to feeling comfortable at the end of 2014, now there was a bunch of crap heading for the ceiling fan and that interest rate cut was Canada’s only way of taking cover.
Poloz is known for his metaphors but the above is mine. Poloz used the parable of the big oak tree to compare “analysing vulnerability” in the economy. The big oak tree is only a risk if there’s a branch that could break off and fall into your neighbours house. In Poloz’s mind, cutting interest rates must have been like sawing off that branch. He may have successfully migrated some future risk, but in doing so he didn’t bother with any long-term consequences. He may have sawed off that branch so it wouldn’t fall into the neighbours house, but by cutting without thinking ahead, the branch fell right into the neighbours house.
I hope that’s clear, because a lot of what the Bank of Canada says isn’t. Poloz is a fan ofGreenspeak but sometimes we get moments of incoherent clarity such as: “When other things are equal, a lower currency will be a stimulus to the economy.” When asked if China’s slow-down could affect Vancouver’s housing market and potentially the broader economy, Poloz crept back to his Greenspeak with a definite “I don’t know” and “I won’t speculate” sprinkled on top.
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