t’s been just over a month since Brexit Friday and the flames seem to have subsided. Amidst the talk of financial volatility, one country has been lauded by economists for its responsible fiscal policy and potential as a safe haven in this sea of instability: Canada.
Canada shares an interesting relationship with the United Kingdom and is set to sign the Canadian and European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) before Britain’s official exit from the EU. While Brexit’s impact on Canada will be largely indirect (through the effect Brexit has on the US), there are still a few ways in which the event could impact Canada.
An Overheating Canadian Housing Market
In early July, the Bank of Canada decided to hold its benchmark interest rate at 0.5% following a year that saw disruption from uneven consumer spending, the Alberta wildfires, and concerns over the ramifications of Brexit. The move will further fuel the already red-hot housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto.
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While the pound’s nosedive could attract bargain-hunting buyers to the UK, there will likely be an increased appetite for Canadian assets as global investors look to safeguard their capital. Foreign investment will continue to flow into traditional markets like Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto; even Montreal and Saskatoon are seeing increased interest.
According to Statistics Canada, over CAD $42 billion was invested in Canada last year by Japan and China. A look at trends in the inward flow of foreign direct investment for Canada also shows an 81% increase in real estate, rental, and leasing from all countries between 2012 and 2015. Home prices in Toronto and Canada as whole have hit a seven year high on an aggregate index level, and Vancouver appears to be headed in the same direction.
With policy makers seeking to dampen record home prices and levels of household indebtedness rising, the risk of a major potential correction in the near future looms for the Canadian economy. As international and national factors lead to lower growth projections for Canada this year, it remains to be seen how long the benchmark rate will be kept steady.
Canadian Equities Insulated Post Brexit
While the S&P TSX saw over 60% of companies in the index performing below their 50-day moving average (DMA) in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, three weeks later 70% of TSX companies were back to performing above 50 DMA. Most Canadian equities have been insulated from the UK; even key players like Enghouse Systems and Brookfield are relatively unaffected to date.
Brookfield Asset Management Inc., which holds nearly 10 million square feet of commercial real estate in London’s financial districts, recently announced its commitment to the UK as a long-term investor and its confidence in London upholding its title as one of the world’s leading financial hubs. London is currently home to most of Brookfield’s real estate investments in the EU. Other major Canadian names like plane and train manufacturer Bombardier (which has just over 7% exposure to the UK and 35% exposure to the EU) took the same stance as Brookfield in committing to its operations in the UK.
Surging Gold Prices
Global stock markets have since bounced back, but the initial uncertainty from Brexit created a rise in gold prices. Immediately after the vote, futures were up about 24% year-to-date while gold ETFs and stocks of key Canadian precious metal players like Barrick Gold Corp, TMAC Resources, Franco Nevada, and Goldcorp Inc. hit 52-week highs.
With high exposure to the precious metals sector, Canada is a beneficiary of this uncertainty. Over 77% of the companies in the S&P TSX Venture Composite that hit their 52-week highs belong to the metals and mining sector. With year-to-date gains of almost 24% and 45%, respectively, gold and silver have been largely responsible for the TSX Venture Composite Index’s significant year-to-date gain.
Gold prices have seen a pullback since early July. As investors look toward riskier investments, gold will continue to be in demand until visibility on economic policy outlook improves and market volatility simmers down.
Limited Exposure to Brexit Risks from Canada
Overall, the Canadian economy has relatively limited direct exposure to the UK in terms of trade. Canada currently sends just above 2% of its exports to the UK (still its third largest export market after the US and China).
From a product perspective, gold accounted for 62% of all Canadian exports to the UK last year. Brexit’s impact on Canada’s trade with the UK is likely to be concentrated on two provinces: Ontario and Quebec. According to Statistics Canada, 7% of Canada’s exports to the UK are from Quebec while 83% of Canada’s exports to the UK are from Ontario.
Following Justin Trudeau’s ascendancy to Prime Minister, confidence in the government’s economic policy-making ability has increased. The World Economic Survey on Canada’s business climate for foreign investors indicates an improvement in business climate this year, with the government appearing to pave the path for future investments into Canada from around the world.
Despite this, multiple layers of uncertainty blanket the economic future of the UK and Canada’s other partners in the EU. The Bank of Canada will need to keep a watch on talks in Brussels and Britain in the run-up to Britain’s formal exit in preparation for any wider ramifications in the long term.
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