Steps To Improve Your Credit

Date: August 18th, 2009

1. Order a copy of your credit report. Review it carefully and correct any significant errors.

2. Pay your bills on time.

3. If you have a questionable credit history, open a few new credit accounts, use them responsibly, and pay them off on time.

4. Don’t open credit accounts you don’t intend to use. Having five or six of the same type of credit card (Visa, for example) does not work in your favour.

5. Note that having a credit card or instalment loan can help boost your score, so long as you don’t have too high a balance and you pay it off in a timely manner.

6. Keep your balance low in relation to your available credit. If your credit limit is $10,000, keeping your balance below $2,500 (or 25 per cent of your limit) will improve your score.

7. Pay off your credit card debt instead of moving it around to lower rate cards. Moving balances to other credit cards (called a “balance transfer”) and closing out the old account can hurt your score.

For information on how to obtain a free copy of your credit report see equifax-free-credit-report

Wells Fargo Exits Canadian Mortgage Market

Date: July 30th, 2009

Effective July 30th, 2009, Wells Fargo will no longer be originating new mortgages in Canada, according to a recent press release from company president, Rick Valade.

It will still be honouring any existing Canadian mortgages as well as old and new personal loans, but that’s about it. According to the press release:

“Please treat this writing as notification of immediate cancellation of any mortgage broker origination agreement or other real estate lending agreements you may have with Wells Fargo Financial Corporation Canada or Wells Fargo Financial Corporation Canada HomePlan Mortgage.”

BoC may have to break interest rate promise

Date: July 23rd, 2009

Alia McMullen, Financial Post
Published: Thursday, July 23, 2009

TORONTO — The Canadian dollar hit a 10-month high Monday amid growing risk appetite and rising expectations that inflation will ultimately force the Bank of Canada to break its promise to keep interest rates on hold until mid-2010.

“The time for tightening is not yet at hand, but June 2010 seems too late,” said Yanick Desnoyers, the assistant chief economist at National Bank Financial. “The day when the condition for the Bank’s low-rate commitment is no longer met will probably come before then.”

Mr. Desnoyers said the benchmark interest rate had been lowered to a record low of 0.25% to limit the damage of the recession and financial crisis. However, he said the rate was too low relative to core inflation, which stood at 1.9% in June, just one basis point below the bank’s target rate.

The outlook for higher interest rates, whether they come sooner or after June next year, has helped support the Canadian dollar, which has increased by about 8% since the beginning of the month.

The loonie inched up US0.16¢ to US$92.50 Monday after reaching its highest level since October in intraday trade. The rise was boosted by an improvement in investor sentiment after new U.S. home sales surged by 11% in June and the three-month Libor rate, the benchmark borrowing rate banks generally charge each other, fell to a record low 0.496%.

The decline in Libor, which peaked at 4.82% in October, is a sign that credit pressures continue to ease. Commodity prices were also marginally higher amid expectations of an uptick in demand.

Aron Gampel, vice president and deputy chief economist at Scotia Capital, said the Canadian dollar has also strengthened against the greenback because many were concerned U.S. stimulus efforts would leave behind a problematic debt hangover. He said the loonie was likely on its way back to parity with the U.S. dollar.

With the Bank of Canada having declared that the recession is likely over, interest is beginning to turn to when interest rates will begin to rise. Some, such as Mr. Desnoyers, believe the Canadian recovery, bolstered by government stimulus, will push inflation up faster than expected, forcing the Bank of Canada to use its “get out of jail free card” and raise the benchmark policy rate before June 2010.

The central bank said it would keep interest rates on hold until June 2010 “conditional on the outlook for inflation”.

Bond yields have risen in recent weeks and now reflect a 90% chance of an interest rate rise withing nine months.

Others, such as Mr. Gampel, believe the central bank will keep interest rates on hold until mid next year, but embark on an aggressive tightening thereafter. However, he said the economy was at a turning point and the Bank of Canada’s ultimate decision would depend on the speed of economic recovery.

“They could be looking at having to push interest rates up at a faster rate, and sooner, if the recovery takes on a greater scope going forward,” Mr. Gampel said.

He said the recovery could well be on track to outpace expectations as businesses rebuild inventories, consumer spending picks up and fiscal stimulus kicks in.

However, he said evidence to date does not suggest the central bank will need to hike rates before June, particularly with a large amount of excess capacity in product and labour markets.

Recession is at an end: Bank of Canada

Date: July 23rd, 2009

By Paul Vieira, Financial Post

OTTAWA — The recession is at an end, the Bank of Canada suggested Thursday, as improved credit markets and higher levels of consumer confidence are expected to generate positive growth this quarter.

The prediction, contained in the central bank’s quarterly monetary policy report, envisages economic growth of 1.3 per cent for the current quarter, ending Sept. 30, followed by a healthy three per cent gain for the final three months of 2009.

As a result of the bank’s outlook, the recession — the deepest since the Second World War — will have lasted three quarters. In its previous forecast in April, the Bank of Canada anticipated the economy shrinking one per cent in the current three-month period before growth returning in the fourth quarter.

“This somewhat more favourable short-term outlook reflects a more modest retrenchment in household and business spending, as negative effects on confidence dissipate, financial markets improve, and the terms of trade increase more quickly than previously anticipated,” the central bank said.

Meanwhile, the central bank also raised the spectre that inflation — which drives movement in its key policy rate — could move up quicker than anticipated if the recovery proves even stronger than expected.

Earlier this week, in its fixed-date rate announcement, the central bank had revised upward its forecast, saying the economy would contract this year less than expected, by 2.3 per cent, and grow three per cent in 2010, which is above the Bay Street consensus and double the anticipated growth of the United States, Canada’s biggest trading partner. The monetary policy report added details as to when growth is to begin and from what sectors of the economy.

Driving growth will be sharper improvements in consumer spending and housing sales for this year, compared to previous expectations. This can be attributed to consumers who believe the worst has subsided and are willing to spend — including the purchase of real estate — in order to take advantage of record-low borrowing costs.

Further, the central bank said conditions in the financial market have improved to a level above the 10-year norm, based on a gauge it uses.

“Overall, low borrowing costs for households and falling borrowing costs for businesses should help to revive interest-sensitive spending and support the economic recovery,” it said.

Despite the upward revisions, however, the central bank suggested household spending is expected to remain “cautious” for the remainder of this year and next in light of weak labour markets and equity portfolio losses. The savings rate, meanwhile, is expected to remain “elevated” for the next several years.

Meanwhile, the central bank acknowledged inflation — which drives where it sets interest rates — has come in higher than envisaged, as wages continued to increase despite weak productivity and excess supply “substantially” growing in the second quarter.

“(This) may also point to a sluggish response of inflation to excess supply,” the outlook said. “Nonetheless, the substantial excess supply in the economy is expected to result in lower core inflation over the next few quarters.”

The central bank said core inflation, which strips out volatile items such as energy, is set to drop from its current 1.9 per cent level to a low of 1.4 per cent in the fourth quarter, and return to its preferred two per cent target in the second quarter of 2011 (which is one quarter earlier than it forecast in April).

The central bank sets its key policy rate with the goal to achieve two per cent inflation. The key policy-lending rate is at 0.25 per cent, or as low as possible, in an effort to move inflation toward that two per cent target. The central bank has repeatedly pledged to keep the benchmark rate at that level until mid-2010.

In detailing risks to its outlook, the central bank noted there is a “possibility” that inflation could head higher because the economic recovery “will be stronger and more sustained” than what it anticipates.

“Measures of near-term inflation expectations have risen somewhat from very low levels in recent months, reflecting increases in commodity prices as well as improved market sentiment and consumer confidence.”

Still, it judged that the overall risks to its inflation projection remain tilted “slightly” to the downside. This is in part due to its finding that the economy operated about 3.5% below its potential in the second quarter. In addition, it added, companies face pressure to further reduce inventories in response to “exceptionally” high stock-to-sales ratios.

Moving Ontario 2020 (The Big Move)

Date: July 22nd, 2009

On June 15, 2007, Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty and Ontario Minister of Transportation Donna Cansfield announced the government’s plan to fund 52 transit projects in Ontario to improve transit services provided by GO Transit, the Toronto Transit Commission, York Region Transit’s Viva bus rapid transit system, Durham Region Transit, Mississauga Transit, Brampton Transit, and the Hamilton Street Railway.

Construction on the 902 kilometres of new or improved rapid transit is to start in 2008 and be in place by 2020. The Government of Ontario has committed two-thirds of the estimated $17.5 billion cost, and has asked the Government of Canada to provide the remaining one-third. Municipalities are not expected to contribute to the capital cost of the projects, but would be responsible for any operating subsidies that are required.

Simultaneous with the announcement of MoveOntario 2020, the government announced its intention to fund the development of rapid transit in Kitchener-Waterloo in the same fashion as the MoveOntario projects, i.e., a two-thirds commitment, with the federal government paying the balance. Thus while the Kitchener-Waterloo RT project is not a formal part of MoveOntario 2020, the government is treating it in the same fashion as the MoveOntario 2020 projects.

MoveOntario 2020 initiatives have fallen under the umbrella of Metrolinx’s regional transportation plan.

Detailed plans on ‘The Big Move’ and the impact on home values can be found under Transportation Development.

The Big Move Map