The Canadian economy contracted 0.2 per cent in November. Falling energy prices resulted in declining output in the oil and gas sector, while manufacturing and mining production was also lower. Given available data, the Canadian economy likely expanded 1.9 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2014, and about 2.4 per cent for the year as a whole. While export growth will be helped this year by a significant fall in the loonie, we expect growth will decelerate slightly in 2015 to about 2.2 per cent as low oil prices drag investment and employment lower. Uncertainty around the impact of the dramatic decline in oil has most market watchers expecting a further loosening of policy by the Bank of Canada, with a second rate cut coming in March. Whether that comes to fruition likely depends on where the trend in oil is over the next month. If prices continue to fall, we expect the Bank will opt for more "insurance" by reducing its overnight rate to 0.5 per cent. However, if oil prices firm up and core inflation remains above 2 per cent, the Bank may opt to hold steady.
In the United States, real GDP grew at a healthy 2.6 per cent annual rate in the fourth quarter, following 5 per cent growth in the third quarter. Growth was led higher by the strongest rate of consumer spending since 2006. Note that today's report is the preliminary release and will be revised, perhaps substantially in coming months. Given that growth was actually tracking closer to 3.5 per cent for the quarter, we expect fourth quarter GDP will be revised higher with subsequent releases.