Monday, June 17, 2019 - 06:42

MNI DATA: Big Week for Taking Canadian Consumer Spending Pulse

By Greg Quinn

OTTAWA (MNI) - This week will provide one of the best looks at the health of Canadian consumer spending before the July 10 BOC interest-rate decision.

Friday brings Statistics Canada's report on retail sales for April, the start of the second quarter. Consumer spending including big-ticket items like cars was one of the only bright spots for the economy in the first quarter.

Consumer price inflation for May is due Wednesday from Statistics Canada. Core prices have held around the BOC's 2% target for a while now, suggesting little pressure to raise or lower rates in the near term. The headline index was also 2.0% in April, though over the last year it has ranged between 3.0% and 1.4% on swings in gasoline prices.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits President Donald Trump in Washington on Thursday to discuss ratification of a new free trade agreement between the two nations and Mexico, as well as tensions with China. Trump's past tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, and threats to rip up the former Nafta trade treaty and slap duties on cars, have weighed on consumer confidence.

Jobless benefit data for April published Thursday will be studied by economists for signs of whether recent record job gains are too good to be true. Slow wage growth has raised questions of whether the economy is really close to full employment. On that front, Statistics Canada that day also provides figures on wages for unionized construction workers.

Statistics Canada on Friday reports investment in building construction for April. That may contain clues on demand for new residential projects as a boom in Toronto and Vancouver shows signs of fading.

Finally, population data for the first quarter is due Wednesday, and a recent boom has been one of the reasons for healthy gains in consumer spending.

While much of the news on consumer spending has been good this year, there are flaws. Consumer debts were near a record high relative to disposable income at a seasonally adjusted 177.6% in the first quarter. Debt servicing costs reached 14.9%, matching a record set at the end of 2007.

--MNI Ottawa Bureau; +1 613-314-9647; email:

[TOPICS: M$C$$$]

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