BY ARI ALTSTEDTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS, FINANCIAL POST
The top forecaster of the Canadian dollar said the currency will fall to a record 59 U.S. cents by the end of the year as further weakness in the energy sector saps growth in an economy already stretched by a heavily indebted consumer and the Bank of Canada cuts interest rates for a third time.
The call from Macquarie Group Ltd.’s David Doyle, the top-ranked forecaster for the U.S. versus Canadian dollar exchange rate last year according to Bloomberg rankings, comes as the currency fell below 70 U.S. cents Tuesday for the first time in almost 13 years. The currency’s tumble to levels last seen in the late 1990s came as crude continued to reach multiyear lows.
“You could imagine the situation is worse today than in the 1990s,” Doyle said.. “We’re much more dependent on oil now than we were in the past.”
Macquarie was among the first major forecasters to predict the currency would hit these levels. A 59 U.S. cent Canadian dollar would mean one U.S. dollar buys C$1.6949.
The currency fell as much as 0.6 per cent to 69.90 U.S. cents Tuesday in Toronto,, the first time it touched that level since May 2003, as crude oil fell to a 12-year low of US$29.93 per barrel in New York. The first time the Canadian dollar weakened below 70 U.S. cents was 1997, before the country’s oil industry took off and when its government was wrestling with a budget deficit.
It mostly traded below 70 U.S. cents between 1997 and 2003, a period when manufacturing made up a larger part of exports than oil. Its all-time low was 61.76 U.S. cents in 2002.
Canada’s newly elected Liberal government has pledged to run deficits to help stimulate an economy hindered by the collapse in prices for crude, until last year the country’s biggest export, and consumer spending held back by near-record debt levels.
Even though Doyle predicted Canada’s central bank will cut its benchmark rate to a record low 0.25 per cent on Jan. 20, a weakened manufacturing sector and more competition from Mexico in the U.S. market, Canada’s largest trading partner, mean it will take longer for the country to see an economic benefit with oil prices still depressed.
Once the loonie reaches its record low, it will stay depressed through the end of 2018, Doyle said.
“Manufacturing and non-energy exports have far less ability to propel the economic outlook than they have in the past,” Doyle said. “Many of our oil and oil-related sectors have grown, and a lot of our manufacturing sectors have not grown and remained low.”