Top Forecaster Gretzinger Predicts 3.1% Canadian Growth in 2011

Canada’s economy will continue to expand this year as U.S. performance improves and companies increase investment, says Andrew Gretzinger, a portfolio manager at Manulife Financial Corp. and the most-accurate forecaster in a Bloomberg News survey.

Gretzinger, No. 1 among forecasters of the Canadian economy in data compiled by Bloomberg for the past two years, predicts the economy will grow at 3.1 percent pace in 2011. The Bank of Canada projects the expansion will slow to 2.3 percent this year from 3 percent in 2010.

“Businesses will ramp up investment,” Gretzinger said in an interview, citing “attractive” borrowing costs. As well, “Canada will get some traction from an improved south-of-the- border performance -- that will help net exports.”

Gretzinger, who is part of a team that manages C$17 billion ($17.1 billion) in assets for Manulife Asset Management in Toronto, credits his dual roles as economist and fund manager for helping to produce better forecasts. Gretzinger, 41, said he works closely with Bill Cheney, chief economist with Manulife- owned John Hancock Financial Services Inc. in Boston, to form broad views on the global economy. He then puts out forecasts consistent with those views.

“A lot of economists, they look at models, they look at spreadsheets, they look at trends, and that’s great,” Gretzinger said. “But when you put some money behind it, that’s where you stand behind your convictions. We manage our portfolio based on what we think.”

Overall Ranking

Bloomberg’s overall ranking is a composite of rankings of three indicators: quarterly growth rates and monthly employment and consumer price data. Gretzinger placed second for his prediction of quarterly growth among the 17 forecasters in the Bloomberg News ranking, and third in predicting net changes in employment. Gretzinger predicts Canada’s unemployment rate will continue to drop at a “slow and steady pace” from the current 7.6 percent.

The No. 2-ranked forecaster, Sheryl King, head of Canada economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and the No. 3, Jonathan Basile, director of U.S. economics at Credit Suisse Holdings USA Inc., also predicted growth of 3.1 percent for Canada in 2011.

The median estimate for growth this year among 24 economists surveyed by Bloomberg is 2.4 percent.

Bank of Canada

Gretzinger said the Bank of Canada will start raising its benchmark overnight rate again by the second half of the year and bring it to 2 percent or more by the end of this year. He also said the Canadian dollar will continue to trade at parity with the U.S. dollar this year and may rise further if oil prices rise as the U.S. recovery gains momentum.

Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto, was the best forecaster among economists working at Canadian banks, coming in fourth in the overall ranking. Economists at Desjardins Securities Inc. in Quebec were the fifth-most accurate forecasters.

Gretzinger received a bachelor degree in economics from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and has a master’s degree from the University of Western Ontario. He completed one year of a doctoral work at the same university before joining Bank of Nova Scotia in 1997. He moved to Manulife in 2001 to provide economics analysis to the high-yield division before managing funds.

Top Forecasters of the Canadian Economy
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Name                               Firm
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Andrew Gretzinger                  Manulife Asset Management
Sheryl King                        Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Jonathan Basile                    Credit Suisse Douglas Porter                     BMO Capital Markets
Francois Dupuis/Benoit Durocher    Desjardins Securities Inc.
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METHODOLOGY: To identify the top forecasters of the Canadian economy, we used estimates submitted to Bloomberg News for three key indicators: gross domestic product (CGE9ANN), the net change in employment (CANLNETJ), and the consumer price index (CACPICHG). We compiled estimates made over two years, ending Dec. 31, 2010, then averaged the difference between the forecast made by each analyst and the actual number released.

To qualify for the CPI and unemployment rankings, the forecaster must have made at least 13 out of the 24 forecasts. For GDP, a quarterly indicator, we looked at 12 quarters’ worth of forecasts; to qualify, each economist must have made at least nine.

Economists not presently associated with a firm or who had not submitted forecasts for at least two months were excluded from the final ranking.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alexandre Deslongchamps in Ottawa at adeslongcham@bloomberg.net; Ilan Kolet in Ottawa at ikolet@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net; Alex Tanzi at atanzi@bloomberg.net

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