Keep Your Powder Dry, Says Economist Who Predicted Canada GDP

The economist who correctly predicted Canada’s robust growth rate in January has another message: don’t get carried away.

Citigroup Global Markets Economist Dana Peterson had the highest estimate of a Bloomberg survey for January growth, predicting 0.6 percent heading into Thursday’s data release by Statistics Canada. She proved to be bang-on, as Canada recorded its highest monthly growth since 2013.

However, the result doesn’t make Peterson bullish on the country’s prospects. She was among a minority of economists calling for a Bank of Canada rate cut later this year and still sees warning signs for the recovery.

“We are cautiously optimistic the economy will continue to transition away from commodities to more sustainable production,” Peterson said in a telephone interview. “But there are still a lot of risks out there.”

She’s not alone in being circumspect about the GDP report. “This is a long process,” Toronto-Dominion Bank Chief Executive Officer Bharat Masrani said in an interview in Montreal. “I wouldn’t want to declare victory and start celebrating on one number.”

A survey of 21 Bloomberg economists produced a median estimate of 0.3 percent for January, half the actual figure. The strength was driven by manufacturing, oil and gas and utilities. It comes a week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a federal budget that includes C$118.6 billion ($91.3 billion) in deficits over six years, part of a bid to spur growth.

Thursday’s data wasn’t really a surprise, Peterson said, as retail sales and manufacturing were both known to be strengthening. While Trudeau’s budget “does certainly lessen” the pressure on Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz to cut rates once more, Peterson is among those predicting divergence between Canadian and U.S. monetary policy -- calling earlier this month for the Bank of Canada to ease while expecting the Federal Reserve to continue tightening.

In other words, Thursday’s surprise figure was no surprise to Peterson but doesn’t yet mean Canada’s economy has emerged from its crude shock doldrums.

“We’re not overly excited but we still think that Canada can gradually recover from the oil-price shock and get back on the 2 percent growth path,” Peterson said.

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