The Bank of Canada Officially Began Buying Canadian Mortgage Bonds

Canada’s central bank has officially started to help out with mortgage liquidity. The Bank of Canada (BoC) announced their intention to buy Canada Mortgage Bonds at the end of November. The Bank bought nearly quarter of a billion of the bonds less than three weeks later.

WTF Is A Canada Mortgage Bond?

Canada Mortgage Bonds (CMBs) are bonds used to fund mortgages, and guaranteed by the CMHC. Investors buy the bonds, and lenders use the cash to lend to mortgage borrowers. Since the CMHC (and the Government of Canada) guarantee them, they’re a very secure investment. Secure investments pay relatively low yields, making them a cheap mortgage funding vehicle.

Investors get a secure investment. Mortgage lenders get access to cheap money. It’s a perfect match, and it translates to easier and cheaper credit for homebuyers. A win for investors, lenders, and homebuyers. One problem – we don’t have an unlimited number of investors to drive credit growth forever. When those start to dry up, credit begins to tighten. That’s where an unusual move from the BoC came in.

Bank of Canada Announced They Will Buy CMBs In November

The BoC is buying CMBs as a part of an expansion of their asset buying program. They noted at the end of November, there is “no implications for monetary policy and financial stability objectives of the Bank.” Buying these bonds doesn’t expand the central bank’s balance sheet. Instead, they’re buying CMBs to help offset the Bank’s liabilities – mostly circulating currency. Theoretically, there should be no major change to inflation or interest rates.

The BoC Bought $250 Million Worth of CMBs Just 20 Days Later

Just 20 days after announcing the intention to buy CMBs, the BoC became a major buyer of the bonds. The central bank bought $250 million worth of CMBs at the December 13 auction, with a coupon of 2.55%. That’s about 4.5% of the total value of the auction, making them a significant buyer…  less than a month after expressing their intention to buy.

What’s The Big Deal?

Most people are confusing no implications with monetary policy, with no big deal. That’s not the case, and it’s a move that should be watched closely. It doesn’t expand the balance sheet, so it’s not a form of quantitative ease. It does however increase liquidity for CMBs, but demand for new mortgage credit isn’t all that high.

Right now, they’re buying when Canadian mortgage credit growth is falling to multi-decade lows. If things are so good with credit liquidity, why is the BoC helping fulfill minuscule growth?

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  • Ethan Wu 6 years ago

    This is “everything is okay” mortgage liquidity assistance, right?

    • Ian 6 years ago

      A bailout by any other name would smell as sour.

  • David Robinson 6 years ago

    To further your point on why are they helping with mortgage liquidity. Why did they need to expand their asset buying program, if monetary growth is slowing to some of the slowest paces in history?

  • Wesley 6 years ago

    Is this a good thing for prices?

  • Rick Abrams 6 years ago

    This move is interesting, but for someone accustomed to the US home buying market, e.g. Los Angeles, it is confusing. That is not a criticism.

    The article says: “Investors buy the bonds, and lenders use the cash to lend to mortgage borrowers. Since the CMHC (and the Government of Canada) guarantee them, they’re a very secure investment. Secure investments pay relatively low yields, making them a cheap mortgage funding vehicle.”

    Is this move similar to insuring residential mortgages so that when the borrower’s income drops and he would normally default, the insurance kicks in to make the mortgage payments or is this like the corrupt practice in Los Angeles where the city issues bonds and gives the money to developers of financially disastrous projects so that when the projects go BK, the city loses its loan but still has to repay Wall Street? Since the United States under Obama and under Trumpy-Grumpy refuse to back insurance of home mortgages, in the US we know it would be Accounting Control Fraud. In Canada, it could be a honest and prudent move to stabilize the market.

    One thing which could help would be for Canadian authorities to make certain that the penalties for Liar Loans (and the mortgage companies were the real liars in the US before the 2008 Crash) are very stiff and prosecution is guaranteed against the lenders.

    Canadians should keep in mind that the home buying market is finite, but the desire of developers to build is infinite. That situation invites fraud. The New Urbanism greatly increases the chances for fraud as the profits on TODs are unrealistically high and people prefer single family homes.

  • NJ 6 years ago

    comeon guys, 250M is just peanuts…worth of less than 1000 mortgages…given the current market prices…

    • John 6 years ago

      Except if this is part of a trend…

      You dont buy billions on day one. You buy hundreds of millions repeatedly.

      Re: US EQ unwinding.

      • Thomas Wong 6 years ago

        The BOC said they would start when appropriate in the new year, on a non-competitive basis. They started early, which means there’s less appetite for mortgages from international investors.

        Yes, the BOC has to buy new assets. But they’re using their firepower to stop mortgage rates from rising to market levels. This is NOT a very good use of central banking resources.

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