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Banker offers good news

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VANCOUVER -- The head of the Bank of Canada gently urged businesses to ease open the purse strings and start spending Wednesday as he said the economy was nearing a tipping point toward normal growth following the global recession.

Stephen Poloz said he expects business investment to increase as confidence grows in that recovery.

"When the bubble burst in 2008, we were left with a crater, which is where we now find ourselves," Poloz told more than 600 members of the Vancouver Board of Trade.

"If you look carefully at a pot of simmering spaghetti sauce, under every bubble there is a crater that's equal in size. So a seven-year bubble, a seven-year crater. Central banks have been filling that crater with liquidity, so we can row our boats across it. We need to make sure we're getting to shore and not just hitting a rock."

Poloz said the economy is poised to return to normal, self-sustaining growth -- gathering momentum in foreign demand, in particular from the U.S.

Doug Porter, chief economist of BMO Capital Markets, said Poloz's speech appeared designed not to rock markets ahead of an announcement from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

"He certainly wasn't scolding, like the former governor occasionally did on that topic. I think it was more like gently trying to encourage," Porter said.

The U.S. Federal Reserve said Wednesday it would hold off on slowing its US$85-billion-a-month bond-buying program until it saw more conclusive evidence the economic recovery will be sustained.

The Fed said the economy was growing moderately, but rising mortgage rates and government spending cuts were restraining growth.

The announcement sent stock markets up sharply and bond yields tumbling.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty noted the world economic recovery is still tenuous, but the American recovery appears solid.

"The auto sector is a great example of that. The auto sector has come back strongly, including auto parts in the United States, and the housing sector has come back modestly, but it's come back after a number of years of decline," Flaherty said in Brampton, Ont., where he was announcing a tax break for manufacturers, following Poloz's speech.

"So the American economy is growing, it's growing modestly; that's good for our economy here in Canada."

Household debt has been considered by the Bank of Canada as a key domestic risk to the recovery to the economy.

Asked about housing prices in Canada and the record-high ratio of debt to household income, Poloz reiterated he does not believe there is a housing bubble.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 19, 2013 B9

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