Source: Bank of Canada; Baytex Energy Corp.
Generally-speaking, we like upward trends: think of your income, career trajectory, or your favourite team's place in the league standings. Downward trends? Not so much: think of your bank balance, your health, or the stock market. (Of course, if we're talking about the cost of living or your golf score, then downward trends sound all right.)
Three key variables reflecting, and imparting, changes in different aspects of the Canadian economy that are trending downwards are the Canadian-US dollar (CAD-USD) exchange rate; the Bank of Canada's overnight target interest rate; and the price of Western Canadian Select (WCS) oil.
The most innocuous of the three--if only because we've grown accustomed to its diminished level-- is the overnight target rate, which the Bank of Canada announced this past Wednesday it's holding at 0.50%. One year ago, however, the rate stood at 1.00%, and just prior to the Great Recession it reached as high as 4.50% (although this was much lower than the relatively elevated rates seen in the 1980s and 1990s).
Both the CAD-USD exchange rate and oil prices have garnered a lot of headlines over the recent past, and rightfully so: the value of the Canadian dollar fell by 12% over the course of 2015, and at the end of that year stood at 0.73USD--down from as high as 1.05USD toward the end of 2011. Oil prices, meanwhile, continue to defy expectations of a return to more moderate levels, falling 26% during 2015. This masks the 56% decline since June, as WCS fell from 51.29USD/bbl to 22.51USD/bbl by the end of the year.
A volatile year to be sure, was 2015; it will be fascinating to see where 2016 takes us.