Don’t depend on a boost from the BoC

By Staff | February 11, 2016 | Last updated on February 11, 2016
2 min read

Changing global demographics — not monetary policy — are the main drivers of low interest rates in many of the world’s largest economies, finds a study by the Fraser Institute.

“Monetary policy is having less and less impact on interest rates in developed economies such as Canada because the demographic relationship between borrowers and savers has changed dramatically,” says Michael Walker, author of Why Are Interest Rates So Low?, a study that develops a new model of how interest rates are determined.

Read: Snapshot: Canadian economic data

For most of the 20th century, there were many more borrowers than savers. Subsequently, interest rates were high to encourage more saving and ration the scarce funds to borrowers.

Today, however, the opposite is true. There’s a dearth of borrowers—so savers are relatively more numerous.

According to the study, the existence of relatively more savers attempting to invest their funds is the main factor affecting interest rates—not monetary policy conducted by the Bank of Canada or the Federal Reserve.

Read: Don’t depend on interest rates to shore up economy: BoC

The study compiles financial and demographic data for 29 countries that account for nearly 90% of the world’s economic output. Walker’s new model of how interest rates are determined differs from popular, yet faulty, economic models, which rely on the use of “typical households” to project economy-wide responses to factors thought to influence interest rates.

Relying on these faulty models, many analysts have predicted that interest rates will return to normal levels sometime soon. And central banks have tried to “talk up” interest rates. Meanwhile, rates in most of the major economies continue to be very low.

“The objectives and behaviour of ‘typical households’ in Canada and most of the world is dramatically different today than when these now-faulty models were constructed, so it’s no surprise that most private analysts and central banks have incorrect expectations,” Walker says.

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The staff of have been covering news for financial advisors since 1998.