The central bank has said that the outbreak was “a material negative shock” to the Canadian and global outlooks and predicted that as the coronavirus spread, business and consumer confidence would deteriorate, further depressing economic activity.
As the situation requires , the Bank’s Governing Council stands ready to adjust monetary policy further if required to support economic growth and keep inflation on target,” the bank has said in a statement.
Money markets quickly priced in a roughly 77% chance of another 25 basis point cut on April 15, when the bank is scheduled to unveil its next rate decision.
“It’s tough to get any upside out of this … to be cutting 50 (basis points) and saying they stand ready to adjust monetary policy further. That’s a clear cue that they’re not done,” said Derek Holt, vice president of capital markets economics at Scotiabank.
The Canadian dollar fell to 1.3416 to the U.S. dollar or 74.54 U.S. cents, down from 1.3358 or 74.86 U.S. cents.
The move marked for the first time in almost 5 years that the bank had eased rates. The last time it cut by 50 basis points was in March 2009 during the global financial crisis.
The U.S. Federal Reserve has already cut down rates by half a percentage point in an emergency move on Tuesday.
“With the Fed cutting by 50 yesterday it really did paint the bank into a corner … I think the base case needs to be at least 25 basis points in April,” said Andrew Kelvin, chief Canada strategist at TD Securities.
Canada has only reported a handful of people with the coronavirus.
“It is likely that as this virus spreads, business and consumer confidence will deteriorate,” the bank said, noting the Canadian dollar and commodity prices have depreciated. The bank had held rates steady since October 2018.
Canada is a major exporter of oil, which has seen prices slump in the recent months.
The bank informed it is becoming clear that the first quarter would be weaker than it had expected.