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Scotiabank: Global Housing Recovery Deepens

TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - March 28, 2014) - The recovery in global property markets is becoming more entrenched and broadly based, according to the Scotiabank Global Real Estate Trends report released today. An improving economic outlook combined with historically low borrowing costs are buoying confidence in the sector, notwithstanding still soft labour markets in many regions.

"From a regional perspective, the U.S. housing recovery should remain an outperformer among advanced nations, while positive medium-term demographic and income trends support rising housing demand in many emerging markets in Asia and Latin America," said Adrienne Warren, Scotiabank's Senior Economist.

"Canada's housing sector appears to be moving back onto a more sustainable trajectory. Home sales in the first two months of the year were running just 1% above a year earlier and about 6% below the average level of the past decade. A combination of factors are contributing to the more moderate sales trend, including weaker job growth, lower housing affordability, and a widening gap between the cost of owning versus renting."

Highlights in the report include:

  • Canada's regional conditions vary substantially. Home sales in Calgary and Vancouver have picked up sharply over the past year, with demand in the former fuelled by strong employment and population growth well above the national pace, while the latter is recovering from weak conditions last year.
  • Sales were generally more muted in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, suggesting the winter deep-freeze continues to deter buyers.
  • Only in three provinces -- Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba -- are sales trending above their 10-year average.

Read the full Scotiabank Global Real Estate Trends report below or find a copy online at http://www.scotiabank.com/ca/en/0,,3112,00.html.

Scotiabank provides clients with in-depth research into the factors shaping the outlook for Canada and the global economy, including macroeconomic developments, currency and capital market trends, commodity and industry performance, as well as monetary, fiscal and public policy issues.

Scotiabank is a leading financial services provider in over 55 countries and Canada's most international bank. Through our team of more than 83,000 employees, Scotiabank and its affiliates offer a broad range of products and services, including personal and commercial banking, wealth management, corporate and investment banking to over 21 million customers. With assets of $783 billion (as at January 31, 2014), Scotiabank trades on the Toronto (TSX: BNS) and New York Exchanges (NYSE: BNS). Scotiabank distributes the Bank's media releases using Marketwired. For more information please visit www.scotiabank.com.

Global Housing Recovery Deepens

The recovery in global property markets is becoming more entrenched and broadly based. An improving economic outlook combined with historically low borrowing costs are buoying confidence in the sector, notwithstanding still soft labour markets in many regions. In our latest round-up of international house prices, roughly two-thirds of national markets posted real annual price appreciation through the end of 2013, up from 40% a year earlier.

Among advanced economies, Canada continues to hold its place near the top rungs of our survey. Average inflation-adjusted house prices rose 8% y/y in Q4. The national average increase is skewed by a mix of sales favouring some of the country's priciest markets, but most centres continue to post moderate annual price gains slightly outpacing inflation.

We expect the pace of Canadian house price growth will slow this year. Sales have been weakening since last fall as higher prices alongside tougher mortgage rules eroded affordability. Recent declines in some fixed mortgage rates may provide some temporary relief, although modestly higher borrowing costs are still on the horizon as global growth picks up. An emerging oversupply of condominiums in several large urban centres also risks putting downward pressure on prices. 

The U.S. housing recovery has lost some momentum. Affordability, while still good, has been dented by higher prices and borrowing costs. Meanwhile, tight credit conditions and lacklustre job growth have restricted the pool of first-time buyers, which remains well below normal levels. Even so, tight supply continues to underpin valuations, with real house prices up 6% y/y in Q4.

From a cyclical perspective, the U.S. housing expansion has further to go. Improving job and income growth should underpin strengthening sales this year, while new construction will widen the pool of listings. In both Canada and the United States, we expect some release of weather-induced pent-up demand this spring.

Property markets in Europe are mixed, mirroring divergent regional economic conditions. Improving domestic activity is supporting strengthening real house price growth in Ireland (+6% y/y), Germany (+5% y/y) and the U.K. (+3% y/y). Switzerland and Sweden are posting steady increases of around 4% y/y.

At the same time, weak economic growth and historically high unemployment continue to hold back the housing recovery in a number of other European nations, including France (-2% y/y). Conditions also remain quite weak in Spain (-5% y/y) and Italy (-6% y/y), though prices appear to be nearing a bottom after an extended period of declines. Improving regional growth prospects should support a more synchronized pickup in 2014.

A re-acceleration in home prices in China has lifted the nation back to the top of our international ranking, though the pace of increase has shown some signs of slowing in early 2014 amid moderate policy tightening. Australia's housing market also has heated up again (+7% y/y), while Indonesia and Thailand are seeing steady price growth of about 4% y/y. Conditions remain much softer in South Korea, India and Russia.

Latin American housing markets remain among the best performing in the group, supported by relatively healthy domestic demand and improving inflation dynamics that have allowed monetary policy easing in a number of countries. Peru and Colombia continue to lead the region with real house prices advancing around 10% y/y, while Chile is posting steady gains of 5% y/y. Mexico's housing market has lagged, but should benefit from domestic market reforms and a strengthening U.S. economy. Even Brazil's housing market has remained fairly resilient in the face of weak growth and a significant tightening in monetary policy.

Global property markets will likely gain further traction this year as the economic recovery becomes more entrenched and labour market prospects improve. Long-term borrowing costs are drifting higher, but excess capacity and subdued inflation should anchor short-term interest rates at historically low levels. From a regional perspective, the U.S. housing recovery should remain an outperformer among advanced nations, while positive medium-term demographic and income trends support rising housing demand in many emerging markets in Asia and Latin America.

Focus on Canada

- An Increasingly Diversified Market

Canada's housing sector appears to be moving back onto a more sustainable trajectory. Home sales in the first two months of the year were running just 1% above a year earlier and about 6% below the average level of the past decade. A combination of factors are contributing to the more moderate sales trend, including weaker job growth, lower housing affordability, and a widening gap between the cost of owning versus renting.

Prices continue to climb despite the more tempered sales environment. The national average house price in January/February was up almost 10% y/y. However, the headline increase is magnified by stronger sales in some of Canada's priciest markets, including Vancouver. Constant quality house price measures put the underlying price trend at around 5% y/y -- consistent with a market that is fairly well balanced overall, though slightly favouring sellers in some segments.

Regional conditions vary substantially. Home sales in Calgary and Vancouver have picked up sharply over the past year, with demand in the former fuelled by strong employment and population growth well above the national pace, while the latter is recovering from weak conditions last year. Sales were generally more muted in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, suggesting the winter deep-freeze continues to deter buyers. Only in three provinces -- Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba -- are sales trending above their 10-year average.

In a few markets, including Toronto and Calgary, a lack of listings for single-family homes appears to be holding back sales. Sellers' conditions continue to dominate the undersupplied single-family market, lifting already high prices even higher. Buyers have more leverage in the more-amply supplied condominium market, notably in Toronto where prices are posting moderate increases even amid strong demand. As a result, the price premium for a single-family home relative to a condominium continues to widen.

The shortage of single-family homes for sale combined with strained affordability for first-time buyers will buoy resale condominium demand in the year ahead, though prices should be restrained by sizeable new inventory of recently completed units. Sales and prices of new condominiums, a large share of which are purchased by investors, are expected to remain soft. Meanwhile, relatively tight market conditions could continue to pressure single-family home prices in some of Canada's largest urban centres.

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