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Daily Pulse

One of our most accessible tools, this daily comment keeps you abreast of developments on the North American and international financial markets.

Michel Doucet

Michel Doucet
Vice-President and
Portfolio Manager

March 27, 2020

Canada

The federal government is asking banks and credit-card companies to lower interest rates for Canadians, many of whom are struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government is also looking at extending lower-interest credit directly to consumers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, in his daily update to Canadians on Thursday.The major banks did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Earlier this week, however, the Bank of Montreal said it is deferring payments on small business credit cards and credit lines and on the principal of small business loans. The Bank of Canada has lowered its trend-setting interest rate to try to cushion the blow to business from a slowing economy but credit-card interest rates, the ones that matter most directly to most consumers, remain high.

United States

President Donald Trump will hear recommendations from the White House coronavirus task force this weekend on plans to “open the country up” as the economy continues to strain under the pandemic. The new guidance on how to kickstart the economy will come days after the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpasses China or Italy, making it the country with the largest outbreak in the world. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters at the White House on Thursday that the task force will share “a range of recommendations and additional guidance for going forward” with the next steps in its efforts to blunt the impact of the coronavirus. Earlier in the day, Trump sent a letter to U.S. governors outlining his vision for the “next phase” in his administration’s plans to reopen the economy, which has ground to a halt as an increasing number of states impose harsh restrictions to try to contain the spread of the disease.

Europe

European Union leaders on Thursday failed to agree on how best to shore up economies hammered by the coronavirus, which has now infected more than 533,000 people worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. EU policymakers allowed themselves two more weeks to work out details, as death tolls in Italy, Spain and France, in particular, continue to surge.  The European Central Bank (ECB) has scrapped its cap on the quantity of bonds it can buy from any single euro zone nation, potentially paving the way for unlimited money-printing in a bid to mitigate the economic damage to the bloc. Meanwhile, leaders of the G20 major economies have vowed to pump over $5 trillion into the global economy in a coordinated effort to minimize job and income losses from business shutdowns around the world.

Asia

India’s central bank slashed interest rates in an emergency move on Friday to counter the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic after the federal government locked down the country in order to slow the spread of infections across the region. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked India’s 1.3 billion people to stay indoors for three weeks in the biggest lockdown anywhere, shutting down Asia’s third largest economy and leaving millions of economically vulnerable people without work. The Reserve Bank of India lowered the benchmark repo rate by 75 basis points to 4.40% after a video conference meeting of its monetary policy committee (MPC), which was brought forward to respond to the crisis. The move came a day after the federal government announced a $22.6 billion stimulus plan to ease the pain of the poor through direct cash transfers and food security measures.

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