December 24, 2015 8:00 am
Updated: January 1, 2016 8:15 am

Here’s how your chequebook will fare in 2016

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Wondering how many ways your chequebook will be hit in the new year? Here’s what some experts think 2016 will hold for financial matters close to home, from raises to rent to prices at the pump and food costs.

Worker raises

The odds of getting a raise have dropped alongside commodity prices. Average hourly wages grew around three per cent in 2015, outpacing a two per cent rise in the cost of living, or inflation rate.

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But income gains are under increasing pressure as the economy sputters amid the resource downturn (led by oil), TD’s Diana Petramala said.

“While we still see positive income growth, a limiting factor is going to be this oil price shock. It’s going to emanate but it’s going to be most pronounced in oil-producing regions,” she said.

Employment in more diversified parts of the country – chiefly British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec – should remain sturdy, helping to buoy individual earnings, BMO economist Robert Kavcic said.

At a national level “growth should hold about steady next year as Alberta cools sharply, but Ontario and B.C. get some upward momentum.”

Gas prices

Some experts suggest Canadian pump prices should be “well below” where they are right now, given oil’s decline. But the historical correlation between gas and oil appears to be broken here in Canada, meaning a sustained drop in oil in 2016 won’t necessarily amount to cheaper pump prices.

‘Simply, consumers don’t appear to be reaping the full benefit of lower oil prices’

“Simply, consumers don’t appear to be reaping the full benefit of lower oil prices,” BMO economist Benjamin Reitzes said in a recent research note.

“We’ve always been accustomed to the idea that crude drives [gas] prices. But it seems we now live in a parallel world,” Dan McTeague, analyst at gasbuddy.com, a price tracking website, said.

MORE: Canadians still paying up at the pump despite drop in oil prices

Oil vs gas

A crumbling loonie and likelihood of higher taxes in certain provinces are two inflationary forces that will act on gas prices next year, McTeague said. Tight refining capacity and strong demand from U.S. motorists are two more (among others), he suggested.

Rent costs

Like wage growth, whether rents goes up or not depends very much on where you live.

Rental conditions are tight and getting tighter in Vancouver and Toronto, where ownership costs have surged. Inflows of new immigrants and migrants from other areas of the country hit by the resource downturn continue to push down vacancy rates, as well.

“With housing prices continuing to rise so strongly, it’s pushing people to continue to rent or get into rentals,” Chaim Rivlin, founder and chief executive of rentseeker.ca, a tracking website, said.

“So I think you’ll see vacancy rates [in those two centres] stay low and those rents will continue to rise.”

Rent in those two centres should move up in line with inflation, experts say.

Rents elsewhere could well see deflationary pressure in 2016, according to TD’s Petramala. Many markets are experiencing rising vacancies, notably in regions reliant on resource industries.

“We’re seeing migration right now from those areas into parts of B.C. and Ontario,” the economist said.

MORE: Rentseeker infographic on average rent per city in Canada

Mortgage rates

Anyone looking to renew or take out a new home loan is going to find it more costly next year, Petramala suggested.

The U.S. Federal Reserve hiked its key interest rate on Dec. 16 for the first time in nearly a decade, inaugurating a rate-tightening cycle in that country that is poised to influence borrowing rates in Canada, pressuring them higher.

“We haven’t seen any upward pressure so far,” the TD economist said. But TD believes mortgage rates offered by Canadian banks and other lenders could rise by 50 basis points or 0.5 percentage points through next year.

‘Even a quarter point increase is going to feel like a lot more than it has in the past’

“Given how overinflated the housing market is and how highly indebted households are, even a quarter point increase is going to feel like a lot more than it has in the past,” the TD economist said.

In contrast to the Fed, the Bank of Canada cut rates twice this year to help the economy avoid a steeper recession.

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Grocery checkout

Food prices are also expected to race ahead of overall inflation – a direct by-product of the tanking loonie.

No less than 80 per cent of the meat, fruits and vegetables that pass through Canadian supermarkets is imported from other countries and generally priced in U.S. dollars, which have surged in value against the loonie over the past year.

A report from the University of Guelph’s Food Institute this month suggested the currency swing will add as much as $345 onto the grocery bill of the average Canadian household next year.

MORE: Canadian grocery prices will continue to soar next year

“Canada is actually the only industrialized country in the world currently, right now, with a food inflation rate of over three per cent,” Sylvain Charlebois, food industry expert and associate professor at the Food Institute, said.

“A weaker currency was really the story in 2015 and we are expecting that to continue to some extent in 2016,” he said.

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— With files from Tania Kohut

© 2015 Shaw Media

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