Canada's central bank cuts key rate target to 1958 level

TORONTO -- Canada's central bank cut its key interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point Tuesday, saying the country is entering a recession as a result of global weakness.

It is the largest cut in the overnight rate since October 2001 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and brings the key rate to its lowest level since 1958.

The cut to 1.50% follows two reductions in October that lowered the rate by three-quarters of a point.

The Bank of Canada said the outlook for the world economy has deteriorated significantly, and the global recession will be broader and deeper than previously anticipated.

"Global financial markets remain severely strained," the bank said.

Most economists expected a half-point cut, but many also speculated that bolder action may be required.

Deflation seems to be a major concern.

"The recent declines in terms of trade, real income growth, and confidence are prompting more cautious behavior by households and businesses," the bank said.

The statement does not say how long the bank expects the slump to last, but it said bold action by governments and central banks are beginning to loosen global money markets and support economic growth.

The lower interest rates, if passed on by Canada's big commercial banks, encourage businesses and households to borrow and spend, stimulating economic activity.

Canada's private banks initially declined to pass on to consumers the full half percentage-point cut in interest rates announced by central banks around the world Oct. 8 — a troubling move that affected Canadians' ability to get or afford loans for mortgages and businesses.

But most of the banks cut the interest rates a full half point after the Canadian government announced a $25 billion Canadian ($19 billion) bailout that would see the government buy mortgages from the banks.