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Canada better than most, but not immune: El-Erian

Tags: Economy, PIMCO

The Canadian economy is not an island – that's the message from Mohamed El-Erian, CEO and Co-CIO of PIMCO, manager of the world's largest bond fund.

"Because of the U.S., and in particular because we are not so positive that QE3 is going to have a huge growth impact, we think that Canada is looking at a growth rate of about 2 percent," he says. "It's in a better place than the U.S., but with ages slowing and with the impact of QE3 likely to be limited [in the U.S.], Canada is also looking at relatively low growth."

El-Erian adds that household debt – long a concern of policymakers such as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney – needs to be "controlled."

El-Erian's remarks come as private sector economists in Canada are pulling back on their GDP forecasts for the Canadian economy. A recent survey of private sector economists maintained a forecast for 2.1 percent in 2012, but lowered the 2013 forecast to 2.0 percent from an earlier projection of 2.4 percent.

The International Monetary Fund also recently lowered its forecasts for Canadian GDP growth to 1.9 percent in 2012 and 2 percent next year -- down from 2.1 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, from its previous forecast. The IMF cited elevated home prices and high debt levels as the biggest risk to the Canadian economy.

"An important domestic vulnerability in Canada relates to the housing market. A sharp or sustained decline in house prices could seriously set back the leveraged household sector and domestic demand," the bank said in its most recent World Economic Outlook report. "In Canada, the key priority is to ensure that risks from the housing sector and increases in household debt remain well contained and do not create financial sector vulnerabilities."

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