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Canadian bank CEOs forecast 2021, 2022 strength following challenging year

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TORONTO, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Canadian bank heads on Monday forecast a rosier growth outlook for this and next year, driven by pent-up consumer demand, continued residential mortgage growth and ongoing government stimulus to help offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Canada’s biggest banks ended fiscal 2020 with better than expected earnings, while warning of an uneven economic recovery and a slower housing market. But they struck a somewhat more optimistic note at the RBC Capital Markets Canadian bank CEO conference.

“We’re definitely feeling good about things,” said Dave McKay, chief executive of Royal Bank of Canada, the country’s largest lender.

“There’s a lot of frustrated spending sitting on the sidelines,” he said. “Mortgage activity and ... purchase activity continued to be very strong through the end of the year, so we’re feeling pretty confident we’ll beat the forecast of slower growth.”

In a note to clients on Sunday, National Bank Financial analyst Gabriel Dechaine wrote that “green shoots” of rebounding loan growth, particularly in consumer categories, are already visible.

Bank of Montreal CEO Darryl White forecast economic growth of as much as 5% in Canada and the United States this year and about 4% in 2022.

“We may see a drastically better economic environment in the back half of 2021,” he said. “When we get through the next two to four months, and see the vaccine overtake the virus, then we’ll be in a period where loan growth, toward the back end of the year, can begin to be very substantial.”

Still, the CEOs warned that margins will continue to face pressure as interest rates remain low.

“We’d like to see a more normalized interest rate environment, which is a sign that things are starting to recover,” Victor Dodig, CEO of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said.

Reporting By Nichola Saminather Editing by Marguerita Choy

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