Saskatchewan Budget Saved by Falling Loonie

August 8, 2013

1-minute read

Following last week’s troubling news about potash, the Saskatchewan government released its first-quarter financial report today. The headline seems to be “Oil Keeps Budget in Black”, with a forecast increase in oil revenue more than offsetting a forecast decline in potash and other revenues.

But the forecast West Texas Intermediate price is only up by a couple of dollars since the provincial budget. A larger difference is that the forecast exchange rate has fallen from 99 to 96 US cents.

As shown at the bottom of page 4 (3 of 5 in the PDF), the forecast US-dollar price of oil is up by 2.4% from the budget estimate (i.e. $95.03/$92.84). But the Canadian-dollar price of oil is up by 6.3% (i.e. $80.01/$75.29). This comparison also includes changes in transport costs and/or grade differentials since the Canadian-dollar value is an average wellhead price.

However, the exchange rate’s effect is not limited to oil. The lower loonie has the same positive effect on the Canadian-dollar value of all commodities priced in US dollars.

The forecast-US dollar potash price is down by 5.8% (i.e. 1 – ($372/$395)). But the Canadian-dollar potash price is down by only 2.8% (i.e. 1 – ($636/$654)).

Indeed, the potash comparison purely reflects the three-point shift in the exchange rate. Both prices are mine netbacks, so there is no difference in transport costs. (Although the US price is per KCl tonne and the Canadian price is per K2O tonne, the physical ratio of KCl to K2O has not changed since the budget!)

While Premier Wall blasted federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair for questioning the overvalued loonie, Wall is now reaping the fiscal benefits of a slightly more moderate exchange rate.

I am not holding my breath for Wall to acknowledge that Mulcair had a point, although I note that he has come around to the NDP’s position on the Senate.

Erin Weir is an economist with the United Steelworkers union and a CCPA research associate.

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