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Business Briefing

BMO on stocks: 'Who's hot, and who's really hot' Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013.

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What’s hot
BMO Nesbitt Burns takes a look today at “who’s hot, and who’s really hot” in the U.S. and Canadian stock markets, finding, of course, differences in each.

This comes amid a general surge in stocks, with BMO saying the S&P 500 could well reach 1,900 sometime next year.

“All sectors of the U.S. equity market have participated in this year’s massive rally, with even the laggard telecom sector notching a near double-digit percentage gain,” said senior economist Robert Kavcic.

“The cream of the crop, though, has included consumer discretionary and industrials, both up more than 30 per cent on the year, as the market looks ahead to stronger U.S. growth through 2014.”

In Canada, the banks are making their mark.

“Financials have turned some heads, outperforming as most of the big six banks have pushed to record highs – a resilient housing market has helped quiet the ‘short Canada’ crowd,” Mr. Kavcic said.

“Energy, however, continues to lag with the [Western Canada Select] differential widening significantly again in recent weeks – but the group is still up a respectable 8 per cent on the year.”

(For Mr. Kavcic’s research, see the accompanying infographic or click here.)

Yellen clears hurdle
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won a vote on what Washington insiders call the “nuclear option,” rewriting the chamber’s procedural rules to rob the minority party of its ability to easily block presidential appointments.

The procedural change, which passed 52-48, has immediate implications for Janet Yellen, the nominee to replace Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve, whose advance now is assured. A backlog of other political appointments also should clear, as the Democratic leadership in the senate now has the power to prevent Republican filibusters, The Globe and Mail's Kevin Carmichael reports.

At the same time, Mr. Reid’s gambit could harden Washington’s already nearly unmovable partisan divide at a time when lawmakers are seeking to agree on a longer-term budget for the first time in years. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reacted bitterly, as he tried and failed to stall Mr. Reid’s initiative on the Senate floor.

The historic Senate fight quickly overshadowed the Senate banking committee’s vote to endorse Ms. Yellen as the next Fed leader. She would be the first woman to lead the central bank in the institution’s 100-year history. The final hurdle will be a still unscheduled vote in the full Senate.

Target slips
Sales of Target Corp. slipped today as third-quarter results showed the company falling shy of its goals in Canada.

But the discount retailer, who expanded into Canada with much hype that helped spark price cuts by other chains, said it’s still optimistic about its northern venture.

“While our initial sales and profits in Canada have not met our expectations, we remain enthusiastic about the Canadian market and confident in the long-term success of these stores,” chief executive officer Gregg Steinhafel told analysts on a conference call, according to Bloomberg News.

Target’s overall profit fell in the quarter to $341-million (U.S.) or 54 cents a share, from $637-million or 96 cents a year earlier. Overall sales climbed 4 per cent to $17.3 –billion.

The retailer cited the impact of its Canadian operations, and somewhat restrained consumer demand on its home turf.

The Canadian unit, which cut 29 cents a share from its quarterly results, lost $238-million before interest and taxes on $333-million in sales.

Its gross margin was $49-million, offset by start-up and operating costs of $221-million, and depreciation and amortization to the tune of $66-million.

Target, which said it's on track to have 124 outlets running in Canada by the end of the year, also projected adjusted earnings per share of $1.50 to $1.60 in the fourth quarter, the Canadian operation having eaten away 22 to 32 cents.

For the entire year, Target projects adjusted earnings per share of $4.59 to $4.69, with a Canadian hit of between 95 cents and $1.05 a share, more than twice as high as a previous forecast of 45 cents.

While Target hasn’t had quite the impact it expected in Canada, it has certainly helped to hold down retail prices.

Cross-border shopping is also still an issue. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada showed an increase of 1.2 per cent in September in same-day car trips to the United States from Canada, a proxy for cross-border shopping.

Antidepressants on rise
A new study indicates the use of antidepressant drugs is widespread among Canadians, suggesting a global surge may be linked in part to the financial crisis.

Canada holds the No. 3 spot in the report released today by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, topped only by Iceland and Australia, and followed by Denmark and Sweden to round out the top five.

Portugal, Britain, Finland, Belgium and Spain come next.

The Health at a Glance 2013 study looks at consumption in 2011, measured by the “defined daily dose” for every 1,000 people.

It shows a marked increase globally, citing several possible reasons, including “greater intensity and duration” of treatments, use for milder forms of depression, and changes in the “social acceptability and willingness” to seek help.

“Some of the increases in the use of antidepressants may also be linked to the insecurity created by the economic crisis,” the OECD report adds, citing hard-hit economies such as Spain and Portugal, countries at the heart of the euro debt crisis that are struggling under high levels of unemployment.

Still, use of antidepressants rose even faster in Germany, for example, which wasn’t hit nearly as hard.

Iceland, of course, was the poster child for the meltdown.

Canada rebounded far more quickly than many other countries from the crisis and recession, though unemployment still hovers at about 7 per cent, with more than 1.3 million people out of work and insecurity still an issue.

“Almost six years since the start of the global financial and economic crisis, economic conditions vary widely across OECD countries, with the United States, Canada and Japan on a path to recovery, while the economic prospects of many European countries remain subdued,” the report adds.

“After a period in which, as part of the stimulus packages, greater resources were channelled to welfare and social protection programs, the shift towards restoring sound fiscal conditions has often implied substantial cuts in public spending. Like other government programs, health care has been the target of spending cuts in many OECD countries."

Gildan profit climbs
Shareholders of Gildan Activewear Inc. can thank lower cotton costs for helping to drive the company to record fourth-quarter results and a higher dividend.

As The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports, the Montreal-based maker of T-shirts, underwear and socks boosted its dividend by 20 per cent, to $0.108, as it posted a jump in profit to $96.8-million or 79 cents a share, from $89-million or 73 cents a year earlier.

Sales jumped to $626.2-million from $561.7-million, the company crediting strong growth and lower cotton prices.

Gildan also projected fiscal 2014 sales of $2.35-billion, up from $2.184-billion; and earnings per share of $3 to $3.10, also up from the previous range.

Bank of Japan holds the line
Japan’s central bank cited a modest economic rebound both inside and outside its borders as it made no changes to policy today, continuing on with a huge stimulus program.

“Japan’s economy has been recovering moderately,” the Bank of Japan said in its statement.

“Overseas economies as a whole are picking up moderately, although a lackluster performance is partly seen. In this situation, exports have generally been picking up.”

Japan is fighting a long bout of deflation, and trying to juice its economy under the program known as “Abenomics” for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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