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Canada's housing markets: Who's winning, Who's losing Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012.

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How local markets are faring
Amid the angst over Canada’s slumping housing market, BMO Nesbitt Burns today takes an interesting look at who’s winning and who’s losing.

Not surprisingly, Vancouver and Toronto lead the pack of losers, in terms of sales, while Calgary is the runaway winner.

Over all, as The Globe and Mail’s Tara Perkins reports, home sales in Canada plunged 15.1 per cent in September from a year earlier, though, on a seasonally-adjusted basis, gained 2.5 per cent from August. That, Ms. Perkins writes, suggests last month’s sales figures weren’t as bleak as some observers had expected.

BMO economist Robert Kavcic tracked 23 markets, using three-month averages compared to a year earlier, rather than just comparing September 2012 to September 2011.

Of those 23, he found, 13 are experienced “balanced conditions,” though that may well change going forward.

“With sales generally falling relative to new listings, the number of buyers’ markets could be on the rise in the months ahead,” he said.

“Vancouver continues to show the weakest metrics,” Mr. Kavcic added. “Winnipeg, however, remains tight despite a recent drop in sales, while Calgary is on the verge of a return to sellers’ market territory.”

Using the three-month average, Mr. Kavcic found Vancouver sales down 27 per cent, and prices down 7.7 per cent, in a buyers’ market. Toronto sales were down 14 per cent and prices were up 6.1 per cent, in a balanced market.

In Calgary, prices climbed 19.1 per cent and prices 1.2 per cent in a balanced market, while Winnipeg saw a sales decline of 7 per cent and a price gain of 4.8 per cent in a sellers’ market.

For a look at other cities and Mr. Kavcic’s findings in general, see the accompanying graphic or click here.

Pandit leaves Citigroup
Vikram Pandit is quitting as the chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc., to be replaced by the bank’s CEO of its Europe, Middle East and Africa business, Michael Corbat.

“Thanks to the dedication and sacrifice of people across Citigroup, we have emerged from the financial crisis as a strong institution,” Mr. Pandit said today in a statement announcing the immediate departure.

“Citigroup is well-positioned for continued profitability and growth, having refocused the franchise on the basics of banking. Given the progress we have made in the last few years, I have concluded that now is the right time for someone else to take the helm at Citigroup.”

President and chief operating officer John Havens also resigned, Citigroup said.

Mr. Havens had been planning to retire at the end of the year, the bank said, but chose to leave now instead given Mr. Pandit’s departure.

Yesterday, Citigroup reported a plunge in third-quarter profit on a huge writedown, though it still beat analysts' estimates.

Goldman swings to profit
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. hiked its dividend today as it rebounded to a third-quarter profit.

Goldman earned $1.5-billion (U.S.) or $2.85 a share, a turnaround from a loss of $428-million or 84 cents a year earlier. Revenue surged more than 130 per cent, to $8.4-billion, on investment banking gains.

Goldman boosted its quarterly dividend to 50 cents from 46 cents.

“This quarter’s performance was generally solid in the context of a still challenging economic

environment,” said chief executive officer Lloyd Blankfein.

 “We continue to be disciplined in managing our operations and capital, while effectively serving our clients’ needs. The focus on these priorities will serve our shareholders and the firm well over the longer term.”

Loblaw cuts deep
Loblaw Cos. Ltd. is slashing 700 head office and administrative jobs, and expects a hit of $60-million in its fourth quarter on the cut backs.

“We’re managing costs where it makes sense by reducing administrative expense,” president Vicente Trius said in a statement as he announced the move by the big Canadian grocer.

“We will continue to invest in driving the business forward by devoting more resources to enhance the customer proposition.”

The cutbacks start today, and should be done over the course of the next three weeks.

Manufacturers rebound
Canadian industry has chalked up its best showing since March.

Manufacturing sales climbed 1.5 per cent in August, Statistics Canada said today, largely on the back of the energy and auto industries.

Sales in the oil and coal sectors rose 8.6 per cent, partly because some refineries bounced back after maintenance or retooling. Prices also rose.

Auto assembly plants also came on strong, with sales of 4.4 per cent after traditional July shutdowns. Still, the auto industry marked its 12 gain in 14 months, the agency said.

Eleven of the 21 sectors measured marked sales gains, accounting for more than 75 per cent of all industries.

Inventories dipped 0.1 per cent, the inventory to sales ratio declined to 1.32 from 1.34, and unfilled orders slipped by 0.7 per cent.

"The drop in the inventory to shipments ratio is good to see as that's positive for future production," said senior economist Krishen Rangasamy of National Bank Financial. "Still, we're not celebrating just yet given the downside risks in the form of a soft global economy. Orders remain soft and the strong Canadian dollar isn't helping exporters."

Spain closer to rescue
The Spanish government is reportedly moving closer to seeking the bailout markets expect.

An official from Spain’s finance department told reporters late  yesterday that the government is studying the possibility of seeking a line of credit from the EU’s bailout fund, according to the Wall Street Journal and other publications today.

Spain is taking it slow, however, the Financial Times reported, to ensure its move doesn’t hurt other countries such as Italy.

Canada low in business fraud
Canada has again come out on top in an annual look at business fraud. On top, in this case, means Canadian businesses are doing well.

“Once again, this year’s survey paints a positive fraud picture for Canada compared to the rest of the world: the overall prevalence dropped much more quickly than elsewhere so that fewer than half of businesses were hit in the past year and, on average, Canadian firms lost just 0.6 per cent of revenues to fraudsters,” said the report from Kroll Advisory Solutions.

The report is the result of polling among almost 840 senior executives around the world in July and August.

“Canadian companies continue to enjoy the lowest levels of fraud compared to the other regions and countries,” said the study.

“While fewer than half of businesses were hit in the past year, three fraud types increased in frequency over the past year: theft of physical assets or stock, management conflict of interest and compliance breach. Moreover, Canadian respondents are among the most likely to report heightened risk exposure from increased collaboration between firms.”

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