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A "For Sale" sign is posted outside of at Toronto townhome (Tim Fraser/For The Globe and Mail)
A "For Sale" sign is posted outside of at Toronto townhome (Tim Fraser/For The Globe and Mail)

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How much over asking would you bid on a house? Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, April 19, 2012. Get the top business stories through the day on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.

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There goes the neighbourhood My two-doors-down neighbours just sold their house at well over asking - and their agent took the opportunity to tack up a "Sold over asking" sign on the lawn - and my next-door neighbours are suddenly sprucing up their house, though I'm too chicken to ask why.

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Then today comes a poll from Bank of Montreal showing 75 per cent of us wouldn't get into a bidding war for a home. But 22 per cent of us would.

I'm not sure what happened to the other 3 per cent, but regardless, it's not surprising that those in Ontario were among the most willing in the country.

Welcome to Toronto, the hottest real estate market in Canada.

There are some interesting tidbits in the survey conducted for BMO by Leger Marketing:

  • People in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, who were lumped together, and those in Ontario, are most willing, at 32 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively. The folks in Quebec are the least willing, at 10 per cent.
  • Of those nationally who would get into a bidding war, half say they'd go to 110 per cent of asking and a quarter say they'd go up to 120 per cent. In this regard, regional differences come into play. Quebeckers are the fiercest in terms of going to 110 per cent, while eastern Canadians would fight more up to 120 per cent.
  • More men, at 34 per cent, would go to 120 per cent, compared to 20 per cent of women surveyed.

I'm not entirely sure what it all means, other than that my neighours are doing well, but it does suggest something, notably in Toronto.

Figures released earlier this week by the Canadian Real Estate Association certainly back that up, showing a tame market nationally, a cooling market in Vancouver, and a blazing market in Toronto.

Over the past year, prices in Toronto have climbed by 11 per cent.

Canada to hold onto triple-A Strategists at Citigroup Inc. expect the number of triple-A-rated-countries to shrink over the next few years, but that Canada will hold onto its cherished designation.

Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service will further downgrade several euro zone nations, and put France up for review of its triple-A rating, Michael Saunders and Mark Schofield said in a report.

And they see a "shrinking pool" of triple-A-rated countries over the next two to three years:

"Only Canada, Germany, the U.K., Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the Australasian economies will probably retain this status among major economies. The U.K. has the weakest fiscal outlook of these triple-A countries, and we expect that S&P will put the U.K. on negative ratings outlook over the next two to three years. It would not be a great surprise if the U.K. was also downgraded one notch at some stage."

In their separate report on Canada, economist Dana Peterson and strategist Brett Rose cite the fiscal and political stability, and believe that the ratings agencies "will likely retain Canada's triple-A status in both the near and long term."

Citigroup noted the buget plans for the federal and provincial governments, and the better fiscal outlook at the federal level, putting Canada "well ahead of schedule" on its G20 pledge to cut the deficit by half by next year and cut overall debt-to-GDP ratios by 2016.

"Much of the savings are anticipated to come from restrained government program spending as well as moderately improved Canadian economic prospects," Citigroup said of the federal and provincial picture.

"These actions may place additional drag on real output this year, but should be favourable for the Canadian economy over the longer term."

Bets on Carney Mark Carney says he's not in the race to replace Mervyn King as governor of the Bank of England, but the bookies don't necessarily see it that way.

The Bank of Canada governor said yesterday that a Financial Times report that he was informally approached about the job was inaccurate, and that he's going to focus on his current two positions as central bank chief and head of the global Financial Stability Board.

Still, the website of Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaker, was giving Mr. Carney 10-1 odds this afternoon of taking over from Mr. King.

Bank of England insider Paul Tucker, a deputy governor, and Adair Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority, are leading at 5-2, followed by Gus O'Donnell, the former chief of the civil service, at 5-1.

The lone woman in the group, insider Kate Barker, is among several with 20-1 odds. The real longshot, at 1,000-1, is Bryan Adams (yes, that Bryan Adams).

Banks beat forecasts Bank of America Corp. and Morgan Stanley both beat analysts estimates on first-quarter results today, though their earnings slipped.

Bank of America earned $653-million or 3 cents a share, compared to $2.1-billion or 17 cents a year earlier, though the latest numbers were hit by hefty charges. Revenue sliped 17 per cent.

Morgan Stanley, in turn, swung to a loss of $119-million or 6 cents a share, from a profit of $736-million or 50 cents a year earlier, also taking an accounting hit.

Garda slips You've got to hand it to Garda World Security Corp.

In annual earnings report today, the Canadian security firm highlighted its "flawless integration of new business start-ups in U.S. Cash Logistics," integration of an acquisition, new markets in southern Iraq and Afghanistan, the relocation of offices in Dubai and Florida, the "ability of our people and platforms to generate solid profitable results," a "major contract win" for 14 Canadian airports, and a second half that was "nothing short of spectacular."

And a slide in profit to $21.6-million from $28.6-million. (Adjusted profit slipped to $23-million because of higher depreciation and finance costs.)

Jobless claims fall The number of Canadians collecting regular jobless benefits declined in February, notably in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec.

Having climbed by 2.3% per cent in January, the number declined by 1.2 per cent two months ago to almost 553,000, Statistics Canada said today.

The number of initial and renewal claims also fell, by 2.5 per cent, with Quebec alone accounting for the bulk of the decrease on that measure.

On an annual basis, the agency said, most of Canada's major cities are seeing a decline in those receiving regular benefits under the Employment Insurance system.

In the United States, there are still signs of extreme trouble on the jobs front. Initial claims for benefits fell last week by 2,000, while the previous week's numbers were revised higher. A better measure is the four-week moving average, which rose by more than 5,000 to the highest since late January.

Silver not likely to repeat 2011 Record levels of silver investment demand, focused mostly on the physical metal, coins and bars, drove average prices for the metal to record highs last year, although a repeat performance is not likely in 2012, The Globe and Mail's Pav Jordan reports today.

According to the World Silver Survey 2012, average price for the metal that is best known for its use in jewellery and coins was $35.12 (U.S.) per ounce last year.

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