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If Europe, U.S. are too dear amid loonie’s slump, Brazil's a nice place Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014.

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Loonie tumbles
Japan, Australia and Brazil must be beautiful this time of year. At the very least, they’re better for your wallet.

Amid the ongoing slump in the Canadian dollar comes some interesting research from Bank of Montreal, which looks at the currency not just in terms of the U.S. greenback, but against others as well.

What the research by BMO economist Sal Guatieri shows is how much buying Canadians have lost in the United States and Europe, and how much they’ve gained in Japan, Australia and Brazil.

By yesterday, the Canadian dollar has lost 10 per cent against its U.S. counterpart over the past year, and 12 per cent against the euro and the British pound.

But over the same period, it has gained about 5 per cent against the yen, the Aussie dollar and Brazil’s real.

Which may get some people thinking about where to head for sunnier climes as a bitter Canadian February approaches. (Of course, January hasn’t been that great either.)

“Compared with a year ago, a trip to Florida’s beaches will set you back an extra 10 per cent today, while a visit to the Champs-Élysées or Big Ben will cost an extra 12 per cent,” Mr. Guatieri said.

“But three places are actually about 5 per cent cheaper: Japan, Australia and Brazil (for all you World Cup fans),” the BMO senior economist added.

“And, the temperature in the latter two places can top 30C (86F) at this time of year.”

Mr. Guatieri’s report came as the loonie, as the country’s dollar coin is known, sank below 91 cents U.S. at one point today, setting the stage for what will be a widely-watched policy announcement from the Bank of Canada tomorrow morning.

The currency, which slipped today to a low of 90.76 cents before retaking the 91-cent level, has been eroding for the past year, driven lower most recently by an easy-going central bank and soft economic readings.

Playing into today’s action was a rally in the U.S. dollar, helped along by a Wall Street Journal article that suggests the Federal Reserve is poised to unveil a further pullback in its bond-buying stimulus program, known as quantitative easing or QE.

It has already announced a so-called tapering to bring its monthly purchases down to $75-billion (U.S.) from $85-billion, and the latest article suggests a further $10-billion cut.

The focus now shifts to the Canadian central bank, and just how “dovish” governor Stephen Poloz and his colleagues will be tomorrow in their policy statement and accompanying monetary policy report, or MPR.

“Everyone’s paying attention,” said chief currency strategist Camilla Sutton of Bank of Nova Scotia.

The loonie could go either way tomorrow, though the betting is that Mr. Poloz and his policy-setting group will do their darnedest to keep the currency low, given that a low dollar helps the country’s beleaguered exporters.

“The bank’s biggest concern is persistently low inflation, and we expect that will be stressed even more firmly in the statement and the MPR inflation forecast will be downgraded,” said senior economist Benjamin Reitzes of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

“That dovish tone on inflation is also important from a currency perspective,” he added.

“Governor Poloz can’t be anything but pleased with the loonie’s recent weakness. So, the statement will try to be as dovish as possible, stopping short of signalling potential [interest rate] cuts, in order to ensure the C$ doesn’t retrace some of its recent decline.”

Late-breaking news
Mohamed El-Erian is leaving PIMCO, and the helm of the biggest bond fund in the world.

Parent Allianz said today Mr. El-Erian resigned as chief executive officer of the asset management company, but gave no reason.

Bombardier cuts
Bombardier plans to lay off 1,700 workers from its aerospace division, mostly around Montreal.

The layoffs represent 6 per cent of the Bombardier Aerospace work force, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte and Greg Keenan report, and come just days after Montreal-based Bombardier Aerospace announced another delay in its C Series all-new jet program.

About 1,100 Bombardier Aerospace workers in Canada are to be laid off, with another 600 in the United States, Bombardier said in an internal memo.

Three hundred of the 1,700 positions were already slated for elimination in December.

The areas affected include manufacturing and assembly, engineering, sales and support functions.

IMF boosts outlook
The International Monetary Fund says the global economy has turned a corner, propelled by faster-than-expected growth in the United States and Europe.

Global economic output will increase by 3.7 per cent this year, the IMF said today in a revised outlook, The Globe and Mail's Kevin Carmichael reports. The estimate is a slight revision from the 3.6 per cent increase the fund predicted in the fall. Its forecast for 2015 is unchanged at 3.9 per cent.

While the increase is slight, it represents a break from 2013, which was marked by disappointments. If the revised forecast holds, the global economy will grow the most this year since 2011, when the world’s gross domestic product expanded almost 4 per cent.

Canada’s economy will expand 2.2 per cent in 2014 and 2.4 per cent in 2015, the IMF said.

Fitch warns on real estate
Fitch Ratings thinks that Canadian home prices will manage to stay flat or dip just a little bit this year, despite its belief that they are 20 per cent too high, because of the strength in the housing market, The Globe and Mail's Tara Perkins reports.

The expected decline in the pace of home price growth, coupled with high consumer debts, will likely lead to a rise in mortgage delinquencies, although they will remain at relatively low levels, the rating agency said.

Fitch has been saying for roughly a year that it believes Canadian home prices are overvalued to the tune of 20 per cent. But in a report released today it suggested that it does not forecast much trouble for the market in 2014, saying that a “correction [is] not yet in sight” for Canada and a number of other countries that it has been concerned about.

Agrium slips
Shares of Agrium Inc. slipped today after a new earnings forecast from the Canadian agribusiness giant.

Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan stock also dipped.

Agrium said late yesterday it now projects fourth-quarter profit from continuing operations will come in “at the bottom” of its previous projection of 80 cents U.S. to $1.25 a share.

Agrium also said it expects record results from its retail arm, while citing several one-time adjustments.

“We continue to prefer the shares of Agrium on a relative basis to the potash equities,” said CanaccordGenuity analyst Keith Carpenter.

“We feel that the stability of Agrium’s base retail segment and an improving nitrogen sector bodes well for the company going forward. Add Agrium’s organic growth profile across both retail and wholesale over the next few years, and we see the company as offering good value to shareholders.”

Verizon gains
Shares of Verizon Communications Inc. dipped today, though the U.S. telecommunications giant posted a fourth-quarter jump in revenue and gained more subscribers.

Verizon rebounded to a profit of $5.1-billion (U.S.) or $1.76 a share from a loss of $4.2-billion or $1.48 a share a year earlier.

“Verizon delivered a total return of 18.6 per cent to our shareholders in 2013, while attracting more customers than our competitors and improving our financial performance,” said chief executive officer Lowell McAdam.

What's missing from the British army?
It’s not just the silverware that has gone missing from Britain’s armed forces, but thousands in Viagra, as well.

According to The Times and other news organizations Tuesday, the Ministry of Defence reports the theft of more than £7-million over the past seven years.

Among them are things you’d expect, such as bayonets, ammunition, copper pipes and £7,000 in cutlery from the Redford Cavalry and Infantry barracks.

Also stolen was a washing machine and about £6,000 in Viagra, the equivalent of almost $11,000.

The thefts were documented in a report, though, according to the news outlets, the ministry also cited the fact that Viagra isn’t just for impotence, but is also used to treat ailments such as low blood pressure and altitude woes.

(Given that some of these soldiers are no doubt trained for jumping out of planes, I'm not sure about that last one.)

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