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Stephen Poloz isn’t worried about a housing bubble. Should you be? Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business followed this week.

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Housing market surges
Canadian house prices may be seen by some as among the most inflated in the world, but observers on the home front don't see problems on the horizon.

A year ago, the housing market was suffering from new mortgage rules brought in by the government to cool things off. Now, homebuyers appear to be rushing to beat higher mortgage rates, driving up sales and prices.

As The Globe and Mail's Tara Perkins reported this week, sales across the country picked up by 11.1 per cent in August from a year ago, and 2.8 per cent from July. Average home prices rose 8.1 per cent over the 12 months, while the MLS home price index climbed 2.8 per cent. The Canadian Real Estate Association also updated its forecast for 2013 sales.

Some observers, such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, have ranked Canada's housing market as among the world's frothiest, but Canadian economists and the Bank of Canada don't see a problem at this point.

"I don't perceive that there is a bubble in Canada's housing market," central bank Governor Stephen Poloz said this week.

The way he sees it, The Globe and Mail's Barrie McKenna and Brent Jang reported, markets have reacted to the changes in mortgage rules "in a way which has in effect engineered a soft landing, a much more comfortable kind of situation."

Canadians have a debt problem - the key measure of a consumer's debt burden now stands at a record level - which is why Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Mr. Poloz's predecessor Mark Carney urged households for months to put a lid on it. Which they have, to an extent, because credit growth has slowed.

"What I have been suggesting, though, is that people take care to do the arithmetic,” Mr. Poloz said.

Wasn't that a party?
All that angst over tapering? Wait three months and worry about it again then.

The Federal Reserve had been widely expected to announce this week that it would cut back - the market word is "taper" - on its huge asset-buying stimulus program. It didn't happen. The U.S. central bank said instead that it opted to wait for more data before trimming its monthly purchases of securities from the current $85-billion (U.S.).

Investors had largely expected a pullback in the area of $10-billion, and were worried because they weren't sure the economy and the markets could handle that.

When it didn't happen, the markets partied, and the S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrial average hit record highs.

As our Washington correspondent Kevin Carmichael put it, the Fed decided that "normal" can wait in its efforts to bolster the economy and bring down unemployment, and economists now expect to see a pullback later this year.

"The bottom line is that, although emerging market currencies and other risk-assets might get a temporary reprieve from the Fed’s volte-face, the financial turbulence of late served as a trial balloon of just how difficult it will be for central banks to rebalance their extraordinarily stimulative policies in the years ahead," said senior economist Martin Schwerdtfeger of Toronto-Dominion Bank.

BlackBerry’s dismal quarter
BlackBerry Ltd. wanted to be in the spotlight this week for the introduction of a new model and this weekend's unveiling of its BBM chat app for the smartphones of its competitors, Apple Corp. and companies using Google Inc.'s Android system.

That was overshadowed, however, by the company’s announcement late Friday of a massive hit to second-quarter results and planned cuts of 4,500 jobs, or about 40 per cent of its work force.

As The Globe and Mail’s Darcy Keith and Sean Silcoff report, BlackBerry said it would take a pre-tax hit of more than $930-million (U.S.) to the value of its inventory, primarily related to its touchscreen Z10 model.

BlackBerry projected a quarterly loss of between $950-million, or $1.81 a share, and $995-million, or $1.90. The adjusted loss is forecast at $250-million, or 47 cents a share, to $265-million, or 51 cents.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based company said it sold 5.9 million smartphones in the quarter, and will recognize hardware revenue on 3.7 million, primarily the older BlackBerry 7 models.

Revenue is projected to sink to $1.6-billion from $2.9-billion a year earlier.

BlackBerry also plans to quit part of the consumer wireless market.

“We are implementing the difficult, but necessary operational changes announced today to address our position in a maturing and more competitive industry, and to drive the company toward profitability,” chief executive officer Thorsten Heins said in a statement.

“Going forward, we plan to refocus our offering on our end-to-end solution of hardware, software and services for enterprises and the productive, professional end user.”

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Required reading
Although the real estate market in most of Canada has long left the financial crisis behind, Whistler is still picking up the pieces. Brent Jang looks at the B.C. resort area.

With Monday's maiden flight of the C series, Bombardier Inc. officially ascended into commercial airspace ferociously guarded by industry giants Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. Sophie Cousineau reports.

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. CEO Hunter Harrison warns that a catastrophic derailment like the one that levelled the centre of Lac-Mégantic could happen again if regulators don’t impose tougher safety rules for transporting hazardous materials. Jacquie McNish and Justin Giovannetti report.

Kathleen Taylor is set to become the first woman to chair the board of a major chartered bank when she takes the helm of Royal Bank of Canada. In an interview with Janet McFarland, she doesn't shy away from the focus on her gender.

The Canadian government announced a plan to create a national securities watchdog by signing on Ontario and British Columbia, a significant advance in a decades-long struggle between Ottawa and the provinces over who should police the country’s capital markets. Barrie McKenna, Steven Chase, Janet McFarland and Sophie Cousineau report.

 
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