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Top Business Stories: NHL lockout would take tiny bite out of economy Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012.

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On thin ice
An NHL lockout would upset hockey fans, but its impact on the Canadian economy would be tiny.

Scrapping the season would shave up to 0.1 per cent off gross domestic product, according to deputy chief economist Douglas Porter of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

Mr. Porter based his estimates on potential gate receipts, concession sales, broadcasting revenue and other factors.

The impact of a lockout would start this month and then hit "full force" in October, he said.

The National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association are heading toward a weekend deadline, and are said to be far apart in their contract demands.

A lockout at midnight Saturday would shut down 30 hockey clubs.

(Yes, the hit to the economy would be marginal, but arguably every little bit helps in this climate, even one-tenth of 1 per cent. So come on, guys.)

Luxury takes a hit
A warning from Britain's Burberry Group PLC today rippled through the luxury goods industry, raising fears that global uncertainty is finally taking a toll on the sector.

In particular, demand is falling in emerging economies.

Shares of Burberry plunged, taking other luxury goods makers, such as LVMH, with them.

The rout came after Burberry warned in a statement that it now expects annual "to be around the lower end of market expectations."

Said chief executive officer Angela Ahrendts: "As we stated in July, the external environment is becoming more challenging. In this context, second-quarter retail sales growth has slowed against historically high comparatives."

In late August, Tiffany & Co.'s CEO, Michael Kowalski, also warned that "sales growth has been affected by economic weakness in a number of markets."

Market analyst Chris Beauchamp of IG Index in London, however, said the Burberry warning highlights the downside of being the "darling" of the markets.

"The company might be down, but it is certainly not out, and perhaps a gentle toning-down of overhyped expectations on the part of investors is now in order," he said.

Housing starts climb
Today's data from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. may get tongues wagging among those who are worried about a bubble in Toronto's condo market.

Construction starts in Canada climbed in August to 224,900, at an annual pace, up from 208,000 in July, CMHC said, but that was largely the result of of a handful of big multi-unit projects in the country's biggest city.

"This increase is primarily a reflection of the high level of pre-sales in some of these large multi-unit projects in late 2010 and early 2011, which is in line with job gains at that time," said deputy chief economist Mathieu Laberge, suggesting the market is not overheating.

Indeed, sales are already pulling back.

"The higher level of starts recorded in Atlantic Canada and British Columbia in August reflect low levels of activity in July rather than an increasing trend that was registered in August," he said.

"Over all, moderation in housing starts activity is still expected for the remainder of 2012 and 2013."

Construction in that mult-unit segment is now 35 per cent above the levels of a year ago, noted Emanuella Enenajor of CIBC World Markets.

Trade deficit swells
Canadian exporters took it on the chin in July, though imports also fell as the country's trade deficit swelled to $2.3-billion from $1.9-billion a month earlier.

That's the largest deficit on records dating to the early 1970s, and economists had expected a better showing.

Canadian exports slipped 3.4 per cent in July, Statistics Canada said today, largely on lower energy products, which slipped 8.5 per cent on both lower volumes and prices.

Imports fell 2.2 per cent, also on energy products, as well as machinery and equipment.

Exports to the United States, Canada's biggest market, fell 5 per cent, and imports 2.1 per cent. That narrowed the Canada-U.S. trade surplus to $2.1-billion.

In the United States, according to the U.S. Commerce Department today, America's trade deficit with the rest of the world rose by 0.2 per cent in July.

Notable, though, was a widening in the U.S. deficit with China to a record. That comes amid continuing trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

"The trade reports in both Canada and the U.S. were ugly and suggest that weakness seen in Q2 extended into Q3," said senior economist Krishen Rangasamy of National Bank Financial.

"For Canada, the surprise was that the commodity price rebound had little impact, with the energy trade surplus actually dropping in July. The poor performance of autos exports was also surprising given the good U.S. vehicle sales. Perhaps we may see a rebound in our auto exports in subsequent months. Still, overall trade which was a huge drag on Q2 Canadian growth, seems to be worsening in synch with tepid economic growth south of the border."

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