These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
Markets await Bank of Canada
Economist Derek Holt has an interesting take on this morning’s policy statement from the Bank of Canada.
Economists generally expect to see little change from the central bank, and suggest governor Stephen Poloz couldn’t get more “dovish” than he already is.
But Bank of Nova Scotia’s Mr. Holt goes further, saying the governor will want to see how the spring housing market fares before deciding on any shift in policy, one way or the other.
“That is one of the criteria before potentially reassessing rate risks in either direction,” Mr. Holt said.
“Essentially the BoC would want to test its view – and everyone else’s by now – that the pick-up in housing market activity last spring and summer was temporary and came at the expense of future sales,” he added.
“That’s because people with 90- to 120-day mortgage rate commitments that dated back to last spring, before Bernanke started taper talk, feared rising mortgage rates and were more likely to purchase before rates rose further.”
Mr. Holt was referring to the pullback, or “tapering,” of the U.S. central bank’s huge bond-buying scheme, known as quantitative easing, which began when Ben Bernanke was still Federal Reserve chairman.
The Bank of Canada, of course, notably under former governor Mark Carney, had been concerned about the record debt burdens being carried by Canadian families. So much so that he threatened a rate hike to cool things down. Or, as the central bank puts it, fix household imbalances.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty moved at the same time, with mortgage restrictions also aimed at stopping a bubble from bursting.
Since then, consumer credit growth has slowed, debts remain swollen.
Some observers still suggest Mr. Poloz and his colleagues could yet cut their benchmark interest rate, which has held at 1 per cent for more than three years, given their focus on weak inflation. Most, however, don’t see that happening, though they don’t expect a rate increase until sometime next year.
The idea here is that Mr. Poloz won’t signal anything until he can determine the state of play in the key spring housing market and what it means to mortgage borrowing.
“Sales have fallen over recent months but the key test is the spring market when volumes normally take off,” said Mr. Holt.
“So in other words, last summer may have just been a fairly standard short-term pick up on a correcting path in a market still characterized by record highs across every housing and household finance variable just as cyclical supports wane, including soft trend job growth and continued mortgage rule tightening.”
As The Globe and Mail’s Tara Perkins reports, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. moved just last week to hike insurance premiums for the first time since the 1990s.
Follow The Globe and Mail’s Barrie McKenna as he reports on the central bank decision later this morning.
- Tim Kiladze and Tara Perkins: Banks show restraint on mortgage rates one year after Flaherty's warning
- Tara Perkins: Mortgage costs set to rise as CMHC leads premium hike
- Pimco downbeat on Canada's housing market
- Barrie McKenna: Rate cut off table, with signs of improving economy
- Brent Jang: Vancouver house prices hit new high
- Tara Perkins: Toronto home sales gains bolster view of resilient Canadian market
- More Canadians willing to enter bidding war to buy a home: survey
Marchionne on Chrysler
Sergio Marchionne says he doesn’t want politicians to “screw around” with Chrysler Group LLC’s spending program.
At an auto show in Geneva today, the chief executive officer of both Chrysler and its parent, Fiat, shed more light on the auto maker’s surprise decision yesterday to pull its request for aid from the governments of Canada and the province of Ontario.
As Adrian Morrow, Greg Keenan and Steven Chase report, Chrysler had been looking for at least $700-million to help fund a $3.6-billion program at two Ontario factories.
But that became a “political football,” the company said in a statement yesterday.
“I don’t want politicians to screw around with the capital expenditure program,” Mr. Marchionne told reporters today, according to Bloomberg News.
“This is not their business. I am not here to try to satisfy people’s egos or politicians’ ambitions. I make cars, as simple as that.”
- Adrian Morrow, Greg Keenan and Steven Chase: Chrysler withdraws request for Ontario plant funding
- Chrysler CEO: Not here to satisfy 'people's egos or political ambitions'
Cisco taps Toronto
Cisco Systems Inc. has chosen Toronto as one of its four new global innovation hubs, a move it says represents an investment of $100-million in the city over 10 years, The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant reports.
Canada’s largest city joins Songdo, South Korea, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and another as-yet unnamed location that have been slated as centres for innovation, the company said today.
The world’s largest maker of computer-networking equipment said it will focus on opportunities around the so-called “Internet of everything,” helping start-ups and established companies “while fostering Canadian-based innovation.”
Many will welcome the news, given that Canada has lagged its peers in measures of innovation, particularly in venture capital investment and business R&D spending.
EU aids Ukraine
The European Union is coming to the aid of Ukraine, unveiling a package worth the equivalent of $15-billion (U.S.).
"The most immediate priority for the EU is to contribute to a peaceful solution to the current crisis, in full respect of international law,” European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement today.
"In parallel, the international community should mobilize to help Ukraine stabilise its economic and financial situation.”
The aid includes grants of €1.4-billion, loans worth €1.6-billion, up to €8-billion from the European Investment Bank, and other measures.
- Scott Barlow in ROB Insight (for subscribers): Russian aggression belies a struggling economy
- Eric Reguly: Russia's Putin holds a pipeline trump card over struggling Ukraine
- Tavia Grant: A tale of two economies: Russia vs. Ukraine
- Follow our coverage
China sticks to growth forecasts
China is holding fast to its expectations of GDP growth, struggling to maintain the economic expansion in the face of fiscal, social and environmental threats to its prosperity, The Globe and Mail's Nathan VanderKlippe reports from Beijing.
Today, amid the grandeur of the cavernous Great Hall of the People, Premier Li Keqiang offered his “report on the work of the government,” the annual Chinese address that defines how its leadership envisions the year ahead.
The most important elements of that vision suggest a country dedicated to preserving the status quo despite rising problems, in what one critic called a “mission impossible.”
China is forecasting economic growth of “about 7.5 per cent” – unchanged, to the word, from last year – and budgeted a 12.2-per-cent expansion in military spending, up slightly from the previous year, but in line with a two-decade streak of hefty defence increases.
Bank of England suspends employee
The Bank of England has been caught up in a global look at alleged manipulation of foreign exchange rates, though the details are far from clear.
The central bank said today that it suspended one member of its staff, but did not elaborate.
"It is a matter of public record that the Bank of England has been conducting an internal review into allegations that Bank of England officials condoned or were informed of manipulation in the foreign exchange market or the sharing of confidential information," the central bank said in a statement.
"This extensive review of documents, e-mails and other records has to date found no evidence that Bank of England staff colluded in any way in manipulating the foreign exchange market or in sharing confidential client information," it added.
"However, the bank requires its staff to follow rigorous internal control processes and has today suspended a member of staff, pending investigation by the bank into compliance with those processes."
Adidas hit by currency woes
The turmoil in the currencies of emerging markets continues to hit some of the world’s major companies.
Adidas AG today projected results this year will be hurt by the issues of the currency market.
“We finished 2013 with an exceptionally strong fourth quarter,” said chief executive officer Herbert Hainer.
“Currency-neutral sales grew 12 per cent, which was above our expectations,” he said in the company’s earnings statement.
“This ensured that we met our revised full year targets from September, despite a further worsening of currency exchange rates. In the fourth quarter alone, negative currency effects cost us nine percentage points on the top line.”
This year, the company said, its results will be “significantly impacted by currency movements.”
Tie me kangaroo down
With the possible exception of a koala bear, and the kitten curled on your lap, what’s cuter than a kangaroo?
Which makes one wonder what the diplomats dining with Australia’s agriculture minister today will think of their dinner.
According to Bloomberg News, Barnaby Joyce told reporters in Canberra that he’s serving kangaroo to a group of ambassadors at a Parliament House dinner, hoping to boost global exports of the meat.
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