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business week ahead

Corporate HR departments, unions and the Bank of Canada will be scouring this week’s jobs report for signs of further wage growth, and what they suggest about the clout of workers at the bargaining table.

Economists expect Statistics Canada’s look at April’s labour market to show net job gains of between 10,000 and 25,000, with unemployment holding at a four-decade low of 5.8 per cent.

But beneath those headline numbers on Friday, it will be important to study the pickup in wages and the split between full- and part-time work.

“Wages will be watched closely for signs that what already look like quite tight labour markets are increasing workers’ bargaining power,” Royal Bank of Canada said in a lookahead to the report, citing the fact that annual pay growth sped up to 3.2 per cent in the first quarter from 2.6 per cent in the fourth.

“A big minimum wage hike in Ontario helped, but wages were also up 3 per cent outside of Ontario, by our math.”

Benjamin Reitzes, Bank of Montreal’s Canadian rates and macro strategist, expects the report to show wages rose 3.6 per cent in April from a year earlier, when they outright declined. Some other observers expect to see a bit less.

Toronto-Dominion Bank economists are at the higher end of the range of forecasts, believing the economy churned out 25,000 new jobs. They also believe the gains skewed toward full-time work.

“While full-time employment has seen significant gains over the last year, its share of total employment remains below pre-crisis levels and has room to rise,” TD said.

“April is also one of the strongest months for full-time job growth, outperforming part-time by nearly 30,000 on average since the crisis.”

Friday’s report will also likely be “more representative of underlying momentum” after total first-quarter job losses driven by a sour January, added Royce Mendes of CIBC World Markets.

“Look for job creation to continue adding to incomes this year, supporting consumer spending growth, albeit slightly less than last year’s torrid pace,” he said.

There’s much more on tap this week, from NAFTA trade ministers meeting again, and the latest measure of China’s trade, to a Bank of England meeting and U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision on Iran’s nuclear deal, which could move oil prices.

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First-quarter earnings season still has a way to go, although we’ve seen the bulk of the biggies already.

Westshore Terminals Investment Corp. and Tyson Food Inc. are among those that kick off the week, followed over the next few days by the likes of George Weston Ltd., Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., Walt Disney Co., WestJet Airlines Ltd., TMX Group Ltd., Brookfield Asset Management Inc., Canadian Tire Corp., Telus Corp., Magna International Inc., Onex Corp. and Thomson Reuters Corp.


With U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators trying to work out their differences, Mr. Trump will watch closely for China’s April trade numbers.

Chang Liu of Capital Economics expects to see a “sizeable surplus” after a seasonally related deficit in March.

“The March numbers were a big surprise as China posted its first trade deficit with the U.S. in over a year as exports fell back sharply, declining 2.7 per cent, a big variance from the 44.5-per-cent rise seen in February,” CMC Markets chief analyst Michael Hewson said.

“While the timing of Chinese New Year may well cause some variance, these are big swings and do raise a concern that trade war worries or a slowdown in global demand might be behind these swings,” he added.

“The latest Chinese trade numbers will go some way to establishing whether these recent swings are indicative of a wider trade disruption.”

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President Donald Trump tries to listen to a question May 5, 2018YURI GRIPAS/Getty Images

Also worth watching is the April reading on construction starts from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., which BMO’s Mr. Reitzes expects to show a 6.8-per-cent drop to an annualized pace of 210,000, “still a very solid level but succumbing to the broader pullback in housing market activity.”

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Let’s see how Walt Disney Co. stock opens after its annual meeting and second-quarter results a day earlier, after markets close for the latter.

Disney’s last results were at the “higher end” of estimates primarily because of the U.S. tax overhaul, CMC’s Mr. Hewson noted, so it will be interesting to see its latest report.

“What was more disappointing was a fall in overall revenues, with the greatest drags coming from their ESPN channels and ABC broadcast networks,” Mr. Hewson said.

“Disney, like a lot of other traditional broadcasters, is seeing its traditional businesses being disrupted by new streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, which is driving subscription costs down,” he added.

“Fortunately, its parks and resorts business is taking up the slack, while its bid for 21st Century Fox appears to have stalled in the wake of a new bid by Comcast for the Sky business, which Fox has a 39-per-cent stake in.”

Watch, too, for the week’s second look at real estate, with economists expecting Statistics Canada’s monthly building permits report to show a 1-per-cent rise in March.

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Many observers had expected the Bank of England would raise its benchmark rate by one-quarter of a percentage point when it releases its decision and inflation report, but Governor Mark Carney appears to have put the kibosh on that by talking it down.

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Bank of England Governor Mark CarneyDenis Balibouse/Reuters

“We think the Bank of England will hold off from raising bank rate [Thursday] until it becomes clear that only temporary factors were to blame for the slowdown in Q1,” Liam Peach of Capital Economics said.

“That said, we don’t think this will be enough to silence the most hawkish members of the [monetary policy committee], with the vote likely to be 7-2 in favour of keeping rates unchanged at 0.5 per cent.”

Markets will also watch for the April reading on U.S. inflation for hints about the Federal Reserve’s rate-hiking timeline.

This will also be another chance for Mr. Trump to harangue the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) over high oil and gas prices, given they “were both up strongly on the month,” according to CIBC’s Katherine Judge, who expects annual inflation to show a rise to 2.5 per cent from March’s 2.4 per cent.

“U.S. inflation has gained momentum lately, but some of that strength owes to telecom price declines falling out of the annual calculation,” she said.

“With more of those dropping out this month, inflation should gain a step. That will help counteract a cooling in auto insurance premiums, which are coming off of recent hurricane-induced strength.”

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Just a warning on that Statistics Canada jobs report: These are hard to forecast and frequently show wide, and unexpected, swings.

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Bank of Canada senior deputy governor Carolyn WilkinsFrank Gunn

Also up today is Carolyn Wilkins, the Bank of Canada’s senior deputy governor, who’s speaking at a women’s forum in Toronto.

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