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Briefing highlights

  • ‘Time off tax growing,’ survey suggests
  • Stocks, Canadian dollar, oil at a glance
  • Power Corp. in overhaul
  • Household debt burden rises
  • What analysts are saying today
  • Pound jumps on U.K. election results
  • Required Reading

‘Time off tax’

We all need to get a life.

Because many of us are going to be paying for vacation via extra hours before and after that badly needed time off.

This is what ADP Canada calls a “time off tax,” and it’s “growing in both severity and scope,” the human resources, benefits and payroll company says.

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In its fourth annual survey, 66 per cent of working Canadians said they’d probably do extra work before or after their time off, ADP said in releasing the poll of more than 1,560 people, conducted by Leger in early November.

That “time off tax” looks hefty, too. Those who’ll be working extra time expect to be at it an average 16 hours before their vacation, and an average 17 hours after.

That’s a total of 10 hours more than a year ago, ADP said.

“It’s troubling more Canadians are putting in extra hours and increasing the number of extra hours worked in order to take vacation,” Hendrik Steenkamp, ADP’s director of HR operations and advisory services, said in releasing the details.

Employers can get around this by making sure their offices are “properly resourced” during vacation times, while managers should urge employees to “disconnect” on holiday, he added.

“This helps increase employee satisfaction and retention while reducing burnout and frustration.”

The survey also found that 60 per cent of employees “check in with work” during vacation, while a hefty 39 per cent do so “multiple times” or even daily.

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This, of course, rises for those who are self-employed, and those between the ages of 18 and 34.

Another interesting tidbit from the study is that only 48 per cent of us take our full vacation allotment.

Thirty per cent say they get enough time off and don’t require the total allotment, while 25 per cent say they’re “stockpiling” what they’re allowed.

And one more troubling finding: 22 per cent “do not take all their vacation because their workload is too high.”

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Markets at a glance

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Power Corp. in overhaul

Investment giant Power Corp. of Canada’s co-CEOS are set to retire amid a company overhaul that will simplify its corporate structure and remove its Power Financial Corp. affiliate from the Toronto Stock Exchange, The Globe and Mail’s Clare O’Hara reports.

After 23 years at the helm, Paul Desmarais, Jr. and André Desmarais – sons of the man who built the company – will retire from their roles. Jeffrey Orr, president and CEO of Power Financial, will become president and CEO of Power Corp.

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Paul and André will remain with the company as chairman and deputy chairman, respectively, of Power Corp.’s board of directors.

The executive shuffle was announced on Friday morning along with plans to eliminate the current dual-holding company structure and consolidate ownership of the group’s financial-services operating companies, which house subsidiaries Great-West Lifeco Inc. and IGM Financial Inc.

Upon completion of the reorganization, Power Corp., which currently has more than $1.5-trillion in assets, will own all of the Power Financial common shares.

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Debt burden rises

A key measure of household debt burden is on the rise, though still below its peak.

This promises to cause angst at the Bank of Canada, which sees it as a vulnerability to the financial system, and has said it’s keeping its eye on developments.

Seasonally adjusted, the ratio of household credit market debt to disposable income rose in the third quarter to 175.9 per cent, Statistics Canada said today.

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Looked at another way, we owe $1.76 for each dollar at our disposal.

The latest reading was up from the second quarter’s revised 175.4 per cent.

“Despite increasing slightly from the previous quarter, the ratio was below the high of 178.5 per cent recorded in the first quarter of 2017,” Statistics Canada said.

On the other side of the ledger, housing net worth also rose, for the third quarter in a row, the agency said, as mutual funds, life insurance, pensions and real estate gained.

“Though concerns about Canadian indebtedness dialed down a bit after slowing to more than a three-decade low, household credit growth has flared up again, particularly in mortgages, which make up two-thirds of all credit,” said Bank of Montreal economist Priscilla Thiagamoorthy.

She also noted that the debt service ratio, or interest and principal measured against disposable income, now stands at 15 per cent.

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“A larger proportion of income is now swallowed by interest payments - 7.5 per cent, the most since 2009Q2,” Ms. Thiagamoorthy said.

“As such, household debt burdens will remain a crucial vulnerability for the Canadian economy for some time.”

One “encouraging point” is that the debt burden, though higher, has “clearly stabilized after ramping up for much of the past two decades,” she added.

“Growth in disposable income has been accelerating over the past year, helping to temper any risks.”


Norway’s Telenor picks Ericsson

From Reuters: Telenor has picked Sweden’s Ericsson as the key technology provider for its fifth-generation telecoms network in Norway, it said, gradually removing China’s Huawei after a decade of collaboration over 4G. Fearing high-tech espionage, and battling with China over trade, the United States has pushed NATO allies such as Norway to exclude Huawei from lucrative 5G deals, and Norwegian security services also warned against the firm.

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What analysts are saying today

“Yes, BoJo got his mojo back … The election should be viewed as a referendum on Brexit, though voter turnout was disappointing at roughly 62.43 per cent (was it the rain?). It didn’t take long for the finger pointing to start. But, this was a democratic process and despite all of the discussion about tactical voting, the people have spoken. PM Boris Johnson has ‘a powerful mandate’ to get Brexit done. There may be one more parliamentary vote on the withdrawal agreement, but there should be little to stand in the way.” Jennifer Lee, senior economist, Bank of Montreal

“After over three years of delay, procrastination and ferocious bickering, the fog of Brexit has finally started to clear after the incumbent Conservative government won a landslide victory in what became very much a second referendum on leaving the European Union. The scale of the victory means that U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will now be able to pass the withdrawal agreement through parliament by the end of January 2020, in the process dashing any residual hopes that Brexit could be reversed … Not surprisingly the pound has surged overnight, hitting a three year-high against the euro, as investor concerns over a Labour government anti-business policies has evaporated.” Michael Hewson, chief analyst, CMC Markets

“A U.S./Chinese ‘phase one' trade deal is now within grasp and in the U.K., the Conservative Party has regained control of the House of Commons. Weaker dollar, stronger pound. The withdrawal agreement will be passed quickly, the U.K. will leave the EU at the end of January and the hard work of agreeing a trade deal with the EU can begin. [The pound] is the big [foreign exchange] winner, but [South Korea’s won, the new Taiwan dollar, the Swedish krona and Norway’s krone] are stronger, while [the Swiss franc, yen and U.S. dollar] are the losers.” Kit Juckes, global fixed income strategist, Société Générale

“Outside of the U.K., sentiment has been rising thanks to newfound optimism that the U.S. can sign a phase one trade deal with China. Wall Street hit record highs in response to a tweet from President Trump. According to U.S. sources, the deal has been agreed on both sides and just needs a sign-off from the U.S. president. The prospect of a deal had seemingly dimmed on reports that the U.S. would only delay new tariffs that are supposed to start this Sunday. If the deal gets official confirmation, then we would expect some extra gains in global markets. Rolling back tariffs in exchange for buying more agricultural products doesn’t fix any of the big trade issues. From a markets standpoint a phase one deal would just improve the chance of a global economic rebound next year.” Jasper Lawler, head of research, London Capital Group

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Required Reading

Ontario to open cannabis retail system

Ontario is scrapping the lottery system it used to award cannabis retail licences and changing to an open licensing model, a move that will vastly expand the number of retail stores in Canada’s largest province and could help the pot industry compete with the black market. Mark Rendell reports.

Split threatens climate summit

Tension is building at the climate summit in Madrid as negotiators scramble to find agreement among almost 200 countries for the launch of a global trading market that would put a price on emissions and accelerate the shift to a low-carbon economy, Eric Reguly writes.

Scammers abound

You know what he’s talking about. Here’s Rob Carrick on how every time he picked up the phone it was a scammer.

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