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Briefing highlights

  • Why Canada’s ‘brand’ is so potent
  • Stocks, Canadian dollar, oil at a glance
  • Tentative pact reached in CN strike
  • Scotiabank posts stronger profit
  • Couche-Tard stalks Caltex
  • Alibaba in strong Hong Kong debut
  • What analysts are saying
  • Required Reading

A potent ‘brand’

This is not meant to be a hysterical flag-waving exercise, or to ignore troubles that plague us.

But it says a lot when Canada outshines all but two other countries in a study on nations as brands, basically calculating the “image” of each.

Canada rose to No. 3, up from No. 5 last year, in the recently released Anholt-Ipsos Nations Brand Index, or NBI, which ranks 50 countries on several categories, including exports, governance, culture, people, tourism, and immigration and investment.

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Those are broad sweeps, of course, with each category breaking down into several questions put to more than 20,000 people in mid-July through to the end of August.

So, just as examples, do a country’s exports make a “major contribution to innovation in science and technology,” is that nation “competently and honestly governed,” and does it excel at sports? (Well, you can get away with the Maple Leafs if you’ve got the Raptors, right?)

Or, as further examples, would you like a citizen of that country as a “close friend,” is the country “rich in natural beauty,” and does it have a “high quality of life” and businesses in which you might put money?

Topping the list in the annual study by Ipsos and Simon Anholt, who developed the index about 15 years ago, were Germany and France, the former having held that spot last year and the latter rising to No. 2 from No. 4.

Behind Canada to round out the top five were the United Kingdom, which dipped to No. 4 from No. 3, and Japan, which slipped to No. 5 from No. 2.

“Canada’s nation brand is robust,” Ipsos senior vice-president Vadim Volos said in a prepared statement.

“Global citizens rank Canada first on governance, people, and immigration/investment,” he added.

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“This year, Canada is the only nation in the NBI top five that improved its standing on governance, culture, and tourism, which lifted Canada in the NBI ranking from fifth place in 2018 to third in 2019.”

Also this year, respondents were asked to put “personality traits” to the countries.

Thirty-nine per cent deemed us friendly, 29 per cent happy, and 30 per cent trustworthy. Nineteen per cent found us to be the “most generous.”

(No one appears to have used the term “hoser.”)

Markets at a glance

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Tentative pact reached in CN strike

A tentative deal has ended the week-long strike by 3,200 Canadian National Railway Co. conductors, The Globe and Mail’s Eric Atkins reports.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference said members will return to work by 6 a.m. local time on Wednesday, ending the longest rail strike in a decade. Details of the deal, which must be ratified by union members, were not available.

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CN said in a statement announcing the tentative agreement workers will start returning to their jobs this afternoon, and trains will begin moving in the rail yards by tomorrow morning.

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Scotiabank posts stronger profit

Bank of Nova Scotia kicked off Canada’s bank reporting season today with a stronger fourth-quarter showing.

Profit rose to $2.31-billion, or $1.73 a share, from $2.27-billion or $1.71.

On an adjusted basis, profit climbed to $2.4-billion or $1.82, from $2.35-billion or $1.77.

"In 2019, we made significant progress against our strategic objectives by sharpening our geographic footprint and improving our business mix,” said chief executive officer Brian Porter.

National Bank Financial analyst Gabriel Dechaine called it “a refreshingly clean quarter.”

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Mortgage loans rose 5 per cent from a year earlier, with business credit up 10 per cent and personal lending up 3 per cent.

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Couche-Tard bids for Caltex

Canadian convenience store giant Alimentation Couche-Tard is trying to take its biggest bite yet, making a US$5.8-billion play for Caltex Australia Ltd. as it pursues its global expansion, The Globe and Mail’s Nicolas Van Praet reports.

Laval, Que.-based Couche-Tard offered to pay AUD$34.50 in cash per share for Caltex, increasing an earlier proposal of AUD$32 per share that was rejected, Caltex said early Tuesday.

Caltex said it was considering the non-binding bid and that talks were at a preliminary stage.

Couche-Tard, one of the world’s biggest chains of convenience stores, operates under the name Circle K in most places and Couche-Tard in Quebec. The company has been hunting for its next big takeover and many observers expected a deal in the Asia region.

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Alibaba in strong debut

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From Reuters: Alibaba Group’s Hong Kong shares closed their first trading session up 6.6 per cent from the issue price after this year’s largest stock sale. Shares worth US$1.78-billion were traded, according to Refinitiv data, making it the third biggest debut on record for the Hong Kong market. Alibaba is already the fifth most-traded company in New York this year, averaging US$2.6-billion a day, Refinitiv data showed. The Chinese e-commerce giant has raised at least US$11.3 billion from its secondary listing, which has been seen as a vote of confidence in Hong Kong’s financial future amid six months of increasingly violent anti-government protests.

Also ...

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What analysts are saying

“Just under two weeks ago, I said that it is too soon to say that the German economy had bottomed. It still is, but the latest news has actually been less grim. Germany avoided sliding into a recession, and the revisions indicated that it was the domestic economy that continued to hold up. Although business investment fell for the second straight quarter, consumer spending has continued to grow, thanks to a tight labour market. Even trade added 0.5 of a percentage point to GDP in Q3. And, some of the more recent data have shown signs of a pulse, such as Markit’s [purchasing managers indexes] and the German Ifo business survey (perhaps as the U.S./China trade talks continued). Of course, if the U.S. decides to pull a Section 301 on European trade, then we’re back to contemplating economic bottoms again.” Jennifer Lee, senior economist, Bank of Montreal

“In Hong Kong, a successful Alibaba listing saw the stock rise almost 7 per cent at the open, yet wider weakness for the Hang Seng highlights ongoing volatility in the region. With pro-democracy candidates grabbing landslide victories in district council elections over the weekend, the question now is whether that will embolden activists or provide a source of calm amid greater representation at the higher levels of governance.” Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst, IG

‘Hello, is it me you’re looking for?’ Shades of Lionel Richie from trade negotiators was music to the ears of markets. A phone call between the U.S. and China, in which a degree of consensus was apparently reached, was enough to catapult the S&P 500 and Dow Jones to record highs [Monday]. We don’t see this phone call being a material difference-maker for a trade deal being completed this year. The more important thing is markets, with the support of central banks, feel more comfortable with the current state-of-play in trade. It might just be that the Dec.15 [tariff] deadline is too far away to get worried about just yet. Attitudes to risk could shift once we are within a fortnight of the new U.S. tariffs being implemented.” Jasper Lawler, head of research, London Capital Group

Required Reading

Our CEO of the year

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Calin Rovinescu keeps Air Canada soaring through crisis and acquisitions, Joe Castaldo reports in ROB magazine.

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