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Today’s topics: attack ads; Air Canada; same-sex marriage; realtors and real estate ... and moreThe Associated Press

Attention, second-home buyers The case for buying a second home in the United States is growing stronger.

Although prices in some regions are still dropping, the pace of decline is generally levelling off, notes Sal Guatieri, an economist in Toronto at BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. Home prices have fallen to the most affordable levels in years. Only 12.1 per cent of an American family's gross median income is needed to finance the typical house, which is about half the historical rate, Mr. Guatieri said in a recent report.

"While there's little urgency, now is likely a good time to buy U.S. real estate in regions with relatively low foreclosure rates, as conditions should improve enough to put a floor under prices this year," Mr. Guatieri said. "The inventory overhang has ebbed, prices are low, and some pent-up demand exists."

A survey by BMO showed that almost 16 per cent of Canadians would consider buying a home in the U.S. The bank, however, cautions that patience remains a virtue for bargain hunters who are searching for homes in areas saddled with many distressed properties. In those areas, prices may still have further to fall.

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We're No. 11! Among exporters of car parts, Canada is stuck in reverse.

Canadian shipments to the U.S. are benefiting from rebounding car sales south of the border, but auto parts makers in this country seem to have missed the industry's bigger shift toward China and other emerging markets.

Carlos Gomes, an economist at Bank of Nova Scotia, points out that Canada ranked No. 6 worldwide in the market for car-part exports as recently as 2007. But we've since been overtaken by Spain, South Korea, China and as of last year, the Czech Republic, bumping us out of the top 10.

"The inability to make inroads in the fast-growing markets of Asia and Latin America is undermining Canada's position as a major auto parts producer," Mr. Gomes said in a report last week.

While the Czech Republic's shipments to Brazil, Russia, India and China have almost tripled over the past four years, Canada's exports to the so-called BRIC nations have plunged by about two-thirds, Mr. Gomes said. Our shipments are 30 per cent below their level in 2007, the worst performance among the world's top-20 auto-part exporters, he said.

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In search of safer commodities If you're concerned about the apparent slowdown in the global economy, it may be time to take refuge in commodities that don't jump up and down with every bump in GDP growth.

Renewed worries about Europe's finances, China's growth and the U.S. recovery have some investors seeking to dial back risk, said Peter Buchanan, an economist in Toronto at CIBC World Markets Inc. He suggests they consider less-cyclical commodities.

"People always get the shivers as far as commodities go when growth weakens," Mr. Buchanan said in an interview. "However, there are some sectors that don't move to the global economy's drumbeat quite as closely. Investors may simply wish to shift some of their weightings to these areas."

Mr. Buchanan points to potash and uranium as examples of products that have the potential to rise in price even if global economic growth remains tepid. Potash could get a boost from increasing demand for food while uranium could benefit from a pending shortage of fuel for nuclear reactors.

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