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Business Briefing Canada’s housing market among most ‘bubbly’ in world, Economist finds

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, Sept. 3. 12, 2013.

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On the bubble
Canada's housing market is still among the frothiest in the world, more than a year after the federal government moved to head off a bursting bubble, findings by The Economist suggest.

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In results posted online over the long weekend, the magazine looked at how homes are overvalued or undervalued based on two measures: Price-to-rent and price-to-disposable income.

Where the first measure is concerned, The Economist found Canadian prices to be hugely overvalued, second among 18 countries studied.

Hong Kong was the highest, New Zealand ranked third behind Canada, and the rest weren't even in shooting distance.

"On this basis, Canada's house prices are bubbly whereas Japan's are undeservedly flat," the magazine said.

On the second measure, Canada ranked just behind France, while there was no comparison to Hong Kong.

The latest findings for Canada are just slightly better than those of last year, presumably the result of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's new mortgage restrictions just over a year ago.

Canadian house prices, The Economist said, climbed 1.9 per cent in the first quarter of the year from a year earlier, a slower pace than the 5 per cent in the same quarter of 2012.

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Since 2008, Canadian home prices are up 20 per cent.

Canada's residential real estate market slumped in the wake of those new rules, though has picked up again recently.

Indeed, as The Globe and Mail's Tara Perkins reports today, Canada's bank regulator, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, has been looking closely at mortgage inflation from the nation's financial institutions, a signal it could be planning another round of tightening.

On the wire
The world's wireless market has been radically transformed over the past couple of days.

As our European correspondent Eric Reguly reports, Microsoft Corp. today struck a $7.2-billion deal for Nokia Corp.'s handset business, sending the latter's stock price sharply higher.

That came a day after Verizon Communications Inc. struck a $130-billion (U.S.) agreement to take full ownership of its wireless operations, meaning it's no longer eyeing an expansion into Canada.

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And Canada's BlackBerry Ltd., of course, is in the midst of reviewing its operations, which could lead to a sale of the company.

Today's Microsoft-Nokia deal means a whole new world for the tech giant, and suggests that Nokia's Canadian-born chief executive officer, Stephen Elop, may end up with a top position at Microsoft, having failed to revive the wireless phone maker.

Sigh of relief in Canada?
The world is looking up for Canada's big telecommunications players with Verizon's decision to stay out of the country.

Analysts are boosting their price targets for shares of the Big Three, BCE Inc., Telus Corp. and Rogers Communications Inc. as a result, and the shares of each climbed today.

"Those Labour Day fireworks are probably champagne corks flying from the headquarters of Rogers, Telus and BCE, whose shares had been under incremental pressure since June 26 when it was reported that Verizon had made an initial bid for Wind," said National Bank analyst Adam Shine.

Mr. Shine noted that shares of Rogers, Telus and BCE slipped 11.9 per cent, 7.9 per cent and 3.6 per cent, respectively, between June 25 and Aug. 14, but have picked up since.

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So, over the past two months, Rogers shares are down 9 per cent, Telus' down 2.8 per cent, and BCE's down just 0.2 per cent.

"Needless to say, Verizon's clarification of its intentions toward Canada should enable Rogers to recover much of the lost ground it recently succumbed to, with Telus poised for at least mid-single digit gains, and BCE likely seeing upside as well, albeit more modestly," Mr. Shine said in a research note.

Economy to pick up
Canada is set to put in a stronger economic performance through the second half of the year, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said today.

But the overall pace of recovery in the major developed countries will likely be hobbled by a slowdown in growth in emerging markets, according to the OECD's interim economic assessment report.

In Canada, the organization forecasts 4.8-per-cent GDP growth for the third quarter as the country bounces back from the impact of the Alberta floods and construction strike in Quebec. It sees 2.5-per-cent growth in the fourth quarter, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports.

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