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business briefing

These are stories Report on Business is following Monday, April 20, 2015.

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Overvaluation
A fresh look at global house prices underscores the Bank of Canada's angst over the Vancouver and Toronto markets.

The magazine, which tracks prices in 26 markets, warned in its most recent report that homes are more than 25 per cent overvalued in seven of those regions, "notably in Australia, Britain and Canada," rising on every measure.

Canada, of course, is not one market, but rather several regional ones that can differ markedly.

Just last week, the Bank of Canada, which has pegged overvaluation at between 10 per cent and 30 per cent, again predicted a "soft landing" for the national market.

But, as The Globe and Mail's Tamsin McMahon reports, it warned that the oil hit to Alberta and the "continued robust price growth" in Toronto and Vancouver threaten "a correction in these markets."

The Economist uses two "yardsticks," one of which is the ratio of home prices to rent, which is not deemed the best measure among some observers.

But it also looks at the ratio of prices to after-tax income, a measure of affordability.

Which in some ways backs up the Bank of Canada's warning that "elevated house prices and debt levels relative to income continue to leave households vulnerable."

Bank of Montreal economist Robert Kavcic also tracks the Canadian markets, and his latest report, released last week, raised a red flag for Vancouver, in particular.

The senior economist looked at average prices, resales, sales versus their 10-year average, and what he called the "historical market balance," or conditions measured against the 20-year average.

He also looked at average home prices measured against estimated median family income. In Vancouver, he found that to be 11.2 times greater, by far the highest in the country.

Toronto was second at 7.7, while others trailed markedly.

What you tend to get at a national level from various readings are measures skewed by Vancouver and Toronto, the focus of bubble concerns in Canada.

But Mr. Kavcic broke this down into a look at 26 major markets, and here's what he found based on the above measures:

Windsor, Ont., is "very strong", while Vancouver and the Ontario centres of Hamilton-Burlington and St. Catharines are "strong."

Victoria, Toronto, Prince Edward Island and Ontario's London, Sudbury and Thunder Bay are "balanced."

Kitchener-Waterloo, Quebec City, Saint John and Newfoundland and Labrador are "weak," and Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Kingston, Ont., Ottawa and Halifax are "very weak."

Morgan Stanley up
Shares of Morgan Stanley inched up today after the Wall Street giant's first-quarter earnings report and a dividend hike.

Morgan Stanley posted a jump in profit to $2.4-billion (U.S.), or $1.18 a share, from $1.5-billion or 74 cents a year earlier.

"This was our strongest quarter in many years with improved performance across most areas of the firm," said chief executive officer James Gorman.

Canadians crossing border less
Something
is stopping Canadians from crossing the border to shop.

And the best guess is their eroding purchasing power in the wake of the Canadian dollar's decline.

Travel abroad fell in February by 3.3 per cent to 4.8 million trips, or the lowest since the fall of 2010, Statistics Canada said today.

Notable is that this was primarily due to a 7.1-per-cent decline in same-day car trips to the U.S., a proxy for cross-border shopping.

Going in the other direction, visitors from China to Canada marked the biggest increase, at 10 per cent.

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