These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015.
Wild swings in the currency markets are causing headaches for just about everyone.
Indeed, says Bank of Nova Scotia's chief currency strategist, the volatility is "flirting with levels typically reserved for crisis."
Notable, of course, are such daily swings in the value of the Canadian dollar, which has been bounced around by everything from the price of oil and the fortunes of the U.S. currency to speculation over whether and when the Bank of Canada may cut rates again.
So imagine being a company trying to plan ahead. Or a Canadian traveller trying to decide when to buy your U.S. money. Or an importer trying to cope. Or, amid the general weakness in the loonie, a Canadian shopper who has to pay those higher import costs.
"FX volatility has increased materially with most currency volatility at levels not seen in over a year and flirting with levels typically reserved for crisis," Ms. Sutton said today, using the shorthand for foreign exchange.
"The intraday spread between daily highs and lows has also risen dramatically."
Between January and August of 2014, she calculated, the average intraday move in the Canadian dollar, between the high and the low, was 0.6 of a penny.
Last month alone, however, that jumped to 1.35.
You can expect such volatility when something shocking happens, like when the Bank of Canada surprised the markets last month with a cut of one-quarter of a percentage point to its key rate.
But even without such moves, volatility has become a theme.
Today alone, the loonie swung by more than a penny, touching a low of 79.46 cents U.S. and a high of 80.66 cents.
The euro is another example. Its spread was 63 points in that January-August period of last year, rising to 98 from September to December, and 137 points since the beginning of this year.
"This has changed trading patterns and strategies for many and is an important dynamic highlighting the shifting FX landscape," Ms. Sutton said.
In Europe, of course, the born-again Greek crisis is playing out across all financial markets.
At the same time, traders are waiting for the key even of the week, the U.S. jobs report that comes tomorrow morning.
"Slightly nervous range-trading is likely to be the order of the day until the U.S. employment data are released tomorrow and until we get more news on the Greek debt talks," said Kit Juckes and Alvin Tan of Société Générale.
Oil prices are up today, having tumbled yesterday on a report showing U.S. stockpiles at a record level.
"As a consequence NOK and CAD fell sharply on the day," Mr. Juckes and Mr. Tan said, referring to the Norwegian and Canadian currencies by their symbols.
- Outlook for the loonie: Lower (maybe much lower) for longer
- The Big Easy: How the loonie could sink if Poloz cuts again in March
- Video: What's the difference between the loonie and the Titanic?
- From loonie to 'swoonie': Canadian dollar now worth just about 80¢
- Scott Barlow's Inside the Market (for subscribers): Goldman Sachs forecasts 71-cent loonie
Denmark cuts rates. Again
The race to the bottom is getting faster and faster.
Denmark's central bank today cut interest rates again – that's the fourth time in less than three weeks – as it struggles to hold the value of the krone to the euro.
The Danish government has also suspended domestic and foreign bond issuance.
Danmarks Nationalbank went further into negative territory on its deposit rate to -0.75 per cent from -0.5 per cent, citing the "considerable inflow" of foreign money into the country in the wake of the Swiss central bank's decision to abandon the cap on its currency and the European Central Bank's stimulus program, which weakens the euro.
"Even with all the strife, the citizens of Denmark may even be wishing they are part of the euro zone as the krone peg to the single currency appears to be cracking apart by the day," said analyst Jasper Lawler of CMC Markets.
"After years of price stability with the rest of Europe, the Danish economy would likely not be prepared for a sudden appreciation."
So now Canadians are lining up at Target.
Shoppers braved the biting cold today as Target Corp. launched a liquidation sale as it winds down its operations in Canada.
According to the giant U.S. retailer, goods were being priced by up to 30 per cent lower.
As The Globe and Mail's Marina Strauss reports, the Ontario Superior Court yesterday gave the nod to the liquidation sales at Target's 133 outlets across the country.
- Hardy shoppers brave predawn cold, line up for Target liquidation sales
- Marina Strauss: Target Canada liquidation sales get green light
Greece, Germany at odds
One has to wonder if the phrase "until Hell freezes over" will soon find its way into negotiations between Athens and its unfortunate partners in the euro zone.
As our European bureau chief Eric Reguly reports, Greece's new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, met his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, today. And apparently came away with "nein."
According to Mr. Schaeuble, the two men "agreed to disagree" as Mr. Varoufakis, whose government was elected on an anti-austerity drive, pushes for debt relief of some sort.
"We went as far as we could last time," the German finance minister told reporters.
"We can only provide help for people to help themselves."
The meeting followed a move by the European Central Bank that ratcheted up the pressure on Athens, with stocks plunging in the wake of the ECB's decision that junk-rated Greek debt can't be used as collateral.
BCE hikes dividend
BCE Inc. hiked its dividend as it posted a stronger fourth-quarter profit today.
Boosting its dividend by 13 cents to $2.60, the Canadian telecom and media giant also project revenue increases this year of between 1 per cent and 3 per cent, and 2015 adjusted earnings per share of $3.28 to $3.38.
BCE profit attributable to shareholders rose in the final quarter of last year to $542-million, or 64 cents a share, from $495-million, also 64 cents.
Adjusted earnings per share increased to 72, topping estimates, cents from 70 cents.
BCE also said it signed up more than 117,000 wireless customers on contract.
- Christine Dobby: BCE tops estimates on new wireless customers, hikes dividend
- Christine Dobby: Rogers to pay BCE $392-million in shared Glentel venture
Trade gap widens
Canada's trade deficit is fattening up.
The country's trade deficit swelled in December to $649-million from November's $335-million as a rise in imports outpaced the gains in exports, Statistics Canada said today.
Imports rose 2.3 per cent, and exports 1.5 per cent.
But when you look at the breakdown, volumes of imports rose 2.8 per cent, while prices actually slipped 0.5 per cent.
On the other side of the ledger, export volumes rose 3.5 per cent, and prices dipped 1.9 per cent.
Metal and mineral exports led the way.
Oil and bitumen, of course, tumbled by 12 per cent, with natural gas exports down almost 20 per cent.
But refined petroleum products rose by almost 14 per cent, so what Canada saw, over all, was a drop of more than 12 per cent in energy prices but a rise in volume of 2.3 per cent.
- David Parkinson: Canada's trade deficit widens, but export figures seen as 'encouraging'
- U.S. December trade deficit largest since 2012
Streetwise (for subscribers)
ROB Insight (for subscribers)