Skip to main content
business briefing

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.

Follow Michael Babad and The Globe's Business Briefing on Twitter.

The loonie's woes
The Canadian dollar is worth just above 80 cents U.S. today, and is almost certain to dip below that key mark soon.

The currency, which has suffered along with oil prices, dipped as low as 80.02 cents, having touched a high of 80.47 cents, where it sat by mid-morning after a rise.

(Canada's dollar coin is known as the loonie. For the record, my colleague Scott Barlow, who writes that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicts it will slump to just 71 cents, has dubbed it the "swoonie.")

The loonie sank again today amid more "discomfort," with oil trading near its lows, said chief currency strategist Camilla Sutton of Bank of Nova Scotia.

And sometimes the markets can act like a "magnet," she added, with traders just wanting to see what might happen if a currency pushes through a certain level.

Currency markets have been volatile of late, to put it mildly, amid the collapse in oil prices, the surprise shifts from the likes of the Bank of Canada and the Swiss central bank, stimulus measures from the European Central Bank, and the ups and downs of the euro zone in general.

The loonie plunged last week after a surprise rate cut by the Bank of Canada, and some economists are speculating they central bank could trim its benchmark rate again.

Where Canada's concerned – like Norway and Russia, the currency is tied to crude – analysts have fast been revising their forecasts.

Besides the Goldman Sachs call for 71 cents in 2017, others are also forecasting a slump well below the 80-cent mark.

Just yesterday, for example, economists at Toronto-Dominion Bank said in a new forecast that they expect a low of 75 cents by early next year.

"Those who hoped to return to greater market calm after the holidays have been sorely disappointed," said TD chief economist Craig Alexander and economist Leslie Preston.

"So far in 2015, oil prices and bond yields have continued to fall, and many central banks have enacted further monetary stimulus to stave off the risk of deflation," they added.

"For Canada, the Bank of Canada's 25-basis-point rate cut takes the cake as the biggest economic surprise of 2015. And it's only January. While most economists, ourselves included, had been rapidly downgrading Canada's economic outlook in the wake of the collapse in oil prices, none predicted that the Bank of Canada would react so swiftly to oil's plunge."

Investors sour
It's shaping up to be an ugly day, with global stock markets largely down.

Tokyo's Nikkei gained 1.7 per cent, but Hong Kong's Hang slipped 0.4 per cent. European and North American stocks are tumbling, driven lower by disappointing corporate earnings reports and a weak showing on U.S. durable goods orders.

In Europe, London's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were down by between 0.9 per cent and 1.4 per cent.

The S&P 500, Dow Jones industrial average and Toronto's S&P/TSX composite also tumbled.

Earnings flood in
Fourth-quarter earnings season is picking up, with more than 25 S&P 500 companies reporting today, setting the outlook for stock markets.

"It's a packed day of U.S. corporate reports today with Caterpillar, Pfizer, Apple, Yahoo, AT&T and Proctor & Gamble all posting quarterly figures," said market analyst Alastair McCaig of IG in London.

"Last night saw Microsoft join an illustrious list of U.S. companies that have missed [earnings-per-share] expectations, putting firm downward pressure on the shares," he added.

"The markets have come to expect 75 per cent of companies to beat projections, but this quarter is beginning to look like the exception to the rule."

Caterpillar Inc., for example, missed the estimates of analysts, sparking a drop in its stock price.

Mobilicity secures auction financing
Mobilicity says it has secured the financing necessary to register for an upcoming public auction for valuable cellular airwaves, The Globe and Mail's Christine Dobby reports.

Pending court approval, the move will at least put the company in a position to compete with fellow startup carrier Wind Mobile for a swath of spectrum the federal government has earmarked for operating new entrants.

Mobilicity, which has been under creditor protection since September, 2013, filed materials late Monday asking the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to approve a new financing arrangement that will allow it to place a deposit of approximately $62-million on Friday.

The funding is contingent on court approval, which the company is seeking at a motion in Toronto scheduled for Wednesday.

Blaming the U.S.
The Russians appear to have forgotten that S&P downgraded the United States, too.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Vasily Nebenzia said today that Standard & Poor's Rating Services was acting on "direct orders" from the U.S. government when it downgraded the country to junk status yesterday.

Right. But I seem to remember the uproar when S&P took a swipe at Washington, as well.

"There is nothing surprising in the fact that this process has taken place at the moment: It strangely coincided with a new rise of anti-Russian hysteria," according to a translated version of what the official told the RIA Novosti news agency.

"I have no doubt that this decision was taken on direct orders from Washington."

S&P cut Russia's foreign currency ratings to double-B-plus from triple-B-minus, warning that "the downgrade reflects our view that Russia's monetary policy flexibility has become more limited and its economic growth prospects have weakened."

Russia faces a deep slump amid the plunge in oil prices, the extreme damage to the ruble and Western sanctions.

Streetwise (for subscribers)

ROB Insight (for subscribers)

Business ticker