These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014.
Affordability eases for some
Owning a home still appears be out of reach for many people in Toronto, but sky-high prices don't seem to be stopping buyers in Vancouver.
And in Calgary, the other of Canada's three hot cities, it's full steam ahead.
Across the country, home affordability eased slightly in the third quarter of the year, according to a Royal Bank of Canada study released today.
But Canada, of course, isn't just one housing market given the wide divergence.
"Carrying the costs of ownership became a little lighter for the majority of housing types thanks to small reductions in utility costs in many parts of the country, low and steady interest rates, and broadly rising household income," RBC chief economist Craig Wright and senior economist Robert Hogue said in today's report.
"Even markets such as Toronto, where affordability eroded persistently in the past four years, saw relief," they said in the study, which looks at prices and income, among other things.
"The same could not be said for Canada's other currently 'hot' markets, Vancouver and Calgary," they added, though they noted that affordability "remains quite attractive" in the latter.
The pressures are largely in Toronto, where affordability is "the most stretched in Canada," and Vancouver, where there are "extreme conditions."
Toronto got some relief but "owning a home – especially a single-detached home – at market price still appears to be a stretch for a typical household in the area," said Mr. Wright and Mr. Hogue.
"That being said, any affordability stress does not seem to bother homebuyers, however. Toronto-area home resales continued to power ahead in the third quarter."
Where two-story houses are concerned, affordability eased by 1.1 percentage points. For condos, less so.
In Vancouver, in turn, affordability has been "severely strained" for almost 10 years, but that doesn't seem to be "holding back homebuyers in any significant way."
Resales, they said, topped the 10-year average this year, rebounding from the last two years, leading to a market where "sellers once again hold the upper hand in setting prices."
And then there's Calgary, Canada's hottest market, where everyone has a lot of money, anyway, so why not?
"Calgary prices continue to rise at the fastest pace in Canada (between 9 per cent and 12 per cent year over year depending on the housing type)," said the RBC economists.
"Housing affordability deteriorated in the third quarter; however, it remained quite attractive from a historical perspective and in comparison to other Canadian cities."
The International Monetary Fund, too, weighed in today on Canada's real estate market, saying in its look at the economy that housing "regained momentum," though with distinctions across the country.
It, too, highlighted the "brisk activity" in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, and welcomed new measures to bolster mortgage insurance.
"Housing demand from household formation and population growth, combined with supply-side constraints from land-use policies and geographical factors, may partly explain fundamental strength in these major real estate markets," the IMF added.
"Across market segments, single-family homes are a major source of price increases, and there are signs of overvaluation, especially associated with high-end buyers (reflected by uninsured mortgage credit growth)."
- Canada may skirt housing dip (if we're lucky): Société Générale
- Richard Blackwell: Housing market ‘modestly’ overvalued, CMHC says
- Canada's housing market a '3-city show' as sales score best October since 2009
- BMO expects 'some correction' in Toronto, Vancouver home prices
- Home prices surge in Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver (and, oh, Hamilton)
- From west to east, a look at projected house price gains across Canada
- Bank of Canada raises red flags over Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary housing markets
Alberta cuts oil forecasts
The Alberta government today cut its oil price prediction for the fiscal year by 8 per cent and indicated it will cut spending in an effort to keep its books in the black this year, The Globe and Mail's Carrie Tait reports.
This is the first time Alberta's new premier Jim Prentice has had a chance to put this stamp on the government's books. The Progressive Conservative party, in its second-quarter fiscal update released, foreshadowed it will rein in spending next year as oil prices continue to slide.
"With lower oil prices forecast for the second half of the year, we will make the fiscally responsible decisions to keep government operating in the black while addressing infrastructure needs as Alberta continues to grow," Mr. Prentice said in a statement.
The Tories now expect the North American benchmark for oil to trade at an average of $75 (U.S) a barrel for the rest of the fiscal year, according to its update. This means Alberta expects oil to average $88.88 (U.S) per barrel for all of fiscal 2014-2015.
Alberta expects this year's surplus to drop to $933-million (Canadian), down from $1.1-billion in its original budget.
- Carrie Tait: Alberta slashes oil price forecast, vows to cut spending in fiscal update
- David Parkinson: Manufacturing drop a drag on Ontario, as rising commodity prices lift Alberta
Markets eye OPEC
It looks like there won't be a production cut among by OPEC members.
This was already the speculation in the runup to tomorrow's key OPEC meeting in Vienna, after Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, said oil is expected to "stabilize itself eventually."
That gained greater credence when he said later that the Gulf Co-operation Council, made up of Saudi Arabia and a few other countries, reached a consensus, adding "we are very confident that OPEC will have a unified position."
Reuters reputed that the consensus was to hold firm on output.
Analyst Jasper Lawler of CMC Markets said earlier he believed the "most likely" result will be a deal among the OPEC nations to stick to current ceilings, which means 30 million barrels a day and which would mean a tiny output cut.
"With U.S. stock markets closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving, today is the last day to put on positions in the energy sector including those in Exxon and Chevron ahead of the OPEC meeting," Mr. Lawler said.
"Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and Mexico failed to announce they would cut production in a pre-OPEC meeting, with the Saudi oil minister saying the 'oil market will stabilize eventually," he added.
"Some OPEC members like Iran would like to cut production to lift prices but cannot afford to do so and still meet national budget requirements."
- Eric Reguly: Oil prices drop again ahead of crucial OPEC meeting
- Shawn McCarthy: Oil could plummet below $70 if OPEC fails to cut production
- Jeffrey Jones in ROB Insight (for subscribers): Impact of OPEC's indecision shows it still has clout
- Eric Reguly in ROB Insight (for subscribers): Why the black stuff can take shine off gold
Before you reach for the phone ...
American researchers have documented a new office health risk: "Workplace telepressure."
That's when you just can't stay away from your work-related e-mail, text messages and voicemail, no matter what you're doing, who you're with, etc.
"So the dad constantly texting coworkers from the sideline of a youth soccer game, the multitasking mom firing off work e-mails over Saturday morning breakfast and the steadfast employee sleeping with his company-issued smartphone by his pillow – these behaviours all point to the psychological state of workplace telepressure," says Northern Illinois University, whose psych professors Larissa Barber and Alecia Santuzzi did the study.
Or, as Ms. Barber told Fortune, which is where I first read about this, some people can't unplug because they believe it can hurt their careers.
Their study, which goes beyond their earlier work and was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, documents what many of already know, that we can't go beyond a few minutes without checking to see if that e-mail on our BlackBerry is something we'd better respond to quickly.
But there's a cost to this beyond losing time with the kids, pausing the movie or putting down the book.
"Workers who indicate they feel high levels of telepressure are more likely to report burnout, a feeling of being unfocused, health-related absenteeism and diminished sleep quality," Ms. Barber, the lead author of the report, says on the university's website.
What to do about it?
Employers should urge "unplugged time," says Ms. Santuzzi, while "managers and workers also could ease telepressure by decreasing the quantity of messages, perhaps holding back information that can wait for future meetings or face-to-face conversations."
Companies can also establish policies, according to the researchers.
The university also cited an American Psychological Association study published last year that reported almost 45 per cent of people check their e-mail daily when they're on holidays, and almost 55 per cent when they're ill.
Streetwise (for subscribers)
ROB Insight (for subscribers)
- TransCanada, PR firm sever ties
- BCE argues against competitors' access to new fibre technology
- Canada Post on track for profit in 2014
- Juncker unveils investment plan to kick-start EU growth
- Goldman, BASF, HSBC sued in U.S.
- Thomas Cook CEO makes surprise departure
- Deere forecasts drop in equipment sales as far incomes fall
- U.S. jobless claims rise above 300,000 mark