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These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014.

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Home prices rise
The latest measure of Canadian home prices underscores the surge in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver, but with an added noteworthy element: Toronto is unmatched in one respect.

First, the national measures:

Home prices in Canada rose 0.2 per cent in October from September, according to the Teranet-National Bank house price index released today.

Prices were up in just five of 11 markets measured. And if you strip out Vancouver, the index would have been flat.

The year-over-year reading, though, puts prices up 5.4 per cent in October from a year earlier, again highlighting the hottest markets.

"Over the last seven months, mortgage rates have declined to almost historically low levels," said senior economist Marc Pinsonneault of National Bank.

"This has stimulated existing home sales and prices," he added.

"Nationwide, the seasonally adjusted monthly level of sales has exceeded 40,000 units for the last five months, something that has not been seen since April 2010."

Prices topped the national average in Calgary, with a 9.1-per-cent gain, Toronto at 7.4 per cent, Hamilton at 7.3 per cent, and Vancouver at 6.5 per cent.

"Unsurprisingly, the resale market in these four urban areas is balanced or even tight," the group said in its report.

Price gains were "more moderate" in Edmonton at 4.9 per cent, Winnipeg at 2.5 per cent, Montreal at 1.1 per cent, Quebec City at 1 per cent, Halifax at 0.4 per cent and the Ottawa area at 0.2 per cent.

Victoria prices slipped 0.1 per cent.

And here's that added element:

"The composite index has been up from a year earlier for 61 months now, since October 2009. The only one of the 11 markets to match that run is Toronto, though Hamilton comes close with 59 months."

On a national basis, prices are now "on track" to rise by more than 5 per cent this year, Mr. Pinsonneault said, which would be the best showing in three years after last year's 3.8 per cent and 2012's 3.1 per cent.

"House price inflation is now similar to the one observed in the U.S.," Mr. Pinsonneault said.

"Having said this, regional prices changes differ from one region to the other with market conditions," he added.

Ottawa sees surpluses
Plunging oil prices are eating into revenue, but the Canadian government still projects a return to surpluses next year.

Maybe even sooner, The Globe and Mail's Bill Curry reports.

According to the fiscal update released in Toronto by Finance Minister Joe Oliver, the government expects a surplus of $1.9-billion in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, followed by surpluses of $4.3-billion, $5.1-billion, $6.8-billion and $13.1-billion through to 2019-2020.

The update indicates that Ottawa would have posted a small surplus in the current 2014-15 fiscal year if it were not for the package of recently-announced tax cuts. Instead, Ottawa now expects a $2.9-billion deficit this year.

The government says while lower oil prices do generate some positive economic activity in terms of higher exports and lower costs for business and consumers, the overall impact on growth is negative, Mr. Curry writes.

And so it's reducing its forecasts for revenues by $500-million this year and $2.5-billion per year from 2015-2019.

Others also probe
Where the foreign exchange market is concerned, it ain't over 'til it's over.

Regulators today hit major banks with hefty fines topping $4-billion (U.S.) in total.

Now, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Justice Department are also reportedly investigating what's going on in the foreign exchange markets.

"The banking sector has taken a hit this morning as investors wearily start to price in the potential implications of the FX-rigging scandal," said market analyst Chris Beauchamp of IG in London.

"Today's co-ordinated action is just the beginning for the sector, as the U.S. Department of Justice takes an interest," he added.

"Given how long the Libor and PPI scandals have been  running, the FX story is going to be with us for an extended stay."

Loblaw, Encana report
The earnings parade may be winding down, but some major companies are still reporting their third-quarter results.

Loblaw Cos. Ltd. today beat the estimates of analysts, though profit slipped to $142-million from $150-million while revenue popped 36 per cent to $13.6-billion given its recent acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart.

Adjusted profit was 90 cents a share, topping the 87 cents expected.

Energy giant Encana Corp. posted a sharp jump in profit, to $2.8-billion from $188-million, after asset sales.

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