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business briefing

Home sales, prices surge

Toronto’s hot housing market is now in record territory.

Given the accompanying surge in Vancouver, this is certain to raise eyebrows yet again amid questions over inflated property values.

Home sales in Toronto climbed 14 per cent in November from a year earlier, to 7,385. What that means is that the 96,401 sales so far this year have already topped the previous 2007 record, with a month still remaining.

Prices, too, have surged, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board today, with the average cost rising 9.6 per cent to $632,685.

But that hardly tells the story. Much has to do with what and where you’re selling or buying.

A detached home in the 416 area of the city costs, on average, more than $1-million. The average price of a similar home in the surrounding 905 region goes to $762,326.

The cost of a semi-detached is $750,608 and $504,928, respectively, and that of a condo $415,316 and $315,223.

“Demand for ownership housing has remained strong in the [Greater Toronto Area] throughout 2015, with sales generally increasing at a greater annual rate compared to new listings,” Jason Mercer, the group’s director of market analysis, said in a statement.

“This means that competition between buyers has strengthened in many neighbourhoods in the city of Toronto and surrounding regions,” he added.

“The end result has been upward pressure on home prices well above the rate of inflation in most cases.”

Toronto and Vancouver are the two cities showing signs of froth, which has been a source of concern, though no Canadian analyst sees a meltdown in the making.

As The Globe and Mail’s Brent Jang reports, home sales in the Vancouver area shot up by 40.1 per cent in November, with the benchmark price at $1.22-million to mark an increase of almost 23 per cent.

Fat consumer debts are a big issue in Canada. Indeed, the Bank of Canada noted yesterday that “vulnerabilities in the household sector continue to edge higher.”

In Toronto, of course, there’s more than just high prices, given that Mayor John Tory wants to introduce a new tax on homeowners that would help pay for improved transit and housing.

(As The Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee reports, the mayor says it's “less than a trip to the movies.” That’s because it’s expected to average $13. But by the fifth year, it becomes about $65, which sure makes pay-per-view attractive.)

ECB cuts one rate

The European Central Bank cut one of its rates today, among a series of stimulus measures to buoy the economy.

Mario Draghi’s central bank cut the deposit rate another 10 basis points to minus 0.3 per cent, leaving other key rates untouched, The Globe and Mail's Eric Reguly reports.

That was less than expected, sparking angst among investors.

CIBC boosts dividend

There’s one up and one down as two more Canadian banks report quarterly results today.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce was down, its profit slipping to $778-million, or $1.93 a share, from $811-million or $1.98 a year earlier. Adjusted profit rose to $952-million from $911-million.

CIBC also hiked its dividend by 3 cents to $1.15.

Toronto-Dominion Bank, on the other hand, posted a jump in profit to $1.8-billion, or 96 cents a share, from $1.75-billion or 91 cents. Adjusted profit climbed to $2.2-billion from $1.9-billion.

That's rich

Wealth-X, the Singapore-based market research company that focuses on the rich, as its name suggests, has published the ultimate gift-giving guide just in time for the holiday season.

So forget about the tie. Here’s what Wealth-X has gathered in a “selection of thoughtful gifts that suit the global lifestyle of the ultrawealthy, regardless of the season.”

First, there’s the 63.4-metre Polar Star superyacht by Lurssen, with “total comfort and a relaxed Hamptons beach house feel,” not to mention the gym, movie theatre, Jacuzzi and six big staterooms across five decks. It goes for €55-million ($78-million). But if you can’t afford that, you can rent it for €380,000 a week.

Can’t afford even the rental cost of the superyacht? Tiffany has joined with Dover Street Market to bring back 17 pieces from its archives. That means things like a pillbox that looks like a Chinese take-out box, at $545 (U.S.), or, moving up, a wood and gold interlocking bangle at $10,600.

And I love this one, for when Converse or Vans just won’t do: The custom luxury sneaker offered by a new customization service known as Myswear. You get to design your own, using “ethically sourced python, ostrich and crocodile skins,” among other materials. Prices run from $385 to $10,000.

Then there’s the Globe-Trotter Steamer Trunk from Chivas Regal and Globe-Trotter. The plaque on it is from a “retired Scotch whisky still.” You can hang your suits and store things like eight expensive watches. There’s a mini-bar, too. Costs £12,000.

There’s also a private jet in the guide, too. But, really, when you think about it, everyone has one of those. But I’ll bet not everyone has the Richebourg Grand Cru wine that averages $14,478 a bottle.

And if you just want to get away from the madding crowd for a bit, Wealth-X notes the Four Seasons round-the-world tour. You pay $132,000 per person for yourself and up to 51 friends for a “24-day voyage of discovery, spanning the Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera House, Borra Borra and jungles of Chiang Mai.”

And on a last note, if you happen to buy that superyacht, there’s a marine version of the BAC Mono supercar that can be stored on board, for when you dock somewhere special. You can even get it to “complement the colour scheme of the yacht,” at $750,000.

Video: The Bank of Canada's mix of 'hope and concern'