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These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, March 5, 2015.

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Where Toronto stands
Toronto ranks among cities of key importance to the world's megarich, a new report suggests.

Indeed, Toronto will be among those that "dominate," says the study released today by Knight Frank, a global real estate consultancy whose annual Wealth Report is widely followed.

The study lists the 40 "most important cities" for the wealthy this year, among other things, and ranks Canada's financial capital as No. 12.

Ahead of Toronto are London, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Miami, Paris, Dubai, Beijing, Zurich and Tokyo.

Rounding out the top 20 behind Canada's biggest city are Geneva, Sydney, Taipei, Frankfurt, Moscow, Madrid, San Francisco and Vienna.

"Of course, if we measure a city's importance by political power, Washington D.C. and Beijing will be at the top of three, followed closely by Brussels, the power base of the EU," the report says.

"If we assess quality of life, a clutch of northern European, Canadian and Australian cities, led by the likes of Melbourne and Toronto, will dominate."

These cities aren't necessarily home to the most ultrahigh net worth individuals, or those who aren't just millionaires but whose assets are off the charts, with net worth topping $30-million (U.S.).

"You may need to lobby in Washington or Brussels, but you are less likely to want to live there."

High net worth individuals have been flocking to Canada, which is among the top countries where destination is concerned, trailing behind Britain, Singapore, the U.S., Australia and Hong Kong.

And here's a fun stat: Canada ranks as No. 4 in the study's "Big Spenders Index," which looks at how the wealthy among us are likely to spend their money.

In that regard, we rank behind Britain, at No. 1, China and Qatar.

Just today, Sotheby's International Realty Canada projected that Toronto will lead the country's luxury real estate market this spring.

"Positive gains are also anticipated for the Vancouver market, while Montreal is expected to maintain balance," it said.

"Continued uncertainty in the Calgary economy is expected to temper sales throughout the spring, with the degree of long term impact to be determined."

The Greater Toronto Area, which takes in several surrounding regions, will see "strong demand" for detached homes worth more than $1-million, in particular.

"Furthermore, Toronto's recent ranking as the best place to live in the Economist's 2015 Safe Cities Index, along with a lower Canadian dollar, only strengthens its global appeal as a destination for foreign real estate investment."

A (pleasant) surprise from the oil patch
Shares of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. rose today after a pleasant surprise from an otherwise bleak oil patch.

Pleasant for shareholders. For managers and directors, not so much. They're taking a pay cut.

Canada's second-biggest energy producer boosted its dividend and reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results. It also trimmed its spending plans again, however.

Annual average production, the company said, rose to record levels as 2014 closed out.

"Strong cost management and prudent financial discipline continue to remain our focus given the volatility in commodity prices," chief financial officer Corey Bieber said in a statement.

Canadian Natural hiked its quarterly dividend to 23 cents a share as profit climbed to $1.2-billion, or $1.09 a share, diluted, from $413-million or 38 cents a year earlier.

ECB boosts outlook
Things are looking brighter – if only just – for Europe.

The European Central Bank today raised its forecasts for economic growth, though its new projections put the region dangerously close to a deflationary period.

As it held its benchmark rate steady, and rolled out details of its bond-buying stimulus program, known as quantitative easing or QE, the central bank of the euro zone raised its growth forecasts to 1.5 per cent this year and 1.9 per cent next year.

But it pegged annual inflation at zero this year, with a jump to 1.5 per cent in 2016 and 1.8 per cent a year later, our European bureau chief Eric Reguly reports.

"The latest economic data and, particularly, survey evidence available up to February point to some further improvements in economic activity at the beginning of this year," ECB chief Mario Draghi told reporters.

"Looking ahead, we expect the economic recovery to broaden and strengthen gradually."

The Bank of England also held steady today.

China trims target
It wouldn't be a downer for just about anyone else, but for China it marks the slowest pace of economic growth in some 25 years.

As he opened China's annual meeting of Parliament today, Premier Li Keqiang unveiled a slower 2015 growth target of about 7 per cent, down from last year's 7.5 per cent, which it didn't make.

"Deep-seated problems in the country's economic development are becoming more obvious," he said, according to Reuters.

"The difficulties we are facing this year could be bigger than last year."

This comes amid action from the People's Bank of China, which on the weekend cut interest rates.

"The slower growth profile is pretty much expected, guided by ongoing comments from Premier Li about the 'new normal' and the willingness to sacrifice growth for reform," said economists at Bank of Nova Scotia.

"However, his speech at the annual meeting of the legislature overnight reinforced other key 2015 Chinese themes that investors should be watching, including: (i) fiscal policy will remain proactive (read: national fiscal spending will compensate for weaker local government spending); (ii) monetary policy will continue to be prudent (read: the PBoC is ready to act to maintain growth levels but not rapidly expand them); (iii) the yuan exchange profile will be kept at a reasonable and balanced level (read: a significant depreciation is probably not in the cards for right now); and (iv) the government will push ahead with the reform of state-owned enterprises and the liberalization of the banking system and financial markets (read: another deposit rate cut coupled with the gradual lifting of the deposit ceiling can be expected)."

Job quality sinks
Job quality in Canada has sunk to its lowest level in more than two decades, a study released today shows.

An employment quality index, compiled by CIBC and which tracks part-time versus full-time work, paid versus self-employment and compensation trends, has fallen to its lowest level on record, according to the report by Benjamin Tal, the bank's deputy chief economist.

The findings may confirm what many Canadians already sense, that the country's jobs market is not as robust as it once was, The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant reports.

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