March 2011 Canadian Economic Fundamentals

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#2
'Superstar' status in global economic poll strengthens Harper's hand



A new international survey shows Canadians are in a very positive mood about the state of the economy, suggesting the opposition parties face an uphill battle pushing for change on the eve of a possible federal election.



Describing Canada as a `superstar,` an Ipsos online survey of citizens in 24 countries finds 68 per cent of Canadians are feeling good about the economy. Those January numbers are up six points from a month earlier



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#3
Soaring oil prices a double-edged sword in the Middle East



Why is the Arab world convulsing with social and political unrest when triple digit oil prices should be bringing enormous wealth to the region? The answer may be that the link between energy inputs and food prices suddenly makes soaring oil prices a double-edged sword in the world`s largest food importing region.





Egyptians are about to find out that it is a lot easier to eradicate your local dictator than feeding your population. The crush of poverty is felt under the weight of a population of 80 million people who live in a country where average annual rainfall is less than two inches and where only 3 per cent of the land is arable. Aside from a narrow strip along the life-sustaining Nile River, Egypt is basically an inhospitable desert.



Yet the population of Egypt has tripled to 80 million today from 27 million in the early 1960s. While the birth rate for an average Egyptian woman has fallen from six children to just over three, it still fuels more than 2 per cent annual growth in the population. At this pace, Egypt`s population will double to 160 million by 2050.





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#4
Great recession not so hard on Canadian jobs




In yet another sign that the financial apocalypse of 2008 was really not so bad for Canada after all, new figures from Statistics Canada show not only fewer jobs lost but the subsequent recovery was also much faster than the last two recessions.







The latest labour force survey data for January 2011 shows it took the country only 27 months to fully recover the more than 400,000 jobs lost in the first year following a peak in October 2008.







This is a year ahead of schedule compared with the 39 months it took for employment to return to pre-recession levels in the early '80s, and more than two years better than the 52 months after the recession of the early '90s.



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#5
Oil surges to US$100 a barrel



North American oil prices roared to US$100 a barrel Wednesday and into the danger zone for the global economy.





Escalating tensions in Libya led to the shutdown of more than a quarter of the African country`s output, according to Reuters calculations, sending West Texas intermediate crude up as much as 5% to a 28-month high. Oil prices are now up about 10% from early February.





While Libya produces just 1.6 million barrels per day, or 2% of world oil output, analysts are beginning to worry the rapid price rise could knock the economic recovery off track.





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#6
Arctic oil back in spotlight amid Libyan turmoil




OTTAWA ` Unrest in the Middle East means the potential oil riches in Arctic areas like Greenland are more important than ever, the island`s premier said Wednesday, criticizing environmental groups that want to hamper exploration.





Greenland, which enjoys self-rule as part of the Kingdom of Denmark, has issued 20 licenses for oil and gas exploration in Baffin Bay on its West coast.





Some estimates put Greenland`s offshore oil reserves at 20 billion barrels.





`There is a very strong focus on the Arctic ... especially nowadays because of the richness of natural resources. The very last days` developments in the Middle East of course put more (emphasis) on this focus,` said Greenland Premier Kuupik Kleist, referring to instability in Libya.





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#7
Alberta offers U.S. safe haven in world of uncertain oil supply




At the height of the crisis earlier this month in Egypt, just a day before Hosni Mubarak succumbed to revolutionary pressures, a group of worried U.S. lawmakers met in a congressional office building just off Capitol Hill to seek answers to a seemingly intractable American problem.




What could be done, finally, to start weaning the United States off foreign oil?




Gary Mar, the Alberta government`s representative in Washington, sat at the witness table ready to offer a solution.




`Our oil comes from a politically stable and democratic neighbour and is sent to the U.S. via pipeline, so it is not affected by political unrest or other disruptions,` Mar told members of the House subcommittee on energy and power during the Feb. 10 hearing.




`I want you to feel confident that when the people who elect you go to a gas station to fill up on their way to soccer practice, or a baseball game, that they`re using a product that came from a friend ` a friend with similar goals and similar values.`





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#8
Banks: When oil hits $120, we're in trouble



LONDON ` Major banks warned on Thursday OPEC needs to act as oil prices near levels that could derail economic recovery and that an output loss from another producer after Libya would lead to global shortages and demand rationing.





Goldman Sachs issued a note saying the world would not be able to cope with another Libya-style oil production outage as Brent oil prices rallied by over US$8.50 a barrel to near US$120 a barrel amid unrest in Libya.





Key Libyan oil player, Italian oil firm ENI, said the OPEC member had lost three quarters of its production.



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#9
Loonie soars to three-year high





The Canadian dollar jumped one-third of a cent to a new three-year high above US$1.02 Friday morning even as oil prices have begun to stabilize on news Saudi Arabia intends to make up any supply disruptions out of Libya.




The loonie touched US$1.0203 at about 8 a.m. ET, its highest level since March 2008. It was $1.0178 at 7:51 MT.




A major driver for this new strength is weakness in the U.S. dollar, Camilla Sutton, currency strategist with Scotia Capital, said in a report Friday.




"The U.S. dollar has managed to weaken in the face of rising risk aversion as rising oil prices are playing into several market fears," she said.




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#10
Northern activity gets boost from pipeline





After almost a decade of regulatory log jams, oil and gas development in the Northwest Territories is set to take off following approval of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline earlier this year.




The department of Indian and Northern Affairs and Northern Development this week posted over one million hectares in the Central Mackenzie Valley and Beaufort Sea in what observers are describing as one of the biggest - if not the biggest - land sales in the NWT in decades.




The postings, which are nominated by anonymous third-party oil companies, are a sure sign that the energy industry is lining up to take a piece of one of the last unexplored frontiers on Earth.




"To have that seven-year long process behind you is a meaningful step," says Henry Sykes, the president of Calgary-based MGM Energy that has been one of the most active companies in the Arctic. "It's looking like this log jam is going to break."




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#11
Average weekly earnings up to $872.12 for the year





OTTAWA ` Average weekly earnings of Canadian employees ` other than farm workers ` rose 4.5 per cent to $872.12 in December from a year earlier, Statistics Canada said Thursday.







"December marked the fifth consecutive month during which year-over-year growth was above four per cent," the federal agency said. "In comparison, average weekly earnings grew by 2.4 per cent from December 2008 to December 2009."







Meanwhile, the number of people on non-farm payrolls rose by 40,900, or 0.3 per cent, in December from the previous month ` the seventh consecutive monthly gain.




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#12
Which province has the highest average wage for workers?





Results taken from December 2010 numbers





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#13
CMHC answers back





This week CMHC has taken a stand, reacting to weeks of buzz and criticism after the release of a report by CD Howe which recommended that government involvement in mortgage insurance be scaled back and that more private players be invited onto the field.








The argument is, that in light of the recent recession and lessons learned from the US housing crisis, Canadian taxpayers could make themselves unnecessary incumbents of this risk.






Adding to the pressure, the Obama administration advised last week that the US government should scale back involvement in backing mortgages as well, turning up the heat north of the Border.



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#14
CREA boosts annual average resale housing forecast





Sales for homes are expected to improve for 2011, and even through to 2012, according to CREA`s upwardly revised forecast.



There was greater momentum than expected in the last half of 2010 and the forecast has been adjusted accordingly, crediting a sustained increase in consumer confidence and a generally improving economic outlook.









`The hand-off going into 2011, together with the highs and lows for sales activity posted in 2010, provided guidance for CREA`s revised forecast,` said Gregory Klump, CREA Chief Economist.






`Home buyers recognize that low mortgage interest rates represent a once in a lifetime opportunity. At the same time, they expect that rates will rise, so they`re doing their homework in order to understand what it could mean in terms of higher mortgage payments down the road before they make an offer,` said Georges Pahud, CREA President. `The housing market and buyer psychology is different now than it was at the beginning of last year, so buyers and sellers would do well to consult their REALTORÂ to understand local market trends.`





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#15
Market value vs. lending value: Why are they different





We often are asked to explain why there is a difference between market value, the price a willing buyer and seller negotiate and the lending value - the value a lender and CMHC use to determine your maximum mortgage amount. The obvious question being: `Shouldn`t they be the same?` The lending value is typically less due to a number of reasons. The easiest way to clarify this is to break down the standard underwriting criteria used by most lending institutions and CMHC.





Revenue





Lenders will take the existing rent roll at the time of application and multiply the total monthly rental revenue by 12 to determine the gross annual rental income. They will sometimes include future guideline and above guideline increases if proper notice has been given to the tenants and the increases take place prior to the funding of the mortgage. Borrowers often expect to use projected income, however lenders and CMHC will not typically consider potential increases that may or may not occur after the funding of a mortgage.





Laundry income is usually based on the amount disclosed on the owner`s financial statement. If an owner cannot support the amount of laundry income, the rule of thumb is $15 per unit per month. A landlord who wants to maximize his or her valuation for lending purposes should make sure they properly disclose laundry revenue on financial statements.





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#16
"3G" countries that will win the future





Forget the BRICs and other fancy emerging market acronyms.






In a monster new report, Citi economist Willem Buiter introduces a group of countries he calls the 3G countries. 3G stands for "Global Growth Generators":




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#17
MLS: The most reliable source of real estate information





Housing market information originating from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) has long been recognized as the most reliable and comprehensive data available for those looking to buy or sell a home.




The strength of this more than 60-year-old system rests in the quality and accuracy of the information. Government, economists, financial institutions, appraisers and others all rely on MLS data. This is because Realtors who submit the listing information, and MLS staff at real estate boards who conduct quality control, are trained and educated in the complexities of real estate.




"Using the MLS gives unmatched exposure to properties for sale," says Jake Moldowan, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. "If you're selling your home, a listing on MLS will be shared with other Realtors for the broadest distribution possible. If you're buying a home, MLS will have the largest pool of homes to choose from.




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#18
Economist Intelligence Unit releases Best Cities to Live in Report





Nearly all of the world's best cities are in Australia or Canada.





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#19
House prices for major Canadian cities




Teranet-National Bank House Price Index measures house prices in six Canadian cities, and eliminates variations based on the type of properties sold (for example, during downturns, smaller properties tend to trade more, pulling down the average price more quickly than house prices are actually decreasing). It includes only houses that have been sold more than once.



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#20
Canada near top in integrating immigrants, survey says




Canada`s integration policies rank just short of the best in the world, according to a major international survey of Europe and North America.




Canada place third behind Sweden and Portugal on the latest Migrant Integration Policy Index, a benchmark European study that measures a range of indicators, from political engagement and paths to citizenship to public education.



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