Go west, young man, but you’ll be pinched by Alberta rents

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.

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Go west, young man?
The west may be where the jobs are, but you’ll pay fast-rising rents to live there.

BMO Nesbitt Burns today parsed the numbers from last week’s report on inflation from Statistics Canada, and found that rental costs are moving rapidly higher in Alberta.

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“Rents in Alberta rose at a 3.1-per-cent year-over-year clip in September, the fastest pace in more than five years and well ahead of the 1.5-per-cent year-over-year national rate,” said senior economist Robert Kavcic.

“Calgary leads, up 3.4 per cent in the past year, while Edmonton is rising at a strong clip as well, up 2.8 per cent year-over-year – both cities appear to be building just enough (or a tad less) to meet strong population growth,” he said in a research note.

“However, with oil prices slumping, GDP growth set to downshift (but still lead the country) and migration flows potentially slowing a tad, rent growth in Alberta could eventually level off. And that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.”

Markets up
Tokyo aside, global markets made big strides today, buoyed by the latest measure of China’s economy and reports of fresh stimulus planned by the European Central Bank.

“Global financial markets are breathing a sigh of relief (as did I, admittedly, as I awaited the release of these numbers last night) after China’s economic data releases didn’t reveal any signs of a sharp downturn,” said senior economist Jennifer Lee of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

“Indeed, markets were trading lower ahead of the release, in anticipation of a negative result.”

Tokyo’s Nikkei lost 2 per cent after a sharp rise yesterday, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng eked out a gain just shy of 0.1 per cent.

In Europe, London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by between 1.7 per cent and 2.3 per cent.

In North America, the SP 500, Dow Jones industrial average and Toronto’s SP/TSX composite all gained sharply.

“The SP 500 is a bit less than 4 per cent below its highs for the year at this point,” said economists at Bank of Nova Scotia.

“It’s as though equity markets have asked ‘what sell-off?’”

World mourns deaths of two big players
Two industry captains are being mourned this morning: Christophe de Margerie and Oscar de la Renta.

As our European correspondent Eric Reguly reports, Mr. de Margerie, the larger-than-life CEO of Total SA, died this morning when the landing gear of his business jet hit a snow removal machine on takeoff from Moscow’s Vnukovo airport.

Mr. de la Renta, who over the course of five decades was fashion designer to the stars, died yesterday after a bout with cancer.

Yahoo gains
Shares of Yahoo Inc. climbed in after-hours action today as chief executive officer Marissa Mayer boasted of a “good, solid third quarter.”

The stock was up by almost 3 per cent within about 30 minutes of the earnings release, having bounced around.

Yahoo profit surged to $6.8-billion (U.S.), or $6.70 a share, from $296.7-million a year earlier. When you strip out what’s paid to partner websites, revenue rose to $1.09-billion from $1.08-billion

The third quarter’s fat profit, of course, included a hefty gain from the sale of part of Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba Group’s initial public offering.

Adjusted, profit was 52 cents versus 34 cents, and well above what analysts had expected.

“We achieved this revenue growth through strong growth in our new areas of investment – mobile, social, native and video – despite industry headwinds in some of our large, legacy businesses,” Ms. Mayer said.

What to make of China’s numbers?
Beijing today bested market expectations by reporting economic growth of 7.3 per cent in the third quarter of the year, compared to a year earlier.

Economists had projected growth of 7.2 per cent.

Still, it’s the slowest pace in several years from one of the economies that is supposed to help buoy the rest of the world.

China also reported better-than-expected numbers on industrial production, and other data just shy of predictions.

When you put it all together, said Bank of Nova Scotia, it all adds up to the same story.

“Chinese growth is slowing, but not radically enough to merit large scale easing,” said Scotiabank’s Derek Holt, Frances Donald and Dov Zigler, referring to potential measures by the People’s Bank of China.

“There is clearly some downside risk, however, as property prices continue to fall and policy makers pursue reform albeit accompanied by some recent easing of macroprudential rules such as those governing second homes,” they added in a research note.

“The PBOC’s ongoing small and targeted easing measures, such as last week’s [200-billion renminbi] liquidity injection, appears intent on mitigating these risks in the short-term.”

Railway profits jump
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. posted a 26-per-cent rise in third-quarter profit as freight revenues hit a record $1.67-billion, The Globe and Mail’s Eric Atkins reports.

CP, which confirmed yesterday it recently tried but failed to buy Florida-based CSX Corp., said profit for the three months rose to $400-million, or $2.31 a share, diluted, from $324-million or $1.84 a year earlier.

Analysts had expected a profit of $2.39 a share and revenue of $1.7-billion.

“Despite recent volatility in commodity prices, we are confident in the strength of the franchise and are on track to finish the year with CP’s strongest quarter to date,” chief executive officer Hunter Harrison said in a statement.

Rival Canadian National Railway Co. also posted a record third quarter, after markets closed, with profit up to $853-million, or $1.04 a share, from $705-million or $1.05.

Earnings begin to flood in
Other major companies also posted quarterly results today as the third-quarter earnings season picks up this week.

Deal for BlackBerry unlikely
Shares of BlackBerry Ltd. settled lower today after a rally yesterday on rumours of an unlikely takeover of the company by China’s Lenovo Group Ltd.

Shares of the smartphone maker, which is in the midst of a turnaround, surged yesterday after an Internet report suggested a deal could be in the works.

Were it ever to happen, it would have been the second run by Lenovo, having already been rebuffed by the Canadian government.

As The Globe and Mail’s Jacquie McNish writes, nothing has changed on that front, and there are no talks between BlackBerry and Lenovo.

While we’re on the topic, shares of Apple Inc. shares climbed in the wake of the tech giant’s solid earnings report late yesterday.

How can you tell the difference between a Tory and a Liberal?
There’s a fun observation in the Moody’s annual report on Canada: It might be difficult to tell the difference between a Conservative and a Liberal where economic and fiscal policies are concerned.

“Directly relevant to this assessment for the Aaa rating, fiscal discipline has been strong for more than 15 years (although modest budget deficits have been recorded since the 2009 recession), while the Bank of Canada has managed inflation consistently at a low level,” Moody’s Investor Service said yesterday in citing the strengths and weaknesses of the country, and why it’s still rated triple-A.

“In addition, although there have been realignments of the political party configuration, in general economic and fiscal policies have not varied greatly under different ruling parties at the national level.”

Over all, as The Globe and Mail’s David Parkinson reports, Moody’s cited a solid fiscal outlook, though fretted over the high personal debts of Canadian consumers and what it deemed inflated house prices.

But its take on Canadian politics – and that’s a view from New York – was particularly interesting in the run-up to the next election.

The Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, of course, frequently boast of how they brought the country through the meltdown, with a job-creation record that’s the envy of many other countries in the post-crisis era, though unemployment remains high at 6.8 per cent.

Just yesterday, in Beijing, Canada’s Finance Minister, Joe Oliver, noted that the recession killed 62 million jobs across the globe. But, as our Beijing correspondent Nathan VanderKlippe reported, Mr. Oliver boasted of 1.2 million new jobs in Canada since July, 2009, and that “more Canadians are working today than at any time in our history.”

The Liberals under Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, think Canada’s economy could improve on several fronts, as do the opposition New Democrats.

Moody’s looked at the history of all this, and said it believes that, no matter what happens next year, there won’t be that much change on the fiscal front.

“The risk of political events changing Canada’s overall economic or government financial trajectories is assessed as very low,” Moody’s said in the report.

“It is noteworthy that the deficit and debt reduction process that began in the 1990s was under a government of the Liberal party,” it added.

“Nonetheless, this overall process, although disrupted by the global financial crisis, is also the policy of the current Conservative government. While the political outlook remains unclear, with the New Democratic Party as the official opposition, we believe that any party will continue to aim for balanced budgets and, over time, lower debt.”

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