Thursday, January 29, 2009



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Friday, January 23, 2009

Central bank projects growth in late '09

Alia McMullen, National Post

Published: Friday, January 23, 2009

Chris Wattie, ReutersBank of Canada governor Mark Carney yesterday said a quick economic recovery is expected because the country entered the recession with lower unemployment than in previous years.
Canada likely will begin to emerge from recession by the middle of this year, the Bank of Canada said yesterday amid signs the paralyzed financial system has begun to respond to the extensive actions by the world's governments and central banks.
However, unemployment problems are expected to persist. "Stabilization of the global financial system is a pre-condition for economic recovery," Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, said at a press briefing in Ottawa yesterday.
He said governments and central banks around the world continued to introduce "bold" measures to address the financial crisis and that there were signs these measures were "starting to gain traction."
These signs included a reduction in global credit spreads and a drop in Canadian mortgage rates.
In an update to its October Monetary Policy Report, the central bank said yesterday the country is in a worse recession than previously thought, but its duration would be shorter and the recovery process faster than the past two downturns.
The Bank of Canada forecast the economy to contract 1.2% in 2009, much worse than the 0.6% decline it predicted in October. However, it expects growth to resume in the second half of this year, and rebound to 3.8% in 2010.
It said the current recession, which started in the fourth quarter of 2008, would last nine months, making it shorter than the downturn of the early 1980s, which dragged out for 18 months, as well as that of the early 1990s, which lasted one year.
For some economists, the Bank of Canada's predictions appear overly optimistic.
"There's significant room for the Bank to be disappointed by the coming data, which may yet prompt further [monetary policy] easing," said Benjamin Reitzes, an economist at BMO Capital Markets.
James Marple, an economist at TD Financial Group, had similar reservations and said the Bank would likely need to cut interest rates to 0.5% when it next meets in March, and keep rates low right into 2010.
"In our view, the recovery in the Canadian economy is likely to be more protracted and the growth rebound will not likely be quite as robust in 2010," Mr. Marple said.
Mr. Carney said the quick recovery was expected because Canada entered the recession with lower unemployment and a stronger fiscal position than in previous years.
He said the Bank of Canada's interest rate cuts, which have lopped 3.5 percentage points from the key rate since December, 2007, would also be "very stimulative."
On Tuesday, the central bank cut the benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point to 1%.
He said the federal government's 2009 budget, due on Tuesday, would also stimulate consumption and investment. "We do expect a substantial fiscal package in Canada," he said.
Economists agreed with the Bank of Canada that many Canadians would continue to grapple with unemployment throughout 2009. Mr. Carney said the economy would begin to recover before the job market because it would take some time for businesses to build up new orders, use excess inventories and regain the confidence to hire again.
"People are going to lose their jobs, the unemployment rate is going to rise, and it is going to take longer to find a job in that situation, whether you want to change jobs or whether you've lost your job and you want to return to work."
Mr. Carney would not estimate a peak for the unemployment rate, but said it would not be as high as in the early 1990s' recession. The unemployment rate, which rose to 6.6% as of December, reached 11.4% in 1993, Statistics Canada figures show.

Friday, January 16, 2009



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Tough times can turn homeowners into landlords

By Melissa Kossler Dutton

When Dave and Gina Schudi of Phoenix went house hunting last year, they knew the time was right to buy - not sell - a home.
So when they did purchase a new one, they rented out their old home. "It all depends on the market," said Dave Schudi, who plans to sell the old house eventually. "We've got good renters in there."
Falling house prices and a slow market are forcing more homeowners to consider renting their properties.
It's something Tampa, Fla., realtor Julia Vakulenko suggests to potential clients.
"Basically, we ask all the people who contact us, 'Must you sell it right now?"' she said. "Most likely, it will just sit there or maybe sell below the market value."
For many, the role of landlord is something they'd never considered. If done right, however, renting out a home can help the owner ride out the housing slump, said Vakulenko, of But the process does require doing some research, said Vakulenko, who owns five rental properties.
She often refers clients to property management companies who can determine what their home would rent for and whether there's a market for it. Homeowners are often disappointed to learn that their home would rent for less than their mortgage payment, added John Nuzzolese, president of the Landlord Protection Agency in East Meadow, N.Y.
"Whether it's for sale or for rent, it's only worth what people are willing to pay for it," he said. "People have to be realistic and put themselves in the tenants' shoes."
Real estate analyst Danielle Babb often sends people to to see what the going rent is in their area. The website allows users to see what comparable properties in the area charge.
Once you've set a rent range, determine your demographic - students, families, young professionals - and market the house to them, said Babb, author of "The Accidental Landlord" (Penguin Group, 2008). Babb, who has owns 27 rental properties, wrote the book after watching friends and colleagues trying to rent out houses they couldn't sell.
"You've got to think like a renter. There's lots of availability," she said. "They're going to choose the most exciting option."
Babb, Nuzzolese and Vakulenko offered the following suggestions for homeowners who are considering renting their home:
-Familiarize yourself with local laws dealing with rental properties. It's important to understand the eviction process, how to handle security deposits and what type of access you have to the property once it's rented.
-Determine whether you want to select the tenant and handle property issues or hire a company to do it. If you take on the responsibility, you are obliged to fix any problems (leaky faucets, broken furnace, etc.) or find professionals to do it.
-Develop a rental application. Ask questions on the application that will help you quickly determine whether you want this person for a tenant. Consider asking about pets, smoking and employment, for example.
-Ask for references. Call former landlords and ask about the person's rental history. Verify that the references listed are really landlords and not the applicant's friends posing as landlords.
-Screen potential tenants. Once you've narrowed your field of potential tenants, hire a service to run a criminal and financial background check on the applicants. Be wary of tenants with previous evictions or bankruptcies
-Consult with a lawyer or your provincial landlord-tenant boards before writing a lease. A well-written lease is crucial to protect your property. It will help you evict a tenant or hold them accountable for damage if necessary.
-Collect a security deposit equal to one month's rent. This will help cover any damage to the property and protect you if a tenant moves without paying rent.
-Perform a walk-through of the property with the tenant before he or she moves in. During the walk-through, make notes and take photos of any property damage such as chips in the tile, spots on carpeting, etc. You and the tenant should sign the paper as an acknowledgement of what condition the property was in at the start of the lease.
- Check on the property. Drive by at least once a month and look for signs of trouble such as garbage in the yard, extra cars in the driveway, or excessive wear and tear. Make arrangements to walk through the property three months into the lease to see how well the tenant is caring for it. (Make sure you give the proper notice required for entering the property.)
-Do not accept partial rent payments. Accepting money from tenants who are not paying the full rent can make it more difficult to evict them.

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Friday, January 2, 2009


Photo by Lumatic

How the financial experts see 2009
Posted in the Calgary Herald
December 31, 2008

Jack ablin, chief investment officer, harris Private Bank - deflation forces could give way to monetary and fiscal stimulus sooner than expected; - high-quality bonds offer a relatively attractive yield as a conservative play, but investors should stay in shorter maturities; - Stocks are cheap on a multi-year basis, but investors need to focus on price-to-sales, not price-to-earnings; - The reflation trade should benefit stocks, real estate investment trusts and commodities, and high-yield bonds; - High-yield, fixed-income is the only asset class that pays you handsomely while you wait; - attractive sectors: health care, staples, utilities, energy, telecom; - Unattractive sectors: materials, industrials.
Andrew Busch, BMO Capital markets, global FX market strategist - the u.s. Federal re-serve will move away from cutting interest rates to a serious quantitative easing program by continuing to expand their balance sheet. the Fed's first big steps down this path has been the announced program to purchase up to $500 billion us in mortgage-backed securities; - Congress will extend loans to the private sector by forcing banks receiving new relief funds to lend; - unfortunately, the white house providing $17.4 billion us in bailout funds to the auto industry won't resolve their problems and the markets are very likely to force the issue by pushing their stocks to new lows. this will necessitate another round of loans amid restructuring that will see layoffs rise; - the incoming obama administration will propose and Congress will pass a massive stimulus program. the total program will certainly be over $500 billion us and may eventually reach $800 billion to $1 trillion us; - thehousing sector will stabilize and this will stabilize the credit markets. already, housing starts and building permits have fallen to levels that should sharply reduce the inventory of unsold homes which drives the number of foreclosures. we should see dramatic improvement in housing inventories by mid-2009.
Bart melek, Bmo Capital markets, global commodity strategist - sharp global slowdown and the quest for cash derail commodities. the onset of a recession in the world's highly industrialized nations and a material slowdown in the developing world is projected to erode demand for commodities ranging from copper to metallurgical coal to oil, keeping prices depressed for over a year; - gold should remain relatively healthy, but a full, sustainable rally is unlikely in the near term due to considerable global disinflationary pressures and possible additional aggressive interest rate cuts by central banks; - Beyond 2009, low interest rates and aggressive government spending (coming from China and the g-7) are projected to place demand growth on a firmer footing. difficult credit conditions and the unsustainably low-price environment for commodities such as copper and oil is expected to reduce current supply, eventually causing tight markets and higher prices; - in the long term, Bmo projects gold, base metals and energy are likely to get significant support from a weakening u. s. trade-weighted dollar and higher-trend inflation.
douglas Porter, deputy chief economist, Bmo nesbitt Burns - the global recession will extend through the first half of 2009 as the credit crisis runs its course, before growth recovers
modestly in the second half of the year; - the u. s. faces its worst recession in the postwar era as consumers strive to rebuild savings amid unprecedented wealth destruction. an expected modest recovery starting late in the year depends on an expected sizable fiscal stimulus plan; - Canada will suffer its first recession in 17 years as a result of falling exports to the u. s. and declining investment in the resource sector amid plunging commodity prices. a modest recovery should begin in the second half of the year; - the Fed is expected to keep overnight rates near zero in 2009. meanwhile, the Bank of Canada is expected to reduce overnight rates to new half-century lows; - the Canadian dollar could weaken a bit further to below 80 cents us in the first half of 2009 as commodity prices remain under pressure, but is expected to rebound above 85 cents us later in the year; - the global economy may grow by just one per cent in 2009, marking the slowest year for global growth since the early 1980s; - oil to average $45 us a barrel in 2009.
Paul taylor, chief investment officer, Bmo harris Private Banking - the subprime credit crisis of the fall of 2008 will continue to exert pressure on corporate balance sheets, both within and outside of the financial-services industry; - Policy-makers worldwide will remain vigilant in taking steps to reflate the global economy to stimulate consumers and investors to spend and invest rather than to hoard assets; - stocks will rally meaningfully in advance of a turn in the economic outlook. although the visibility on the duration of this down cycle is not high, an economic recovery is expected to be apparent by the latter part of 2009; - Canadian companies in the commodity sectors will register double-digit earnings declines. the Canadian dollar will struggle to firm against the u. s. dollar and against other major currencies as long as commodity prices remain weak.


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The firm uses materials like bamboo and eco-resin to be eco-friendly and to create fixtures that will complete and enhance your environment.
The company's latest design is a new fixture called Pomegranate (picture provided below) made of eco-resin and available in different colours and sizes.


Market for office space holds up
New Projects Coming
Eric Beauchesne, Canwest News Service

Published: Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Office space in Canada's major cities is still relatively tight, putting the market in good shape to weather the recession, though Calgary and Toronto face more challenging times than others, according to a report yesterday by the Canadian arm of a global real-estate firm.
"Canada's office market is well positioned going into the projected recession, thanks to its strong performance during recent years that drove vacancy rates down to historically low levels and continued to drive rents higher through 2008," said Colliers International in Canada in its report on office space in six major Canadian cities -- Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
"These strong market indicators, coupled with a limited supply of new office space in most markets, will help the office market to weather the current economic slowdown," the report said.
However, because of the long lead time on new real-estate developments, this means that several million square feet of new office space will be coming on the market in difficult times in Toronto and Calgary, posing additional challenges in those markets, cautioned Ian MacCulloch, vice-president, research, with Colliers International in Canada. Unlike the trend elsewhere, office vacancy rates in Calgary have been on the rise over the past year, the report noted.
The global economic slowdown, which has driven down the price of oil and hurt the Canadian energy sector, is expected to have a ripple effect on the demand for office space in Calgary, where vacancy rates have been on the rise over the past year, it noted.
"Similarly, yet for reasons related to the financial sector, the Toronto office market is expected to share the same future," Colliers said.
While the vacancy rate in Toronto declined over the past year and rents continued to escalate, softening demand due to weak economic conditions plus the new space coming on stream will pose challenges for some of the prestigious towers in the city's financial district during 2009 and 2010, it said.
The markets for office space in the other four cities are expected to weather the recession better.
Without any significant new projects planned in Vancouver's downtown area until at least 2012, that market is in a good position to mitigate challenging economic conditions, the report said, noting that another positive factor is the 2010 Olympic Games, which has created demand for office space.
The market in Edmonton, like Calgary, will be hurt by the slump in oil prices, but a relatively low vacancy rate should provide some stability in the months to come, Colliers said.
Ottawa, like Calgary, saw a rise in its vacancy rate over the past 12 months, but the market is expected to remain solid thanks to the stabilizing presence of the federal government, although a slight increase in vacancies is expected, due primarily to new supply and some space-juggling before it is absorbed relatively quickly, by both the private and public sectors.
The market in Montreal is expected to hold steady, with no new supply of space coming on market and a drop in the vacancy rate.
Meanwhile, another factor that will drive office vacancy rates upward in some cities is the emergence of underutilized space held by companies, Mr. MacCulloch said.
"While the economy flourished, tenants tended to snap up additional space that became available in their buildings to accommodate future growth," he noted. "However, as the economic conditions continue to deteriorate, companies will look for ways to adjust operating expenses, releasing this underutilized office space back to the market in the form of sublets."
That will at least temporarily boost vacancy rates, he added.


Photo by Jason's Travel Photography

Concern for North America house prices
Garry Marr, Financial Post

Published: Tuesday, December 30, 2008

House prices continue to plummet in the United States but consensus in Canada is the impact of the downturn will not be as severe here.
Home prices in 20 major U.S. cities are now falling faster than at any point on record, hit hard by increasing foreclosures and slumping sales.
The S&P/Case-Shiller index declined 18% in October from a year ago after dropping 17.4% in September. The gauge has fallen every month since January, 2007.
House prices have been falling fast in Canada, as well. The Canadian Real Estate Association, which represents 100 real estate boards across the country, said this month that average price of a Canadian home sold in November was down 9.8% from a year ago.
Canadian housing sales also hit a seven-year low last month, according to CREA. It said there were 27,743 sales in November on a seasonally adjusted basis, the lowest monthly level since January, 2001. It was a 12.3% decline from a month earlier.
Michael Gregory, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets, said despite the slowdown in Canada "we won't even come close" to what is happening in the United States.
He pointed to stronger employment numbers and income growth here as well as banking system that "continues to make mortgages" available to Canadian consumers.
But he cautioned if unemployment numbers rise in Canada, there will be a larger fallout for the Canadian housing market. "Anyway you slice it, if you don't have a job, you can't get a mortgage and you can't buy a house."
How bad the market in Canada is depends on who you talk to. Some Canadian commentators have called for the creation of a S&P/Case-Shiller index here. It is based on tracking repeat sales of single family homes.
CREA has said the Canadian number is skewed by the fact houses are not selling as fast this year as in 2007 in some of the more expensive markets like Vancouver. Using a weighted national average price for sales on the Multiple Listings Service, it said prices fell only 4.7% last month.
Ted Zaharko, who owns Royal LePage Foothills Real Estate Services in Calgary, says Canadians are following the U.S. too closely and expecting the same market conditions to happen here.
While prices and sales continue to fall in Calgary, he figures the market has bottomed out in the city which surpassed Toronto as the second most expensive place to buy a home during this housing cycle.
"We have people putting ridiculous offers in on a home and nobody is selling. People are saying 'l'll wait for prices to drop.' It's not going to happen," says Mr. Zaharko. Prices were down 4.2% in Calgary in November from a year ago, according to CREA.
The U.S. survey found all 20 cities with decreasing prices in October, led by a 33% drop in Phoenix and a 32% in Las Vegas. The 20-city index is down 23% from its 2006 peak.
"We're seeing a shift to a housing market that is driven by a poor economy rather than a housing market that's driven by oversupply," said Guy Lebas, chief economist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia. "The credit problems that hit in October exacerbated the speed of it."