The 'frankly astonishing' lost decade on the Toronto stock market. (Now, if you'd bought a house in 2008 …) - Canadanewsmedia
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The 'frankly astonishing' lost decade on the Toronto stock market. (Now, if you'd bought a house in 2008 …)

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Briefing highlights

  • The TSX’s lost decade
  • Global markets mixed so far, Europe down
  • New York poised for weaker open
  • Canadian dollar just above 76 cents
  • GE slashes dividend, to split power unit
  • What to watch for today
  • Facebook earnings in focus
  • Airlines cut ties to SeaWorld

Lost decade

These past 10 days have not been kind to the Toronto stock market.

For that matter, these past 10 years or so have not been kind to the Toronto stock market.

It has truly been a lost decade for Canada’s benchmark S&P/TSX Composite Index, which cracked 15,000 in mid-2008 and now sits below that mark in late 2018.

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Of late, of course, Canadian stocks have been caught up in the global rout. Or, as Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter put it in a report, the TSX missed out on the U.S. stock rally earlier this year, but has “fully participated” in the selloff.

But the 10-year look is nothing short of disheartening for investors as the TSX, which climbed back from the depths of the financial crisis to hit a record above 16,500 in July, only to sink again, putting us right back where we started from, to borrow from that old song.

Of course, total TSX returns have topped 38 per cent since mid-June, 2008, added Kevin Gopaul, head of BMO Asset Management Canada.

You’re sitting pretty now if you happened to invest in early 2009, but “it’s frankly astonishing that the Canadian equity market has made no net progress in more than a decade,” Mr. Porter added in an interview.

You’re also sitting pretty if you happened to invest in a house in May, 2008. Prettier still, if that house happened to be in Vancouver or Toronto.

Obviously, it’s not a direct comparison.

Nonetheless, Canadian home prices are now up by almost 72 per cent since that date, according to the Teranet-National Bank house price index. Vancouver prices are up 95 per cent, and Toronto prices by almost 115 per cent.

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“There are any number of factors behind Toronto’s weak relative performance over the past decade, but the market’s structure stands right near the top of the list – i.e., a heavy weight on commodities, which have been out of favour for much of that spell, and a feather-light weight on tech, which was the pre-October market darling,” Mr. Porter said of the TSX.

“While not assigning ‘blame,’ Canada’s competitiveness position has provided little help,” he added.

“Even as marginal corporate and personal income taxes have been trending lower (or plummeting in the U.S. case) in much of the rest of the world, Canada’s have been erratically drifting upward.”

Which gives Finance Minister Bill Morneau a “prime opportunity” to “shift that trend” in his late November fiscal update, Mr. Porter said.

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Stocks mixed

Global markets are mixed so far, with New York poised for a weaker open.

Tokyo’s Nikkei gained 1.5 per cent, and the Shanghai Composite 1 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.9 per cent.

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In Europe, London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were down by between 0.3 and 0.8 per cent just as North America was starting to get up and running.

New York futures were down.

“The FTSE 100 is fighting to hold on to some of its early gains, while across the Channel, European indices have already given up the fight and are moving lower,” said IG chief market analyst Chris Beauchamp.

“Each time it looks like markets have bottomed out, the selling starts again,” he added.

“[Yesterday’s] session in the U.S. sends a signal that the volatility is not going away any time soon, and while a rush of buying late in the day saw the Dow rally off the lows, the overnight bounce is already fading.”

The Canadian dollar was just above 76 US cents.

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GE cuts dividend, to split power unit

General Electric’s new chief executive officer is taking aggressive steps, cutting its dividend and breaking up its power unit.

GE said today it would slash its quarterly payout to just 1 US cent from 12 US cents, allowing the company to retain US$3.9-billion a year in cash.

It also said it would restructure its power unit, breaking it into two, one of which would ber a “unified gas business” combined with its existing gas product and services operations.

“After my first few weeks on the job, it’s clear to me that GE is a fundamentally strong company with a talented team and great technology,” CEO Lawrence Culp said in a statement.

“However, our results are far from our full potential. We will heighten our sense of urgency and increase accountability across the organization to deliver better results.”

This came as GE took a non-cash impairment hit of US$22-billion on the power business, posting a quarterly loss of almost US$23-billion or US$2.62 a share.

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What to watch for today

Markets will be watching for hints of the next Bank of Canada rate hike as governor Stephen Poloz and senior deputy Carolyn Wilkins address the Commons finance committee.

Bank of Canada senior deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins and governor Stephen Poloz

Chris Wattie/Reuters

Remember, they and their central bank colleagues raised their benchmark overnight rate to 1.75 per cent last week, and investors are now speculating whether the next move comes in December or early next year.

And given the focus on tech stocks, investors will also be watching as Facebook Inc. reports on its latest quarter.

Facebook’s reputation “has become a little tarnished as concerns over user privacy have started to become more mainstream,” said CMC Markets chief analyst Michael Hewson, citing CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s appointment of a former British deputy prime minster to the position of head of global communications.

That move “certainly raised a few eyebrows, but would appear to show that Facebook wants to try and get the inside track on how politics in Europe works in order to try and shape any new regulation that may be coming its way,” Mr. Hewson said.

“The shares are down over 25 per cent from their summer highs on concerns that the recent bad publicity has caused users to dial down the amount of time they spend online.”

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Canada Post issues new offer to employees as eBay pressures Ottawa to end strikes

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Striking Canada Post workers picket at the South Central sorting facility in Toronto on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

OTTAWA — Canada Post has issued what it calls a “time-limited” contract offer to its employees in hopes of ending rotating strikes that have created a historic backlog of undelivered parcels.

The offer Wednesday to members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers came just hours after online sales and auctioning giant eBay called on the federal government to legislate an end to the contract dispute.

The Crown corporation’s four-year offer includes annual two-per-cent wage hikes, plus signing bonuses of up to $1,000 per employee.

The proposal, which the agency said was worth roughly $650 million, also contains new job-security provisions, including for rural and suburban carriers who have complained about precarious employment, and a $10-million health-and-safety fund.

But Canada Post said the offer was only viable if it can be agreed to before the holiday shopping rush. It has imposed a deadline of Nov. 17 for Canadian Union of Postal Workers members to accept the deal.

“This measure is to ensure we can reach a just-in-time resolution and deliver for Canadians ahead of the holiday rush,” the Crown corporation said in an email.

“The time limit is necessary as this offer is only affordable if we can clear the backlogs caused by the union’s strike activity and effectively deliver the quickly arriving massive Black Friday and Cyber Monday volumes.”

The head of eBay Canada sent a letter to the prime minister late Tuesday, urging him to force an end to the labour dispute. Andrea Stairs, eBay’s general manager for Canada, also warned that quick action was needed to ensure retailers don’t lose out on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

“I encourage the government to explore all available legislative solutions to alleviate the current situation,” Stairs wrote in the letter, which was also sent to Labour Minister Patty Hajdu and Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough.

Continued rotating strikes at Canada Post will result in significant losses for small and medium-sized businesses across the country, Stairs warned, noting that smaller firms are unable to negotiate lower shipping fees with other delivery services.

While many businesses have adapted as best they can since the strikes began on Oct. 22, Stairs said adjustments online sellers have made so far to avoid delivery disruptions are unsustainable.

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday are critical sales opportunities for Canadian small and micro retailers, particularly those that sell into the U.S. — the largest consumer market in the world,” she wrote.

“Should the Canada Post service disruptions continue through this key retail moment, these (smaller businesses) will be seriously disadvantaged in competing for U.S. demand.”

Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are annual shopping days known for their deep discounts, fall this year on Nov. 23 and 26.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned last week that his government would look at “all options” to bring the Canada Post labour dispute to an end if there was no significant progress in contract talks. Trudeau did not elaborate on what actions could be taken, although the previous Conservative government passed legislation to end a two-week lockout of postal employees in 2011.

A spokeswoman for Hajdu said Wednesday the government recognizes Canadians and small businesses rely on the postal service, and encouraged corporate and union negotiators to keep talking.

“We urge both parties to reach a deal soon to reduce the impacts to Canadians, businesses, Canada Post and their workers,” Veronique Simard wrote in an email.

Canada Post said Wednesday it was facing an unprecedented backlog of shipments and warned the situation could escalate quickly.

Postal union members picketed in Toronto on Tuesday for the third time in the past two weeks. The latest job action in Toronto was over by Wednesday morning, but the shutdown added to the backlog of items already waiting to be sorted and shipped, said Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton.

“We have now surpassed 260 trailers of parcels and packets waiting to be unloaded,” Hamilton wrote in an email, referring to the Gateway parcel processing plant in Toronto.

“The union just took down their pickets but we are backed up beyond anything we’ve ever seen in our history. With Toronto out on strike, we also missed two days of customer pickups, which will likely push that trailer total over 300 today.”

The previous peak for backlogged trailers reached 220 during last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping period, he said.

The union is negotiating contracts for 50,000 of its members in two divisions — urban carriers and rural and suburban workers. It said Tuesday that Canada Post had failed to address key issues, including health and safety, staffing levels and job security.

The two sides have been negotiating for almost a full year, with little success despite the assistance of government-appointed mediators.

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Canopy takes cautious approach to legal pot; posts loss, shares slide

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Section grower Corey Evans walks between flowering marijuana plants at the Canopy Growth Corp. facility in Smiths Falls, Ont., on Jan. 4, 2018.

Chris Wattie

Part of cannabis and investing

Canopy Growth Corp., Canada’s largest cannabis producer, saw its sales slide and its losses widen in the quarter that immediately preceded the launch of the legal recreational marijuana market.

Shares in the Smiths Falls, Ont.-based grower plunged more than 10 per cent Wednesday after the company revealed a $330-million net loss on revenue of $23-million in the quarter ended Sept. 30, an 11-per-cent drop in revenue from the previous quarter.

Co-chief executive Bruce Linton said the company took a deliberately cautious approach to the legalization of recreational cannabis on Oct. 17 – a tack that likely had a negative effect on sales. Just $700,000 of the company’s quarterly revenue came from deliveries to the recreational market – to stock shelves ahead of legalization. Canopy said it prioritized wholesale shipments to markets in Alberta and Quebec, which have bricks-and-mortar retail outlets, over online-only operations such as Ontario. He said Canopy stocked retailers with mostly flower to start, before expanding to soft-gel capsules and now prerolled joints, a category that proved to be among the most popular with consumers in the early days of legalization.

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The focus, Mr. Linton said, is on the long term.

“We want to be like a sustaining, winning race rather than a flash out of the gate,” he said on a call with analysts Wednesday.

Canopy is the third of the sector’s largest firms to report earnings this week, joining Aurora Cannabis Inc. and Tilray Inc. Together, the three companies – valued collectively at almost $30-billion – booked $66-million in total revenue and operating losses of $353-million.

Analysts had predicted that cannabis growers would sell more than they did in September to the recreational market, which launched two weeks after the reporting period ended. They expected Canopy to show revenue of as much as $91-million, according to a research note by Cowen Inc.

“It’s the first [time] in our history that I’m aware of where we actually had a slowdown,” Mr. Linton said, attributing the sales dip to lower medical sales in Canada and Germany. “But it was more of a distraction than a pattern.”

Canopy’s stock tumbled 10.9 per cent Wednesday in New York, falling to US$34.30 a share. Investors were dumping other pot stocks, too: Tilray fell 8.3 per cent, Aurora’s shares were down 8 per cent, and Aphria Inc. dropped 7.4 per cent

Despite supply issues plaguing the industry as a whole, Canopy is not low on product. As of Sept. 30, its inventory levels grew to 31,214 kilograms of cannabis flower, 21,499 litres of oil and 1,497 kilograms of soft-gel pills. That inventory and large production footprint may put Canopy “ahead of many other licensed producers (LPs) in its ramp and ability to supply adult-use channels,” analysts at BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. wrote Wednesday. “We believe there is significant uncertainty for the industry’s ramp schedules.”

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But accelerating for recreational sales and overseas expansion isn’t coming cheap. Canopy posted operating losses of $215-million for the quarter. It took a net write-off of $16-million related to culling plants because it didn’t have a processing licence at one of its facilities.

Canopy is aiming to capture a 30-per-cent share of Canada’s recreational market. “Now, it’s crank time,” Mr. Linton said. “And the provinces are starting to gain their momentum as well.”

Available now: Cannabis Professional, the authoritative e-mail newsletter tailored specifically for professionals in the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Subscribe now.

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Canada Post issues new offer to employees as eBay calls on feds to end strikes

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Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press</span>


Published Wednesday, November 14, 2018 4:43PM EST


Last Updated Wednesday, November 14, 2018 5:13PM EST

OTTAWA — Canada Post has issued what it calls a "time-limited" contract offer to its employees in hopes of ending rotating strikes that have created a historic backlog of undelivered parcels.

The offer came just hours after online sales and auctioning giant eBay called on the federal government to legislate an end to the Canada Post contract dispute.

The Crown corporation’s four-year offer, provided to The Canadian Press, includes annual two-per-cent wage hikes, plus signing bonuses of up to $1,000 per employee.

The $650-million proposal also includes new job-security provisions, including for rural and suburban carriers who have complained about precarious employment, and a $10-million health-and-safety fund.

But Canada Post says it’s only affordable if it can be agreed to before the holiday shopping rush, so it has imposed a deadline of Saturday, Nov. 17 for Canadian Union of Postal Workers members to accept the deal.

The prime minister warned last week that his government would look at "all options" to bring the labour dispute to an end if there was no significant progress in Canada Post’s contract talks with the union.

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