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Bank of Canada sees lingering weakness in business sentiment

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Business sentiment in Canada improved over the summer but remains near historical lows as uncertainty around the path of the virus curbs demand and sales prospects, according to the Bank of Canada.

The results from the autumn Business Outlook Survey show businesses report conditions have improved as warmer weather and lower Covid-19 case counts encouraged consumers to go out and buy goods and services. However, businesses are still worried about future demand and sales prospects with some economic restrictions still in place.

“Firms reported their sales prospects are limited by weak demand and precautionary health guidelines, and that their investment and hiring plans remain Modest due to elevated uncertainty,” the central bank said in the survey, which took place between Aug. 24 and Sept. 16.

The tone of the survey is consistent with the Bank of Canada’s view that a full recovery will be long and difficult. The economy rebounded more quickly than expected in the summer as containment measures were lifted but the second phase of the recovery — known as the “recuperation” phase — will be uneven and protracted.

The composite gauge of sentiment rose to -2.2 in the third quarter, from a decade-low of -6.9 last quarter. While that’s a substantial improvement, the reading is still the second-lowest since 2016.

Although the survey was completed recently, economic conditions have changed as Covid-19 cases rapidly rose, particularly in the country’s two largest provinces. Ontario and Quebec reimposed containment measures on some businesses and activity in recent weeks in response to the second wave which will keep a lid on demand and hamper economic activity through the fall and winter.

More Highlights:

  • Recovery remains uneven across industries: One third of firms reported sales were mostly unaffected or positively affected by COVID‑19; a second third of firms indicated sales have already fully recovered or will recover within the next 12 months; final third either expect their sales won’t return for at least 12 months or are unsure when sales will fully rebound
  • Businesses that say sales won’t recover within a year typically linked to tourism and related industries where physical distancing is difficult
  • Meanwhile, businesses linked to real estate, infrastructure and natural resources have largely recovered or see themselves recovering within a year
  • Capacity constraints appear to be back to historical averages, but the central bank says most firms facing constraints see them as temporary or not broad-based
  • Despite the rebound in the capacity gauge, BOC concludes: “Results for capacity and labor pressures suggest that the economy continues to have excess capacity and labor slack, although these have narrowed since the summer survey”
  • Investment intentions improved from previous quarter, but remain weak — below historical averages
  • Employment intentions have also rebounded, though they remain slightly below historical averages. It’s an uneven trend. “Almost one-third of businesses — generally those that are dependent on tourism or facing weak demand — expect their workforce levels to remain lower than before the pandemic for at least the next 12 months or to never fully return”
  • Wage growth is expected to slow, the survey found
  • Firms expect input prices to grow at a slightly faster pace over the next 12 months, driven by increases in commodity prices, difficulty sourcing inputs, or higher operating costs due to health guidelines
  • Businesses have slightly higher inflation expectations, with 11 per cent of firms expecting inflation above 3 per cent

–With assistance from Erik Hertzberg.

Source:- BNN

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Scotiabank tops forecasts even as profit slips on high loan losses, weaker international showing – The Globe and Mail

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The Bank of Nova Scotia building in Toronto, on May 9, 2019.

Andrej Ivanov

Bank of Nova Scotia’s fiscal fourth-quarter profit fell nearly 18 per cent as provisions for loan losses remained high and profit from its international division fell sharply.

Even so, Scotiabank far outperformed analysts’ expectations, bolstered by rising profits from capital markets and wealth management. The country’s third largest bank is the first to report earnings for the fiscal quarter that ended Oct. 31. Full-year profits declined 22 per cent to $6.85-billion amid the continuing impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In the fourth quarter, Scotiabank earned $1.9-billion, or $1.42 per share. That was down from $2.31-billion, or $1.73 a share in the same quarter last year.

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Adjusted to exclude items, including costs from a series of acquisitions and divestitures, Scotiabank said it earned $1.45 per share. On average, analysts were expecting adjusted earnings per share of $1.21 per share, according to Refinitiv.

Scotiabank kept its quarterly dividend unchanged at 90 cents per share, in keeping with temporary restrictions set by Canada’s banking regulator.

For the full fiscal year, Scotiabank earned $5.30 per share, compared with $6.68 a year ago, a decline of nearly 21 per cent. The bank’s return on equity fell to 11 per cent, from 13.3 per cent in 2019.

In the quarter, the bank added another $1.13-billion in provisions for credit losses – the money banks set aside to cover loans that could go sour. That was an increase of 50 per cent from the same quarter a year ago, but sharply lower than the $2.18-billion in provisions the bank earmarked in the third quarter this year.

The bank attributed the decrease to dimmer economic forecasts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As expected, a large majority of the payment deferrals Scotiabank had granted to customers on mortgages, credit cards, personal loans and business loans expired in the fourth quarter. Deferred balances have fallen 96 per cent from their peak in the second fiscal quarter.

But 35,000 customers accounts in Canada, with loans worth $4.89-billion, are still in deferral. And another 486,000 accounts in the bank’s international operations, which are concentrated in Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia, with a total balance of $6-billion, also still have payments on pause. A majority of those accounts are credit cards, which are unsecured debt, and 90.5 per cent of those accounts are returning to regular payments after deferrals expire.

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Earnings in Scotiabank’s key Canadian banking operations fell 13 per cent to $778-million in the fourth quarter, mostly because of higher provisions for credit losses.

In the bank’s international division, which is concentrated in Latin America, profits plunged 61 per cent to $333-million. Higher provisions for loan losses were compounded by divestitures of operations abroad that reduced some revenues. But chief executive Brian Porter said those efforts to reduce the bank’s exposure to risky foreign markets “have played a significant role in our operational resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” in a statement.

Profits from capital markets improved 14 per cent from the same quarter a year ago, to $460-million, and the bank’s wealth management arm, which has been retooled after a pair of major acquisitions, improved its quarterly profit by 8 per cent year over year to $325-million.

Scotiabank also boosted its capital levels, reporting a common equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio of 11.8 per cent, up from 11.3 per cent in the third quarter. The ratio is considered a key measure of a bank’s resilience, and its ability to absorb losses in a crisis.

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Tesla whistleblower Martin Tripp ordered to pay $400,000 to settle hacking case – The Verge

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Martin Tripp, the former Tesla worker who has been embroiled in a bitter legal battle with CEO Elon Musk for over two years, was ordered to pay his former employer $400,000 after admitting to leaking confidential information to a reporter.

The settlement is intended to bring an end to one of the more sordid stories at Tesla, in which Tripp, a former process technician, locked horns with the billionaire CEO over allegations that Tesla was wasting a “jaw-dropping” amount of raw material as it ramped up production of the Model 3 sedan.

Musk later accused Tripp of “sabotage” and personally ordered investigators to hack Tripp’s phone and spy on his messages. Tesla even misled local police about a potential mass shooting by Tripp at the company’s Nevada factory.

But in the end, Tripp came out on the losing side. The payment is part of a proposed settlement to a lawsuit filed by Tesla in 2018 alleging that Tripp hacked the electric car company’s system and transferred “gigabytes” of data to third parties. As part of the agreement, Tripp admitted to violating laws related to trade secrets and computer crimes when he told a Business Insider reporter that Tesla was wasting a significant amount of raw materials during production of its Model 3.

Tripp also agreed to pay $25,000 to Tesla for continuing to reveal information about the company, despite being ordered to stop by a judge. Tripp had been publishing a large number of documents and videos online, including many under a confidentiality order in the case. In August, Tripp fired his lawyers and set about representing himself in the case. It was also revealed that a Tesla short seller, The Funicular Fund, was financing Tripp’s legal defense.

Earlier this year, a judge dismissed Tripp’s defamation case against Tesla, in which the former technician accused the company of spreading false rumors about him. After Tripp filed for whistleblower status with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk emailed a reporter at The Guardian telling them a tipster had contacted Tesla to say that Tripp might “come back and shoot people,” at the Nevada Gigafactory. The local sheriff determined the threat was not real, but Tesla issued a press release, which was picked up by several media outlets.

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Canada's economy bounced back at record 40% pace in third quarter — but GDP still below pre-COVID level – CBC.ca

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Statistics Canada said Tuesday the economy grew at a record annualized pace of 40.5 per cent in the third quarter as businesses came out of COVID-19 lockdowns.

The previous record for quarterly growth in real gross domestic product was 13.2 per cent in the first quarter of 1965, the agency said.

As historic as the rebound was, it fell short of expectations.

Financial data firm Refinitiv said the average economist estimate was for an annualized growth rate of 47.6 per cent for the quarter.

The rebound over July, August and September was a sharp turnaround from the preceding three-month stretch, which saw a record drop.

Driving the rebound were the further rolling back of public health restrictions that allowed businesses to reopen.

Statistics Canada also said there was a substantial increase in the housing market owing to low interest rates, as well as household spending on goods like cars.

GDP still lower than it was in February

Despite the overall increase, the national statistics office said real gross domestic product still remains shy of where it was before the pandemic.

The third quarter ended with the fifth consecutive monthly increase in real GDP after the steepest monthly drops on record in March and April when widespread lockdowns were instituted to slow the spread of COVID-19.

September saw a 0.8 per cent increase in real GDP, Statistics Canada said, a slight slowing from the 0.9 per cent recorded in August.

The agency also provided a preliminary estimate for October’s figures, saying early indicators point to a 0.2 per cent increase in the month. The figure will be finalized at the end of this month.

“The fourth quarter of 2020 is still beginning with some growth, though less than we had anticipated,” CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes wrote in a note.

“Looking ahead, the economy faces a December with harsh restrictions that will likely see another contraction in economic activity.”

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