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Canada should monitor American electric vehicle investments, but no specifics on how feds will counter U.S. subsidies

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Canada’s ambassador to the United States says the federal government should be watching American investments in electric vehicle manufacturing, but wouldn’t give specifics on how it plans to compete with the subsidies offered in the Inflation Reduction Act enacted south of the border.

Kirsten Hillman told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos, in an interview airing Sunday, it’s important Canada remain competitive in the electric vehicle market, an arena in which it already has several advantages, including the workforce, expertise, and critical minerals resources. She said experts are working to ensure Canada is ahead of the curve and encouraging investment in the electric vehicles sector, but she didn’t specify how.

“I think we have to be aware of what’s happening down here,” Hillman said in the interview from Washington, D.C. “And we have to understand its implications for the Canadian economy.”

“Of course responsible policymaking is making sure that we understand what the environment is for Canadians and Canadian investments, and maximizing benefits for us,” Hillman said.

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But when pressed, the ambassador didn’t give specifics on how Canada would counter the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act — passed in August 2022 and aimed at quashing inflation, reducing the deficit, and investing nearly US$400 billion in clean energy — which offers significant subsidies to electric vehicle battery manufacturers.

“The Inflation Reduction Act and the investments that it’s making in green technology are important, and they are similar to investments that we’ve been making, issues we’ve been focusing on, in Canada for a number of years now,” Hillman said.

“The government has committed to remaining competitive,” she also said, adding Canada saw significant investment specifically in the area of battery technology last year. “So we are doing very well in that space, but we can never be complacent.”

The ambassador is set to travel to Mexico City this week to attend the North American Leaders’ Summit — the 10th iteration of the trilateral gathering — despite violence in Mexico following the arrest of one of notorious jailed drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s sons.

Officials from Canada, the United States, and Mexico are expected to discuss, among other topics, climate change and the environment. Electric vehicles are sure to be a talking point.

Before the United States Congress enacted the Inflation Reduction Act in its current form last August, an earlier version targeted the massive subsidies to only American-made electric vehicles and their parts, which worried Canadian manufacturers and could have devastated the Canadian auto industry.

But the legislation was expanded to include vehicles built in Canada and Mexico, not just the U.S., after nearly a year of lobbying by Ottawa and industry.

“It’s important, with our American friends, that we continue to emphasize that we both do better when we’re committed to each other’s success,” Hillman said, adding of the Inflation Reduction Act: “We succeeded in that respect, by getting Canada carved in to the electric vehicle tax subsidy and the electric vehicle battery subsidy.”

Meanwhile Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland — who also plans to attend the Mexico City meetings — told The Canadian Press in November 2022 that two new federal tax credits for clean technology included in the government’s fall economic statement are just the “down payment on the work that lies ahead to respond to the Inflation Reduction Act.”

Any more significant response or countering of the American legislation will have to wait until this spring, when Freeland is set to table the next federal budget.

“I think what’s important is not necessarily doing exactly what the Americans do, they have their own domestic environment, and they have their own ways in which they are attracting investment, their own value proposition and we have ours,” Hillman said. “We have been investing in this space for a long time and we have an ecosystem that is already healthy in this space, the U.S. less so.”

She added the Canadian market will benefit from American growth in the electric vehicle market because of the nature of the trade relationship between the two countries.

“So yes, [the U.S.] is a big country with a lot of money to invest and they are doing that,” she said. “That’s a good thing for the environment.”

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Predictions for the housing market, lower internet costs and stable stocks: Must-read business and investing stories – The Globe and Mail

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As interest rates continue to put pressure on mortgage costs, the Bank of Canada predicts home prices will continue to fall before sales pick up later this year.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Getting caught up on a week that got away? Here’s your weekly digest of The Globe and Mail’s most essential business and investing stories, with insights and analysis from the pros, stock tips, portfolio strategies and more.

High interest rates will continue putting pressure on Canada’s housing market

The Bank of Canada this week increased interest rates for the eighth consecutive time but said that it expects to hold off on further hikes to “assess whether monetary policy is sufficiently restrictive to bring inflation back to the 2-per-cent target.” As Mark Rendell reports, the central bank raised its benchmark rate by a quarter of a percentage point, bringing the policy rate to 4.5 per cent, the highest level since 2007. With borrowing costs and mortgage rates at their highest level in years, many potential homebuyers have been shut out of the real estate market, writes Rachelle Younglai. The typical home price across the country is already down 13 per cent from its peak last February amid the bank’s attempts to rein in runaway inflation by reducing access to cheap loans. As such, the bank is predicting home prices will decline further before sales pick up later in the year.

These stocks offer portfolio stability amid rising prices

Rising interest rates were the main contributor to the woes of the stock markets in 2022. Interest-sensitive securities such as REITs, utilities, telecoms and bonds all tumbled as rates steadily increased. Combined with the collapse of tech stocks as the economy that benefited from pandemic lockdowns dissipated, we ended up with all the major stock markets in the red, and the Canadian bond market experiencing its worst loss in four decades. But there were some inflation-beaters. Gordon Pape looks at a number of inflation-beating securities that thrived in a rising price environment and are still doing well, although momentum is slowing.

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The clearest sign that inflation is declining

When assessing inflation, central bankers and economists will often exclude food and energy costs, but in a recent report, Karyne Charbonneau, executive director of economics at CIBC Capital Markets, said the Bank of Canada should consider the rapid climb in mortgage interest costs “when judging the underlying inflationary trend.” As Matt Lundy writes, while the bank is raising interest rates to cool demand and tamp down inflation, its efforts are having the opposite effect on mortgage payments, which have jumped 18 per cent in the past year. Although mortgages carry only 3-per-cent weight in how the Consumer Price Index is calculated, the increase is substantial enough that mortgages are now the largest contributor to annual inflation.

Could lower cellphone and internet costs be coming?

Lowering cellphone and internet bills is a top priority for Vicky Eatrides, the new chair of Canada’s broadcast and telecommunications regulator, Irene Galea reports. Unfortunately, Ms. Eatrides is inheriting a commission that is widely seen as slow to make decisions. The continuing legal proceedings of Rogers Communications Inc.’s takeover of Shaw Communications Inc. are attracting unprecedented attention to the inner workings of the telecom industry and the future of cellular service competition in Canada. Meanwhile, two CTRC policies, concerning industry rates for broadband and wireless networks, finalized during the previous chair’s term, are still being debated among industry players. Ms. Eatrides would not reveal specifics related to her plan to lower cellphone and internet costs, but added she hopes to speed up the commission’s decision-making process.

The real savings of owning an electric vehicle

With gas prices yo-yoing this past year, are the savings associated with the lower operating costs of purchasing an electric vehicle ultimately worth it? David Berman, a Hyundai Ioniq 5 owner, compares charging costs for EVs to gas-powered vehicle costs over the same travelling distance. “I’ve driven almost 10,000 kilometres – did I mention that I don’t drive much?” he writes. “I’ve saved about $780 over the past year. Over 10 years, these savings would rise, theoretically, to a total of $7,800.” Additionally, he got a $5,000 federal EV rebate when purchasing the car in Ontario in early 2022, whittling down the nearly $50,000 list price for his vehicle to about $37,200 compared with a hypothetical gas-burning version of itself.

Record-low rental vacancy rate

There are fewer apartments available to rent in Canada than at any time since 2001, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp’s annual rental report released this week. As Rachelle Younglai reports, the country’s apartment vacancy rate dropped to 1.9 per cent in 2022 down from 3.1 the year before and the lowest level in more than two decades owing to higher net migration, the return of postsecondary students to the campus and the spike in borrowing costs. The country’s largest rental markets were under particular stress, with Toronto’s apartment vacancy rate dropping to 1.7 per cent last year from 4.4 per cent in 2021, Montreal to 2.3 per cent from 3.7 per cent and Vancouver to 0.9 per cent from 1.2 per cent. The national average monthly rental price for a two-bedroom rose 5.6 per cent to $1,258 last year, with Vancouver and Toronto commanding the highest rents at an average of $2,002 and $1,765 monthly.

Sign up for MoneySmart Bootcamp: If you want to improve your financial fitness, The Globe’s MoneySmart Bootcamp newsletter course is for you. This new five-part course written by personal finance reporter Erica Alini will improve your personal finance skills, including budgeting, borrowing and investing. Subscribe to the MoneySmart Bootcamp and you’ll receive an e-mail a week to work a different financial muscle. Lessons will land in your inbox Wednesday afternoons.

Now that you’re all caught up, prepare for the week ahead with the Globe’s investing calendar.

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3 reasons dividend stocks can lead the next bull market

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After a bull market like the one we experienced prior to 2022, it can be tempting to stick to the same investment strategies that have been working. But the underlying economic factors are set to be materially different in the coming years, which means the market is likely to look very different from what we’ve seen in the past 10-plus years.

This sets the stage for a market that grinds higher, led by large, profitable, dividend-paying companies. Here are three reasons dividend stocks can lead the next bull market.

Dividends may make up a larger portion of the total return

Over the past decade, dividends have contributed less than 25 per cent of the S&P 500’s total return, as years of low interest rates helped inflate asset valuations. Historically, though, dividends have made up a larger portion of the market’s total return. Dividends have accounted for an average of 40 per cent of the S&P 500’s total return since the 1930s, according to data from Fidelity Investments.

If inflation remains high, it will be very difficult for the market to grow via multiple expansion as it has during the past 10 years. This opens the door to dividends regressing to the long-term mean and making up a larger percentage of the total return than it has recently.

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Valuations are attractive for dividend stocks

Dividend-paying stocks are currently undervalued relative to the broader market judging by the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio. The P/E for dividend-paying stocks in the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats was lower than the P/E for the S&P 500 as of Dec. 30, 2022. This suggests dividend-paying stocks may offer better value for investors compared to non-dividend-paying stocks.

This is common during a bear market like the one we experienced last year. The good is thrown out with the bad, as companies with consistent earnings are sold off with the same urgency as less profitable companies. This creates an opportunity that can be identified by using the P/E ratio.

Great companies with robust business models and long histories of profitability rarely go on sale, so this can be a great opportunity to add quality names to a portfolio.

Better track record

Dividend-paying stocks have outperformed non-dividend-paying stocks over long periods of time. A study of the S&P/TSX composite index from 1986 to 2021 by RBC Global Asset Management found that stocks growing their dividend had an average annual return of 11.2 per cent compared to 6.5 per cent for the overall index and an abysmal 1.4 per cent for non-dividend-paying stocks.

This trend has even held up during economic recessions, as dividend-paying stocks have shown to be more stable and less volatile than non-dividend-paying stocks. For example, the same RBC study found that dividend-paying stocks in the composite index had a standard deviation (a measure of volatility) of 13.9 per cent, compared to 23.3 per cent for non-dividend paying stocks. This indicates dividend-paying stocks have been less volatile over the long term.

Despite the potential for market turbulence in the near term, dividend stocks remain a good option for investors looking to weather any upcoming volatility and maximize their returns over the long term.

Remember that investing in the stock market carries risks and a professional investment adviser can help assess your investment goals and risk tolerance and develop a personalized investment strategy tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

Taylor Burns is an investment adviser at Manulife Securities Inc. and Balanced Financial Wealth Management. The opinions expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of Manulife Securities Inc.

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Weaker Orders, Investment Underscore Ailing US Manufacturing

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(Bloomberg) — US manufacturing showed more signs this week of succumbing to the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest-rate hikes that are taking a bigger bite out of demand and risk upending the economic expansion.

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The government’s first estimate of gross domestic product for the fourth quarter and a report on December factory orders for durable goods pointed to sizable downshifts in both spending on business equipment and bookings for core capital goods.

The durable goods report Thursday showed orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft — a proxy for business investment — dropped 0.2% in December after no change a month earlier. Over the fourth quarter, bookings for these core capital goods posted the weakest annualized gain since 2020. Shipments, an input for GDP, decreased for the third time in four months.

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“Taken in tandem with the output data where industrial production has declined in six of the past eight months, it is increasingly evident that the manufacturing recession is well underway,” Wells Fargo & Co. economists Tim Quinlan and Shannon Seery said in a note to clients.

Also on Thursday, the GDP report showed outlays for business equipment dropped an annualized 3.7%, the largest slide since the immediate aftermath of the pandemic. That decline was part of a broader demand slowdown, which included a smaller-than-forecast advance in personal spending.

While GDP growth beat expectations, details of the report that offer a clearer picture of domestic demand were decidedly weak. Inflation-adjusted final sales to private domestic purchasers, which strip out inventories and net exports while excluding government spending, rose at a paltry 0.2% rate — also the weakest since the second quarter of 2020.

Last month’s retreat in core capital goods orders indicates manufacturing output, which already registered sharp declines in the final two months of 2022, may struggle to gain traction this quarter.

Read more: Weak US Retail Sales, Factory Data Heighten Recession Concerns

The slump in housing is also spilling over into producers of non-durable goods. Shares of Sherwin-Williams Co. tumbled this week after the paintmaker pointed to pressures stemming from a weak residential real estate market and inflation.

“We currently see a very challenging demand environment in 2023 and visibility beyond our first half is limited,” Chief Executive Officer John Morikis said on a Jan. 26 earnings call. “The Fed has also been quite clear about its intention to slow down demand in its effort to tame inflation.”

An accumulation of inventories only adds to the headwinds. Inventory building accounted for about half of the 2.9% annualized increase in fourth-quarter GDP. For the year as a whole, inventories grew $123.3 billion, the most since 2015.

With demand moderating, there’s less incentive to ramp up orders or production as companies make greater efforts to sell from existing stock.

In addition to the aforementioned data, the latest surveys of manufacturers show sustained weakness. Measures of orders at factories in four regional Fed surveys have all indicated multiple months of contraction.

All surveys released so far for this month are consistent with an overall contraction in activity that extends back through most of the second half of 2022.

Next week, the Institute for Supply Management will issue its January manufacturing survey and economists project a third-straight month of shrinking activity.

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