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Canada's Ontario plots long-term path to balanced budget as economy rebounds – Reuters

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TORONTO (Reuters) – Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, outlined on Wednesday a long-term plan to balance its budget as the economy recovers from the coronavirus crisis, forecasting a narrower deficit in 2021-22 and further gradual declines in subsequent years.

The budget deficit remains historically wide, with additional pandemic-related spending announced, but a path back to balance could be welcomed by bond investors and credit rating agencies. The province is one of the world’s largest sub-sovereign borrowers.

The longer-term outlook gave investors a sense of how Ontario intends to tackle their high deficits, said Robert Hogue, a senior economist at Royal Bank of Canada.

“I think that will be viewed positively,” Hogue added.

The deficit is seen narrowing to C$33.1 billion ($26.4 billion) in 2021-22, matching a November projection, but lower than the record C$38.5 billion deficit forecast for 2020-21, a budget document showed. The fiscal year begins on April 1.

The deficit is then seen shrinking further in future years before swinging to a modest surplus in 2029-30.

The deficit is “neither sustainable nor desirable forever” but is necessary to get through the pandemic and to recover stronger, said Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, in prepared remarks.

The economy is expected to grow by 4% in 2021 and 4.3% in 2022, with the pace then moderating in subsequent years. It contracted by an estimated 5.7% in 2020.

The 2021 growth forecast for the province, which is home to manufacturers and Canada’s major financial center, was less than the 4.9% pace seen in November and slightly below the average of private-sector forecasts.

With economic activity recovering, revenue is forecast to rise 1.4% to C$154 billion in the upcoming fiscal year, while expenses are seen falling to C$173 billion, a drop of 2.7%, as funding of COVID-19 programs dials back.

Still, the province announced new support measures for health and the economy. It includes C$2.3 billion more for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing in 2021-22, as well as additional money for parents and small businesses.

Pandemic-related spending was projected at C$51 billion over a four-year period, up from C$45 billion in November.

The province forecast net-debt-to-GDP rising to 48.8% in 2021-22 from 47.1% in 2020-21. It is seen peaking at 50.5% in 2024-25 before gradually declining to 46.4% in 2029-30.

The yield on Ontario’s 10-year bond was at 2.05% on Wednesday, down 2.1 basis points, in line with moves on other provincial bonds.

($1 = 1.2553 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Sonya Hepinstall, and Aurora Ellis

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TSX extends gains as gold prices rise, set to rise for third week

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(Reuters) -Canada’s main stock index extended its rise on Friday after hitting a record high a day earlier as gold prices advanced, and was set to gain for a third straight week.

* At 9:40 a.m. ET (13:38 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange‘s S&P/TSX composite index was up 24.24 points, or 0.1%, at 19,326.16.

* The Canadian economy is likely to grow at a slower pace in this quarter and the next than previously expected, but tighter lockdown restrictions from another wave of coronavirus were unlikely to derail the economic recovery, a Reuters poll showed.

* The energy sector climbed 0.6% even as U.S. crude prices slipped 0.1% a barrel. Brent crude added 0.1%. [O/R]

* The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 0.3% as gold futures rose 0.7% to $1,777.9 an ounce. [GOL/] [MET/L]

* The financials sector gained 0.2%. The industrials sector rose 0.1%.

* On the TSX, 117 issues advanced, while 102 issues declined in a 1.15-to-1 ratio favoring gainers, with 14.26 million shares traded.

* The largest percentage gainers on the TSX were Cascades Inc, which jumped 4.2%, and Ballard Power Systems, which rose 2.9%.

* Lghtspeed POS fell 5.6%, the most on the TSX, while the second biggest decliner was goeasy, down 4.9%.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Zenabis Global Inc, Bombardier and Royal Bank of Canada.

* The TSX posted 23 new 52-week highs and no new low.

* Across Canadian issues, there were 160 new 52-week highs and 12 new lows, with total volume of 29.68 million shares.

(Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru;Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)

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Canadian economy likely to slow, but COVID-19 threat to growth low

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By Indradip Ghosh and Mumal Rathore

BENGALURU (Reuters) – The Canadian economy is likely to grow at a slower pace this quarter and next than previously expected, but tighter lockdown restrictions from another wave of coronavirus were unlikely to derail the economic recovery, a Reuters poll showed.

Restrictions have been renewed in some provinces as they struggle with a rapid spread of the virus, which has already infected over 1 million people in the country.

After an expected 5.6% growth in the first quarter, the economy was forecast to expand 3.6% this quarter, a sharp downgrade from 6.7% predicted in January.

It was then forecast to grow 6.0% in the third quarter and 5.5% in the fourth, compared with 6.8% and 5.0% forecast previously.

But over three-quarters of economists, or 16 of 21, in response to an additional question said tighter curbs from another COVID-19 wave were unlikely to derail the economic recovery, including one respondent who said “very unlikely”.

Canada is undergoing a third wave of the virus and while case loads are accelerating, the resiliency the economy has shown in the face of the second wave suggests it can ride out the third wave as well, without considerable economic consequences,” said Sri Thanabalasingam, senior economist at TD Economics.

The April 12-16 poll of 40 economists forecast the commodity-driven economy would grow on average 5.8% this year, the fastest pace of annual expansion in 13 years and the highest prediction since polling began in April 2019.

For next year, the consensus was upgraded to 4.0% from 3.6% growth predicted in January.

What is likely to help is the promise of a fiscal package by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late last year, which the Canadian government was expected to outline, at least partly, in its first federal budget in two years, on April 19.

When asked what impact that would have, over half, or 11 of 20 economists, said it would boost the economy significantly. Eight respondents said it would have little impact and one said it would have an adverse impact.

“The economic impact of the federal government’s promised C$100 billion fiscal stimulus will depend most importantly on its make up,” said Tony Stillo, director of Canada economics at Oxford Economics.

“A stimulus package that enhances the economy’s potential could provide a material boost to growth without stoking price pressures.”

All but two of 17 economists expected the Bank of Canada to announce a taper to the amount of its weekly bond purchases at its April 21 meeting. The consensus showed interest rates left unchanged at 0.25% until 2023 at least.

“The BoC is set to cut the pace of its asset purchases next week,” noted Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist at Capital Economics.

“While it will also upgrade its GDP forecasts, we expect it to make an offsetting change to its estimate of the economy’s potential, implying the Bank will not materially alter its assessment of when interest rates need to rise.”

 

 

(Reporting and polling by Indradip Ghosh and Mumal Rathore; editing by Rahul Karunakar, Larry King)

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CANADA STOCKS – TSX rises 0.78% to 19,321.92

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* The Toronto Stock Exchange‘s TSX rises 0.78 percent to 19,321.92

* Leading the index were Martinrea International Inc <MRE.TO​>, up 7.4%, Fortuna Silver Mines Inc​, up 7.1%, and Hudbay Minerals Inc​, higher by 6.7%.

* Lagging shares were AcuityAds Holdings Inc​​, down 6.7%, Ballard Power Systems Inc​, down 6.5%, and Northland Power Inc​, lower by 6.0%.

* On the TSX 165 issues rose and 60 fell as a 2.8-to-1 ratio favored advancers. There were 18 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 203.0 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Royal Bank Of Canada, Suncor Energy Inc and Air Canada.

* The TSX’s energy group fell 0.59 points, or 0.5%, while the financials sector climbed 0.86 points, or 0.3%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 0.27%, or $0.17, to $63.32 a barrel. Brent crude  rose 0.36%, or $0.24, to $66.82 [O/R]

* The TSX is up 10.8% for the year.

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