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Canadian economy in 2020

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TORONTO —
Canada’s top bank economists predict the country will see a few bright spots in 2020, even as the globe grapples with uncertainty in the Middle East and China.

The country will likely experience wins in the equity, housing and oil markets, leading economists told attendees at a Toronto breakfast put on by the Economic Club of Canada on Wednesday.

Avery Shenfeld, managing director and chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said he expects the Canadian equity market to slightly edge ahead of one of its biggest competitors.

“We’ve gotten used to the fact that the Canadian equity market kind of trails the U.S. equity market year after year, but…this might be the year that they nudge their nose above the S&P 500 in terms of performance,” he said.

“It may not be a banner year, but still a bit better than the U.S.”

He believes profit growth may return to U.S. equities, but won’t repeat the strong year they had last year.

Equity markets face a number of uncertainties, including a November U.S. election and tensions between the U.S. and China,@ which are expected to sign a trade agreement next week. The U.S. is also embroiled in a standoff with Iran,@ which fired missiles at American military bases in Iraq on Tuesday in retaliation for a U.S. strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani last week, causing oil prices to rise.

Shenfeld believes oil could hover around $60 a barrel, which he called “still fairly profitable for the Canadian energy sector.”

If war breaks out, he suggested that rate may surge to $100.

The real win for the sector, he said, was greater clarity from the federal government and industry around plans for pipelines.

“That should help the oil companies look a little brighter by the end of the year,” Shenfeld said.

His BMO Financial Group counterpart, managing director and chief economist Douglas Porter, found optimism in the rise of housing sales and prices, federal fiscal policies supporting growth and firmer oil plans. He pushed back on rumours of an impending recession.

“We are not particularly downbeat on the outlook for 2020 for Canada,” he said. “Given the global uncertainties there is a possibility we could get pulled down if everyone else does, but I don’t see a Canada downturn developing.”

He was encouraged by Canadian population rates that “we have not seen in decades,” noting that in the last year the population grew by 1.5 per cent or 550,000 people, while the U.S. is experiencing its slowest growth rate in a century.

“There was about a quarter century where Canada and the U.S. were seeing almost identical population growth rates,” he said. “It’s a bit of a mixed blessing in terms of the economy, but it does set a firmer bid in terms of housing and consumer spending.”

Dawn Desjardins, Royal Bank of Canada’s vice-president and deputy chief economist, found some positives in the health of the labour market, but said “it is not without challenges.”

Technology is bound to disrupt the market and re-skilling will be key to keeping Canadians employed, she said. RBC has predicted 25 per cent of jobs will be heavily disrupted, and expects people to change jobs more frequently than they once did.

According to Desjardins, Canadians have the skills to step into new roles, but the country has to continue to put time and money into training young workers and continuing to evolve jobs.

She was heartened by the country seeing wage growth in recent months and noted that the country has had a 11-year streak for economic expansion.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2020.

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Coronavirus outbreak’s economic ripples gathering into worldwide crisis – Global News

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The coronavirus outbreak began to look more like a worldwide economic crisis Friday as anxiety about the infection emptied shops and amusement parks, canceled events, cut trade and travel and dragged already slumping financial markets even lower.

More employers told their workers to stay home, and officials locked down neighbourhoods and closed schools. The wide-ranging efforts to halt the spread of the illness threatened jobs, paychecks and profits.

“This is a case where in economic terms the cure is almost worse than the disease,″ said Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “When you quarantine cities … you lose economic activity that you’re not going to get back.′


READ MORE:
Coronavirus spread risk is now ‘very high’ — what does that mean for Canadians?

The list of countries touched by the illness climbed to nearly 60 as Mexico, Belarus, Lithuania, New Zealand, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Iceland and the Netherlands reported their first cases. More than 83,000 people worldwide have contracted the illness, with deaths topping 2,800.

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The head of the World Health Organization announced that the risk of the virus spreading worldwide was “very high,” citing the “continued increase in the number of cases and the number of affected countries.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all governments to “do everything possible to contain the disease.”

“We know containment is possible, but the window of opportunity is narrowing,” the U.N. chief told reporters in New York.






3:04
Trump says U.S. mulling over COVID-19 travel ban extension


Trump says U.S. mulling over COVID-19 travel ban extension

The economic ripples have already reached around the globe.

Stock markets around the world plunged again Friday. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index took yet another hit, closing down nearly 360 points. The index has dropped more than 14 per cent from a recent high, making this the market’s worst week since 2008, during the global financial crisis.

The effects were just as evident in the hush that settled in over places where throngs of people ordinarily work and play and buy and sell.

“There’s almost no one coming here,” said Kim Yun-ok, who sells doughnuts and seaweed rolls at Seoul’s Gwangjang Market, where crowds were thin as South Korea counted 571 new cases — more than in China, where the virus emerged. “I am just hoping that the outbreak will come under control soon.”

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READ MORE:
Coronavirus fears trigger up to 50% drop in business in Edmonton’s Chinatown

In Asia, Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan announced they would close, and events that were expected to attract tens of thousands of people were called off, including a concert series by the K-pop group BTS. The state-run Export-Import Bank of Korea shut down its headquarters in Seoul after a worker tested positive for the virus, telling 800 others to work from home. Japanese officials prepared to shutter all schools until early April.

In Italy — which has reported 888 cases, the most of any country outside of Asia — hotel bookings are falling, and Premier Giuseppe Conte raised the specter of recession. Shopkeepers like Flavio Gastaldi, who has sold souvenirs in Venice for three decades, wondered if they could survive the blow.

“We will return the keys to the landlords soon,” he said.

The Swiss government banned events with more than 1,000 people, while at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, basins of holy water were emptied for fear of spreading germs.






3:03
When does an outbreak become a pandemic?


When does an outbreak become a pandemic?

In a report published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Chinese health officials said the death rate from the illness known as COVID-19 was 1.4 per cent, based on 1,099 patients at more than 500 hospitals throughout China.

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Assuming there are many more cases with no or very mild symptoms, the rate “may be considerably less than one per cent,” U.S. health officials wrote in an editorial in the journal. That would make the virus more like a severe seasonal flu than a disease similar to its genetic cousins SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or MERS, Middle East respiratory syndrome.

Given the ease of spread, however, the virus could gain footholds around the world and many could die.

“It’s not cholera or the black plague,” said Simone Venturini, the city councilor for economic development in Venice, Italy, where tourism already hurt by historic flooding last year has sunk with news of virus cases. “The damage that worries us even more is the damage to the economy.”


READ MORE:
Canada could move to more active surveillance of COVID-19. Here’s what that means.

Europe’s economy is already teetering on the edge of recession. A measure of business sentiment in Germany fell sharply last week, suggesting that some companies could postpone investment and expansion plans. China is a huge export market for German manufacturers.

In the U.S., online retail giant Amazon said Friday that it has asked all of its 800,000 employees to postpone any non-essential travel, both within the country and internationally.

The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said that the U.S. economy remains strong and that policymakers would “use our tools” to support it if necessary.

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Larry Kudlow, the top economic advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, told reporters that the selloff in financial markets may be an overreaction to an epidemic with uncertain long-term effects.






3:49
Tips for travelling amid ongoing coronavirus concerns


Tips for travelling amid ongoing coronavirus concerns

“We don’t see any evidence of major supply chain disruptions. I’m not trying to say nothing’s happening. I think there will be impacts, but to be honest with you, at the moment, I don’t see much,” Kudlow said.

The pain was already taking hold in places like Bangkok, where merchants at the Platinum Fashion Mall staged a flash mob, shouting “Reduce the rent!” and holding signs that said “Tourists don’t come, shops suffer.”

Tourist arrivals in Thailand are down 50 per cent compared with a year ago, according Capital Economics, a consulting firm.

Kanya Yontararak, a 51-year-old owner of a women’s clothing store, said her sales have sunk as low as 1,000 baht ($32) some days, making it a struggle to pay back a loan for her lease. She’s stopped driving to work, using public transit instead. She also packs a lunch instead of buying one and is cutting her grocery bills. The situation is more severe than the floods and political crises her store has braved in the past.


READ MORE:
Mexico confirms first 2 cases of coronavirus, president appears to downplay concerns

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“Coronavirus is the worst situation they have ever seen,” she said of her fellow merchants.

Economists have forecast global growth will slip to 2.4 per cent this year, the slowest since the Great Recession in 2009, and down from earlier expectations closer to 3 per cent. For the United States, estimates are falling to as low as 1.7 per cent growth this year, down from 2.3 per cent in 2019.

But if COVID-19 becomes a global pandemic, economists expect the impact could be much worse, with the U.S. and other global economies falling into recession.

“If we start to see more cases in the United States, if we start to see people not traveling domestically, if we start to see people stay home from work and from stores, then I think the hit is going to get substantially worse,” said Gus Faucher, an economist at PNC Financial.






2:33
Dow Jones nosedives nearly 1,200 points into correction territory


Dow Jones nosedives nearly 1,200 points into correction territory

Some saw dollar signs in the crisis. Twenty people were arrested in Italy for selling masks they fraudulently claimed provided complete protection from COVID-19. Police said they were selling them for as much as 5,000 euros ($5,520) each.

China, though hardest hit, has seen lower numbers of new infections, with 327 additional cases reported Friday, bringing the country’s total to 78,824. Another 44 people died there for a total of 2,788.

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South Korea has recorded 2,337 cases, the most outside of China. Emerging clusters in Italy and in Iran, which has had 34 deaths and 388 cases, have led to infections of people in other countries. France and Germany were also seeing increases, with dozens of infections.

“I think this is a reality check for every government on the planet,” WHO Emergencies Program Director Michael Ryan said Friday after the agency raised its alert level. “Wake up, get ready. This virus may be on its way.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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The Virus and the Economy – The Wall Street Journal

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White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow speaks in the briefing room at the White House, Feb. 28.



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nicholas kamm/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

When markets are stampeding, anyone can get run over. And that’s what happened Friday as White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow spoke the truth that the coronavirus threat will eventually pass and the U.S. will recover. Equities nonetheless fell another 1% or so Friday, and the questions are how much damage there will be to the real economy and what, if anything, can be done about it.

Mr. Kudlow is right to want to prevent a panic and buck up consumer confidence, which has been holding up U.S. growth. He’s also right that the foundation of the American economy has been solid with an historically low jobless rate, healthy income gains, and a housing market that is gaining steam.

But stocks don’t fall 11.5% in a week without cause, and they are responding to clear signs that the spreading coronavirus will hit the global economy hard. China’s first quarter GDP may be negative. Europe was already wobbling. The U.S. is sturdier but not immune to global weakness, especially if the virus causes extensive quarantines; business travel restrictions have already begun.

The 10-year Treasury note has fallen through the floor of its historic low to 1.15%, a sign that investors expect slower growth and Federal Reserve rate cuts. The price of Brent crude is down 24% this year to $50 a barrel, on expectations of slower demand. Copper futures are down 9% since January and were off another 1% on Friday in a sign that a manufacturing recovery isn’t imminent. The junk bond and leveraged loan markets are under pressure as financial conditions have tightened.

The rebound in business investment that many expected with the decline in trade tensions will now be postponed for at least the first half of the year. Supply chains need to be restored, and medical and economic uncertainty will have to ease. A U.S. economy that was expected to grow between 2% and 2.5% for the year will now likely be under that for the first half, with hope for a second half bounce.

***

All of this is complicated by the political uncertainty of an election year and Washington’s climate of relentless and extreme partisanship. Democrats clearly see the Covid-19 disease as a cudgel to use against President Trump, perhaps turning it into his version of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

There’s no other way to read the rhetorical barrage they’ve aimed at Mr. Trump no matter what he does or says about the virus. The resistance media are also piling on. This feeds the public’s unease and turns every government decision into a political battle.

Our sense is that this could still be an opportunity for Mr. Trump despite the partisan catcalls. Voters aren’t going to blame him for a slowing economy caused by the virus. They will blame him if the government response seems inept, or if he dismisses the problem and it turns out to be much worse than he has advertised.

The best posture is to tell the public the truth that no one knows how much damage the virus may do, while offering assurance that the government’s infectious disease experts and enormous public-health bureaucracy are ready for the challenge. It’s best to project confidence without the gratuitous boasting or attacks.

If reporters ask about some attack from Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer, Mr. Trump should shrug it off and say he’s focused on reducing the risks from the virus. Voters will appreciate the show of leadership, and score Democrats for the rancor. Unlike the impeachment brawl, the public cares about this one and doesn’t want cheap partisanship.

***

Which brings us to the possible economic policy responses. Mr. Trump could help by immediately lifting his unilateral tariffs, which would amount to a tax cut on trade and consumers. A fiscal “stimulus” is probably a waste of time, given that Democrats would insist on new spending or temporary tax rebates of the kind that Mrs. Pelosi and George W. Bush negotiated in 2008 but didn’t help growth.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell made clear in an unscheduled statement on Friday that monetary policy is in play, with a 25 basis-point cut in the fed funds rate widely expected in March. We’ve been skeptical that rate cuts can address a classic supply-side shock like the coronavirus. Fed funds are already low at 1.5%-1.75%, so the impact of rate cuts will also be less than if the Fed had moved faster to normalize its policy in the years after the financial panic and 2008-2009 recession.

On the other hand, the Fed can fight a financial virus. Stocks pared their losses after Mr. Powell’s Friday statement, which shows the Fed’s psychological clout. If the Fed does cut rates as an insurance policy, it should be prepared to raise them again quickly if the coronavirus turns out to be less damaging. The Fed kept rates too low for too long after 9/11 and spurred the housing bubble and bust.

This week’s market selloff is a warning but it isn’t cause for panic. We simply don’t know how much harm this coronavirus will do. Investors who keep a cool head will be rewarded, and voters will reward politicians who do the same.

Partisanship isn’t making it easier for the government to respond to the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. Image: Getty Images/Composite: Brad Howard

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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Coronavirus Fears Reverberate Across Global Economy – The New York Times

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Investors, fearing that the spread of the coronavirus is tipping the global economy into a recession, handed the stock market its largest weekly loss since the 2008 financial crisis on Friday amid worries that one of the longest economic expansions in history may be coming to an end.

With the virus now detected in at least 56 countries, companies are readjusting their annual profit expectations, economists are lowering their forecasts for global growth and policymakers have signaled that they are ready, if needed, to act to stabilize the economy.

As the stock market dropped again on Friday, Jerome H. Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, issued a short statement affirming that the central bank would use its tools and “act as appropriate to support the economy.” After the Fed’s statement, the S&P 500 pared some of its losses, closing the day down 0.8 percent, though the index remained down 11.5 percent for the week.

Still, there were stark signs that the economic fallout from the virus had started to take hold, as retailers and home builders reported delays in shipments from China, Amazon was running low on hand sanitizers sought by a jittery public and financial regulators began monitoring whether American businesses were starting to have difficulty borrowing money.

“This feels different than the other market crisis in that it involves disruptions to daily life,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “This isn’t financial. This is not some obtuse thing on a screen. Schools may close. I may not be able to get pasta or oatmeal.”

What began a few weeks ago as relatively tepid concerns on Wall Street about disruptions to global supply chains has mushroomed into deep worries about the possibility that millions of people around the world may have to cut back on shopping, travel and restaurants to avoid contracting the virus.

The uncertainty of such situations has made it difficult for experts to predict the damage to the economy. Some are offering probabilities that the American and global economies will slip into recession. Moody’s Analytics said this week that the odds of that happening had risen to four in 10. Capital Economics pegged it much lower, at one in 10.

On Friday, Morgan Stanley researchers outlined three possible situations in a note to clients. In the most benign, the American economy does not slow at all in 2020 from previous forecasts, as the virus remains largely confined to China and Chinese factory production ramps back up in the coming months.

In the most severe scenario, where the virus spreads more widely across countries and sectors of the economy, growth slows to a near halt in the United States for several quarters this year, leaving 2020 with a 0.5 percent growth rate over all. “The risks are clearly skewed to the downside until the outbreak is contained,” researchers at Goldman Sachs said in a note this week.

There was clear evidence in recent days of the economic fallout. Toll Brothers, the luxury home builder, said some home sales to Chinese buyers had been postponed and shipments of fixtures from China delayed. The shoemaker Steve Madden said some shipments would be delayed by three weeks as its Chinese factories struggle to operate with fewer workers.

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The Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Answers to your most common questions:

    Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • What is a coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. haswarned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all nonessential travel to South Korea and China.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world was not ready for a major outbreak.

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Perhaps even more troubling were signs that American consumers, who drive the economy, were becoming increasingly uneasy.

On Amazon, popular brands of hand sanitizers like Purell were largely unavailable. What was available was coming from third-party sellers at higher prices. On Friday morning, one pack of two 12-fluid-ounce bottles of Purell was being offered by a third-party seller for $49.99.

Even the parent company of Corona, the beer brand, has seen its shares drop more than the broader market, which some have attributed to its having the same name as the virus.

Such fears do not bode well for a modern economy and stock market that depend on optimism and a willingness to spend. As recently as nine days ago, that optimism helped drive up the stock market to a new high.

But in the last week, the rosy outlook that corporate profits would keep growing has been replaced by panic, said Richard Sylla, professor emeritus at New York University’s Stern School of Business, who has studied stock market shocks through history.

“There was complacency about the growth in stocks, and the virus was the trigger for a sell-off,” he said.

It was an awful week for markets around the globe. The Dow Jones plummeted 12 percent. In Europe, stocks in Britain dropped 11 percent, while Germany was down 12 percent. Asian markets also fell: 10 percent in Japan and 8 percent in South Korea.

Many researchers expect the Federal Reserve to quickly — and possibly deeply — cut interest rates in the face of worsening coronavirus news and market downturns. President Trump, who has downplayed the economic threat to the United States from the virus, said on Friday that he hoped the Fed would step in.

“I hope it gets involved soon,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House.

But unlike in previous financial shocks, those moves may not stem the damage.

Even as this week’s stock market meltdown was being compared to the losses of 2008, there were many ways that the coronavirus could prove more challenging for the Fed to tackle.

The Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 was largely a “demand shock,” as banks neared collapse, home prices plunged and trillions of dollars in household wealth were wiped out. People and businesses suddenly had less money to spend, tipping the economy into a deep recession.

The virus threat is a “supply shock” — one that stems from a sudden slowdown in economic activity as China, the world’s factory, struggles to get back to work and as crucial industries come under strain against a backdrop of travel restrictions, limited public gatherings and shuttered schools.

David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, said the way to think about a supply shock was “suddenly every factory and office produces 10 percent less than it did last year.”

That’s a far harder thing to fix than a demand shock, Mr. Wessel said, since simply putting more money into people’s pockets won’t make up for the fact that stores are closed, factories aren’t operating and trips are canceled.

“There is nothing the Fed can do to offset the lost production if no one is taking trips and factories aren’t making parts,” he said.

So far, the response from the Trump administration to the outbreak has only seemed to intensify Wall Street’s worries.

Early on Friday, Larry Kudlow, Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, said markets were overreacting and suggested it was a good time to buy stocks — statements that some investors said were not helpful and perhaps even irresponsible.

“The administration runs the risk of damaging its credibility by continuing to prompt people to buy stocks if there is no clear bottom in sight,” Scott Minerd, chief investment officer of Guggenheim Investments, said in an interview.

Mr. Minerd said he received a call on Thursday from an official at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York asking whether he was seeing any signs of pressure or deterioration in some of the markets that are crucial to Wall Street’s functioning, namely those that provide short- and longer-term debt and other forms of funding to companies from banks and other lenders.

Mr. Minerd said he did not see funding problems as of yet, but he said the sell-off of precious metals was a sign that investors were feeling squeezed by increased margin calls.

Mr. Kudlow and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who are on the president’s coronavirus task force, are also part of a group working on a package of tax cuts intended to serve as a centerpiece of his 2020 campaign. With Democrats controlling the House, there has been little expectation of major tax legislation before the November election, and the situation with the coronavirus has not appeared to change that.

On Friday, Mr. Trump sought to restore some optimism, pointing out that the number of confirmed cases of the virus in the United States was still low.

“Some countries are doing well, some countries are not doing well, you can see that for yourself,’’ he told reporters at the White House. “A lot of things are happening, we’re very well organized, we have great talent, great doctors, great everyone. There’s tremendous spirit, a lot of spirit.”

Reporting was contributed by Jim Tankersley, Alan Rappeport, Matt Phillips, Jeanna Smialek, Julie Creswell, Tiffany Hsu, Peter Eavis and Sapna Maheshwari.

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