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Markets up as retailers rise with holiday shopping –



Retailers and technology companies drove modest gains for stocks on Wall Street Thursday, extending the market’s record-setting run.

Technology stocks accounted for a big slice of the gains, which helped to briefly push the Nasdaq composite above the 9,000 mark for the first time.

Financial stocks rose along with bond yields, while Amazon and other retailers climbed after data showed a last-minute surge in online shopping helped holiday sales.

Energy stocks rose as crude oil prices headed higher. Health care and industrial stocks lagged the market.

Trading was muted as U.S. markets reopened after the Christmas holiday.

Canada’s main stock market, the TSX, will reopen December 27.

The benchmark S&P 500 index has finished with a weekly gain in 10 out of the past 11 weeks and is headed for its biggest annual gain since 2013 at 29 per cent.

Trade talk optimism lends boost

Rising optimism around a “Phase 1” trade deal announced earlier this month between the United States and China helped put investors in a buying mood in recent weeks. Fears about a possible recession have also faded since the summer after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates three times, and the central bank appears set to keep them low for a long time.

Still, as traders turn their attention to 2020, fears about the outlook for the global economy remain, as do concerns over unresolved trade issues between Washington and Beijing. Next year also has the added complication of the U.S. presidential election.

The S&P 500 rose 0.5 per cent. The index last hit a record high on Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 62 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 28,621. The Nasdaq composite added 0.8 per cent, extending its winning streak to 11 days.

The indexes are coming off a mixed finish in shortened, pre-Christmas trading on Tuesday.

People carry shopping bags while crossing a street in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 29. Amazon and other retailers rose after data showed a last-minute surge in online shopping helped holiday sales. (Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press)

Retail rally

 A report from Mastercard SpendingPulse showed holiday retail sales rose 3.4 per cent, with online shopping rising 18.8 per cent.

Amazon was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, climbing 4.45 per cent. Macy’s rose 2.61 per cent and Nordstrom added 1.81 per cent.

Technology stocks continued to add to their blockbuster gains Thursday. The sector is on pace to end the year with a 48 per cent gain, well above the other 10 sectors in the S&P 500. Apple was up 1.98 per cent and Western Digital rose 0.92 per cent.

Citigroup led the gainers in the financial sector, climbing 1.58 per cent. Banks got a boost as the 10-year Treasury yield rose to 1.92 per cent from 1.90 per cent late Tuesday.

The yield is a benchmark for the interest rates that lenders charge on mortgages and other consumer loans. Higher yields make those loans are more profitable for banks.

The final five

The last five days of December and the first two in the new year have historically been a positive period for the market.

Stocks have have brought an average gain of 1.3 per cent over that stretch since 1950, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac.

Benchmark U.S. crude gained 54 cents to $61.65 per barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, picked up 45 cents to $66.61 per barrel.

The rise in oil prices helped lift energy sector stocks. Occidental Petroleum ended the day at $40.15, up 0.65 per cent.

Markets in Europe, Hong Kong and Australia remained closed. Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index advanced 0.6 per cent to 23,924.92, while the Kospi in South Korea gained 0.4 per cent to 2,197.93. India’s Sensex lost 0.3 per cent to 41,339.87. In Southeast Asia, benchmarks were mixed, while Taiwan was flat.

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Ae you satisfied with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in BC? –



Canada’s vaccine rollout received a significant boost Friday with the approval of a third COVID-19 inoculation, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced another partnership with an India-based institute that will deliver two million additional doses of the newly authorized jab to Canadians by the spring.

Trudeau spoke on Friday hours after Health Canada announced it had approved a COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca.

The new partnership also means Canada will receive two million doses of the CoviShield vaccine, which is the same as AstraZeneca’s product, through an agreement with Mississauga, Ont.’s Verity Pharmaceuticals and the Serum Institute of India.

Trudeau says the first shipment of half a million of CoviShield doses will arrive by March.

Read more.

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There are new rules this tax season, courtesy of COVID-19. Here's what you need to know –



Heads up, Canadians: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is going to be a tax season like no other.

If you collected COVID-19-related benefit payments last year, you might end up owing more money than in previous years. However, if you spent part of 2020 working from home, you could wind up with a bigger tax refund than usual.

Here’s what you need to know about filing your taxes this season, including important deadlines.

Has the deadline been extended?

Despite this being a more complex tax season, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has not extended the tax filing deadline. The due date is still April 30 for most Canadians, and June 15 for self-employed people. 

To avoid interest charges, Canadians need to pay any taxes owed by April 30. However, not everyone has to comply with that rule this year.

Those who had a total taxable income of $75,000 or less and received one or more of the COVID-19 benefits listed below don’t have to pay their taxes until April 30, 2022. 

Eligible benefits:

  • Canada emergency response benefit (CERB).

  • Canada emergency student benefit (CESB). 

  • Canada recovery benefit (CRB).

  • Canada recovery caregiving benefit (CRCB).

  • Canada recovery sickness benefit (CRSB).

  • Employment Insurance benefits.

  • Similar provincial emergency benefits.

Qualifying Canadians “will have that full year after the filing deadline of April 30th [2021]” to pay any tax debt without facing interest charges, said Francesco Sorbara, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue.

Those who qualify for the payment deferral still need to file on time if they owe taxes — or they’ll face a late-filing penalty.

Will I owe taxes on my government benefits?

The benefits listed above are considered taxable income, so the federal government introduced the tax-payment deferral to help out the many Canadians who will have to pay taxes on their benefit payments. 

“[Many] lost jobs and collected benefits, and they may have some amounts owing,” said Sorbara. “We’re giving some flexibility there.” 

WATCH | CRA prepares for a complicated tax season:

From job losses to recovery benefits, this tax season is expected to be complicated and the Canada Revenue Agency is hiring 2,000 people to help field questions. 1:53

The government didn’t withhold any taxes on CERB and CESB benefit payments Canadians received in 2020.

It did withhold a 10 per cent tax for people who received CRB, CRCB and CRSB benefits, but tax expert Jamie Golombek said many of those individuals will still owe the government money, as most Canadians’ income is taxed at a much higher rate than 10 per cent.

“For many people, [10 per cent is] not going to be enough, particularly for those who had other sources of income throughout the year,” said Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning at CIBC.

“You may actually find out for the first time ever in your life that you actually owe some taxes.”

Working from home? Claim your cash

Due to the pandemic, many Canadians worked from home for part of 2020, which means they may be eligible for a home office expenses tax deduction.

To qualify, you must have worked from home more than 50 per cent of the time for at least four consecutive weeks last year.

There are two options for Canadians claiming home office expenses. The first is the detailed method, which involves calculating what percentage of your household costs — such as hydro, rent and internet — can be applied to your home office space. Also, you’re required to save all relevant receipts. 

If that sounds like too much work, don’t fret. To simplify the process for people who worked from home for the first time in 2020, the CRA has introduced a new, temporary flat rate method. It allows employees to claim a tax deduction of $2 for each day they worked from home, up to a maximum of $400.

“We’ve kept it simple. They can file it without filing any documentation, any forms,” said Sorbara.

Software designer Pat Suwalski is seen working from his desk at home in Nepean, Ont. (Pat Suwalski)

Software developer Pat Suwalski of Nepean, Ont., has been mainly working from home since April 2020. He filed his taxes on Wednesday using the flat rate method and said it took him just minutes to calculate his deduction.

“I’m a pretty honest guy, so I took a calendar and I started counting [work] days,” he said.

Suwalski counted 188 work-from-home days last year. Multiply that by $2 a day and he gets a tax deduction of $376.

“I’ll take it,” he said. “It’s great that they made [the process] simpler.”

Which method should you choose if you worked from home this year? Golombek said the flat rate method may be the best option if you’re a homeowner, because it’s easier and chances are you’ll come out ahead.

That’s because mortgage payments — typically a homeowner’s biggest monthly bill — can’t be claimed as a home office expense.

“Our experience is that homeowners, typically speaking, don’t have enough expenses … to beat the $2-a-day method,” Golombek said.

While homeowners can’t claim their mortgage payments, renters can claim a portion of their rent based on the size of their home office space compared to their entire home. As a result, Golombek says they may reap bigger rewards by choosing the detailed method.

“Depending on [what] percentage of their home they’re using, [renters] typically would probably come out ahead on the detailed method.”

Digital tax credit

Golombek also points out one of the new wrinkles this tax season, which is that the government is offering a tax credit to people who subscribed to digital news services in 2020.

Canadians can claim up to $500 for subscriptions to qualifying Canadian media, such as newspapers, magazines, websites and podcasts, that don’t have a broadcast licence and offer primarily original news content.

“I call it a bit of a fun new credit,” Golombek said. 

The CRA told CBC News it will post a list of eligible subscriptions on its website in March and that it will only include organizations that wish to have the information publicly posted. 

If you still have questions about your taxes, you can call the CRA tax information line at 1-800-959-8281. The agency said it has beefed up resources at its call centre, as it anticipates higher than normal call volumes this tax season.

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How will AstraZeneca approval impact Canada's vaccine timeline? | Anand on COVID-19, expected doses – CTV News



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How will AstraZeneca approval impact Canada’s vaccine timeline? | Anand on COVID-19, expected doses  CTV NewsView Full coverage on Google News

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