More homes were sold in Canada this July than any other month on record, as the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped demand and pushed prices to all-time highs.
The Canadian Real Estate Association said Monday that the 62,355 sales in July 2020 marked the highest monthly sales figure on record, with data going back more than 40 years.
Sales in July were up 30.5 per cent compared with the same month a year ago and up 26 per cent from June, rebounding from lows of earlier this year when the COVID-19 pandemic froze the market.
CREA said the sales came as the actual national average price for homes sold in July hit a record $571,500, up 14.3 per cent from the same month last year.
CREA senior economist Shaun Cathcart said there was more than one driving force behind July’s full-tilt housing market, citing both COVID-19 and existing issues heading into 2020.
“A big part of what we’re seeing right now is the snap back in activity that would have otherwise happened earlier this year,” Cathcart said.
“Recall that before the lockdowns, we were heading into the tightest spring market in almost 20 years.”
“Some purchases will no doubt be delayed, but the new-found importance of home, lack of a daily commute for many, a desire for more outdoor and personal space, room for a home office, etc. will certainly also spur activity that otherwise would not have happened in a non-COVID-19 world.”
Sales have also been helped by low mortgage rates with rates for five-year fixed-rate mortgages being offered at less than two per cent.
The uptick in home prices was broad-based, with all 20 of the markets tracked by CREA reporting month-over-month increases in July.
The Toronto area, Guelph, Ont., Ottawa and Montreal saw the biggest price spikes, with prices climbing faster in most markets east of Saskatchewan. Prices rose more modestly in British Columbia and Alberta, CREA said.
While work-from-home solutions may be temporary for some, Ottawa real estate broker Rachel Gagnon agreed with Cathcart that the “new-found importance of home” has emerged as a more permanent consideration for buyers. She noted that the dangers of the pandemic — such as relying on daycare or navigating the grocery store — have translated into buyers who want to create a self-contained family unit with a playground and veggie garden.
“This has put things in perspective, they’d much rather have full control in their day-to-day,” says Gagnon.
But Gagnon also noted that many of those in the market at the moment are second-time homebuyers, who may have benefited from rising prices and are taking advantage of low interest rates to move up.
“Unfortunately, it’s definitely the lower bracket first-time home buyers who are getting hit the hardest. They’re the first ones to be touched with employment and child care financial issues during the pandemic, so as home prices keep soaring and lending restrictions get tighter, they’re the ones to get pushed out of the market,” said Gagnon.
Brian DePratto, senior economist at TD Economics, said it can be hard to understand how the housing market can be so hot when the unemployment rate remains in double-digits.
DePratto said that the strength of the recent rebound in the housing market is “definitely surprising” and he will be watching for the end of mortgage forbearance programs that have helped “insulate the economy” during the pandemic.
“As autumn approaches, these programs will expire or change form. Depending on the progress of the broader economic recovery, this could bring significant headwinds to housing markets, particularly prices,” DePratto wrote.
Bethany King, real estate team leader and sales representative at Century 21 Millennium Inc., says she also has seen fear about a “second wave” pushing housing decisions. For instance, she said, parents may be worried schools will close again — and may decide to move to a home with a “classroom,” even if it’s outside the desired school district. On the other hand, she said, a second wave of COVID-19 infections may force parents to take unpaid leave from work and stay home with children, which could lead to long-term mortgage defaults.
King said that condos are already being listed in Toronto, as owners have failed to make money through renting on short-term rental sites such as Airbnb. If other homeowners hit hard by the pandemic eventually decide to sell and downsize, it could push supply onto the market and shift from a “seller’s” to a “buyer’s” market this fall, King said.
In July, demand outpaced supply, as sales increased faster than new properties could be listed. Although new listings hit a record for the month of July, as the number of newly listed homes climbed by 7.6 per cent in July compared with June, it came amid a 26 per cent jump in sales.
Cathcart said despite the surge in new listings hitting the market, the total number of listings that lingered on the market as inventory was at a 16-year low.
CREA’s statement also suggested that new supply appears to be “tapering off in many parts of the country,” with the Toronto area dominating new listings. The “sales-to-new listings” ratio in July was at its highest levels since 2001-2002, at 73.9 per cent.
“There are listings that will come to the market because of COVID-19, but many properties are also not being listed right now due to the virus,” Cathcart said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2020.
RBC online banking, trading inaccessible due to 'technical issues' – Yahoo Canada Finance
TORONTO (Reuters) – Royal Bank of Canada’s <RY.TO> online banking and retail trading platforms, as well as its telephone support system, have been down since Monday morning, with users receiving error messages attributing the failures to “technical issues.”
Irate clients of Canada’s biggest bank took to Twitter to complain about their inability to access their accounts, execute trades on the bank’s website or app, or reach customer service agents, with some pointing out that this was not the first outage experienced by the bank this year.
“We’re aware of an issue affecting our online banking and mobile app at the moment,” RBC posted on Twitter in response to the complaints. “We’re working to get this corrected as quickly as possible. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”
RBC did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. The bank’s shares were down 2% in afternoon trade in Toronto, versus a 1.8% decline in the Toronto stock benchmark <.GSPTSE>.
(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
Paper towel in short supply as people stay home, clean more, industry leader says – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
MONTREAL — The head of Canada’s largest manufacturer of tissue products says he’s concerned about the industry’s supply of paper towel ahead of a potential second wave of COVID-19.
Kruger Products CEO Dino Bianco says demand for paper towel has soared as people stay at home and clean more frequently.
He says the industry is “very tight” on paper towel inventory across North America, despite efforts to build up supply.
Bianco says Kruger, which makes SpongeTowels paper towels, is pushing to open its new plant in Sherbrooke, Que., to add more capacity in Canada.
Although slated to open in February 2021, he said the company is trying to get the factory up and running faster. Some machines started over the summer, while more are set to come online in October.
Bianco said the plant will increase the company’s paper towel and toilet paper manufacturing capacity by 20 per cent.
Meanwhile, he says the company is also seeing a shortage of the recycled fibres used in about 25 per cent of its tissue products.
Bianco says Kruger recycles white paper used in offices, but that the market has dried up because people aren’t in offices printing.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2020.
Bank shares slide on report of rampant money laundering – Yahoo Canada Finance
The financial sector was hit hard Monday following a report alleging that a number of banks, JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon among them, have continued to profit from illicit dealings with disreputable people and criminal networks despite previous warnings from regulators.
According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, leaked government documents show that the banks continued moving illicit funds even after being warned of potential criminal prosecutions. The documents were obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with the ICIJ.
The report compounded a massive sell-off across global markets because of gloom and doom over COVID-19 infections and the economic damage from the pandemic.
The consortium reported that documents indicate that JPMorgan moved money for people and companies tied to the massive looting of public funds in Malaysia, Venezuela and the Ukraine. The bank also processed more than $50 million in payments over a decade for Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, according to the documents, which are known as the FinCEN Files.
Shares of JP Morgan tumbled 4.4%.
The consortium’s investigation found the documents identify more than $2 trillion in transactions between 1999 and 2017 that were flagged by financial institutions’ internal compliance officers as possible money laundering or other criminal activity, and $1.3 trillion of that activity took place at Deutsche Bank. Shares of Deutsche Bank dropped 7.7%.
Deutsche Bank has been under scrutiny for years. The bank, based in Frankfurt, Germany, agreed to pay the state of New York $150 million to settle claims that it broke compliance rules in its dealings with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein killed himself last August in a Manhattan federal jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported last year that Deutsche Bank gave expensive gifts to senior Chinese officials and hired family members of Chinese elite as it was trying to establish itself as a major player in China’s financial industry.
In a related action, the bank agreed last year to pay about $16 million to settle civil charges by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by hiring relatives of government officials in Asia and Russia in an effort to improperly influence the officials to help its investment banking business. Deutsche Bank neither admitted nor denied the allegations in the settlement.
Also in 2019, German prosecutors indicted a 48-year-old former employee of Deutsche Bank as part of a probe into a massive tax evasion scam that’s led to more than a dozen prosecutions.
In 2018, German authorities raided Deutsche Bank’s headquarters on suspicions that its employees helped clients set up offshore companies that were used to launder hundreds of millions of euros. The case was spurred by the release of the Panama Papers. A long-running money-laundering investigation of the bank is being pursued by federal prosecutors in New York.
In the wake of the Epstein scandal, Deutsche Bank said it had invested almost $1 billion to improve its training and controls and had boosted its staff overseeing the work to more than 1,500 employees “to continue enhancing our anti-financial crime capabilities.”
For years, Deutsche Bank has wrestled with regulatory penalties and fines, high costs, weak profits and a low share price. The bank went three straight years without turning an annual profit before recording positive earnings of 341 million euros for 2018.
The London Bank HSBC, Europe’s largest acknowledged in 2012 that it had laundered at least $881 million for Latin American drug cartels. However, according to the report, HSBC continued to manage money for shady clients, including suspected Russian money launderers and a Ponzi scheme under investigation in multiple countries.
Shares of HSBC, already down more than 50% this year, slumped to levels not seen in more than two decades Monday.
This story has been corrected to show that Deutsche Bank’s $16 million settlement last year was related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, not a criminal money-laundering case.
The Associated Press
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