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Nova Scotia's real estate market booming despite COVID-19 –



Many industries are suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Nova Scotia real estate industry is not one of them.

While there was an initial dip in the first couple of months of the pandemic, the sector was quick to bounce back this summer, with some houses now spending only a few days on the market or selling for tens of thousands of dollars more than the asking price.

Kelvin Ndoro, a senior analyst with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said house sales in Nova Scotia picked up again in June and July.

He chalks it up to “a result of pent-up demand from April and May, where we saw our sales decline almost 40 per cent compared to the year before,” likely due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

Housing prices have also seen a “considerable increase” due to high demand and low supply, said Ndoro, with prices in June up 17 per cent from last year, and prices in July up 11 per cent.

Kelvin Ndoro, senior analyst with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, says house prices shot up in June and July. (CBC)

Ndoro expects things to remain like this, at least for the time being.

“In the short term, we could still see an increase because year-to-date sales are down 10 per cent compared to the year before,” he said.

“So if, like I said, the recent increase is due to pent-up demand, there is still some demand in the market. But … there’s considerable risk in the market, so in the long term we could see prices starting to fall.”

Some of these risks include overvaluation, speculative demand and over-construction, he said.

Donna Harding, a realtor with Engel & Völkers in Halifax, says the real estate market was already strong before entering COVID-19, so they were able to survive a short slump in the spring.

Since the market bounced back, houses have been flying off the proverbial shelves.

“If you’re looking at the really robust markets of Halifax and Dartmouth, they’re absolutely getting very close to asking [price]. Many are getting over asking, sometimes significantly over asking,” Harding said.

“Properties that are listed that are priced well, that show well, they’re only on the market for a few days.”

This is happening everywhere in the province, she said, though some areas are busier than others.

Donna Harding is a realtor with Engel & Völkers. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Harding also said that some houses are being sold without the buyers even setting foot on the property, with people from outside the province viewing houses over FaceTime or through virtual tours.

She expects the market won’t slow down again for at least a few years.

‘Discouraging’ for buyers

Denise MacDonell, a realtor with Red Door Realty in Halifax, says she’s been seeing “a lot of frustration from buyers” recently due to low inventory and high demand.

“So when a house gets listed, particularly if it’s in certain areas — although we’re seeing competition in offers in all areas — you frequently find yourselves competing with four or five other people for the same house, and sometimes 15 or 20,” MacDonell told CBC’s Mainstreet.

“So it’s been frustrating for buyers and it’s hard on them psychologically, because, you know, after a couple of months it’s very discouraging.”

Denise MacDonell of Red Door Realty says many buyers are frustrated with the current housing market. (Red Door Realty)

MacDonell described the issue as a “funnel that’s been plugged.” She said she’s had a number of clients who bought an “entry-level house” a few years ago who are now looking to move, but they can’t find anywhere to move to. And because they might not be able to buy a new house, they’re not putting their current house on the market.

“People perceive that they have nowhere to go, so they’re staying put,” she said.

Another reason for the housing crunch is Nova Scotia’s population growth, according to Rosie Porter, a realtor with Royal LePage in Halifax.

Halifax real estate agents Rosie Porter and Denise MacDonell spoke with guest host Preston Mulligan about Nova Scotia’s housing boom. Some houses are spending only a few days on the market while others are selling for tens of thousands of dollars more than the asking price. 9:54

She said Nova Scotia is an attractive place for people from more expensive cities in provinces like B.C. and Ontario.

“I think that it’s very appealing to be here, and they find that they can get a house with a yard and a driveway and not too far from downtown for much less than the markets that they’re coming from,” said Porter.


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Ford sweetens deal for autoworkers in Canada, Unifor ratifies contract – Detroit Free Press



Phoebe Wall Howard
| Detroit Free Press

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SUVs and electric power star at the Los Angeles auto show

High-profile debuts include Ford’s electric Mustang SUV, a sub-$20,000 Chevy SUV, Land Rover Defender and Bollinger Motors electric SUV and pickup

Ford Motor Co. reached a three-year deal with Unifor National that includes wage increases, bonuses and other benefits for its factory workers in Canada plus a massive financial investment in battery electric vehicles, the company announced Monday.

The union voted 81% in favor of the collective bargaining contract, which includes $1.5 billion (U.S.) in investments to bring battery electric vehicle production to Oakville and a new engine derivative to Windsor, Unifor confirmed.

“This is the single biggest investment in the Canadian auto industry in years,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National president. “The vote … shows Unifor members have a clear vision of a strong and prosperous Canadian auto sector.”

Highlights include $1.4 billion (U.S.) to retool and build new battery electric vehicles in Oakville, “including a crossover utility vehicle, and $148 million for Windsor powertrain facilities,” Unifor said. “Ford has committed to source new 6.X L engines to the Windsor Engine Plant and sole source 5.0L engine assembly and current component machining to the Essex Engine plant, along with any derivatives,” Unifor said.

Engines used for the Ford Mustang and Ford F-Series are built in Canada currently.

The union spotlighted these elements:

  • A 5% wage increase over the life of the agreement, along with a 4% lump sum.
  • A productivity and quality bonus of $5,418 .
  • Inflation protection bonuses and major changes to the New Hire Program, including an eight-year wage grid, and reinstatement of afternoon and midnight shift premiums.
  • A 20% wage differential (re-instated) for skilled trades workers.
  • Paid domestic violence leave.
  • Racial justice advocacy.

“… It’s safe to say we hit a home run on both fronts,” said John D’Agnolo, chair of the Unifor Master Bargaining Committee, in prepared remarks. “… Members … showed unwavering solidarity through some very intense weeks of bargaining.”

Ford goes all in

Ford issued the news first, touting the agreement as a victory for all involved.

“Based on the collective agreement ratified by employees today, Ford is committing to transform its Oakville Assembly Complex from an internal combustion engine (ICE) site to also become a BEV manufacturing facility, starting in 2024, as well as introducing a new engine program at its Windsor operations,” Ford said in a statement.

Ford said increased efficiency measures now include competitive alternative work schedules to maximize production flexibility.

Ford of Canada’s provided additional detail in the contract for its hourly employees:

  • 2.5% wage increase twice over the life of the agreement
  • $5,418 (U.S.) ratification bonus for full-time permanent employees and  $374 (U.S.) for temporary employees
  • Reduced grow-in period for new hires from 11 years to eight years

“Working collaboratively with Unifor, and as discussions continue with both the federal and provincial governments, this agreement is an important step toward building a stronger future for our employees, our customers and our communities,” Dean Stoneley, president and CEO, Ford of Canada, said in prepared remarks.

“By introducing battery electric vehicle production at Oakville Assembly Complex, we are cementing our Canadian operations as a leader in advanced automotive manufacturing,” he said. 

The pattern collective bargaining agreement will be used as a baseline now for discussion with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and then General Motors. The agreements cover about 17,000 Unifor members at the Detroit Three, although the union actually represents more than 19,000 workers at the companies — 9,000 at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, 6,300 at Ford and 4,100 at GM.

The Ford agreement, which had tentative approval on Sept. 22, involves investment of both the automaker and Canadian government officials. The package, mostly paid by Ford, is meant to transform the auto industry in Canada into a major player in electrification, Dias said previously.

Details of the deal have not been revealed by the company or elected officials.

Auto industry forecasters had indicated Ford might close Oakville, where it builds the Ford Edge SUV. Production of the Edge and Lincoln Nautilus are scheduled into 2023.

The investment plan involves building five models of electric vehicles, making Canada a player in the rapidly growing electric vehicle market for the first time. Retooling will start in 2024 with the first vehicle rolling off the assembly line in 2025, Dias said.

More: Ford reaches ‘home run’ labor deal with big investment from Canadian government

More: Autoworkers refuse to fight over scraps during wage talks in Canada, union leader warns

More: Ford’s secret weapon has a passion for batteries and came from NASA

“We generally have a good bargaining relationship with Ford,” Dias told the Free Press after the ratification. “We ended up with major investment from Ford in 2016, too. Ford has a history of finding solutions.”

He noted that Ford is the top-selling brand in Canada.

“This deal with Ford is incredibly important,” Dias said. “When we went into bargaining with Ford, we had no product beyond 2024.”

While global demand for electric vehicles now is in the single digits, he noted, California and other markets are shaping public policy that directly impact the future of internal combustion engines. 

Looking ahead, Dias has pointed out Fiat Chrysler’s Windsor Assembly plant needs additional product. The company cut its third shift at Windsor as the company ended Dodge Grand Caravan production in August.

The focus, he said, “is definitely going to be job security. We lost the entire third shift in Windsor Assembly — 1,500 people laid off. We need one or two vehicles in Windsor to get back that shift. It’s really going to be about stabilizing the footprint over the next three years.”

Targeting Ford for the pattern was the right move, Dias said. “The fact that the economic pattern is already established will save us from fighting with the other two” automakers.

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at 313-222-6512 or Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.

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OPEC in trouble as oil outlook worsens – RT



OPEC has worked vigilantly to bring the oil market into balance, but with demand recovering more slowly than expected, the cartel may be out of options.

Just when they thought they had rebalanced the oil market, OPEC members were served an unpleasant surprise from exempted fellow Libya. The country’s warring factions reached a ceasefire, and some long-shuttered oil ports have been reopened, along with the fields that feed them. By the end of the month, the National Oil Corporation plans to boost the average daily output of the nation from less than 100,000 bpd to 260,000 bpd. Meanwhile, OPEC+ has relaxed its production cuts by 2 million bpd.  The market, according to Mercuria chief executive Marco Dunand, cannot handle this.

In an interview for Bloomberg, Dunand said demand was still weaker than previously expected, and any additional oil flowing into markets would fail to be absorbed. This means a looming build in floating storage as this month, global inventories rose by between 500,000 bpd and 1 million bpd—and that’s excluding the Libyan restart— while drawdowns over the final quarter were seen at 1 million bpd.

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In his bearish outlook for the immediate term, Mercuria’s head is in sync with the head of another commodity trading major, Trafigura. The third super trader, however, is surprisingly optimistic. Also in an interview with Bloomberg, Vitol’s chief executive said earlier this month he expected global crude oil inventories to shrink considerably by the end of the year. While both the heads of Trafigura and Mercuria expect stocks to build first before starting to decline, Vitol’s chief said he expected a drawdown of some 250-300 million barrels by the end of the year.

Reports emerged earlier this month that commodity traders—including the Big Three—were chartering more tankers to store crude oil offshore, sparking concern we could see something like a repeat of this spring when hundreds of millions of barrels of unsellable oil had to be dumped on tankers because onshore storage was full. After the lockdowns ended, demand began improving. This moderate demand boost, however, fell short of pretty much all expectations.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia refuses to learn from its two FAILED oil price WARS

One particularly worrying trend is the slow rate of economic recovery among emerging countries—the main drivers of oil demand growth. Except for China, most are still battling the coronavirus and its effects on their economies. India is a good case in point: its oil demand is seen to be the worst affected by the coronavirus as the country itself suffers the second-highest total case count in the world.

Some analysts believe, however, that demand in China is about to start slowing down soon. It will be a long-term trend, according to the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, and a result not just of Covid-19 but of Beijing’s emission-reduction goals. Over the next 20 years, the energy research organization said, China’s oil demand was likely to grow at an annual pace of 3 to 4 million bpd, after growing by double-digit rates in the past few years.

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According to Mercuria’s Dunand, oil demand during the fourth quarter will average 95 million bpd. That’s down from a market consensus of 97 to 98 million bpd, made in spring. And the rate at which excessive inventories will be drawn is seen weaker than previously expected. Add to this a dramatic build in diesel inventories because refiners, Dunand noted to Bloomberg, are dumping jet fuel into the diesel pool, and Libya’s restart of production and the outlook for prices once again becomes grim. 

According to the head of Mercuria, the biggest problem on the oil market is the diesel stock oversupply. With many countries in Europe restricting movement again, whatever improvement there had been in fuel demand—especially jet fuel—will likely slow down further now, if not reverse if a full-blown second wave of infections hits the continent. And the problem will persist.

Meanwhile, OPEC is out of options. The cartel and its partners in OPEC+ will discuss the next steps later this year, with the original plan involving a further relaxation of the cuts, by 2 million bpd, from January 2021. The way prices are moving now and likely to move during the final quarter, this may become a topic of arguments within the group, as some members need oil revenues more urgently than others.

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Amazon looks to fill 3,000 jobs at newest Vancouver tech hub – Vancouver Sun



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Online retail giant Amazon will be filling 3,000 new jobs at its latest tech hub, in the former downtown Vancouver post office.

Almost to 800 positions are already available, while the rest are expected to be filled when construction at The Post, between Georgia and Dunsmuir at Homer Street, nears completion in 2023, said Jesse Dougherty, an Amazon-vice president and Vancouver lead, in a statement.

“Amazon’s investment has tangible benefits for the broader economy and community — from the people we employ, to the small businesses we empower, to the charities we support, to the academic opportunities we fund. We’re proud to reaffirm our commitment to Canadian cities at this critical time,” said Dougherty.

The jobs span several departments across the company, including Alexa, Amazon advertising, retail and operations technology, and include roles such as software development engineers, user experience designers, speech scientists working to develop Alexa, cloud computing solutions architects, and sales and marketing executives.

It was previously reported that Amazon would be the sole corporate tenant at The Post, with plans to occupy 18 floors in the complex’s north tower and 17 floors in the south tower.

“The city of Vancouver is so excited to see Amazon creating an additional 3,000 well-paying jobs for people who want to work and live in our city,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart in a statement. This “highlights the strength of our tech sector and shows that Vancouver is where companies want to establish themselves and grow.”

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