Red-hot inflation has Canadians opening their wallets wider at the grocery store and gas pump, but that’s not stopping them from also spending on travel, new cars and home improvements as pent-up demand outweighs cost pressures, at least for now.
Household consumption was the top contributor to Canada’s economic growth last year, according to official data, as consumers embarked on a historic spending spree. The Bank of Canada sees the binge continuing to drive the economy in 2022 even as it kicked off a tightening cycle this month.
But record mortgage debt and higher interest rates, coupled with the prices of everyday essentials rising at their fastest pace in three decades, risk putting a damper on all this spending, and that could curb economic growth.
Consumers, however, have shrugged off the spiraling prices so far and once again are ramping up their discretionary spending, according to interviews with retailers, car dealers, real estate agents and economists.
“Canadians have solid balance sheets, they’ve racked up ample savings and, for the most part, confidence is holding up,” said Rannella Billy-Ochieng’, an economist at RBC Economics.
RBC has pegged excess savings in Canada as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic at more than C$300 billion ($238.5 billion), enough to help consumers hedge against the rising cost of living, said Billy-Ochieng’.
The Bank of Canada expects Canadians to draw down roughly C$40 billion of those excess savings through the end of 2023. Consumer spending intentions hit their highest level on record in the fourth quarter of 2021, the central bank said.
The result will be a tsunami of consumer activity unleashed on the Canadian economy, assuming inflation – currently running at 5.7% annually and set to go higher – is contained and geopolitical tensions do not broaden.
CARS AND TRIPS
At Sean’s Auto Sales in Ottawa, owner Sean Liu said consumers are clamoring for gently used cars despite record high fuel costs and hefty price increases.
“Sometimes I have two or three people fighting over one car,” Liu said.
The car buying frenzy is fueled by pent-up demand after months of low inventory due to a global semi-conductor chip shortage, said Huw Williams of the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association. With car lots filling back up, Williams sees a surge in sales followed by more normal buying patterns.
Tourism has also benefited, with travel spending touching pre-pandemic levels for the first time in February, according to RBC’s consumer spending tracker.
“People are seizing the moment to travel,” said Susan Catto, head of publishing and production at Travelzoo Canada, adding that most of the would-be travelers are buying trips they can take right away.
Catto expects bookings to increase considerably as pandemic-related border restrictions ease.
Canadians took out record mortgage debt during the pandemic, sending house prices surging 52% in just two years. With interest rates now rising, some 73% of Canadians are concerned about the impact on their living expenses, according to an Angus Reid survey this month for accounting firm Grant Thornton.
Nearly half of respondents said they could not afford an extra C$100 of debt payments per month.
“Some people have absolutely no financial room to spare,” said Freida Richer, a partner at Grant Thornton.
Established homeowners, however, have more breathing room. Higher property prices mean they are willing to spend a lot more on renovating their homes than in pre-pandemic times, said Tim Priddle, co-owner of the WoodSource, a lumber and millwork shop in Ottawa.
But Priddle expects demand for large home renovations to cool later this year as spending priorities shift again.
“A lot of people in 2023 will probably say ‘let’s go on a holiday to Europe’ rather than renovate the backyard,” he said.
($1 = 1.2578 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Paul Simao)
FTX founder Bankman-Fried objects to tighter bail, says prosecutors 'sandbagged' him – Reuters
NEW YORK, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Lawyers for Sam Bankman-Fried on Saturday urged a U.S. judge not to ban the indicted FTX cryptocurrency executive from communicating with former colleagues as part of his bail, saying prosecutors “sandbagged” the process to put their client in the “worst possible light.”
The lawyers were responding to a Friday night request by federal prosecutors that Bankman-Fried not be allowed to talk with most employees of FTX or his Alameda Research hedge fund without lawyers present, or use the encrypted messaging apps Signal or Slack and potentially delete messages automatically.
Bankman-Fried, 30, has been free on $250 million bond since pleading not guilty to charges of fraud in the looting of billions of dollars from the now-bankrupt FTX.
Prosecutors said their request was in response to Bankman-Fried’s recent effort to contact a potential witness against him, the general counsel of an FTX affiliate, and was needed to prevent witness tampering and other obstruction of justice.
But in a letter to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers said prosecutors sprung the “overbroad” bail conditions without revealing that both sides had been discussing bail over the last week.
“Rather than wait for any response from the defense, the government sandbagged the process, filing this letter at 6:00 p.m. on Friday evening,” Bankman-Fried’s lawyers wrote. “The government apparently believes that a one-sided presentation – spun to put our client in the worst possible light – is the best way to get the outcome it seeks.”
Bankman-Fried’s lawyers also said their client’s efforts to contact the general counsel and John Ray, installed as FTX’s chief executive during the bankruptcy, were attempts to offer “assistance” and not to interfere.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan declined to comment.
Bankman-Fried’s lawyers proposed that their client have access to some colleagues, including his therapist, but not be allowed to talk with Caroline Ellison and Zixiao “Gary” Wang, who have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors.
They said a Signal ban isn’t necessary because Bankman-Fried is not using the auto-delete feature, and concern he might is “unfounded.”
The lawyers also asked to remove a bail condition preventing Bankman-Fried from accessing FTX, Alameda or cryptocurrency assets, saying there was “no evidence” he was responsible for earlier alleged unauthorized transactions.
In an order on Saturday, Kaplan gave prosecutors until Monday to address Bankman-Fried’s concerns.
“The court expects all counsel to abstain from pejorative characterizations of the actions and motives of their adversaries,” the judge added.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Gold declines in light of the report that revealed inflation continues to decline – Kitco NEWS
As of 6:00 PM EST, the February contract of gold futures has fallen for the second time in the last seven trading days. Currently, gold futures are fixed at $1927.60, a decline of $2.40 or 0.12%. Gold traded to a high of $1935.40, and a low of $1916.50.
The key takeaway from today’s PCE inflation index report was that the core PCA index declined in December by 0.3%. The preferred inflation index used by the Federal Reserve was at 4.7% year-over-year in November and declined to 4.4% year-over-year last month.
Both reports will influence decisions made by the Fed at next week’s FOMC meeting.
They will be critical components used by the Federal Reserve next week and will most likely strengthen the conviction of hawkish Fed officials to maintain their extremely aggressive monetary policy. Currently, the Federal Reserve’s forward guidance is composed of additional rate hikes and maintaining elevated rates for a longer time.
The most likely outcome is that the Fed will raise the rate by ¼% at the next two meetings. The Federal Reserve has stated they continue to work to reach its inflation target of 2%. A vast majority of market participants continue to believe that the Fed will backpedal on its commitment to keep rates elevated through 2023.
I will be speaking at the VRIC 2023 (Sunday, January 29-30) at the Vancouver Convention Center. Both Kitco News and I wish to welcome you if you’re available.
For those who would like more information simply use this link.
Wishing you as always good trading,
Afraid to check a bag? Canada's missing baggage woes explained – CBC News
Deborah Cleary was exasperated.
When she landed in Montreal on Dec. 19, following a trip to Italy, she discovered her suitcase was missing. More than a month later, Air Canada still hadn’t found her bag.
“I’ve spent so much time thinking about it, worrying about it, checking online, calling Air Canada,” said Cleary from her home in Plattsburg, N.Y., on Tuesday. “I’m just sort of desperate to get my bag back.”
The post-pandemic return to travel has been turbulent, plagued by mass flight disruptions and missing baggage piling up at airports. That has led to calls for airlines to improve their baggage delivery systems.
“It’s broken, so I think they need to fix that,” said Cleary, who visited the Montreal airport two weeks ago to search for her bag amidst a sea of unclaimed luggage. She didn’t find it.
However, following a CBC News inquiry to Air Canada, Cleary learned on Friday that her suitcase is being shipped to her home.
“I’m very, very happy,” she said. “I had almost resigned myself, I was never going to see it again.”
Canada’s first round of missing baggage chaos erupted in the summer, largely sparked by staffing shortages as airports and airlines scrambled to ramp up operations.
There were high hopes the holiday travel season would go more smoothly — until severe winter storms hit much of Canada, causing hundreds of delayed and cancelled flights, plus a backlog of lost luggage.
“In the airline industry, a delay of greater than 15 minutes generally results in missed connections,” said former Air Canada executive Duncan Dee. “Delays equal missing bags.”
Dee said airlines need to do a better job keeping track of luggage, and the federal government also needs to invest more in airports.
In late December, cold weather caused a baggage belt to freeze at Toronto’s international airport; a fierce snow storm caused widespread flight delays and cancellations at Vancouver’s international airport.
“There’s obviously a need for better infrastructure, better resources for airports … to make them more resilient to these weather events,” said Dee.
What about the airlines?
When asked this week about recent travel chaos, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said airports will get the tools they need, but did not elaborate.
On the baggage issue, he pointed the finger at airlines.
“I find it extremely frustrating when I hear stories of people not having their luggage for days on end,” he said during an event in Hamilton. “Airlines should be doing more.”
His comments follow several recent media reports about air passengers’ struggles to find their missing luggage
They include the saga of Nakita Rees and Tom Wilson of Cambridge, Ont., who battled with Air Canada for more than four months to retrieve Wilson’s missing suitcase.
The bag vanished during their flight home from Greece in September. Because the couple had put an air tag tracker inside the suitcase, they were able to track its journey to a storage facility in nearby Etobicoke, Ont.
Even though Rees shared with Air Canada the whereabouts of the bag, the airline deemed it lost.
“The most frustrating thing about it was we had no way of getting it, even though we knew the location and we told the airline so many times,” said Rees. “Because the air tags are newer, I just don’t think airlines know how to even use that information.”
The couple finally got the suitcase back this week — after their story was picked up by the media.
Other passengers have also complained about similar experiences when tracking their lost luggage with air tags.
Former Air Canada executive Dee said airlines typically track luggage by scanning their baggage tags and that their systems currently can’t accommodate air tracking technology.
“That’s something where airline processes have not caught up to the technology that’s available,” he said. “No airline in the world has the ability right now to accept information from travellers.”
Alghabra suggested airlines need to change with the times.
“We hear about how Amazon is able to identify where their items [are at] every moment,” he said. “It’s frustrating that airlines still have not modernized their luggage handling system.”
Air Canada told CBC News it’s constantly exploring new technologies. The airline added that its baggage delivery rate has returned to normal, following the stormy holiday weather.
Air Canada said that in Rees’ case, the baggage tag had fallen off the suitcase. The airline didn’t say how it eventually located the couple’s bag, but did indicate that they get to keep the $2,300 in compensation they received for lost luggage.
WestJet said it has launched a strategic review to fine-tune its baggage systems. “[We] are committed to working together with our third-party service partners … to ensure we improve in this area,” said spokesperson Madison Kruger in an email.
Travellers can claim up to approximately $2,350 for luggage that is lost or delayed on an international flight. For delayed baggage on domestic flights, the airlines design their own rules.
Alghabra’s office told CBC News this week the government is exploring ways to strengthen rights for air passengers, including for delayed and lost baggage.
As for passenger Cleary, she had applied for compensation for a lost bag, but said getting it back is a better outcome.
“I would much prefer to have my bag back than any money from Air Canada.”
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