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‘Perfect storm’ swirls as Canadians face hot inflation, rising rates

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OTTAWA/WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Oct 30 (Reuters) – At a warehouse on an industrial stretch in Ottawa, giant metal crates of donated groceries are piled high as volunteers sort canned goods, pasta and other foods to be distributed to pantries around the Canadian city.

Demand has surged 33% at the Ottawa Food Bank from pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, with visits up as spiraling grocery, gas and rent prices, along with fast-rising borrowing costs, leave more Canadians struggling to make ends meet.

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“We are absolutely seeing more people,” said Rachael Wilson, chief executive of the Ottawa Food Bank, adding the organization is now spending C$6 million ($4.4 million) a year on food, up from C$2 million pre-pandemic.

“That’s because the cost of food has risen … but also because of the number of people that are turning to a food bank right now,” said Wilson. “It is unfortunately a perfect storm.”

Canada’s headline inflation rate has eased to 6.9% from a peak of 8.1%, but food costs are still accelerating and underlying price pressures remain sticky.

At the same time, the Bank of Canada (BoC) has hiked interest rates by 350-basis points in just seven months, one of its sharpest tightening campaigns ever, to try to force inflation back to its 2% target.

The result is Canadian consumers and small businesses are being squeezed from both sides, prompting politicians, unions and even some economists to implore the central bank to slow its pace of tightening.

The bank this week signaled its tightening campaign was nearing its peak, but made clear it was not done yet, as it hiked rates by 50-bps to a fresh 14-year high.

In a television interview after the decision, BoC Governor Tiff Macklem said restoring price stability was not easy, but rampant inflation would be worse.

“I understand a lot of Canadians are in debt and interest rate increases will put more stress on them. It is something that we are watching closely,” he told Radio-Canada.

‘EVERYONE’S NERVOUS’

Canada, with its pricey homes and top of the G7 household debt levels, is particularly sensitive to higher interest rates, with fears mounting the BoC’s aggressive hikes will trigger a recession.

Wes Farnell, who runs Eight Ounce Coffee in Calgary with his wife Jen, said their specialty coffee equipment business was growing by 25% to 35% a year before the pandemic, and then boomed as lockdowns led to surging demand for high-end lifestyle appliances.

Now he is already seeing signs that hot inflation and recession worries have consumers focused on essentials rather than luxury appliances, which is adding up to fewer large orders even as the holiday shopping season approaches.

“Our wholesalers are definitely more tentative about spending money,” said Farnell. “Everyone’s nervous … Will people be spending money? Will there be any money to spend? Will inflation go up even further?”

The pain is also being felt on the farm, where record high debt levels and surging operating costs are weighing on many farmers, despite strong grain prices.

For Brodie Haugan, who farms with his parents near Orion, Alberta, inflation has hit especially hard, coupled with a relentless drought.

With the price of feed rising faster than cattle prices, Haugan reduced his 400-cow herd by 30% in spring.

He also delayed buying a much-needed new truck, as the cost shot up to C$100,000 from C$75,000 pre-pandemic.

“Right across the board, everything has increased in price, making it very difficult to really do anything at all,” Haugan said.

($1 = 1.3516 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Josie Kao

 

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DoorDash laying off 1,250 people, about 6% of its workforce – CBC News

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DoorDash Inc. said on Wednesday it was cutting about 1,250 jobs, or six per cent of its total workforce, as the food-delivery company looks to keep a lid on costs to cope with a slowdown in demand.

DoorDash went on a hiring spree to cater to a flood of orders from people stuck at home during the height of the pandemic, but a sudden drop in demand from inflation-wary customers has left the company grappling with ballooning costs.

“We were not as rigorous as we should have been in managing our team growth … That’s on me. As a result, operating expenses grew quickly,” chief executive Tony Xu said in a memo to employees that was posted on the company’s website.

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“Given how quickly we hired, our operating expenses — if left unabated — would continue to outgrow our revenue.”

DoorDash has about 20,000 employees worldwide, and “some of the affected employees are based in Canada,” the company told CBC News in a statement, without elaborating.

The company joins a growing list of technology firms, including Amazon, Facebook-owner Meta, Twitter, Shopify and others that have laid off thousands of employees in recent weeks as they brace for a potential economic downturn.

British food delivery company Deliveroo said in late October that sales growth would be at the lower end of its previous forecast. In September, Winnipeg-based food delivery app SkipTheDishes laid off 350 workers.

Earlier this month, DoorDash reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly net loss of $295 million US, raising questions about the growth prospect of delivery firms as economies reopen. The company’s shares have lost two thirds of their value this year.

“Greater emphasis on its cost structure is a welcoming sign, especially given the potential for consumer spending to deteriorate faster than expected,” said Angelo Zino, analyst at CFRA Research.

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'I didn't ever try to commit fraud on anyone,' FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried says – CBC News

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The man at the centre of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX made his first public appearance since the saga began, telling a New York audience on Wednesday that it was never his intention to commit fraud.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old founder of FTX, appeared at the New York Times’ Dealbook Summit on Wednesday, for an interview with journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin about what happened to cause his cryptocurrency firm to collapse into bankruptcy earlier this month.

The firm, once worth more than $32 billion US, entered bankruptcy protection on Nov. 11 after a whirlwind series of days that saw it go from trying to solve a liquidity crunch by merging with a rival, to having that deal fall apart and succumbing to a run on the bank as traders pulled out $6 billion in funds within three days.

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Filings show the company owes almost $10 billion to various creditors, and at least $1 billion worth of customer deposits are missing. 

Among numerous allegations, customer deposits at FTX appear to have been used as capital and collateral for loans for an investment firm called Alameda affiliated with him — an allegation that amounts to fraud, and one that he pushed back against strongly.

‘Deeply sorry’ 

“I didn’t ever try to commit fraud on anyone,” he told Sorkin, “I didn’t knowingly co-mingle funds.”

While he acknowledged mistakes were made, Bankman-Fried rejected repeated attempts to characterize what happened at his cryptocurrency firm as being in any way malicious or illegal.

“I am deeply sorry about what happened,” he said. “I was excited about the prospects of FTX a month ago, I saw it as a thriving, growing business.”

Bankman-Fried has seen his personal net worth evaporate in the debacle, from more than $26 billion a year ago to “close to nothing” today — and he insisted that he doesn’t have any of the money that has vanished.

“I don’t have any hidden funds here. Everything I have, I am disclosing,” he said. 

“I’m down to one working credit card … [and] hundreds of dollars or something like that, in a bank account.”

WATCH | Former regulator weighs in on FTX debacle: 

Former regulatory executive weighs in on FTX collapse

19 days ago

Duration 4:04

Charley Cooper, a former executive at commodities regulator the CFTC, says the collapse of FTX is a good lesson of the inherent dangers of the cryptocurrency space.

He says, to his knowledge, there are enough funds at FTX to give users their money. But his hands are tied since he no longer has a formal role at the company since it entered bankruptcy proceedings.

“I believe that withdrawals could be opened up today and everyone could be made whole,” he said.

John Jay Ray III, the restructuring expert who has been handling FTX’s bankruptcy proceedings has said in legal filings that Bankman-Fried appears to have treated the company as his “personal fiefdom” and has called the fiasco a “complete failure of corporate controls.”

Bankman-Fried has been active on Twitter since the debacle first started, but his appearance on Wednesday marks his first public appearance since the saga began.

There was speculation he was going to appear in person, but ultimately he appeared via video link from the Bahamas, where he lives.

Legal problems

Sorkin asked Bankman-Fried if he did not appear in person because he is worried about being within the reach of U.S. agencies including the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, both of which are probing what happened at FTX.

Bankman-Fried appeared to side-step that question, remarking instead that, to his knowledge, he can still legally enter the U.S. 

“I’ve seen a lot of the hearings that have been happening [and] would not be surprised if some time I am out there talking about what happened,” he said, adding that he “does not personally think” he has any criminal liability to worry about.

That being said, he said his legal team is “very much not” supportive of his decision to appear at the summit and speak publicly about what happened at FTX. His lawyers advice was “to recede into a hole,” he joked.

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Investors focus on Powell's comments which put gold back into rally mode – Kitco NEWS

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Today gold futures are trading solidly higher as market participants react to Chairman Jerome Powell’s speech at the Hutchings Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, held at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Market participants focused intently on his remarks which alluded to a dynamic change in the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy.

“Thus, it makes sense to moderate the pace of our rate increases as we approach the level of restraint that will be sufficient to bring inflation down … The time for moderating the pace of rate increases may come as soon as the December meeting.”

However, it must be noted that the reaction by investors at large seems to focus on what they had hoped to hear which is the Fed will begin to raise rates at a slower pace rather than his nuanced message that the time required for the Federal Reserve to achieve their goal will take much longer.

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“It is likely that restoring price stability will require holding policy at a restrictive level for some time … History cautions strongly against prematurely loosening policy. We will stay the course until the job is done.”

As of 6:16 PM EST gold futures basis of the most active February, 2023 Comex contract is fixed at $1784.60 After factoring in today’s double-digit advance comprised of dollar weakness, buyers in the market along with the rollover from the December to February contract month.

Chairman Powell’s speech today diminished the concern of investors as they reacted to other members of the Federal Reserve who have been extremely vocal about upcoming interest rate hikes. Specifically, recent remarks by James Bullard underscored the hawkish intent of the Federal Reserve. Last week he commented on the need for the Federal Reserve’s benchmark rate to go as high as 7% to deal with inflation. This week he said that “the Federal Reserve will likely need to keep its benchmark policy rate north of 5% for most of 2023 and into 2024 to succeed in taming inflation.”

Chairman Powell’s statements were not in conflict in any way with those made earlier by James Bullard and other members of the Federal Reserve in his prepared speech. However, the chairman was able to deliver this message in a much softer tone. Chairman Powell in essence cemented a 50-basis point rate hike at the December FOMC meeting. However, he stressed that slowing the pace of rate hikes would require that the Fed maintains a restrictive monetary policy for a longer period.

Gold’s recent rally from $1621 to just shy of $1800 is a reflection of a major change in the market sentiment of investors. It suggests that investors are focusing intently on inflation and that lowering inflation to restore price stability will be a multi-year process.

For those who would like more information simply use this link.

Wishing you as always good trading,

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