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Province reports lower deficit, touts recovering economy in mid-year report – CBC.ca

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The provincial government released its mid-year report today and projected a deficit almost $400 million lower than expected. 

Earlier this year, the provincial government forecasted a $2.4 billion deficit but today’s report showed that to be sitting around $2 billion, an improvement of $381.5 million from this year’s budget.

Revenue projections also saw an increase, to the tune of $503.5 million, or 3.7 per cent from the provincial budget announcement.

“The increase from budget is due to higher federal transfers, higher government business enterprise net income and higher non-renewable resource revenue,” a statement from the Ministry of Finance said. 

Tax revenues were projected to decrease by $41.2 million as a reduction in the small business tax rate was factored in. Other tax and own-source revenue forecasts were unchanged from the budget.

Expenses were forecasted to be $16.2 billion, an increase of $122 million, or 0.8 per cent. The increase covered money for the health, education, municipal and tourism sectors and was partly offset by lower-than-budgeted pension expenses and crop insurance claims expenses.

The mid-year forecast included the impacts of the government’s election commitments, totalling $91.7 million.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said $260 million was set aside as contingency, which she said is a substantial cushion that’s built in for the remaining six months of the year. She said data from the first six months of the year will help guide the province through the remainder of the year. 

She noted that the contingencies are set aside to protect the healthcare system and said the province will do “whatever it takes” to ensure the system is supported through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There is no way to say what the magic number will be … compensation salaries is going to be a big part of that, and that is something that we couldn’t pre-pay,” Harpauer said on Friday. 

“At 160 million, that will deal with quite a bit of that pressure for the next few months.” 

In reflecting on the numbers, Harpauer said she was pleased to see the provincial economic indicators were stronger than what was initially anticipated. 

She said she’s concerned because the province is reliant on two items in particular: consumer confidence and trade. Consumer confidence is affected by COVID-19 numbers, she said, and because the province is trade-dependant, Saskatchewan is heavily affected by what happens in other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world. 

“I will always have a nervousness for those two factors because they will affect this budget in a big way,” Harpauer said. 

Drop in public and net debt

The ministry said public and net debt are both down compared to the budget’s forecasts.

Estimates showed Saskatchewan’s net debt-to-GDP ratio, as of March 31, 2021, would be at 19.6 per cent, one of the lowest in the country, and the ministry touted Saskatchewan’s credit rating as the second-highest in Canada.

“Saskatchewan’s economy has performed better than originally anticipated in the June 2020 budget,” Harpauer said in the provncial release.  

“Real GDP is forecast to decline 5.0 per cent, compared to a decline of 6.3 per cent forecast at budget. Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate was the lowest in Canada in October and total employment, on an unadjusted basis, is nearing pre-pandemic levels.  As a result, our planned path to balance in 2024-25 is unchanged.”

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Stocks Could Have a Muted Year, Even if the Economy Booms – Barron's

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Welcome to the Roaring ’20s. When the world finally bids good riddance to Covid-19, courtesy of a bevy of novel vaccines, expect Americans to emerge from their lairs with a joie de vivre not seen since the 1920s. That’s marvelous news for the economy, which could use some cheer after a punishing year, and for the many companies that will help keep the good times rolling.

Just don’t expect the party on Main Street to spread to Wall Street, which had a rollicking celebration of its own this past year. As a consequence, stock…

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The economy is ailing again and layoffs are rising, but vaccines offer hope for cure – MarketWatch

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It’s not just the lives of Americans that rest on a quick rollout of coronavirus vaccines, it’s the livelihoods of millions of people who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Almost every forecast for the U.S. economy predicts a big rebound in growth and employment in 2021, but it sure doesn’t feel that way right now with the coronavirus still spreading like wildfire.

The last few weeks alone have shown weaker hiring, rising layoffs, and declining consumer spending, all of which point to a faltering economy.

Many businesses have closed, cut their operating hours and laid off workers, leaving some 10 million Americans who had jobs before the pandemic still out of work.

Also: The U.S. lost 140,000 jobs in December. How bad was it?

The bad news hasn’t stopped investors from piling more money into the stock market, however. They are also betting on a big rebound in the economy this year and next.

What they are watching most is the speed at which the vaccines are administered, how rapidly the pandemic recedes and what steps new President Joe Biden will take to boost the economy until the crisis passes.

Read: Consumer inflation increases in December on higher gas prices

Does that render moot the next month or two of economic data, the stuff that usually moves markets. Not all all.

These reports will tell us how much ground the economy has lost in the past few months, how much ground it has to make up —- and whether the hoped-for snapback in the economy is actually underway.

“Do the data over the next few months matter? They certainly do,” said Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial.

The key measure to watch is weekly jobless benefit claims, one of the few weekly government reports that’s very sensitive to changes in the health of the economy.

See: MarketWatch Economic Calendar

Jobless claims, a rough measure of layoffs, began to rise again in November just as the latest and biggest wave of coronavirus cases spread across the country. Last week new claims surged to almost 1 million from a pandemic low of 711,000 two and a half months ago.

Read: Jobless claims surge to 5-month high of 965,000

The report is not without its problems. A government watchdog agency found that jobless claims have been inflated during the pandemic.

Read: Jobless claims inflated, GAO finds

Also: Why the inaccurate jobless claims report is still useful to investors

Yet the direction of jobless claims has largely followed the path of the coronavirus cases and the resulting ups and downs in employment.

The latest snapshot on claims will be the most important report next week after the Martin Luther King holiday which closes financial markets on Monday, but most attention next week will be directed toward the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday.

Read: U.S. budget deficit climbs to $144 billion in December – and more red ink on the way

On Thursday Biden outlined a sweeping new proposal for up to $2 trillion in federal spending that included $1,400 cash payments to households, supplemental unemployment payments, and money for distributing COVID-19 vaccines, among other items, but it’s unclear how much will eventually pass Congress and how long it will take to filter into the broader economy. Stay tuned.

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Economy

Stocks Could Have a Muted Year, Even if the Economy Booms – Barron's

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Welcome to the Roaring ’20s. When the world finally bids good riddance to Covid-19, courtesy of a bevy of novel vaccines, expect Americans to emerge from their lairs with a joie de vivre not seen since the 1920s. That’s marvelous news for the economy, which could use some cheer after a punishing year, and for the many companies that will help keep the good times rolling.

Just don’t expect the party on Main Street to spread to Wall Street, which had a rollicking celebration of its own this past year. As a consequence, stock…

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