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Toronto stock index snaps four days of declines as energy shares rise



Canada’s main stock index rose on Tuesday, snapping its four-day losing streak as gains in energy shares on higher oil prices and OrganiGram Holdings Inc‘s upbeat results offset mining companies that followed gold prices lower.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed up 33 points, or 0.15%, at 21,453.77. The index is up 23.1% year to date.

The energy sector jumped 3.8% after a move by the United States and other consumer nations to release tens of millions of barrels of oil from reserves to try to cool the market fell short of expectations. [O/R]

“It seems the oil price is reacting strongly to the U.S. front-running its release of barrels from the strategic reserve,” said Steve Belisle, portfolio manager at Manulife Investment Management. That “is propping up the oil price and Canadian oil and gas stocks.”

Further aiding sentiment was OrganiGram, which closed up 8.9% and was the largest percentage gainer on the index after the cannabis producer posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue and forecast higher revenue for the subsequent quarter.

Financials, which account for about 30% of the Toronto market’s value, extended gains for a second session, rising 0.5% and tracking U.S. bank stocks as investors priced in an early policy tightening by the Federal Reserve.

Belisle also attributed the gains in bank stocks to rising bond yields and bullish analyst previews for fourth-quarter earnings, which are reported next week.

Smaller lender Laurentian Bank of Canada bucked that trend, however, falling 4.6% to its lowest close since March after saying it expects to take an impairment charge that will reduce fourth-quarter after-tax earnings by C$163 million ($128.67 million).

The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, lost 1.1% as gold futures fell 1.25% to $1,783.5 an ounce. [GOL/].

Lundin Mining Corp shares ended the day down 3.3%, further hit by lower-than-expected production guidance for 2022 through 2024, and projected costs above analysts’ estimates.

($1 = 1.2668 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather in Toronto and Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Peter Cooney)


Exclusive-Top-emitting Canada oil sands site collects government relief from pollution payments



For three straight years, Alberta‘s government granted Canada‘s most emissions-intense oil sands facility reductions in payments that polluters are required to make for generating higher emissions than most of the industry, a government document shows.

From 2018 to 2020, Alberta lowered Canadian Natural Resources Ltd’s (CNRL) costs for its oil-producing Peace River site to comply with provincial emissions requirements. Peace River’s per-barrel emissions are triple that of the already-high oil sands average.

CNRL, Canada‘s biggest oil producer, which made C$2.1 billion ($1.66 billion) adjusted profit in the third quarter, is one of six companies to receive financial relief under Alberta’s compliance cost containment program, which launched in 2018.

Alberta requires high-emitting facilities that pollute more than the industry benchmark to comply, either by buying emissions credits or offsets from better-performing facilities, or by paying into a government fund at the going rate for carbon emissions, currently C$40 per tonne.

The province’s cost containment program, however, eases the financial pain for facilities whose compliance costs are greater than 3% of their sales or more than 10% of their profits, to prevent “economic hardship.”

Alberta’s Environment Department provided, at the request of Reuters, a list of companies that benefited from the program. Spokesman Tom McMillan said it would not disclose the amounts of the cost relief the companies received, calling them “commercially sensitive.”

Greenfire Oil and Gas Limited and Athabasca Oil Corp, which run the second- and eighth-most emissions-intense Alberta oil sands sites, according to government records, also received cost reductions.

Alberta’s government also lowered CNRL’s compliance cost for its Hays gas plant in 2018 and 2019.

CNRL did not respond when asked the financial value of the carbon cost relief it received.

“As we advance technologies to reduce our carbon footprint at all of our facilities, we will continue providing local jobs and economic benefits,” CNRL said in a statement.

Countries that produce fossil fuels face the challenge of cutting emissions without damaging their economies. But Alberta’s policies are “particularly egregious” for prolonging the life of high-emitting facilities, said Dale Marshall, national climate manager at Environmental Defence.

Emissions-intense, outdated oil facilities continue to operate despite government attempts to curb emissions.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon defended Alberta’s efforts.

“It is a made-for-Alberta system that works with, not against, our key industries.”

Canada is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer and the oil and gas sector is also the country’s biggest emitter. That makes it a critical challenge for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he aims to cut Canada‘s national greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45% by 2030 from 2005 levels.

Reductions to carbon cost obligations like CNRL’s come in two ways. First, the Alberta government can allow such facilities to buy more carbon credits and offsets to meet their obligations than the 60% limit in place for other facilities. This saves companies money since credits and offsets are typically cheaper to acquire than paying the carbon price.

Secondly, the government can increase a facility’s allowable emissions per year. CNRL, whose C$65 billion market cap is the highest of any Canadian oil and gas producer, received both forms of relief annually from 2018-2020, the document shows.

“There’s always this tension around concern for jobs, but in this case, it’s really questionable to me whether removing (the cost relief program) would actually lead to job loss” given the sector’s strong free cash flows and dividends, said Sara Hastings-Simon, director of the University of Calgary’s sustainable energy development program.

A natural gas plant owned by Keyera Corp, West Fraser Mills pulp facility, and an Enerkem biofuels plant also received relief. None of the companies, other than CNRL, responded to requests for comment.

($1 = 1.2652 Canadian dollars)


(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Tradition again: Biden celebrates Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell at Kennedy Center Honors



President Joe Biden celebrated artists including Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell and Lorne Michaels on Sunday at the Kennedy Center Honors, bringing back presidential participation in the annual ceremony skipped by Republican Donald Trump.

Singer Justino Díaz and Motown founder Berry Gordy round out the group of artists selected by the Kennedy Center for top honors this year at a show that had been upended by politics and the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden, a Democrat who took over from Trump in January, held a black-tie ceremony for the five honorees earlier in the evening, the sort of glamorous celebration that has become rare at a White House that has eschewed large gatherings in the COVID-19 era.

Trump did not hold such a reception during his four years in office and did not attend the show at the Kennedy Center itself.

The arts community largely did not object to that absence. Singer and actress Cher, an honoree in 2018 and an outspoken Trump critic, said she would have had to accept the award in a bathroom if Trump had come.

“It is quite nice, very nice, to see the presidential box once again” being occupied, comedian David Letterman said at the beginning of the show at the Kennedy Center, sparking a standing ovation from the mask-wearing crowd.

Biden, his wife, Jill, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, all attended the ceremony.

The awards recognize a lifetime of achievement in the performing arts.

Midler, a singer and actress, has received Grammy, Emmy, Tony and Golden Globe awards for a career spanning decades, with album sales exceeding 30 million around the world.

Midler dished to reporters about the reception on her way into the Kennedy Center. “It was divine at the White House,” she said. “Very clean. Lovely. Great staff. Food was excellent. Wine was a little sweet.”

Singer-songwriter Mitchell, a native Canadian known for songs such as “Both Sides, Now” and “Big Yellow Taxi,” is a multi-Grammy recipient and an inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The show opened up honoring her with performances by Norah Jones and Brandi Carlile.


Michaels, also a native of Canada, is the creator and executive producer of the long-running NBC sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live.”

“If you can’t laugh at yourself, we’re in real trouble, and you make me laugh at myself a lot,” Biden said during his remarks at the White House, referring to Michaels, noting the show has used seven comics to play him over the years.

Comedy and other art forms and cultural exports help the United States lead by the power of its example worldwide, the president said.

“Throughout my career, I’ve met nearly every world leader,” he said. “And I’ll tell you, not everyone sees satire that way. You’d all be in jail.”

Diaz, a bass-baritone opera singer from Puerto Rico, has performed with opera companies around the world.

Gordy, a songwriter and record producer from Detroit, founded the Motown record label that became synonymous with a jazz- and blues-influenced musical sound popularized by Black artists including Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Lionel Richie, whose careers he helped shape. Gordy is also a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

“I think I’m in a dream … and it’s a wonderful dream,” Gordy told reporters.

The Kennedy Center Honors will be broadcast on the CBS television network on Dec. 22.


(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Biden presides over National Christmas Tree Lighting at start of holiday season



U.S. President Joe Biden and his wife Jill participated in the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony outside the White House on Thursday, helping to usher in the holiday season.

In a program that featured performances by singers Patti LaBelle, Billy Porter, and Kristin Chenoweth, the president presided over a countdown that ended with a brightly lit tree with a shining star on top.

Biden said the evergreen tree “reminds us that even in the coldest, darkest days of winter that life and abundance will return.”

The president, who unveiled hnew measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic during the winter on Thursday, cited those who had lost loved ones to the deadly coronavirus and paid tribute to members of the military and their families.

“Jill and I are especially grateful to our service members and their families,” Biden said. “We also keep in our hearts those who lost loved ones because of this virus or any other cruel twist of fate or accident.”

The Bidens are spending their first holiday season in the White House as president and first lady. Earlier this week, holiday decorations were unveiled.

On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish, celebrated Hanukkah with the lighting of a menorah at the White House.


(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Nandita Bose; editing by Grant McCool)

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