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UK regulator reports 30 clot cases linked to AstraZeneca jab – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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LONDON – Britain’s medicines regulator said it has identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events associated with the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine but stressed the benefits “continue to outweigh any risks.”

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency said the risk associated with this type of blood clot is “very small” and that the public should continue to take up the vaccine when offered it.

The agency said late Friday the cases relate to the period up to March 24, during which 18.1 million doses of the vaccine had been administered and that it hadn’t received any similar reports with regard to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine prompted some countries including Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands to restrict its use to older people.

The World Health Organization has urged countries to continue using the jab.

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Canada's inflation explained: How the surge affects you and what you can do about changing prices – The Globe and Mail

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A man shops at a halal grocery store in Toronto this past May. Rising inflation has had varied effects on the price of consumer goods across Canada.

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

What is driving inflation?

Probably the biggest factor in this year’s inflation surge is simply the reality that consumer prices fell to unusual lows last year, and it’s against these low prices that we are measuring the current price environment. This is what economists are talking about when they refer to “base effects.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, huge swaths of the global economy were shut down and consumers were told to stay home; demand for many goods and services plunged and prices slumped. Since inflation is typically calculated as a year-over-year change, it’s against these lows that we have been comparing the current prices, which have increased substantially as pandemic restrictions have eased. The pronounced weakness of the year-earlier comparisons have magnified the price gains in the annual inflation rate.

But there’s more to it than just a statistical quirk. The rapid reopening of many sectors of the economy has unleashed a flood of demand from consumers, which has been exacerbated by the unusually large stockpiles of household savings that built up during the pandemic.

Around the world, manufacturers, transporters and retailers have had tremendous trouble keeping up with demand. In addition, the pandemic has shifted consumer preferences to different products – home office equipment, bicycles, bigger houses in the suburbs, just to name a few – and suppliers haven’t been able to keep pace with these rapid shifts. The result has been supply shortages in numerous consumer goods as well as the raw materials to make them – driving up prices.

How does the current Canadian inflation rate compare historically?

The August consumer price index (CPI) inflation rate is 4.1 per cent, up from 3.7 per cent in July. The last time the rate was higher was in March, 2003 (4.2 per cent), during a temporary surge that was another case of base effects – namely, a slump in year-earlier gasoline prices.

But from a broader historical perspective, 4.1 per cent is, comparatively, nothing. Inflation was north of 10 per cent in the mid-1970s and again in the early 1980s. In the early 1990s, when the Bank of Canada formally adopted maintaining low and steady inflation as its primary monetary policy objective, inflation still hovered around 5 per cent. But since the central bank set its inflation target at 2 per cent in 1995 – using interest rates to help steer inflation toward that rate – inflation has averaged very close to that target.

What types of products or services are most affected by inflation?

Main upward contributors to the 12-month change in the consumer price index

Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021

Homeowners’ replacement cost index

+14.3%

Gasoline

+32.5%

Food purchased

from restaurants

+3.2%

Other owned accommodation expenses

+14.3%

Purchase of passenger vehicles

+7.2%

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

Main upward contributors to the 12-month change in the consumer price index

Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021

Homeowners’ replacement cost index

+14.3%

Gasoline

+32.5%

Food purchased

from restaurants

+3.2%

Other owned accommodation expenses

+14.3%

Purchase of passenger vehicles

+7.2%

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

Main upward contributors to the 12-month change in the consumer price index

Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021

Homeowners’ replacement cost index

+14.3%

Gasoline

+32.5%

Purchase of

passenger vehicles

+7.2%

Other owned accommodation expenses

+14.3%

Food purchased

from restaurants

+3.2%

MURAT YÜKSELIR /

THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

The August CPI data from Statistics Canada show that goods (up 5.8 per cent year over year) have seen much higher inflation than services (up 2.7 per cent). The big contributor has been gasoline, up more than 32.5 per cent from a year earlier, when prices were severely depressed by pandemic shutdowns. Home replacement costs were up almost 14.3 per cent, reflecting the surge in prices for homes in the past year.

On the other hand, prices for some things have declined significantly in the past year. Mortgage interest costs were down 9.3 per cent in August from a year earlier, reflecting deep rate cuts that the Bank of Canada made last spring to aid the economy in the face of the pandemic. The price of telephone services was down 14.2 per cent. Travel tours are down 20.8 per cent year over year.

Main downward contributors to the 12-month change in the consumer price index

Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021

Passenger

vehicle

insurance

premiums

Mortgage

interest

cost

Travel

tours

Telephone

services

Fresh

vegetables

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

Main downward contributors to the 12-month change in the consumer price index

Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021

Passenger

vehicle

insurance

premiums

Mortgage

interest

cost

Travel

tours

Telephone

services

Fresh

vegetables

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

Main downward contributors to the 12-month change in the consumer price index

Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021

Passenger

vehicle insurance

premiums

Travel

tours

Telephone

services

Mortgage

interest cost

Fresh

vegetables

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

How can I adjust my spending to avoid the worst of inflation?

If you’re spending, be inflation-aware. Consider planning your renovation for next year or 2023 in hopes prices for building materials ease back. Lumber prices have come back down, but other costs may still be elevated. Prices for new and used cars have been on the rise as people resume driving farther than the local grocery store. Where possible, keep your existing ride for another year or so until the post-pandemic vehicle-buying rush dies down. Grocery inflation is expected to continue through the rest of the year. If you’re able to buy in bulk, you may be able to dodge some future price increases.

Is there a ‘winner’ in inflation?

There are some investments that have performed well in past periods of inflation. Gold is one example, while others are commodities like oil and metals. Real estate is also considered a good hedge against inflation. You can get exposure to real estate by investing in real estate investment trusts.

What will bring inflation down?

Time – at least for a significant portion of the increase. Over the next few months, the year-over-year price comparisons will become less stark, as the price recovery from the earlier COVID-19 shutdowns increasingly works its way into the year-earlier numbers. For example, the average national price of gasoline in August, 2020, was $1.06.6 a litre; by mid-February of 2021, it was $1.20. In addition, we can expect unusual price pressures caused by the sudden reopening of many sectors of the economy to ease, as the initial rush of demand moderates and activity returns to normal.

Many economists believe that the high prices themselves will help solve the inflation situation, as it adds incentive to producers to increase their capacity. This will take time, but as supply catches up with demand, price pressures will dissipate.

From a policy standpoint, the biggest weapon lies with the Bank of Canada. If inflation remains persistently high, the central bank will eventually step in and raise its key interest rate from the current record low of 0.25 per cent. The bank has already taken other actions to reduce the amount of stimulus that its monetary policy is injecting into the economy – specifically, it has gradually reduced the amount of government bonds that it has been buying on the open market since the COVID-19 crisis began.

Interest rates are considered the bigger weapon to slow inflation; but the bank has said that it doesn’t want to turn to rate hikes until the economy has returned to full capacity. Based on the bank’s latest projections, that is unlikely before the second half of next year. In the meantime, the central bank is willing to tolerate inflation in the 3-per-cent range – which actually represents the top end of its tolerance band around its target of 1-to-3 per cent, designed to give it some flexibility when inflation gyrates. But if inflation stays above that band for uncomfortably long, the bank may start leaning toward acting sooner rather than later.

A key question is how much of this is temporary, and how much may be permanent. While economists are generally confident that a substantial portion of the recent inflation surge will pass as things return to something approaching normal in the coming months, it’s clear that at least some of these price pressures may be longer lasting.

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Lumber crash leads to 'blowout' sales as prices crater – CBC.ca

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Homeowners who resisted the urge to renovate during the first 18 months of the pandemic may find now is their chance, as lumber prices that soared to dizzying heights in the spring have crashed back down to earth.

At family-run Peacock Lumber in Oshawa, Ont., owner Glen Peacock said retail prices have “collapsed” in recent weeks. An eight-foot-long, two-by-four inch piece of framing lumber that cost $12.65 on June 1 is now selling for $3.95, Peacock said — basically what it would have sold for before the boom.

“It was amazing it went as long as it did before people said, ‘This is too much money,’ ” Peacock said. “People who waited, if they could, to do their projects are going to be in a much better position.”

A pandemic-driven surge in home renovations and do-it-yourself projects sent shock waves through the home improvement and construction industries earlier this year. North American lumber prices hit record highs of more than $1,600 US per thousand board feet in May — three times higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The price roller-coaster had customers pre-ordering lumber months in advance to ensure supply and even resulted in a spate of opportunistic thefts from construction sites across North America.

But the ride has come back down even faster than it went up — and that means many retailers have been stuck trying to get rid of product they purchased at higher prices.

Many lumber yards have drastically cut back on production until the backlog of unsold wood moves. (Robert Short/CBC)

“With lumber prices falling as fast as they did, it forced everybody to sell their overpriced inventory at a loss,” said Joel Seibert, owner of Mountain View Building Materials just outside of Calgary. “What would have been the ideal situation would be for the price to take twice as long to come back down as it did to go up.”

Liz Kovach — president of the Western Retail Lumber Association, which represents retail lumber, building supply and hardware stores in Western Canada — said the pandemic price bubble burst with the arrival of summer. Warmer weather and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the country resulted in Canadians travelling more and spending less time on projects around the house, she said.

Retailers slashing prices

“It’s been a challenge on the retail side,” Kovach said. “We’ve seen a lot of blowout price sales, just so that they can move the materials.”

The plunging prices have already led to curtailments and reduced operations at sawmills. Vancouver-based Canfor Corp. said at the end of August that it will run all of its B.C. sawmills at 80 per cent capacity until market conditions improve. Conifex Timber Inc., also based in Vancouver, announced Aug. 20 that it would curtail lumber production at its Mackenzie, B.C., sawmill for a two-week period.

The rapid rise in lumber costs earlier this year added “tens of thousands of dollars per home” to new home construction costs, said Kevin Lee, chief executive of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. And while consumers may already be benefiting from lower prices at home improvement stores, homebuyers signing new construction purchase contracts are still seeing elevated prices.

WATCH | High lumber prices were adding up to $30K to the price of a new home:

Price of lumber skyrockets after pandemic disrupts supply chain

6 months ago

The pandemic has disrupted supply chains so much that the price of lumber has gone through the roof. 1:58

“Builders still have to clear their inventories of having purchased higher-priced lumber. It takes a while to clear the system,” Lee said. “Yes, lumber prices from the mills came down dramatically over the summer, but that’s unfortunately taken a while to reach the rest of the industry and consumers.”

Lee said when it comes to new home construction, pricing is being complicated by ongoing pandemic-related supply chain challenges. While difficulties related to lumber have eased, home builders are still dealing with delivery delays and price inflation on everything from plumbing and electrical products to kitchen cabinetry.

“It doesn’t compare to the three to five times price increases we saw with lumber, but I’d say on average, we’re seeing 10 per cent increases on everything, including the kitchen sink,” Lee said. “And we are still seeing delays on closings, just because of an inability to get products and materials.”

In a note to clients earlier this week, RBC Dominion Securities analyst Paul Quinn said with the arrival of fall, lumber markets are already beginning to tick slightly higher. Home centres are noticing increased traffic as customers try to finish projects before winter, Quinn said, and retail demand tends to be a leading indicator for lumber pricing.

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Canadian Pacific clinches $27-billion Kansas City Southern deal as rival bows out

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The STB said last month that even though the overlap of Canadian National’s and Kansas City Southern‘s networks was confined to 70 miles (113 km) between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the two railways operated parallel lines in the central portion of the United States and could be under less pressure to compete if the voting trust for that deal was approved.

“There have been significant changes to the U.S. regulatory landscape since Canadian National launched its initial proposal which have made completing any Class I merger much less certain, including an executive order focused on competition issued by President Biden in July,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

There is a silver lining for Canadian National. It is now entitled to a $700 million break-up fee from Kansas City Southern, in addition to the $700 million it paid the latter to pass on to Canadian Pacific as a break-up fee for terminating their March deal. Canadian Pacific had said it will cover both payments.

CANADIAN PACIFIC NOT IN THE CLEAR YET

There are still potential pitfalls for Canadian Pacific. While no major Canadian Pacific shareholder has come out against the Kansas City Southern deal, as happened with Canadian National, Canadian Pacific still needs a majority of its investors to vote for the new agreement.

It is also possible that the STB shoots down Canadian Pacific’s deal for Kansas City Southern, even though it approved the voting trust for it. More likely, however, would be for the STB to require some concessions from Canadian Pacific, such as limited divestments or commitments on how much its charges customers, to clear the deal, people familiar with the matter said. It is possible that some of the concessions could erode Canadian Pacific’s profitability.

The STB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the STB rejects the deal, Canadian Pacific’s voting trust would have to divest Kansas City Southern. Canadian National could then attempt to buy it, though the U.S. railroad has also attracted acquisition interest in the past from private equity firms.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New YorkAdditional reporting by Aishwarya Nair, Aakriti Bhalla and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich, Arun Koyyur and Bernadette Baum)

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