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Winnipeggers toast to restarting the economy as Manitoba loosens COVID-19 restrictions –



The sky was grey, but the beer was cold.

The chilly weather wasn’t going to stop Kathy Teetaert from enjoying a patio in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, after COVID-19 limited her dining options for more than a month.

“I think it’s time to start supporting our restaurants,” she said at the King’s Head patio on Monday afternoon, “and besides, I’m tired of cooking.”


Manitoba is embarking today on one of the most aggressive economic restarts of any Canadian province.

In addition to restaurant patios, the province is giving hair salons, dental clinics and most retail outlets the choice to open their doors starting today, so long as they follow strict rules surrounding physical distancing and sanitation.

Many were surprised at how quickly the government kick-started the economy, announced only five days earlier, after health officials spent weeks preaching a cautious return.

Patio-goers in good spirits

Customers enjoying a brew at the King’s Head patio were in good spirits, despite the unusual experience.

“I didn’t bring my mask because it’s kind of hard to eat,” Teetaert joked to their waiter, while her husband chuckled.

“At least you’re out in the air,” the waiter said, any smile disguised by her face-covering.

Dennis and Kathy Teetaert are enjoying the chance to get out of their kitchen and onto a patio, even if the temperatures are below seasonal. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Christopher Graves, the pub’s owner, said he’s pleased the dreary start to the day turned pleasant. The temperature began to approach 10 degrees during the noon-hour.

“We’re very excited; it’s been a very tough six weeks for us,” he said. 

WATCH | Patio season in a pandemic:

King’s Head Pub owner Chris Graves says he’s cautiously optimistic as the outdoor patio opened for business on May 4. 1:14

Graves said the King’s Head could quickly pivot to patio service because they already had staff in place from the grocery delivery business it launched in the early days of the pandemic. They shut the doors of their pub in mid-March, before the mandated closure of non-essential businesses.

Each of their waiters are wearing masks and gloves, they’re spacing tables at least two metres apart, and disposable glasses and cutlery are found in bulk.

“We’re going above and beyond to make sure that we’re doing it as safely as possible,” Graves said.

The province will open indoor dining at restaurants no earlier than June 1, according to the province’s reopening plan, announced last week.

For now, the government is continuing to encourage people to stay home, even as it gives many businesses the license to reopen. Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s top doctor, is advising that people shouldn’t gather at patio tables with individuals from other households, but that isn’t enforceable.

WATCH | Dr. Roussin offers advice for patio-goers

Dr. Brent Roussin says restaurants won’t be expected to ask customers if they’re part of the same households, but urges Manitobans not to gather in big groups. 0:37

Hunter and Gunn owner Jeremy Regan has changed the way his barbershop operates.

A haircut is only available by appointment, no walk-ins. Clients must wait outside, or in their vehicles, until their barber is ready. Only half his barbers are working at a time.

“We don’t have the biggest shop so we have to kind of be a little creative on how we keep people apart,” Regan said.

He hasn’t heard any pushback from customers.

“I think people are so damn desperate to get a haircut that they’re willing to almost do anything to be able to come, so it hasn’t been a problem.”

Sandra Foehr, seated, is back at Essentique Spa and Salon for the first time since February. She’s excited to finally return to her hair stylist and doesn’t mind that she’ll be wearing a mask. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

At Essentique Spa and Salon, Sandra Foehr is trying to look like herself again. Her roots haven’t been done since February.

“I got really excited [to return], I’m almost not recognizing myself in the mirror when I look in the morning,” she said at the Academy Road salon, which began operating Monday without its spa. 

The province re-opened segments of the economy on Monday. That included restaurant patios, hair salons, dental clinics and clothing and sporting good stores. 2:06

Many storefronts at Winnipeg’s malls, however, were not ready for opening day.

Only 30 of the roughly 200 stores at CF Polo Park were even open. The mall had maybe 400 shoppers at once in the afternoon, a fraction of the 20,000 to 35,000 shoppers the mall usually averages in an entire day.

Mall’s emptiness strange

“It’s strange,” said Florence Salvador, who wanted to return products at two stores, but both were closed.

“Usually it’s packed, right?”

General manager Peter Havens said many mall stores will open in the coming week and a half. Stores had just three working days to prepare, and some are still looking for personal protective equipment.

Shoppers follow floor markers to maintain a distance between each other at CF Polo Park. Most of the stores in the shopping centre were closed on Monday, the first day the mall could open in a month. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

“Everybody, I would say, is a little apprehensive, not exactly knowing what to expect, although we feel very confident that we provided lots of visual cues and safety for our tenants and our customers,” he said.

Using floor markers, the mall wants shoppers to treat their hallways like highways — stay to the right and pass on the left, Havens said.

Loren Remillard calls Monday a turning point for a business sector bruised by an economic shutdown.

“Psychologically, what this day represents is that the efforts to flatten the curve have yielded some significant successes for Manitoba,” said the president and chief executive officer of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.

“Today, because of the successes, because of our diligent efforts, we’re able to begin to slowly, responsibly and safely start to re-engage our business community.”

He wouldn’t estimate how many eligible businesses are welcoming customers, but said the many companies still closed are prioritizing safety.

They could also be scrambling to get signage ready and employees trained, added Jonathan Alward with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

And once they’re open, will their customers come back?

Winnipeg began to show signs of life on Monday as the first phase of the province’s economic restart began opening up many non-essential businesses, including most retail outlets. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

“You can’t really overstate how important the month of May is going to be for a lot of businesses,” Alward told CBC Manitoba’s Radio Noon, anticipating that consumer confidence has taken a beating.

“A lot of customers are going to be reluctant, I think, to go back and shop,” said Alward.

At his pub, Graves was thrilled to see a scattering of customers again. When asked if he had a deal on the menu to get customers there, he laughed.

“You’re getting served on a patio in Winnipeg — there’s your special,” Graves said, chuckling.

City officials approved seven temporary patios in time for Monday’s reopening.

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US revises down last quarter's economic growth to 2.6% rate – ABC News



WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy maintained its resilience from October through December despite rising interest rates, growing at a 2.6% annual pace, the government said Thursday in a slight downgrade from its previous estimate. But consumer spending, which drives most of the economy’s growth, was revised sharply down.

The government had previously estimated that the economy expanded at a 2.7% annual rate last quarter.

The rise in the gross domestic product — the economy’s total output of goods and services — for the October-December quarter was down from the 3.2% growth rate from July through September. For all of 2022, the U.S. economy expanded 2.1%, down significantly from a robust 5.9% in 2021.


The report suggested that the economy was losing momentum at the end of 2022.

Consumer spending rose at a 1% annual rate last quarter, downgraded from a 1.4% increase in the government’s previous estimate. It was the weakest quarterly gain in consumer spending since COVID-19 slammed the economy in the spring of 2020. Spending on physical goods, like appliances and furniture, which had initially surged as the economy rebounded from the pandemic recession, fell for a fourth straight quarter.

More than half of last quarter’s growth came from businesses restocking their inventories, not an indication of underlying economic strength.

Most economists say they think growth is slowing sharply in the current January-March quarter, in part because the Federal Reserve has steadily raised interest rates in its drive to curb inflation.

The resulting surge in borrowing costs has walloped the housing industry and made it more expensive for consumers and businesses to spend and invest in major purchases. As a consequence, the economy is widely expected to slide into a recession later this year.

The central bank has raised its benchmark interest rate nine times over the past year. The Fed’s policymakers are betting that they can stick a so-called soft landing — slowing growth just enough to tame inflation without tipping the world’s biggest economy into recession.

Yet as higher loan costs spread through the economy, analysts are generally skeptical that the United States can avoid a downturn. The main point of debate is whether a recession will prove mild, with only minor damage to hiring and growth, or severe, with waves of layoffs.

The financial conditions that led to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank on March 10 and Signature Bank two days later — the second- and third-biggest bank failures in U.S. history — are also expected to slow the economy. Banks are likely to impose stricter conditions on loans, which help fuel economic growth, to conserve cash to meet withdrawals from jittery depositors.

“The economy ended 2022 with marginally less momentum,” Oren Klachkin and Ryan Sweet of Oxford Economics wrote in a research note. ”Looking ahead, the economy will face the full brunt of tighter credit conditions and Fed policy this year, and inflation is set to stay above its historical trend.”

They added: “We expect a recession to hit in the second half of 2023.”

In the meantime, the job market remains robust and has exerted upward pressure on wages, which feed into inflation. The pace of hiring is still healthy, and the unemployment rate is near a half-century low. The confidence and spending of consumers remain relatively solid.

Thursday’s report from the Commerce Department was its third and final estimate of GDP for the fourth quarter of 2022. On April 27, the department will issue its initial estimate of growth in the current first quarter. Forecasters surveyed by the data firm FactSet have estimated that growth in the January-March quarter is decelerating to a 1.4% annual rate.

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Zimbabwe Becomes Second African Nation to Cut Rates Twice in 2023 – Bloomberg



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Zimbabwe Becomes Second African Nation to Cut Rates Twice in 2023  Bloomberg


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Anomalies abound in today's economy. Can artificial intelligence know what's going on? – The Globe and Mail



All the fuss today is about machine learning and ChatGPT. The algorithms associated with them work well if the future is similar to the past. But what if we are at an inflection point in economic and political conditions and the future is different from the past? Will record profit margins, inflated asset prices and low inflation and interest rates of the past 30 years be an accurate reflection of the future? Is this time different?

Maybe we’re already there. Things do not seem to make sense anymore. Have you noticed that economic indicators seem to have stopped working as well and as predictably as they have in the past?

Here are some examples of the puzzling behaviour of economic statistics of recent months.


An inverted yield curve has historically been a good indicator of recessions. For several months now the yield curve has been inverted and yet the U.S. economy has been adding millions of jobs, leading to an historic low unemployment rate. Employment is booming while the economy at large is not.

Consumer sentiment, as reflected in the University of Michigan surveys, and consumer spending have tended historically to move together. But this time around, while consumer sentiment took a nosedive, consumer spending and credit card balances keep growing, reaching record highs.

Construction employment and homebuilder stocks are rising while housing permits and housing starts are falling. Normally, homebuilder stock prices would reflect the collective wisdom of financial markets about housing activity. Not this time.

Bond markets are expecting inflation to recede to the Fed’s target rate of 2 per cent. In this case, the real interest rate, implicit in the 10-year treasuries yield of between 3.5-4 per cent, is 1.5-2 per cent, which is close to historical averages. But prior to the Silicon Valley Bank debacle, some surveys pegged expected inflation to about 3 per cent going forward. Assuming the real rate is the same, this implied a 10-year treasuries yield of between 4.5-5 per cent. Either the bond market was out of line or forecasters’ inflation models do not work as well as in the past.

And oil prices are around US$70 a barrel despite the recent banking crisis and at a time when the economy is slowing down and believed to be entering a recession. Based on past experience at this point in the business cycle oil prices should be at US$50 or less. But they are not. Which begs the question: What will happen to oil prices when the economy enters a growth phase, especially with the opening of China after the COVID-19 lockups?

And the list of puzzling contradictions goes on. Having said that, someone may argue that the labour statistics, for example, are a lagging indicator and show where the economy was, not where it is going. While this is true, the magnitude of divergence between labour statistics and economic activity is so much higher than they’ve been historically. That makes one wonder what is going on.

It could be that many of these puzzling statistics are the result of “survey fatigue,” as Bloomberg Businessweek calls it. The publication reports that there has been a decline in response rates for many surveys government agencies use to collect economic data.

For example, employer response to the Current Employment Statistics survey, according to the publication, which collects payroll and wage data each month, has declined to under 45 per cent by September, 2022, from about 60 per cent at the end of 2019. The issue here is the non-response bias: that people who are not responding to the survey are systematically different from those who do, and this skews results. Could weakening trust in institutions and governments be behind the decline in response rates in recent years? If this is the case, the problem is serious and difficult to reverse or eliminate.

As a result, machine learning algorithms that need massive and good quality data about the past and assume that the future will look pretty much like the past may not work. Then what? Should we re-examine our old models? Or will human intervention always be required? Machine learning will not be able to replace investor insight and “between the lines” reading of nuanced economic numbers.

George Athanassakos is a professor of finance and holds the Ben Graham Chair in Value Investing at the Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario.

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