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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Interest rates steady -- for now



   Canada column for Sunday, March 8/15

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Predictions of another cut in Canada’s already low key interest rate hasn’t happened but some economists think it will next month.
   The Bank of Canada decided to hold the line on its trendsetting interest rate at 0.75 percent, citing improved economic conditions.
   Bank governor Stephen Poloz surprised the markets last month by dropping the rate by 0.25 percent from 1 percent where it had been for four years.
   As an oil-producing nation, that cut was “necessary as insurance” as much lower crude prices could be negative for the economy, he said.
   This gave the bank time to assess the impact of oil’s decline, while financial conditions have “eased materially” since then partly in response to the rate cut, Poloz added.
   There has since been stronger performance in non-energy exports and investment, with core inflation near its 2 percent target.

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   A tip to police about potential violence led to the closing for a day of the Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
   It was eerily similar to an alleged Valentine’s Day Massacre plot at the Halifax Shopping Center last month that led to the arrests of two people and the suicide of a third suspect.
   That plot, which was thwarted by an anonymous Crime Stoppers’ tip, could have resulted in mass casualties, police said.
   The latest threat led to the questioning of three people who were later released as the investigation continues into the “validity” of the warning.

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   News in brief:
   - It was merely a “man cave,” not a tunnel for nefarious activities, says the builder of a mystery underground fort on conservation land near Toronto’s York University. Construction worker Elton McDonald, 22, said he didn’t mean to cause so much commotion about the cave that was to be his “dream” hang-out spot. Police became concerned because the tunnel was near a site for this July’s Pan Am Games.
   - Canada’s telecommunication regulator has issued a $1.1-million fine to Compu-Finder for “flagrantly” flouting anti-spam legislation. The Quebec-based corporate training company has 30 days to appeal the ruling by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. The agency said the company sent commercial emails to consumers without their consent and did not allow them to unsubscribe.

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   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has dipped to 79.39 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.2595 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.75 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.85 percent.
   Stock markets were lower with the Toronto exchange index at 15,061 points and the TSX Venture index at 693 points.
   The average price of a liter of gasoline in Canada is higher at $1.075 or $4.08 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (March 4) 2, 10, 14, 19, 28 and 33; bonus 48. (Feb. 28) 5, 14, 39, 42, 46 and 49; bonus 17. Lotto Max: (Feb. 27) 4, 12, 16, 27, 37, 39 and 44; bonus 32.

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   Regional briefs:
   - Premier Jim Prentice has angered Albertans by suggesting they need to “look in the mirror” to see who is responsible for the oil-rich province’s financial mess. It’s a “profound insult” by the Conservative government, said New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley. The province’s finances are reeling after the massive drop in crude-oil prices.
   - A huge chemical fire at a Vancouver container terminal led to the evacuation of Canada’s largest port for several hours. Flames and a massive cloud of white smoke drifting over the city prompted health warnings and roads to be closed around the Centerm terminal at Port Metro Vancouver. There were no injuries, police said.
   - The average price of a “modest two-story” house in Toronto has climbed to $1.04 million. The Toronto Real Estate Board said the price is up 8.8 percent from a year ago with brisk sales. The average price for all home and condo resales was $630,858 in February, up from $599,262 a year earlier.

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Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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