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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Higher oil prices help push up value of Canadian dollar

   Canada column for Sunday, April 19/15

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s dollar has jumped by three cents U.S. as the economy reacts to higher crude oil prices.
   As a major oil-producing nation, Canada’s dollar topped 82 cents U.S. as worldwide oil prices moved higher after OPEC predicted the boom in U.S. crude production is on the wane.
   The International Energy Agency forecast a slowdown later this year as oil reached $57 a barrel.
   Lower oil prices have led to reduced production in Canada and the U.S. Energy Information Administration said fewer rigs will be in operation there next month.
   Statistics Canada said the annual inflation rate unexpectedly rose to 1.2 percent last month with higher food prices and a moderating decline in gasoline prices.
   Economists suggest inflation’s increase from 1.0 percent is unlikely to cause the central bank to make any change in the key bank interest rate for perhaps the rest of the year.
   The Bank of Canada decided on Wednesday not to change rates after a surprise 0.25-percent drop to 0.75 percent in January.


   A Supreme Court of Canada ruling to outlaw prayers at municipal council meetings in a Quebec community is having an impact nationally.
   The court’s unanimous judgment ended an eight-year legal fight that pitted an atheist and a secular-rights organization against the mayor of Saguenay.
   It ruled the reading of a Roman Catholic prayer at council meetings infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.
   Numerous municipalities have stopped prayers before council meetings as they review the court’s decision.
   Oshawa Ontario Mayor John Henry said he will continue to ask those in the council chamber to join him “in a moment of personal reflection or the Lord’s Prayer,” followed by singing O Canada, the national anthem.


   News in brief:
   - Bell Canada is facing a $750-million class-action lawsuit over alleged breaches of privacy arising from a recently ended ad program. The suit against subsidiaries of Bell alleges the program was used to track, collect and sell sensitive account and Internet browsing information of their customers to advertisers. Bell has indicated it plans to reintroduce the program and might expand it to include landline phone use and TV viewers but after seeking customer consent.
   - The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. has “severed ties” with two senior executives after releasing an independent report that found management at the public broadcaster “condoned” inappropriate behavior by former radio host Jian Ghomeshi. Suspended head of radio Chris Boyce and human resources director Todd Spencer have left the company. Ghomeshi was fired last October after being arrested for seven counts of sexual assault and one of choking.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar traded for 81.77 cents U.S. on Friday while the U.S. dollar returned $1.2229 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 are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index down at 15,337 points and the TSX Venture index up at 705 points.
   The average price of gasoline is down slightly at $1.052 a liter or $3.99 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (April 15) 11, 13, 25, 34, 41 and 45; bonus 4. (April 11) 5, 8, 22, 23, 27 and 37; bonus 11. Lotto Max: (April 10) 7, 8, 16, 18, 24, 25 and 46; bonus 37.


   Regional briefs:
   - The Ontario government will allow the sale of beer in grocery stores in the “biggest shakeup” of its liquor laws since it repealed prohibition in 1927. Premier Kathleen Wynne said there will also be a new $1 tax on a case of beer and big changes at the 448 retail outlets operated by the foreign-owned Beer Store that controls 80 percent of sales in the province.
   - Wildrose party candidate Rick Strankman, campaigning for the May 5 provincial election in Alberta, has apologized for an invitation to “bring your wife’s pie” to a fundraising bake sale. The suggestion to take a break and come to the pie party led to complaints calling him sexist. “Is this for real? If so, 1950 just called,” tweeted Premier Jim Prentice’s media spokeswoman Emily Woods.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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