Today’s news: Trending business stories for December 19, 2023

The latest business news as it happens

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Loblaw’s Galen Weston accused of inaccurate claim over grocery code

A group of associations representing independent grocers, food suppliers and farmers is accusing Loblaw Cos. Ltd. chairman Galen Weston of making an inaccurate statement to the House of Commons agricultural committee studying food prices.

A letter sent Tuesday to MP Kody Blois, who chairs the agriculture committee, asks the committee to disregard part of Weston’s testimony when they draft their final report.

At a Dec. 7 committee meeting, Weston told MPs that Canada’s voluntary grocery code of conduct, which is near completion, will put too much power in the hands of large suppliers and could raise prices for Canadians.

As an example, Weston said Australia’s grocery code has a third-party mechanism that has supported cost increases in “essentially 100 per cent of cases,” and that if this “had happened in Canada since the beginning of last year, it would have resulted in $750 million in additional inflation pressure for consumers.”

However, Chris Leptos, the independent reviewer for the Australian code, says Weston’s comments are “not correct,” because the Australian code does not have a mechanism for price negotiations.

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Loblaw did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Canadian Press

4:42 p.m.

Market close: TSX up more than 200 points, U.S. stock markets also climb

stock chart

Canada’s main stock index rose by more than 200 points as gains in base metal and financial stocks helped lead a broad-based rally, while U.S. stock markets also climbed.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 216.92 points at 20,839.63.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 251.90 points at 37,557.92. The S&P 500 index was up 27.81 points at 4,768.37, while the Nasdaq composite was up 98.03 points at 15,003.22.

The Canadian dollar traded for 74.94 cents U.S. compared with 74.70 cents U.S. on Monday.

The February crude contract was up US$1.12 at US$73.94 per barrel and the January natural gas contract was down a penny at US$2.49 per mmBTU.

The February gold contract was up US$11.60 at US$2,052.10 an ounce and the March copper contract was up almost five cents at US$3.90 a pound.

The Canadian Press

3:09 p.m.

Alberta to allow pot shops to sell cannabis at adult-only trade shows, festivals

Cannabis plants at the Sundial Growers facility in Olds, Alta.
Cannabis plants at the Sundial Growers facility in Olds, Alta. Photo by Dean Pilling/Postmedia files

Albertans will soon see pot shops selling cannabis at some festivals and trade shows.

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The province says it will begin allowing licensed cannabis retailers to operate temporary sales locations at adult-only events come Jan. 31.

The change to Alberta’s cannabis regulations comes months after the country marked its five-year anniversary of recreational pot being legalized.

Alberta has since been reviewing the pot market to determine what’s working, what needs to be improved and what’s redundant.

In addition to loosening restrictions around cannabis sales at events, Alberta will allow pot retailers to keep their products in locked display cases when their stores are closed.

That change also comes into effect at the end of January and will prevent stores from having to move all their products into a secured storage room at the close of every business day.

The Canadian Press

1:15 p.m.

Canada lays out plan to phase out sales of gas-powered cars, trucks by 2035

The end of the road is coming for gas-powered vehicles in Canada.
The end of the road is coming for gas-powered vehicles in Canada. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images files

The end of the road is coming for gas-powered vehicles in Canada.

New regulations being published this week by Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault will effectively end the sale of new passenger vehicles powered only by gasoline or diesel in 2035.

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Guilbeault said the Electric Vehicle Availability Standard will encourage automakers to make more battery-powered cars and trucks available in Canada.

“There’s no mistaking it. We are at a tipping point,” he said, noting sizable growth in EV sales in Canada and demand that has previously outstripped the available supply.

Automakers will have the next 12 years to phase out combustion engine cars, trucks and SUVs with a requirement to gradually increase the proportion of electric models they offer for sale each year.

The electric-vehicle sales mandate regulations will be published later this week. They are setting up a system in which every automaker will have to show that a minimum percentage of vehicles they offer for sale are fully electric or longer-range plug-in hybrids.

It will start with 20 per cent in 2026 and rise slightly to 23 per cent in 2027. After that, the increase share of EVs will begin to jump much faster, so that by 2028, 34 per cent of all vehicles sold need to be electric, 43 per cent in 2029 and 60 per cent in 2030.

That number keeps rising until it hits 100 per cent in 2035.

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The policy will be regulated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and issue credits to automakers for the EVs they sell.

The Canadian Press

12:09 p.m.

Midday markets: Stocks rally, yields fall on Fed’s mixed messages

Market chart

U.S. equities legged higher and yields fell after the latest signals from United States Federal Reserve policymakers as traders wagered the central bank is on track to engineer a soft landing and start cutting rates.

The Nasdaq 100 climbed 0.3 per cent after touching an all-time high. The tech-heavy index set a closing record Monday for the second consecutive session. The S&P 500 added 0.4 per cent, with the underlying index approaching an all-time peak after Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond president Thomas Barkin suggested the U.S. central bank would cut interest rates if recent progress on inflation continues.

Meanwhile, new U.S. home construction surged in November signalling builders continue to benefit from a limited supply of existing home sales. Residential starts jumped 14.8 per cent last month to a 1.56 million annualized rate, government data showed Tuesday.

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“Overall, a solid read from the housing sector and one that reinforces the soft-landing narrative,” Ian Lyngen with BMO Capital Markets wrote. “That said, the bid in the Treasury market has persisted post-data.”

Yields on the U.S. 10-year bond, a proxy for mortgage rates, slipped to around 3.91 per cent while the rate on the policy-sensitive two year hovered around 4.44 per cent.

Expectations for rate cuts are making investors the most optimistic since the beginning of 2022, a Bank of America Corp. survey showed Tuesday.

Still, other policymakers in the U.S. and Europe have tried to push back against such bets. Chicago Fed president Austan Goolsbee and the Cleveland Fed’s Loretta Mester suggested Monday that the expectations were premature. Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic will speak later Tuesday.

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 0.97 per cent, a day after strength in energy stocks helped Canada’s main stock index gain almost 100 points.

Bloomberg, The Canadian Press

11:28 a.m.

Bombardier won’t contest Ottawa’s sole-source deal on new Boeing military planes

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Boeing P-8A Poseidon
A Boeing P-8A Poseidon Photo by Eric A. Pastor/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

Bombardier Inc. says it won’t contest the federal government’s decision to replace the military’s aging patrol planes with aircraft from U.S. rival Boeing Co.

The government announced last month it will buy at least 14 Boeing surveillance planes from the United States in a sole-source deal that marks the coming phaseout of its half-century-old fleet of CP-140 Auroras — closing the door on Quebec-based Bombardier.

Defence Minister Bill Blair said Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon aircraft, which features submarine-hunting technology, meets all the needs of the Air Force and presents the only choice available, given the proposed Bombardier alternative is not slated to start rolling off the line until the early 2030s.

In a statement, Bombardier says it remains disappointed it was not allowed to bid on the contract but that it will focus on building relationships between its own industry and the Canadian Armed Forces, rather than file a lawsuit.

The Boeing agreement will cost Ottawa more than $10.4 billion in total, with the new airplanes expected to land north of the border in 2026 and 2027.

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Officials said Boeing has also agreed to provide $5.4 billion worth of business activities and investments in Canada over 10 years, which includes drawing on domestic suppliers and supporting 3,000 jobs.

The Canadian Press

9:45 a.m.

Wall Street hovers near records on rate cut hopes

People walk in and out of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street.
People walk in and out of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street. Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

North American stock markets are drifting near record highs as investors wagered the United States Federal Reserve is on track to engineer a soft landing and start cutting rates.

The S&P 500 was up 0.2 per cent early Tuesday, just one per cent shy of its record set a little bit less than two years ago. The Dow edged up 54 points. The Nasdaq composite was up 0.3 per cent.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 0.71 per cent.

Markets abroad were mixed, except for Japan. The Nikkei 225 jumped 1.4 per cent after the country’s central bank decided to keep its benchmark rate below zero in hopes of encouraging more borrowing and spending.

The Associated Press, Bloomberg

9 a.m.

Canada’s population growth hits record in Q3, expands by more than 430,000

Total population, Canada, chart

Canada’s population grew by more than 430,000 during the third quarter, marking the fastest pace of population growth in any quarter since 1957.

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Statistics Canada released its population estimates as of Oct. 1, which shows Canada’s population topped 40.5 million.

The country’s total population growth over the first nine months of the year has already surpassed the total growth in any other full year, including the record set in 2022.

The record-high population growth has been fuelled by international migration, with an increase in non-permanent residents making up most of this increase.

The report shows the number of non-permanent residents increased by about 313,000 over the three-month period.

The increase in non-permanent residents was driven by work and study permit holders, and to a lesser extent, refugee claimants, Statistics Canada said.

The Canadian Press

More: ‘Record after record’— Canada’s population grows at fastest pace since 1957

8:30 a.m.

Inflation stalls at 3.1% in November, above Bank of Canada target

November inflation

Canada’s rate of inflation rose 3.1 per cent in November compared to last year, Statistics Canada said Tuesday.

The consumer price index report shows progress on easing inflation stalled as higher prices for recreation and clothing put upward pressure on headline inflation.

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Economists had expected the rate of inflation to come in between one and three per cent.

The Canadian dollar jumped as high as $1.3336 per U.S. dollar, the highest intraday level since Aug. 4, while bonds sold off. The yield on the benchmark two-year note rose back above four per cent.

The inflation rate was 3.1 per cent in October.

Excluding volatile food and energy readings, the consumer price index increased 3.5 per cent in November, after rising 3.4 per cent in October.

Mortgage interest costs rose 29.8 per cent and grocery prices were up 4.7 per cent from a year ago, marking a slowdown from 5.4 per cent in October. Rent increased 7.4 per cent.

Prices for services were unchanged last month, rising 4.6 per cent year over year, as higher prices for travel tours were offset by lower prices for cell phone services.

The Bank of Canada has been encouraged by the recent slowdown in inflation and the economy overall, opting to hold its key interest rate steady at five per cent over the last few months.

Forecasters expect the central bank’s next move will be to cut interest rates once it feels more confident that inflation is heading back to two per cent.

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Financial Post, The Canadian Press, Bloomberg

More: Inflation sticks at 3.1%, staying stubbornly above Bank of Canada target

7:30 a.m.

S&P raises Alberta’s credit rating on strong oil price outlook

Alberta’s credit rating was raised one level by S&P Global Ratings. The province is benefiting from strong oil prices with bitumen royalties expected to be about $1.8 billion more than initially expected in the current fiscal year.
Alberta’s credit rating was raised one level by S&P Global Ratings. The province is benefiting from strong oil prices with bitumen royalties expected to be about $1.8 billion more than initially expected in the current fiscal year. Photo by Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Alberta’s credit rating was raised one level by S&P Global Ratings on expectations that strong oil prices and measures to manage expenses will keep the province’s debt burden in check.

The oil-rich province’s credit rating was lifted to AA-, the fourth-highest available, from A+, S&P said in a note Dec. 18. The outlook on the rating was “stable,” the firm said.

Alberta is benefiting from strong oil prices with bitumen royalties expected to be about $1.8 billion more than initially expected in the current fiscal year, according to a recent budget update. That helped swell the provincial government’s projected fiscal surplus to C$5.5 billion.

“We expect that Alberta will be able to carry this momentum into the next two years as it continues to produce after-capital surpluses,” S&P said.

Those surpluses should limit Alberta’s debt burden to about 127% of operating revenue, helping the province fully service its debt with internal liquidity, the credit rating firm said. Risks to the forecast include recession, a “significant” drop in oil prices, unexpected shifts in policies or ineffective financial management, according to S&P.

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The ratings firm also said that it could raise Alberta’s ratings in the next two years if the province could “meaningfully diversify its economy and decrease its dependence on resource revenues,” though it deemed it unlikely.

Kevin Orland, Bloomberg

Stock markets before the opening bell

stock market December 19, 2023

Europe’s Stoxx 600 equity index gained 0.3 per cent while United States futures were little changed after the Nasdaq 100 hit a record high Monday for the second consecutive session.

In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed up 93.56 points at 20,622.71.


What to watch today

Inflation data for November is out this morning with the release of the conumser price index for November from Statistics Canada. Also on tap are industrial product and raw material prices indices and U.S. housing starts and building permits for November.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault will outline the details of his plan to eventually phase out the sale of gas-powered vehicles in Canada.

FedEx Corp., Accenture PLC release earnings.

Related Stories

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Additional reporting by The Canadian Press, Associated Press and Bloomberg

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