Today’s news: Trending business stories for January 11, 2024

The latest business news as it happens

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Top story

Hertz to sell 20,000 EVs in shift back to gas-powered cars

Hertz Global Holdings Inc. plans to sell a third of its United States electric vehicle fleet and reinvest in gas-powered cars due to weak demand for the battery-powered options.

The sales of 20,000 EVs began last month and will continue over the course of 2024, the rental giant said Thursday in a regulatory filing. Hertz expects to record a non-cash charge in its fourth-quarter results of US$245 million related to incremental net depreciation expense.

“The company expects to reinvest a portion of the proceeds from the sale of EVs into the purchase of internal combustion engine vehicles to meet customer demand,” Hertz said. “The company expects this action to better balance supply against expected demand of EVs.”

In October, Hertz chief executive Stephen Scherr said the company would scale back on EVs, which had made up 11 per cent of its total fleet. Teslas represented 80 per cent of that. He said EVs come with higher repair costs compared to the rest of its cars, which has hurt its bottom line. “EV’s will be slower than our prior expectations,” he said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call.

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Hertz’s shares fell 4.3 per cent to US$8.95 as of 10:01 a.m. in New York.

Richard Clough, Bloomberg

Read the full story here.


4:54 p.m.

Market close: TSX posts loss as U.S. markets essentially flat after inflation report

stock chart

Canada’s main stock index posted a modest loss Thursday, weighed down by the financial and utility sectors, while U.S. stock markets were mixed, but essentially flat.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 71.02 points at 20,918.40.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 15.29 points at 37,711.02. The S&P 500 index was down 3.21 points at 4,780.24, while the Nasdaq composite was up 0.54 points at 14,970.18.

The Canadian dollar traded for 74.58 cents U.S. compared with 74.73 cents U.S. on Wednesday.

The February crude oil contract was up 65 cents at US$72.02 per barrel and the February natural gas contract was up six cents at US$3.10 per mmBTU.

The February gold contract was down US$8.60 at US$2,019.20 an ounce and the March copper contract was down less than a penny at US$3.78 a pound.

The Canadian Press


4:05 p.m.

Top Flair Airlines investor says lawsuit over missed payments ’premature at best’

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A Flair Airlines Ltd. plane lands at Vancouver International Airport.
A Flair Airlines Ltd. plane lands at Vancouver International Airport. Photo by Richard Lam/PNG files

A key Flair Airlines Ltd. investor says a $30-million lawsuit filed against it by plane-leasing firms over claims of missed payments is “premature at best.”

Miami-based 777 Partners, which owns one-quarter of Flair, confirmed that three lessors of aircraft that were repossessed from the budget carrier last spring filed their claim in London, U.K. in December over lease payments guaranteed by 777.

The minority owner says it may try for a stay of proceedings on the suit by Corvus Lights Aviation, MAM Aircraft Leasing 4 and Columba Lights Aviation, which leased the four jets — a Boeing 737-800 and three 737 Max 8s.

Sister company 600 Partners, which backed three of the four leases, is also named in the filing.

Edmonton-based Flair, while not included in the lawsuit, launched one of its own for $50 million against the three leasing firms as well as Airborne Capital, which manages their planes, in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last year.

Flair spokeswoman Gabrielle Poirier says payment demands from Airborne are “baseless” given that the carrier is no longer leasing the jetliners.

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The Canadian Press


3:18 p.m.

Montreal home prices rose in December even as sales fell 4%

Real estate signage showing a home that has sold in Montreal.
Real estate signage showing a home that has sold in Montreal. Photo by Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press files

The Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers says Montreal-area home sales in December fell four per cent compared with the same month a year earlier.

The association says home sales in the region totalled 2,096 for the month, down from 2,191 in December 2022. Throughout the year, the Montreal area saw an overall decline in sales activity of 14 per cent.

The median price of a single-family home in December was $535,000, up five per cent from $510,000 a year earlier, while the median price for a condominium was $391,000, up four per cent from $375,000. The median price for a plex was $699,000, up two per cent from $685,000 in December 2022.

Single-family home sales totalled 1,052, down five per cent from 1,110 a year earlier, while condominium sales amounted to 777, a 10 per cent drop from 863 in the same month of 2022.

Plex sales rose to 264 for December, compared with 215 a year earlier.

Active listings for December jumped 19 per cent compared with a year earlier to 15,907, while new listings rose 12 per cent to 2,542.

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The Canadian Press


1:36 p.m.

MPs to debate studying cellphone plan hikes as some companies raise prices

A person uses a cellphone in Ottawa.
A person uses a cellphone in Ottawa. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press files

As some MPs gather Thursday to mull a request for a study on cellphone package price increases, telecom industry watchers say it’s clear costs are too high despite indications that prices have come down in recent years.

Members of the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology are set to discuss the topic after Rogers Communications Inc. confirmed last week that prices were going up by an average of $5 for wireless customers not on contract.

Some Bell customers have also posted photos on social media of notices informing them their wireless bills are set to increase, however BCE Inc. has not responded to requests for comment.

Today’s meeting was requested by committee members Rick Perkins, Ryan Williams, Brad Vis and Bernard Genereux of the Conservatives and Bloc MP Sebastien Lemire. They wrote in a Jan. 8 letter the looming price hike by Rogers “appears to be the first material impact of Canada’s cellphone market becoming less competitive” following Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne’s approval of the Rogers-Shaw merger last year.

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The Canadian Telecommunications Association has touted data compiled from Statistics Canada’s inflation reports showing cellular costs have declined more than 47 per cent over the past five years in contrast to an overall inflation increase of 19 per cent for the same period.

But consumer advocate Mohammed Halabi said some big companies are trying to sell larger plans with more data and bundling options, meaning consumers may see their telecom bills growing, though they’re getting more bang for their buck.

The Canadian Press


12:09 p.m.

Midday markets: Stocks down in Toronto, on Wall Street

Stock market chart

Wall Street

and Canada’s main market saw a volatile session, with stocks down and United States bonds struggling for direction after hotter-than-anticipated inflation data tempered bets on a Federal Reserve rate cut in March.

The S&P 500 trimmed its weekly advance, led by losses in megacaps like Tesla Inc. and Apple Inc. U.S. 10-year Treasury yields were little changed, while still remaining above four per cent. Fed swaps priced in less monetary easing in 2024. The U.S. dollar rose. Bitcoin surged past US$49,000, with trading commencing on the first U.S. exchange-traded funds that invest directly in the cryptocurrency.

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The U.S. consumer price index increased 3.4 per cent in the year through December, the most in three months. On a monthly basis, it also rose by more than forecast. The CPI excluding food and energy rose 0.3 per cent in December from a month earlier. On an annual basis, the so-called core measure increased 3.9 per cent.

Bloomberg


11:08 a.m.

Bitcoin pushes past US$49,000 as trading of U.S. spot ETFs begins

Bitcoin price chart

Bitcoin pushed past US$49,000 for the first time since December 2021 with trading commencing on the first U.S. exchange-traded funds that invest directly in the biggest cryptocurrency.

The token’s price advanced as much as 6.7 per cent to $49,021, the highest since December 2021, buoyed by the approval of 11 spot Bitcoin ETFs by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission after markets closed on Wednesday.

“A much wider audience of investors can now buy into Bitcoin in an easy and reliable way,” said Michael Safai, founding partner at Dexterity Capital.

“The ETF is effectively a watershed moment for financial advisers who now must have an opinion on this asset-class,” said Sui Chung, chief executive of data provider CF Benchmarks, which supplies indexes for several of the approved ETFs. “They might still not recommend it to their clients, but the fact it’s now available through a regulated product means they must at least have a viewpoint. This could open the door to a much more steady flow of interest and flows into the asset-class.”

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Bloomberg


10:22 a.m.

Oil climbs as tanker seizure by Iran adds fuel to Middle East volatility

Brent crude price chart

Oil climbed after Iran seized a tanker in the Gulf of Oman, the latest in a run of incidents involving merchant shipping that could threaten key shipping lanes.

Global benchmark Brent advanced above US$78 a barrel on Thursday. Iran said it seized an oil tanker near the Gulf of Oman that was at the centre of a contentious sanctions dispute between the Persian Gulf state and the United States. It adds a fresh dose of volatility to a region in which the U.S. and allies are weighing options for retaliating against Yemen-based Houthi militants for attacks on Red Sea shipping.

“The more widespread the retaliation against the Houthis, the more likely the Houthis are to escalate their attacks against civilian ships in the Red Sea, against coalition warships and even potentially against targets in Yemen and the Gulf Cooperation Council,” Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at risk intelligence consultancy RANE Network, said on Bloomberg Television.

Bloomberg


10:00 a.m.

Markets open: Stocks drop on U.S. inflation miss

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Higher food prices drove inflation higher in the U.S. in December.
Food prices drove inflation higher in the U.S. in December. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Wall Street was down after a report showed U.S. inflation came in warmer than expected.

The S&P 500 fell 0.06 per cent early Thursday, after initially touching the record high it reached two years ago in initial trading. The Dow was down 0.31 per cent, and the Nasdaq composite was down 0.19 per cent.

In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 0.21 per cent with almost all the sectors registering losses.

Stocks roared higher late last year on expectations that cooling inflation would prompt the United States Federal Reserve to cut rates sharply. Altogether the report will likely cause traders to push back forecasts for the timing of the first cut to rates, analysts said.

The Associated Press


8:30 a.m.

U.S. inflation comes in higher than expected in December

U.S. inflation december

Higher rents and food prices boosted overall United States inflation in December, a sign that the U.S. Federal Reserve’s drive to slow inflation to its two per cent target may be a bumpy one.

Thursday’s report from the Labor Department showed that overall prices rose 0.3 per cent from November and 3.4 per cent from 12 months earlier. Those gains exceeded the previous 0.1 per cent monthly rise and the 3.1 per cent annual inflation in November.

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Excluding volatile food and energy costs, so-called core prices rose just 0.3 per cent month over month, unchanged from November’s increase. Core prices were up 3.9 per cent from a year earlier, down a tick from November’s four per cent year-over year gain. Economists pay particular attention to core prices because, by excluding costs that typically jump around from month to month, they are seen as a better guide to the likely path of inflation.

Overall inflation has cooled more or less steadily since hitting a four-decade high of 9.1 per cent in mid-2022. Still, the persistence of still-elevated inflation helps explain why, despite steady economic growth, low unemployment and healthy hiring, polls show many Americans are dissatisfied with the economy — a likely key issue in the 2024 elections.

The Federal Reserve, which began aggressively raising interest rates in March 2022 to try to slow the pace of price increases, wants to reduce year-over-year inflation to its two per cent target level.

The Associated Press


7:30 a.m.

Aritzia sales rise unexpectedly on new styles, higher markdowns

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An Aritzia store in Toronto. The retailer reported an unexpected increase in sales for the third quarter as new inventory and higher markdowns drew in customers.
An Aritzia store in Toronto. The retailer reported an unexpected increase in sales for the third quarter as new inventory and higher markdowns drew in customers. Photo by Della Rollins/Bloomberg

Aritzia Inc. reported an unexpected increase in sales for the third quarter as new inventory and higher markdowns drew in customers.

The Vancouver-based retailer’s revenue came in at $653.5 million, beating the average analyst estimate of $621.9 million. Sales rose 4.6 per cent from a year earlier, while analysts expected a decline.

Adjusted earnings came in at 47 cents  per share compared with the average estimate of 41 cents.

“Although the consumer environment remains mixed, we generated sales growth across all of our geographies and channels, as clients responded well to our new styles and outerwear offering,” chief executive Jennifer Wong said in a statement after market close Jan. 10.

Management also said it expects to introduce new styles for the spring, which could further draw in customers and boost sales. The retailer also expects its inventory issues to improve by then.

Aritzia shares lost almost half their value over 2023 after the hype surrounding the company at the time failed to translate into financial success. Much of the hope for growth rests on its long-term plan to expand in the United States.

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For the current quarter, the company sees sales of $670 million to $690 million, compared with the estimate of $677.6 million. Gilbert said seasonal contribution from the brand’s famous Super Puff jacket gives it a “strong franchise.”

Lara Sanli, Bloomberg

More: Aritzia looking to new U.S. stores to boost business as it reports drop in net income


Stock markets before the opening bell

Stock markets January 11, 2024

United States equity futures and European stocks ticked higher as investors prepared for inflation data that will help clarify the path for U.S. Federal Reserve policy.

Contracts for the S&P 500 pointed to small gains after the gauge wiped out all losses from the start of the year and closed just short of an all-time high set two years ago. Cryptocurrency stocks extended an advance in premarket trading after regulators approved exchange-traded funds that invest directly in bitcoin.

The U.S. inflation report is top of mind for traders Thursday. More evidence of cooling price pressures will support optimism around expectations for Fed interest rate cuts, but a hot reading could spur volatility. Economists tracked by Bloomberg expect year-over-year core inflation to fall to 3.8 per cent in the December data from four per cent in the prior month.

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In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed up up 18.44 points at 20,989.42 on Wednesday.

Bloomberg


What to watch today

The Economic Club of Canada hosts their annual Economic Outlook Breakfast with chief economists from Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Royal Bank of Canada.

The United States consumer price index for December will be released this morning.

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Additional reporting by The Canadian Press, Associated Press and Bloomberg


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