With Canadians having conflicting feelings about the economy, spending over the holiday season is predicted to be the lowest in five years.
The TNS Consumer Confidence Index found that Canadians plan to spend an average of $812 on gifts, decorations and holiday items, down from $866 last year and the lowest since 2005 at $782.
The study found only one person in 10 plans to spend more while three in 10 will spend less, with the remaining six in 10 spending about the same as last year.
"Canadians remain ambivalent about the economy," said study director Michael Antecol. "If I were a retailer, I might be clicking my red heels together wishing it were December 2006 and not December 2010," he added.
The study looks at current perceptions of the economy and consumers' financial health, expectations for the next 12 months and whether Canadians feel confident enough to buy "big-ticket" items.
As with other surveys, it found Canadians continue to focus on cutting household debt as the economy has cooled since the first quarter of the year.
No big spending plans
Canada will continue to "stay the course" as the economic recovery continues, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says.
The Conservative government plans no "risky new spending schemes that will increase deficits and raise taxes" in the next federal budget, he added.
Plans to balance the budget by the 2015-16 fiscal year are on track, but Flaherty cautions this could be complicated by the fragile global recovery.
News in brief
• Prime Minister Stephen Harper has confirmed that Canadian troops will stay in Afghanistan three more years, but will end their military role next year. The 3,000 troops now in Kandahar will be reduced to about 950 and switch to training the Afghan National Army in Kabul. It's a switch from Harper's earlier pledge to withdraw all troops next year. Continuing aid and development work, along with training, will cost Canada about $900 million a year.
• All the military clothing, documents and equipment belonging to convicted sex slayer ex-Col. Russell Williams have been destroyed. Staff from Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario, where Williams was the commander, burned the items on orders. The military rising star was sentenced last month to life in prison, with no parole consideration for 25 years. He admitted killing Cpl. Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd, as well as sex attacks on two other women and 82 house break-ins where women's underwear was stolen.
Facts and figures
Canada's dollar has fallen back to 98.18 U.S. while the U.S. greenback returns $1.0186 Canada before bank exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.
Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index up at 12,940 points and the TSX Venture Exchange down at 1,994 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 3, 12, 14, 16, 29, 38; bonus 23. (Nov. 13) 5, 15, 27, 35, 38, 47; bonus 23. Lotto Max: (Nov. 12) 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 47, 49; bonus 38.
• Calgary's first blast of winter led to about 200 collisions on snowy roads. Even with that number of mainly "fender-benders," police said drivers reacted well to the icy conditions in about 2 to 4 inches of snow. Meanwhile, the first light dusting of snow of the season fell in the Barrie area north of Toronto.
• Helping to secure continued employment at Bombardier Inc., based in Montreal, is an order for 51 trains costing $271 million from Deutsche Bahn AG, a German rail system. This is in addition to 236 of the Talent 2 trains ordered earlier by the Germans. Bombardier is the world's largest maker of trains and the third-largest airplane manufacturer.
• A family from Fort Saskatchewan is in a "pickle" trying to figure out how to spend a $22.2 million tax-free cash lottery windfall. Lawayne Musselwhite, 54, said he went to a grocery story for a jar of pickles and ended up buying a winning Lotto Max ticket. After a vacation to visit family in Arizona, Musselwhite said he will expand his stamp and coin store. His advice to would-be jackpot winners: "Go out and buy pickles."
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com.