More expensive vehicles, many of them imported from the United States, are driving the auto market.
With more confidence in the economy, Scotia Economics finds U.S. vehicle imports have risen to a record annual rate of 260,000 units, along with price jumps of 13 percent.
The current trend is toward more expensive light trucks, while sales of small, low-priced vehicles are off by 30 percent.
The fastest-growing segment, showing a 60 percent increase, is crossover utility vehicles.
More Canadians choosing condos
Canadians are showing a renewed interest in condo living, a trend that is helping to propel the country's building activity.
Statistics Canada says the latest building permit numbers showed a 12 percent increase in March over February, largely for condominium developments in Ontario and British Columbia, along with industrial construction.
Compared to a year earlier, building permits increased almost 39 percent to $6.3 billion and represented the first gains in four months.
The multifamily dwelling permits were up about 54 percent at $1.5 billion, the highest level since July 2008, while single-family housing numbers were unchanged and industrial projects jumped by 57 percent.
TD economist Pascal Gauthier said that while housing prices are increasing this year, they will slow in 2011 with a "modest pullback" of 2.7 percent nationally.
The correction will be due to more housing being built, rising interest rates and eroding affordability.
Economists expect average house prices to jump by 9 percent this year to about $350,000.
News in brief
• A former General Motors Canada worker has launched a class-action lawsuit over cuts in retirement benefits. Joseph O'Neill, who worked for GM for 40 years, said the suit is on behalf of 3,500 ex-white collar workers. It claims that GM has slashed retirement benefits twice since 2007 for drug plans, extended health care and life insurance.
• While many Canadians didn't forgo their winter vacations to hot spots, a survey shows more than half can't afford a summer trip. Frito-Lay Canada, which will offer discounts for hotels, car rentals and park admissions, commissioned the survey. It found three-quarters of Canadians polled will instead stay closer to home and take short trips without taking vacation time.
Facts and figures
The Canadian dollar returns 98.28 cents U.S., while the U.S. greenback is worth $1.0176 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
The prime lending rate remains at 2.25 percent as the Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 0.25 percent.
Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,172 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 1,619 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 8, 9, 20, 26, 28, 29; bonus 38. (May 8) 4, 10, 21, 39, 45, 48; bonus 12. Lotto Max: (May 7) 3, 6, 10, 14, 19, 25, 33; bonus 1.
• A mortgage fraud in Alberta could cost the Bank of Montreal $30 million, CBC News reported. Citing legal documents, CBC said the bank is suing hundreds of people including lawyers, mortgage brokers and four of its employees in connection with the scam. The bank hasn't commented on the report.
• Hundreds of people turned out in downtown Vancouver to catch a glimpse of a huge gray whale that appeared in an inlet. It was also seen in False Creek. Researchers say the whale took a detour from its Mexico-to-Alaska migration. After some sightseeing, the whale headed toward the open ocean. In Howe Sound, there have been pods of up to 200 Pacific white-sided dolphins frolicking recently.
• Barbecue chef Ted Reader served up what he hopes will be verified as the world's largest burger, tipping the scales at 590 pounds. The trick was to create a grill with a forklift mechanism to flip it over while cooking for six hours at the Yonge-Dundas Square. The patty was placed in a 100-pound bun and topped with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, red onions, pickles and barbecue sauce. The previous Guinness World Records hamburger was 185.8 pounds.
Jim Fox can be reached at [email protected]