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Economic news indicates Canadians more optimistic

Rising sales of houses, cars and manufactured goods have helped push Canada's leading economic indicators into positive growth for the first time in two years.

Statistics Canada said strong domestic demand coupled with a recovery in the United States, Canada's largest trading partner, are helping to turn around the economic situation.

Manufacturing orders rose for the second time in four months, while the housing market, consumer demand and employment levels all improved in November.

Canadians are confident housing prices won't drop even though they remain nervous about economic stability.

"Canadians clearly believe that the worst of the recession is behind them and that the real estate market is on the path to sustainable recovery," said Phil Soper, president and chief executive of Royal LePage.

Sales of existing homes soared 73 percent last month to near record highs at 36,383 properties, with British Columbia and Ontario leading the way. Prices are up 4.4 percent for the year to an average $317,000.

New car and truck sales jumped 3.5 percent to 133,559 units in October, and there was the largest monthly drop in bankruptcies on record, down 27.7 percent.

Record lows set across the west

Western Canada has been in the grips of some of the coldest winter temperatures ever on the Prairies.

The temperature plunged to minus-51 in Edmonton last weekend, making it the coldest place in Canada.

Environment Canada said record lows were set all across Alberta, while wind-chill warnings were issued as well for neighboring Saskatchewan because of a large mass of arctic air.

In Ontario, dense fog and slippery roads near Ottawa closed Highway 416 northbound for five hours after a series of chain-reaction pileups involving more than 70 vehicles. Four people had minor injuries.

News in brief

• Grim warnings from the Bank of Canada about rising household debt could be overblown, with not as many families at risk if interest rates rise, CIBC World Markets says. It estimates that less than 4 percent of households are vulnerable to a rate shock, not the 5.9 percent predicted by the central bank. "Make no mistake, Canada is not doomed to see a U.S.-style housing and mortgage blow-up," chief economist Avery Shenfeld said.

• More competition in the cell phone market is expected to result in more selection and lower costs for Canadians. The federal government overturned a ruling by Canada's broadcast regulator and allowed Egypt-backed Globalive to compete against Telus, Rogers and Bell, which control 90 percent of the market. A survey shows that Canada has some of the highest charges in the world for mobile phone services.

Facts and figures

Canada's budget deficit reached $3.1 billion in October as the government pumped cash into the economy. For the seven months of this fiscal year, the budget deficit is now $30 billion.

Canada's dollar is lower at 93.82 cents U.S., while the U.S. dollar returns $1.0659 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 0.25 percent, while the prime lending rate is 2.25 percent.

Stock markets were higher Friday, with Toronto's composite index at 11,490 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,432 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 4, 22, 23, 46, 48, 49; bonus 18. (Dec. 12) 16, 20, 26, 31, 38, 49; bonus 42. Lotto Max: (Dec. 11) 1, 4, 5, 7, 22, 29, 48; bonus 13.

Regional briefs

• Arson is suspected in a fire that caused $3 million in damage to the historic All Saints' Anglican Church in Whitby, near Toronto. The fire, believed set at the rear of the 143-year-old structure, also destroyed 90 Christmas hampers collected for distribution to the needy. The hampers were quickly replaced by donations from throughout the community.

• The Canadian Avalanche Center warns of severe risks in mountainous back-country areas of British Columbia's south coast. Snow from recent storms is resting on a weak layer within the snowpack and with warming temperatures would be "very easy to trigger avalanches large enough to injure a person."

• Ferry service between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia is being reviewed as the five-year contract with the federal government expires in March. The government is considering extending the contract with Northumberland Ferries for one year while the future of the service is being evaluated.

• There has been an ugly breakup between the Toronto Transit Commission and would-be advertiser Ashley Madison, with its dating Web site to hook up married people. The company is considering suing the transit commission after its ad banners for streetcars were rejected after a trial run because it was felt they didn't comply with community standards. The ads said: "Life is short. Have an affair."

Jim Fox can be reached at

Economic news indicates Canadians more optimistic 12/19/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:08pm]
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