By Paul Wells - Sunday, January 27, 2013 - 0 Comments
On Dec. 13, the day after the Commons rose for the Christmas break, CTV’s Don Martin met Thomas Mulcair in Stornaway to talk about the parliamentary season then ending. The big news there was the F-35 procurement audit and the CNOOC/Nexen deal. When the House sits on Monday for the first time in six weeks, I’ll be surprised if either is a big issue. Politics in Canada has moved on, and it feels like we are a lot more than six weeks closer to the next election.
We know more about two opposition figures, Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, than we did in mid-December. Mulcair spent the holidays and the first month of 2013 accelerating his efforts to moderate the NDP’s public image. Trudeau made it through the opening rounds of the woefully belated Liberal leadership campaign without showing up at a debate without pants, saying the country is run by too many Albertans — well, at least he managed not to say it again — or doing anything else to blow his reputation among Liberals. And a string of polls (the kind that ask about hypothetical situations in the future, so don’t take them as gospel) suggest he’d take a far bigger bite out of NDP and Conservative support than any of his opponents. So his lead in the Liberal leadership race holds steady.
I think Mulcair’s six weeks have been more significant. Continue…
By Andrew Hepburn - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 11:19 AM - 0 Comments
Andrew Hepburn is a former hedge fund researcher. He writes on commodities, the stock market and the financial industry–but without the jargon.
Once again, food prices are soaring. For the third time in five years, the world seems on the verge of a crisis. Prices for corn, soybeans and wheat have all skyrocketed on international markets, rising 21 per cent, 41 per cent and 31 per cent respectively since the start of the year.
The key question is: Why?
The standard answer is that there are a plethora of factors making food more expensive worldwide. The International Monetary Fund lists them in the following order, which is fairly typical:
• Strong food demand from emerging economies, reflecting stronger per capita income growth, accounts for much of the increase in consumption. Although demand growth has been high for some time now, the recent sustained period of high global growth contributed to depleting global inventories, particularly of grains.
• Rising biofuel production adds to the demand for corn and rapeseeds oil, in particular, spilling over to other foods through demand and crop substitution effects. Almost half the increase in consumption of major food crops in 2007 was related to biofuels, mostly because of corn-based ethanol production in the US; and the new biofuel mandates in the US and the EU that favor domestic production will continue to put pressure on prices.
• The policy responses in some countries are exacerbating the problem: (i) Some major exporting countries have introduced export taxes, export bans, or other restrictions on exports of agricultural products. (ii) Some importing countries are not allowing full pass-through of international prices into domestic prices (less than half a sample of 43 developing and emerging market countries allowed for full pass through in 2007).
• Drought conditions in major wheat-producing countries (e.g., Australia and Ukraine), higher input costs (animal feed, energy, and fertilizer), and restrictive trade policies in major net exporters of key food staples such as rice have also contributed.
• Financial factors: the depreciating US$ increases purchasing power of commodity users outside of the dollar area; falling policy interest rates in some major currencies reduce inventory holding costs and induce shifts from money market instruments to higher-yielding assets such as commodity-indexed funds.
By Andrew Hepburn - Friday, June 15, 2012 at 3:16 PM - 0 Comments
Former hedge fund researcher and commodities bear Andrew Hepburn looks at the potential implications of a widespread economic slowdown in the emerging markets on Canada.
A comforting narrative has emerged about our fair northern nation. It goes something like this: While the United States has been reckless in its lending, Canada is the smaller, prudent neighbour. So as the U.S. housing bubble burst and financial crisis ensued, Canada remained a well-regulated rock.
And speaking of rocks, the great northern land just happens to have the commodities required for the fast-growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Time and again, Wall Street has pointed to these emerging market economies, the so-called BRICs, as the source of high commodity prices. Yet by now it’s very clear that China, along with Brazil and India, are slowing rapidly. Energy-rich Russia can’t be far behind if oil keeps falling.
China cut interest rates unexpectedly last week, signalling government concern that the sought-after soft landing of the economy is turning uncomfortably hard. As the Atlantic recently noted, many indicators of Chinese growth are flashing warning signs. Loan growth has collapsed, rail cargo and electricity output are sliding, and business sentiment has soured. India doesn’t look any better. Growing at close to double digits a few years ago, the country recently recorded a growth rate of 5.3%.
Prices are sliding: the benchmark Reuters/CRB commodity index, tracking a basket of commodities, is down more than 20% over the past year. Oil, copper and iron ore have all fallen substantially from their peaks.
Trouble for the BRICs means trouble for Canada, a major producer of natural resources. Whether it’s nickel in Sudbury or potash in Saskatchewan, our country has benefitted from the lengthy commodity boom that is now over a decade old. Alberta in particular requires lofty prices to make the oil sands economically viable. There’s also the tiny matter of the Toronto Stock Exchange, where energy companies alone represent 25% of the index.
By Steve Maich - Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 10:34 AM - 0 Comments
Just about every day, I continue to get letters and emails from readers, about…
Just about every day, I continue to get letters and emails from readers, about this column from a few weeks ago, in which I argued that speculators are not really to blame for the soaring price of energy. Whatever role they play in the market tends to be positive, eliminating pricing inefficiencies and generally smoothing the rise and fall of futures contracts. The price increase is due to high demand, stretched supply and a shortage of refinery capacity.
It was, um, not a crowd pleaser. The general consensus among my correspondents is that speculators are evil, they are trying to ruin the lives of innocent ordinary folk, and dorks like me should lose our journalism licenses.
Well, the U.S. government task force charged with getting to the bottom of the speculator scandal issued its report yesterday. Bottom line: speculators aren’t to blame. The oil price is the result of high demand, stretched supply and a shortage of refinery capacity. Never easily daunted by mere facts, the Senate voted unanimously(!) to press ahead with debates aimed at curbing price speculation in the futures markets.
We do not want to hear that we are the cause of the oil price rise. And politicians do not want to be the ones to press that unpopular reality. So off we go to bizzaro world, where the facts don’t matter. Only emotions do.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, June 27, 2008 at 11:59 AM - 0 Comments
Michael Schneider of Variety writes about the “finalists” for the Emmys — the 10 shows in each category that make the short-list. (This isn’t a list of nominations, it’s a list of shows that have a chance to be nominated.) A list like this is useful to let us know what shows have no chance of being nominated, and it appears that How I Met Your Mother and Battlestar Galactica have been shafted once again: they’re not on the short-list for Best Comedy and Best Drama, respectively.
The piece pays the most attention to the fact that Family Guy has a chance to become the first animated show to get a nomination for Best Comedy: it doesn’t have the nomination yet, but it did make the top-10 list of finalists. Every few years, an animated prime-time comedy tries to break out of the Best Animated Show ghetto, and it always fails; The Simpsons tried to get a Best Comedy nomination for several years before giving up (Lisa: “This is the biggest farce I’ve ever seen.” Bart: “What about the Emmys?” Lisa: “I stand corrected.”), and King of the Hill tried entering in the Best Comedy category a few years ago and got nowhere. After those failures, most animated shows don’t want to risk a certain loss by entering themselves in Best Comedy, giving up the probable nomination they’d get by entering in the cartoons-only category; Family Guy got around this by entering the series as a whole for Best Comedy and a one-hour special for the cartoon award. And it may work out for them yet. That show, I must grudgingly admit, leads a charmed life.
By kadyomalley - Monday, June 16, 2008 at 8:58 AM - 0 Comments
A cabinet shuffle tomorrow? Really?
With all due respect to Le Devoir, and its…
A cabinet shuffle tomorrow? Really?
With all due respect to Le Devoir, and its no doubt impeccable sources, I can’t quite believe that the Prime Minister is so frantic to push the bishops, knights and Jim Prentice that comprise his current cabinet around the board that he would buck tradition and do so before the summer recess – which is, after all, just four days away. I can’t even remember