Finance news. My opinion.

September 30, 2014

Filed under: legal, money — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 10:47 pm

As development has leapfrogged the Greenbelt area north of the GTA into the fast-growing area around Barrie, many farmers have been playing a lucrative game of musical chairs.

They’ve been selling off valuable spreads for development that their families have farmed, in some cases for generations, and been snapping up cheaper land within an hour’s drive where they start all over again.

That double demand, of sorts, for farmland in the South Simcoe area has been “extraordinary,” according to ReMax’s annual farm report released Tuesday. That high-demand stretch, largely along Highway 400, includes Barrie, Tottenham, Innisfil, Springwater and Bradford.

There developers have paid up to $54,000 an acre for hay fields that can be converted to housing. Just down the road – in areas where land is designated solely for farming – prices have also been escalating, but to a relatively affordable $10,000 to $12,000 per acre, says ReMax.

That’s encouraged some long-time farmers to even split their businesses, says former farmer and now ReMax farm specialist George Atkinson: Dad maintains some of the valuable old parcel and sells off the rest to help the kids buy up new, cheaper farms within easy commuting distance so they can share costly farm equipment.

In Kitchener-Waterloo, where prices have started to level off, farmland is now amongst the priciest in the province — $14,000 to $18,000 per acre. That’s also lead to relocations, with some Mennonite families moving to Quinte and Renfrew counties to the northeast. There farmland is a more affordable $8,000 to $12,000 per acre, notes ReMax.

For the most part, the price of farmland across Canada has largely held steady or increased just slightly over 2013, says the report, after years of substantive price escalation.

Alberta, however, has been plagued with the same inventory problem now driving up prices in the Toronto house market: Bidding wars caused by too much demand for too little supply.


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September 27, 2014

On climate, Canada buries its head in the oilsands

Filed under: debt, uk — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 4:51 pm

When dinosaurs strode the Earth millions of years ago, seemingly unaware their end was near, I could imagine the spirit of a smiling Stephen Harper and his merry band of Canadian climate-change deniers hard at work. “Not to worry, my little ones,” I can hear them saying to any dinosaur that listened. “It will all turn out just fine in the end.” Fortunately, the rest of us now live in a post-dinosaur frame of mind and are not so sanguine.

When the history of this fragile planet is written, I suspect this past week will go down as a hopeful one. If for only a few days, the right-wing political echo chamber of self-serving cynicism and apathy about the perils of climate change was pushed to the background.

Instead, through the power of worldwide protests and the surprising legacy of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, we were reminded that people care about the growing threats to their world, and that there is something that can be done about it.

Last Sunday, in what was called the “People’s Climate March,” hundreds of thousands of people turned out in more than 150 countries and 2,000 separate locations — including in Canada — to demand urgent action on climate change. Although it received scant media coverage in the U.S., it was regarded as the largest march of its kind in history. In New York City alone, more than 300,000 people participated.

The next day, heirs to the fabled Rockefeller family, which made its fortune from oil, announced they would sell their investments in fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy. The Rockefeller fund said it was joining a coalition of hundreds of other institutions and individuals to rid themselves of more than $50 billion in fossil fuel assets. For the Rockefellers, this included investments in Canadian industries.

All of this came as the United Nations on Tuesday prepared for the largest gathering of world leaders ever devoted to climate change, and the first such meeting in five years. More than 100 leaders attended the summit — but not Prime Minister Harper, even though he was in New York on Tuesday. It was a prelude to an even more crucial meeting in Paris at the end of next year when the world’s nations need to work out a new international climate-change agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol fast payday loan.

The initiative by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund took many by surprise. It was described as an effort to make oil, gas and coal investments as toxic as tobacco stocks became in the 1990s, or investments in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. Stephen Heintz, the fund’s president, said the founder of Standard Oil in 1870, if he were alive today, would be “leading the charge” into renewable energy. It comes at a time when the “divestment movement” is gaining traction in many companies and on university campuses.

In the debate about climate change, the South African apartheid parallels have been cited by many. Can companies today be pressured to stop their investment in fossil fuels — like the Rockefellers — in the same way that companies in the 1980s were pressured to end their support of apartheid South Africa?

In recent months, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been particularly critical of Canada’s approach to the development of Alberta’s tarsands. This is in contrast to how he viewed Canada during the protests against South Africa in the 1980s.

I remember when I was part of the CBC news team in 1985-86 covering the state of emergency in South Africa, Tutu in particular told us how important Canada’s boycott of apartheid was for their campaign to replace that government.

Last Sunday in The Observer newspaper, Tutu urged that a similar campaign happen: “Never before in history have human beings been called on to act collectively in defence of the Earth . . . Who can stop climate change? We can. You and you and you, and me. And it is not just that we can stop it, we have a responsibility to do so.”

With Canada’s next election scheduled for October of next year, only a few months before the crucial Paris climate change summit, it will be critical to see “which Canada” shows up in Paris.


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September 19, 2014

Colombia Buoyed by U.S. Outperforming as China Sales Slow - Bloomberg

Filed under: legal, lenders — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 2:15 pm

Exports of flowers to the U.S. and fuels to India are buffering Colombia from a slowdown in Chinese growth that is hurting the Andean country

September 17, 2014

Mayor Rob Ford diagnosed with cancer

Filed under: money, term — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 11:43 pm

Mayor Rob Ford has been diagnosed with cancer.

Dr. Zane Cohen, the renowned colorectal surgeon, made the announcement at a news conference at Mount Sinai Hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

Ford, who withdrew from the mayoral election on Friday, was hospitalized a week ago. He is now a council candidate in Ward 2 (Etobicoke North).

Ford, 45, said earlier in the week that he was vomiting and in pain. He suggested his condition was dire, telling the Toronto Sun, “I guess the good Lord wants me somewhere else.”

Doug Ford replaced his younger brother on the mayoral election ballot. He has not yet formally begun campaigning.

“It’s a tough day,” he said in brief remarks outside Mount Sinai earlier on Wednesday.

Doug Ford, brother Randy Ford, mother Diane Ford, and the mayor’s wife Renata Ford visited the mayor in the hospital ahead of the announcement.

“We have a lot of faith in the doctors and we have a lot of faith in God,” Renata Ford said.

Unless he takes a formal leave of absence, Rob Ford will remain in charge of the city until the new mayor is sworn in December 1. Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly is the city’s de facto leader, having been assigned most of the mayor’s powers in November.

The Fords’ father, former MPP Doug Ford Sr., died of colon cancer in 2006, three months after he was diagnosed.

“The most important thing, most important thing, is your health,” Rob Ford said in his speech at the wedding of assistant Jerry Agyemang in August. “Friends, you can have everything in the world. If you haven’t got your health you don’t have very much.”

A scheduled evening debate between mayoral candidates John Tory and Olivia Chow was cancelled in the early afternoon. Tory and Chow are both planning to respond to the Ford news on a street corner behind city hall after 5:30 p.m.

“I hope Mr. Ford doesn’t have cancer,” Chow, whose husband Jack Layton died of cancer in 2011, said earlier in the day. She said she had worn yellow, the colour of the anti-cancer daffodil symbol, in support.

“Today, our thoughts are with the mayor and with his family, and we will resume the campaign at an appropriate time in full,” said Tory. He said he was sending Ford “positive energy.”

After Ford dropped out of the mayoral race, he said he was “unable to commit to the heavy schedule required for a mayoral candidate” but was able to run for council.

“I could be facing a battle of my lifetime, and I want the people of Toronto to know that I intend to face this challenge head on, and win,” he said in his statement last week.


September 9, 2014

Canadian Tire money turns digital in new loyalty program

Filed under: online, uk — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 8:55 pm

Retailer Canadian Tire is rolling out a new loyalty program next month, as a way for customers to earn rewards in addition to the much-loved Canadian Tire money.

It says the digital rewards program, accessible through a card or an app, will allow customers to collect and redeem Canadian Tire money without carrying bills.

The program will launch in Nova Scotia on Oct. 10, and in the rest of Canada on Oct. 28.

But paper Canadian Tire money will continue to remain in circulation, the retailer says.

Canadian Tire money was introduced in 1958 and was conceived by Muriel Billes, wife of Canadian Tire’s co-founder A free credit score.J. Billes.

The bills are available in denominations of 5

September 1, 2014

For sale: Century-old cards of Ty Cobb, Cy Young

Filed under: marketing, news — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 5:59 pm

BIDDEFORD, Maine (AP) — A baseball fan took up smoking a century ago and with it acquired another habit: holding onto little cards that bore the faces of baseball’s earliest greats.

Now, the trove of more than 1,400 tobacco cards featuring a slew of Hall of Famers like Cy Young and Ty Cobb — the legacy of a teenage smoker whose family hung onto a collection that dates to 1909 — is going up for auction.

The cards will be sold by a Maine auction house that is becoming known for selling rare memorabilia, Saco River Auction Co. in Biddeford.

Troy Thibodeau, the company’s manager and auctioneer, said the collection of cards dating from 1909 to 1911 — an era when the Yankees were the Highlanders, the Dodgers were the Superbas and the Braves were the Doves — belongs to the grandchildren of a Brooklyn, New York-born man who began smoking when he was 19.

“Every time he got a card, he threw it in a box,” Thibodeau said.

The collection has been dubbed the “Portland trove” because some of the collector’s descendants ended up in Maine’s largest city. The family doesn’t want to be identified, Thibodeau said.

Due to be auctioned individually and in small lots starting in January, the collection includes about 10 cards depicting Young and a dozen depicting Cobb, along with other Hall of Famers like Chief Bender, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.

Smaller than modern baseball cards, these cards known as “T206″ cards to collectors feature color lithographs on the front and a tobacco advertisement on the back.

“They’re not like your normal baseball card where there’s a stock piece of photography that’s printed on millions and millions of cards. These are truly pieces of art. They’re colorful, they’re bright, they’re folky, they’re Americana,” Thibodeau said.

The collector preferred a cigarette brand from Havana called El Principe De Gales. But there are cards featuring logos from other cigarette brands of the era like American Beauty, Sweet Caporal, Sovereign and Piedmont.

Such a large collection is unusual but not unprecedented. Large collections come up for sale every year or two, collectors say. Part of what makes this one special is that the cards are in great shape.

Scott Hileman from New Jersey-based SportsCard Guaranty, who graded the cards, said they’re all among the type of cards used to market brands that were part of American Tobacco Co. for three years, from 1909 to 1911. He described the trove as “incredible.”

Missing are two of the rarest cards: Those depicting pitcher Eddie Plank and shortstop Honus Wagner. The priciest baseball card ever sold was a 1909 Honus Wagner, which went for $2.8 million.

Nonetheless, the collection is valuable with the potential for some of the single cards to reach into five figures, Thibodeau said.

Saco River is making a name for itself despite being a small auction house.

Last year, a collector from Massachusetts paid $92,000 for an 1865 baseball card depicting the Brooklyn Atlantics amateur baseball club. In 2012, the auction house sold a rare 1888 card of Hall of Famer Michael “King” Kelly for $72,000.

“If you love baseball, this is the beginning of it. This is where stars were made and heroes were born. It’s history,” Thibodeau said.




August 29, 2014

Contracts to buy U.S. homes rise in hopeful sign

Filed under: Uncategorized, news — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 12:27 pm

WASHINGTON • More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in July, a sign that buying has improved as mortgage rates have slipped, the number of listings has risen and the rate of price increases has slowed.

The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 3.3 percent to 105.9 last month. Still, the index remains 2.1 percent below its level a year ago.

The pressures that caused home sales to stall last year have started to ease. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate has dropped to 4 short term personal loans.1 percent, a 52-week low. Prices are no longer rising at double-digit annual rates, thereby helping to improve affordability.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale.


August 27, 2014

SEC adopts rules requiring broader disclosure for loan-backed securities

Filed under: money, uk — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 9:27 pm

WASHINGTON • Financial firms that sell securities backed by loans, like the kind that fueled the 2008 financial crisis, will have to give investors details on borrowers’ credit record and income under action taken Wednesday by federal regulators.

The Securities and Exchange Commission adopted the rules for securities linked to mortgages and auto loans on a 5-0 vote.

The commissioners also imposed new conflict-of-interest rules on the agencies that rate the debt of companies, governments and issues of securities. That vote split 3-2 along party lines, with the two Republican commissioners opposing adoption of the rules.

Home mortgages bundled into securities and sold on Wall Street soured after the housing bubble burst in 2007, losing billions in value. The vast sales of risky securities ignited the crisis that plunged the economy into the deepest recession since the Great Depression and brought a taxpayer bailout of banks.

In requiring sellers of the securities to provide information on borrowers’ credit and income, the aim is to enable investors to better assess the risks of the loans underlying the securities.

“These reforms will make a real difference to investors and to our financial markets,” SEC Chair Mary Jo White said before the vote.

A recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed that U.S. auto loans jumped to the highest level in eight years this spring, fueled by a big increase in lending to risky borrowers. The Fed also said that loans to borrowers with weak credit, known as subprime loans, continue to make up a smaller proportion of total auto loans than before the recession.

Still, the rapid increase in subprime auto lending has raised concerns among federal regulators in recent months that it could set off a wave of defaults such as occurred in the mortgage market collapse. Because auto loans are packaged into securities, an increase in auto loan defaults could be amplified.

The new rules on so-called asset-backed securities and credit rating agencies were called for under the sweeping financial overhaul law enacted in 2010 in response to the financial meltdown. The rules take effect in 60 days.

A number of big banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, have been accused by the government of abuses in sales of mortgage securities in the years leading up to the crisis. Together, they have paid hundreds of millions in penalties to settle civil charges brought by the SEC, which accused them of deceiving investors about the quality of the securities they sold.

In recent months, the Justice Department and state regulators have reached multibillion-dollar civil settlements over mortgage securities with JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup.

The new rules require credit rating agencies to report to the SEC on their financial safeguards to ensure that their ratings are determined through a fair process. The agencies’ sales people will be barred from participating in the ratings process. And agencies will have to review and potentially revise their ratings in cases where an employee was later hired by a company he or she rated.

The rating agencies are key financial gatekeepers. Their ratings can affect a company’s ability to raise or borrow money and also can influence how much investors pay for securities. Critics say the agencies have a built-in conflict of interest because they are paid by the same companies they rate. The three big agencies — Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch — were widely criticized for giving low-risk ratings to the risky mortgage securities being sold ahead of the crisis, as they reaped lucrative fees. Investigations by a Senate panel and a congressionally appointed independent commission found that the three agencies contributed to the crisis by awarding high ratings to securities based on subprime mortgages.

The three big agencies together account for nearly 95 percent of the ratings market. Several other smaller rating agencies are officially recognized by the SEC.

A key problem is that companies choose which firms rate them and then pay for those ratings, critics say. It’s like having a pitcher choose the umpire for a baseball game, they contend, and it puts pressure on the agencies to award better ratings in order to secure repeat business.

Critics say a better solution would be to create a government board that randomly assigns agencies to rate companies. Congress debated that idea, but ultimately decided not to direct regulators to adopt such rules. Instead, lawmakers asked the SEC to study the idea.


August 18, 2014

London Home Asking Prices Plunge Most in More Than Six Years - Bloomberg

Filed under: debt, loans — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 3:27 am

London home sellers cut asking prices by the most in more than six years this month, adding to signs that the property market in the U.K. capital is coming off the boil.

London values fell 5.9 percent from the previous month to an average 552,783 pounds ($922,300), the biggest drop since December 2007, property website Rightmove Plc said today. Nationally, prices declined 2.9 percent, a record for an August.

While property demand usually weakens during the summer, Rightmove said the slump this year was steeper than it expected. Tougher new mortgage rules introduced by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, as well as anticipation of higher interest rates, are putting pressure on the market after a surge in values raised concerns that a bubble may develop.

August 13, 2014


Filed under: marketing, prices — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 7:03 am


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