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Volume 14, Issue 15, April 16, 2014

Inside This Issue:

• Last Call for the CHHMA Spring Conference & 45th Annual General Meeting
• Join Your Fellow Canadians in Las Vegas at Maple Leaf Night – May 6th
• 45th Annual CHHMA Ontario Golf Tournament in Support of the Ontario Special Olympics
• 39th Annual CHHMA Quebec Golf Classic
• CHHMA Night at the Races - June 18th
• Dollarama Hires Former Metro Exec as COO
• Loblaw May Offer Online Order Pickup at Shoppers Drug Mart
• Guidance on Mandatory Incident Reporting under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act 
• CSSA Information on PPP Stewardship Programs (Including Saskatchewan) – 2014 Reporting
• Bank of Canada Holds Rate at 1%, Cuts Growth Forecast for 2014
• Home Resales in Canada Jump in March as Buyers Come Out of Hibernation
• Canadian House Prices Flat in March from February, but Up 4.6% From a Year Ago
• New Home Prices in Canada Gain 0.2% Led by Calgary
• Young Canadians Increasingly Upbeat About Home Ownership, RBC Survey Suggests
• Canadian Consumer Confidence Rises from Year-Earlier Levels 
• Latest U.S. Economic News

Association News

Last Call for the CHHMA Spring Conference & 45th Annual General Meeting        
This year’s CHHMA Spring Conference & 45th Annual General Meeting is set for next Wednesday, April 23rd at the International Centre Conference Facility at 6900 Airport Road in Mississauga.

You can still register to attend this value-packed day by going to:   

- Find out where the Canadian, U.S. and Global economies are headed and how it will impact your business

- See how proper goal setting can help you in both your business and personal life.

- Gain valuable insight to enhance your negotiation skills

- Learn how to set a vision within your company that will increase sales and grow your bottom line

- Plus help support our industry and hear from the two latest inductees into the Hardware and Housewares Industry Hall of Fame: Mr. Leonard Lee, Founder and Chairman of Lee Valley Tools of Ottawa and Mr. Richard Paulin, President of H. Paulin & Company, of Toronto during the Hall of Fame luncheon held during the conference.

We look forward to seeing you there on April 23rd!

Join Your Fellow Canadians in Las Vegas at Maple Leaf Night – May 6th
Maple Leaf Night is taking place this year on Tuesday, May 6th , 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. This popular social event is open to CHHMA members and Canadian customers in town for the National Hardware Show (May 6-8).

Maple Leaf Night is always a great way to wind down after the first day of the show and is an opportunity to mix and mingle with fellow CHHMA members and Canadian retailers while enjoying cocktails and hors d-oeuvres.

Regular individual tickets are $160 CDN or $200 CDN at the door. Retailers/customers are invited to attend complimentary.

For further details and to register, go to:

In addition, there is still an opportunity to sign-up as a sponsor for this fabulous event.

The cost for sponsorship is $700 CDN and entitles companies to corporate identification on all tickets, letterheads and event signage. It also entitles your company to one complimentary ticket for the host who will participate in the receiving line and two additional complimentary sponsor tickets. Additional sponsor tickets can also be purchased for a reduced price of $95 CDN.

To sign up as a sponsor online go to: or click here for a PDF Sponsorship Request form:

So come join us in Vegas!

45th Annual CHHMA Ontario Golf Tournament in Support of the Ontario Special Olympics 
The 45th Annual CHHMA Ontario Golf Tournament is being held on Tuesday, May 27th, 7:45 a.m. shotgun start. CHHMA Members and invited customers will enjoy the newly renovated course at Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham, Ontario.

Sponsor a hole! Again this event will be in support of the inspiring children and young adults of "Ontario Special Olympics"! Your company will receive recognition and thanks on all signage and promotion surrounding this event, while saluting the accomplishments of young athletes who through sports see themselves for their abilities, not disabilities!

For registration, hole sponsorship and event details go to:  

39th Annual CHHMA Quebec Golf Classic
The 39th Quebec Golf Classic is taking place at Le Club de golf Le Fontainebleau in Blainville, Quebec on Thursday, May 22, 11:00 a.m. shotgun start.

To help us make this the best golf event your customers will attend in Quebec this year, sponsor a hole! Your company will receive recognition on all signage prior to, during and following the event. For more details click on the links below! 

French registration:  
English registration:  

Plan to attend this industry event with your colleagues and customers! We hope to see you on May 22nd!

CHHMA Night at the Races - June 18th   
CHHMA’s Night at the Races is held at the Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto and is an excellent venue to entertain your customers and their spouses or invite your employees for a bit of team building. The thoroughbred racing and tasty buffet makes for an all-round fun evening!

Held in the Favourites Dining Room, you have a great view of the track from any table.

You can now register at:

So don't miss Wednesday, June 18th at Night at the Races.....

Industry News

Dollarama Hires Former Metro Exec as COO 
Dollarama Inc. has hired a former executive from grocer Metro Inc. as its new chief operating officer.

Johanne Choinière, previously senior vice-president of Metro’s restructured Ontario division, will begin at Canada’s biggest dollar store chain on May 12, heading up retail store operations as well as logistics, distribution and supply chain management.

She replaces Stephane Gonthier, who announced his departure from Dollarama in August to become CEO of California-based retailer 99 Cents Only Stores.

“I am pleased to welcome Johanne to the Dollarama team,” said Larry Rossy, the Montreal company’s CEO. “She is an ideal candidate to help support and drive our continued growth and prosperity.”

The hiring is good news for Dollarama, said Peter Sklar, retailing analyst at BMO Capital Markets. “We have previously met Ms. Choinière and were generally impressed with her understanding of the Metro business and apparent leadership skills,” Mr. Sklar wrote in a note to clients.

“Although she has no prior experience in the dollar store industry, we believe her experience and knowledge base from Metro in many respects will be transferable to Dollarama.”

Source: The Financial Post

Loblaw May Offer Online Order Pickup at Shoppers Drug Mart 
(Article by Hollie Shaw, The Financial Post)

Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. stores could eventually double as easy grocery pickup locations for Loblaw Cos. Ltd.’s online customers, says one industry analyst.

As the country’s biggest grocer seeks to drive value from its recent $12.4-billion acquisition of the pharmacy giant, looking at similar retail operations in Britain may offer clues as to what strategic direction Loblaw intends to take. This includes new small street-front formats, said Keith Howlett of Desjardins Securities.

Beyond realizing an expected $300-million in business synergies over three years, Loblaw’s challenge “is to drive greater revenues as a combined entity,” the analyst said in a note to clients. “The summary concept of ‘health and wellness’ has to be brought to financial life in some meaningful way.”

Online grocery retailing is not well developed in Canada, but is thriving in the U.K., and Loblaw is planning a pilot test later this year, with collection of orders to be available at two of its stores.

And with a rumour that Inc. will extend its Amazon Fresh online grocery business from the U.S. into one Canadian market this year, Mr. Howlett said Shoppers Drug Mart stores could eventually offer convenient neighbourhood pick-up locations for online grocery orders.

The U.K. market may also provide some small-format ideas for testing in the Canadian market, the analyst added.

For example, the small Simply Food chain owned by Marks & Spencer sells cooking ingredients, snacks and prepared meals at convenient high-traffic locations such as railway stations and gas stations. “A modified version of the concept, using Loblaw’s brand equity, may potentially work within some larger-sized Shoppers Drug Mart stores,” the analyst said.

When Wal-Mart-owned British grocer and mass merchant Asda acquired the UK’s Netto chain in 2010, it converted the stores into small-format discount food stores, with increased product assortments at pricing identical to that of its existing much larger format Asda stores.

“The potential application to the Loblaw-Shoppers combination would be in expanding the number of food products carried at Shoppers within the same space allocation, while retaining a good in-stock position,” Mr. Howlett noted, adding the pharmacy chain’s pricing structure would make that strategy more challenging, and one that would likely require the melding of the retail giants’ respective IT systems.

Source: The Financial Post

Government & Legislative News 
Guidance on Mandatory Incident Reporting under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act 
The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA) came into force on June 20, 2011.

The Canadian government would like to remind companies that, by law, they must inform Health Canada within two days of becoming aware of a health or safety incident related to a consumer product they manufacture, import, or sell. This serves as an early warning and detection of health or safety issues with the purpose of reducing the number of unsafe or potentially unsafe consumer products on the Canadian market. This information helps Health Canada and industry to proactively and efficiently respond, where appropriate, to consumer product health and safety concerns.

Use the form below to report to Health Canada:

Consumer Product Incident Report Form:  

Additional guidance is available at the below links:

Guidance on Mandatory Incident Reporting under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act - Section 14 Duties in the Event of an Incident:  

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act Quick Reference Guide:  

Stewardship News
CSSA Information on PPP Stewardship Programs (Including Saskatchewan) – 2014 Reporting  
As discussed previously, the CSSA (Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance) was established in 2013 to try to consolidate and coordinate packaging and printed paper (PPP) stewardship programs across Canada. 

On March 20, 2014, CSSA held a webinar to provide businesses participating in packaging and printed paper stewardship programs in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario with information to help in the preparation and submission of 2014 reports both nationally and for individual programs.

Topics covered during the webinar:

• New reporting tools to assist you with reporting – including an online national reporting guidebook and a user guide for the WeRecycle Reporting Portal; all designed to help simplify and streamline the reporting process
• National material list for stewards that prefer to report against a single, harmonized list for multiple jurisdictions
• Reporting tips for preparing your 2014 report
• Voluntary steward registration deadlines
• Membership Agreement for MMBC and MMSW stewards
• WeRecycle Reporting Portal updates and refine

To see a copy of the presentation slides from the webinar that was held, go to:  

A copy of a National Guidebook can be obtained at the following link:  

If you have any questions or would like further information on the programs, you can contact the CSSA at 1-888-980-9549 or

You can also contact our CHHMA stewardship consultants for assistance with any stewardship program at:

Al Marks, 416-282-0022 ext.24,  
Duncan Deans, 416-282-0022 ext.22,  

Economic News
Bank of Canada Holds Rate at 1%, Cuts Growth Forecast for 2014 

The Bank of Canada said on Wednesday that it sees solid signs that the global economy is picking up steam and will take Canada along for the ride, but still expects that it will take some time for this country to fully recover from the crippling effects of the recession. 

Despite the rosier outlook, the bank has shaved first-quarter economic growth a full point lower than it previously thought to 1.5% — mostly due to the severe winter weather — and for the year as a whole to 2.3% from the previously projected 2.5%.

As such, the bank said it will keep the trendsetting overnight interest rate at the super-low 1% level to keep encouraging borrowing and spending activity that it judges the economy needs to stay on a growth path.

The Canadian dollar weakened to a session low against its U.S. counterpart after the statement. The loonie softened to 90.77 U.S. cents, weaker than just before decision was released and weaker than Tuesday’s close at 91.10 U.S. cents.

The rate decision won’t come as a surprise to markets, who have penciled in the central bank keeping rates stable for another year or so.

The bank’s new monetary policy report on the outlook for the Canadian and global economies, issued Wednesday morning, won’t do much to alter that perception as it mostly expands on the previous analysis, which came out in January, with few significant alterations.

The differences lie in the margins — overall Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz and his deputies appear to be a little less worried about overly low inflation, too high house prices and household debt.

They also seem more confident in the sustainability of the recovery, and that stronger U.S. demand and the lower Canadian dollar will start to benefit exporters, particularly manufacturers.

“In sum, the bank continues to see a gradual strengthening in the fundamental drivers of growth and inflation in Canada,” the bank said in a statement. “This view hinges critically on the projected upturn in exports and investment.”

The most encouraging aspect of the report is what the bank’s governing council sees happening to exports, which remain about 5% below pre-recession levels and are considered the economy’s weak link, not only keeping factories operating under capacity and job creation and salary growth muted, but also keeping businesses on the sidelines in terms of spending on needed investments to increase productivity.

Rising energy prices means oil and gas exporters will do even better than previously expected, the bank says. But it is also encouraged that manufacturers will soon see a lift, particularly now that the Canadian dollar has lost about 10% of its previous value since February 2013.

“Canada’s non-energy range of export sectors are expected to benefit, including those linked to the U.S. construction activity, such as logging and building materials,” it says. “As U.S. investment in machinery and equipment strengthens, export sectors, such as industrial, electrical and electronic machinery and equipment, computers, and aircraft, should strengthen.”

Still, competitive pressures will keep those benefits below the levels one would have expected given the higher demand from the U.S., the report cautions.

The bank says it is still concerned about a downward shift in inflation, but for the present it expects the headline consumer price index will gravitate close to the 2.0% target in the upcoming few months, although that is mostly due to the lower loonie and the effects of higher energy prices.

Core, or underlying, inflation will remain soft, however, and won’t return to target until 2016, the bank says. That’s a product of slack in the economy and growing competitiveness among retailers. If the bank is right about the analysis, it suggests interest rates won’t be raised until sometime in 2016.

After highlighting the dangers of high consumer debt and frothy house prices through most of 2012 and 2013, the bank says that, while the danger has not fully passed, it is less worried about a severe correction that would sideswipe the economy.

“Recent developments are in line with the bank’s expectation of a soft landing in the housing market and stabilizing debt-to-income ratios for households,” it judges.

In a separate section on the likely impact of the ballooning shale oil extraction activity in the United States, the bank said the increased supply may depress crude prices somewhat but won’t significantly deter Canada’s oil sands production.

“Since shale oil is often as expensive to produce as oil from the Canadian oil sands, only the most marginal and costly Canadian projects would be affected,” it says.

Source: The Canadian Press

Home Resales in Canada Jump in March as Buyers Come Out of Hibernation             

Sales of existing homes in Canada jumped in March from February and prices continued to tick higher as the winter deep freeze ended and home buyers started to come back into the market, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) said on Tuesday.

The industry group for Canadian real estate agents said sales activity was up 1.0% last month from February, and February’s gain was revised up to a 0.6% rise, from 0.3% reported previously. The back-to-back monthly gains followed five straight months of falling sales as the particularly brutal winter kept the market on hold.

“The release of pent-up demand from the winter months and a renewed downdraft in mortgage rates will help boost sales further in the coming months,” David Tulk, chief Canada macro strategist at TD Securities, said in a research note.

Actual sales for March, not seasonally adjusted, were up 4.9% from March 2013.

While up from last year, actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity in March ran 8.2% below its 10-year average for the month of March. Results were similar for actual activity for the first quarter: up 2.8% compared to the first quarter of 2013, but 7.5% below the 10-year average for the first quarter period.

“There’s little doubt that winter’s icy grip prompted many potential home buyers to put off house hunting,” CREA Chief Economist Gregory Klump said in the report. “That said, we’ll have to wait and see what happens in April because while overall sales improved in March, there was little evidence of a flood of pent-up demand being released.”

“It’s important to keep in mind the distinction between sales activity and housing demand,” he added. “Some markets, like Toronto and Calgary, are seeing multiple offer situations for some listings where each ultimately results in a single sale. This means national sales are being constrained by a lack of supply despite strong demand in some markets, since Greater Toronto and Calgary combined account for a one-quarter of national activity.”

Canada’s housing market slowed in the final months of 2013 and analysts are waiting to see whether sales will rise again in the spring, the traditional start to the home-buying season. Mortgage rates, which are expected to rise later this year and into 2015, drifted lower in recent weeks, helping spur demand.

While most are predicting a strong spring and summer, analysts expect the market to gradually cool as rising interest rates make homes less affordable.

“Listings have been light over the winter, even relative to the seasonal norm in many cities, so the real test of market health will be seen in the next few months, as both weather and listings warm up,” Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, wrote in a research note.

“House price resilience won’t truly be put to the test, however, until mortgage rates begin to head meaningfully higher in 2015.”

Canada escaped the U.S. housing crash after the 2008-09 financial crisis and home prices have risen dramatically, if not steadily, in the past five years despite federal government moves to tighten mortgage lending rules.

While some economists have predicted the Canadian market will crash, most have said they expect sales and new construction to level off in 2014 and 2015 as mortgage rates rise, with prices continuing to tick slowly higher.

CREA’s March report showed sales rose in more than half of the regional housing markets surveyed, led by gains in large urban market in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

The number of newly listed homes was up 0.5% in March from February. New supply nationally has been running at lower levels since it dropped sharply in December 2013.

The national sales-to-new listings ratio was 52.5% in March, little changed from 52.3% in January and February. Since early 2010, the ratio has remained within a range of 40 to 60%, which marks balanced territory.

The national average price for homes sold in March, not seasonally adjusted, was $401,419, an increase of 6% from the same month last year.

CREA’s home price index, up 5.2% from a year earlier, provides a better gauge of price trends because it is not affected by changes in the mix of sales activity the way that average price is. The slowdown in year-over-year growth compared to a range between eight and 10% since last summer largely reflects a decline in Greater Vancouver’s sales as a proportion of national activity.

The MLS Home Price Index (MLS HPI) provides a better gauge of price trends because it is not affected by changes in the mix of sales activity the way that average price is.

The Aggregate Composite MLS HPI rose 5.19% on a year-over-year basis in March 2014, up slightly from the 5.05% gain recorded in February. Year-over-year price growth picked up among all property types tracked by the index.

Year-over-year price gains were led by two-storey single family homes (+5.97%) and one-storey single family homes (+5.47%). This was closely followed by price increases for townhouse/row units (+4.09%) and apartment units (+3.91%).

Year-over-year price growth in the MLS HPI varied among local housing markets tracked by the index, with the biggest gains again having been posted by Calgary (+9.48%) and Greater Toronto (+7.37%). Meanwhile, Greater Vancouver’s MLS HPI recorded a fifth consecutive year-over-year increase (+3.73%).

Source: CREA, Reuters 

Canadian House Prices Flat in March from February, but Up 4.6% From a Year Ago
Canadian resale home prices were flat in March from February and 12-month home price inflation slowed slightly, the Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index showed on Monday. 

While national prices were essentially unchanged last month from February, the index, which measures price changes for repeat sales of single-family homes, showed regional disparities, as Calgary roared ahead but Montreal faltered. The Teranet report does not provide actual prices.

“Except for the recession year 2009, this is the first time in 15 years of index data collection that home prices for Canada as a whole have failed to advance in March,” Teranet said in the report.

From a year earlier, prices were up 4.6%, a slowing from February’s 5.0% price gain. It was the first time in nine months that 12-month inflation has slowed.

Canada’s housing market, which has boomed unsteadily for about five years, slowed at the end of 2013 and observers have been watching to see whether homebuyers will storm back in as the spring buying season begins.

“With the spring season underway, we are likely to observe a typical bounce in housing activity so prices will likely remain buoyed over the next few months,” Mazen Issa, senior Canada macro strategist at TD Securities, said in a research note.

“This will be short-lived, however, as the underlying fundamentals point to a soft landing in the housing market.”

Canada escaped the U.S. housing crash that accompanied the 2008-09 financial crisis, and home prices have risen sharply, if not steadily, in the past five years despite moves by the federal government to tighten mortgage lending rules.

While some economists have predicted the Canadian market will crash, most have said they expect sales and new construction to level off in 2014 and 2015 as mortgage rates rise, with prices continuing to tick slowly higher.

“We look for the rate of home price appreciation to remain steady this year before edging lower in 2015, when the Bank of Canada is expected to resume its tightening cycle,” Issa said.

The Teranet data showed that prices rose in March from the month before in six out of 11 cities, fell in three cities, and were flat in two.

From a month earlier, prices rose 1.4% in Calgary, 0.4% in Edmonton, 0.8% in Halifax, 0.6% in Vancouver and 0.2% in Winnipeg.

Vancouver’s gain was the 11th straight monthly increase.

Prices were down 0.7% in Hamilton, 1.8% in Montreal and 0.6% in Ottawa. They were flat in Toronto and Quebec City.

Year-over-year price gains were seen in seven of the 11 cities surveyed.

Compared with a year earlier, prices were up 9.7% in Calgary, 4.7% in Edmonton, 5.2% in Hamilton, 5.8% in Toronto, 7.6% in Vancouver, 0.2% in Victoria and 3.4% in Winnipeg.

Prices compared with a year earlier were down 4.2% in Halifax, 0.7% in Montreal, 1.2% in Ottawa, and 2.4% in Quebec City.

Source: Reuters

New Home Prices in Canada Gain 0.2% Led by Calgary
Statistics Canada reported last Thursday that its New Housing Price Index (NHPI) rose 0.2% in February, following a 0.3% increase in January.

Economists forecast the national index would rise 0.1%, according to the median estimate.

From a year earlier, new home prices increased 1.5% in February, matching the January pace.

The metropolitan region of Calgary was the top contributor to the monthly gain, with prices up 0.9% over the previous month.

Builders reported that higher material and labour costs, market conditions and the implementation of the new home warranty program in Alberta were the primary reasons for the increase.

New housing prices were up in all Ontario metropolitan areas surveyed, except in the combined region of Greater Sudbury and Thunder Bay. Prices in that region were unchanged for the sixth consecutive month.

St. Catharines–Niagara reported the largest monthly price increase in February, with prices rising 1.3%. This was the biggest increase in the region since November 2009. Builders cited that higher material and labour costs as well as market conditions were responsible for the gain.

New home prices rose 0.7% in Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo following two consecutive months of decline, while prices were up 0.6% in Windsor. According to builders, higher material and labour costs were responsible for the increases in both regions.

Two metropolitan areas, both in the Atlantic region, reported price decreases. Prices were down 0.4% in Charlottetown, as builders reported lowering prices on inventory homes to generate sales. This was the largest decrease in Charlottetown since December 2012.

New housing prices fell 0.1% in Halifax. Price changes in the region have been fluctuating between 0.0% and a decline of 0.1% for the past five months.

Prices were unchanged in 7 of the 21 metropolitan areas surveyed in February.

As mentioned, on a year-over-year basis, the NHPI rose 1.5% in February, following an identical increase in January.

The two main contributors to the annual advance were Calgary (+6.9%) and the combined metropolitan region of Toronto and Oshawa (+1.7%). The year-over-year increase in Toronto and Oshawa was the largest since September 2013.

Compared with the same month last year, new housing prices were up 3.5% in Saskatoon and 3.4% in St. Catharines–Niagara. Annual prices in St. Catharines–Niagara have been increasing since November 2011.

Other significant year-over-year increases occurred in Hamilton (+2.7%) and Winnipeg (+2.6%).

Among the 21 metropolitan areas surveyed, 4 posted 12-month price declines in February: Vancouver (-1.2%), Ottawa–Gatineau
(-0.9%), Victoria (-0.8%) and Edmonton (-0.1%). This was the third consecutive month of annual declines in Edmonton. Annual prices in Ottawa–Gatineau have been decreasing since August 2013.

Source: Statistics Canada

Young Canadians Increasingly Upbeat About Home Ownership, RBC Survey Suggests 
More young Canadians believe owning a home is a very good investment, according to a recent RBC home ownership poll released last week.

It says 86% of those aged 25-34 believe owning a house or condo is a solid investment, up from a reading of 78% last year, a year when many believed rising mortgage rates would soon make it more expensive to own a house. Rate hikes have reversed since last year.

RBC says that attitude is also reflected in buying intentions, with interest from the 25-34 age group rising to 41% in the latest poll compared to just 25% in 2013. 

The bank also says its poll reveals that while 62% of Canadians intend to buy a home with their spouse or partner, 28% of Canadians say they intend to buy a home by themselves.

Top factors considered by those who intend to buy this year include job stability and manageable debt.

And, among those likely to buy a home within the next two years, RBC says four-in-10 will be first time homebuyers.

"The increase in the number of those who feel the housing market is a good investment, as well as the number of those who intend to buy, really highlights that Canadians have no doubt in the strength of the housing market, said Erica Nielson, RBC's vice president of home equity finance.

"When we talk to Canadians, there’s a few key factors that tell them now is a good time to purchase." Ms. Nielson said.

“One is job stability – they feel comfortable and confidence in the job that they have now. The second thing they talk about is manageable debt and the third is the ability to afford the down payment.”

The RBC poll found 40% of respondents said the main thing they were looking for before buying a home was that their debt was manageable, 37% said they would look for job security and 34% would wait until they had a down payment.

Nielsen said, since the rules changed to shorten mortgage amortization to 25 years and demand a higher level of down payment, buyers have become more savvy about what they need to buy a home.

“There’s been a greater awareness that you are taking on debt that is manageable to your personal circumstances,” she said.

That awareness is doubly important in expensive markets like Vancouver and Toronto, she said. But across Canada, homes still are perceived as affordable to young Canadians, Nielsen said.

Ontario, Quebec and the Prairies saw the biggest surge in home-buying interest over last year: In Ontario, 24% said they have intentions to buy this year, up from just 14% in 2013.

In Alberta, 28% said they hope to buy this year, up from 22% in 2013, likely in reaction to house prices that have been climbing significantly in Calgary and Edmonton in particular.

Atlantic Canada and the Prairies also saw some increase in buyer intentions.

The online poll of 2,591 Canadians was conducted by Ipsos Reid between February 4 and 14, 2014.

Source: The Canadian Press, CBC News, The Toronto Star

Canadian Consumer Confidence Rises from Year-Earlier Levels  
A new survey says Canadian consumer confidence at the beginning of 2014 was higher than it was one year ago but slightly lower than at the end of 2013. 

The Harris/Decima-Investors Group’s overall consumer confidence index for the first quarter of 2014 stood at 81.2.

That’s up from 77.6 in the first quarter of 2013 but down from 84.4 in the fourth quarter of 2013, which marked a three-year high for the index.

The index tracks responses to consumer attitudes about what lies ahead for the economy and their own financial situation.

The latest survey released on Monday found fewer optimistic responses than in the fourth-quarter and more negative responses.

The index is based on responses from 2,080 people collected between Feb. 20 and March 3.

Fewer than one in five of those responding to the latest survey, 18%, said they were better off financially compared to a year ago – down from 21% in the fourth quarter.

There were also 22% who said they were worse off financially now than a year ago, compared with 18% in the previous survey.

For the long term, the latest survey found 48% were optimistic about where the economy will be in five years – compared with 38% who were pessimistic.

In the fourth quarter of 2013, this split was 50% expecting better times, versus 35% believing there would be unemployment and recession.

In the near term future, roughly one in four respondents said they expect to be better off financially a year from now, compared with 14% who felt they will be worse off.

In the fourth-quarter, the split was 28% optimistic and 10% pessimistic.

Source: The Canadian Press

Latest U.S. Economic News
U.S. Housing Starts Rise Less than Expected, Permits Fall
U.S. housing starts rose less than expected in March and building permits fell, pointing to underlying weakness in the housing market that could persist despite better weather.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday groundbreaking increased 2.8 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000.

February’s starts were revised to show a 1.9 per cent rise rather than the previously reported 0.2 per cent fall. Economists polled by Reuters had expected starts to rise to a 973,000-unit rate last month.

While a brutally cold winter weighed on home building in December and January, activity has also been hampered by shortages of building lots and skilled labor as well as rising prices for materials.

A report on Tuesday showed homebuilders in April were still downbeat about the sector’s near-term prospects. The U.S. housing market is under strain from higher mortgage rates and elevated house prices that are sidelining potential buyers.

Groundbreaking for single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, surged 6.0% to a 635,000-unit pace last month. Starts for the volatile multi-family homes segment fell 3.1% to a 311,000-unit rate.

That was the lowest level since last October.

Permits to build homes fell 2.4% in March to a 990,000-unit pace. Permits for single-family homes rose 0.5% but fell 6.4% for the multi-family sector.

Source: Reuters

U.S. Home Builder Sentiment Edges Up in April, Still Gloomy
U.S. homebuilder sentiment edged up in April but remained mostly dour on lingering concerns about stiff credit conditions for buyers and tight supply of building lots and labour, the National Association of Home Builders said on Tuesday.

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market index rose to 47 in April from a downwardly revised 46 in March, the group said in a statement. Economists polled by Reuters had predicted the index would rebound to 50 in April.

Readings below 50 mean more builders view market conditions as poor than favourable. The April reading was the index’s third in a row to come in below 50.

“Builder confidence has been in a holding pattern the past three months,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a builder and developer from Wilmington, Delaware. “Looking ahead, as the spring home buying season gets into full swing and demand increases, builders are expecting sales prospects to improve in the months ahead.”

“Headwinds that are holding up a more robust recovery include ongoing tight credit conditions for home buyers and the fact that builders in many markets are facing a limited availability of lots and labor,” NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said.

The index’s single-family home sales component was unchanged at 51 after the March figure was revised lower by 1 point.

The gauge of single-family sales expectations for the next six months jumped to a three-month high of 57 from 53, which had been the lowest since May.

Prospective buyer traffic was unchanged at 32 after the previous figure was revised lower by a point.

Source: Reuters

Food, Rental Housing Bump Up U.S. Consumer Inflation
U.S. consumer prices rose in March, but inflation pressures remained generally benign, which should give the Federal Reserve ample scope to keep interest rates low.

The Labor Department said on Tuesday its Consumer Price Index increased 0.2% last month as a rise in food and shelter costs offset a decline in gasoline prices. The CPI index had gained 0.1% in February.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.1% rise last month. In the 12 months through March, consumer prices increased 1.5% after rising 1.1% over the 12 months through February.

The so-called core CPI, which strips out the volatile energy and food components, also rose 0.2 per% in March after edging up 0.1% the prior month.

In the 12 months through March, the core CPI advanced 1.7% after rising 1.6% in February.

The Fed targets 2% inflation and it tracks an index that is running even lower than the CPI. The rise last month could ease concerns among some policymakers about inflation being too low.

In March, food prices increased 0.4% after rising by the same margin in February. A drought in the West has pushed up prices for meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables.

More price increases could be on the way after food prices at the factory gate posted their biggest gain in 10 months in March. Gasoline prices fell 1.7%, declining for a third straight month.

Within the core CPI, shelter costs increased 0.3%, which accounted for almost two-thirds of the rise in the index. Rents increased 0.3%.

There were also increases in medical care, apparel, used cars and trucks, airline fares and tobacco. The cost of recreation, and household furnishings fell.

Source: Reuters

U.S. Retail Sales Post Biggest Gain in One-and-a-Half Years
U.S. retail sales recorded their largest gain in 1-1/2 years in March, in the latest sign the economy was emerging from its weather-induced slumber and on track to accelerate in the second quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Monday U.S. retail sales increased 1.1% last month, the biggest rise since September 2012, as receipts rose in nearly all categories.

U.S. retail sales, which account for a third of consumer spending, had risen by a revised 0.7% in February.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales, advancing 0.8% per cent last month after a previously reported 0.3% gain in February.

Retail sales added to employment data in suggesting the economy found momentum at the end of the first quarter after an unusually cold and snowy winter disrupted economic activity at the end of 2013 and the beginning of this year.

So-called core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, and correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of GDP, increased 0.8% in March.

That followed a revised 0.4% rise in February. Core retail sales had previously been reported to have increased 0.3% in February.

Despite the two consecutive months of gains, a drop in core sales in January suggests consumer spending will slow down substantially from the fourth quarter’s brisk 3.3% pace.

U.S. retail sales last month were buoyed by a 3.1% surge in receipts at automobile and parts dealers. That was the biggest advance since September 2012. Excluding autos, retail sales were up 0.7%, the biggest increase in a year, after rising 0.3% in February.

Sales at building materials and garden equipment stores increased 1.8%, the largest rise in eight months.

Receipts at electronics and appliance stores, however, fell 1.6%. There were also declines in sales at gasoline stations, which fell 1.3%. Excluding gasoline, retail sales rose a solid 1.4%, the biggest rise in four years.

Sales at furniture stores increased 1.0%. Receipts at clothing stores climbed 1.0% as well. There were also gains in receipts at sporting goods shops, restaurants and non-store retailers.

Source: Reuters


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