Markets in record territory

Canada's main stock index pushed higher into record territory in late-morning trading, helped by gains in the energy sector as the price of oil moved up.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 69.25 points at 16,927.60, after hitting an intraday record of 16,947.23 in earlier trading.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 70.30 points at 27,165.09. The S&P 500 index was up 5.34 points at 3,012.13, while the Nasdaq composite was down 3.08 points at 8,179.80.

The Canadian dollar traded for 75.32 cents US compared with an average of 75.42 cents US on Thursday.

The November crude contract was up 41 cents at US$58.60 per barrel and the October natural gas contract was down 2.5 cents at US$2.51 per mmBTU.

The December gold contract was up US$5.40 at US$1,511.60 an ounce and the December copper contract was up 0.60 of a cent at US$2.61 a pound.


TMX ready to lay pipe

Trans Mountain Corporation says that it has received over 55% of the total pipe required to build its expansion project, or 550 kilometres of the 1,000-km total.

The pipe is being held at stockpile sites in B.C. and Alberta, the company said on Thursday.

The majority of pipe needed for the project is being produced by EVRAZ North America in Regina and Camrose, Alta.

Trans Mountain gave its prime construction contractors “notice to proceed” in August; 30 days to mobilize equipment and start hiring workers, developing detailed work plans and begin procuring goods and services.

“Construction and planning” for the expansion project is continuing, Trans Mountain said.

The federal government has said it will be operational by mid-2022. 

Fort St. John pipeline contractors Surerus Pipeline and Macro Industries have joint ventures selected to build nearly one-third of the expansion through Southern B.C.

Bay closing in Netherlands

Hudson's Bay Co. is closing its 15 Hudson's Bay stores in the Netherlands, as well as its e-commerce site and headquarters in the country by the end of the year.

The company says it has come to an agreement with local unions to offer solutions for employees impacted by the closure.

The union says there are 1,424 employees, although it's not clear how many are full-time and how many are part-time.

HBC opened its first Hudson's Bay store in the Netherlands in 2017 as part of its growth strategy in Europe, but has since shifted to focus fully on North America.

In June, the company announced a deal to sell its remaining stake in its German real estate joint venture and sell its related retail joint venture to its partner, Signa.

As part of the agreement, HBC assumed ownership of the Dutch retail business. HBC said at the time it had hired a financial adviser to review its options for the operations, which had not performed to expectations.


Home equity fuels spending

Canadian homeowners who accessed their home equity through a loan or refinancing helped fuel household spending in recent years, according to research by staff at the Bank of Canada.

Household spending moved in a similar direction to home prices over roughly the past decade, with both rising sharply in 2016 and 2017, according to a staff analytical note by several of the central bank's researchers.

In 2017, household spending jumped 3.51 per cent, while house prices advanced 13.57 per cent.

That trend comes partly from the collateral effect of homeowners finding it easier to borrow against their homes, either through a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or mortgage refinancing, when property prices rise.

A HELOC is a line of credit secured against a property owner's home with the limit that the outstanding mortgage balance and HELOC must not exceed 80 per cent of the home's value. Mortgage refinancing allows homeowners to replace their current mortgage with a larger one — for up to 80 per cent of the home's value.

In 2017, the researchers found Canadian homeowners extracted $89 billion in home equity through these two methods, with more money — $49 billion — coming through HELOCs.

Borrowers used that money to pay for big-ticket items, like cars and furniture, or to fund renovations, among other things, according to the research, which suggests this "has likely contributed materially" to this kind of spending in Canada in recent years.

The researchers found that by the end of 2017, this equity extraction could have added two per cent to consumer spending on durables and semi-durables (goods that include cars and furniture), as well as 11 per cent to renovation spending.

The report found that translated into a 0.5 per cent impact on the GDP level.

However, things changed in 2018. That year, the amount of equity homeowners extracted from their properties fell and that could have had a negative impact of 0.1 per cent on the GDP.

"If this collateral effect is strong, it could leave the economy more vulnerable to adverse events, such as a large decline in house prices," the note said, adding the absence of equity extraction can exacerbate spending cuts in bad times.

The researchers said they plan to continue studying this area in the future, with a deeper look planned at the characteristics of equity extractors and an analysis of what factors influence the decision to access home equity.

Retail sales reverse trend

Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 0.4 per cent in July to $51.5 billion, the first increase in three months.

Economists had expected an increase of 0.6 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Statistics Canada says sales were up in six of the 11 subsectors it tracks representing 71 per cent of retail trade.

Motor vehicle and parts dealers reported sales climbed 1.5 per cent in July, boosted by higher sales at new car dealers.

The miscellaneous store retailer category rose 1.7 per cent. boosted by a 14.3 per cent increase at cannabis stores as sales at cannabis stores topped $100 million for the first time.

Building materials and garden equipment and supplies dealers saw sales fall 3.2 per cent.

GM assembly line stops

Approximately 1,850 unionized workers have been temporarily laid off with pay from General Motors' Oshawa, Ont. plant as the ongoing strike by the United Auto Workers union in the U.S. reverberates through the North American auto industry.

General Motors said Friday that all vehicle production at the Oshawa plant has been halted.

"We have seen disruption of our vehicle assembly work at the Oshawa Assembly Plant due to the UAW strike. We plan to resume these operations as quickly as possible upon resolution of the UAW strike," GM spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said in a statement.

The company stopped truck production on Tuesday, sending about 1,200 hourly workers home due to a lack of parts with more than 30 GM operations in the U.S. shut because of the strike by some 49,000 UAW workers.

On Friday, GM also halted production on its flex line in Oshawa that produces the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS and employs about 650 workers.

Wright said work continues at stamping operations in Oshawa, a parts plant in St. Catharines, Ont., and its CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont., which makes sport utility vehicles.

Unifor expects two-thirds of the St. Catharines plant to shut down next week, leading to another 700 temporary layoffs, while it's not sure when Ingersoll might be affected.

United Auto Workers members at GM's U.S. operations walked off the job for the first time in over a decade on Monday over issues including wages, health care, and job security.

On Thursday, UAW vice-president Terry Dittes reported many unresolved issues in the talks but said progress was being made. He made the comments in a letter to union members.

GM offer would add jobs

A General Motors offer to invest $7 billion in U.S. facilities includes $2 billion from joint ventures and suppliers for new plants that would pay workers less than the top union wage, a person briefed on the matter said.

The offer is a major issue that could get in the way of a deal between the United Auto Workers and the company to end a nationwide strike, now in its fourth day. About 49,000 UAW workers have been on picket lines since Monday in a contract dispute about wages, health care costs, profit sharing, job security and other issues.

The $2 billion investment from entities other than GM is important because those factories would not be run as typical GM plants. Although workers at those facilities would be represented by the UAW, they would be paid far less than the full UAW wage of about $30 per hour, said the person, who requested anonymity because details of contract talks are confidential. The union wants to add jobs that pay the top UAW wage.

On Sunday, GM made part of the offer public, saying that its investment included 5,400 jobs, the majority of them new hires. But the person briefed on the talks said only about 2,700 new jobs will be added. The rest are jobs that would be retained because of the investments.

The person said union negotiators were disappointed after the company briefed them on details Wednesday. Further details were not available.

GM spokesman Dan Flores wouldn't comment on the offer. GM said on Sunday that it would invest in eight facilities in four states, introduce new electric trucks, make wage or lump sum payment increases and give each worker an $8,000 bonus once the deal is ratified.

Releasing the offer just before the strike started at midnight Monday was designed to turn up the heat on union bargainers, who until then had said the company's response to union proposals had been slow. UAW Vice-President Terry Dittes, the top negotiator with GM, told the company that if the offer had been made earlier, the strike could have been averted.

The $2 billion investment from joint ventures and suppliers also includes a proposal to create an electric vehicle battery assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, where the company is in the process of closing a small-car assembly plant, the person said. In addition, GM will pay for an electric pickup truck that would go into the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which the company also wants to close.

The Lordstown facility would offer lower wages, the person said.

Just how much workers are paid at the Lordstown facility is an issue because electric vehicles are expected to supplant those powered by gasoline in the future. CEO Mary Barra has predicted an "all-electric future" for GM, meaning jobs making gas-powered cars could be in jeopardy.

On Thursday, Dittes reported many unresolved issues in the talks but said progress was being made. He made the comments in a letter to union members.

Prospera close to merger

Prospera Credit Union and Westminster Savings Credit Union are one step closer to getting hitched.

B.C.’s Financial Institution Commission on Thursday gave approval for the proposed merger between Prospera and Westminster, which had been previously approved by both boards of directors.

Members of both credit unions will vote on the proposal, known as FutureStrong, between Oct. 30 and Nov. 15.

If the memberships approve the merger, the partnership will become the sixth largest credit union in Canada with $9.5 billion in assets, more than 120,000 members, 900 employees and 29 branches.

For more on this story, visit Okanagan Edge.

PG daily goes weekly

The century-old Prince George Citizen newspaper in central British Columbia has announced to its readers that it will be moving from a daily print edition to a free weekly paper.

A joint letter posted online from publisher Colleen Sparrow and editor-in-chief Neil Godbout says starting Oct. 3 the weekly newspaper will be available in neighbourhood boxes and for home delivery in certain areas.

The statement says the decision to change wasn't made lightly or quickly, but they knew it was necessary to keep in step with the changing needs, habits and appetite for quality journalism for local residents.

The statement didn't say if anyone would lose their job and Sparrow wasn't immediately available for comment.

It says daily news content will be published on the Citizen's website and its core values will remain the same for coverage of breaking news, features, local sports and community events.

The paper was a weekly when it first published 103 years ago and became a daily in 1957.

Sparrow and Godbout say most of their readers find them online and a news organization always needs to listen to the people.

"We both believe passionately in delivering local news and that's what we'll continue to do. And while we might miss the feel, and the smell, of a local daily newspaper over our morning cup of coffee, we aren't going away."

Mitsubishi picks Quebec

The Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. is putting down roots in Quebec, unveiling plans for a Montreal-area product development centre after reaching a deal in June to buy Bombardier Inc.'s regional jet program.

The office will be part of the company's push to get a single-aisle airliner off the ground in 2020 as it doubles down on regional planes. It plans to hire 100 engineers and certification specialists in Montreal within a year to assist the point team in Washington state and facilities in Nagoya, Japan, where final assembly takes place.

The Quebec government is lending Mitsubishi $12 million, which will be forgiven if the Japanese firm provides high-paid employment for 250 workers over five years, Premier Francois Legault said.

Legault sought to justify the loan to a multinational that generated more than $50 billion in revenue last year and in a sector that already suffers from a shortage of skilled labour.

"What I understand is that they had three scenarios, three business cases — one in Japan, one in the United States and one in Montreal. And the package, including the expertise available and also the financial incentives, the best proposal was coming from Montreal," he told reporters Thursday.

Alex Bellamy, the company's chief development officer, said the loan helped Mitsubishi to settle quickly on the Montreal area, which has a rich cluster of aeronautics firms, after the idea was first floated at the Paris Air Show in July.

"I think the speed was unprecedented," Bellamy said. "And the incentivization in terms of helping us establish a footprint, the commitment that the Quebec government gave to us just made us believe this is a good place to do business."

Bellamy said Mitsubishi Aircraft, owned by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., aims to seize on the region's technical expertise to develop the SpaceJet airplane family.

Launched in 2008, the regional jet program has seen numerous setbacks, with the first model — then known as the MRJ90 — initially scheduled for delivery in 2013.

That 76-92-seat plane, re-dubbed the M90, is now expected to enter into service next year, to be followed in 2023 by the 70-88-seat M100.

"My role and my team's role is to certify and develop aircraft. This our No. 1 priority. And breaking into the aerospace business is one of the hardest businesses to get a foothold," Bellamy said.

Mitsubishi is setting its sights on the North American market, where it anticipates high demand. Nearly 40 per cent of a forecasted 5,100-plus regional jets around the globe will need to be delivered to the continent in the next 20 years, according to the company. In Canada, more than two-thirds of all passenger flights are on regional jets — defined by Mitsubishi as 100 seats or fewer.

Mitsubishi stressed the higher yield potential from the SpaceJet family, which devotes more space to pricier cabin seating to boost revenue from passenger upgrades. The appeal of the plane, which has no middle seat, also stems from a stress on comfort, with wider seats, higher ceilings and more space in the overhead compartments.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union called the 250 new engineering jobs "good news," but also highlighted job losses associated with the wind-down of Bombardier's CRJ regional jet program.

Mitsubishi's US$550-million purchase of the floundering CRJ Series aircraft saw the company scoop up the program's maintenance, support, refurbishment, marketing and sales activities, but not its manufacturing operations in Mirabel, Que.

"We believe that Mitsubishi's interest in our aerospace ecosystem should be seen as an opportunity to secure their jobs," David Chartrand, president of the machinist union's Quebec chapter, said in a release.

Chartrand called for either an extension of the CRJ program — which continues to operate as it churns through the remaining backlog — or the establishment of a SpaceJet assembly line in Quebec.

Mitsubishi says it plans to rent office space this autumn in or near the Montreal suburb of Boisbriand, home to several aeronautics firms.

The CRJ deal, slated to close in early 2020, cements Bombardier's departure from commercial aviation following a three-decade run and paves the way for the plane-and-train maker to focus on its rail and business jet units.

Airbnb to go public in 2020

Home-sharing company Airbnb Inc. said Thursday it plans to go public in 2020.

It's a long-awaited move for the San Francisco company, which was founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, who needed some extra cash so they put air mattresses on their apartment floor and charged $80 per night.

Since then, Airbnb has grown into one of the largest home-sharing platforms. The company said earlier this week it has more than 7 million listings in 100,000 cities worldwide.

Airbnb also said it made "substantially more than" $1 billion in revenue in the second quarter of this year, the second time in its history that revenue topped $1 billion. It didn't reveal its profits.

Investors may be cautious after some big IPO flops this year. The ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft debuted on the market earlier this year, but they continue to lose money and both are trading well below their IPO prices. WeWork, which runs shared office spaces, delayed its IPO earlier this week.

Airbnb has spent the last several years broadening its offerings in advance of an expected IPO. In May, it bought Hotel Tonight to help guests find last-minute hotel deals. In 2017, it acquired Luxury Retreats in order to raise the level of its accommodations. And it has been adding "experiences" to its platform so guests can book local tours, cooking classes and other activities.

But Airbnb has faced some backlash in places like New York and Barcelona, Spain, where it has been accused of encouraging over-tourism and raising rents because it takes living spaces off the market.

Hotel workers walk out

Unionized workers at three high-end Vancouver hotels say they have begun strike action to back demands for safe and stable work.

Unite Here Local 40 says workers at the Hyatt Regency, Westin Bayshore and Pinnacle Harbourfront hotels walked out Thursday in what the union describes as an "open-ended strike."

A statement from the union says the walkout is an escalation of job action following a lunch-hour strike on Tuesday.

Room attendants, chefs, front desk agents and other staff are on the picket line at all three hotels.

Unite Here says talks with the hotels have been underway for 14 months without significant movement on issues related to workload, safety and job security.

"Many of the city's hotel workers are struggling to provide for their families with precarious, on-call shifts caused by the systemic cutting of hours in these hotels," the union statement says.

Safety is also a key issue in the dispute, as the union says many workers have complaints about sexual harassment on the job, as well as understaffing that has led to unsafe and unsustainable workloads.

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