Archive for the ‘economy’ Category

What’s plan B for the economy?

Monday, October 27th, 2014

BC really hasn’t done so bad for itself by digging stuff up from the ground and selling it to other countries, but as prices change in that market it can leave our economy somewhat wanting.

For example:

This week, we discovered just how far the B.C. government was prepared to cave in order to assuage proponents like Petronas. It effectively cut the royalty tax it first talked about in half.

Now ‘free money’ is still free money, but anytime your income is cut in half its a bit of a downer.

So whats plan B to diversify the BC economy?  Gary Mason says there is no plan B and Patriotz says ‘what about real estate‘? But isn’t the RE market a bit played out at this point?

Most middle class RE purchases in Vancouver have gained less than a GIC over the last four years, and there’s the risk that high home prices chase away more productive industries.

So how does BC grow its economy in the future? If resources take a dive, what our best hope as a province to compete on a national and global scale?

The problem isn’t prices, it’s the buyers

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Over on Medium there’s an Op-Ed by Spencer Thompson on the high cost of Vancouver Real Estate.

Not just the literal high cost of property, but the risk of a greater price paid by the city .

The secret that no-one actually wants to talk about is that the quality of a city is mostly determined by a simple factor — the number of smart, ambitious people who live there. These people are the ones who want to drive that city forward by investing in opening businesses, donating their time to the arts & community, participating in city planning, etc… Without them, growth wouldn’t happen and you wouldn’t get all of the benefits that great cities enjoy.

The biggest contributor to the decline of a great city is simple — it’s the decline of those smart people. When they decide that the cost of living in a place outweighs the benefit, they move. They don’t just take their money with them, they take their intellectual and future capital with them. This is dangerous. When people aren’t willing to make an investment in a place to live any more, the city doesn’t just lose their taxes for the year, they lose a massive function of potential jobs created, culture added and future capital they can put to work.

Read the full article here.

Now clearly Mr. Thompson is a believer in foreign investors as a primary driver of prices in this city, but whatever the cause, HAM, Drugs or Credit, does he have a point? Do high real estate prices risk driving out ‘smart people’ who would contribute to a brighter future for the city?

Prices up, incomes down

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Pete McMartin is on a roll over at the Vancouver Sun with a series of articles that looks at actual data on the Vancouver economy and housing.

The most recent article looks at local income levels.

Vancouver stands out as an unusual case around North America: Our house prices rose as our incomes fell.

But those high house prices, and our utter preoccupation with them, have become a distraction to a greater problem, and they are only a part of Vancouver’s economic malady. At any rate, those high housing prices are largely beyond the jurisdictional abilities of Metro Vancouver’s municipal governments to have any real effect on them. Meaningful change — in immigration numbers, for example — would reside with the federal and provincial governments, but not at the municipal level.

No, the persistent, year-over-year problem has been in income decline, and this has been a long time coming.

“This is not a new story,” said Tsur Somerville, director of the University of B.C. school of urban economics and real estate. “We have lagged behind the other major metropolitan cities since the 1980s, and even before the period of rising home prices.”

Read the full article here.

Politicians shouldn’t meddle with housing market

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

This is probably the first housing editorial in The Province that most readers here can agree on.  Well, the headline any ways:

Politicians shouldn’t meddle with the housing market.

Imagine a world where the government didn’t meddle with the housing market.  There would be no CMHC insuring close to $600 Billion in mortgages, instead lenders would loan based only on their own assessment of risk.  There would be no HBP, no HOG. In 2006 there would not have been the rule change that allowed zero down 40 year mortgages with interest only payments for 10 years. After 2008 the CMHC wouldn’t have purchased $69 billion of mortgages off bank books.

But of course you’ve probably figured out that this Province editorial isn’t about that. No, this editorial is about someone suggesting we should levy a tax on vacant properties, likely the tiniest possible example you could find for ‘meddling’ in the housing market.

Wong is not alone in unfairly blaming foreign investors for Vancouver’s high housing prices. The reality is that real estate is a commodity whose price is set in a free market, appropriately, through the forces of supply and demand. No one has a “right” to own a house in a particular city or neighbourhood, and it’s about time that people like Wong and her COPE and NDP pals stopped promoting such notions, especially when it involves taking money from one group and giving it to another. You want a house? Work hard and buy one — or move somewhere cheaper.

Read the full editorial here.

 

Household debt near record high

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Southseacompany pointed out this article in the Chicago Tribune:

Canadian household-debt ratio nears record as mortgages grow

“Home sales and prices have shown unexpected strength as the lowest mortgage rates in decades spur demand. ”

“With mortgage debt rising, the economy will be exposed when interest rates rise, said Andy Nasr, senior portfolio manager at Calgary-based Middlefield Capital Corp. which manages about C$4 billion ($3.6 billion), including real estate stocks.

“The misconception is that ‘Well it’s OK because people can somehow afford it,’” he said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Toronto office Friday. “They can’t.””

Global RE frothy again

Monday, September 8th, 2014

After housing markets slumped around the globe governments and central banks did what they could to reinflate them, driving down the cost of debt.

Well it worked.

The US market is down a bit from their precrash highs, but Canada is sailing high.  What’s the endgame?

With global monetary conditions so loose, governments are using regulatory tools to cool overheated housing markets. In Canada, for example, the maximum term of the riskiest mortgages has been lowered from 40 to 25 years. Regulators in both Hong Kong and Singapore have repeatedly raised stamp duties and tightened lending restrictions. The measures seem finally to be working, especially in Singapore, where prices are now falling.

So as potential home buyer on planet earth, what’s your next move? Do you go with low interest rates forever as a way to keep prices up, or do you stand back and wait for a price correction?

As an aside its interesting to note one nation whose market isn’t doing so well is Japan, where they’ve had rock bottom interest rates for a really long time.

I Believe the Children are our Future

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

The middle class is doomed.

You may have heard of that internal Conservative Government report on the middle class prepared by Employment and Social Development Canada even though it was never released.

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to get a copy and it’s mostly remarkable due to some of its blunt take-aways:

“The market does not reward middle-income families so well,” says the report. “As a result, they get an increasingly smaller share of the earnings pie” compared with higher-income families.

The report also refers to debt, saying “many in the middle spend more than they earn, mortgaging their future to sustain their current consumption.”

“Over the medium term, middle-income Canadians are unlikely to move to higher income brackets, i.e., the ‘Canadian dream’ is a myth more than a reality.”

Well it turns out that there’s another way to look at the same data, as Finance Canada has just done.

“Their analysis arrives at conclusions — namely that middle-income families have stagnant wages, are unlikely to move to higher income groups, and are increasingly indebted — which appear to conflict with the general message in Budget 2014 and previous internal briefings,” says an accompanying briefing note for Oliver.

The new report points out that moving from single earner to double earner households as more women have joined the workforce has acted to keep the middle class afloat.

The Finance Canada report estimates about 70 per cent of the increase in middle-class household incomes since the mid-1990s can be attributed to higher workforce participation rates, primarily by women workers.

“There is no second wave of women, spouses, entering the workforce,” said New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen, the opposition’s finance critic.

Of course the MP is being overly pessimistic without cause, there’s an obvious next wave of income for households and it doesn’t require polygamy.

The children are our future.

It’s time for Canada to get in line with global economic trends and fully utilize the productivity of the available workforce.  We have a large population of potential workers that remain untapped.

Instead of wasting tax dollars and time in school, children could be gaining valuable experience cleaning homes, mining coal or any number of other jobs to help support the household. Lets not squander this bright future opportunity, let’s put the kids to work!

Bank ratings go negative

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

At the end of last week S&P cut the rating for Canadian banks to negative.

Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto- Dominion Bank and four other Canadian lenders’ rating outlooks were cut to negative by Standard & Poor’s, which cited regulations that seek to limit government support in a crisis.

Canadian officials issued regulatory proposals Aug. 1 aimed at relieving taxpayers from the burden of potential bailouts if key banks fail. The new rules mandate any new senior unsecured debt issued by a so-called systemically important bank must be convertible to equity if the firm faces insolvency. The proposals are open to public consultations until Sept. 12.

Read the full article here.

Friday Free-for-all! Luxury Credit.

Friday, August 8th, 2014

You made it to the end of another work week, and that means it’s time to do our regular Friday Free-for-all post here at VCI.

This is our end of the week news round up and open topic discussion thread for the weekend.

Here are a few recent links to kick off the chat:

-Price changes and credit (graph)
-Why so many doomers?
-High prices raise debt levels
-Perspective on foreign buyer levels
-3rd try for Versace in Vancouver

So what are you seeing out there? Post you news links, thoughts and anecdotes here and have an excellent weekend!

What’s wrong with Canada’s economy?

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Economists are apparently ‘scratching their heads‘ over Canada’s humdrum economic growth.

The US has been growing new jobs lately, but not so much here at home.

In June, Canada lost 9,400 positions and the jobless rate edged up to 7.1%, the highest reading in six months. On Friday, Statistics Canada will release its labour force survey for July.

The Canadian economy “should improve next year when stronger U.S. growth helps to boost hiring and investment here at home,” the Conference Board’s Mr. Hodgson said in Tuesday’s report.

Read the full article over at the Vancouver Sun.

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