Bernanke Signals Fed Target Rate to Stay Low After QE

“Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the Fed will probably hold down its target interest rate long after ending $85 billion in monthly bond buying, and possibly after unemployment falls below 6.5 percent.  ‘The target for the federal funds rate is likely to remain near zero for a considerable time after the asset purchases end, perhaps well after’ the jobless rate breaches the Fed’s 6.5 percent threshold, Bernanke said yesterday in a speech to economists in Washington. A ‘preponderance of data’ will be needed to begin removing accommodation, he said.” “In deciding when to wind down open-ended purchases of bonds, Fed officials are weighing both the ‘cumulative progress’ since they began the program in September 2012 as well as ‘the prospect for continued gains,’ Bernanke said. The labor market has shown ‘meaningful improvement’ since the start of the program.  Policy makers are debating how to slow the pace of asset purchases without causing a surge in interest rates that could jeopardize the more than four-year economic expansion. Central bankers have sought to convince investors that tapering bond purchases wouldn’t signal that an increase in the benchmark interest rate is any closer.” Read the full article here. | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

Bitcoin Gets Its Day in the Limelight

“Bitcoin was so off the radar a year ago that Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz knew nothing of the virtual currency until it was woven into the plot of a popular American television show.  ‘I first heard about it on The Good Wife,’ Mr. Poloz said during a September visit to the central bank’s Calgary office, referring to the CBS legal drama, which produced an episode inspired by the mysterious origins of Bitcoin in early 2012, wrote Kevin Carmichael of the Globe and Mail, Monday, November, 18th.” “The virtual currency took another step away from the margins of the financial system Monday, as the U.S. Senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee set aside a good chunk of the afternoon for testimony on whether the private – and largely anonymous – payment system requires special regulatory scrutiny. It was the first time a congressional committee had conducted hearings on digital currencies. There are about 12 million Bitcoins in circulation, which are used by Internet consumers to pay for everything from gourmet coffee to teeth whitening. While some investors see the currency as a store of wealth along the lines of gold, detractors flag Bitcoins’ attractiveness to criminals: Transactions on Silk Road – the online marketplace for drugs and other illicit goods and services, such as murder-for-hire, that U.S. authorities closed earlier this year – were done in Bitcoin.” Read the full article here. | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

Tories paving the way for promised big-ticket tax cuts

“The Conservative government will squeeze public-service salaries and sell off government assets to enter the next federal election with a budget surplus of at least $3.7-billion, paving the way for promised big-ticket tax cuts,” Bill Curry of the Globe and Mail wrote yesterday. “Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s economic update Tuesday reflects the political motivation driving the Conservative government’s push to show an election-year surplus. And it comes as the Tories, a government that has branded itself as economic stewards, struggle to put the Senate expenses scandal behind them.  In his last budget, Mr. Flaherty projected a 2014-15 deficit of $6.6-billion, and a modest surplus of $800-million a year later.  But Mr. Flaherty is now ahead of schedule, raising the estimated surplus for 2015-16 to $3.7-billion. There are also several conservative assumptions in the numbers, meaning the surplus could easily come in higher than currently planned.  The federal spending plan includes several factors that could easily plump up Ottawa’s bottom line, allowing the Conservatives to deliver on tax cuts that were promised during the 2011 election but were contingent on balanced books. Those promises include income splitting for parents and new and expanded fitness tax credits.  Mr. Flaherty, who reiterated that he plans to run in the next election, said the government must get its financial house in order before it commits to tax cuts.” Read the full article here. | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

BlackBerry receives $70M in financing from Manulife Financial

“Manulife Financial Corp. has become the latest big-name investor to buy into a $1-billion bond deal for struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry.  The addition of the insurance company was disclosed in an amended filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., which is leading the debt financing.  Manulife is investing $70 million under the deal”, wrote The Canadian Press for the CBC News Friday evening (November 8th). “Markel Corp. and Brookfield Asset Management Inc. both pared back their planned investment in the bond offering to make room for Manulife.  Other investors include Mackenzie Financial Corp., Canso Investment Counsel Ltd. and Qatar Holding LLC”. Read the full article here. |Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS  

U.S. stimulus program defended by Stephen Poloz

“Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says he ‘believes the controversial quantitative easing program adopted by the United States has helped that country’s economy'”, a journalist for the Canadian Press wrote. The article continued, “The remarks appear to diverge from a recent statement by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty that ‘the U.S. should never had adopted the policy and should exit it as quickly as possible’. The Canadian central banker was drawn into the controversy during testimony before the Commons finance committee as opposition MPs tried to get him to outwardly reject Flaherty’s position, while Conservative MPs tried to get him to back the minister.  Poloz noted that Canada’s central bank had also laid out a proposal for quantitative easing to inject liquidity into the financial system at the height of 2008-09 crisis, suggesting strongly that Canada would have gone down that route if conditions kept worsening. Flaherty recently likened quantitative easing to basically printing money, but Poloz would not back that description, instead, describing the program as the purchasing of government debt that gives markets and business more certainty about the path of interest rates.  He says the $85 billion in monthly bond purchases in the U.S. has succeeded in strengthening the country’s economy, adding that Washington has made great strides in reducing the deficit.” Read the full article here. | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

Bank of Canada rate hike warning ends

  “The Bank of Canada has held its key interest rate at one per cent and cut its outlook for economic growth from now until 2015, posted online by the CBC News late last night. In its monetary policy report released today by Governor Stephen Poloz, the central bank has cut its outlook for economic growth to 1.6 per cent this year, 2.3 per cent in 2014 and 2.6 per cent in 2015, a sizable downgrade from its July outlook. The bank says it sees the economy returning to full capacity by the end of 2015. The statement also removes the bank’s warning that a rate hike is inevitable, a ‘major turn in guidance,’ according to Andrew Pyle, senior wealth adviser and portfolio manager at Scotia McLeod.” Read the full article here. | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

Canadian Elephants arrive safe and sound in California

“The last three elephants that lived at the Toronto Zoo are now getting acquainted to their new home at a California sanctuary”, posted the CBC News late last night. “Thika, Toka and Iringa were boarded onto trucks in Toronto last Thursday, to make their long journey through nine states to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif., where they arrived yesterday. The elephants had lived in Toronto for decades, but will now live out the rest of their lives in the warmer California climate.  The CBC News continued reporting that on Monday, Ed Stewart of the PAWS sanctuary said ‘the Toronto pachyderms were adjusting just fine. They are eating, they’re drinking, they came out of the crates really well,’ he said.” Read the full article here. | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

Impact of Canada-EU trade deal

“Canada and the European Union have reached a ‘political agreement’ on free trade that the federal government says could boost Canada’s annual income by as much as $12 billion annually, and bilateral trade by 20 per cent,” wrote Susan Mas of the CBC News. Mas’ article continued, “While the deal is not expected to be ratified for at least two years, it is expected to remove 98 per cent of EU tariffs on a wide range of Canadian products. Here are five ways the Canada–EU Trade Agreement (CETA) will affect Canadians: 1. Cheaper goods When CETA comes into force, Canadians will pay less for items including food, wines and spirits, and even high-end European cars — if retailers and European manufacturers pass on the savings from the elimination of tariffs. For example, the 10 per cent EU tariff on passenger vehicles will be eliminated, as will tariffs on auto parts which run up to 4.5 per cent. Michael Hatch, the economist for the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, applauded the elimination of tariffs on EU-imported cars and parts, saying in a written statement it ‘will translate into lower prices for Canadians.’ While Canadian documents make no mention of alcohol, a memo by the European Union says tariffs on wines and spirits from the EU will also be eliminated. About half of Canada’s wine imports are from the EU, the memo notes. Once the deal is in effect, most of the EU tariffs on agricultural products and seafood as well as other many other goods will be eliminated right away, and seven years later 95 per cent of products will be duty free, according to the documents outlining the deal released Friday.​” Read the full article here. | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS

6 throne speeches to watch for today

 “The Conservative government is trying to put the focus on consumer issues in what is likely the last throne speech before a scheduled 2015 election. Many people are watching for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to use the speech, which will be delivered by Gov. Gen. David Johnston, to reset the agenda and try to take the focus off recent scandals,” Laura Payton wrote for CBC News online Wednesday, October 15th. will carry the throne speech live at 5 p.m. ET. Our live coverage gets underway with pre-speech analysis at 3 p.m. ET with Power & Politics with Evan Solomon. Payton continued, “The setting alone for the throne speech will make for an interesting dynamic: It’s delivered in the Senate, the chamber where a handful of inhabitants have created a major spending scandal.” Read the full article here. | Raymond Matt, CFP,CLU,TEP,CHS

White House Endorses Short Debt-Limit Increase

“The White House endorsed a short debt-limit increase with no policy conditions attached, signaling potential support for House Republicans’ plan for a monthlong reprieve from a default. The proposal today by House Speaker John Boehner wouldn’t end the 10-day-old partial shutdown of the federal government. The plan would push the lapse of U.S. borrowing authority to Nov. 22 from Oct. 17,” a article wrote today. The article continued, “Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said today that President Barack Obama would support a short increase in the U.S. debt limit with no “partisan strings attached,” though he prefers a longer extension. House Republicans haven’t specified what they plan to tie to the measure and Carney said the White House would need to see a bill before accepting it.” Read the full article here.

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