Stocks rise amid increased Chinese imports early release of Fed minutes

The Toronto stock market was higher Wednesday amid further positive news from China, while the release of minutes from the latest U.S. Federal Reserve meeting did little to shake the conviction that the Fed is in no rush to end its current economic stimulus.The S&P/TSX composite index was down from early highs because of rising losses in gold stocks but late in the morning was still ahead 43.79 points to 12,527.84 while the Canadian dollar gained 0.19 of a cent to 98.59 cents US.U.S. indexes also rose as the minutes showed that some Federal Reserve officials favoured an end to the bond buying program known as quantitative easing as early as this summer.Several others thought that if labour conditions improved as expected, the Fed could slow purchases later in the year and stop them by year-end. However, that meeting took place well before a dismal employment report for March was released last Friday.The Fed released the minutes early after discovering that some copies had been sent by mistake to Capitol Hill staffers and trade groups on Tuesday.The Dow Jones industrial average rose 124.44 points to 14,797.9, the Nasdaq composite index climbed 49.34 points to 3,287.2 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 15.91 points at 1,584.52.Customs data showed that China posted an unexpected trade deficit of US$800 million in March as imports rose 14.1 per cent after having grown five per cent in the combined January-February period. The report suggested Chinese manufacturers and consumers might be buying more, raising hopes for stronger performance from the world’s second-biggest economy. Traders had expected China to post a $15.3-billion surplus for last month.“While the data has been volatile of late due to holiday distortions, it is clear that the underlying trend in imports is gaining momentum,” said Mark Chandler, head of Canadian FIC Strategy at RBC Dominion Securities.The TSX ran ahead 139.5 points Tuesday after other government data showed China’s consumer prices rose at a 2.1 per cent rate in March. That was down from the previous month’s 3.2 per cent and well below the official target of 3.5 per cent for the year.The showing gives China some leeway in being able to take further measures to stimulate growth, which came in at 7.9 per cent in the three months ended in December, up from the previous quarter’s 7.4 per cent.“I think China and the emerging markets in general will continue to grow at high single-digit rates,” said Paul Vaillancourt, managing director of Fiera Capital Canadian Wealth Management. “And with inflation numbers coming in confirming that there is no sort of hard landing in China, that is very positive. And I think we will continue to see some strong demand coming from the region. That obviously impacts raw materials like copper and other metals a bit more.”The financial sector led advancers, up 1.15 per cent with Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) up 79 cents to $58.16 and Manulife Financial (TSX:MFC) ran ahead 28 cents to $14.54.The telecom sector was ahead 0.9 per cent.Three of Canada’s smaller mobile phone carriers have jointly announced they’re withdrawing from the industry’s main lobby group. Wind Mobile, Public Mobile and Mobilicity accuse the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association of consistently taking positions that favour Canada’s three older, bigger carriers — Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), Bell (TSX:BCE) and Telus (TSX:T).Commodity prices were mixed following initial strong gains in the wake of Tuesday’s Chinese inflation data.The June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange shed early declines to edge up three cents to US$94.23 a barrel as data showed crude supplies rose much less than expected last week in the U.S. Inventories grew by 300,000 barrels, against the 1.4 million barrels that economists had expected.The energy sector rose 0.8 per cent. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) climbed 34 cents to C$32.38.The base metals sector turned negative, off 0.24 per cent following a strong advance Tuesday as May copper dipped three cents to US$3.41 a pound. Taseko Mines (TSX:TKO) slipped seven cents to C$2.64.The gold sector led declines, down 3.1 per cent as June bullion in New York fell $17.40 to US$1,569.30 an ounce. Iamgold (TSX:IMG) slipped 28 cents to C$6.56.Alacer Gold Corp. (TSX:ASR) fell 27 cents to $3.73 even as it announced that a special dividend from the sale of its 49 per cent interest in the Frog’s Lake mine in Australia will be paid at the end of the month. The payment of about 24 cents U.S. per share in cash is part of a plan to distribute about US$70 million from the sale, which closed recently.European bourses advanced as London’s FTSE 100 index gained 1.45 per cent while Frankfurt’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 climbed about two per cent.In other corporate news, Valeant Pharmaceuticals has settled a patent lawsuit between its Medicis subsidiary and generic giant Actavis Inc. The lawsuit related to Actavis’ version of two Medicis products — Ziana, a acne topical antibiotic, and Zyclara, a prescription drug for premalignant skin problems. Valeant (TSX:VRX) will receive a share of the proceeds from generic versions of products to be launched by the U.S. firm (NYSE:ACT). Valeant shares advanced 67 cents to $73.96. read more

Bank of Montreal hikes dividend as profit hits record 42billion

Bank of Montreal says its annual net profit hit a record $4.2 billion in 2013, with strong performances from its wealth management and its main Canadian banking operations.The year included $1.088 billion of net income in the fourth quarter ended Oct. 31, which was up 1% from $1.082 billion a year earlier.Its provision for credit losses during the quarter was reduced to $189 million from $192 million a year earlier while the 2013 provision was $589 million, down 23% from $765 million in fiscal 2012.Fourth quarter adjusted net income fell 2% from a year ago to $1.102 billion, but came in well ahead of analyst estimates. For the full year, adjusted net income was $4.276 billion, up 5% from the previous year.“Canadian personal and commercial banking had record earnings in the year. We delivered robust volume growth contributing to notably stronger revenue and income in the second half of the year,” BMO chief executive Bill Downe said in a statement.“Wealth management had a record year with earnings up significantly and increased market share, supported by strong asset growth and customer loyalty.”However, BMO’s U.S. personal and commercial banking arm had lower net income in the fourth quarter, falling by 28% from a year earlier to US$103 million, while net income at its capital markets segment dropped 27% to $229 million.By comparison, the bank’s Canadian personal and commercial banking arm recorded $469 million of net income in the fourth quarter, an increase of $27 million or six% from a year earlier.Net income from wealth management services in the fourth quarter nearly doubled to $312 million, the bank said.BMO’s overall adjusted earnings amounted to $1.64 per share, down one cent from a year earlier but ahead of analyst estimates of $1.58 per share.Bank of Montreal also announced that its quarterly dividend will be increased by two cents to 76 cents per common share — a move that had been widely expected.It also announced that its share buyback program will be renewed when it expires. read more

President assures Muslim world

Diplomatic heads from Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar took part in the meeting.Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of Justice Rauff Hakeem, Minister of Petroleum Industries Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Parliamentarian A.H.M Azwer, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Karunatilake Amunugama were also present during the discussion. The President has said that if anyone has proof and evidence of attempts to create religious disharmony they should hand over that information and action would be taken promptly. The Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the parent body of 57 member countries, had last month expressed its concerns over the escalating ethnic tensions in Sri Lanka, which has affected the island’s Muslim community and its businesses sector.The (OIC) (formerly known as the Organization of the Islamic Conference) is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations, with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The organization is the collective voice of the Muslim world and strives to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslims in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.Arab News reported lat month that in a letter addressed to the Sri Lankan government, the OIC expressed its concerns amid increasing reports of ethnic tensions in parts of Sri Lanka particularly in the central province of Buwelikade, which has a large Muslim population. The President’s office said that the meeting took place to discuss various matters of mutual interest in the domestic and international arenas. The OIC has pointed out that it is confident that the Sri Lankan government is taking the appropriate measures to calm the situation on the ground. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has assured diplomats from Muslim countries that the Government will not tolerate anyone perpetrating acts to create communal or religious disharmony in Sri Lanka, the President’s office said.He had given the assurance when he met a delegation comprising 15 diplomatic heads of Islamic countries based in Sri Lanka. The Bodu Bala Sena has been at the forefront of inciting violence against Muslims in various parts of the country. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Indonesian police arrest 43 Lankans

Earlier in the day Indonesian police detained more than 100 illegal immigrant in Cianjur, West Java , on the highway leading to the southern coast of Java.Police detective Adj Comr. Gito of the Cianjur police said the first group of 80 illegal immigrants from Maynmar, Pakistan, and Afghanistan were stopped in the Cianjur-Bandung highway. The police in West Java, Indonesia arrested 43 illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka today.They were arrested after being detected at the Sindangbarang highway in South Cianjur, Antara News reported. The illegal immigrants would be handed over to immigration authorities in Sukabumi. The illegal immigrants chose the road via South Cianjur to the southern coast of Java from which they planned to cross to their final destination Australia`s Christmas Island. They uses a truck and five minibuses, Gito said.They were stopped after police officers saw their cars with suspicious foreign passengers, he said.

Put state firms on commercial footing IMF tells Lanka

“First half GDP data indicate a pickup in growth—likely to continue in the range of 5 to 5.5 percent through end-2015—driven mainly by strong growth in services and a recovery in agricultural output. The increase in consumer spending created by the sharp rise in public wages and salaries has also contributed to a sizeable increase in imports of consumption and other goods—more than offsetting savings from lower oil prices. The resulting deterioration in the nonoil trade balance has contributed to persistent downward pressure on central bank foreign exchange reserves during the first eight months of the year. Headline inflation is currently near zero but is expected to end the year around 3 percent. Core inflation has risen steadily since the beginning of the year, consistent with higher demand for domestic non-tradables and a gradual reduction in economic slack. Risks to outlook are tilted to the downside with more volatile external financing conditions resulting from the expected monetary policy tightening in the U.S. and uncertainties over growth prospects in emerging markets.“The mission welcomes the CBSL’s recent decision to cease setting daily spot prices for the rupee and let market forces play a greater role in determining the exchange rate. Moving ahead, the commitment to exchange rate flexibility should continue in order to maintain competitiveness and facilitate an increase in CBSL foreign exchange reserves. The mission encouraged CBSL to work toward deepening foreign exchange markets and to revitalize a review of foreign exchange controls to enable inward investment. Additionally, the mission found the overall financial system stable and current monetary stance appropriate – but recommended vigilance given rising core inflation, the resurgence of private credit, and signs of receding slack in the economy. In this context, a tightening bias appears prudent. “The mission agreed with the authorities on the need to take immediate and credible steps to reestablish fiscal consolidation and reduce of public debt. The mission projects a fiscal deficit in the range of 5.5 to 6 percent of GDP in 2015—higher than budgeted and financed mainly by domestic borrowing. Looking ahead, the 2016 budget is an opportunity to shift decisively back to a durable medium-term path of fiscal consolidation and to set macroeconomic priorities for 2016 and beyond. The mission strongly recommended to keep the 2016 fiscal deficit to 5.5 percent of GDP—and to base consolidation on a combination of expenditure restraint and durable revenue reforms. The mission emphasized the need to eliminate tax expenditures (exemptions, tax holidays and reduced rates) as the most important component in a strategy to make the tax system simple, fair, and efficient.“The mission welcomes the authorities’ attention to the need for market-based structural reforms and efforts to reinvigorate key initiatives. Fuel and electricity pricing, subsidies, trade policy, liberalization of factor markets (particularly land), and the investment environment are areas that could play an essential role in sustaining high rates of economic growth. Putting state firms on a commercial footing, allowing them to make market-based financial decisions (including pricing) and subjecting them to the greater financial discipline will also help to reduce risks to the budget and the financial system.“A discussion on Post Program Monitoring by the IMF’s Executive Board is expected in mid-November, 2015.” At the end of the visit, Schneider issued the following statement: The mission met with the Prime Minister, Government, and Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) officials, as well as civil society and private sector representatives. The International Monitory Fund (IMF) has urged Sri Lanka to put state firms on a commercial footing, allowing them to make market-based financial decisions (including pricing) and subjecting them to the greater financial discipline as it will also help to reduce risks to the budget and the financial system.A staff mission led by Todd Schneider visited Colombo from September 8 – 18 to conduct Post-Program Monitoring discussions. This enhanced surveillance is routine for countries that have had “exceptional access” to IMF resources, as is the case for Sri Lanka, which successfully completed a $2.6 billion IMF program in 2012. read more

Government blames LTTE for damage to property

The Government today blamed the LTTE for the extensive damage caused to property in the north during the war.Minister of Housing Sajith Premadasa, speaking in Parliament today, refused to accept claims made by the Tamil National Alliance that the army was responsible for houses damaged during the war. He said that the army took every effort to protect the people and their property during the war and that it was the LTTE which damaged civilian homes and property in the area. The Minister also said that when providing houses to the people in the country, the Government will not provide houses based on race or religion. Premadasa also said that the one year anniversary of the silent revolution on January 8 will not be celebrated with pomp and pageantry but by giving assistance to the public. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Modi asserts assistance to Sri Lanka based on Lankas priorities

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that India’s Development Cooperation with Sri Lanka is based on the choices and priorities set by the people, the leadership and the Government of Sri Lanka.He said that the partnership between India’s capacities and Sri Lanka’s needs is not only touching the lives of the people, it also shows the path of constructive regional cooperation. “India’s Development Cooperation with Sri Lanka enjoys a wide spread of projects throughout Sri Lanka in different areas of economic activities. But it must happen as per your aspirations. It is for this reason that our cooperative projects rely on the choices and priorities set by the people, the leadership and the Government of Sri Lanka,” he said. The project is being implemented through grant assistance of Government of India of around US$ 7.55 million. Project elements include an emergency response centre, deployment of 88 ambulances in the Southern and Western Provinces and recruitment and training of nearly 600 Sri Lankan personnel to implement the project.“If yesterday it was in Northern Sri Lanka that we dedicated the fruits of our partnership, then today inauguration of this joint project will carry forward our cooperation in Southern and Western provinces of Sri Lanka,” the Indian Prime Minister said. The Indian Prime Minister expressed these views in a video message delivered in Colombo to coincide with the launch of an emergency ambulance service in the western and southern provinces of Sri Lanka. Modi said the project is important as it will help save lives and would add to Sri Lanka’s capacities for delivering emergency healthcare.The Indian Prime Minister also said that India stands for a united, stable and prosperous Sri Lanka and the emergency ambulance service is a unique example of this friendship. (Colombo Gazette) read more

ORS offers support for SSHRC grant applicants

Researches discuss grants strategies and other issues during SSHRC Day on May 13.The Office of Research Services (ORS) is setting up a voluntary “peer support” structure for researchers to turn to their colleagues for direction, advice and other support during the application process for Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funding and grants.ORS has also hired students to put together the Common CV for researchers applying SSHRC funding.And, researchers who received a “4A” ranking on their funding applications are eligible to get a $2,000-grant if they re-apply to the upcoming Insight Grant Competition.These are among measures announced at SSHRC Day, a workshop held May 13 for researchers to discuss strategies for applying for SSHRC and other research funding.Kevin Kee, Associate Vice-President of Research, says SSHRC Day’s main message is that there’s “strength in numbers.”“We are our own best resource,” Kee said. “Reading through the comments (evaluating the SSHRC Day event), what came out again and again is that people overwhelmingly want a mechanism that will allow us to support one another by looking at each others’ grant applications and showing how these might be strengthened.”Kee said that the common CV, a highly detailed list of a researchers’ activities and accomplishments that will be required with applications starting in early 2014, is a challenge that can take 20 hours or more to create.SSHRC represents a major, but very competitive, pot of funding for Canadian researchers in the social sciences and humanities through its connection grants, partnership grants, insight grants and talent grants, each with their different focuses and requirements.ORS office manager Carrie Kelly shared highlights of SSHRC’s current strategic plan and said there’s an increasing focus on longer-term projects of four to five years that address complex challenges and benefit society.“They are giving fewer scholars more money,” she said. “They are really taking an all-or-nothing approach.”A panel of researchers who had been involved in SSHRC funding committees, along with ORS staff, shared tips on how to apply for SSHRC and other funding.Pascale Lapointe-Antunes from the Department of Accounting, who sat on SSHRC’s Insight Development Grant committee in 2011 and 2012, stressed the need for applications to be written clearly and simply.“So if I take this proposal and I read it and I have absolutely no idea what you’re taking about, then it’s very likely to end up being not funded, so the language is very important,” Lapointe-Antunes said.Phrasing concepts into easily digestible sentences will go far in a situation where each application has limited discussion, suggested Elizabeth Sauer, with the Department of English Language and Literature.“So give them the soundbites: highlight the key questions, the key issues that you want them to be able to take away from the application and present to the committee,” Sauer told the gathering.She noted that creating a website to make research accessible to the broader community would also be very helpful.And, while keeping SSHRC program officers in mind, make sure to write for your peers, as they have key influence, says David Siegel, with the Department of Political Science.But he cautioned researchers not to mould themselves and their research into what they think the reviewers want to see, but rather pursue the line of research according to their own interests and plans.“You can write a better grant if you’re comfortable with this and if this is what you want to do,” Siegel said. “If you try to contort yourself to do something that you’re not particularly comfortable with, that’s going to show in the grant.”Other advice and tips shared at SSHRC Day include:• Don’t merely re-purpose an old application• Don’t over-inflate budgets, as SSHRC is only allowed to cut a budget to a maximum of 30 per cent• If you are a new scholar, apply for the Insight Development Grant. Seventy per cent of those grants went to “emerging scholars”• Ensure that your literature review is recent and relevant• Build alliances with community or non-profit organizations as a way of spreading the influence, impact and “knowledge transfer” of your research on society• Do not write your application like a “thesis proposal” where everything has been done except for the data collection or running the model.Research officer Josie Reed said researchers should start thinking about their research plan at least one year before the deadline and suggested coming to ORS for support at least six months before the funding deadline.“We are your advisers on these matters,” she said. “We are your best cheerleaders. We facilitate your grants. We’re like midwives delivering your research application to the agency.”Research officer Tressie Dutchyn, whose docket includes SSHRC applications, urged researchers to be persistent with their applications, noting that, on average, it might take two or three times before an application is funded.“I was once told by an extremely successful researcher that he applies to more competitions than anyone he knows, he gets rejected from more and he is more successful, so the key is not to give up – to keep applying – because eventually you will be successful,” she said. read more

First iPod awarded for graduate student survey

Kirk Stokes, an MA student in Psychology, has won a 32GB iPod for participating in the Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (CGPSS).Stokes won the first of three iPods in the contest, which is open only to graduate students who participate in the survey.The student survey is part of the accountability framework of Ontario universities. It also helps Brock identify what it is doing well in the area of graduate education, and what needs attention in the future.

Fire marshall investigates Princess St fire

The Fire Marshal’s office doesn’t expect to pinpoint the cause of a massive industrial fire in Hamilton for at least another couple of days.Investigators were at the site of the blaze all day today.The ruthless inferno ripped through all eight units at 135 Princess, leaving behind little more than rubble.Building owner, Saber Altaher, lost everything in his auto body shop, but he, at least, is insured. Some of his tenants are not.“All is gone. My tools is gone, the car inside the shop gone, the customers’ cars are gone,” says Mohammed Isaq who lost his business in the fire.“I feel so bad for them. It’s hard, I don’t know what they’re going to do now,” says AltaherRoughly 80 cars were destroyed, and damages will likely top $2 million. The fire spread rapidly because of flammable materials housed inside the building. How it first started is under investigation.“We’re still at the beginning stages and because it’s such a large scene it’s going to take us a few days to go through,” says Kevin Pahor, one of the investigators.The owner of the building says one of his tenants spotted a fire in his shop and called 9-1-1.Another tenant says he saw multiple small fires outside that unit earlier Friday evening. read more

Bomb scare in Niagara Falls

Three separate events were halted at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls as a result of a bomb threat. While many of the patrons were nervous and frustrated, some think they know what was behind the threat.As police arrived at the Scotiabank Convention Centre, it was obvious that this was more than event security. They quickly entered the building and began to check the washrooms.Wayne Bergen is a gamer: “Three policemen showed up, two of them had shotguns on their, on their backs, and they were asking guys in stalls if they were making phone calls from their cell phone and who they were talking to.”Police had received a call that a man was barricaded in one of the stalls, with an AK-47, and that there were bombs throughout the building. At around seven o’clock the centre was evacuated, and crowds were slowly herded away from the glass face of the building. Few had information.Carlos Flores is a gamer: “I asked one of the guys that was walking out with a walkie talkie, I said whats going on? He’s like I hear it’s a bomb threat — they want us to leave the building and go as far as possible away from the building.”The K-9 unit did a sweep while paramedics showed up to keep a perimeter. There were three events being held at the time of the call. A dance competition, the Niagara food and wine show, and a video game tournament. One of the players from that event says that the bomb threat is a prank, known as a swat attack. Common during gaming conventions.Doug Martin is a professional gamer: “It’s happened before, it’s happened before in the past and it’s happening right now too.” At other gaming events? “Ya at other gaming events, most recently was at University of Georgia, Philly 4 months ago — now it’s happening here.”As predicted, the threat was found to be non existent and patrons were allowed back in just before nine.And because this turned out to be a hoax, a representative from the food and wine show says that anyone who did go home early and had a hand stamp or a ticket that was not honoured, they can come back throughout the weekend and it will in fact be hounored. They don’t want anybody missing out because of one unfortunate incident. read more

Cronos posts secondquarter net loss despite soaring revenue as costs mount

Companies in this story: (TSX:CRON) TORONTO — Cronos Group Inc. reported a net loss for the second quarter of 2019 despite nearly tripling its revenue from the same time last year.The company’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for the quarter ended June 30 amounted to a loss of $17.8 million, or 22 cents per share, compared to $2.4 million, or zero cents per share, in the second quarter of 2018.Net revenue soared to $10.24 million, compared to $3.39 million a year ago, before marijuana was legalized.Analysts expected revenue of $7.39 million and a loss of three cents per share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.The pot producer says higher processing costs, sales and marketing expenses and increased research and development spending ate into profits.Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. holds a 45 per cent stake in the Canadian cannabis producer that it acquired for $2.4 billion.Under that agreement, Altria can also invest up to a further $1.4 billion within four years that would increase its ownership stake in the Toronto-based pot producer to 55 per cent. The Canadian Press read more

Bank of Canada holds interest rate as it takes stock of trade

OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada is holding steady on interest rates as it gauges the extent of the damage that deepening trade conflicts have had on the domestic and global economies.The rate decision, which was widely expected, keeps the central bank’s overnight rate at 1.75 per cent and follows a solid second-quarter rebound for the Canadian economy.In the policy statement, however, the bank said some of the strength seen earlier this year will likely be temporary and predicted economic activity to slow in the second half of 2019.It also underlines the weak spots — such as a sharp contraction in Canadian business investment that coincided with the increased trade uncertainty.The bank says the intensification of the U.S.-China trade conflict has been a bigger drag on global economic momentum than it had predicted in early July, which was the last time governing council provided public commentary.The statement says the current level of policy stimulus remains appropriate and, in the lead up to next month’s rate decision, that the bank will monitor to how global developments will affect the Canadian outlook.Heading into the announcement, the bank was widely expected to leave its rate unchanged. Many analysts have projected the bank to cut its borrowing rate at the next policy meeting on Oct. 30, mostly due to expanding trade tensions and the deteriorating global economy.The Canadian Press read more

WatchWhat the Bank of Canada rate hike means for your mortgage and

TORONTO — The Bank of Canada’s latest interest rate hike means higher borrowing costs for consumers with variable-rate mortgages, loans or lines of credit, but it is also good news for savers and future homeowners.The decision to increase its benchmark interest rate to 1.5 per cent on Wednesday prompted all of Canada’s Big Six banks to raise their prime rates, thereby passing the rate increase along to their customers.Those with variable-rate mortgages will now face higher interest payments, a concern for many Canadian households that are already saddled with hefty debt loads, said Samantha Brookes, chief executive officer of brokerage Mortgages of Canada.Bank of Canada raises rates as Poloz’s tale of recovery from Great Recession finally comes trueBank of Canada raises interest rate: Read the official statement“Increasing rates just really limit how much they have available to them on a monthly basis,” she said.The prime lending rate is the rate that banks use to set interest rates for variable-rate mortgages and other loans. Wednesday’s rate hike was the central bank’s first interest rate move in six months and lifted the trend-setting rate to 1.5 per cent, up from 1.25 per cent. It also marked the bank’s fourth increase over the last 12 months and the first time the rate has been this high since December 2008.The central bank’s move was driven by the strength of Canada’s economy, which it expects will remain resilient despite headwinds from trade tensions with the U.S. After the central bank’s announcement, Royal Bank of Canada, TD Canada Trust, Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and National Bank all said they will increase their prime rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 3.70 per cent, effective Thursday.The rates had previously been set at 3.45 per cent.The increase raises the cost of borrowing for customers with variable-rate loans, but people with money socked away in savings accounts and guaranteed investment certificates will benefit, said Scott Hannah, the president and chief executive of the Credit Counselling Society.“It helps seniors who depend on interest income to help fund their retirement expenses,” he said. “And the rate hikes are keeping Canadians focused on the need to curb their appetite for debt and pay down the debt they have.”Higher interest rates, along with stricter mortgage rules, have also helped to cool down the country’s real estate markets, helping future homeowners, Hannah said. It’s unwelcome news, however, for those looking to renew their mortgages this year, he added.Overall, the impact of the latest rate hike will be modest for consumers, said Meny Grauman, an analyst with Cormark Securities Inc. The rate hike is in reaction to a healthy Canadian economy, which is beneficial, he added.Rates are slowly on the way up, but remain relatively low historically, Grauman added.“On balance, it’s still probably a positive for the average household, for the average business.” read more

Luke campaign cost 19733

Former Norfolk mayor Charlie Luke spent less than half the amount he was entitled to in his failed bid for re-election.Luke and other candidates for mayor in Norfolk were subject last year to a $49,123 spending limit.In a financial statement filed with the clerk’s department last week, Luke claimed campaign expenses in the amount of $19,733. He also claimed campaign income in the same amount.During last year’s campaign, mayoral contender Russell Colebrook told audiences he was running a bare-bones campaign that would accept no donations and spend no money.The financial statement Colebook — a former taxi driver living in Renton – filed with the clerk’s department last Halloween declares no income and no expenditures.For her part, eventual victor Kristal Chopp, of Port Dover, has yet to file a financial statement.All candidates in last fall’s municipal election have till 2 p.m. March 29 to file a primary financial statement with the clerk’s department at Governor Simcoe Square.In the absence of that, all candidates have till March 28 to file a request in the Ontario Court of Justice for a reporting extension.After March 29, candidates have till 2 p.m. April 29 to file a financial statement along with a $500 late-filing fee. After that, penalties for not filing at all take effect.Financial reporting requirements include declaring individuals who donated $100 or more to a campaign. In Luke’s filing, this includes:Peter Selk of Port Rowan: $1,200. John Lennox of Port Dover: $750. Joan Good of Simcoe: $500. Paul Good of Simcoe: $500. John Luke of Simcoe: $500. John Hanselman of Delhi: $200. Vidyasagar Kongara of Simcoe: $200. Ron Baker of Port Rowan: $100. Contributions of goods and services to Luke’s campaign include:Kyle Shay of Simcoe: Advertising copywriting and design for local media valued at $1,150. Stacy Bradshaw of Port Dover: Website development and copy editing valued at $670. Angela Simon of Villa Nova: Advertising layout and design valued at $575. Luke also claimed 597 election signs valued at nearly $4,000. These were re-cycled from his successful mayoral campaign in 2014.Candidates who receive donations or incur expenses of $10,000 or more are required to file an auditor’s report with their statement.In a report attached to Luke’s filing, the Simcoe accounting firm Good Redden Klosler says the numbers contained in Luke’s report are accurate according to the documents he provided them.MSonnenberg@postmedia.com read more

DR of Congo Council appeals for efforts to reach settlement in Ituri

Ituri has been the scene of ethnic clashes since June, according to the latest report of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the situation in the DRC. “The violence and the resulting displacement of the population have deepened the mistrust among the communities of Ituri, which is also related to the distribution of resources, as well as manipulation by both internal and external actors,” he wrote. In a statement to the press following closed-door consultations, Council President Martin Belinga-Eboutou of Cameroon said the members “appeal to all local groups and, in particular, to the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC), to show restraint and to put their efforts into achieving a political settlement.” Towards that end, he said the members called on Uganda and the DRC to work with the UN Mission in the area (MONUC) to ensure the success of the Ituri Pacification Commission, and asked other States in the region, particularly Rwanda, also to contribute. Uganda, as long as it maintains forces on the spot, should “watch out for the security of the civilian population in and around Bunia” the President added, referring to a town in Ituri. The members also called on all parties to cooperate with MONUC, condemned the difficulties that the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD) and the Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo (MLC) have created for the Mission, and demanded “that this type of behaviour cease immediately,” Ambassador Belinga-Eboutou said. By today’s press statement, Council members welcomed the ongoing withdrawal of foreign troops and asked MONUC to continue its verification work until it can report that all forces have been withdrawn, the Congolese parties were encouraged to continue their efforts to arrive at an inclusive agreement on the political transition as soon as possible. read more

First woman set to lead UN health agencys regional office for Americas

Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, who is also the first Argentine to hold the position, will take her oath as Director of the 100-year-old Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) at a ceremony on Friday in Washington, D.C.Dr. Roses was elected last September by the Pan American Sanitary Conference and will replace Dr. George Alleyne, whose five-year term ends on Friday. She most recently served as PAHO Assistant Director in charge of all technical cooperation programmes as well as the Organization’s Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Coordination Programme.

Afghanistan UNICEF kicks off campaign to wipe out neonatal tetanus

The disease occurs among populations where pregnant women deliver at home without a trained birth attendant and far from any health facilities, according to Dr. Francois Gasse, Head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination Programme. “In Afghanistan only 5 per cent of women deliver in [an] institution with a trained birth attendant,” he told a press briefing in Kabul.”The simple way to eliminate the disease is to immunize the mother,” he explained, noting that this practice “protects the mother against tetanus and the newborn through the transfer of antibodies during the pregnancy.”Over the next week the campaign will target 740,000 women in four Afghan cities before moving to rural areas. “The preliminary estimates show that we need to target 4 million women over the next three years,” Dr. Gasse said. “The progress in Afghanistan against this disease is also part of the global progress in this global initiative.”The effort, led by the Afghan Government, is being carried out by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) with support from partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ronald McDonald Foundation. read more

Iraq UN envoy discusses improving human rights

The meeting was part of a wide-ranging series of meetings Mr. Vieira de Mello, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Iraq, has been having with a full spectrum of Iraqi figures, leaders of neighbouring countries, UN relief agencies and non-government organizations as he assesses how best the UN can help restore Iraqi sovereignty and end the occupation.In his statement to the Security Council last Tuesday, Mr. Vieira de Mello said there had to be a clear timetable, laid out as soon as possible, for the earliest possible restoration of the country’s sovereignty. “Iraqis need to know that the current state of affairs will come to an end soon. They need to know that stability will return and that the occupation will end,” he told the 15-member body.