Sunday, May 19, 2024

Canada’s unemployment rate jumps, RBC completes HSBC takeover and Ottawa’s $1.5-billion rental protection fund: Must-read business and investing stories

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Canada’s unemployment rate jumped to 6.1 per cent in March, according to Statistics Canada.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Getting caught up on a week that got away? Here’s your weekly digest of the Globe’s most essential business and investing stories, with insights and analysis from the pros, stock tips, portfolio strategies and more.

Canada’s unemployment rate jumps to 6.1 per cent

Canada’s unemployment rate jumped to 6.1 per cent in March – the latest sign of a weakening economy. Statistics Canada’s labour force survey shows the figure is up from 5.8 per cent in February, marking the largest increase in the unemployment rate for the first time in more than two years. The unemployment rate was driven higher in March by an increase of 60,000 people searching for work or on temporary layoff, Statscan noted. The Canadian numbers were in stark contrast to the United States, which on Friday reported a gain of 303,000 jobs in March, a result that blew past expectations, Matt Lundy reports. The Bank of Canada will make its next monetary policy decision on Wednesday, April 10.

Ottawa launches $1.5-billion fund to protect existing rental apartments

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of a $1.5-billion rental protection fund that will provide a combination of loans and grants to help non-profits buy affordable rental apartments when they go up for sale. The Canada Rental Protection Fund announcement is the latest in a series of housing pledges from the Trudeau government, which is under pressure to deal with the country’s shortage of affordable housing. The typical price of a home across the country is more than $700,000 and the average monthly market rent for a one-bedroom is about $2,000. Erin Anderssen, Rachelle Younglai and Chen Wang spoke to affordable housing groups who say the fund is long overdue because the country is losing lower-cost rental properties – to renovictions, tenant turnover and demolitions – far faster than it can build them.

Canada’s other export powerhouse: gold

According to Statistics Canada, exports of gold have soared in recent years and are close to becoming Canada’s second-largest export commodity. The agency said exports of unwrought gold in the form of high-value shipments of refined gold, as well as transfers of gold assets in the banking sector, are driving roughly half the growth of total exports in February. The increase was driven by higher gold shipments to Switzerland and the Great Britain as gold prices soared in February. Jason Kirby takes a closer look in this week’s Decoder.

Ford delaying start of EV production at Oakville, Ont., plant until 2027

Ford Motor Co. announced this week it would postpone the launch of electric vehicles at its plant in Oakville, Ont., by two years until 2027. The factory west of Toronto will still shut down in May for a $1.8-billion EV retooling, which will mean extended layoffs for the majority of its 2,700 workers. The decision comes amid Ottawa and Ontario giving billions in incentives to makers of electric cars and batteries to transform the sector and shift away from the production of gas-powered vehicles, Eric Atkins reports. Ford announced plans last year to spend $1.8 billion to transform the Oakville plant into a hub for electric vehicle manufacturing, including battery packs. The investment includes $580-million in taxpayers’ money.

Loblaw paid new CEO Per Bank $22-million in 2023

Loblaw Cos. Ltd. paid its new chief executive Per Bank $22.1-million last year. Mr. Bank took on the top job at Canada’s largest grocer on Nov. 1 – replacing Galen Weston, who remains chairman of the board and Loblaw’s controlling shareholder. His package includes a $1.315-million annual salary, a target annual bonus of nearly $2-million, and a target of $7.2-million in annual long-term incentives for the current year. Mr. Bank’s 2023 pay also included a one-time $18-million award to replace compensation that he forfeited by resigning from his former employer, reports Susan Krashinsky Robertson and David Milstead. Loblaw has faced some recent criticism – backtracking on its decision to cancel 50-per-cent discounts on perishable foods. Some shoppers have also taken to social media to call for a boycott of Loblaw-owned stores.

RBC’s purchase of HSBC Bank Canada accompanied by a complex technological feat

What did it take to close the largest domestic banking takeover on record? Royal Bank of Canada completed its acquisition of HSBC Bank Canada on March 29, and had to move billions of dollars of customer money and data off HSBC’s platforms and onto its own in a single weekend – an unusual technological feat that helped it to win the $13.5-billion auction for the highly coveted business. Stefanie Marotta spoke to RBC executives about the process and how RBC prepared for the complex closing: “There was no other choice. If you wanted to buy the bank, you had to close and convert,” RBC chief executive officer Dave McKay said in an interview.


Now that you’re all caught up, test your knowledge with our weekly business and investing news quiz and prepare for the week ahead with the Globe’s investing calendar.

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