Thursday, November 28, 2013

With inflation below 1%, prospects for higher interest rates recedes further




Julian Beltrame, | The Canadian Press – 22 Nov, 2013
A major drop in the price of gasoline and declines in several other goods and services pushed down Canada's inflation rate to 0.7 per cent last month, adding further justification to the Bank of Canada's reluctance to raise interest rates any time soon.
October's inflation rate was down four-tenths of a percentage point from September and the lowest level since May. On a monthly basis, overall prices in October were down 0.2 per cent from September. Both declines were twice as large as economists expected.
Analysts said the soft inflation reading supplied ample justification for the Bank of Canada's decision last month to jettison a tightening bias on monetary policy which had been in place for 18 months.
At the time, governor Stephen Poloz explained that he was concerned about slack in the economy, a message he reinforced this week in saying he disagreed with an OECD opinion that Canadian interest rates might need to be raised as early as late 2014.
Many now don't expect the Bank of Canada to raise its key short-term rate from a very low 1.0 per cent until mid-2015.
Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter said October's low inflation reading is worthy of attention but added it's too early to start worrying about actual deflation, a period of widespread price declines.
Deflation can be economically distructive.
It increases the real level of debt held by firms and households at a time when profits and income are likely to be flat. As well, it could lead to consumers delaying purchases because they expect prices to fall further, pressuring producers to lower prices and wages.
Porter said the risk of deflation is relatively low but can't be dismissed when the inflation rate is near one per cent.
"The concern would be if it starts to head even lower. Then we get too close to deflation for comfort and that can be a tough circle to get out of," Porter said.
"If something else came along and hit the world economy, we could be stuck with real deflation."
But at the moment, there are no signs that prices are headed lower on a sustained basis, particularly as wages are rising a close to two-per-cent annually and growth is also near two per cent.
As well, October's big decline came primarily in the price of gasoline, which tends to fluctuate, sometimes widely.
A better measure of what is happening to consumer prices is core inflation — which excludes volatile items such as gas and fresh foods — and that only slipped one-tenth of a point to 1.2 per cent in October, still within the central bank's broad one-to-three per cent sweet spot.
As for the headline number, Statistics Canada noted that "lower gasoline prices were a factor in all provinces in October, with Saskatchewan (-8.6 per cent) recording the largest year-over-year decrease and Ontario (-1.8 per cent) posting the smallest."
Pump prices plunged 5.1 per cent in October from the previous month and were 4.3 per cent lower than October 2012.
Still, the overall inflation picture in Canada remains the tamest in years.
Consumer prices rose at a slower pace year-over-year in seven out of the 10 provinces, with British Columbia registering an outright decline of 0.3 per cent. As well, prices fell from last year in three of the eight major components the agency tracks — clothing and footwear (-0.7 per cent), transportation (-0.1) and health and personal care (-0.5).
Of the major items that saw price increases, food rose a meek 0.9 per cent and shelter costs rose only slightly more by 1.3 per cent. Of the major components, only alcohol and tobacco rose above two per cent, and only slightly so at 2.3.
On a monthly basis, hotels, natural, electricity and fresh vegetables were all lower than in September. http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/canadian-press-newsalert-inflation-falls-0-7-per-133345723.html

Rising prices, mortgage rates hits home affordability in Canada: RBC



Julian Beltrame, The Canadian Press Nov 27, 2013

OTTAWA - Higher prices and an increase in mortgage rates have made home affordability more of a problem for the average Canadian family, says a new report from the Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY.TO - News).
RBC's latest research on the portion of average household income needed to maintain a home shows that affordability deteriorated over the summer, the second consecutive drop in as many quarters.
The level of deterioration differs from region to region and between types of homes, but for the average bungalow the affordability measure rose 0.7 of a percentage point to 43.3 per cent nationally in the third quarter, after a 0.3-percentage-point gain in the second quarter.
That means the average household would have needed to devote 43.3 per cent of its pre-tax income to service the cost of owning a bungalow at current market values, including mortgage payments, utilities and municipal taxes. The higher the rating, the less affordable a home is to any particular family.
For two-storey homes, the affordability reading rose 0.6 or a percentage point to 48.9 per cent in the July-September period.
Owning a condominium was the most affordable option, with a cost measure of 28 per cent of pre-tax income, and the most stable, up just 0.1 of a percentage point from the previous period.
RBC chief economist Craig Wright attributed the deterioration in affordability to higher prices and what has been a tightening mortgage market reacting to an expectation of firming interest rates.
"By the third quarter, strong resale activity across Canada heated up home prices a few degrees," he explained. "At the same time, Canadian bond yields rose in tandem with those in the U.S., climbing in anticipation of the Fed (U.S. Federal Reserve) tapering its bond buying program."
The most recent Canadian Real Estate Association report pegged the average resale price of a home at $391,820 in October, 8.5 per cent more than a year earlier.
Wright said recent months has seen a divergence in prices for Canadian homes, with price gains for bungalows and two-storey structures outpacing condominiums.
Affordability deteriorated in many of the large markets, but while the average number is only moderately higher than historic norms, RBC notes there is a wide disparity in the associated costs depending on markets, with some appearing out of reach of the average family.
It would take 84.2 per cent of an average household's pre-tax income to maintain a home in Vancouver, a rise of two percentage points from the second-quarter reading.
In Toronto, the affordability measure rose 1.3 percentage point to 55.6 per cent, the second worst in the country.
Most other major markets had affordability scales that were closer to historic norms: Montreal rose 0.3 of a point to 38.3 per cent; Ottawa was up 0.4 of a point to 37.3, Calgary up 0.7 of a point to 33.7 and Edmonton up 0.5 of a point to 32.9 per cent of household income.
The report says the biggest risk to maintaining manageable affordability levels would be a sharp rise in interest rates, but many analysts believe that is unlikely to occur as long as global economic growth remains moderate and inflation pressures soft.
The RBC says it does not expect the Bank of Canada to start hiking rates until sometime in 2015 as bond yields, the main driver of fixed mortgage rates, are projected to drift only "gently" upwards in the next year or so.
http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/rising-prices-mortgage-rates-hits-home-affordability-canada-050618405.html

Monday, November 25, 2013

With inflation below 1%, prospects for higher interest rates recedes further


Julian Beltrame, | The Canadian Press – 22 Nov, 2013 A major drop in the price of gasoline and declines in several other goods and services pushed down Canada's inflation rate to 0.7 per cent last month, adding further justification to the Bank of Canada's reluctance to raise interest rates any time soon.
October's inflation rate was down four-tenths of a percentage point from September and the lowest level since May. On a monthly basis, overall prices in October were down 0.2 per cent from September. Both declines were twice as large as economists expected.
Analysts said the soft inflation reading supplied ample justification for the Bank of Canada's decision last month to jettison a tightening bias on monetary policy which had been in place for 18 months.
At the time, governor Stephen Poloz explained that he was concerned about slack in the economy, a message he reinforced this week in saying he disagreed with an OECD opinion that Canadian interest rates might need to be raised as early as late 2014.
Many now don't expect the Bank of Canada to raise its key short-term rate from a very low 1.0 per cent until mid-2015.
Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter said October's low inflation reading is worthy of attention but added it's too early to start worrying about actual deflation, a period of widespread price declines.
Deflation can be economically distructive.
It increases the real level of debt held by firms and households at a time when profits and income are likely to be flat. As well, it could lead to consumers delaying purchases because they expect prices to fall further, pressuring producers to lower prices and wages.
Porter said the risk of deflation is relatively low but can't be dismissed when the inflation rate is near one per cent.
"The concern would be if it starts to head even lower. Then we get too close to deflation for comfort and that can be a tough circle to get out of," Porter said.
"If something else came along and hit the world economy, we could be stuck with real deflation."
But at the moment, there are no signs that prices are headed lower on a sustained basis, particularly as wages are rising a close to two-per-cent annually and growth is also near two per cent.
As well, October's big decline came primarily in the price of gasoline, which tends to fluctuate, sometimes widely.
A better measure of what is happening to consumer prices is core inflation — which excludes volatile items such as gas and fresh foods — and that only slipped one-tenth of a point to 1.2 per cent in October, still within the central bank's broad one-to-three per cent sweet spot.
As for the headline number, Statistics Canada noted that "lower gasoline prices were a factor in all provinces in October, with Saskatchewan (-8.6 per cent) recording the largest year-over-year decrease and Ontario (-1.8 per cent) posting the smallest."
Pump prices plunged 5.1 per cent in October from the previous month and were 4.3 per cent lower than October 2012.
Still, the overall inflation picture in Canada remains the tamest in years.
Consumer prices rose at a slower pace year-over-year in seven out of the 10 provinces, with British Columbia registering an outright decline of 0.3 per cent. As well, prices fell from last year in three of the eight major components the agency tracks — clothing and footwear (-0.7 per cent), transportation (-0.1) and health and personal care (-0.5).
Of the major items that saw price increases, food rose a meek 0.9 per cent and shelter costs rose only slightly more by 1.3 per cent. Of the major components, only alcohol and tobacco rose above two per cent, and only slightly so at 2.3.
On a monthly basis, hotels, natural, electricity and fresh vegetables were all lower than in September. http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/canadian-press-newsalert-inflation-falls-0-7-per-133345723.html

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How To Sell Yourself In 30 Seconds And Leave People Wanting More



Do you have an elevator speech? Be sure you have a 30 second prepared answer for whenever you get the “what do you do?” question.

Vivian Giang Nov. 14, 2013
How do you get people interested in you when you only have 30 seconds?
Whether you're at a job interview, networking at a cocktail party, or run into Warren Buffett in the elevator, quickly persuading others to think you're the most interesting person they'll meet is no easy task.
"Most people can't present what they've done effectively," Paul McDonald, a senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half, tells Business Insider. "They're not used to giving sound bites of what they do."
Below, McDonald gives us eight steps to crafting the perfect elevator pitch:
1. Know exactly where you want to go.
Your elevator pitch should answer three questions: Who are you? What do you do? Where do you want to go, or what are you looking for? You need to know exactly what you want to achieve or no one can help you get there.
"Take your resume and LinkedIn profile and go through it thoroughly," says McDonald. If you're unemployed, focus on where you want to go and what you want to do.
2. Bullet point it.
After studying your resume and LinkedIn profile, write down four bullet points that explain why you're great, advises McDonald. Discuss your work history, background, skills, accomplishments, and goals. Keep out any irrelevant details that take away from your core message.
3. Tell them a story.
People love stories, says McDonald, so tell them a story. It also makes it easier for others to remember you later on.
Self-improvement guru Dale Carnegie said in his book "Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business" that our minds are essentially "associate machines," which means we remember things better when there's a story or association attached to the subject. In other words, if you want people to remember you, tell them a story and make sure it's good.
4. Eliminate jargon.
You need to be able to explain what you do and who you are in a way that appeals to most people. This means avoiding acronyms or terminology that wouldn't be understood by someone outside of your industry.
Dumbing down complex ideas is a "real art," says McDonald. A good strategy is to imagine explaining what you do to your parents and using a similar formula in your elevator pitch. Making sure your pitch is in layman's terms is especially critical for those in accounting, finance, and technology.
5. Make sure it invites conversation.
After telling your story, the listener needs to be left wanting more. Is your story compelling enough to do this? If not, you need to change your pitch.
6. Time yourself.
While practicing your pitch, you should time yourself to make sure you can tell your story in 30 seconds. If you can't, cut down details and try again.
7. Record yourself on video.
You need to know what you look like to others while you're telling your story. Are you interesting? Are you believable? People will come to their own conclusions while listening to you so make sure you give off a good impression. Relax, act natural, and get comfortable with your story.
8. Pitch it to your friends and colleagues.
After you've got your story down, practice your elevator pitch with friends and colleagues. Ask them to give you feedback. Ask them what you should do to make it better. Keep practicing and tweaking your pitch until it's natural for you to say aloud and convincing to the listener.

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-tell-your-story-in-30-seconds-2013-11#ixzz2lBpebiW4

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Is your contractor certified? Here’s how to find out




Hiring a plumber or electrician is a gamble when you don’t know how competent they are. A new registry helps you check their credentials

Houses need work. So, if you have a repair job to do — such as replacing galvanized plumbing pipes with copper pipes — who are you going to call?
I faced that dilemma when the city of Toronto came to put a water meter in my basement. The installers took a look at the galvanized pipes on the wall and said they had to be replaced.
I had to get the repairs done quickly. So, I called a plumber that I had found earlier at Homestars, a website that aggregates user reviews and rates contractors from 1 to 10.
Volodymyr Bartkov, owner of Mister Plumber, had done other jobs for me quickly, efficiently and at a reasonable price. He didn’t disappoint this time, either, replacing the intake pipes a few hours after the installer’s visit.
Hiring contractors online, even those with excellent ratings, carries a risk. How do you know they are certified and a member in good standing of a professional group?
Thanks to the Ontario College of Trades, you can check on the contractors you plan to hire. The college has a public registry, which says whether or not a tradesperson is certified.
When I entered Bartkov’s name into the registry, I found he was an active member, a plumber (journeyperson’s class) with a certificate of qualification and a clean record when it came to disciplinary actions or misconduct.
The Ontario College of Trades was created to attract new entrants and ensure there was enough supply of trades people for years to come. Improving consumer protection was a secondary goal.
The public registry, just one month old, offers telephone access as well at 647-847-3000 (locally) or 1-855-299-0028 (toll-free).
The Liberal government’s decision to set up the self-regulatory trade college has generated controversy. Opponents call it another layer of bureaucracy, making it more costly for skilled individuals and companies to operate.
Critics have their own website, Stop The Trades Tax, where they urge people to sign petitions and write to their MPPs. Conservative leader Tim Hudak supports the campaign.
Meanwhile, the Ontario College of Trades is contacting the media, hoping to get favourable coverage from consumer advocates. I had several nudges from Argyle Communications, a public relations firm, before doing a story.
I also spoke to Ron Johnson, chair of the college’s board of directors and a former Conservative MPP who served under former premier Mike Harris.
“There are almost 300,000 people in the public registry, which empowers consumers to verify the standards of the people they hire to work on their behalf,” he said.
“It is the first of its kind in North America and the largest regulatory college in North America.”
Ontario already has 44 other self-regulatory colleges for teachers, dentists, doctors, lawyers and psychotherapists, among others.
Membership in the newest college is compulsory for 22 trades — including electricians, plumbers, crane operators, sheet metal workers and hair stylists.
“It’s illegal to say you’re certified when you’re not,” Johnson says, adding that the college can issue fines against rule breakers. “The government has never protected the integrity of the certified trades before.”
Does membership cost too much? The 300,000 members drafted into the college will pay $120 a year — not too stiff a price. Another 135 trades aren’t required to join, but can opt for voluntary membership.
I’m all for expanding Ontario’s self-regulatory colleges to skilled trades. This should usher in a more professional approach to protect the public from inferior services when they open their doors to contractors.
http://www.thestar.com/business/personal_finance/spending_saving/2013/05/12/is_your_contractor_certified_heres_how_to_find_out.html