Category Archives: Economy

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Divided we stand

Western Canada’s place as the country’s economic engine isn’t changing anytime soon. That puts the onus on policy makers to take a new look at their priorities—for all Canadians’ sake
By Ian McGugan
August 24th, 2014

Nearly 70 years ago, a novel by Hugh MacLennan captured the struggle that then weighed on many Canadian minds. Two Solitudes told the story of a young writer torn between French and English cultures. If that quintessentially Canadian novel were … Continue reading

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How strong is this castle?

King Cotton once ruled the economy of the southern U.S. Then it didn’t. The reign of oil may be no more secure
By Ian McGugan
June 5th, 2014

In the run-up to the U.S. Civil War, southern secessionists argued the slave-owning states had nothing to fear by going it alone. The Deep South produced so much of the world’s cotton—a vital commodity in the mid-19th century—that “King Cotton” … Continue reading

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Bitcoin, or something like it

Despite bitcoin’s recent floundering, it’s hard to envision a future that doesn’t include a digital currency. But that won’t happen until those currencies’ backers address the hurdles that matter
By Ian McGugan
April 21st, 2014

Bitcoin’s biggest fans were too smug, too self-righteous, for their own good. For five years, they lectured the rest of us about the superiority of digital currencies and bitcoin’s blessed freedom from the stifling hand of government regulation. So they … Continue reading

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Trading one super-cycle for another

Good times follow bad, often sooner than people expect. So, unlikely as it might sound in mining, signs of a pending breakout are mostly there. Don’t expect China 2.0, but the deal making could get furious
By Ian McGugan
February 26th, 2014

Cheer up, folks. Sure, Canadians enjoyed the good times more than most nations and, as a result, felt the crash of the super-cycle with particular intensity. But the recovery has been far quicker than many people expected. I’m referring, of … Continue reading

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The price of admission

Despite the ebb and flow of GDP, Canada admits roughly the same number of immigrants each year. Would the country and new arrivals alike be better served if we tied admission rates to the state of the economy?
By Ian McGugan
December 16th, 2013

This year, as it does every year, Canada will import enough people to fill a mid-sized city. And this year, as it does every year, the federal government will assure us that the annual flood of immigrants helps build a … Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Handbook

Wanted: new brooms with new ideas

The next generation of central bankers are arriving on the scene just as their predecessors’ policies seem to have run their course. How much will they have to change to reignite economic recovery?
By Ian McGugan
September 16th, 2013

Mark Carney is gone and Ben Bernanke is going, but the Great Recession is still an unwelcome guest in many living rooms. So long as it lingers, the next generation of North American central bankers will have to ask some … Continue reading

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Is this all there is?

Some economists are calling low GDP growth the “new normal.” Before dismissing them, optimists should look carefully at what the numbers say about where we’ve been and where we’re going
By Ian McGugan
June 19th, 2013

We used to know what an economic recovery looked like. First would come a recession—usually short and sharp. Then a vigorous rebound would inevitably follow. GDP growth could be counted on to rocket past 5% a year as businesses and … Continue reading

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Loonie’s letdown for real

Don’t let the last of the Canadian-dollar bulls dissuade you—the loonie’s value is falling and it’s not finished yet. But don’t worry. A lighter dollar doesn’t necessarily mean a lighter order book
By Ian McGugan
April 14th, 2013

The beaver is cute and the maple leaf packs a certain whole-earth appeal but, when it comes to national symbols, it’s the loonie that provides the highest-profile gauge of how our national economy is faring. Over the past decade the … Continue reading

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Want a real-world read on the commodity markets? Try selling a drill rig
By Paul Brent
March 1st, 2013

It’s blue, big as a CEO’s office and can be helicoptered or dragged through the woods to its next job. It’s also proving to be very, very hard to get rid of. The “it” in question is a $300,000 drilling … Continue reading

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Whither the commodity super-cycle?

For years, surging demand and higher prices for all kinds of commodities have been a boon for resource companies and the economy. Now they’ve mostly flattened out. Is the party over? Or simply on hold?
By Ian McGugan
February 25th, 2013

Iron ore, usually a sedate citizen of the commodity world, has acted like a giddy teenager in recent months. From a low of US$86 a tonne in September, the metal soared above US$158 by January as a wave of Asian … Continue reading

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Saving for a sunny day

Mark Carney says Canadian companies are hoarding cash and holding back recovery. Executives say they’re not. The only point on which most agree: there are too many reasons to put off spending and not enough to put money in play
By Ian McGugan
January 7th, 2013

Having a bit of cash on hand used to be considered a virtue. As the clock winds down on 2012, it’s coming to be regarded as a borderline crime. Mark Carney gave voice to the sentiment back in late August, … Continue reading

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Going to extremes

With interest rates near zero, central banks are looking at new, more exotic ways to boost growth. Suggestions: a long-term rate freeze, setting targets for nominal GDP rather than inflation, or—yes—putting a tax on savings
By Ian McGugan
September 25th, 2012

Happy birthday, financial crisis. Five years ago, in August 2007, BNP Paribas announced that because of losses related to U.S. housing loans, it was freezing three investment funds that at their peak had been worth more than $2 billion. So, … Continue reading

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Hire your elders

As Canada’s population ages, we’re counting on more retired seniors buying more stuff to keep our economy moving. A better strategy: enable those seniors to work longer instead
By Ian McGugan
June 18th, 2012

When Tom Coughlin coached the New York Giants to a victory in the Super Bowl this past February, he also scored a victory for a much bigger team: the greying army of North American baby boomers that have hit or … Continue reading

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Two steps forward

From jobs to GDP growth, the long-awaited U.S. economic rebound is underway. But don’t mistake these nascent positive trends for anything close to full recovery. That will be years in the making
By Ian McGugan
March 16th, 2012

CANADIAN BUSINESSES have been disappointed for so long in the U.S. economy that it’s only natural to look with a splenetic eye at the most recent data streaming over the border. Jobs growth has jumped beyond modest expectations, the stock market … Continue reading

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We’ll always have China…right?

Despite the recent obsession with Europe’s financial crises and continued sluggishness in the U.S., there’s at least one more big worry out there—China. If its slowdown turns serious, the damage here will be extensive
By Ian McGugan
December 20th, 2011

China’s fastest growing exports are anxiety and skepticism. After years of seeing its collective wealth race ahead at a breakneck clip, the world’s most populous economy is hitting some speed bumps—and raising concerns about how severe its slowdown will be. … Continue reading

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