Feb. 20, 2015

CANADA

  • Canadian December retail sales fell 2% M/M vs 0.4% decline expected, partially due to lower gasoline prices and a shift of Christmas shopping to November for ‘Black Friday’ sales.
  • Alberta’s December retail sales fell 2.5% M/M, the largest decline in 2 years.
  • Canadian home sales fell 3% M/M while prairie cities were hardest hit: Calgary fell 35%, Edmonton down 22%, Saskatoon down 24%. Since October 2013, Calgary home sales are down 44%.
  • This year the Federal government is writing off nearly $300 million in unrecoverable student loans, the majority are related to defaults on repayment from 2008 or earlier.

UNITED STATES

  • January US producer prices declined a record 0.8% M/M vs expected 0.4%. Y/Y producer prices were unchanged, the weakest reading since records started in November 2010.
  • January US housing starts fell 2% M/M but were up 18.7% Y/Y. Single family starts fell 6.7% while multi-family starts rose 7.5%.
  • 2015 will mark the first year that the number of millennials (75.3 million) surpasses the number of baby boomers (74.9 million). The January 2015 employment rate for 25 to 34 year olds was 76.6% (highest since December 2008) and their median weekly earnings grew 2.4% in Q4 2014.
  • US 30 year mortgage rates rose to 3.76% from 3.69% last week.
  • Federal Reserve minutes showed that policy makers are going to keep interest rates near record lows for longer.

ENERGY

  • Shale producers in Alberta are being asked to monitor and prevent earth quakes after more than 19 quakes with magnitudes up to 4.4 near Fox Creek.
  • US refinery workers union rejected a contract offer from Royal Dutch Shell and the other companies. Currently 5,000 workers are on strike at 11 refineries in the US accounting for 13% of US production.
  • Russia started supplying gas to rebel-held eastern Ukraine on Thursday after Kiev suspended gas delivery.
  • Russia boosted oil sales to China, Japan and South Korea by 25% in 2014. Russia now has 8.7% market share up from 7.2% in 2013. Saudi Arabia has 24% down from 26%.

EUROPE

  • Britain’s January budget surplus was the largest in 7 years as income tax receipts rose 6.1%.
  • UK December – January unemployment fell to 5.7% (the lowest rate since 2008) vs 5.8% while pay grew 2.1%.
  • Q4 2014 Euro-area manufacturing and services grew 0.3%, led by Germany and France.

TIDBITS

  • Walmart will begin paying its US hourly workers at least $9/hour in April and $10 by February 2015.
  • British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon says that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “real and present danger’ to the Baltic States.
  • Russian fighter jets have started the ‘active phase’ of military exercises in Russia’s northwest.
  • Britain scrambled fighter jets on Wednesday to escort 2 Russian bombers of Britain’s south coast, the second incident in the past 2 months.