As oil slumps, China shops

Your top financial and economic news for Nov. 11


Lest we forget — for Remembrance Day, here’s the Financial Post’s Peter Kuitenbrouwer on how Canadian poppies are manufactured:

Producing 19 million of these poppies is a remarkable, enduring supply-chain success story. This year, which may turn out to be one of the biggest ever for poppy sales, it involves a printing plant in Ottawa’s east end, a federal prison assembly line, and, of course, thousands of volunteers across Canada…

This year, after taking bids from four companies, the legion chose the Trico Group, a printer in east Ottawa, as its poppy-maker.

“In February we received a brand-new thermo-former [heat moulder],” says Trico’s Gord Kelly. “Everything is much crisper.” Workers feed rolls of U.S.-made red-flocked polyethylene into the machine, which heat-forms the plastic into poppy shapes. A die cut then slices out each poppy, producing 18,000 poppies per hour. The same machine cuts out the black scalloped poppy centres…

The production costs only pennies; no one in the supply chain would disclose actual numbers, but in July, the legion in Manotick placed an order for 40,000 poppies with the legion’s Ontario Command in Aurora, Ont., paying 12¢ each. Trico shipped those poppies by UPS in boxes of 1,000 poppies. (Trico will also manufacture and ship 70,000 remembrance wreaths this year.)

On the homefront

The TSX weathered sizable declines in materials and energy, two of the three pillars of the index, to start the week with a modest gain thanks to a broad-based rally outside of those two segments, led by the defensive consumer staples sector along with technology. North American equity markets will be open today, but bond markets will be closed in observance of Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day south of the border. TSX 60 futures are moving higher ahead of the open.


The Canadian dollar is down modestly against the greenback to trade at 0.878 this morning.


Crude oil futures have tumbled, with Brent hitting a four-year low and WTI slipping to $76.50 per barrel.


Imperial Oil shuts down major mine. A problem at Imperial Oil’s (IMO) Kearl oil sands mine has forced the company to halt production. A company spokesperson said it would take “several weeks” to install replacement parts on its ore-crushing machinery.


BlackBerry’s Chinese outreach sends shares soaring. BlackBerry (BBRY) CEO John Chen attended the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit, where he met with executives of HTC and Lenovo. The head of the once-dominant tech giant says that the firm’s excellence in security, encryption, and privacy are sought after in the world’s second-largest economy and that there may be opportunities for partnerships, according to Bloomberg. Investors certainly responded favourably to Chen’s message, sending shares 5.3 per cent higher on the Nasdaq.


Iamgold cuts costs at the corporate level. Iamgold Corp.’s (IMG) C-Suite just got a lot smaller. The company announced that three executives were leaving the firm to pursue other interests, reducing the size of its executive team by about 40 per cent as management aims to shrink corporate general and administrative costs by 10 per cent in the 2015 budget. Cost-cutting is top of mind for gold miners, who are grappling with a plunge in the shiny metal. In light of the underlying commodity’s decline, Iamgold indicated that “work on [its] major expansion and development projects will be considerably reduced.”


Mortgage lender subsidiary to become a bank. The Globe and Mail’s Jacqueline Nelson reports that Home Trust, a subsidiary of Home Capital (HCG), plants to establish itself as a Schedule 1 bank. The move enables to the company to build off its launch of Oaken Financial and grow its deposit base. Home Capital was at the epicentre of the “short Canada” trade that became popular in early 2013, but proceeded to go on an absolute tear as the prophesied real estate crash did not materialize. The company typically lends to people the traditional banks tend to shy away from, like the self-employed, those who are relatively new to the country, or who have had a credit incident in the past.

Daily dispatches

The Japanese yen has tumbled to a seven-year low against the greenback despite a larger than expected current account surplus for Q3, as two measures of confidence unexpectedly declined in October. “In the FX market there seems to be growing calls that the USD could undergo profit taking but this doesn’t seem to be materialising just yet,” writes IG chief market strategist Chris Weston.


In China, the 11th day of the 11th month is a time to go on a shopping spree, not pay tribute to veterans. Dubbed “Singles’ Day” due to the four ones in the date, this is the biggest day of the year for e-commerce. Alibaba, which had its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in mid-September, managed to sell $2 billion worth of products in a single hour on Tuesday and has smashed its previous record of $5.75 billion in sales recorded on Nov. 11, 2013.


On Monday, President Barack Obama expressed his support for net neutrality, the idea that Internet service providers ought to treat all data, websites and users the same way. Shares of cable providers slumped following the President’s video announcement.

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