Your long weekend playbook

May 18: Happy Victoria Day! Plus, a boost in manufacturing and house prices, and the battles of Greek yogurt and Greek debt


Markets are closed in Canada today, so there’s very little on the economic calendar today, and hopefully your calendar is also heavy on the relaxation.

It’s also a relatively quiet day for economics in the rest of the world today. Tomorrow, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz will be in Charlottetown for a speech, on Wednesday we’ll have wholesale trade numbers. On Friday we’ll wrap up the week with April inflation and retail sales numbers for Canada, and inflation will also be coming in from eurozone and the U.K. this week, alongside some real GDP numbers for the first quarter for Germany and Japan. In the U.S., watch for Friday, when Fed chair Janet Yellen will give a closely watched speech on the outlook for the American economy.

We’ll be starting the working week tomorrow with surprisingly good news about Canadian manufacturing, after manufacturing numbers in March were better than expected. After falling for the two previous months, manufacturing was up 2.9 per cent, pushed by auto parts and aerospace manufacturing, which was up by 42.3 per cent (though big swings in aerospace manufacturing are typical for the industry.)

House prices are on the rise. Even as the drop in oil prices has chipped back house prices in Calgary, the latest housing numbers suggest that rising prices aren’t only a feature of Toronto and Vancouver: last month, house prices were up 2.3 per cent (seasonally adjusted), with a 10 per cent rise year-over-year. According to BMO, 16 of Canada’s largest cities rose by more than 10 per cent in April, with seven of those cities rising by 20 per cent or more: including a 37 per cent bump year over year in Vancouver. House prices across the country evened out to $448,862 – but there are big gaps in what nearly half a million can buy you in cities across the country, as Jason Kirby points out in Maclean’s. In Vancouver’s case, this won’t even get you a house in Vancouver. (Check out the slideshow here of what that price will get you in each major city.)

Why is Kijiji so big in Canada? The New York Times has this story about why the online classified site Kijiji has done so well in Canada, but come up short in the U.S. Here, the site is dominant, with 42 per cent of Canadians using the website, three times more than its chief rival, Craigslist. The reason is largely because the site was a Canadian product – owned by Ebay, it began as an idea from a former executive, Janet Bannister, who saw a gap in online ads left after moving back to Canada from California. She noted Canadians’ dislike for auction pricing and hefty shipping costs, and saw a penny-pinching opportunity for trading cars, sub-lets and other services.

Greek slipped perilously close to the edge last week. It was down to the wire last week whether the country would be able to pay their 750 million euro debt to the IMF. In the end, they managed to pay the bill – but not because they had the money. Instead, they used a special line of credit to borrow from the IMF to pay the IMF, and only after Tsipras told the head of the Fund, Christine Lagarde, that the country wouldn’t be able to pay without emergency help from the European Central Bank. This is just the latest development in a long-running question: how much cash does Greece actually have (no one but the Greek government knows exactly), and with a series of payments to come in the next several months, how long can they keep scraping together last-minute funds?

The other Greek showdown. In the last few years, Greek yogurt has become the craze of all yogurt crazes, spawning endless varieties and power-house brands: including Chobani, the American yogurt company that caught the wave ahead of the yogurt giants, and stumbled in the process. The Wall Street Journal has this story about how the company, founded by a Turkish immigrant in New York, bought a big factory and eschewed a professional CEO or other big-growth trappings, even as their sales grew to $1 billion. Now, faced with falling profits and a slew of seasoned competitors, the company is turning pro – hiring a CEO and, perhaps reluctantly, taking up the mantle of a dairy giant.

Need to know:
TSX: 15,108.12 (+80), Friday
Loonie: 83.18 (+0.16), Friday
Oil (WTI): $60.11 (5:30 a.m.)

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