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Canadian housing market posts first sales gain in 6 months

Canada posted its first nationwide home sales increase in six months as the end of summer vacations and a steadily improving economy boosted the market.

National home sales rose 0.9 per cent in September from the month before, the first monthly increase in transactions since March as benchmark home prices rose 1.7 per cent, according to data released Friday by the Canadian Real Estate Association. Even as sales picked up, however, the amount of new housing supply hitting the market fell 1.6 per cent, putting a slim majority of local markets back into sellers’ territory, according to the report.

“Given we are still stuck at around two months of inventory nationally, the thing to keep a close eye on going forward will be the behavior of prices,” Shaun Cathcart, the real estate board’s senior economist, said in a press release accompanying the report. “While the acceleration in home prices we saw in September was more than most would have expected, the fact that prices are now moving back in that direction is not surprising.”

Though the housing market has cooled since the low interest rates and demand for bigger living space induced by the pandemic drove it to a record-setting frenzy earlier this year, prices have remained elevated and helped make housing affordability an issue across the country. With the relative lull in the market coming to an end, the upward pressure on prices may accelerate again — posing a challenge to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was returned to power in an election last month in part on promises to help first-time buyers…read more.

Global gas crisis is spilling over into oil markets, IEA says

Shortages of natural gas in Europe and Asia are boosting demand for oil, deepening what was already a sizable supply deficit in crude markets, the International Energy Agency said.

Crude has surged above US$80 a barrel, the highest in three years, as traders anticipated that record gas prices would stimulate consumption of other fuels, particularly for power generation. That’s already happening and could add about 500,000 barrels a day to oil use on average over the coming six months, the IEA said on Thursday.

“An acute shortage of natural gas, LNG and coal supplies stemming from the gathering global economic recovery has sparked a precipitous run-up in prices for energy supplies and is triggering a massive switch to oil products,” the IEA said. “Provisional August data already indicates that there is some unseasonably high demand for fuel oil, crude and middle distillates for power plants across a number of countries, including China.”

The latest analysis from the agency, which advises industrialized countries on energy policy, shows how the acute shortage of natural gas is spilling over into other markets and the broader economy. The crisis is deepening the current oil-supply deficit, potentially disrupting OPEC’s careful plan to gradually revive idle production. It’s roiling energy-intensive industries and threatens to curb GDP growth and boost inflation…read more.

U.S. to reopen land borders to vaccinated Canadians

Fully vaccinated Canadian vacationers and day-trippers will be allowed to drive into the United States beginning in early November, the Biden administration said Tuesday, the first glimmer of hope in nearly 20 months for the families and businesses that depend on two-way traffic across the Canada-U.S. border.

Senior government officials delivered the news in a conference call with reporters on condition they hold their reports until early Wednesday – a plan that quickly went out the window when New York congressman Brian Higgins all but shouted the news from the rooftops.

“At long last, there is action by the United States to open the doors and welcome back our Canadian neighbours,” Higgins said in a statement.

“Border communities await further details from the administration with great expectation, and I will continue to advocate for a more fully and freely open border to both governments, sooner rather than later.”

Those details remained few and far between Tuesday, but the plan is designed to dovetail with the administration’s existing plan to allow international travellers from further afield to resume travelling to the U.S. on the same timeline, provided they’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19…read more.

A former Navy nuclear engineer and his wife have been arrested on espionage charges

A former nuclear engineer officer in the U.S. Navy and his wife have been arrested on espionage charges, after allegedly attempting to sell secrets about submarines to a foreign entity, according to court records unsealed Sunday.

The Department of Justice says Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana Toebbe, were arrested Saturday and charged with violating the Atomic Energy Act. The department says Toebbe unwittingly communicated with FBI agents and passed along sensitive military secrets, in a scheme that stretched more than a year.

Toebbe held an active national security clearance through the Department of Defense, giving him access to restricted data, authorities said.

The 42-year-old former lieutenant in the Navy and his wife, 45, sold restricted information “concerning the design of nuclear powered warships” to someone they believed was a representative of an unnamed foreign power, according to federal law enforcement officials…read more.

Mike’s Comment

Natural gas up 40% in a few hours. What scares me is that I see no indication that policymakers get the message. Do you?