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Daily Pulse

Canada

A new survey by MNP Ltd. has found that 53 per cent of respondents said they are $200 or less away from not being able to meet all of their monthly bills and debt obligations. The number is alarming as it marks a five-year high in the agency's consumer debt index and marks a 10-point jump from a December survey. This number includes the 30 per cent who said they are already insolvent, with no money left over at the end of the month. Government support programs offered up a little financial flexibility over the past year but, at best, these programs were intended to be temporary. In many ways COVID-19 benefits masked the seriousness of Canadians who were drowning in debt. “The anxiety Canadians are feeling about making ends meet – or already unable to do so – tells us we may eventually see an avalanche of households falling behind on payments or defaulting on loans, mortgages, car payments or credit cards,” said Grant Bazian, president of MNP LTD, in the report published Thursday.

United-States

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he is willing to negotiate on the proposed corporate tax rate hike in his $2 trillion infrastructure plan. The president’s remark about the corporate tax rate came after he delivered a sweeping defense of the size and scope of his proposed infrastructure overhaul. Republicans have been quick to This link will open in a new tab. criticize the plan for funding too many projects that, in their view, fall outside the definition of infrastructure. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has tried to brand the plan a “Trojan Horse” for liberal policies, and other GOP lawmakers have This link will open in a new tab. claimed that only a small fraction of the massive bill goes toward “real infrastructure.” Biden’s proposal, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, includes This link will open in a new tab. roughly $2 trillion in spending over eight years. The White House offered a 15-year path to funding the plan, in part by hiking the corporate tax rate to 28%. Republicans had slashed the levy to 21% from 35% as part of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law. The infrastructure plan would also implement other measures, such as boosting the global minimum tax for multinational corporations and closing so-called offshoring loopholes, for funding.

More than 3,200 ballots were cast in a high stakes union election at one of This link will open in a new tab. Amazon’s Alabama warehouses, according to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The election was open to more than 5,800 employees at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse, who are voting whether to join the RWDSU. With 3,215 total ballots cast, that resulted in a turnout rate of roughly 55%, which is higher than what the RWDSU initially estimated. Workers had until March 29 to submit their ballots via mail. Vote counting began last week via a private video conference, presided over by the NLRB, during which Amazon and the union could contest ballots based on factors like an illegible signature or whether a person’s job classification entitles them to vote.

Europe

Robert Holzmann, the governor of Austria’s central bank, told CNBC Thursday that he believed the This link will open in a new tab. European Central Bank might be able to start reducing its bond purchases during the summer. The ECB put forward an emergency bond-buying program in March of 2020 to deal with the economic shock from the pandemic. This program, knows as the PEPP, is currently set to last until March 2022 and total up to 1.85 trillion euros ($2.2 trillion). Hawkish members of the euro zone’s central bank are less keen to use the full amount provided by the emergency purchase program, wary of a long and significant intervention in markets. But dovish members of the ECB are more cautious about lifting the stimulus pedal too soon given that the euro zone economy is still to fragile. Reducing asset purchases in the latter half of this year, and fading out the PEPP, could therefore be helpful in this wider debate over the ECB’s methods.

European markets will be boosted by the announcements from the U.K. and European medicines regulators on Wednesday regarding the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford Covid vaccine. Both regulators said that while This link will open in a new tab. a link between the vaccine and very rare blood clotting disorders was possible, the benefits of getting the shot still outweigh its risks. The U.K. said it would give a different Covid vaccine to under-30s in Britain out of caution.

Asia

Singapore’s deputy prime minister announced on Thursday that he will be stepping aside so that a “younger leader who will have a longer runway can take over.” Heng Swee Keat, who was expected to take over from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is also coordinating minister for economic policies and minister of finance. Heng will step down from his position as finance minister at the next Cabinet reshuffle. Lee previously said he would stay on as prime minister until the Covid-19 crisis ends. Heng was expected to take over, but will now step aside as the leader of the so-called “4G team” – or Singapore’s fourth generation leadership.

The author

Michel Doucet

Michel Doucet

Vice-President and Portfolio Manager
After obtaining a Bachelor's degree from the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Université du Québec in Montréal and his Master’s degree, Michel Doucet began his career as a junior economist at the National Bank head office in Montreal. In 1992 he joined the institutional equities and fixed income group at Lévesque Beaubien Geoffrion as an economist and market analyst. Over the years, he has led various projects related to the North American and international economies as well as Canadian public finances. In 1996, the team of institutional economists to which he belongs was ranked first in Canada by Brendan Wood International. In August 1997, Mr. Doucet joined the personal services division of Lévesque Beaubien Geoffrion where he served as an economist, fixed income market analyst and vice president. In 2004, he joined the Desjardins Securities full service team as Vice President. He now occupies the roles of fixed income strategist, economist and portfolio manager. He manages the Securities Portfolio Advisory Group, advisor marketing and distribution of financial planning and insurance.