Here’s your executive summary of the most newsworthy, fascinating and amusing stories from today’s Financial Post.
1. 2009 all over again: Canadian crude slides to US$30 per barrel
Canadian Press files
Canadian crude, called Western Canadian Select, fell to US$30 yesterday, its lowest price since early 2009 and US$85 below its all-time high in the run up to the financial crisis. The reason? A combination of the news of a soaring greenback and swelling oil glut, as well as recognition of the fact that bitumen is costlier to extract and refine – bad news in the age of cheap oil.
So far, the strategy on the oil patch has been to cut costs – freeze wages, lay off workers, renegotiate contracts – and postpone planned projects. Projects under construction are still underway, however, and cuts to output from existing wells are not occurring. In fact, oil sands production is up 8.3 percent in 2015, according to the most recent data from the National Energy Board.
But here is what could happen to the Canadian sector if U.S. crude – currently trading at a US$13 premium to to Canadian crude- continues to suffer:
Sustaining at sub-US$50: Oil sands output will begin to slow, according to one of the Big Five players on the patch.
Sustaining at sub-US$45: A new round of investment cuts will take place, according to a BMO analyst.
Sustaining at sub-US$35: Companies will begin to shutter existing wells, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.
2. From homes to taxes: Fort McMurray is ground zero for the oil bust
Ben Nelms/Bloomberg files
No region in Canada has felt the burn of cheap oil more acutely than Fort McMurray, Alta. The population in and around the once-booming town swelled by 32 percent between 2007 and 2012 to approximately 116,000 as Canadians from around the country sought refuge from the global recession in a place where the median household income was north of $190,000 – more than two-and-a-half times the national average – and more than half of the working population had a job on the oil patch.
Things are different now. Workers have been laid off as the price of U.S. crude fell from above US$106 in June to below US$44 today. Here is some of the fallout thus far:
The price of the average detached home has fallen by around 13 percent, or $100,000, to $676,162.
The vacancy rate for apartment rentals has climbed from 5.4 percent to 11.8 percent.
The number of monthly visitors to the local food bank has climbed by 55 percent to around 630.
While residents seem to be fairly optimistic – at least those who have lived through oil-related booms and busts before – the city itself is poised to take a hit. This is because it collects more than 90 percent of its tax revenue not from oil-sands workers but from the oil and gas companies themselves, which are turning narrower profits and have announced massive spending cuts. This, in turn, has the government re-evaluating or drawing ire for municipal projects ranging from downtown revitalization and an art installation to a seniors home and skating rink.
3. More than half of Germans want Greece booted from the euro: poll
Yannis Behrakis/Reuters files Ironically dressed demonstrators protest a visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens.
German public broadcaster ZDF released a poll on Friday measuring sentiment toward Greece as the two nations squabble over the terms of a new bailout and the prospect of partial default on US$335 billion worth of existing debt. Among the findings:
Only 11 percent of Germans say the Greek government is behaving reputably.
Only 14 percent of Germans trust Greece will honour its pledge to retain certain austerity policies.
Only 40 percent of Germans say they want Greece to remain in the European Union.
This marks the first time a majority of Germans want Greece booted from the euro currency club. The unfavourable sentiment will make it harder for the Merkel regime to sell a new deal to parliament – which would have to approve the terms – before Greece runs out of cash in the next few weeks.
To make matters worse: The growing tension between the eurozone partners extends beyond loans and economic policy. The Tsipras regime has also stepped up demands for more reparations from Germany for the Nazi occupation of Greece during the Second World War.
Greece is scheduled to meet with European leaders on Thursday to continue negotiations.
4. Joe Fresh founder Joe Mimran is stepping down, Loblaw says
Brent Lewin/Bloomberg files
Loblaw said yesterday that Joe Mimran is handing over Joe Fresh to Mario Grauso. The discount clothing line is the firm’s most successful venture outside of its grocery-store roots, but has drawn criticism for incidents of unfair and illegal labour practices, especially after a factory in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013, killing 1,100.
Mr. Mimran is the Casablanca-born, Toronto-raised mastermind behind Joe Fresh and, before that, Club Monaco, now owned by Ralph Lauren. He was tapped to develop the brand nine years ago, following the Canadian debut of George, Wal-Mart’s line. It has since ascended to the number-two spot among private labels in the country, although it still trails behind George.
Mr. Grauso left his role as president of Vera Wang for Joe Fresh in late 2013 to help oversee expansion into international markets. Aside from the 340 outlets in Canada, including 16 freestanding boutiques, the brand’s clothing is now available in the United States, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. It is also set to open up shop in Mexico and Central America later this year and plans to enter European and African markets before 2020.
5. Canada’s food watchdog dings Costco over canned tuna imports
REUTERS/ Mike Blake
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said yesterday that it suspended Costco’s licence to import canned tuna last month after the warehouse-style retailer failed to reliably adhere to food-safety regulations. The move follows one count of sidestepping inspection and two counts of failing to notify the watchdog about a load of imported tuna. Costco said that the violations did not present a health risk to consumers, and no recalls have accompanied the decision. Costco also noted that the ban will have limited impact on its canned tuna offerings and vowed to improve safety standards and operating procedures to win back its licence. The U.S. firm operates 89 locations across Canada.