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Home sale activity improves but remains below historical averages
TSX little changed, traders focus on U.S. election, fiscal cliff resolution
TD Bank purchase of Citizens Bank would make it top 5 in U.S.
Wells Fargo Expands Wholesale Banking Services in Canada; Opens New Branch
Coca-Cola investors kept in dark about month-long hacking incident ahead of US$2.4B acquisition attempt
Canada braces as housing slowdown takes hold
 
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Home sale activity improves but remains below historical averages

Lower levels of both supply and demand in recent months are holding home prices in check in the Greater Vancouver housing market.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) patek philippe nautilus watches reports that residential property sales in Greater Vancouver reached 2,347 on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in March 2013. This represents an 18.3 per cent decrease compared to the 2,874 sales recorded in March 2012, and a 30.6 per cent increase compared to the 1,797 sales in February 2013.
 
Last month’s sales were the second lowest March total in the region since 2001 and 30.2 per cent below the 10-year sales average for the month.
 
“While home sales were below what’s typical for March, we are seeing more balance between the number of sales and listings on the market in the last two months, which is having a stabilizing impact on home prices,” Sandra Wyant, REBGV president said.

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TSX little changed, traders focus on U.S. election, fiscal cliff resolution

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market was little changed Monday morning as traders look ahead to a U.S. election Tuesday that is deemed too close to call.

 
The S&P/TSX composite index was off 9.91 points to 12,370.5 after racking up a 0.65% gain last week, while the TSX Venture Exchange slipped 2.46 points to 1,307.58.
 
The Canadian dollar was down 0.14 of a cent to 100.3 US cents while oil prices held steady following a drop of more than US$2 a barrel Friday and copper prices added to a seven-cent slide at the end of last week.
 
The dollar moved further off early levels after Statistics Canada reported the value of building permits issued in September fell 13.2% to $6.5-billion after a jump of 9.5% in August. The decline was mainly due to a 30.8% drop in the non-residential sector.
 
U.S. indexes started the session in the red but losses deepened mid-morning after a worse than expected reading on the American service sector.
 
The Institute for Supply Management said its gauge of non-manufacturing activity declined to 54.2 in October from 55.1 in September, lower than the 54.5 reading that economists expected.
 
The Dow industrials declined 44.93 points to 13,048.23.
 
The Nasdaq composite index was 2.17 points lower at 2,979.96 and the S&P 500 index lost 5.2 points to 1,409.
 
Tuesday’s election appears to be going down to the wire, though most opinion polls indicate that President Barack Obama may have the edge over Mitt Romney in crucial swing states.
 
After the election, attention will turn to dealing with the looming fiscal cliff facing the U.S. economy.
 
The “fiscal cliff” refers to a variety of tax hikes and massive budget reductions that will come into effect at the end of December unless Republicans and Democrats can come together with an alternative budget plan. Economists warn such a shock could send the economy back into recession. International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde recently warned that Canada would not escape the fallout from that.
 
Analysts say there are worries that an Obama victory would drag out negotiations to deal with the issue.
 
“We believe that the possibility of going off the fiscal cliff temporarily is higher if President Obama is re-elected,” said Anshul Pradhan at Barclays Research.
 
“We believe that the Democrats would likely push for upper income tax cuts to expire, but we are hard-pressed to see a Republican House pro-actively agreeing to such an increase. Any resolution may come in late December or worse, after the cliff hits.”
 
Also weighing on sentiment was the possibility that a clear-cut winner won’t emerge by Wednesday replica watches morning.
 
The gold sector led gainers following a steep loss Friday after a positive U.S. jobs report sent the American currency higher swiss replica watches and gold prices down more than $40.
 
On Monday, the December bullion contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose $8.30 to US$1,683.50 an ounce and the gold group was ahead more than one%. Barrick Gold Corp. improved by 29 cents to C$35.52 while Goldcorp Inc. climbed 74 cents to $43.65.
 
The base metals segment gained 0.85% while December copper fell two cents to US$3.46 a pound. Taseko Mines gained seven cents to C$3.12 while Turquoise Hill Resources gained 72 cents or 9% to $8.79 following a power supply deal for its Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia.
 
The energy sector was off 0.3% with the December crude contract up 16 cents at US$85.02 a barrel. Canadian Natural Resources lost 25 cents to C$29.59.
 
The financials group was also down 0.3% with Scotiabank down 25 cents to $54.41.
 
Renewed concerns over Greece also weighed on investors Monday as two votes in the country’s parliament this week could well determine if the cash-strapped country stays in the euro.
 
On Wednesday, Greek legislators are expected to vote on a 13.5-billion euro austerity package that is required by international creditors for the release of the next batch of the country’s bailout funds. Without the cash, Greece faces bankruptcy.
 
If, and when, the package of spending cuts and tax increases is passed, legislators will then have to approve the 2013 budget. That vote is scheduled for Sunday.
 
The prevailing view in the markets is that both votes will get passed but the margin of error is slim, given that a junior partner in the coalition government has said it will vote against the austerity bill if certain labour reforms are not extracted.
 
In corporate news, Silver Wheaton Corp. said its net income fell by 11% to US$119.7-million or 34 cents per share. The company’s revenue was down 13% year over year to patek philippe nautilus quartz replica watches US$161.3-million, mostly as a result of lower prices for silver. The company declared a dividend of seven cents per share, about 20% of the cash generated by operations in the quarter. Its shares dipped 81 cents to $38.64.
 
Mexican authorities have awarded TransCanada Corp. another natural gas pipeline contract. The company says it will invest about US$400-million in a 413-kilometre pipeline between El Oro and Mazatlan, which will connect with the US$1-billion Topolobampo pipeline contract that TransCanada was awarded last week. TransCanada shares gained 10 cents to $45.30.
 
European bourses were in the red as London’s FTSE 100 index lost 0.44%, the Frankfurt DAX lost 0.53% and the Paris CAC 40 declined 1.06%.
 

 

TD Bank purchase of Citizens Bank would make it top 5 in U.S.

As global banks continue to shed assets in order to build capital, their Canadian counterparts have been active buyers. Bank of Nova Scotia’s recent purchase of ING Canada and Royal Bank of Canada’s acquisition of Ally Canada are recent examples domestically.

So when an asset that is even indirectly related to a Canadian bank’s expansion plans is thought to be up for sale, that bank is naturally considered a potential buyer. That appears to be what is happening with Toronto-Dominion Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland’s Citizens Bank.
 
RBS was hurt severely during the liquidity crisis and is now 81%-owned by the British government.
 
Robert Sedran, an analyst at CIBC World Markets, noted that while there does not appear to be a formal process in place, the presumption is that the U.K. government’s desire to unload its stake in RBS is driving the chatter.
 
During its recent third quarter replica watches swiss movement earnings conference call, RBS management noted that while the asset is still considered core to the company’s long-term future, it also acknowledged the need to build capital. In other words, all options, include divestitures, need to be considered.
 
Despite the challenges associated with a deal, Mr. Sedran considers TD one of the natural buyers for Citizens Bank if and when it becomes available.
 
“In fact, combining the branch networks and deposit shares confirms the reasonably higher degree of overlay,” he told clients. “Even after all the transactions it has completed in the United States, we would still view this as transformational, as it would vault the bank into a legitimate top five position in terms of deposit market share in the United States, despite not having a national footprint.”
 
The analyst noted that moving from a solid competitive position to one of dominance in many markets would transform TD is a way organic growth could not.
 
Citizens Bank has 1,411 branches across 12 states and is the 12th-largest U.S. bank by deposit share. As of the end of the second quarter of 2012, it had US$129-billion in assets, including US$88-billion in loans.
 
While the integration risks would be significant and could derail the momentum TD’s platform has already been showing, the biggest hurdle for  this acquisition would likely be the price tag. Media reports peg the value of Citizens Bank at between US$12-billion and US$16-billion.
 
“The financing alone could be a deal breaker, absent some level of creativity,” Mr. Sedran said, suggesting a separately-traded U.S. subsidiary could be spun off to allow the bank to more effectively tap the U.S. market for equity.
 
He also said TD’s roughly US$4-billion stake in TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. could be considered a source of capital, although there has been no indication that TD is not very committed to this business.
 
So while overcoming the sheer size of the deal is one step in the process, making the deal palatable to new and existing shareholders is another.
 
“Even if TD can scrape together enough loose change under the cushions of those green lounge chairs to pay the many billions, the word ‘accretion’ will have to be a big part of the rationale for the deal,” Mr. Sedran said. “In other words, an EPS-neutral deal would not be good enough.”
 
Wells Fargo Expands Wholesale Banking Services in Canada; Opens New Branch

To better serve its U.S. and Canada-based commercial and corporate customers, Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) announced today it is expanding its Wholesale banking capabilities throughout Canada. Currently the leading lender to middle market companies in the U.S., Wells Fargo can now provide expanded lending, treasury management, foreign exchange and trade services to customers in Canada. With its head office in Toronto, the new Canada branch will support Wells Fargo’s existing U.S. customers with subsidiaries in Canada and Canadian customers with business in the U.S., as well as local Canadian companies.

Rick Valade, Wells Fargo Country Manager for Canada (Photo: Business Wire)
 
“Our customers are at the center of everything we do. We want to be where they are doing business in key locations around the world,” said Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO John Stumpf. “Canada is a key trading partner to the U.S. and a market where we see more of our commercial and corporate customers doing business. With Wells Fargo’s expanded presence and capabilities in Canada, we are better able to provide our customers with the financial resources and support they need to be successful.”
 
With the extension of select vacheron constantin replica watches Wholesale banking services to Canada, Wells Fargo now has dedicated teams for Commercial Banking, Commercial Real Estate, Energy and Global Banking. These businesses will be able to directly service and support Canadian clients through Wells Fargo’s Canada branch which includes its head office in Toronto and other offices in Vancouver and Calgary. Specific banking capabilities include:
 
Lending – Wells Fargo provides Canadian commercial and corporate borrowers with direct loans and participations in syndications.
 
Treasury Management – Wells Fargo provides treasury management services to clients, their customers and supply chain partners in Canada. These services are available in U.S. and Canadian dollars and managed through Wells Fargo’s international treasury management platform.
 
International Services – Wells Fargo provides foreign exchange and trade services to Canadian customers on a cross-border basis.
 
“Through our expanded presence and capabilities, commercial and corporate customers now have in-country banking support - whether they’re doing business here or in the U.S.,” said Rick Valade, Wells Fargo’s country manager for Canada. “Wells Fargo is committed to this market and will continue to invest in our services and capabilities to ensure we are meeting all of our customers’ needs.”
 
With offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, Wells Fargo & Company has approximately 75 team members in Canada dedicated to serving its customers.
 
Wells Fargo Bank received regulatory approval to operate in Canada as a Schedule III bank on September 28, 2012. Prior to receiving its license, Wells Fargo operated select businesses in Canada, including Business Direct, First Union Rail, Capital Finance and Equipment Finance. Commercial Banking, Global Banking, Commercial Real Estate and the Energy group will be the first lines of business to operate under the new license. As it continues to strengthen its capabilities in Canada, Wells Fargo plans to integrate select pre-existing business lines into the new branch.
 
About Wells Fargo & Company
 
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a nationwide, diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.4 trillion in assets. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 9,000 stores, 12,000 ATMs, the Internet (wellsfargo.com), and has offices in more than 35 countries to support the bank’s customers who conduct business in the global economy. With more than 265,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 26 on Fortune’s 2012 rankings of America’s largest corporations. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy all our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially.
 
Coca-Cola investors kept in dark about month-long hacking incident ahead of US$2.4B acquisition attempt

FBI officials quietly approached executives at Coca-Cola Co. on March 15, 2009, with some startling news.

 
Hackers had broken into the company’s computer systems and were pilfering sensitive files about its attempted US$2.4-billion acquisition of China Huiyuan Juice Group, according to three people familiar with the situation and an internal company document detailing the cyber intrusion. The Huiyuan deal, which collapsed three days later, would have been the largest foreign takeover of a Chinese company at the time.
 
Coca-Cola, the world’s largest soft-drink maker,omega replica watches has never publicly disclosed the loss of the Huiyuan information, despite its potential effect on the deal. It is just one in a global barrage of corporate computer attacks kept secret from shareholders, regulators, employees — and in some cases even from senior executives.
 
When hackers last year waged a large-scale attack on BG Group Plc, raiding troves of sensitive data, the British energy company never made it public. Chesapeake Energy Corp. also kept mum after cyber attackers made off with files from its investment banking firm about natural gas leases that were up for sale.
 
Each of these cases was detailed to Bloomberg News either by people involved in remediating the situation or executives briefed on the details, who asked not to be identified because the information wasn’t public; or in computer logs compiled by researchers monitoring the activities of hackers in China.
 
Digital intruders are increasingly targeting information about high-stakes business deals — from mergers and acquisitions to joint ventures to long-term supply agreements — and companies routinely conceal these breaches from the public, say government officials and security companies.
 
Investors have no idea what is happening today . . . Companies currently provide little information about material events that occur on their networks
 
Such thefts are tilting the playing field, putting compromised companies at a disadvantage in business negotiations and, in turn, leaving investors in the dark, they say.
 
“Investors have no idea what is happening today,” says Jacob Olcott, a former cyber policy adviser to the U.S. Congress. “Companies currently provide little information about material events that occur on their networks.”
 
 
In the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission last year said that companies are required to report any material losses from such attacks, and any information “a reasonable investor would consider important to an investment decision.”
 
“We don’t credit the idea that no one would care,” says Meredith Cross, director of the SEC’s division of corporation finance. “We think reasonable investors could care depending on the specific facts and circumstances.”
 
Many companies worry such news could batter their reputation and stock price. “They fear that bringing this to the public will do them more harm than good,” says Michael Oberlaender, who has worked as the top information-security executive at companies in the U.S. and Germany.
 
A striking aspect of the wave of corporate hacking is how little is sometimes known about the information taken, much less who is taking it and how it’s being used. Without complete answers, it can be difficult for companies to attach a dollar figure to the losses.
 
All of the ambiguities stack the deck against disclosure
 
“All of the ambiguities stack the deck against disclosure,” says Stewart Baker, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP and former assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security.
 
Despite the estimated US$60-billion invested by corporations and governments in network security systems, hackers continue to circumvent them.
 
The Coca-Cola report provides a rare and chilling account of the intricate and determined ways that hackers raided its files — from pilfering internal e-mails to gaining the ability to access almost any Microsoft Windows server, work station or laptop on the network with full remote control.
 
Computer hackers made daily incursions through Coca-Cola networks over a period of at least one month, often using systems that were first compromised by infected e-mails sent to company executives. The messages were disguised to look authentic but actually contained malicious software, or malware, that gave intruders a pipeline into the company’s networks, according to the report.
 
In the first two days, the hackers uploaded a dozen tools allowing them to steal e-mails and documents, installed a keystroke logger on the machine of a top executive in Hong Kong, and stole computer account passwords for other Coca-Cola employees, including those with administrative powers, to help them move freely across the company’s network, according to the report.
 
It is unclear whether the attack played a role in the demise of the Huiyuan acquisition.
 
Coca-Cola spokesman Kent Landers said the company wouldn’t discuss “security matters,” adding in a statement that it “manages security risks in conjunction with the appropriate security and law enforcement organizations around the world.”
 
“We make disclosures in our public filings when we believe they are appropriate and in accordance with the requirements of the federal securities laws,” he added.
 
Jenny Shearer, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, declined to comment.
 
Like many other corporate cyberattacks, it appears that hackers in China were behind the Coca-Cola breach.
 
While the internal Coke report says the intruders were state-sponsored, its details, including the types of malware and techniques used, suggest they are part of Comment group, one of the most prolific hacking groups based in China, according to AlienVault, a San Mateo, California-based security firm.
 
Companies doing business in China or competing against Chinese rivals should expect hackers will go after their most confidential files, says James Lewis, a senior fellow who studies cybersecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
 
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said accusations that China engaged in broad hacking efforts are unfair “without concrete evidence and investigation.”
 
“China is also a major victim of cyberattacks,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a press briefing last week.
 
Many companies tightly restrict knowledge of computer breaches and swear consultants to confidentiality, requiring them to destroy documents and erase hard drives upon finishing their work, according to more than dozen information-security managers.
 
BG Group last year discovered a breach in its computer networks described as massive by four people knowledgeable about it. It was kept under wraps inside the company, three of the people said.
 
The hack targeted information such as geological maps and drilling records, and far-flung data from the worldwide network going back at least a year, according to a one of them.
 
“BG Group fully complies with all relevant market disclosure guidelines and regulatory requirements,” spokesman Mark Todd said. He declined to discuss any specific event.
 
To gain access to confidential deal information, hackers often target organizations that handle sensitive documents on a company’s behalf, such as banks and law firms.
 
Intruders took that approach last year in a breach that ultimately targeted Chesapeake Energy, the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer, according to a person familiar with the situation and computer logs viewed by Bloomberg News. The logs indicate that Comment group obtained information about Chesapeake’s efforts to sell natural-gas leases by hacking into an office of Jefferies Group Inc., which is advising on the sales.
 
Neither Chesapeake nor Jefferies disclosed the hack to shareholders. A Chesapeake spokesman, Jim Gipson, didn’t reply to requests for comment.
 
“Information security is a high priority at Jefferies and we make all appropriate effort to safeguard client information,” says Richard Khaleel, a spokesman for Jefferies.
Canada braces as housing slowdown takes hold

Long convinced the country’s housing boom would never end in a crash, Canadians have watched this autumn as a sharp slowdown in real estate spreads across the country, leaving would-be home buyers hopeful and sellers scared.

“The power is in the hands of the buyer – that’s what I’m feeling,” said Andria Petrillo, 32, as she and her husband toured a quiet open house in the heart of Toronto, where crowds and chaos once reigned over weekend home showings.
 
Sellers will commonly say, ’I’m going to wait until the spring, when the market is better.’ And I warn them that it could be worse
But like most people shopping for a new home, Petrillo has to sell her old one first. And that’s where she worries.
 
Forget condos, REITs are where you'll find sky-high returns
 
“With the economy, I’d like to sell now. I worry about selling because it’s a condo, and that market is cooling even faster than houses,” said the newly married sportscaster. “We can’t sell it for a ridiculous amount of money any more.”
 
Signs are everywhere that Canada’s long run-up in house prices is over, hit by a combination of tighter mortgage lending rules and growing consumer reluctance to take on more debt. Sales of existing homes are down steeply, with condo sales hit especially hard, and some long-booming prices have started to fall.
 
Sales always slump as the real estate market heads into winter. The big question will be whether spring brings renewal, or confirmation that the party is over.
 
DEBT RISES, GDP FALLS
 
Canadian households hold more debt than American families did before the U.S. housing bubble burst, which has led the government to tighten mortgage lending rules four times in four years. https://www.top-replicas.com/
 
And data released on Wednesday showed the Canadian economy shrank in August, an unexpected downturn that bodes ill for housing even as the U.S. economy shows signs of recovering.
 
The debate in Canada is whether the market will come down with a thud or make a relatively soft landing, as most mainstream economists predict. They see a 10 to 15% correction in prices and a slowing in housing starts to 180,000 a year by 2014, down sharply from the 220,000 range today. In that scenario, GDP growth would be cut by 1 to 1.5 percentage points, according to CIBC World Markets.
 
The Bank of Canada has forecast economic growth of just 2.3% in 2013 and 2.4% in 2014.
 
“In a final analysis, not all is well in the Canadian housing market,” CIBC economist Benjamin Tal wrote in a recent report, pointing to prices that have overshot fundamentals in large cities like Toronto and Vancouver.
 
Tal believes slower sales activity will be followed by falling prices in many cities. But he says Canadian lending standards have been higher, and borrowers more cautious, than in the United States before its crash, which will prevent large-scale mortgage defaults and plunging prices.
 
Mindful of what happened in the United States, the Canadian government has tightened mortgage rules to prevent home buyers from taking on too much debt. While interest rates are low and expected to stay low into 2013, the fear is that eventual rate hikes will drive borrowers out of their homes or into bankruptcy.
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