My Advice is to Remain Cautious

This week, Canadian stocks are marching to a different drummer. Metal prices are recovering, while rumors of more takeovers are keeping Bay Street bankers busy. I guess new winds are gathering under the Toronto Stock Exchange’s somewhat tired wings.

Just to give you an idea, the S&P/TSX composite gained some ground this week, led by the metals and mining group. Notably, leading the pack was aluminum, believe it or not, although copper was no shrinking violet either. In fact, after 10 months of taking a beating, copper finally showed it has a pulse, which was good news to everyone stuck with long-term positions in the metal.

Contributing to the party were also mergers and acquisitions. Last year was a record year for Bay Street wheelers and dealers. Apparently, 2007 is not going to be much different. Helping the investment banking sector is a host of factors, from the interest rate environment, to tamed inflation, to attractive stock valuations, to the improving health of world’s economies.

A word of caution still seems prudent at this point. It is true that the TSX is at record highs. But, it is also true that the world we live in is far from being stable and even further from being clearly defined, regardless of how well-developed economic theory has become.

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What I’m trying to say is that although Canada’s stock market is still hot, it only makes sense to be cautious, and, right now, safety is not in numbers. Rather, it appears to be along the defense lines, in companies such as dividend paying telecoms or utilities. Sent: Wednesday, February 07, 2007 9:25 AM

Will Canada Step Up and Invest in its Cities? –A Canadian Perspective Column, by Inya Ivkovic MA

Canada’s cities have grown, transforming the country into an urban nation. Yet, our cities are terribly short on money. What they need, among other things, are better public transit systems, more affordable housing, and a whole spectrum of social services. Yet, cities still have to make it to the top of the list of national priorities. (Now, what’s wrong with that picture?)

Considering that cities are major drivers of the country’s prosperity, neglecting them is tantamount to trying to drive a car on an empty tank. And, just what is needed? Well, the cities are demanding more in tax revenues. And, we’re not just talking about property and other taxes that cities have the power to extract at the moment. Rather, we’re talking about Ottawa coughing up more money for the cities and treating them, in a way, as if they were provinces.

Why are Canada’s cities so important? Well, Canada is the second- largest country in the world, yet our population has barely tipped over 32 million. Now, out of those 32 million, about 80% of Canadians live in cities. And, about 65% of those 80% live in cities of at least 100,000.

With such a huge concentration of people in cities, it’s no wonder that almost two-thirds of all jobs in Canada are also concentrated in Canada’s 10 largest cities. And, with such huge labor power concentrated in cities, it is even less wondrous that about half of Canada’s GDP is generated right there, in urban areas.

So, what should Ottawa do to keep its cities happy so they can continue pumping up the GDP? Well, it’s clear that property taxes are not enough. There should be a more pronounced tax sharing plan on the provincial and federal level. There should also be more efficient and more fiscally prudent city leadership. With money, it is always a two-way street.

Here is a list of the 10 urban hubs whose growth not only benefits their respective regions, but those who live in them as well: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg and Halifax. Give them more economic power and weight, and we will all profit