Wilders Suspends Election Campaign Due to Arrest of Moroccan Bodyguard

Casablanca – Controversial right-wing politician, Geert Wilders, known for his anti-Moroccan and anti-Islam remarks, announced Thursday that he has suspended his election campaign following the arrest of his Moroccan bodyguard. The Dutch far-right politician and leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) is at the heart of yet another controversy following his announcement. He has suspended his election campaign due to the arrest of a Moroccan secret service agent who has been serving as his personal campaign bodyguard.Secret Service chief, Erik Akerboom, explained that the arrested employee has a “Moroccan background” and stated that he could not disclose his identity at the moment. The arrest took place after the Moroccan secret service agent, who was also in charge of protecting the Dutch Royal family, was investigated for leaking classified information to a criminal Moroccan organization that specializes in money laundering, in exchange for payment.The PVV leader decided to suspend his campaign until the authorities complete their investigation and can guarantee that the security team tasked with the mission of protecting the politician had not penetrated.  According to Dutch news sources, the Secret Service chief said that Wilders’ safety has not been jeopardized.After the news was made public, Wilders tweeted that he “had no idea” about the leaks and asserted “How much more is there I don’t know.”The Dutch politician, who has been under 24-hour police protection for 13 years, has based his electoral campaign on attacking Dutch nationals of Moroccan origin. He recently promised to close mosques and put an end to the “Moroccan scum” causing an international uproar. read more

Morocco Produces 55 Billion Eggs Consumes 180 Per Capita

Rabat – Morocco produced 5.5 billion eggs in 2017, generating MAD 6.5 billion in sales. The Association of Producers of Consumer Eggs (ANPO) announced the figures on October 12, World Egg Day. Morocco’s production meets its consumption needs, with consumers eating 180 eggs annually per capita.The association added that egg production has become more sophisticated in the last few years. It has received investments of MAD 3.5 billion which enabled the creation of 252 modern poultry farms in accordance with international standards. The eggs sector has created 21,500 direct job opportunities and 31,000 indirect jobs through marketing and supply. read more

Haitians seek water food as businesses reopen after protest

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Businesses and government offices are slowly reopening in Haiti after more than a week of violent demonstrations.People began lining up to buy food, water and gas and public transportation resumed on Monday in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Crews were clearing barricaded streets where tens of thousands of Haitians had protested to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise amid anger over rising prices and and allegations of government corruption.Moise has refused to step down, though his Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant said over the weekend some government budgets would be cut by 30 per cent, and he vowed to investigate alleged misspending tied to a Venezuelan program that provided Haiti with subsidized oil.However, schools remained closed on Monday amid concerns of more violence.The Associated Press read more

Sidewalk Labs unveils heated walkways and building raincoats for Quayside

TORONTO — Sidewalk Labs offered a glimpse at a handful of high-tech prototypes it hopes to launch in a waterfront smart city it has proposed for Toronto on Friday.The Alphabet Inc.-backed entity showed off technologies it previously teased, including hexagonal sidewalks that light up to indicate a change in a street’s usage and heat up to reduce ice and snow, and “building raincoats” that can adjust to provide cover from cold weather or rain but open up in warm temperatures.Sidewalk Labs has long touted the innovations as a way it believes it can transform communities — including the swath of prime land known as Quayside that it hopes to develop with Waterfront Toronto.“It is totally different to see it in its real world context and understand its real impact,” said Jesse Shapins, the director of public realm at Sidewalk Labs, who said nailing down exactly what building either the raincoats or streets would cost is tough, but he believes they will be “comparatively less” than a glass “arcade” walkway.  “Starting to do something like this helps us learn about some of the cost elements, but we imagine doing them on a larger scale and more of them, the costs go down.”The unveilings come as Sidewalk Labs is facing criticism over hopes to lay claim to a cut of the city’s developer fees and property taxes in exchange for funding a light rail transit line and underground infrastructure in and around the Quayside neighbourhood.In previous months Sidewalk Labs was dealing with concerns around Quayside’s potential data, privacy and intellectual property policies.While Sidewalk Labs has often been accused of being secretive, the company has tried to foster a sense of transparency with Quayside meetings to collect feedback and open houses at a waterfront office it opened to construct prototypes.The company will host a Saturday open house for the public to see the innovations it has been working on, which Shapins hoped would generate feedback.Shapins said those who attend will see the high-tech sidewalk — a series of concrete pavers that can be made porous to make a street more resilient when faced with water. He said the pavers can be removed individually when damaged, so extensive road closures and crews are not needed.Lighting, he said, could be incorporated into the pavers to “reprogram” streets for high traffic, construction, bikes and special events, proving much more efficient than paint.Shapins was also excited to show off the “building raincoats,” which are built with a plastic-like film and can be used to transition a space from indoors to outdoors depending on the weather.“The raincoat provides an additional way to expand so a farmers market can happen inside but also outside as well,” he said.“There’s even the opportunity to use them as expanded patio spaces so the patio season doesn’t have to start at the beginning of summer. It could start earlier when you have something like this.”Shapins said he expects the raincoats will come in handy in Quayside, where it can get cold and windy quickly and where research he’s seen has estimated that weather is only “comfortable” 30 per cent of the year.Sidewalk Labs, he revealed, will next look at testing the technology behind the tall timber buildings and the “stoa” — a term Sidewalk is using to mean flexible, ground floor spaces — proposed for Quayside.Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press read more

Chariot Oil Gas Upgrades NewlyAcquired Asset Offshore Morocco

Rabat – Chariot Oil & Gas has announced a new independent report that shows the Anchois gas resources have been upgraded to approximately one trillion cubic feet. The new report includes the new satellite prospects, including “Anchois North,” which according to consulting firm Netherland Sewell & Associates has a 43% chance of geological success. Chariot Oil & Gas also claim that the Anchois project has the potential to include five more satellites. Their main blocks of interest lie off the coastline of Mohammedia and Kenitra, north of Rabat. Larry Bottomley, chief executive of Chariot, said, “this independent third party evaluation confirms that the Anchois discovery and its nearby satellite prospects present Chariot with an exciting and commercially attractive development opportunity”. The news comes after Chariot announced in April the acquisition of the Lixus license, which hosts Anchois. Experts say that Anchois will act as a Kickstarter for a hub-approach in the region.According to Chariot’s website, Morocco holds some of the most competitive fiscal and commercial terms in the world. The firm added that other incentives of operating in Morocco include a robust regulatory framework and highly regarded state oil company, ONHYM (the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines). ONHYM is a partner in the Lixus license, with a 25% stake in the asset.The acquisition came after a disappointing year for Rabat Deep’s exploration well off Morocco’s coast, coupled with the failure of the Prospect S well offshore Namibia.This low-risk, low-cost acquisition has been good news for Chariot Oil & Gas, with their shares rising more than 100% in the weeks after the deal. read more

Icelandair stops Tampa service over grounded 737 Max planes

TAMPA, Fla. — Icelandair has pulled out of Tampa International Airport because the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max jets has left it short of planes.The airline told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday that it was immediately halting flights from Florida.It said the grounded planes made up 14 per cent of its fleet, and adjustments had to be made. The redesigned planes were grounded by all carriers worldwide earlier this year after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people.Icelandair had been offering multiple flights per week to Reykjavik from Tampa. It earlier cut flights from Cleveland and Nova Scotia.___Information from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), http://www.tampabay.com.The Associated Press read more

UN refugee chief begins visit to volatile eastern DR Congo

António Guterres is expected to fly over the conflict zone in North Kivu province and assess UN operations there, according to a press release issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva.An estimated 800,000 Congolese are now internally displaced within North Kivu, including 170,000 who have been forced to flee in only the past four months since fighting escalated between Government forces (known as FARDC), renegade troops loyal to General Laurent Nkunda and rebels.The security situation is so difficult that UNHCR teams and other relief workers are unable to reach many areas of North Kivu, which borders Rwanda and Uganda in the far east of the vast DRC.Yesterday Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement through his spokesperson expressing alarm at the intense fighting and its impact on civilians.“The United Nations is working closely with the Government of the DRC and with others to help bring peace and security to this troubled region,” the statement noted. “The Secretary-General calls on the forces of Laurent Nkunda to lay down their arms.”More than 4,500 blue helmets with the UN peacekeeping mission to the DRC (known by its French acronym MONUC) have been deployed to North Kivu to help ensure the defence of Goma, the provincial capital, and the key town of Saké.Before leaving Geneva, Mr. Guterres said he was “deeply concerned by the suffering of the people and the terrible humanitarian situation they are facing, made even worse by this fresh round of fighting. I also want to visit our staff who are working under great pressure and security constraints to provide those displaced with the assistance and protection they badly need.”The High Commissioner is scheduled to arrive tonight in Kinshasa, the DRC capital, where he will hold talks tomorrow with President Laurent Kabila. Then he is slated to head to Goma, where he will meet with local authorities, MONUC officials, UN agencies and partner humanitarian organizations. He will also visit areas where the displaced are sheltering, including camps and makeshift sites that are already reaching full capacity.The eastern DRC remains the most violent region in the country, where MONUC has otherwise overseen the transition from a six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives in fighting and attendant hunger and disease – widely considered the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II – to gradual stabilization, culminating in the first democratic elections in over four decades last year. 13 December 2007The United Nations refugee chief today starts a five-day visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where tens of thousands of people are on the move again in the volatile east of the country after some of the worst fighting since the civil war ended in 2003. read more

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia UN envoy offers new ideas on name

8 October 2008A United Nations envoy tasked with mediating the long-running dispute between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the latter’s official name today presented a new set of ideas to the two sides during talks in New York. Matthew Nimetz, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between the two countries, said he hoped that Athens and Skopje would now study the ideas carefully. “My ideas are based on a lot of thought and consideration of what might be a reasonable settlement, and… they do, in my view, represent an honourable, dignified and workable proposal for a settlement,” he told reporters after wrapping up the latest round of talks at UN Headquarters. Mr. Nimetz said he had not given the two countries a deadline to respond to his proposals, but they had talked about getting back to him within a couple of weeks. He stressed the importance of Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia finally reaching a settlement on this issue after nearly 15 years of dispute. “These are two nations that are living next to each other, neighbours, people who are neighbours, they have been neighbours for years, going to be neighbours for years to come. This is an issue that should be settled.” Asked by journalists if his new ideas represented a final proposal, Mr. Nimetz noted that that it was not the role of mediators to do that. “I don’t think a mediator is in a position to throw down an ultimatum and say ‘this is it.’ And I don’t do that. I don’t think it is appropriate to do that.” Although Mr. Nimetz has proposed several compromise names in the past, Skopje and Athens remain far apart on what they consider to be a satisfactory name for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Interim Accord of 13 September 1995, which was brokered by the UN, details the difference between the two countries on the issue. It also obliges the two sides to continue negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General to try to reach agreement. read more

Climate change to accelerate displacement in Africa top UN official warns

“Too often, the humanitarian implications of climate change and the need for adaptation to the new, more dangerous reality of more frequent and intense natural disasters are forgotten as the world focuses on the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said at the African Union (AU) Special Summit on Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Kampala, Uganda.Addressing a panel on “Natural Disasters, Climate Change and Food Security,” he noted that displacement is prompted by natural disasters and climate change, with the resulting food and water shortages promising to be “one of the greatest – if not the greatest – challenge many countries will face in the years ahead.”Many African countries, Mr. Holmes pointed out, have already experienced the effects of more frequent and intense natural hazard events, including floods and storms, brought on by climate change.Last year, there were 104 globally reported natural disaster, 99 per cent of them climate related, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The number of people impacted in Africa has doubled in the past two decades, up from 9 million in 1989 to nearly 17 million in 2008.Those most vulnerable to climate change will be hardest hit, Mr. Holmes pointed out, calling for intensive water retention measures in drought-prone areas and other actions to be taken.The AU gathering, which began today, is expected to adopt the Convention on Protection and Assistance for Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, which would be the first legally-binding regional treaty recognizing the multiple causes of internal displacement and that natural disasters and conflict are drivers of this phenomenon.During his five-day visit to Uganda, Mr. Holmes will also tour areas of the north of the Great Lakes nation where nearly 2 million people have been driven from their homes by over two decades of fighting between the Government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). 22 October 2009Climate change will lead to ever greater numbers of people being uprooted in Africa, the top United Nations humanitarian official said today, calling for enhanced and swift actions to reduce disaster risk and step up mitigation. read more

Top UN envoy welcomes peaceful end to voter registration in Sudan

14 December 2009The top United Nations envoy to Sudan today welcomed the peaceful ending of the registration process for next year’s elections, the first multi-party polls in the country in decades, with more than 75 per cent of people of voting age registering to cast their ballots. More than 15 million people were registered in the most inclusive voter registration exercise ever held in Sudan. Millions registered in person between 1 November and 7 December in centres across the country.Large parts of the country were unable to take part in elections during the more than two decades of north-south strife, one of Africa’s longest and bloodiest civil wars, in which at least 2 million people were killed, 4 million others uprooted and 600,000 more fled across the borders.The staging of elections is one of the key benchmarks of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the long-running war.“We are now one step closer to the holding of Sudan’s first multi-party elections in 24 years and to achieving a major milestone in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said.He also urged the Sudanese people to help ensure the integrity of the voters’ list by taking part in the so-called “Exhibition and Objection” period, which started on 10 December, when registered voters can confirm their names on the preliminary voters’ list, request corrections for errors and object to the inclusion of ineligible people.The envoy also called on the National Elections Commission to quickly investigate complaints made by political parties about alleged irregularities, stressing that this is “crucial for the credibility of the exercise.”In a related development, Mr. Qazi today congratulated the parties to the CPA on reaching agreement on key milestones to the pact, including referendums.“The road ahead may be long, but this major step forward should make the journey easier,” he stressed.The new agreement between the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SLPM), the signatories to the CPA, allows for the adoption of legislation to govern the referendums in southern Sudan and the oil-rich area of Abyei, as well as the Popular Consultations.Mr. Qazi today also commended the parties to the pact for their commitment to working together productively and setting up a positive environment to allow the pact to be put into place.He urged the Government of National Unity to make the most of this agreement between the parties by swiftly implementing legislation, especially by appointing both the Southern and Abyei Referendum Commissions as quickly as possible.Mr. Qazi, who serves as head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), voiced hope that the latest developments will promote understanding on other outstanding CPA issues, including disputed census results and post-referendum security arrangements. read more

Lawmakers must use their voices to promote disarmament says Ban

6 May 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today exhorted parliamentarians from across the globe to promote the cause of a nuclear-weapon-free world, a “personal dream” of the United Nations chief. “After decades of work, it is clear that real change will come only through consistent, strong public pressure – on a global scale, and from the grassroots. That is why you are so crucial,” Mr. Ban told a joint gathering of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND).Lawmakers are experts in enacting and upholding the rule of law, he said, and their voices must stay at the heart of the debate.”“It is the world’s taxpayers who are funding the development of nuclear arms,” the Secretary-General said. “Tomorrow, they could be paying a different – and much higher – price,” he emphasized, calling for an end to this “senseless” waste of resources.Mr. Ban hails from the Republic of Korea, which he noted has witnessed the devastation wrought by nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in nearby Japan in 1945 and “has itself experienced the nuclear threat.”The weapons do not enhance global peace and security, but rather, he said today, “put them in jeopardy.”Characterizing them as a “moral dead-end,” Mr. Ban pointed out that momentum is building to rid the world of the scourge.Earlier this week, the United States revealed that it has more than 5,000 warheads in its nuclear arsenal, which he said is a “chilling figure.”But the country’s revelation is sign of its transparency, which in turn builds trust, the Secretary-General said.Today’s gathering, entitled Advancing Nuclear Disarmament: The Power of Parliaments, comes as more than 100 nations are taking part in the five-yearly review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to discuss how to further full implementation and enhance the universality of the pact.Mr. Ban told parliamentarians that he hopes negotiators at the NPT gathering will “seize the movement” and “think big” to achieve disarmament targets. read more

Timorese police resume primary duties in another district UN says

Natercia Eufracia Martins now leads the Polícia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL) in the district of Liquica – the seventh district in which the national police have been restored to full functioning since the resumption process began in May 2009. It is located some 35 kilometres west of Dili, the nation’s capital.In a ceremony today marking the change, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Timor-Leste, Ameerah Haq, called attention to the historic appointment of Commander Martins.“An important milestone that deserves special mention today is the appointment of Liquica District Commander Martins who, as the first female district commander in Timor-Leste, now commands a district force of 100, including 24 females,” she said.“Your remarkable and well-deserved achievement is testament to the advances in gender equality that are being made, not only within the PNTL, but also in many spheres of government and society as a whole in Timor-Leste.”Noting that “maintaining long-term stability in the country will require a dedicated and professional police force that is committed to upholding the rule of law and respecting the human rights of all citizens,” Ms. Haq pledged that the UN would increase its focus on the mentoring and support of PNTL officers, as requested by the national authorities and endorsed by the Security Council. The PNTL was established in March 2000 by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), which had been set up in 1999 to assist the country during its transition to independence, which it attained in 2002.However, the role of the PNTL changed in 2006 after dozens of people were killed and 155,000 others – some 15 per cent of the population – were driven from their homes in an eruption of violence.In the aftermath, and at the request of the Timorese Government, a UN police force was established to maintain law and order in the country until the national police could undergo reorganization and restructuring. The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) was set up to oversee the process.Since last year, the UN has been handing over policing responsibilities to Timor-Leste as part of the gradual transfer back to the PTNL.The Timorese Government and UNMIT are working together to implement the resumption process in a gradual manner – district by district, unit by unit. The PNTL is assessed by a joint team comprising Government and UNMIT representatives that applies mutually agreed criteria to assess the readiness of the PNTL to resume primary policing responsibilities.UN Police (UNPOL) will maintain their presence in districts where the PNTL have resumed responsibilities – to monitor, mentor, advise and support the PNTL in a partnership approach, including in the area of human rights protection. 7 September 2010The national police of Timor-Leste have resumed primary responsibility for the conduct of operations in another district of the South-East Asian nation, where it will be led by the country’s first female district commander. read more

SecretaryGeneral urges scaling up of resources for lifesaving immunizations

6 October 2010Stressing the vital role immunizations play in improving the health of millions worldwide, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for increasing funding for an innovative United Nations-backed initiative that delivers life-saving vaccines to those who need them the most. Stressing the vital role immunizations play in improving the health of millions worldwide, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for increasing funding for an innovative United Nations-backed initiative that delivers life-saving vaccines to those who need them the most.Since its creation in 2000, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) reached some 257 million children with new and under-used vaccines. Increased use of vaccines can help prevent millions of deaths worldwide and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for child health – a two-thirds reduction in the number of deaths in children under five by the target date of 2015.“Let us commit to increasing the funds available to the GAVI Alliance. Let us commit to improving health for children, women and men everywhere,” Mr. Ban said in remarks at a reception last night in New York to mark the Alliance’s call for action and resources. The Secretary-General noted that immunization, and the work of the Alliance, is a key part of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, which he launched two weeks with the aim of saving the lives of over 16 million women and children between 2011 and 2015.“You are poised to accelerate the introduction of life-saving vaccines – a plan that can prevent more than 4 million future deaths, the child who will live without risk of pneumonia, the girl who will never have to suffer cervical cancer, the millions of women and men who will be saved by a simple injection,” he told the gathering.“You have the knowledge, the networks and the resources to influence the health and well-being of millions of people.”Mr. Ban added that the Alliance, along with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, are “central pillars of global public health” and essential for achieving the health-related MDGs.Yesterday the Secretary-General announced that donor countries, private foundations, corporations and individuals gathered at the UN for the Global Fund’s third replenishment conference had pledged over $11.5 billion in new funding over the next three years to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.“This work is not just about replenishing the fund; it is about replenishing hope and dignity in people’s lives,” noted the Secretary-General, who chaired the two-day pledging conference. read more

UN and diplomatic partners stress urgent need to end Middle East conflict

20 May 2011The United Nations and its diplomatic partners in the search for peace in the Middle East today expressed their support for the urgent need to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, voicing their backing of the vision outlined by United States President Barack Obama yesterday. The diplomatic Quartet of the UN, European Union, Russia and United States, which seeks a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said in a statement that it “agrees that moving forward on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final resolution of the conflict through serious and substantive negotiations and mutual agreement on all core issues.”The Quartet reiterated its strong appeal to the parties to the conflict to overcome the current obstacles and “resume direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions.” The Quartet further recommitted itself to its previous statements and principles on the Middle East peace process.Last night, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Mr. Obama’s speech on the recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa, and reiterated his own support for the aspirations of the region’s people for greater freedom and dignity and a better life.“The Secretary-General continues to call on the leaders throughout the region to reject the use of force, violence and repression, and to choose the path of comprehensive reform and inclusive dialogue,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson.Mr. Ban said he believes the people of the region had the responsibility to lead the way and pledged the full assistance of the United Nations.On the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Mr. Ban said he believes that Mr. Obama had offered important ideas which could help the peace talks move forward, consistent with international positions and responding to the legitimate core concerns of both parties.He encouraged Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to respond as “statesmen and peacemakers” to Mr. Obama’s speech. He expressed the hope that all sides will demonstrate a renewed determination to achieve a peace agreement that provides for two States living side-by-side in dignity, security and peace.Yesterday, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, told the Security Council that the widespread calls for political change across North Africa and the Middle East will have an impact on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.“The Arab-Israeli conflict will not be immune to these dramatic developments. One way or another, change will come to it too. This change must be shaped to positive ends,” he said.Mr. Serry said there is “a genuine lack of trust” between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, which has prevented the resumption of the peace talks that would lead to the two-State solution to the long-standing conflict. read more

Closing Bell TSX ends 2013 trading on a high note nets 955

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed higher Tuesday as investors closed the books on a year that saw a solid advance.The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 40.16 points to 13,621.55 with gains for the day led by the battered gold sector, by far the biggest loser on the Toronto market this year.The TSX ended 2013 up 9.55% for the year, with the advance racked up over the last five months.“The back half of the year was really the inflection point,” said Craig Fehr, Canadian markets specialist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.He observed that was the point where the market started to transition from one that was driven by central bank stimulus to an environment where investors started to focus more on economic fundamentals.“And that’s a healthy transition,” added Fehr.The Canadian dollar closed up 0.04 of a cent to 94.02 cents US.U.S. indexes also ended the year higher as traders digested a mixed bag of data on home prices, consumer confidence and manufacturing.The Dow Jones industrials rose 72.37 points to a new closing high of 16,576.66, adding up to a gain of 26.5% for 2013. The Nasdaq was ahead 22.39 points to 4,176.59, up 38% this year to its highest level in 13 years. The S&P 500 index was up 7.29 points to 1,848.36 for a gain of 29% for 2013, its best year since 1997.The gains on the final trading day of the year came as Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 0.2% from September to October, down from a 0.7% increase from August to September, as higher mortgage rates weighed on sales and dampened the housing recovery.For the year, U.S. home prices reflected big gains in earlier months. They rose 13.6% over the past 12 months, the fastest pace since February 2006 — before the U.S. real estate crash.Other data showed the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, a key reading on manufacturing in the American Midwest, slowed during this month, falling to 59.1 from 63.Also, the U.S. Conference Board said its consumer confidence index for December came in 78.1, up sharply from 72 in November.TSX gains for the year would have been greater if not for deep losses in the mining sectors. The gold sector fell about 48% for the year while the precious metal has fallen about 28%, the first annual loss since 2000.Gold prices have taken a big hit this year as the global economy gradually improved and the U.S. Federal Reserve made moves to cut back on its monthly bond purchases, a key area of stimulus.On Tuesday, the gold sector was the major advancer, up just over 2% while the February contract on the Nymex shed early losses to move up $1.50 to US$1,202.30 an ounce. Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) climbed 51 cents to C$18.71.In addition to the big losses in gold, the base metals component has retreated 21% as an uneven global recovery kept the lid on commodity prices.The base metals group was also ahead 0.77% on Tuesday with March copper up a penny at US$3.40 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) was ahead 35 cents to C$27.65.Outside of the mining sectors, most TSX sectors did quite well for the year.“Roughly half of the TSX sectors are up double digits or more for the year,” said Fehr.“And when you look at industrials, consumer discretionary, there are some very strong gains and I think the investments that were really tied to fundamental growth, better manufacturing, consumer spending around the world, those are areas that did exceptionally well.”Financials were up 22% for the year. Insurance companies were particularly strong performers as companies benefited from strong stock market gains and rising bond yields.Industrials also had a good year, up about 35% as railroad stocks shot ahead, helped along in large part by rising shipments of crude oil. Fresh questions about rail transport safety for crude will be asked after a 1.6-kilometre-long train carrying crude oil derailed outside of the town of Casselton, North Dakota on Monday. BNSF Railway Co. said it believes about 20 cars caught fire after its oil train left the tracks Monday afternoon.The consumer discretion sector jumped about 40%. Many stocks almost doubled over the past 52 weeks, including auto parts makers Magna International (TSX:MG), Linamar Corp. (TSX:LNR) and Martinrea International (TSX:MRE).The TSX energy sector was ahead 0.47% Tuesday, for a gain of about 9.5% for the year. The February crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed 87 cents lower to US$98.42 a barrel. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) advanced 36 cents to C$35.94.Most TSX sectors were positive but the tech sector shed 0.3%. However, BlackBerry (TSX:BB) gained 18 cents to $7.90, a long way from its 52-week high of $18.49. Prices started to plummet mid-year when it became apparent its new lineup of smartphones had widely missed expectations.The Canadian Press read more

Kitimat key hub for proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to hold plebiscite on

KITIMAT, B.C. — The District of Kitimat, a key hub for the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline, will hold a plebiscite to gauge support for the development that is sure to dramatically change the community.[np_storybar title=”‘All litigation, all the time’: Simmering Alberta oil sands disputes set to ignite legal firestorm in 2014″ link=”https://business.financialpost.com/2014/01/02/alberta-oil-sands-legal-disputes/”%5DSimmering disputes over the oil sands between Alberta aboriginals and the provincial and federal governments will break into the open in 2014 as virtually every one of the many recent changes in oversight of the controversial industry comes under legal and political attack. Keep reading. [/np_storybar]Council’s decision follows the Dec. 19 release of a Joint Review Panel decision that approved the pipeline and tanker project carrying bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands across B.C., for shipment to Asia.The federal government has the final say on the pipeline, which came with 209 conditions, and must reveal its decision within the next six months.Kitimat has remained neutral on the multibillion-dollar project and issued a statement late last year saying council will take the necessary time to review the Joint Review Panel report.The northwestern B.C. community would be the end of the line for the bitumen pipeline and the port where hundreds of oil-loaded tankers would leave for Asia every year.Recent real estate assessment values suggest Kitimat housing prices have risen dramatically, some homes by as much as 26%, over speculation of an oil and natural gas boom.District council and staff will decide the plebiscite question for voters and the date for the non-binding, referendum-style vote in the coming weeks.The plebiscite fulfills council’s resolution adopted in January 2012 to survey Kitimat residents about their opinion of the Northern Gateway project, once the review panel completed its work.Kitimat Coun. Rob Goffinet, who proposed the motion for the plebiscite, told a council meeting Monday night that polling residents instead would not work.“Because people do not want a pollster to phone them and do a check list (asking) how do you feel on a project,” he said.“There’s only one way. I would give total responsibility to every adult citizen of Kitimat who has a point of view to express it in a yes or no ballot.”Coun. Mario Feldhoff, who for the first time declared that he favours the Northern Gateway project, told council he supported use of a polling firm to conduct a survey, which he believed could produce a more statistically significant result than a plebiscite.However, Coun. Phil Germuth told the meeting he believed an unbiased question could be posed in the form of a referendum on the Northern Gateway project.“I have full confidence in our staff that they will be able, along with some assistance from council, to develop questions that are not going to appear biased. It should be very simple, yes means yes, no means no.”The vote is non-binding on council, and it’s unclear how the vote will be used when the ballots have been counted.Staff assured council that although the vote would have to be held under the provisions of the Local Government Act, which covers elections and referendums, use of a plebiscite would give council more flexibility in deciding how the balloting would take place. The act would still cover voter eligibility and the use of campaign signs.Councillors also approved a motion calling on the District to meet with Enbridge (TSX:ENB), the company proposing the pipeline, to discuss an enhanced pipeline leak detection system where a leak could “impact the Kitimat watershed.” read more

Foreign exchange rates

These are indicative wholesale rates for foreign currency provided by the Bank of Canada on Tuesday. Quotations in Canadian funds.Australia dollar 1.0005Brazil real 0.3992China renminbi 0.1872Euro 1.4606Hong Kong dollar 0.161801India rupee 0.01963Indonesia rupiah 0.0000950Japan yen 0.01128Malaysia ringgit 0.2947Mexico peso 0.07213N.Z. dollar 0.9291Norway krone 0.1565Peruvian new sol 0.3892Russia rouble 0.02134Saudi riyal 0.3367Singapore dollar 0.9242South Africa rand 0.09771South Korean won 0.001123Sweden krona 0.1525Switzerland franc 1.3240Taiwanese dollar 0.04161Thailand baht 0.03760Turkey lira 0.3582U.K. pound 1.6459U.S. dollar 1.2628Vietnam dong 0.000056 read more

Rebuilding homes in Fort McMurray Alta going faster than expected CMHC says

Rebuilding efforts in Fort McMurray, Alta., are running ahead of expectations, with reconstruction underway on one-third of the homes destroyed in last year’s wildfire, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.In a report Thursday, the federal agency said the rebuilding of 844 housing units has started and that number is expected to rise to about 1,000 this year. It said 122 of the projects were started last year and 722 in the first half of this year.CHMC market analyst Tim Gensey said the agency underestimated how many construction workers would come to Fort McMurray when it suggested last December only 600 units per year could be rebuilt.He said the strong numbers also reflect the devotion of residents.“One of the fears I’ve heard around the community is that people might just take the insurance money and leave Fort McMurray,” he said.“However … the people who live there permanently love their community and they are staying.”Gensey said about 550 of the units being rebuilt are single-family detached houses and most of the rest are townhouses.The fire that swept through the community of about 70,000 last year caused an estimated $3.8 billion in insured property damage and destroyed nearly 2,600 homes, including almost 1,900 single-family houses.At the current pace, all home rebuilding activity should be complete in three to four years, CMHC said.The agency pointed out a total of 59 new housing units — not rebuilds — have also started since the wildfire was extinguished.On its website, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which governs Fort McMurray, reports that 86 rebuilt dwellings had been completed and received final inspections as of June 30.CMHC says about 99 per cent of the destroyed housing units in Fort McMurray are expected to be rebuilt, adding the exceptions are between 21 and 35 lots in the Waterways area being set aside as part of the municipality’s flood mitigation plan.Resale housing prices averaged $435,500 in the second quarter of 2017, up from $407,000 in the first quarter, a difference CMHC attributed to more condos and mobile unit sales in the earlier period.It said home prices have been in decline since 2013 and they aren’t expected to rebound until oil prices strengthen, improving prospects for the surrounding oilsands industry.CMHC reported Fort McMurray’s apartment vacancy rate fell from almost 30 per cent in 2015 to about 18 per cent in 2016 as residents displaced by the fire took up temporary accommodations.The rate is expected to drop to 10 per cent this year as workers from outside arrive to help with rebuilding.Follow @HealingSlowly on Twitter. read more

Annual pace of housing starts in Canada sped up in August compared

OTTAWA — Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the annual pace of housing starts in August increased compared with July.The agency says housing starts came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 223,232 units for August, up from 221,974 in July.The increase came as the seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts increased by 0.8 per cent in August to 207,524 units.Multiple urban starts increased by 2.7 per cent to 145,618, while single-detached urban starts fell 3.2 per cent to 61,906 units.Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 15,708 units.The six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts increased to 219,447 in August compared with 217,339 in July. read more

Fraser Institute OSFIs proposed mortgage stress test is unnecessary harmful

TORONTO — A new stress test for all uninsured mortgages is unnecessary and could increase costs for homebuyers, a report by the Fraser Institute said Wednesday.Study author Neil Mohindra wrote the proposed stress test “will do more harm than good” by limiting access to mortgages for some homebuyers.“The mandatory standard for stress testing could result in a less competitive and more concentrated mortgage market,” he wrote in the report.The study comes as the federal Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions finalizes new lending guidelines.Among the changes being contemplated is a requirement that homebuyers who have a down payment of 20 per cent or more and do not require mortgage insurance still have to show they can make their payments if interest rates rise.The head of OSFI has said that Canada’s banking regulator wants to reduce the risk of mortgage defaults because of high levels of household debt.“We are not waiting to see those risks crystallize in rising arrears and defaults before we act,” OSFI head Jeremy Rudin said last week.Canadian household debt compared with disposable income hit a record high in the second quarter. Statistics Canada reported last month that household credit market debt as a proportion of household disposable income increased to 167.8 per cent, up from 166.6 per cent in the first quarter.However, Mohindra said that instead of a prescriptive test, OSFI could use its existing powers to fix what it believes are deficiencies in policies and procedures.The Bank of Canada has raised its key interest rate target by a quarter of a percentage point twice this year.The increases have pushed up the big bank prime lending rates which are used to determine rates for variable-rate mortgages and lines of credit.The Fraser Institute is an independent, non-partisan organization that tends to prefer free-market policies over government regulation. read more