Today’s news: Trending business stories for January 5, 2024

The latest business news as it happens

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Florida first to win approval to import cheaper medications from Canada

The Biden administration will allow Florida to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, giving the green light to a plan put in motion by the state several years ago.

The Food and Drug Administration made the decision on Florida’s plan Friday, saying that the state’s health department must likewise provide quarterly reports to the agency, including information on cost savings and potential safety and quality issues.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement that the agency was “committed to working with states and Indian tribes” trying to develop importation proposals.

“These proposals must demonstrate the programs would result in significant cost savings to consumers without adding risk of exposure to unsafe or ineffective drugs,” Califf said.

The FDA decision marks the latest turn in a back and forth between states and the federal government over importing cheaper drugs.

The pharmaceutical industry is already pushing back on the FDA’s announcement.

Read the full story.

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4:45 p.m.

Market close: TSX closes up, U.S. stock markets also post small gain

stock chart

Canada’s main stock index posted a small gain, closing out the first trading week of 2024, while U.S. markets also ended the day marginally higher.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 66.20 points at 20,937.55.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 25.77 points at 37,466.11. The S&P 500 index was up 8.56 points at 4,697.24, while the Nasdaq composite was up 13.77 points at 14,524.07.

The Canadian dollar traded for 74.92 cents U.S. compared with 74.88 cents U.S. on Thursday.

The February crude oil contract was up US$1.62 at US$73.81 per barrel and the February natural gas contract was up seven cents at US$2.89 per mmBTU.

The February gold contract was down 20 cents US at US$2,049.80 an ounce and the March copper contract was down four cents at US$3.81 a pound.

The Canadian Press

4:10 p.m.

Jarislowsky Fraser to back Browning West request to replace Gildan directors 

The Gildan Activewear Inc. offices in Montreal.
The Gildan Activewear Inc. offices in Montreal. Photo by Christinne Muschi/THE CANADIAN PRESS files

Investment manager Jarislowsky Fraser Ltd. says it will support a move by U.S. investment firm Browning West to replace five directors at Gildan Activewear Inc. in an ongoing fight over who should lead the company.

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Charles Nadim, head of research and portfolio manager, Canadian equities, at Jarislowsky Fraser says the firm intends to support Browning West and its intent to requisition a special meeting of Gildan shareholders.

The dispute with the company comes after Gildan’s board replaced Glenn Chamandy as chief executive late last year with Vince Tyra. Chamandy has said he was terminated without cause after four decades with the company.

Browning West wants to replace five incumbent directors, appoint Michael Kneeland as chair and reinstate Chamandy as chief executive.

In addition to Jarislowsky Fraser, which is Gildan’s largest shareholder, Turtle Creek Asset Management Inc. has said it will back the Browning West nominees.

For its part, Gildan’s board has said the decision to remove Chamandy came after he agreed to a succession timeline only to later ask to stay on beyond the original plan.

In a letter to shareholders, Gildan chair Donald Berg, along with the board’s committee chairs, have said the board’s trust and confidence in Chamandy had eroded as it worked to hold him accountable for delivering the next chapter of the company’s long-term growth.

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The Canadian Press

1:50 p.m.

Consumer and business insolvencies continued to rise in November

Shoppers walk past a boarded up storefront on Saint-Catherine Street in downtown Montreal.
Shoppers walk past a boarded up storefront on Saint-Catherine Street in downtown Montreal. Photo by Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press files

Insolvencies in November were 5.1 per cent higher than in October, and 24.4 per cent higher than a year earlier.

The Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy says consumer insolvencies were up 24 per cent in November compared with a year ago, while business insolvencies rose 36.8 per cent.

The data, which takes into account proposals and bankruptcies, shows insolvencies for both consumers and businesses continued to rise from pandemic lows.

Business insolvencies rose 41.8 per cent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2023, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

However, consumer insolvencies in the third quarter were still below pre-pandemic levels.

In November, that trend continued — business insolvencies were higher than in November 2019, while consumer insolvencies were a little lower.

The Canadian Press

1:21 p.m.

First Quantum calls on Panama to prevent violence at closed mine

Demonstrators block a road during a protest against First Quantum Minerals Ltd. in Panama City, Panama, on Oct. 25, 2023.
Demonstrators block a road during a protest against First Quantum Minerals Ltd. in Panama City, Panama, on Oct. 25, 2023. Photo by Walter Hurtado/Bloomberg files

First Quantum Minerals Ltd. called on security forces to prevent unrest at its shuttered copper mine in Panama as protesters plan to demonstrate near the site.

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The Canadian company urged local authorities to secure the area and “prevent any violent or illegal action,” according to a statement on a local website for its Cobre Panama copper mine. The company said it had “deep concern” about the protest planned for Jan. 9 by a union representing construction workers.

The Suntracs construction union — which played a leading role in protests that led to the mine’s closure late last year — is planning a march at the mine site, where First Quantum still has some workers and installations. The timing of the protest coincides with Martyrs’ Day, which commemorates anti-U.S. riots in 1964 over sovereignty of the Panama Canal. That’s after the mine’s contract extension became the subject of nationalistic sentiment.

Utramipa, the main union representing mine workers, condemned Suntracs’ plans and is requesting authorities to take action to prevent harm to remaining staff at the site, spokesman Michael Camacho said by phone Friday.

The Suntracs union didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.


12:32 p.m.

Midday markets: Wall Street rebounds as March rate cut wagers hold

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Stocks hinted at a rebound after a dour start to the year as traders stood by wagers that a March rate cut was on the table.

The S&P 500 rose 0.06 per cent on Friday, trimming losses for what’s shaping up to be the stock market’s worst week since late October. The Nasdaq 100 rose a similar amount, snapping a five-day losing streak for the tech-heavy benchmark. Stocks gained after data showed the U.S. service sector slowed in December but remained above a key level that indicates expansion.

Treasuries also got a brief respite from their slide this week. Yields edged lower on Friday with the rate on the 10-year falling to 3.98 per cent. U.S. bond rates had been climbing after earlier data showed non-farm payrolls rose by 216,000, a larger than expected gain and the unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 per cent in December.

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 0.08 per cent.


12:13 p.m.

Red Sea attacks to have ripple effect on shippers — and consumers — in Canada

Containers of Danish shipping and logistics company Maersk
Container shipping giant Maersk said Friday it will reroute its entire fleet away from the Rea Sea where Houthi rebels have been attacking ships travelling the key commerce route to the Suez Canal. Photo by SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images

Canadian shippers and consumers could soon be feeling the ripple effect of attacks on cargo vessels in the Red Sea.

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Shipping companies across the globe are turning away from the key trade corridor after Houthi militants in Yemen stepped up attacks on commercial boats in the region in protest against Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

Shipping giant Maersk said Friday it plans to continue rerouting all vessels bound for the Suez Canal around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope “for the foreseeable future,” following an earlier pause through the waterway that links Asia and Europe.

The route change adds 10 days and hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra fuel and crew costs per trip, resulting in potential price increases for wholesale and retail products.

Universite Laval business professor Yan Cimon says Europe will feel the impact most directly, but that consumer goods and some manufacturing parts destined for Canada also come via the canal, which carries roughly a third of global container traffic.

Data from Drewry, a maritime industry research firm, shows that global container shipping rates surged 61 per cent in the past week alone, with hikes on routes between Asia and North America as well.

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Read the full story.

The Canadian Press

10 a.m.

Stocks steady after U.S. jobs numbers show strength

US jobs data chart

Wall Street is holding relatively steady after a report showed a strong job market is still powering the economy, even if it may be a touch too strong.

The S&P 500 was 0.1 per cent higher in early trading but still on track for its first losing week in the last 10. The Dow Jones industrial average was down four points, or less than 0.1 per cent, as of 9:40 a.m. ET, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.1 per cent higher.

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite was up 0.47 per cent.

The Associated Press

9:30 a.m.

Brookfield affiliate buys American Tower’s India operations in $2.5-billion deal

American Tower Corp. agreed to sell its operations in India to an affiliate of Brookfield Asset Management.
American Tower Corp. agreed to sell its operations in India to an affiliate of Brookfield Asset Management. Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Bloomberg

American Tower Corp. agreed to sell its operations in India to an affiliate of Brookfield Asset Management, in a deal worth about US$2.5 billion to the United States networking company.

The deal is expected to close in 2024’s second half, American Tower said. The U.S. company struck a deal to sell the business to an infrastructure investment trust backed by an affiliate of Brookfield’s, it said.

The sale lets American Tower focus on its telecommunications tower and data centre businesses in markets such as the U.S. Investment firm Brookfield is betting on growth in India, whose economy is outpacing that of other large countries and where smartphone usage is increasing rapidly.

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American Tower started operations in India in 2007 and its portfolio in the country has since expanded to more than 75,000 towers, becoming its largest overseas business, according to its website. The company serves all the nation’s major telecom services providers.

Shares of American Tower are little changed over the past year, giving the company a market value of US$100 billion. Citigroup Inc. and CDX Advisors LLC are the financial advisers to American Tower.

Edwin Chan, Bloomberg

8:30 a.m.

Canadian hiring flat in December, unemployment rate holds at 5.8%

December jobs


number of jobs

in December was virtually unchanged for the month, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.8 per cent, Statistics Canada said.

The economy added a total of 100 jobs for the final month of the year.

The result came as the number of full-time jobs fell by 23,500 in December, offset by a gain of 23,600 part-time positions in the month.

The number of jobs in the professional, scientific and technical services sector rose by 45,700 in the month, while the number of jobs in health care and social assistance climbed by 15,500.

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unemployment december

The wholesale and retail trade sector lost 20,600 jobs in December.

Overall employment growth slowed in the second half of 2023, averaging 23,000 per month compared with 48,000 per month in the first six months of the year.

Average hourly wages rose 5.4 per cent on an annual basis.

The unemployment rate edged up to 5.8 per cent in November even as the economy added 25,000 jobs.

The Canadian Press, Financial Post

Read the full story here.

7:30 a.m.

World food prices post biggest annual drop since 2015

global food prices

Global food prices posted the biggest annual drop since 2015, amid signs that lower wholesale food prices are starting to feed through to supermarket shelves.

An index of food-commodity prices created by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization fell about 10 per cent in 2023, according to data released on Friday.

While the index tracks raw commodity costs rather than retail prices, the steep drop could indicate potential relief on the way for consumers, as food prices ease from a 2022 peak that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and contributed to a cost-of-living crisis in countries across the world.

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Corn and wheat futures prices saw their biggest annual declines in a decade last year, as supply concerns faded. Futures prices for hogs and palm oil also posted big declines.

While the UN’s index is now at the lowest level since February 2021, lower wholesale costs have been taking some time to percolate down to supermarkets and consumers. However, there are signs that food inflation is cooling. The indicator fell sharply in the United Kingdom last month to to the lowest since June 2022, while food, fuel and alcohol price rises have also slowed in New Zealand. In Pakistan, bigger production is likely to help slow food price rises.

The FAO grain index fell more than 16 per cent compared to this time last year, despite increasing slightly last month due to weather-related disruption in shipments from key exporters. In December, falls in the price indexes for sugar, vegetable oils and meat “more than offset increases in dairy products and cereal” according to the organization.

For December, the index of food-commodity prices was 1.5 per cent lower from a month ago.

Áine Quinn, Bloomberg

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Stock markets before the opening bell

Stock markets, January 5, 2024

Treasuries extended declines, heading for the biggest weekly retreat since October, fuelled by speculation that a resilient labour market may delay interest-rate cuts by the United States Federal Reserve. Stocks sank and the dollar strengthened for a sixth day.

Traders are waiting for the U.S. nonfarm payroll report, which is expected to show that employers added 175,000 positions last month. While that’s a slower hiring pace than November, it would still reflect economic strength and add to evidence that wagers on easier monetary policy have gone too far.

Swaps traders now see around a 65 per cent chance the Fed will cut rates by the Fed’s March meeting, down from almost fully pricing such a move a week ago.

As a result, investors are backtracking on some of last year’s most popular trades. Futures on the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 Index slid 0.4 per cent on Friday and the index has lost more than three per cent so far this week. The yield on 10-year notes is back above four per cent.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 52.77 points at 20,871.35 on Thursday.

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What to watch today

Jobs numbers for December are out this morning for both Canada and the United States. Also on tap, U.S. factory orders, ISM services PMI and global supply chain pressure index.

Constellation Brands Inc. reports earnings today.

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Additional reporting by The Canadian Press, Associated Press and Bloomberg

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