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- Members of the Teamsters union walked off the job at Canadian Pacific Railway in the wee hours of the morning in a move that threatens to disrupt freight shipments and vex the company's majority shareholder, a guy who managed to install new directors and replace the senior management team when he was irked by their behaviour. The Teamsters, who represent about 4,800 engineers, conductors and yardmen, say they have made "every reasonable effort" to reach a settlement. The railroad has said much the same. Luckily for some, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has offered her help in the negotiations, saying "the Government [with a capital "G"] is concerned about the national economic significance," the strike could have. And in case anyone missed the implications of that statement, the minister added "we are prepared to act." Ahem.
- Bank of Montreal kicked off the earnings season for the country's biggest banks by reporting a 15-percent jump in adjusted earnings per share to $1.44, topping the average expectation of $1.36 per share. The bank did a good job of laying out its exposure to European countries, loading up the relevant paragraphs with the words "modest," "investment grade, and the symbols "Aaa/AAA." It is still too early to say whether BMO's results will serve as a template for its competitors during the reporting season, but BMO shares are clearly indicative of the market's sentiment towards the sector right now. BMO stock is down 11.13 percent in the past 12 months compared with an average decline of 11.51 percent for Canada's six biggest banks. So far this year, the group is little changed on average, with TD Bank boasting the best performance - up 2 percent - and CIBC the worst, with a decline of 4.5 percent.
- Keep an eye on Canaccord Financial this morning as well. The company reported a net loss of $31.8 million or 42 cents a share in its fiscal fourth quarter, but that included acquisition costs and expenses of $41.2 million related to its takeover of Collins Stewart Hawkpoint. Strip those out, and a few other one-time items, and you end up with a profit of 2 cents a share, still 7 cents short of the average expectation.
- European markets are slumping, U.S. stock index futures are pointing to early losses and commodity prices are down again as European leaders meet today to disagree over how to solve the European debt crisis. Germany refuses to budge on the idea of a Eurobond jointly issued by members of the euro-zone that might ease borrowing strains on the most indebted nations. Germany's argument is simple: why would we want to drive our own borrowing costs through the roof and lose our credit rating, too? The rising possibility that Greece could leave the euro-zone is adding a renewed sense of urgency to the talks, but urgency and optimism are not the same thing. We need to talk again about how a Greece exit would work. If Greek banks shut down temporarily or collapse altogether during the forced conversion of euros to drachmas, who's to say that depositors - individuals and companies alike - in other peripheral nations wouldn't withdraw all of their dough just in case? I'd like to hear more about the mechanics of withdrawal from the union and the potential long-term outcomes.
- U.S. homebuilder Toll Brothers swung to a profit in its most recent quarter and said the "spring selling season has been the most robust and sustained since the downturn began." U.S. new home sales data for April is due out at 10:00 am Eastern. We'll see then whether Toll Brothers' performance is indicative of a trend across the U.S.