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Market jitters lead to more declines as investors face growing risks

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It’s been a shaky month for investors in North American markets.

Tuesday saw benchmark stock indexes register more triple-digit declines — an occurrence that’s become all too familiar in recent weeks.

All three major U.S. indexes — the Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq — have fallen at least six per cent so far this month. Canada’s S&P/TSX composite isn’t far behind with a 5.5 per cent decline of its own in October.

Motivations to sell also seem to be increasing, according to analysts.

Everything from geopolitical events to concern over slowing economic growth, disappointing company earnings, and higher interest rates are being blamed for the recent slide in stocks.

Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Cambridge Global Payments, said strong growth in the U.S., which has enjoyed one of the longest expansions on record, is “beginning to show its age.”  

“The Trump administration’s double-barrelled stimulus package is beginning to lose steam — tax cut impact was heavily front-loaded, and historical evidence would suggest that the ‘multiplier effect’ associated with government spending will diminish quickly,” Schamotta said. 

“With the Democrats likely to mount stiff opposition after the mid-terms [elections], markets are increasingly aware that the pork barrel is nearing empty.”

Large industrial companies like Caterpillar and 3M, which are considered bellwethers of the global economy, sank more than 5.7 per cent and 4.4 per cent respectively in New York on Tuesday. Their earnings’ reports disappointed investors and ignited fears about how rising borrowing costs, wages, and tariffs will affect company results.

Trade protectionism is also playing a bigger role in the markets, according Schamotta. He thinks many companies that accelerated purchases ahead of tariffs are now sitting on excess inventory, and higher supply chain costs will likely be a drag on earnings for many years to come. 

Higher rates hurt liquidity

Added to the slump in stocks, the CBOE Volatlity Index, which measures trading volatility on Wall Street, jumped as much as 25 per cent today to its highest in more than a week.

Bipan Rai, executive director of macro strategy at CIBC Capital Markets, said there are definitely more risks ahead, given that central banks are no longer providing the degree of liquidity that they had been in years past.

“All else being equal, it’s the liquidity withdrawal story that is most relevant, considering that is what causes the rate at which future returns are discounted to rise,” Rai said.

“Liquidity withdrawal will affect higher premium assets like emerging market assets and global equities first, before they move into other assets. This is a theme that markets will have to deal with in the quarters ahead,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada is widely expected to raise interest rates on Wednesday for the fifth time since it started its tightening cycle in July of last year.

Falling oil

Strategists at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch expect the central bank to continue to raise its key lending rate after tomorrow’s expected rise until it hits 2.75 per cent by the end of 2019.

Another factor weighing on the Canadian market was declining oil prices, which brought down heavyweight energy shares like Suncor Energy and Imperial Oil.

Crude oil prices fell to their lowest level since September, tumbling more than four per cent in New York, after Saudi Arabia pledged to meet any supply shortfall that resulted from Iranian sanctions.

Alfonso Esparza, senior market strategist at foreign exchange brokerage Oanda, said the bull run in the stock market is at a turning point where it’s running out of steam at a time of high uncertainty in world politics.

“The last quarter of 2018 will be packed with market events as central banks are expected to close out the year with major policy decisions, while there are big political events like the U.S. midterms, Italian budget, Brazil elections, etc.,” he said. 

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Ontario’s new automated speed enforcement explained

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(NC) To wage the war against speeding, many municipalities across Ontario have turned to automated speed enforcement. Most recently introduced in Toronto, speed cameras are a high-tech solution to reduce speeding and are considered one of the most effective ways to create safer roads and save lives.  

Recognizing police officers cannot catch all speeders, these cameras fill the gap, providing monitoring in specific locations around the clock. When a car’s speed is even one kilometre over the posted amount, it will take a picture of the offending vehicle’s license plate, using the captured photo as indisputable evidence. A ticket is then served to the vehicle’s owner, regardless of who was driving. 

With a focus on high-risk areas, Ontario’s automated speed enforcement cameras are located in two specific municipal areas: school and community safety zones. School zones are designated streets close to a school, featuring reduced speed limits as dictated by local bylaws. Community safety zones are high-risk corridors and intersections, subject to increased fines and penalties.  

While the Ontario Highway Traffic Act outlines the use of automated speed enforcement, municipalities can decide when and where to use cameras to curb speeding. The act does dictate financial penalties for speed violations captured with cameras, which vary depending on the number of kilometres caught over the speed limit.  

Speed enforcement is not new, but part of a broader, integrated road safety strategy that includes infrastructure improvements, awareness campaigns and new uses of technology. City officials hope for a halo effect, inspiring better driving behaviour across entire communities, not only in areas with cameras. A controversial topic, some critics take exception to speed cameras, labelling them as sneaky cash grabs for municipalities. Governments think the opposite. 

Safety advocate and auto insurance provider Onlia is hopeful that the cameras will provide drivers with a reminder to slow down, especially in high-risk areas like school and community safety zones.  

For those who obey the speed limit, automated speed enforcement shouldn’t change anything about your driving style, says Alex Kelly, Safety Ambassador at OnliaDrivers have fair warning as they approach areas with speed cameras, as mandatory signs provide reasonable notice of upcoming automated speed enforcement. Regardless of warnings, the best speed is the posted speed. 

You can start to understand your speeding style by downloading the insurance provider’s new safe driving app that coaches and rewards for you for safe driving habits.

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Online banking: How to protect yourself from fraud

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(NC) Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, a growing number of consumers are regularly using mobile and online banking to paybill payments, transfer money and make purchases.

Although these tools can give you easy access to your personal finances on demand, there are also some risks involved. For instance, your banking information—such as your debit or credit card number, user name, or personal identification number (PIN)—could be stolen. If criminals have access to your online banking information, they can steal your money, which is why it’s so important to be  vigilant when you bank online.

Follow these tips to help protect your personal and banking information:

  • For your online bank accounts, use a strong password that can’t be easily guessed, and never share your user name or password with anyone.
  • Check your accounts regularly to make sure there are no transactions you didn’t make or authorize.
  • When making online purchases, never authorize a website to save your credit card information, password or other personal information. Giving websites this permission will save you some time the next time you access the site, but it poses a real threat if a hacker manages to access your information.

Most financial institutions have policies to protect you from transactions that you didn’t make.

However, you are responsible for protecting your online and mobile banking information. If you give your details to anyone—including your spouse or partner, a family member or a friend—your financial institution may hold you responsible for any unauthorized transactions in your account, and even strip you of protection from unauthorized transactions in the future.

If you suspect your information may have been compromised, change your passwords immediately, and check your account and credit card statements for anomalies and report any suspicious transactions to your financial institution.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has created resources to help you protect your online banking information.

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Payday loans: Not the best way to borrow money

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(NC) Payday loans are a very expensive way to borrow money. Even if you’re struggling financially, think twice—and crunch the numbers—before getting this type of loan.

Depending on the rules in your province, payday lenders can charge fees of $15 to $25 per $100 that you borrow.

As an example, let’s say you borrow $300 for home repairs. The payday lender charges you $51 in fees, or $17 for every $100 borrowed. Your loan balance is therefore $351, which amounts to an interest rate of 442 per cent.

There can be serious consequences if you don’t repay your loan by the due date. These may include the following:

  • The payday lender may charge you a fee if there isn’t enough money in your account.
  • Your financial institution may also charge you a fee if there isn’t enough money in your account.
  • The total amount that you owe, including the fees, continues to increase.

There are better options out there

Payday loans should be your last resort to borrow money. Consider cheaper ways of borrowing money, such as:

  • Cashing in vacation days or asking for a pay advance from your employer.
  • Getting a line of credit, a cash advance on a credit card or a personal loan from your financial institution.
  • Getting a loan from family or friends.

Before getting a payday loan and to avoid getting stuck in a debt trap, consider other, less expensive ways to borrow money.

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