As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to force drastic social distancing measures, the economic ramifications continue to unfold. Financial Post technology reporter James McLeod is maintaining a liveblog of market updates and key developments for Canadian business.
Refresh this page regularly for fresh information throughout the day, and if you have business-specific tips, announcements and information that should be included here, please email [email protected]
4:37 p.m. — More red ink in the markets: It was another day of declining values in the major North American markets. From Reuters:
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 3.12% to end at 18,576.04 points, while the S&P 500 lost 2.96% to 2,236.7. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.27% to 6,860.67, its overall decline cushioned by a 3.07% rise in Amazon.com .
In Toronto, the TSX/S&P Composite was down by 623.32 points, a drop of 5.26 per cent.
3:51 p.m. — Liquor stores are an essential service in Ontario: As Canada’s largest province prepares for a full shutdown on non-essential business, LCBO stores will remain open.
3:49 p.m. — Sunwing wraps repatriation efforts: Sunwing said it brought approximately 60,000 Canadians home, including more than 3,300 stranded non-Sunwing customers. The airline ran more than 400 flights to 45 different locations.
“We are extremely proud of our dedicated staff whose efforts have brought home thousands of Canadians from abroad during this time of crisis,” said Stephen Hunter, CEO of Sunwing Travel Group. “This was an unprecedented effort, but as a team we understood we needed to step up and do our part. It is the Canadian thing to do.”
2:50 p.m. — TMX relaxes filing requirements: The company that operates the Toronto Stock Exchange and TSX Venture Exchange announced that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are relaxing some of the requirements for filing for stock options plans, as well as financial statements, and adjustments to share buybacks and delisting criteria.
TMX Group also said that it will relax rules around timeframes fro annual shareholder meetings.
2:35 p.m. — NYT scaling back liquor sales hours: In a news release, the Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission said it will be scaling back hours at stores, and in some cases limiting the number of people allowed in a store at any given time.
2:25 p.m. — Diabetes Canada layoffs: Diabetes Canada said it is pausing pickup of donated clothes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The emailed announcement did not include a number of layoffs.
“This is an extremely hard decision to make, but we have no other alternatives and this is an extraordinary time that we are all experiencing together,” said Sean Shannon, President and CEO National Diabetes Trust. “Our staff are like family. This is devastating. We are very concerned about the people with diabetes that we support, our employees, and their families during this difficult time. People living with diabetes and pre-diabetes, especially those with poor glycemic control have an increased risk for some infections. and your eventual return to our clothing collections are most appreciated”
2 p.m. — Ford says he wants business to be responsible : Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that they will take enforcement action to keep non-essential workplaces closed for two weeks, but business can continue as long as workplaces are shut down.
“A lot of companies haven’t even needed this order. They’ve closed their shop or closed their office,” Ford said.
“It doesn’t mean closing business. It means your facility, we don’t want people in a facility”
Ford said he doesn’t want to use the police to enforce this, and hopes that business will recognize the severity of the situation.
“We’re all in this together. We’re a team. It’s not about government versus business,” Ford said.
Details of exactly who will be designated as essential and non-essential coming Tuesday.
1:51 Ford says schools will stay closed: Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he’s deferring to his Education Minister, but he doesn’t anticipate schools reopening early next month.
“The kids won’t be going back to school on April 6 … This is changing hour-by-hour, day-by-day,” Ford said.
1:45 p.m. — Ontario premier says just don’t gather in groups: Premier Doug Ford said that if you’re leaving the house, go out by yourself or your partner, but keep it limited.
1:42 p.m. — Ontario economic update coming Wednesday: Finance Minister Rod Phillips said that a fiscal and economic update will be released on Wednesday.
“I can tell you that it’s going to be the most prudent statement that any finance minister in Ontario has ever made,” Phillips said.
He said that Ontario’s fiscal response and aid measures will be coming on Wednesday too.
1:37 p.m. — Specifics on Ontario shutdown coming tomorrow: Ontario Premier Doug Ford said a specific list of the workplaces that must close for 14 days will be released tomorrow.
Ford said large construction sites must close. He said there will be a long list of essential services, and a long list of non-essential services to provide clarification on what will be allowed to operate during the COVID-19 shutdown.
1:30 p.m. — Doug Ford shutting down all non-essential business : Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that all non-essential workplaces must close for 14 days.
“If you can, stay home. Only leave if necessary,” Ford said.
1:11 p.m. — Quebec closes all businesses except essential services: Quebec Premier Francois Legault said he is ordering all businesses to close by tomorrow evening for three weeks. Essential services can remain open. Legault said groceries, pharmacies, and the supply chains to support those stores will remain open.
“We must put Quebec on pause until Easter for a possible restart on April 13,” Legault said.
“All non-essential economic activities must stop.”
Legault said that construction and aluminum smelters are included. It includes manufacturing.
1:03 p.m. — Ottawa is developing an app: Health Minister Patty Hadju said that the federal government is developing an app which people can use to cope with the mental health strain relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hadju didn’t give much detail, but said that an announcement with more information will be provided in the coming days.
12:55 p.m. — Markets down, again: At midday, major North American markets are down significantly. The TSX/S&P composite is in the red by about 3.25 per cent, or 385 points. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down by 240 points, or 1.25 per cent.
Looking at the bigger picture, as of today the TSX/S&P composite is down by 32.5 per cent from February.
12:44 p.m. — It’s all about social distancing: To be blunt, there’s not a lot of specific news updates coming out of today’s briefing by federal ministers, but qualitatively, the emphasis is very heavily on the necessity of social distancing, and the possibility of more significant enforcement.
Both from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and various government ministers, the message has basically been that people should be looking at all options to spend more time at home, and refrain from contact with other people as much as possible. This message is going out to citizens and businesses.
Qualitatively, it appears that the imperative for stricter guidelines and enforcement actions could be coming.
12:40 p.m. — Hadju looking at more strict social distancing: Health Minister Patty Hadju said that international travellers need to be more diligent about self-quarantining, not even shopping for groceries or leaving the house for any reason.
Hadju said that random inspections, reporting hotlines, and other enforcement measures are being considered to maintain social distancing.
12:32 p.m. — Foreign agricultural workers: Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said that the federal government is negotiating with Guatamala to bring temporary foreign workers to Canada to aid with the farming season.
12:20 p.m. — Bains says Feds funding vaccine trials: Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said that the federal government is funding clinical trials by a Quebec City company called Medicago, which has identified a potential vaccine for the COVID-19 global pandemic.
12:10 p.m. — COVID-19 1,474 cases and 20 deaths: Federal ministers and officials are providing an update on the COVID-19 situation. Dr. Theresa Tam said that so far they have 1,474 confirmed cases, and 20 deaths. She said they are seeing infections not linked to travel.
Tam said that strict public health and “unrelenting” social distancing measures are necessary. Tam said this will provide time for research and innovation to fight the virus.
11:36 a.m. — Enforcement actions being considered: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’s considering enforcement actions. He also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of closing provincial borders during the crisis.
Trudeau said he’s calling on Canadians to be more diligent about physical distancing to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
“If we see that measures aren’t being taken up properly, aren’t being followed, we will look at different measures to enforce these rules,” Trudeau said.
“Those who are not doing their part are putting at risk everyone else, including the eventual recovery of our economy.”
11:35 a.m. — Trudeau applauds Canadian Olympic team: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he supports the Canadian Olympic team’s decision to pull out of the Olympic games this year. Trudeau said he’s encouraging anybody who’s thinking about organizing a large public gathering, and that includes the International Olympic Committee.
“Stay home, please,” he said.
11:27 a.m. — Trudeau calls on business: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on businesses and institutions to provide any masks or other medical supples. He called on businesses to visit BuyandSell.gc.ca to see how they can help.
Trudeau also said that the government has entered into a contract with Toronto-based BlueDot which uses AI to track the spread of the virus, and the government is looking at the possibility of using 3D printing to create more masks for health care workers.
11:25 a.m. — $5bn for farmers: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced more money for farmers through the Farm Credit Canada program. Trudeau said $5 billion dollars will be made available to food producers to keep the farmers operating through the pandemic.
11:19 a.m. — Trudeau implores Canadians to stay home: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau started his daily news briefing with a call to maintain social distancing. Trudeau said that the government is trying to inform people, with a big advertising blitz coming soon but he also said that enforcement measures may be imposed if people won’t stay in their homes.
“Enough is enough. Go home and stay home. This is what we all need to be doing,” Trudeau said.
10:10 a.m. — Household cash reserves running out: The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reports that nearly half of renting households have less than a month of savings . From the news release:
“As more Canadians lose their incomes to COVID-19 every day, hundreds of thousands of families could soon be forced to choose between buying groceries and paying the rent,” said Ricardo Tranjan, political economist and senior researcher with the CCPA Ontario office. “It’s good that the Government of Canada has announced plans to support lower-income Canadians, but many families can’t wait for support by April or May – they need it now. A lot of out-of-work tenants will be in dire straits before the end of the month.”
9:45 a.m. — Markets open down: After a brief flicker of optimism based on massive macroeconomic stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve, publicly traded markets opened down Monday morning.
From Reuters: “The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 145.62 points, or 0.76%, at the open to 19,028.36. The S&P 500 opened lower by 14.21 points, or 0.62%, at 2,290.71. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 32.23 points, or 0.47%, to 6,847.28 at the opening bell.”
8:57 a.m. — Lightspeed POS makes some products free: Montreal-based Lightspeed POS announced that it is making its delivery software free for restaurants, along with other software products for retailers. Lightspeed’s technology is focused on point-of-sale systems for restaurants, hotels and retailers — sectors of the economy that have been hit hard by COVID-19 social distancing measures.
9:05 a.m. — U.S. Fed unlimited buying program: Early indications are that the public markets are responding positively to an announcement that the U.S. Federal Reserve will be putting an unlimited amount of money behind maintaining liquidity in the markets.
From this Bloomberg article : “The Fed will buy Treasuries and agency mortgage-backed securities ‘in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning and effective transmission of monetary policy to broader financial conditions and the economy,’ and will also buy agency commercial mortgage-backed securities, according to a statement. The Fed had said a week ago it would buy at least US$500 billion of Treasuries and $200 billion of agency MBS.
8:50 a.m. — Keep an eye on the Bank of Canada: Financial Post columnist Kevin Carmichael remains one of the smartest writers in Canada when it comes to big-picture economics, and now is a moment when that kind of perspective is critical. Check out his column on the Bank of Canada’s policy options , and what to watch for in the coming weeks.
March 23, 2020: Good morning! After a busy weekend, Monday is shaping up to be another eventful day for the economy and Canadian business on the COVID-19 file. Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Campagne announced that he has secured three Air Canada flights to bring Canadians home from Peru.
Meanwhile, stock futures markets have been swinging wildly over the weekend, so markets could be moving substantially throughout the day.
Also, once again Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will speak from self-quarantine at his residence in Ottawa, followed by a larger news conference of government ministers led by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. We will continue posting economic updates and information relevant to Canadian business throughout the day.
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