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Asia shares up on hopes for China stimulus, Brexit vote awaited

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks rose on Tuesday, supported by a bounce in Chinese shares amid hopes for government stimulus, while sterling braced for the vote in parliament over the British government’s plan to exit the European Union.

FILE PHOTO: A man looks at an electronic board showing the Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The odds look stacked against Prime Minister Theresa May winning approval for her deal. Voting is expected to start about 1900 GMT Tuesday.

Spreadbetters expected European stocks to follow Asia’s lead and open higher, with Britain’s FTSE .FTSE seen gaining 0.55 percent, Germany’s DAX .GDAXI 0.7 percent and France’s CAC .FCHI 0.6 percent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS recovered from early losses and advanced 1.3 percent. South Korea’s Kospi .KS11 hit a one-month high and Japan’s Nikkei .N225 added 1 percent.

In China, the CSI300 index of Shanghai and Shenzhen shares .CSI300 was up 1.7 percent amid expectations of more government policy measures to prop-up a slowing economy.

China’s state planner said on Tuesday it will aim to achieve “a good start” in the first quarter for the economy in a signal of more growth-boosting steps.

State television also quoted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as saying the government is seeking to establish conditions helpful to meeting this year’s economic goals.

That came after data on Monday showed China’s exports unexpectedly fell the most in two years in December, while imports also contracted sharply.

Cyclical shares led the gains in Asia-Pacific, with Australian financial shares .AXFJ at their highest since early December while Japanese electronics .IELEC.T and machinery makers shares .IMCHN.T rose to their best levels in six weeks.

“It is interesting that cyclicals are leading the gains today. It appears some contrarian investors are starting to buy cyclicals, looking beyond the last economic slowdown,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities.

“But I would suspect there will be heavy selling if we go up further, to around 2,650 in the S&P500 and 21,500 in the Nikkei,” Kuramochi added.

S&P500 e-mini futures ESc1 gained 0.6 percent in Asian trade.

In Monday’s session on Wall Street, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.53 percent, with the biggest drag coming from a 0.9 percent fall in technology sector .SPLRCT.

U.S. earnings season began on a positive note on Monday as Citigroup Inc (C.N) beat profit estimates. The bank’s shares rose 4.0 percent and bolstered the S&P financial sector .SPSY, which rose 0.7 percent.

MEANINGFUL VOTE

The British pound GBP=D3 was expected to steal the limelight later in the day as the Britain’s parliament votes on the proposed Brexit deal.

On Monday, May urged lawmakers to take a “second look” at her deal, which lawmakers are expected to reject.

Such a result could produce a wide range of outcomes, from a disorderly exit from the union to a reversal of Brexit.

“Markets have priced in a rejection of May’s plan and there are many scenarios after that. Still I’d think the most likely outcome is to extend the (March 29) deadline of Brexit,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.

Indeed, currency option markets are barely pricing in the chances of sharp moves in sterling.

The pound’s one-month implied volatility GBP1MO= stood at 12.625 percent, above the average for the past year of around 8.8 percent well off 20-percent plus levels seen in the days just before the UK referendum on June 23, 2016.

The pound changed hands at $1.2909, up 0.3 percent, having hit a two-month high of $1.2930 on Monday after a report, subsequently denied, that a pro-Brexit faction of lawmakers could support May’s deal.

The euro inched up 0.1 percent to $1.1480 EUR=, consolidating after hitting a 12-week high of $1.1570 touched on Thursday.

The dollar gained 0.5 percent on the yen to 108.685 JPY=.

Oil prices also rebounded on supply cuts by producer club OPEC and Russia. <O/R>

International Brent crude oil futures LCOc1 were at $59.80 per barrel, or 1.37 percent from their last close.

U.S. crude futures CLc1 stood at $51.22 per barrel, up 1.41 percent.

Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Richard Borsuk

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Future of Ottawa: Coffee with Francis Bueckert

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Francis Bueckert: When it comes to the current landscape of coffee-roasting companies and independent cafes in Ottawa, I think we are at a really interesting moment in time. There are more local roasters that are doing artisanal small-batch production—with more attention to the quality and origin of the beans.

With larger corporations such as Starbucks closing locations, it has opened a bit of space for local players to grow. We have been lucky to work with many folks in the coffee-roasting community, and we have found that there is a willingness to collaborate among different coffee roasters. For example, when Cloudforest started back in 2014, we were roasting our coffee at Happy Goat and it was the expertise of their head roaster Hans that helped me learn how to roast. Other companies such as Brown Bag Coffee have also lent a hand when we needed extra roasting capacity. There are others, such as Lulo, Mighty Valley Coffee, Bluebarn, The Artery, and Little Victories that are also part of the growing local coffee community. It’s small roasters like these who have shown me what a coffee community can look like, and that we can help to elevate each other, rather than being locked in competition.

If you care to make a prediction… What’s happening to the local café industry in 2021?

We believe that there is hope and that 2021 can be a big pivot year for small roasters and cafes.

This year will not be ideal from a business point of view. However, it could create a shift in people’s attitude toward where they get their coffee. We are holding out hope that people will support the roasters and cafes that are local to help them economically survive what is in all reality a very difficult time.

It all depends on where consumers decide to go this year. People are starting to recognize that supporting large corporations at this moment will be at the cost of the local roasters and cafes. There is the growing realization that a future where there is only Amazon, Walmart, and Starbucks would be pretty bleak. So we have an opportunity this year to support the kind of local businesses that we want to see thrive.

In your wildest dreams, what will the landscape for local coffee roasters and cafés look like in your lifetime?

In my wildest dreams, all of the coffee roasters and cafés would be locally owned and independent. They would all be focused on direct trade and artisanal coffee. Each different coffee roaster and café would know exactly where their coffee came from. Ideally, each company would be a partnership between the farmers who grow the beans and the people here selling them. There would be a focus on how to cooperate and collaborate with the farmers in the countries of origin to share the benefits around. We would all work together and share orders of cups, lids, and other packaging so that we could get better bulk pricing. In this way, we would make our local coffee community so efficient that the large corporate coffee companies wouldn’t even be able to compete.

We would also like to see people use coffee as a way to create social good. For example, we started Cloudforest as a way of helping support farmers in Ecuador who were taking a stand against large mining companies. This remote community stood up to protect their environment, so that they could have clean drinking water and soil for the next generation. They started an organic coffee cooperative to help show that there are other models of development, and we are doing our part year after year to help support their vision. They have a vision of development that does not include mass deforestation and contamination, and organic coffee is a key (among others) to show that another way forward is possible.

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Special events in the Ottawa Valley dominate annual OVTA tourism awards

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The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association hopes that its annual tourism awards will provide a little sunshine during what is a dark time for local tourism operators because of the pandemic.

The Ottawa Valley Tourism Awards are presented annually by the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association (OVTA) to individuals, businesses, and events that recognize the importance of working together for the growth of the local tourism industry, as well as offering exceptional visitor experiences.

“After a year that saw a lot of businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry being challenged like never before, the annual Ottawa Valley Tourism Awards represent a bit of light on the horizon” said Chris Hinsperger, co-owner of the Bonnechere Caves.

The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association’s (OVTA) Awards Committee co-chairpersons, Meghan James and Chris Hinsperger, said they were very pleased with the recent nominations received, especially in the Special Events category. Submissions were received for The Farm to Fork Dinner Series at the Whitewater Inn; Light up the Valley; The Eganville Curling Clubs’ Rock the Rings; The Ontario Festival of Small Halls ; The Bonnechere Caves On-line Underground Concert Series; The Opeongo Nordic Ski Clubs’ Ski Loppet; The Tour de Bonnechere — Ghost de Tour 2020; and The Bonnechere Caves Rock ‘n Roll Parking Lot Picnic.

“During a time when communities were challenged, it is nice to see that people still made an effort to get together and celebrate, albeit under certain conditions. It just shows the creativity and resiliency of our tourism Community here in the valley” said Meghan James, director of sales at the Pembroke Best Western.

There are three Award categories: The Marilyn Alexander Tourism Champion Award, The Business of Distinction and The Special Event of the Year.

Hinsperger, is excited about this year’s awards.

“During this pandemic the hospitality and tourism industry was the first to be hit, was the hardest hit and will be the last of our industries to fully recover. As Valley entrepreneurs we owe it to ourselves, to our businesses and to our communities to be an active part of that recovery. Our livelihood and economic recovery depends on our efforts. And we will get back to welcoming people from all over the world to share a little bit of the place we are privileged to call home. This awards process leaves myself and others fully optimistic about our positive outcomes.”

Award winners will be announced at the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association’s virtual annual general meeting on Monday, May 31.

The OVTA is the destination marketing organization for the Upper Ottawa Valley and proudly represents more than 200 tourism businesses, comprised of attractions and outfitters, accommodation, food, beverage and retail establishments, artists and galleries, municipalities, as well as media and industry suppliers. The OVTA is supported by the County of Renfrew, Renfrew County municipalities and the City of Pembroke.

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Future of Ottawa: Farming with Jeremy Colbeck

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Jeremy Colbeck: Well first, let’s talk about what we mean by farming. Although farms, and farming as an occupation, are in decline across Canada, they are still a major part of our rural landscape. That’s even more true for a strange city like Ottawa which includes a LOT of rural areas and whose urban boundary takes, what, three hours to cross? About 40 per cent of the rural land in Ottawa is farmland. Most of that farming is corn and soybean cash-crop, as well as some dairy and livestock farming. That’s mostly conventional farming (the kind that is profitable but not exactly where you take your kids on a Saturday).

There are also a lot of agri-tourism businesses in Ottawa, which give you that oh-so-good Saturday spot for family donkey-petting and apple-picking. And it’s totally understandable from a business perspective, but sometimes surprising to find out, that even though they grow some of the Christmas trees they sell, they might also be reselling some that come from much larger farms far away. The farmland around Ottawa is also inflated in price because of its proximity to the city, where it is in demand by would-be hobby farmers—folks who want to do some farming on their property in their spare time but make their money (to subsidize their small-scale farming habit) elsewhere. Unfortunately, many of these properties will have large mansions built on them, which will then make them completely unaffordable for the average farmer

There’s also a segment of small-to-medium-sized Ottawa farms that grow “premium” (artisanal, unique, extra-fresh, ecologically- or organically-grown etc…) products that they sell directly to local eaters via farmers’ markets or other direct marketing channels, including on-farm stores and farm stands. That’s where BeetBox fits in.

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