Loonie falls further following big drop on Wednesday stock markets close higher

TORONTO — The loonie continued to slide on Thursday, reaching its lowest level since March 2009 after losing more than a cent against the greenback following the Bank of Canada’s rate cut on Wednesday.The Canadian dollar declined 0.3 of a cent to close at 77.10 cents U.S. on the day after the central bank cut a quarter-point from its benchmark overnight lending rate and slashed its outlook for economic growth.Todd Mattina, chief economist and strategist at Mackenzie Investments, said the Canadian dollar could fall even lower if domestic growth continues to be sluggish.He said the central bank could cut rates further later this year if the economy continues to stumble.“There could be pressure, downside risk in the growth outlook,” he said.He said the Canadian currency was also hit by testimony from Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen in Washington indicating that the United States could begin to raise rates this fall, widening the gap between the two currencies and making the Canadian dollar even less attractive for investors searching for a return.The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 68.80 points to 14,731.08, building on a 63-point gain on Wednesday.Mattina said Canadian markets have responded positively to the rate cut and signs of a recovery in the U.S.The Dow Jones industrial average ended the day up 70.08 points at 18,120.25, the Nasdaq index rose 64.24 points to 5,163.18, and the S&P 500 advanced 16.89 points to 2,124.29.The price of oil continued to fall as the August crude contract closed down 50 cents to US$50.91 a barrel.While economic growth seems likely to swing into the positive in the second half of the year, the country will be unable to rely on a bounce back in energy prices, Mattina said.Futures traders aren’t expecting a rebound in the price of oil until 2017, Mattina said, which means Canada’s recovery needs to come from non-energy industries. The price of oil has fallen by more than half since its peak in July 2014.Mattina said there were a number of issues driving down the price of oil, including cooling demand in China, a slowdown in global growth and the deal on Iran’s nuclear program that will open up that country’s oil supply to international trade.“That weighs on an already supply-heavy oil market as demand is pressured,” he said.On Wednesday, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz said the poor performance of Canadian exports over the first half of the year despite the weak dollar was “puzzling.”The August gold contract fell $3.50 to US$1,143.90 an ounce and the August contract for natural gas was down 6.4 cents to US$2.85 per thousand cubic feet. read more

Companies in ailing oilpatch look for ways to avoid or delay layoffs

CALGARY — Companies in the ailing oilpatch are looking at ways to avoid layoffs — or at the very least to forestall or minimize them.Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has not had to trim its workforce of more than 7,600 as a result of the crude price collapse.“In lieu of layoffs, we went to our staff and said ‘we will do wage reductions.’ And every employee who made more than $50,000 had a wage reduction,” chairman Murray Edwards said to applause at a recent business forum in Lake Louise, Alta.“The majority of employees said they would rather … keep the team together than to have people laid off.”The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has estimated at least 40,000 jobs have been shed in Canada’s oil and gas industry this year, with the bulk in Alberta.With oil prices hovering below US$50 a barrel for much of this year — and dropping below US$40 in recent days — it’s been tough for oil producers to justify investing in new projects.About 1,500 job losses have been announced at oilsands giant Cenovus Energy this year. But in addition to that, the company has taken a hard look at benefits and discretionary spending, said CEO Brian Ferguson.“We did put in a salary freeze in 2015 as did, I think, most of industry. We have reassessed all of our time off practices.”Debby Carreau, CEO of human resources consulting firm Inspired HR, encourages employers to look at all their options before they resort to letting staff go.Never mind $35 a barrel, Canada’s oil is selling for closer to $20Encana Corp slashes dividend and cuts capital spending by more than a quarterThat could include reducing or delaying contributions to Registered Retirement Savings Plans, suspending health spending accounts, freezing salaries or slashing bonuses.Some companies that have cut salaries are rewarding employees with stock. Others have instituted shortened work weeks or given employees “unpaid sabatticals” until things look up.And some have encouraged employees to go back to school or brush up on their training, with a promise that they’ll have a job to return to.Instead of catered lunches in the office every day, maybe it’s sandwiches from Subway once every two weeks now, said Carreau.“Those peripheral fringe benefits can actually add up, especially in Calgary where we’ve had such lucrative compensation plans,” she said.“Some of those things that people don’t automatically look at can actually save on costs and send the right message to the organization — that you care, but you’re doing everything you can to keep the jobs.”Integra Ltd., a company with fewer than 30 employees that helps oil and gas companies manage their documents, has done everything possible to avoid layoffs, said partner Chris Blender.Blender and the firm’s other partners have taken a pay cut. Integra also found a new benefits provider that offers the same services as the old one, but at a lower cost.“Because we’re in the service industry, people are our business and we spend a lot of time to attract and train our people,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is let anybody go during this time.” read more