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Building permits down in August

THE pace of building permit activity came back down to earth in August, both locally and nationally, after taking flight the previous month.

Statistics Canada said Monday the dollar value of permits issued in August fell 3.9 per cent in Manitoba and 21.3 per cent nationally after soaring by 41.6 per cent and 21.4 per cent respectively in July.

The declines were part of a broadly based trend that saw permit activity decrease in eight provinces in August, with Ontario, Alberta and Quebec seeing the biggest drops.

The agency said Manitoba municipalities issued $296.1 million worth of residential and non-residential permits during the month. That was down from $308 million in July. Canada's permit total dropped to $6.3 billion from $8 billion.

But while Manitoba's August total was down from the previous month, it was still a 60.6 per cent improvement from a year earlier, when only $184.3 million worth of permits were issued. And the permit total here was still running 12.8 per cent ahead of last year's pace after the first eight months of 2013 -- $1.8 billion versus $1.6 billion.

CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld said he wasn't surprised to see permit activity decline in Canada in August.

"Canadian building permits go up and down faster than the cranes on the Toronto skyline, so after a huge gain in July, it's not really a stunner to see an equally large drop in August," he said.

"Averaging the past two months together, the trend still looks slightly positive, with permits in the latter half of the year better than where we were during a dip seen in November-March."


Spying allegations could hurt trade


OTTAWA -- Allegations Canadian spies targeted Brazil's Mines and Energy Ministry could cast a cloud over tens of billions of dollars worth of annual trade and investment between the two countries.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff recently cancelled a scheduled state visit to the United States over similar allegations, Maxwell Cameron, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, said Monday.

"She is now demanding an explanation from the Canadian government," he said. "I think we're in hot water here and this is a major setback for the whole policy with respect to Latin America that this government has been pursuing."

The report on Brazil's Globo television on Sunday night said the metadata of phone calls and emails from and to the Brazilian ministry were targeted by the Communications Security Establishment Canada.

The Canadian government has declined to comment. But the Brazilian president said Monday it appeared to be an act of industrial espionage and summoned the Canadian ambassador to explain.

Foreign direct investment by Brazil in Canada totalled $15.8 billion last year, while Canadian direct investment in Brazil was $9.8 billion.

Canadian exports to Brazil amounted to nearly $2.6 billion, while imports from Brazil were nearly $4 billion.


Stock rises with BlackBerry report

NEW YORK -- Shares of BlackBerry Ltd. rose more than four per cent Monday after a report the company is in sale talks with a handful of companies.

Reuters reported Friday the struggling smartphone maker was holding discussions with Cisco, Google and SAP about a possible sale of all or part of itself. It cited "several sources close to the matter" that were not identified.

Reuters reported BlackBerry has asked for preliminary expressions of interest from buyers including Intel Corp., LG and Samsung by early next week.

BlackBerry (TSX:BB) (Nasdaq:BBRY) was up 33 cents, or 4.19 per cent, at $8.21 at midday Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange, while the issue was up 28 cents, or 3.64 per cent, at US$7.97 in New York.

The company released a statement Monday morning declining comment on the specific report.

-- staff / the wire services


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 8, 2013 B7

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