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S&P/TSX composite down in late-morning trading as U.S. stock markets move higher

TORONTO — Canada’s main stock index was down in late-morning trading as the financial and utility sectors helped lead the Toronto market lower, while U.S. stock markets climbed higher after plunging lower Friday amid worries about the latest COVID variant. The S&P/TSX composite index was down 23.26 points at 21,102.64. In New York, the Dow […]

France extends stricter controls on foreign ownership of key firms

Foreign companies must receive French government permission if they want to take a stake of more than 10% in listed companies in sectors such...

German inflation of 6% adds to pressure on ECB

Inflation in Germany has surged to its highest level since 1992, increasing the pressure on the European Central Bank to explain why it thinks it would be premature to tighten its ultra-loose monetary policy.German inflation rose 6 per cent in November from a year earlier, as measured by the harmonised index of consumer prices. The increase exceeded the expectations of most economists. German inflation was last this high shortly after the country’s reunification three decades ago. Spiralling prices are a sensitive subject in a country where people’s approach to money is still haunted by the hyperinflation of the 1920s and 1940s that wiped out most people’s savings. However, the ECB has tried to calm anxiety about rising prices by saying many one-off causes of inflation such as soaring energy prices and supply chain bottlenecks will fade next year.Isabel Schnabel, an ECB executive board member, said in a televised interview with Germany’s ZDF on Monday that “November will prove to be the peak” for inflation in the country. She said German inflation had averaged 2 per cent over the past two years, having fallen sharply when the pandemic hit in 2020, before a sharp rise in 2021. “There is no evidence to suggest that inflation is spiralling out of control,” she added.Eurozone inflation data is due to be released on Tuesday and is expected to hit 4.4 per cent this month, the biggest rise in 13 years and more than double the ECB’s 2 per cent target. There are several factors indicating German inflation will fade next year. One is that the rebound in prices from last year’s temporary cut in sales tax will drop out of the inflation data by January. Restrictions announced this month to contain a record surge in coronavirus cases could also cool consumer spending and prices.“There is little doubt that inflation will fall next year: the only debate is how far and how fast,” said Andrew Kenningham, an economist at Capital Economics.The main drivers of German inflation in November were energy prices, which increased 22 per cent from a year earlier. That helped to push overall goods prices up by 5.2 per cent. Food prices rose 4.5 per cent, services prices increased 2.8 and rents rose 1.4 per cent.Part of the increase to the harmonised index of consumer prices came from changes to the weighting of items in the basket, which reflected unusual spending patterns during the pandemic.Germany is not alone in confronting soaring inflation. Spanish consumer prices rose 5.6 per cent this month, according to data released on Monday — also the fastest pace since 1992. Prices in Belgium also rose 5.6 per cent this month.Prices are rising even faster in the US, where they increased 6.3 per cent in October from a year ago, the biggest jump for three decades. The Federal Reserve has responded by starting to wind down its bond-buying programme in a move widely seen as a precursor to the US raising interest rates next year. However the ECB has pushed back against investors’ bets that it will raise rates in 2022. Christine Lagarde, president of the ECB, said last week that it would be “wrong” to tighten monetary policy in response to the current surge in inflation, predicting that price pressures would fade by the time such measures took effect 18 months later.“We would cause unemployment and high adjustment costs and would nonetheless not have countered the current high level of inflation,” Lagarde told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. “I would find that wrong.”

Enbridge to explore extending Mainline pact after regulator rejection

The Canada Energy Regulator rejected Enbridge's proposal to use long-term contracts

Top 100 hotels in Nigeria to be honoured at African Travel Market 2021

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UK pig farmers take desperate measures to save their bacon

In Chris Leamon’s farrowing shed, dozens of week-old piglets snuffle around eight grunting sows, vying for milk. But in three months’ time, this barn will be silent, the sows sent to slaughter and their metal pens sold for scrap.Leamon, 59, is ceasing to breed pigs and turning to a model known in the industry as “bed and breakfast” — raising animals owned by another, large-scale farmer or a processor. The move is a major step for Leamon and his brother Rob, whose parents set up the 20-acre Essex pig farm almost 70 years ago.They are making the switch in the face of an industry in crisis: with UK abattoirs struggling to find staff after Brexit, and reduced Chinese demand, processors are accepting fewer pigs for slaughter, leaving Leamon, and many others, operating at a loss.The pair had planned to retire or scale back one day, but “it’s come a lot sooner than we anticipated”, Leamon said.Some farms are suffering far worse: at least 14,000 pigs, and likely many more, have been culled on farms unable to cope with the backlog of more than 100,000 surplus pigs nationally.Pig farmers lost an estimated £130m in the first half of the year, said Zoe Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association, having just broken even last year. At least 40 of about 2,000 UK pig farmers registered with the Red Tractor assurance scheme have quit the industry this year, compared with five or six in a normal year, she added. Others are shrinking their herds or, like the Leamons, switching to raising others’ animals under contract. “There is general acceptance that there is going to be a restructuring of the industry as a result of this,” Davies said.Most abattoirs are running at least 15 per cent short of skilled butchery staff, with some 25 per cent down on normal production levels. The government has agreed to bend its post-Brexit immigration rules to help: 800 temporary visas were allocated in October for overseas butchers. It has also set up a scheme to help abattoirs store slaughtered animals.The visa concession was secured after industry leaders showed ministers and officials shocking photos and footage of pigs being culled, farmers said. But the length of the visa issuance process, along with vetting the overseas butchers, means they have yet to arrive, said Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association.“And will they actually appear two weeks before Christmas, or will they say ‘That’s fine, but we’ll come in the new year’?” he said.Stephen Thompson, a pig farmer near Sheffield, said he feared a further backlog as a result. “Christmas is looming fast, when the whole industry shuts down for two weeks but our pigs keep having babies for two weeks. That is our next crunch point,” he said.Farmers would normally send extra pigs to slaughter before Christmas, but have been unable to do so because of limited abattoir capacity, he said.The squeeze on farmers has been particularly acute because feed costs have risen to record levels in the last year, said Leamon. In the longer term, he predicted further costs from welfare and environmental legislation in the pipeline.Pig farmers are charged a penalty by processors for overweight animals kept too long on farms. And so-called “distressed loads” of pigs slaughtered, chopped into six pieces and sent overseas at knockdown prices have weighed on market prices in recent weeks.Leamon has about 300 more pigs than usual on his farm, bringing the total to 3,500; that has meant a struggle to carry out strict biosecurity measures needed to avoid the spread of disease.Others have far more surplus pigs, though those forced to cull are reluctant to speak publicly. Davies said some farmers had become so desperate they had asked their vets to abort unborn piglets to ease the overcrowding.“It’s the farmer that has had to deal with this, through no fault of their own. They haven’t done anything wrong here and are the ones having to effectively take the hit,” Davies said.There is anger among pig farmers that while most are currently operating at a loss, processors are still reporting profits. Cranswick, the listed meat processor, last week reported a 12.5 per cent rise in pre-tax profit to £68.3m for the six months to September compared with a year earlier, though like-for-like revenue from fresh pork declined.Adam Couch, Cranswick chief executive, said the company had been processing carcasses at weekends to help cut the backlog, and was hoping its Norfolk plant, one of three in the UK that surrendered their Chinese export licences last year after coronavirus outbreaks, would soon be able to resume sales to China.Victoria Prentis, an environment minister, this month suggested that “possibly the time has come to begin thinking about fairness in the pork supply chain”.Davies said that more pigs had probably been slaughtered since culling began in October than her previous estimate of 14,000. One rendering company, she said, had reported removing 250 tonnes of culled pig carcasses per week, equating to 1,600 mature animals or 35,000 piglets. The pig sector should receive “some form of financial support [from government]”, Davies argued. “We are hearing that the banks are picking up on the media [reports] that everything is terrible in the pig sector and they are very twitchy about extending overdrafts and loans . . . everyone recognises that this is a unique set of conditions.”But George Eustice, environment secretary, in mid-November told the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs select committee that abattoirs should adapt by changing shift patterns to, for example, employ more mothers of school-age children. UK abattoirs are struggling to find staff after Brexit © FLPA /AlamyHe also angered farmers by attributing their plight to “commercial risk”. “A farmer who loses a crop due to frost or there is a market disruption or any other business that can be affected by events, that is commercial risk and often it is not fault, it is bad luck,” he said.Leamon said he was accustomed to risk: before the current disruption, the pig sector traditionally operated on a five-year cycle of boom and bust. “You had to learn how to manage in the bust times,” he said. But switching to the “bed and breakfast” model will end that. “There will be less management and less risk, and that’s going to be quite strange for us,” he said. About half the industry already operates on a contract model, rather than independently, said Davies — as does almost all the poultry industry. “It is almost guaranteed that the processors will get bigger in terms of their ownership of pigs. This will test to the absolute limit the capacity of independents to keep their heads above water,” she said.That will reduce variety among pig breeds and result in a loss of “identity”, she said. “But you can’t blame people for wanting more security.”

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