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Noah Zivitz

Managing Editor, BNN Bloomberg

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Inflation is the watchword today, starting with major Canadian earnings, where price makers are being separated from price takers.

  • Let’s start with Canadian National Railway after a quarter for the ages. Record revenue (up 21%). Record adjusted profit (up 30%). The all-time high revenue is being attributed in part to higher fuel surcharge rates and freight rate increases. In other words, CN flexed pricing power with customers. Digging a couple layers deeper, other than grain and fertilizer, revenue rose double-digits across all the major freight categories, led by a 56 per cent surge in the haul from coal shipments. Not a bad showing for Tracy Robinson's first full quarter as CN's chief executive. Bit of a peculiar signal from the market, however. CN’s New York-listed shares at one point were seen almost 16 per cent higher in extended trading hours. However, the stock only rose about three per cent at the start of regular trading.  
  • Teck Resources said its second-quarter operating costs soared 14 per cent, largely because of its diesel tab. And it’s warning of up to US$1.5 billion in costs tied to COVID-19 at its QB2 project as Omicron hobbles the workforce. On the upside: revenue more than doubled to almost $6 billion in the latest quarter and profit hit a record as commodity prices climbed. Teck also announced long-time CEO Don Lindsay is stepping down in September, with CFO Jonathan Price tapped as the successor. And the company said it’s planning to repurchase up to US$500 million of its shares. (Mining sidebar: Rio Tinto also reported this morning, similarly facing a spike in costs. And it set a dividend that’s less than half of year-ago levels)
  • The inflation theme (more specifically, consumers’ response to inflation) is evident at Loblaw, too, as the company underscored growth at its No Frills and Maxi “hard-discount” stores in its latest quarter. Once again, however, it was Shoppers Drug Mart that fuelled gains, as same-store sales from the drug retail business jumped 5.6 per cent (compared to just 0.9 per cent for food retail).

FED DAY

The big question surrounding today’s rate decision, when another ¾-point hike is expected, might be whether Chair Jerome Powell will give any indication during his news conference that the central bank is prepared to ease the pace of tightening as the economy weakens. After all, tomorrow we will see headlines across the globe about the U.S. slipping into a technical recession if the headline second-quarter figure has a minus sign in front of it. Ahead of the rate decision we’ll speak with ex-Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart at 9:10 a.m.

MORE PAIN FOR SHOPIFY

Yesterday it was job cuts and Tobi Lütke’s admission that he misread the pandemic boom that drove down Shopify’s shares. This morning, there’s no relief in fundamentals on the back of disappointing second-quarter gross merchandise volume, not to mention the swing to a loss. However, after falling in pre-market trading, Shopify’s stock price climbed in regular trading on a broadly bullish day for tech stocks.

BIG U.S. TECH DEFIES THE ODDS

Alphabet overcame fears about vulnerability to a weakening ad market as advertising revenue across the Google empire rose almost 12 per cent year-over-year to US$56.29 billion in the second quarter. That was enough to beat expectations, and arguably take some attention off misses on some other important metrics, and we’re seeing Alphabet shares rise about four per cent in pre-market trading. Microsoft is keeping pace in early trading despite a quarter that was marred by a litany of problems beyond its control. In addition to the FX issue that we knew about, Microsoft itemized hundreds of millions of dollars in hits tied to production shutdowns in China, ad weakness, disentangling itself from Russia, and severance payments. The ad narrative will continue this afternoon when Meta Platforms reports after markets close.

OTHER NOTABLE STORIES

  • First National Financial provided a snapshot of slowing demand for mortgages as rate hikes pile up. The Toronto-based lender’s CEO said volumes tied to single-family homes fell 10 per cent year-over-year in the second quarter, “and are likely to soften further.”
  • Cameco beat second-quarter profit expectations this morning on the back of a 55 per cent surge in revenue. It also touted growth in its book of long-term uranium contracts. CEO Tim Gitzel took the opportunity to call out “intermittent, weather dependent, renewable energy” and said some utilities are “more carefully weighing origin risk.” Not everything is going smoothly, however: Cameco warned of a slew of setbacks at its Key Lake mill.
  • Interfor announced it’s planning to repurchase up to $100 million of its shares via a modified Dutch auction, where investors can offer to tender between $29.00 and $34.00 per share.

NOTABLE RELEASES/EVENTS

  • Notable data: U.S. durable goods orders
  • Notable earnings: Shopify, Rogers Communications, Loblaw, West Fraser Timber, Tourmaline Oil, Crescent Point Energy, Baytex Energy, Teck Resources, Agnico Eagle, Kinross, Cameco, Precision Drilling, CGI, Cargojet, GFL Environmental, Spin Master, Allied Properties REIT, A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund, Meta Platforms, Boeing, Ford, Qualcomm, Kraft Heinz  
  • 1400: U.S. Federal Reserve releases interest rate decision (plus 1430 news conference)