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Noah Zivitz

Managing Editor, BNN Bloomberg

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Global energy prices are spiking this morning as hope for a diplomatic solution to Russia-Ukraine tension appeared to fall by the wayside yesterday after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered "peacekeeping" troops into two breakaway regions in Ukraine as he recognized their independence. Brent crude rose as high as US$99.50 per barrel this morning, and West Texas Intermediate surged as much as 5.4 per cent to US$96.00. We're on watch for sanctions against Russia and will focus our attention on the risk to global energy supplies. Importantly, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said this morning that the crucial Nord Stream 2 pipeline can’t be certified right now.

FROZEN ACCOUNTS

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said yesterday that 219 “financial products” have been frozen thus far under emergency measures invoked by the government. As well, the RCMP said the addresses of 253 Bitcoin holders were shared with crypto exchange operators, and it pointed out that it only flagged “influencers in the illegal protest in Ottawa” and owners/drivers of vehicles that jammed up the nation’s capital. We’ll continue chasing insight on the delicate task that’s been handed to financial institutions.

BRIDGING FINANCE SALE PROCESS ABORTED

PricewaterhouseCoopers dumped a 249-page update about the receivership of Bridging Finance on Friday. A key takeaway: it said it is giving up on the sale and investment solicitation process and will instead conduct a wind down of the troubled lender's assets. And it's estimating that process will result in more than $1 billion in losses for Bridging's unitholders.

B.C. BUDGET DAY

It stands to reason the cost of extreme weather will factor prominently in the budget delivered by British Columbia Finance Minister Selina Robinson this afternoon. At the time of the province's most recent fiscal update in early November, the government was forecasting a $1.7-billion-deficit this year, compared to the $9.7-billion shortfall that it estimated in its last budget. However, the government cautioned in November that its spending plans were finalized prior to floods that ravaged the province.

OTHER NOTABLE STORIES

  • Another day, another bank earnings preview. Cormark is out with its curtain raiser ahead of the Big Six’s fiscal first-quarter results, and its bank analyst is also taking the opportunity to upgrade BMO to buy and downgrade TD to market perform.
  • Nicole Musicco, a Canadian who previously spent 16 years with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, is being hired as the new chief investment officer of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which had US$478 billion in assets as of Feb. 17. Musicco’s first day on the job is March 28.
  • Hexo has made peace with an activist investor that was pushing for five new directors to replace boardroom incumbents. The agreement will see two of the activist’s proposed nominees added to the board, including Mark Attanasio as chair, and four existing directors will step down.
  • Air Canada announced seven new North American routes this morning as well as dozens of other routes that will see service restored in the coming months as the airline continues its pandemic recovery.
  • HSBC Bank Canada is out with results as usual ahead of the Big Six. Its operating profit rose 15 per cent year-over-year to $579 million in the fiscal fourth quarter as net interest income and fee income rose. One notable drag on profit: HSBC booked $8 million as an expected credit loss, which it said was mostly due to an impairment tied to an aviation borrower.  
  • Home Depot announced this morning that its board authorized a 15-per-cent dividend hike, taking the quarterly payment to US$1.90 per share. That came with fourth-quarter sales that rose almost 11 per cent to US$35.7 billion. However, the home-reno retailer cautioned that sales growth this year will only be "slightly positive."
  • CI Financial is doing another deal in the United States. This time, it’s buying Corient Capital Partners, which is responsible for US$5 billion in assets, according to a release. As usual, terms weren’t disclosed. CI also reported adjusted fourth-quarter profit that narrowly beat expectations as its asset base surged approximately 66 per cent from a year earlier to $384 billion.
  • Volkswagen said this morning it’s in talks for an initial public offering of Porsche.
  • Centerra Gold is in the news the morning for a reason other than its long-running dispute with Kyrgyzstan. The miner announced it’s buying Nevada-focused Gemfield Resources LLC for US$206.5 million, including US$175 million in cash up front.

NOTABLE RELEASES/EVENTS

  • Notable data: U.S. Conference Board consumer confidence index
  • Notable earnings: CI Financial, B2Gold, Gibson Energy, Home Depot, Mosaic Co.
  • 1120: Canadian Pacific Railway Chief Executive Keith Creel addresses Citi conference
  • 1630: B.C. government releases budget