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In the tech world, partying like it’s the year 2000

March 3: For the first time in 15 years, the NASDAQ is above 5000. Plus, Scotiabank hikes its dividend and Blackberry kicks the keyboard


 

MORNING-PLAYBOOK-STORY

Does it feel like the millennium just began to you?

If you’ve been watching the NASDAQ, it just might. The tech-heavy exchange’s index rose above 5,000 yesterday at closing—the first time since the climax of the dot-com bubble in 2000—as tech magnates take up an even greater proportion of the world’s super-rich entrepreneurs.

The products may be different—it’s mobile, mobile, mobile today—but the buzz is in the air, as the third day of the World Mobile Congress kicks off in Barcelona. It’s already been a busy morning: BlackBerry introduced another new phone, this one without the distinctive keyboard, in what the company says is the first of four phones to be launched this year. Facebook and Google execs also made big appearances yesterday, with Google pledging to launch its own mobile network.

This morning is already off to a brisk start, with Scotiabank announcing its first-quarter earnings. There was a spate of economic data yesterday, including the current account deficit from Canada, and today the pace continues: Real GDP for the fourth quarter will be released, but there will also be other numbers, including auto sales and the Industrial Price Product Index. In the U.S., Fed chair Janet Yellen will be giving a speech this evening on banking regulation, and the eurozone will add to yesterday’s inflation numbers with the producer price index. In central bank news, the reserve bank of Australia kept its rate steady this morning at 2.25 per cent, and Brazil’s central bank begins its two-day meeting today. Of course, in Canada, the countdown is on until the Bank’s own rate announcement tomorrow.

Scotiabank announces a profit, and hikes its dividend. The bank is the last of the Big Six Canadian banks to report its first-quarter earnings, in an early-morning announcement today. The Bank of Nova Scotia announced a $1.726-billion net profit, up one per cent, and hiked its dividend by two cents. However, the earnings came in slightly below expectations. Last week’s bank earning reports were overall stronger than expected—with RBC even posting record quarterly earnings—despite forecasts that the major banks would be feeling the burn from a rate cut and cutbacks in the energy industry.

It pays to be a tech titan. Bill Gates may still be perched at the top of the world’s rich list, but he is increasingly joined by younger tech names, from the founder of Snapchat to the men behind Uber. As the Globe points out, seven of the world’s 15 richest “self-made billionaires” are now from the tech world, with a combined wealth of more than $425 billion, a pot of money that increased by more than 10 per cent last year alone. While there were massive IPOs last year, including for the e-commerce site Alibaba, other companies, particularly Uber, have eschewed public offerings as money has just continued to roll in. The spotlight is on the tech world this week (if the spotlight ever goes off is another question) for the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, where Google’s Sundar Pichai announced yesterday that the company wants to found its own mobile network in the U.S. Pichai said the tech company’s efforts would be on a small scale and experimental, but those words may not convince the largest American operators, after Google was said to have held talks with two of its smaller competitors.

Are Canadian factories slowing down? So say yesterday’s manufacturing numbers, released in an RBC index, which reported that manufacturing growth across the country fell below the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction, to 48.7, in February. That’s the lowest rate in the survey’s history; granted, the survey has only been around for three years. The index came the same day as Statistics Canada’s release of fourth-quarter balance of international payments showed that foreign investors had divested $3.5 billion in equity, while buying up $3.7 billion in debt. The report also undermined hope that the oil rout was being plugged by an increase in exports: The current account deficit widened by $4.3 billion, hitting almost $14 billion last quarter. The loonie fell 0.20 cents by the end of the day.

There are more men named John than there are women running big American companies. You read that right. Among the heads of the 1,500 S&P companies, the name John is more common than the female gender, and men named either John, Robert, William or James are four times more common than women. The New York Times’ Upshot contributor, Justin Wolfers, coined the rating system for what he calls the Glass Ceiling Index, also applying it to Supreme Court justices, as well as professions in American politics and academic economics.

Need to know:
TSX: 15,264.05 (+29.71), Monday
Loonie: 79.78 (0.20 cents), Monday
Oil (WTI): $50.37, Tuesday (7 a.m.)

*Correction: For the Scotiabank numbers, I originally put $1.726 million– this is in fact $1.726 billion. Apologies!


 

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