Take stock – May 7

Contractors took out $4.5 billion in building permits in March, up 23.5 per cent from February.

Building permits up in march: Statscan

Contractors took out $4.5 billion in building permits in March, up 23.5 per cent from February. The rise ended five straight monthly declines. The March increase came mainly from the non-residential sector in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. Statistics Canada reports permits in the non-residential sector rose 47.9 per cent to $2.3 billion following increases in the commercial and institutional components in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. The agency reports the value of permits advanced five per cent in the residential sector to $2.2 billion, largely due to higher construction intentions in both multi-family and single-family permits.

The value of the non-residential sector increased in six provinces, mainly as a result of gains in the commercial and institutional components.

Agrium reports $60 million first quarter loss</

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Weak fertilizer demand pushed Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) to a US$60-million net loss for the first quarter, but the company says the long-term prospects for its business remain bright. “The market is very susceptible to what we call ’current-itis.’ And one has to look beyond today and separate a structural change in the business from a short-term challenge,” chief executive officer Mike Wilson told an analyst conference call Wednesday. “That is why it’s important to remember that even in these extremely tough economic times, people still need to eat. It may sound obvious to some of you, but demand for food will not be affected to the same degree as other commodities . . . For this reason, we remain steadfast in our belief that demand for our products will continue to improve into the fall.” Reporting in U.S. dollars, the Calgary-based fertilizer giant said its loss was worth 38 cents per share for the first three months of 2009, a sharp drop from year-earlier profits of $195 million or $1.23 per share.

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