Google, M.D.

The internet is reliable for some things, but when you want to find out what’s making you feel sick, you’re generally better off with your doctor than with a medical website or smartphone app. That’s the diagnosis of a study by Harvard Medical School that was recently written up in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.

The research involved 234 physicians and 23 diagnostic tools offered by websites run by the Mayo Clinic and Web MD, along with apps for the iPhone and Android smartphones. Given 45 hypothetical patients and their symptoms, the human doctors got the correct diagnosis right away in 72% of the cases, while the computerized symptom checkers were accurate only 34% of the time.

When asked to provide not one, but three possible diagnoses, physicians again outperformed their technological counterparts, hitting the right diagnosis with their top three 84% of the time. Websites and apps found the correct diagnosis just 51% of the time.

So although you might be tempted to just Google your symptoms and head to the drugstore, most of the time you’re better off making an appointment with your doctor.

Canadian Retail Sales (Jan) – March, 2020

A weak report to start off 2020. Seasonally-adjusted Canadian retail sales were up by 0.4% in January at $52 billion. The rise in January was driven by auto dealers and gas stations. Minus these two sub-sectors and sales were down 0.3% in the month. Sales were up in 4 of 11 sub-sectors, representing 48% of retail sales. The impact of COVID-19 on the retail sector will become more evident in the months to come. Statistics Canada notes that respondent comments for February shows that business activities have been impacted.

Regionally, 8 of 10 provinces reported monthly increases in January. Notable increases were reported in Quebec (1.7%) and Alberta (1.6%). In contrast, retail sales were down in Ontario (-0.8%).

In BC, seasonally-adjusted retail sales were unchanged at $7.3 billion in January. Looking at the non-seasonally adjusted change shows a different picture. Retail sales in January were down from the previous month in all sub-sectors, except at auto dealers and gas stations. Meanwhile, Vancouver reported a monthly decrease of 1% in retail sales. Compared to the same time last year, BC retail sales were down by 0.4% in January.

For more information, please contact: Gino Pezzani.

JUST SOLD!! 303 1230 Quayside Drive, New Westminster

Canadian Inflation (Feb) – March, 2020

Canadian inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 2.2 per cent in February year-over-year, down from a 2.4 per cent increase in January. Excluding the impact of gasoline prices, national CPI rose by 2.0 per cent year-over-year, matching last month’s increase. Gas prices rose less on a year-over-year basis as a result of lower global demand following the COVID-19 spread, and tensions between oil-producing countries. The Bank of Canada’s three measures of trend inflation was unchanged, averaging 2.0 per cent in February. Prices rose in seven of eight major components, led by transportation (4.4%) and shelter (2.3%).

In B.C., CPI grew to 2.4 per cent year-over-year, slightly above last month’s increase of 2.3 per cent. Notable increases in prices were for recreation (2.0%) and gas (1.7%), where the increase for gas was largely due to the regional Pacific Northwest market. In contrast, prices for food was the only componenet to report a price decline (-0.5%).

Given recent events around the spread and containment efforts of COVID-19 (e.g., temporary closure of stores and service providers), continued tensions between oil-producing countries, the lowering of interest rates, and disruptions to global supply chains, we expect significant impact on prices going forward.

For more information, please contact: Gino Pezzani.

The Comfy Couch

Fabrics that have absorbed a winter’s worth of dirt, body oil, and germs could use some Spring cleaning to get them ready for another year of wear. That usually means using a carpet cleaner to shampoo carpets and clean upholstery.

After renting a carpet cleaner, practice using it in an unobtrusive area to make sure you have the knack of the machine and that the treatment won’t discolor fabrics or cause dyes to run.

Move furniture just slightly—not out of the room or against the wall, as the old rules dictated – and place the legs of each piece back on top of small wax paper squares after shampooing. The wax paper will protect your carpet and keep the furniture legs from getting wet as the carpet dries.

Finally, be sure to open the windows to speed drying, which can take a day or more.

… Or, if you’re not the furniture-shifting, machine-renting type, hire a professional carpet and upholstery cleaner.

BCREA Market Intelligence Report: Sketching Out the Potential Impact of COVID-19 on the BC Housing Market

The latest BCREA Market Intelligence Report: Sketching Out the Potential Impact of COVID-19 on the BC Housing Market explores the potential impacts of COVID-19 on BC home sales and prices through 2020. Click here to read the full report.

Summary Findings:
• While it’s unknown how the unfolding COVID-19 outbreak will impact the economy in the long-term, BC is facing a sudden stop in economic activity with little guidance to when things may return to normal.

• Based on our scenario analysis, BC home sales and prices will likely face declines in the spring and early summer but should recover along with the wider economy in the second half of the year, contingent on the outbreak resolving.

• The postponed change to the mortgage stress test rate, originally slated for April 6, 2020, will mute the impact of falling interest rates for the BC housing market.

For more information, please contact: Gino Pezzani.

Brain Floss

Brainteasers are excellent for improving your creative thinking. Try these to stretch your mind:

1. You are driving a bus with nine passengers. At the first stop, three people get off and five get on. At the second stop, seven people get off and four get on. At the third stop, six people get off and two get on. How old is the bus driver?

2. You have to choose to enter one of three rooms. Inside the first room is a team of ninjas hired to kill you. Inside the second is a tiger that hasn’t eaten for three months. Inside the third is a raging inferno. Which room do you enter?

3. Imagine you’re in a leaky rowboat that’s sinking. Great white sharks are circling your boat. How do you get out of this predicament?

Contact me, Gino Pezzani, if you would like to figure out the answers.

Bank of Canada Interest Rate Announcement – March, 2020

Today, in an emergency inter-meeting policy action, the Bank of Canada again lowered its overnight rate by 50 basis points to 0.75 per cent. This follows the previous cut to 1.25 per cent on March 4, 2020. This move is in response to the spread of COVID-19, which according to the Bank is “having serious consequences for Canadian families, and for Canada’s economy”. In its statement, the Bank noted that lower interest rates will help to support confidence in households by lowering borrowing costs for new purchases and for those renewing their mortgages. Additionally, lower prices for oil will weigh heavily on the economy.

We expect this rate cut to be followed by an additional reduction of the Bank’s overnight rate at its April 2020 meeting.

For more information, please contact: Gino Pezzani.

The Tingle of Spidey-Senses

Spiders can’t “hear” exactly, but they can sense and respond to vibrations in the air over relatively long distances. Until just a few years ago, scientists believed they were only sensitive to sounds from a few inches away. However, the Sci-News website reports that researchers at Cornell University have discovered jumping spiders (Phidippus audax) can pick up low-frequency sounds from up to 10 feet away.

The spiders appear to sense vibrations through the hairs on their forelegs, which produce a response in acoustically sensitive neurons. Physically probing a single hair produced the same type of response. Jumping spiders are most sensitive to frequencies produced by the wingbeats of wasps, one of their natural enemies. Scientists plan to examine the brains of fishing spiders and wolf spiders for similar abilities.

BC Home Sales Trend Higher in February

Vancouver, BC – March, 2020. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 5,741 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in February 2020, an increase of 26.3 per cent from February 2019. The average MLS® residential price in BC was $758,863, a 12 per cent increase from $677,681 recorded the previous year. Total sales dollar volume in February was $4.4 billion, a 41.4 per cent increase over 2019.

“Housing markets in BC continued to trend near long-term average levels in February,” said BCREA Chief Economist Brendon Ogmundson. “Recent declines in mortgage rates and favourable changes to mortgage qualifying rules may provide a boost to home sales heading into the spring, although there is significant economic uncertainty lingering over the outlook.”

Total MLS® residential active listings fell 8.4 per cent to 28,303 units compared to the same month last year. The ratio of sales to active residential listings increased 20.3 per cent from 14.7 per cent last February.

Year-to-date, BC residential sales dollar volume was up 38.4 per cent to $7.6 billion, compared with the same period in 2019. Residential unit sales increased 24.8 per cent to 10,135 units, while the average MLS® residential price was up 10.9 per cent to $745,501.

For more information, please contact: Gino Pezzani.