CPP Investments earned 8.0% in latest fiscal year, net assets totalled $632.3 billion

CPP Investments earns 8.0%

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board says its fund earned a net return of 8.0 per cent for its latest fiscal year.

It says the result for the year ended March 31 was helped by strong public equity market performance, gains in its private equity portfolio, as well as investments in credit, infrastructure and energy. 

CPP Investments says the gains were offset in part by overall weaker performance of emerging markets compared with developed markets and lower performance of its real estate assets.

"The CPP fund's growth this year continued the trend of reaching heights several years ahead of initial actuarial projections," CPP Investments chief executive John Graham said in statement. 

"Solid performance by all of the investment departments and key corporate functions helps demonstrate how our strategy is on track."

However, the fund fell short of its benchmark reference portfolios which posted a return of 19.9 per cent for the year, helped by the strength of the U.S. stock market, led by technology stocks.

CPP Investments noted its fund is significantly more diversified than the reference portfolios and designed to ensure resilience against volatility and generate more consistent returns compared with a portfolio that is mainly exposed to public equity markets. 

CPP Investments says its net assets totalled $632.3 billion on March 31, up from $570.0 billion a year earlier. 

The increase in net assets included $46.4 billion in net income and $15.9 billion in net transfers from the Canada Pension Plan.



U.S. existing home sales drop 1.9% in April, pushed lower by high rates and high prices

U.S. home sales drop

Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes sank last month, pushed down by high mortgage rates and rising prices.

Existing home sales fell 1.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.14 million from a revised 4.2 million in March, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday. The median price of previously occupied homes rose 5.7% to $407,600 — the tenth straight increase and a record for April.

Lawrence Yun, the association's chief economist, called the sales drop "a little frustrating.'' Economists had expected sales to come in at 4.2 million.

The rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate loan has risen five of the last six weeks and stands at 7.02%, up from 6.39% a year ago. Would-be homebuyers are also deterred by the high prices, caused partly by a tight inventory of available homes.

The supply of homes rose 9% from March to 1.2 million, but remains low: It was running at 1.7 million before the pandemic.

Daily marijuana use outpaces daily drinking in the US, a new study says

Marijuana outpaces alcohol

Daily and near-daily marijuana use is now more common than similar levels of drinking in the U.S., according to an analysis of national survey data over four decades.

Alcohol is still more widely used, but 2022 was the first time this intensive level of marijuana use overtook high-frequency drinking, said the study’s author, Jonathan Caulkins, a cannabis policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University.

“A good 40% of current cannabis users are using it daily or near daily, a pattern that is more associated with tobacco use than typical alcohol use,” Caulkins said.

The research, based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, was published Wednesday in the journal Addiction. The survey is a highly regarded source of estimates of tobacco, alcohol and drug use in the United States.

In 2022, an estimated 17.7 million people used marijuana daily or near-daily compared to 14.7 million daily or near-daily drinkers, according to the study. From 1992 to 2022, the per capita rate of reporting daily or near-daily marijuana use increased 15-fold.

The trend reflects changes in public policy. Most states now allow medical or recreational marijuana, though it remains illegal at the federal level. In November, Florida voters will decide on a constitutional amendment allowing recreational cannabis, and the federal government is moving to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug.

Research shows that high-frequency users are more likely to become addicted to marijuana, said Dr. David A. Gorelick, a psychiatry professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.

The number of daily users suggests that more people are at risk for developing problematic cannabis use or addiction, Gorelick said.

“High frequency use also increases the risk of developing cannabis-associated psychosis,” a severe condition where a person loses touch with reality, he said.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


Canadians feel grocery inflation getting worse, two in five boycotting Loblaw: poll

2 in 5 boycott Loblaw: poll

Almost two-thirds of Canadians feel that inflation at the grocery store is getting worse, a new poll suggests, even as food inflation has been steadily cooling. 

A new Leger survey found that almost 30 per cent of Canadians believe food inflation has been primarily caused by grocery stores trying to increase profit margins. Another 26 per cent think it’s mostly due to global economic factors, while one in five blame the federal government

Inflation on groceries was 1.4 per cent in April and helped drive overall inflation lower to 2.7 per cent, Statistics Canada said. 

However, even low inflation still means prices are going up. And over the past three years, grocery prices have risen 21.4 per cent, according to the agency. 

The major grocers have said they did not unduly profit from inflation, amid political and public pressure over the rising cost of food and other necessities. 

A group of consumers organized a boycott of Loblaw-owned stores in May over frustrations with higher prices and industry concentration.

Seven out of 10 Canadians polled said they are aware of the ongoing boycott, and 58 per cent said they support it, but only 18 per cent say that they or someone in their household have joined the boycott.

The poll highlights rural and urban residents’ differing views on the boycott, and suggests it’s more difficult for those living outside an urban area to participate in a boycott of Loblaw-owned grocery stores. 

Urban residents polled by Leger were more likely to say they support the boycott than suburban and rural residents, and were more likely to be participating in it as well. 

About half of Canadians say it seems unfair that the boycott targets only Loblaw, and almost two-thirds of respondents don’t think the boycott will have an effect on grocery prices. Urban residents were more likely to say they think the boycott will help lower prices, with almost three-quarters of rural Canadians polled saying they think the boycott won’t impact prices. 

For those taking part in the boycott, 40 per cent say they are turning to a “big box grocery store” such as Costco or Walmart, 31 per cent said they are turning to another national grocery chain like Sobeys or Save on Foods, and 23 per cent said they are shopping at an independent local grocery store. 

Rural boycott participants were more likely to be shopping at an independent store than participants in urban and suburban areas.

Leger surveyed 1,519 Canadians between May 17 and May 19, asking about grocery inflation, the Loblaw boycott and grocers’ profits. Online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.


Maker of popular weedkiller amplifies fight against cancer-related lawsuits

Bayer fighting lawsuits

After failing in several U.S. states this year, global chemical manufacturer Bayer said Tuesday that it plans to amplify efforts to create a legal shield against a proliferation of lawsuits alleging it failed to warn that its popular weedkiller could cause cancer.

Bayer, which disputes the cancer claims, has been hit with about 170,000 lawsuits involving its Roundup weedkiller and has set aside $16 billion to settle cases. But the company contends the legal fight “is not sustainable” and is looking to state lawmakers for relief.

Bayer lobbied for legislation that could have blocked a central legal argument this year in Missouri, Iowa and Idaho — home, respectively, to its North America crop science division, a Roundup manufacturing facility and the mines from which its key ingredient is derived. Though bills passed at least one chamber in Iowa and Missouri, they ultimately failed in all three states.

But Bayer plans a renewed push during next year's legislative sessions and may expand efforts elsewhere.

“This is bigger than just those states, and it’s bigger than just Bayer," said Jess Christiansen, head of Bayer's crop science and sustainability communications. “This is really about the crop protection tools that farmers need to secure production.”

Many U.S. farmers rely on Roundup, which was introduced 50 years ago as a more efficient way to control weeds and reduce tilling and soil erosion. For crops including corn, soybeans and cotton, it’s designed to work with genetically modified seeds that resist Roundup’s deadly effect.

The lawsuits allege Roundup's key ingredient, glyphosate, causes a cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Though some studies associate glyphosate with cancer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said it is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans when used as directed.

The legislation backed by Bayer would protect pesticide companies from claims they failed to warn their products could cause cancer if their labels otherwise comply with EPA regulations.

Some lawmakers have raised concerns that if the lawsuits persist, Bayer could pull Roundup from the U.S. market, forcing famers to turn to alternatives from China.

Christiansen said Bayer has made no decisions about Roundup's future but "will eventually have to do something different if we can’t get some consistency and some path forward around the litigation industry.”

Bayer's most recent quarterly report shows that it shed more than 1,500 employees, reducing its worldwide employment to about 98,000. Bayer submitted a notice to Iowa that 28 people would be laid off starting Wednesday at its facility in Muscatine.

The Iowa layoffs are not a direct result of the failure of the protective legislation, Christiansen said, but are part of a global restructuring amid “multiple headwinds,” which include litigation.

Bayer has bankrolled a new coalition of agriculture groups that has run TV, radio, newspaper and billboard ads backing protective legislation for pesticide producers. The campaign has especially targeted Missouri, where most of the roughly 57,000 still active legal claims are pending. Missouri was the headquarters of Roundup's original manufacturer, Monsanto, which Bayer acquired in 2018.

Legal experts say protective legislation is unlikely to affect existing lawsuits. But it could limit future claims.

The annual deadline to pass legislation in Missouri expired last Friday. Though a Bayer-backed bill cleared the Republican-led House and a Senate committee, it never got debated by the full GOP-led Senate, which was mired in unrelated tensions.

If the legislation is revived next year, it could face resistance from senators concerned about limiting people’s constitutional right to a jury trial to resolve disputes.

“I support farmers, but I also think they need due process,” said Republican state Sen. Jill Carter, who voted against the legislation this year in the Senate agriculture committee.

New cars in California could alert drivers for breaking the speed limit

Cars could beep at speeders

California could soon join the European Union in requiring all new cars to alert drivers when they break the speed limit, a proposal aimed at reducing traffic deaths that would likely impact drivers across the country should it become law.

The federal government sets safety standards for vehicles nationwide, which is why most cars now beep at drivers if their seat belt isn't fastened. A bill in the California Legislature — which passed its first vote in the state Senate on Tuesday — would go further by requiring all new cars sold in the state by 2032 to beep at drivers when they exceed the speed limit by at least 10 mph (16 kph).

“Research has shown that this does have an impact in getting people to slow down, particularly since some people don’t realize how fast that their car is going,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco and the bill's author.

The bill narrowly passed on Tuesday, an indication of the tough road it could face. Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle said he voted against it in part because he said sometimes people need to drive faster than the speed limit in an emergency.

"It’s just a nanny state that we’re causing here,” he said.

While the goal is to reduce traffic deaths, the legislation would likely impact all new car sales in the U.S. That's because California's auto market is so large that car makers would likely just make all of their vehicles comply with the state's law.

California often throws its weight around to influence national — and international — policy. California has set its own emission standards for cars for decades, rules that more than a dozen other states have also adopted. And when California announced it would eventually ban the sale of new gas-powered cars, major automakers soon followed with their own announcement to phase out fossil-fuel vehicles.

The technology, known as intelligent speed assistance, uses GPS technology to compare a vehicle's speed with a dataset of posted speed limits. Once the car is at least 10 mph (16 kph) over the speed limit, the system would emit “a brief, one-time visual and audio signal to alert the driver.”

It would not require California to maintain a list of posted speed limits. That would be left to manufacturers. It’s likely these maps would not include local roads or recent changes in speed limits, resulting in conflicts.

The bill states that if the system receives conflicting information about the speed limit, it must use the higher limit.

The technology is not new and has been used in Europe for years. Starting later this year, the European Union will require all new cars sold there to have the technology — although drivers would be able to turn it off.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 10% of all car crashes reported to police in 2021 were speeding related — including an 8% increase in speeding-related fatalities. This was especially a problem in California, where 35% of traffic fatalities were speeding-related — the second highest in the country, according to a legislative analysis of the proposal.

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended federal regulators require all new cars to alert drivers when speeding. Their recommendation came after a crash in January 2022 when a man with a history of speeding violations was traveling more than 100 miles per hour when he ran a red light and hit a minivan, killing himself and eight other people.

The NTSB has no authority and can only make recommendations.

WestJet delays integration of Sunwing to 2025

Sunwing integration delayed

WestJet is pushing back its planned integration of Sunwing Airlines, which the Calgary-based carrier acquired last year.

In an email, WestJet said it will weave the discount airline's fleet into its own by April 27, 2025, six months after the integration date initially set for this October.

Rick Jones, WestJet's interim head of route planning, told a conference Monday that the postponement relates to pilot training as well as the measurement units used in the cockpit.

WestJet says both airlines will continue with "business as usual" for their winter flight schedules.

The longer timeline means it will be nearly a year until aviators can fly each other's planes, as pilot shortages continue to plague the industry.

Aviation expert John Gradek says wrangling over worker seniority for pilots slated to fly under the same banner remains a point of contention.

Loblaw boycott to go on

The organizers of a month-long boycott of Loblaw-owned stores say they've decided to extend the boycott past May.

After a Reddit group created to vent and talk about high grocery prices attracted tens of thousands of members, plans formed for a boycott of Canada's largest grocer.

In a press release sent by organizer Emily Johnson on Tuesday, the boycott organizers say a poll of the community's members showed most want to keep the movement going. 

The release says the boycotters plan to focus on advocacy efforts in the months ahead. 

Loblaw has pushed back against criticisms of the company as frustration mounts over food inflation, saying it is not responsible for higher food prices. 

Food inflation has been moderating under the weight of higher interest rates, helping drive overall inflation lower in April, but prices are still significantly higher than they were a few years ago. 

Loblaw boycott organizers say they plan to keep movement going past May

Loblaw boycott to go on

The organizers of a month-long boycott of Loblaw-owned stores say they've decided to extend the boycott past May.

After a Reddit group created to vent and talk about high grocery prices attracted tens of thousands of members, plans formed for a boycott of Canada's largest grocer.

In a press release sent by organizer Emily Johnson on Tuesday, the boycott organizers say a poll of the community's members showed most want to keep the movement going. 

The release says the boycotters plan to focus on advocacy efforts in the months ahead. 

Loblaw has pushed back against criticisms of the company as frustration mounts over food inflation, saying it is not responsible for higher food prices. 

Food inflation has been moderating under the weight of higher interest rates, helping drive overall inflation lower in April, but prices are still significantly higher than they were a few years ago. 

Microsoft's AI chatbot will 'recall' everything you do on a PC

Chatbot will remember all

Microsoft wants laptop users to get so comfortable with its artificial intelligence chatbot that it will remember everything you're doing on your computer and help figure out what you want to do next.

The software giant on Monday revealed an upgraded version of Copilot, its AI assistant, as it confronts heightened competition from Big Tech rivals in pitching generative AI technology that can compose documents, make images and serve as a lifelike personal assistant at work or home.

The announcements ahead of Microsoft's annual Build developer conference in Seattle centered on imbuing AI features into a product where Microsoft already has the eyes of millions of consumers: the Windows operating system for personal computers.

The new features will include Windows Recall, enabling the AI assistant to “access virtually what you have seen or done on your PC in a way that feels like having photographic memory.” Microsoft promises to protect users' privacy by giving them the option to filter out what they don't want tracked.

The conference follows big AI announcements last week from rival Google, as well as Microsoft's close business partner OpenAI, which built the AI large language models on which Microsoft's Copilot is based.

Google rolled out a retooled search engine that periodically puts AI-generated summaries over website links at the top of the results page; while also showing off a still-in-development AI assistant Astra that will be able to “see” and converse about things shown through a smartphone’s camera lens.

ChatGPT-maker OpenAI unveiled a new version of its chatbot last week, demonstrating an AI voice assistant with human characteristics that can banter about what someone's wearing and even attempt to assess a person’s emotions. The voice sounded so much like Scarlett Johansson playing an AI character in the sci-fi movie “Her” that OpenAI dropped the voice from its collection Monday.

OpenAI also rolled out a new desktop version of ChatGPT designed for Apple's Mac computers.

Next up is Apple's own annual developers conference in June. Apple CEO Tim Cook signaled at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in February that it has been making big investments in generative AI.

Some of Microsoft's announcements Monday appeared designed to blunt whatever Apple has in store. The newly AI-enhanced Windows PCs will start rolling out on June 18 on computers made by Microsoft partners Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung, as well as on Microsoft's Surface line of devices. But they'll be reserved for premium models starting at $999.

Stock market today: Wall Street opens mixed after its latest winning week

Stock market today

Wall Street is opening on a quiet note following its latest winning week. The S&P 500 was up 0.1% in early trading Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was little changed, and the Nasdaq composite was up 0.2%. Momentum is calming after all three indexes set records last week. They scorched higher on revived hopes that the Federal Reserve will be able to cut interest rates this year because of a cooldown in inflation. More reports showing big U.S. companies are earning fatter profits than expected also boosted stock prices. Nvidia, which has rocketed higher amid a frenzy surrounding artificial-intelligence technology, reports its latest results Wednesday.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Wall Street pointed toward modest gains early Monday, keeping markets around record levels after the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 40,000 for the first time ever last week.

Markets did appear to be shaken by news of the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials who died in a helicopter crash in the mountainous northwest reaches of Iran on Sunday.

Futures for the S&P 500 edged nearly 0.2% higher before the bell Monday, while futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose less than 0.1%.

Investors this week will be taking in more retail earnings data as reporting season winds down. Lowe's, Target and TJX Cos. all report later this week. So will chipmaker Nvidia, whose shares are up 87% this year on soaring demand for its semiconductors, which are used to power artificial intelligence applications.

Red Lobster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection days after shuttering dozens of restaurants. Earlier this year, Red Lobster co-owner Thai Union Group, one of the world’s largest seafood suppliers, announced its intention to exit its minority investment in the dining chain.

The seafood restaurant has been struggling with rising lease and labor costs in recent years and promotions like its all-you-can-eat shrimp deal that backfired.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve releases minutes from its most recent meeting, when it left its main lending rate alone for the sixth straight time.

A report last week rekindled hopes that inflation is finally heading back in the right direction after a discouraging start to the year. That in turn revived hopes for the Federal Reserve to cut its main interest rate at least once this year.

The federal funds rate is sitting at its highest level in more than two decades, and a cut would goose investment prices and remove some of the downward pressure on the economy.

The hope is that the Fed can pull off the balancing act of slowing the economy enough through high interest rates to stamp out high inflation but not so much that it causes a bad recession.

In Europe at midday, Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.3%, Germany’s DAX added 0.4%, as did the CAC 40 in Paris.

China's market extended last week's gains after the central bank announced new support for the property industry, including cutting required down payments for housing loans, cutting mortgage interest rates for first and second home purchases and removing a mortgage rate floor.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.3% to 19,608.30, with its property index up 0.3%. Country Garden Holdings, one of many financially troubled developers, saw its U.S.-listed shares surge 18.5% on Friday after the policy was announced.

The Shanghai Composite index advanced 0.5% to 3,171.15.

On Monday, China's central bank left the one- and five-year loan prime rate unchanged at 3.45% and 3.95%, in line with expectations. The one-year LPR serves as the benchmark for most new and outstanding loans in China, while the five-year rate affects the pricing of property mortgages.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index climbed 0.7% to 39,069.68. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.6% to 7,863.70. The Kospi in Korea rose 0.6% to 2,742.14.

Elsewhere, Taiwan’s Taiex edged 0.1% higher after Lai Ching-te was inaugurated as Taiwan’s new president. Lai is expected to uphold the island’s de facto independence policy from China and seek to bolster its defenses against Beijing, which claims the island as Chinese territory.

In Bangkok, the SET was up 0.1%.

In other trading Monday, benchmark U.S. crude oil was down 27 cents at $79.31 per barrel. U.S. crude hasn't been above $80 per barrel since falling below that level on May 1.

Brent crude, the international standard, lost 23 cents to $83.75 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose to 155.73 Japanese yen from 155.55 yen. The euro rose to $1.0865 from $1.0871.

On Friday, the Dow rose 0.3% to 40,003.59 while the S&P 500 added 0.1%, closing out a fourth straight week of gains. The Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1% to 16,685.97.

Nickel-rich Indonesia pitches EV battery plant plan to Elon Musk

EV battery plant plan

Indonesia’s top investment official said Monday that the government has proposed to Tesla CEO Elon Musk the construction of an electric vehicle battery plant in the nickel-rich country.

The official spoke after Musk met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo while attending a water conference on the island of Bali.

“We made an offer, is it possible to build an EV battery factory, precursor to cathodes, here. And he said he will consider it,” Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, told reporters.

Indonesia is keen to build up industries to exploit is rich natural resources, which include the world’s largest nickel reserves. Nickel is an important material for EV batteries and solar panels.

The billionaire head of Tesla and SpaceX and owner of social platform X was visiting the Indonesian resort island to launch a Starlink satellite internet service there.

He also spoke to officials and experts attending the conference on global water challenges, saying he believed that desalination could solve water shortages if enough energy was provided.

Indonesia supplies 40% of the world’s nickel and has the potential to increase this to 75% by 2030, according to the government data. The government has set a goal of producing 600,000 electric vehicles by 2030, and will require EVs and related components produced in Indonesia to contain of 60% local content by 2027.

The country has been trying for years to secure deals with Musk’s Tesla on battery investment and for Musk’s SpaceX to provide fast internet access for remote areas of the sprawling archipelago.

Pandjaitan, a powerful cabinet minister and close ally of Widodo, said the president also asked the billionaire to invest in an AI center and for SpaceX to build a launchpad in Biak, an island in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua province.

Musk did not make any formal announcements related to his investment plans in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

“Well, I think it’s likely that we will be investing,” Musk said in replying to a journalist's question about his plans for Indonesia at a news conference on Sunday after the ceremonial launch of the Starlink service alongside Indonesian government dignitaries. “But I think it’s quite likely that my company will invest in Indonesia.”

Back in the United States, federal highway safety investigators are asking Tesla to explain how and why it developed a fix in a recall of more than 2 million vehicles equipped with the company’s Autopilot partially automated driving system.

Investigators with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have concerns about whether the recall remedy worked because Tesla has reported 20 crashes since the remedy was sent out as an online software update in December.

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