International News Desk – At Home: Loonie is on a roller coaster – In Foreign News: Greece crippled by striking workers

International News Desk – At Home: Loonie is on a roller coaster – In Foreign News: Greece crippled by striking workers

At Home: Loonie is on a roller coaster

Financial news is grim worldwide these days, mostly due to the American banking and mortgage crisis. While the Canadian economy is no longer as closely tied to the ups and downs of the US economy as it once was, our financial world is suffering from the falling markets right along with the rest of the world.

This week our loonie is hovering around the 80-cent mark again in comparison to the US dollar, which many Canadians find troubling especially after recent highs this spring that had our currency at a strong $1.01 against the American dollar.

Earlier this year Canadians were shopping south of the border, both in person and online, in droves due to the strong currency and good exchange rate. And many Canadians with money to invest found the crumbling US housing market to be an excellent place to put some of those loonies this year.

With US housing values down, however, those may be some very long-term investments that don’t show much in returns for several years.

As the world faces fears of recessions and depressions brought on by the current financial situation, Canada’s dollar is being affected by the now-falling price of oil and the fact that some investors are slowly moving back into US markets. It has been some time, though, since the Canadian dollar has actually gone below the 80-cent mark (the last time was 2005).

Canada is by no means in this boat alone, however. The British pound has not been valued this low for five years and the Australian dollar recently traded at only 66 cents to the US dollar.

While the loonie continues to ride the tide of financial markets, Canada’s economy does remain one of the strongest in the world and is enjoying very low unemployment numbers right now.

In Foreign News: Greece crippled by striking workers

Greece practically shut down completely on October 22 as hundreds of thousands of the country’s workers walked out on their jobs in a general protest. In some sectors, up to 90 per cent of the workers were out protesting rather than doing their jobs, according to the spokesman for one of the country’s trade unions in an interview with the BBC.

Transportation in and out of Greece (including air traffic) came to a halt as most services were cancelled there. Participation in the 24-hour strike was widespread as even bankers, lawyers, teachers, and hospital workers took part.

The general strike was called for by Greece’s trade unions and was in response to government plans to spend 28 billion euros on helping banks suffering in the current credit crisis, privatization of the country’s primary airline, Olympic Airlines, and talk of changes to the many retirement plans there.

Workers also demanded doubling of the minimum wage in Greece and protested an illegal land deal many cabinet ministers have been implicated in that might have cost the government up to 100 million euros. One prominent cabinet minister has already resigned over the scandal.

Greece’s Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is due to release a new budget shortly and it is expected that he will press forward with his plans to rework the country’s pension plans that are operating in the red and to privatize Olympic Airlines. He says that workers affected by the privatization will be compensated and that Greek consumers will be protected from rising prices as much as possible.

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