Thursday, August 17, 2006

News from the Alberta Oil Front

I have written before (1, 2, 3) about the booming economy in Canada, led by oil-rich Alberta. Of course, it's one thing to read an article or two, and then it's entirely different when a friend returns from the oil-rich lands of the fair-skinned sheikhs and tells you what it's really like out there.

This bloggering here was inspired by that recent visit, and also a report a couple of days ago from Canada's national housing agency, CMHC, that housing starts in Canada are projected to once again reach near record levels, led by price gains, and starts, in Alberta. There, starts are projected to rise about 20% over 2005 - a great year also - and prices to rise about 28% year-over-year.

Led by the booming economy, things are rolling along wonderfully, many say.

My friend dropped by on the way back to Calgary, for an evening. Here are some of her tales:
  1. She recently purchased a townhouse, less than a year ago, in a pretty standard area for $156,000 Cdn (about $140,000 US) - and she recently had it appraised for a re-financing, and it was valued at $300,000 Cdn. A near doubling of value in under a year;
  2. Stores everywhere have help wanted signs, but are still short of staff;
  3. On her way out of town over the July long-weekend, she noticed that a gas-station owned by some friends was closed: odd she thought - one of the busiest weekends of the year and no one home. Later, she talked to her friends, the owners, and found out that they'd worked about three weeks straight in the gas station, without a break, because they'd been unable to fill staff positions. They'd finally had to close the station, just to get a break themselves.
So, while things are rolling along great, everything is moving up in price; labor, real estate etc.

In fact, I recently was examining the financials for a small-cap company, perhaps to invest in, or report out on on my small-cap blog, by as soon as I saw a recent quarterly loss, and their production headquarters for their non-oil related industrial business were in Alberta, I quickly gave it a pass. Too much present and anticipated future competition for skilled industrial labor, made this an easy one to quickly pass on.

I wonder how many more investors will be looking at the same thing in the future?


The Confused Capitalist

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