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stress

What are you stressing about? If it's about money then you are not alone.

For Canadians, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, money is the biggest source of stress, says a new poll. With historically low interest rates, a rising cost of living, shrinking paychecks and a weak economy, numerous households are struggling to stay afloat, and this is keeping families awake at nights and worried.

According to a new Leger online survey, conducted for Quickcheck Canada, 66 percent of Canadians cite money as the largest source of stress; and nearly half (44 percent) concede it's their biggest worry.

The numbers surge when you include respondents who had recently taken out a payday advance online to make ends meet. The survey found that 83 percent of those who have borrowed money from a payday lender say money is a major source of stress. Also, 61 percent of borrowers note that money is their biggest worry.

Moreover, the same poll discovered that 14 percent of Canadians have taken out a payday loan. And many Canadian consumers have taken out multiple payday loans from multiple lenders in order to hold their heads above water.

Sedef Karansu, the CEO of Quickcheck Canada, a software solutions provider to the payday loan industry, is blaming the conventional financial industry for allowing this to happen.

"Many low-income Canadians aren't able to borrow money from traditional banks and have to use payday loans to get by. Unfortunately, some of them take out multiple loans from different lenders and that gets them into financial trouble," said Karansu.

One consumer debt expert, Mark Silverthrown, is placing the blame on the lack of enforcement of laws.

“Unfortunately, the current government legislation that prevents people from taking out concurrent loans is rarely enforced and there is no mechanism for money lenders to know if their customers are doing so," said Thornton.

Across the country, jurisdictions at both the municipal and provincial level have taken action to rein in the payday loan industry. The likes of British Columbia and Alberta have installed changes to interest rates and the amount of fees charged on payday loans. At the municipal level, in cities like Hamilton, governments are working to restrict payday loan stores from opening up in certain parts, particularly those areas that have a large population of those most vulnerable to short-term, high-interest loans.

Payday loan critics regularly aver that these alternative financial products send the poor and middle-class households into perpetual debt cycles that are nearly impossible to get out of. On the other hand, payday loan proponents say that these services are available because they do not have access to traditional forms of banking and credit.

In the Great White North, the average debt load per household is nearly $22,000, which excludes mortgages. As of May 2016, Canadians now owe $1.65 for every dollar of disposable income they have.

The online survey with 1,536 adult Canadians was conducted between September 12 and 15. The poll maintains a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points.

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Halliburton

Oilfield services company Halliburton Co. reported unexpected profit in the third quarter on the back of improved oil exploration activities and cost cutting measures.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the world's second-largest oilfield services provider reported its first improvement in sales in about two years in North America, which makes up more than 40 percent of its business. Sales in the market rose 9 percent from the level in the second quarter to $1.66 billion.

Halliburton posted a net income of $6 million, or 1 cent per share, during the third quarter. This was a significant improvement on the $54 million, or 6 cents per share, loss reported a year earlier.

Some analysts polled by Bloomberg had predicted average loss of 6 cents per share.

"I am pleased with our third-quarter results given the devastation our industry has faced over the last two years," Chief Executive Dave Lesar said. "In the near term, we remain cautious around fourth quarter customer activity due to holiday and seasonal weather-related down times. However, it does not change our view that things are getting better for us and our customers."

Operating results from North America rose by $58 million, representing incremental margins of 41 percent.

Crude oil prices have gone ahead to increase by almost double since hitting the bottom in February. More shale oil companies have began putting their rigs back to work, months after the number of U.S. land rigs reached its lowest.

The count of active rigs in the U.S. increased for the seventh week in a row through Oct. 14, according to a report from Baker Hughes Inc. The oil services company said the number of onshore rigs in the country jumped by 25 percent (100) in the third quarter.

The improvement noticed caused executives at both Halliburton and its larger rival Schlumberger to state at the end of July that the toughest period may already be over.

Lesar attributed the unexpected profit record by Halliburton during the quarter to the cost-cutting efforts of the company.

"North America results improved as we took advantage of the rig count growth by increasing utilization, working our surface efficiency model and relentlessly managing costs," he said.

Like Schlumberger, the Houston-based oil services company has had to embark on cost-cutting to boost profitability amid falling oil revenues. It set a target in July to cut down on "structural costs" by $1 billion – roughly 25 percent – on an annual run-rate by the end of this year, as reported by Reuters.

A large number of companies in the oil services sector have been incurring losses in the North American market. Some experts expect things to remain this way, at least for the remaining part of 2016, as a result of very low prices.

Bloomberg reported that Halliburton shares edged up to $47.89 – representing an increase of around 1.7 percent – during premarket trading in New York.

Market leader Schlumberger is expected to release its results for the third quarter on Thursday. Baker Hughes, the world's third-biggest oilfield services provider, is scheduled to report next Tuesday.

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Social Security Benefits

The Social Security Administration has put individuals in the U.S. who earn high incomes on notice that they will need to pay more in social security taxes next year.

The U.S. government agency said on Tuesday that the maximum amount of earnings on which payroll tax is paid in support of Social Security will jump by 7.3 percent in 2017. The wage base on which the tax is levied will increased to $127,200 next year, up from the current $118,500.

Employees and their employers each pay 6.2 percent of eligible wages in Social Security tax, even though the latter could easily pass on the payment in form of lower wages. Self-employed individuals pay both the employer's and worker's shares of the tax.

With this increase, a person making an annual income of at least $127,200 will have $7886.40 deducted as Social Security tax in 2017. That would be about $539 higher than the amount paid this year.

This is the biggest jump in the maximum amount of earnings that attract payroll taxes for Social Security since 1993, according to the Wall Street Journal. The SSA said the change will affect roughly 12 million of 173 million U.S. workers who pay the taxes.

However, the over 65 million Americans who get Social Security and Supplement Security Income payments will only see a marginal increase of just 0.3 percent in their benefits next year. The negligible cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) follows lack of adjustment in 2016 and is the result of subdued inflation seen in the economy since the 2007-09 recession.

The Social Security COLA has, since 1975, been associated to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W. The COLA is determined every October using the CPI-W for the previous 12 months. The measure gained 0.3 percent over the level recorded same period in 2014.

The cost-of-living increase expected next year means a Social Security beneficiary who currently receives $1,296 a month will only see a $4 increase in that amount. The increment will likely be consumed by higher premiums to be paid by seniors with Medicare Part B coverage, which takes care of doctor visits and a variety of outpatient care.

The Journal reports the slight bump in the COLA will likely lead to higher premiums for roughly 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries. These people include those with higher incomes and those who have deferred or are not qualified for Social Security benefits.

The hold-harmless provision of the Social Security Act prevents any increase in premiums by an amount higher than the dollar rise in Social Security payments from being passed along to about 70 percent of beneficiaries. The upper 30 percent will therefore bear much of the burden of expected rise in Medicare costs.

On the bright side, the amount Social Security beneficiaries who are not up to 66 years can earn without getting their benefits deducted will rise next year, according to Forbes. For every $2 earned in excess of $1,410 in a month by those aged 62-65, $1 will be docked in their benefits. The earnings threshold for benefits cut was previously set at $1,310 per month for these recipients.

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China GDP Infographic

The economy of China grew by 6.7 percent in the third quarter on the back of increased government spending, a booming property market and increased bank lending to allay fears of a slowdown in the concluding part of this year.

Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday showed that China's gross domestic product (GDP) has now grown at the same rate of 6.7 percent over the past three quarters, indicating some level of stability is being witnessed in the economy. It also shows the government is well on its way to achieving its official growth target of 6.5 to 7 percent for the year.

"The national economic performance has been generally steady, making progress and improving in quality, resulting in growth that's better than expected," NBS spokesman Sheng Laiyun said.

The year-on-year growth see in Chinese GDP in the third quarter was in line with expectations of analysts polled by Reuters. The quarterly growth of 1.8 percent posted was also as expected by analysts.

The steady growth recorded over the last three quarters was driven by increased spending by government on infrastructure projects and a booming property market. These have raised demand for construction materials, ranging from cement to steel.

Record growth in the number of loans granted by banks has also contributed.

In the first three quarters of 2016, consumption accounted for about 71 percent of growth in the GDP, up from 66.4 percent in the year before. This indicates contracting net exports and some level of success in the government's efforts to cut back on over-dependence on investment-led growth.

While the government may be on the way to achieving its target of 6.5 to 7 percent annual growth, economists have cautioned that its seeming readiness to do anything to meet hard targets may end up hurting the economy. They say stimulus measures, which may help in the short term, can cause long-term problems by diverting attention from the count growing corporate debt and industrial challenges.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates corporate debt in China at roughly 145 percent of its GDP. In a recent working paper it released, the organization urged the government to take decisive measures to urgently tackle the problem before it "becomes systemic."

The real estate market is considered the biggest near-term risk to China's economy for now. Home sales and real estate investment has quickened in recent months. In the first three quarters of the year, housing sales jumped 43.2 percent from a year ago. Mortgages, which make up a large part of record loans being made in the country, contributed significantly to the performance.

But authorities in over 20 Chinese cities have introduced restrictions on buyers to guard against speculation. On Tuesday, Shanghai said it had penalized some property agencies for contract falsification and was investigating developers thought to have inflated prices.

Increasing restrictions are believed to have contributed to a sudden decline in sales in recent weeks. Economists fear these restrictions may lead to undesirable effects on the market.

Strong growth in the economy is expected to continue through the end of 2016. Economists expect a slowdown in 2017 as the property market cools and coal and steel industries' production capacity is further cut back.