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February 16, 2012 06:00 ET

BMO Blue Book: Strong Economy and Rising Business Confidence Drive Alberta Optimism

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Feb. 16, 2012) - Alberta's economy will lead the country in growth in 2012, according to the BMO Blue Book released today by BMO Capital Markets Economics and BMO Commercial Banking. Much like the U.S. Federal Reserve's Beige Book, the BMO Blue Book combines the expertise of BMO's economists with information on current business conditions provided to BMO's commercial bankers by local businesspeople.

"High oil prices are fuelling activity in the energy sector, which in turn is driving strong labour market performance," said Robert Kavcic, Economist, BMO Capital Markets. "Strength in the energy sector has rekindled in-migration and helped firm up the labour market. Net interprovincial in-migration was the highest since early-2008 in the first three quarters of 2011. Meantime, employment growth was a robust 3.9 per cent year-over-year in January, well above the 0.8 per cent year-over-year national pace, and the jobless rate has fallen to 4.9 per cent."

"Across the province, our commercial clients continue to show rising levels of optimism and confidence," said Bill Hogg, District Vice-President, Commercial Banking, Alberta and NWT, BMO Bank of Montreal. Our customers tell us that while 2012 will be a strong year, 2013 will be even better."

Mr. Hogg also noted strength in the retail sector: "Albertans are spending at record levels and showing the confidence to buy big-ticket items."

Mr. Hogg described optimism in the agricultural sector as well: "I attended the Agri-Trade event in Red Deer, the second-largest agricultural trade show in Western Canada. There was a great turnout and I spoke to a lot of farmers who were kicking the tires on new equipment."

The full BMO Blue Book can be downloaded at http://bmonesbittburns.com/economics/reports/20120216/bb201202.pdf.

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