SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Liz McMillan, Roberto Medrano, Dmitriy Stepanov, Sean Houghton, Glenn Rossman

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BMO Blue Book: Alberta Leads Canadian Provinces in Growth for 2014

- Employment growth running at 4 per cent year-over-year; population growth is the fastest in more than 30 years

CALGARY, ALBERTA -- (Marketwired) -- 05/07/14 -- Alberta's economy remains strong, sitting well above the rest of Canada, due in part to a solid energy sector, 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.

Mike Darling, Regional Vice President, Commercial Banking, Southern Alberta, BMO Bank of Montreal added that business dynamism in Calgary and southern Alberta continues, with economic strength and optimism clear among a number of commercial clients. "Oil and gas companies still dominate the scene, but we see significant opportunity for firms that support the industry spinoffs. This particularly applies to the engineering sector, where our clients are experiencing considerable growth."

"Real GDP is expected to grow 3.5 per cent this year - or 1.2 points above the national average - with expected growth topping 3 per cent again in 2015," said Robert Kavcic, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets. "Alberta is truly unique, and is the only province where growth is expected to be above 3 per cent."

The same is true, on a more moderate scale, in Northern Alberta. "Our customers in Edmonton and northern Alberta continue to feel cautiously optimistic about the state of the economy," said Lynda Taylor, Regional Vice President, Commercial Banking, Northern Alberta and Northwest Territories, BMO Bank of Montreal.

Mr. Kavcic noted that employment growth in the province is running at a firm 4 per cent year-over-year - compared with next to no growth on balance in the rest of the country - and heating up from 1.7 per cent last year and 2.6 per cent in 2012. "The province's healthy labour market continues to draw a significant number of migrants from other parts of the country. As a result, Alberta's population growth surged 3.5 per cent year-over-year, which is the fastest in more than 30 years."

These favourable economic and demographic fundamentals have created a tightened housing market which could be decoupling from the rest of Canada. "With any supply overhang from the pre-recession building boom all but absorbed and continued population growth, we expect the construction sector to experience a period of growth in the year ahead."

Mr. Kavcic also noted that the energy sector remains solid with capital spending in the oil & gas sector anticipated to grow 3.5 per cent in 2014.

"The region has also experienced an increase in capital spending in relation to infrastructure, particularly on the transportation side," added Mr. Darling.

In Northern Alberta, Ms. Taylor noted the region has experienced growth in independent pharmacies. "Our loan book is growing for operators that don't want to sell out to larger chain companies."

Ms. Taylor and Mr. Darling noted that BMO is armed with a highly-skilled team of experts that can make lending decisions at the local level to help its commercial clients boost productivity, expand into new markets and make strategic investment decisions that will help propel growth and drive success.

The full BMO Blue Book can be downloaded at www.bmocm.com/economics.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified financial services organization based in North America. The bank offers a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers. BMO Financial Group had total assets of $593 billion and more than 45,500 employees at January 31, 2014.

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