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5 Stories Canadian Investors Should Watch This Fall

Will BlackBerry (TSX: BB) continue to exist as a public company? Who will replace Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke? What is the future of Canada’s telecom industry? For ticker hounds, there’s no shortage of big stories set to play out this fall.

Let’s review the top five events that investors should keep their eyes on.

Spectrum action

September 17 is the application deadline to participate in the government’s next wireless spectrum auction in January. The auction has garnered more attention than usual given Ottawa’s commitment to increase competition in the wireless industry. Two of the four blacks scheduled to be auction have been reserved for ‘new entrants’.

Any additional competition could threaten the profitability of Canada’s Big 3 telecom companies – Rogers Communications (TSX: RCI.B), BCE (TSX: BCE), and Telus (TSX: T). According to reports from The Globe and Mail, several major telecom players have considered a Canadian expansion including AT&T, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Telenor Group, and NTT Docomo. Though Verizon was considered the most likely candidate to enter the country, the company announced last week that it was no longer interested.

If a big fourth player is going to emerge in the industry, we will know by the end of next week.

BlackBerry’s earnings report

By the end of the year, it’s an open question as to whether BlackBerry will continue to exist as a public entity. The company reports earnings on September 27 giving investors their best glimpse yet at its BB10 handset launch.

Rather than focusing on the company’s results however, all ears are likely to be trained on BlackBerry’s ‘strategic options’. Most expect BlackBerry to be taken private or bought out by a rival and salvaged largely for patents. But if BlackBerry can’t find a suitor, it may be forced to soldier on as an independent company. Given its plummeting market share that may be the worse outcome for shareholders.

Line 9 reversal hearings

With export routes to the south and the west currently blocked, Canada’s east coast may be the last destination for Alberta bitumen. To support this effort Enbridge (TSX: ENB) has proposed reversing its Line 9 pipeline. No longer needed to import crude from international markets, the move will serve western Canadian oil companies desperate to access new markets beyond the United States.

However, the project has sparked outrage from grassroots activists who are concerned about the project’s safety and environmental impact. The debate will play out in front of the National Energy Board with final hearings set to begin October 8.

Prime Minister’s throne speech

The Prime Minister’s throne speech in October will kick off a shortened fall session for parliament. Stephen Harper has used the first part of his majority reign to tackle controversial issues like Employment Insurance and Old Age security. Now, he will lay out his government’s plans as we head into another election season.

Markets are worried that Ottawa may pull back too tightly on its fiscal reins. Mr. Harper has committed to reducing the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has also promised to aggressively reject any new spending proposals in order to balance the government’s books before the election. If Ottawa doubles-down on spending cuts, it could become an economic headwind for the country.

New Fed Chairman

As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke concludes one of the most dramatic tenures in the central bank’s history, all eyes will be on his replacement. With the U.S. economy now recovering, the task will be to reduce stimulus without sending the world’s biggest economy back into recession. That job will fall on Bernanke’s successor.

The next Fed Chair is expected to be appointed by President Barack Obama in October. The top two candidates for the position are Vice-Chair Janet Yellen and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Uncertainty surrounding the appointment could cause considerable nervousness over the coming weeks.

Foolish Takeaway

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Fool contributor Robert Baillieul doesn’t own shares of any companies mentioned.  The Motley Fool doesn’t own shares in any of the companies mentioned. 

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