Here are five things you need to know this morning:

All eyes on CPI: The latest inflation numbers for Canada’s economy are out, and the headline number fell by much more than expected, with prices increasing at a 2.9 per cent annual pace in the year up to January. That’s down from December’s 3.4 per cent level and much lower than the 3.3 per cent pace that economists were expecting. Food price inflation eased and energy costs fell. Core inflation also eased, although not by as much as the headline rate. Shelter costs are still going up at a much faster rate than homeowners, tenants and even the Bank of Canada would like to see, but overall the news was good for borrowers and consumers feeling tapped out by stubbornly sticky inflation.

Home Depot and Walmart earnings: Speaking of tapped out consumers, two sets of numbers from large U.S. retailers reminded investors on Tuesday that it’s not just a Canadian problem. Walmart and Home Depot released quarterly earnings before stock markets opened on Tuesday and while the former beat expectations on same-store sales and adjusted earnings, the world’s largest retailer warned that it expects consumers to be selective in their spending for this coming year. Numbers for Home Depot were even weaker, as the DIY chain reported same store sales have now declined for five quarters in a row. “2023 was a year of moderation,” CEO Ted Decker said.

BTC tops $1T again: The long-term outlook for bitcoin is as volatile as ever, but the world’s largest cryptocurrency has made steady gains since the SEC approved a slew of ETFs last month. After crossing above the US$50,000 level last week, bitcoin’s total market cap now tops $1 trillion – a level it hasn’t hit since the frenzied days of 2021. Trading in bitcoin has now risen for four months in a row and at $1.4 trillion in January that figure is now at its highest level since the summer of 2022.

Major credit card merger: Capital One Financial Corp. announced a plan late Monday to buy
Discover Financial Services in a US$35 billion all-stock deal to create the largest U.S. credit card company by loan volume. The transaction is expected to be completed in late 2024 or early 2025, pending regulatory and shareholder approvals of both firms, and ranks as the biggest merger
globally this year. As is often the case, shares in the company being acquired are spiking on the news, while those of the purchaser, Capital One, are lower premarket.

Strike strife rolls on: 2023 was one of the busiest years in a generation in terms of labour unrest, and early indications are that 2024 will see more of the same. The union representing Canada’s two biggest railways says contract negotiations have ground to a halt, and the clock is now ticking on a strike as soon as this spring. Teamsters Canada says talks with Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Kansas City Ltd. for a new contract for conductors, engineers and yard workers are derailing and the union has asked the federal labour minister to step in with a conciliator. Once such a notice has been issued, the clock starts ticking to avoid a strike or lockout that could happen as soon as 81 days later. That moves the calendar for such a disruption to as soon as May.