The Globe’s most-read business and investing stories of 2023: Livable cities, Alberta’s pension plan, mortgage costs and more

High inflation. A complicated interest rate cycle. Alberta’s controversial pension plans. Netflix’s password sharing crackdown. Canada’s most livable cities. Rising mortgages payments. Recession fears. It’s safe to say that there has been no shortage of news this year.

In the final weekly digest of 2023, we’re taking a look back at The Globe’s most-read business and investing stories of the entire year. Get caught up on the biggest stories that resonated with readers on a variety of topics from housing, debt, critical minerals and more.

‘We’re barely making it’: Eight Canadian stories reveal the pain of soaring mortgage costs

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Colin Tran wants to purchase a home, but can’t afford high mortgage costs. Instead he’s saving using the new First Home Savings Account.JASON FRANSON/The Globe and Mail

In a year of high inflation and housing unaffordability, Canadian homeowners were especially feeling the squeeze of interest rates. Irene Galea spoke to Canadians facing difficult decisions in order to continue paying off their loans. They’re deferring retirement, cutting back expenses and worrying about how they will cover their next mortgage payment. Some are even lengthening their mortgage amortization, stretching out the duration of their payments from 15 or 25 years to 30 years or beyond to keep their payments down. These are their stories.

Opinion: Netflix’s desperate crackdown on password sharing shows it might fail like Blockbuster

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This photo shows a logo for Netflix on a remote control in Portland, Ore.Jenny Kane/The Associated Press

When Netflix announced in February that it would crack down on password sharing, Canadians users were left questioning whether it was still worth paying the subscription fee. In a column for The Globe and Mail, Ken Birch, director of the Institute for Technoscience and Society at York University, raises the question of whether the move – and Netflix’s business model and monetization strategy – is viable in the long-run. He writes: “Netflix is facing a self-defeating cycle with its subscription changes.” Fast forward to the end of the year, Netflix has reported strong third-quarter results and increased its subscriber base – sending shares surging.

The 100 most livable cities in Canada

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Illustration by Kathleen Fu

One of The Globe’s popular stories of the year in general was the inaugural ranking of Canada’s 100 most livable cities. The data-driven list places an emphasis

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Constellation Software to pay US$700-million for mortgage service provider Optimal Blue

In a deal that could pave the way for the owner of the New York Stock Exchange to become the largest mortgage services provider in the United States, Canada’s Constellation Software Inc. CSU-T has agreed to pay US$700-million for the Optimal Blue unit of Black Knight Inc BKI-N.

Toronto-based Constellation’s Perseus operating group will pay US$200-million in cash for Optimal Blue, which provides data services to the mortgage industry, and will finance the rest with a US$500-million, 40-year promissory note at 7-per-cent interest, according to the deal terms.

But the transaction is contingent upon Intercontinental Exchange Inc. ICE-N, which owns the NYSE, first closing its US$11.7-billion acquisition of mortgage software provider Black Knight, a deal that is far from certain. That’s because Black Knight will only sell Optimal Blue to Constellation after it becomes a subsidiary of ICE.

Because ICE acquired mortgage automation company Ellie Mae from private equity firm Thoma Bravo for US$11-billion in 2020, owning Black Knight would make ICE the largest mortgage software provider in the country.

In April, citing antitrust concerns, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission petitioned a federal court in Northern California to temporarily block the ICE-Black Knight deal. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for July 24, with a ruling expected before the end of the month.

Constellation Software reports US$152-million quarterly profit as acquisitions help lift revenue

In March, Constellation agreed to acquire Black Knight’s loan origination system business Empower, which helps banks generate loan documents, as part of ICE’s effort to appease regulators. Asked whether Black Knight’s willingness to now also divest Optimal Blue will be enough to secure regulatory approval, FTC spokesperson Victoria Graham declined to comment.

“Optimal Blue has been a sticking point in the FTC’s case to block the proposed merger of ICE and Black Knight,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Paul Treiber, who covers Constellation with the equivalent of a buy rating and a $3,200 price target, said in a note to clients published Monday afternoon.

“With Black Knight now divesting both Empower and Optimal Blue to Constellation, we believe the probability of both acquisitions closing has increased.”

If the deal does go through, it will represent only the second time in Constellation’s nearly three-decade history that the company, known as a serial acquirer, has agreed to pay as much as US$700-million on a single transaction. In 2022, it paid the same amount for Altera Digital Health, which

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