Monday, December 29, 2008

Canadian Mortgage Industry in the Media

In recent weeks, there have been numerous articles in the national media on the state of the Canadian mortgage industry. Issues regarding the impact of longer amortizations and a perceived failure to anticipate the effects of various mortgage products have been at the forefront.

YOU Should Be Aware Of The Following Important Facts
  1. Arrears and default rates remain low in Canada particularly when compared to the U.S. Canadian mortgage holders have on average over 50% equity in their properties. For all home owners, (those with and those without a mortgage), the equity ratio exceeds 70%;
  2. Longer amortization periods and 100% LTV mortgages do not equate to subprime or alternative mortgages which are based on a borrower's credit worthiness. Relatively few outstanding mortgages in Canada have 40 year amortization periods – only six percent or just over 300,000 mortgage holders out of 5.25 million;
  3. Mortgage products in Canada are transparent. Mortgagors with a variable rate product know their rate and most have the option to convert to a fixed rate product. In the past year, 40% of mortgage holders took out a variable rate mortgage with the expectation that declining rates will continue to drop. This is in stark contrast to the U.S. where the resetting of option ARM mortgages means millions of mortgage holders have been and will continue to face higher rates;
  4. A rise in default rates in Canada is not apparent. It's a fact that the economy is slowing; however if borrowers find themselves with financial difficulties, it will most likely be a result of their employment situation rather than their mortgage product;
  5. Differences between the Canadian and U.S. markets remain. The option ARMs that have and continue to be reset to higher rates are not common in Canada. Those who hold variable and even fixed rate products in Canada are now doing so in a declining interest rate environment. A greater percentage of mortgages in Canada are funded by balance sheet lenders than in the U.S. Subprime or alternative lending products were never as common in Canada;
  6. Canada has a rich history of mortgage insurance. Nearly half of all mortgages obtained in any given year are insured with a second approval process for mortgage applications. Underwriting principles and guidelines in Canada, while not perfect, are more thorough than in the U.S.;
  7. Regulation for Canadian mortgage brokers and agents is more stringent than in the U.S. Several provinces have recently updated or are in the process of updating their origination legislation including Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. There are now license requirements and in most provinces education and disclosure requirements. This will ultimately lead to enhanced professionalism in our industry and added security for Canadian borrowers.
Statistics Source: CAAMP's Annual State of the Residential Mortgage Market in Canada, by CAAMP Chief Economist Will Dunning.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to all

Since its Christmas Day we want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas full of good times and laughter with your loved ones.

Life is too short to be worried about the economy, finances and jobs. There will be time enough to think about these things AFTER you take a break to enjoy the spirit of the season.

Take advantage of the professionals around you ... mortgage brokers, realtors, investment advisors etc ... they are there to help and take away the stress over doing it yourself and wondering if you made the right choice.

Make it a day for enjoyment ... it only comes once a year !

Monday, December 22, 2008

Signs point to a lighter mood among financial players

A funny thing happened to some of the world's most powerful investors as they stared into the market abyss. They stepped back. And maybe that's a sign that the rest of us can soon step up.

Recently, Merrill Lynch released its monthly survey of global money managers, strategists and economists, and found that their mood about the world's markets and economy remains sour. However - and this shouldn't be understated - it has improved. The implication is that some key individuals, whose opinions drive the investment decisions of the institutional investors that collectively own about three-quarters of global equities, may be about to stop pulling money off the table and start putting some back on.

On almost every front, the survey improved. Views on the global economy, risk aversion, corporate profits and equity valuations all brightened.

Granted, the improvements are from very depressed levels, but hey, you've got to start somewhere - and this is how turnarounds start.

"After the extreme pessimism of the past two months, there is evidence of investors pulling back from the brink," Merrill's global equity strategy team said.

"We have been struck by tentative signs that the
pace of deterioration may be slowing."

Notably, the net percentage of respondents expecting further deterioration in the global economy over the next 12 months sank to 36 per cent, from 45 per cent in November and a miserable 60 per cent in October. And only a net 29 per cent of survey respondents still think central bank interest rates are too high, down from 65 per cent in November. (And this was before the U.S. Federal Reserve's stunning cut to a near-zero federal funds rate this week.)

Taken together, the message is exactly what central bankers have been wanting to hear: Key players in the financial markets believe the aggressive monetary easing is starting to work. And that may finally be putting a bottom under equities.

This isn't the only recent evidence to suggest that the downward spiral may be ending, particularly in the U.S. economy. This week, the Empire State manufacturing index and National Association of Home Builders' Housing Market Index both held essentially steady after months of sliding, a sign that two key components of the U.S. slump - housing and manufacturing - may be starting to stabilize.

If, indeed, institutional money managers are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, they have in their hands vital fuel for a turnaround in equities. The Merrill survey shows that fund managers are still massively overweight cash and bonds - and they consider bonds grossly overvalued, much more so than a month ago - while they are deeply underweight equities, which they consider severely undervalued.

With their risk views easing and outlook improving, the arguments against returning some of that money to the market are less convincing.

Still, risk assessment remains historically high, and Merrill said fund managers remain fearful that the low valuations of equities may be a "value trap." But at least their views are no longer deteriorating, and that's a critical prerequisite for the market to stabilize before reversing course.

Yes, it's a long walk back out of the wilderness. But the money is there, and, perhaps, the baby steps have begun.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

CMHC at fault ?

Warnings about risky mortgages ignored - Federal officials told CMHC it could overburden borrowers


December 18, 2008 at 2:00 AM EST

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. officials ignored warnings from senior
Finance Department and Bank of Canada officials during the past two years that its active business in high-risk mortgage insurance could overburden consumers.

According to sources familiar with the discussions, CMHC executives did not heed the warnings and continued to underwrite larger volumes of insurance policies for risky home loans with 40-year amortizations and minimal down payments.

The sources said the federal agency's executives disagreed about the potential risks and defended the creditworthiness of borrowers who were granted insurance for the riskier mortgage products.

One senior Ottawa official said CMHC was such a significant underwriter of 40-year mortgage insurance polices that it currently accounts for two-thirds of the nearly $56-billion of 40-year mortgages that were approved by banks, trust companies, credit unions and other lenders during the first six months of 2008.

Unlike the United States, Canada does not publicly release data about different classes of mortgage debt. CMHC does track mortgage data, but its officials have declined requests by The Globe and Mail for information about the volume of 40-year and low-down-payment mortgages.

In a statement issued last night, CMHC said it discussed mortgage risks with central bank officials in 2006 after former bank governor David Dodge raised concerns about the new breed of long-term home loans.

"CMHC officials took the governor and senior bank officials through the materials and discussed how the product was administered. The Bank of Canada was reassured by the fact that CMHC's product includes no change in mortgage qualification criteria and as such would not be of significant concern to the Bank.

"We know of no other concerns that the
Bank of Canada or the Department of Finance had with our activities that in their view would threaten financial stability," the statement said.

The agency said only a "relatively small" proportion of the $334-billion in mortgages it insures are either 40-year or zero-down-payment mortgages. A spokeswoman declined to put a figure to "relatively small."

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced in July that the federal government was cancelling its policy of guaranteeing 40-year mortgages as of Oct. 15 in order to shield Canada from the kind of housing crash that has devastated the U.S. economy. However, according to sources, bank executives had been warning Mr. Flaherty and central bank officials since the beginning of 2008 about a dramatic and unexpected increase in demand from consumers for 40-year mortgages with small down payments.

Lenders, insurers and government officials interviewed by The Globe characterized the first half of 2008 as a period of apparent paralysis by federal decision makers. These sources said bank and insurance executives and finance officials disagreed over how to pull the plug on popular and risky mortgage products. One of the few things they did agree about, according to sources, was that there was insufficient
monitoring of CMHC, which accounts for about 70 per cent of the total value of mortgage insurance underwritten in Canada.

"There is an accountability issue at CMHC," said one senior Ottawa official, who declined to be identified.

CMHC is a federal agency that has been supplying mortgage insurance since 1954, and is currently overseen by Human Resources and Social Development Canada.

In response to a question about its accountability, CMHC said in its statement: "The lines of accountability are very clear, like all Crown corporations CMHC is accountable to Parliament through its minister."

When The Globe contacted Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, her spokeswoman replied: "We will have to decline and allow CMHC to respond to the questions applicable."

According to people familiar with CMHC, the agency imported U.S.-style mortgage products to protect its dominant market position from large U.S. insurers who were allowed into the Canadian market in 2006. Canadian laws require borrowers with less than a 20-per-cent down payment to obtain insurance for their mortgages.

"They felt they were pushed into to this because of the new competition," said a person familiar with CMHC.

Underlying these concerns, sources said, was a federal internal study launched by the new Conservative government in 2006 to review the possible privatization of a number of agencies, including CMHC. The prospect of privatization, one source said, fuelled concerns that the agency needed to be seen as an effective competitor.

CMHC said in its statement that its decision to insure longer-term and lower-down-payment loans in 2006 "reflected the market trends for the period." Until 2006, the agency and its only rival, Genworth Financial Inc., did not insure mortgages that were amortized beyond 25 years. In February of 2006, several months before four U.S. insurance giants were allowed into Canada, CMHC introduced the country's first 30-year mortgage insurance product. What followed was a ferocious battle for market share between CMHC, Genworth and American International Group, the first of the new insurance entrants.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Carney to banks: Lend , don't hoard

An interesting read ... still think the big banks are your friend ? Maybe you'll see that they're really only interested in their bottom line and will consider using a mortgage broker for your next mortgage for the only unbiased assistance you'll find when it comes to your mortgage financing.

Bank of Canada Governor implores big five to help lift economy out of recession by freeing up money for business instead of building cushions to guard against losses

TORONTO - Mark Carney is pointing a finger at the country's big banks for hoarding capital against a rainy day instead of doling out more loans, a choice the Governor of the Bank of Canada says is damaging the economy.

The public admonishment is an unusual move for a central bank governor, but Mr. Carney has recently decided to advocate more publicly for certain government policies and bank behaviours.

While he has a direct line of communication with the chief executives of the big banks, his message hasn't been embraced. The banks have been racing to bolster their capital cushion, increasing the amount of money they hold to protect against potential loan losses.

"It is not clear to me that they need additional capital buffers," he said of the banks during a meeting with the editorial board of The Globe and Mail. "What is clear to me is that there is unfilled demand for credit for worthy investments, and I'm sure that our banks will see
these opportunities in the fullness of time."

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he and his provincial and territorial counterparts agree infrastructure projects must happen quickly to boost the economy.

The banks are tightening up just as many businesses are having trouble securing loans. The crimped corporate-credit environment could spur layoffs or closures and exacerbate pain in the economy precisely as the country is dragged into its first recession in nearly two decades.

Worries about companies' struggles to get loans emerged as one of the biggest risks to the economy at a meeting between Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and his provincial counterparts yesterday in Saskatoon.

"There was a feeling they could do more to get credit to business," Gregory Selinger, Manitoba's Finance Minister, said of the banks.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty also criticized Canada's big banks for not doing more to help cash-starved businesses. "One of the ways they can help is to make sure there is not an undue constraint on access to credit," he said. "Businesses need to continue to operate lines of

Banks refused to respond to Mr. Carney's remarks yesterday, and the Canadian Bankers Association declined comment.

Banks are required to hold capital, or funds, to protect their depositors in the event that they lose money on bad loans. Canada's banking regulator requires banks to keep the ratio of their most solid capital, known as Tier 1 capital, to their loans and investments above 7 per cent. Global rules require only 4 per cent. The riskier a bank's lending, the more capital it has to hold.

In the wake of the September collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., investors, analysts and regulators placed greater emphasis on the importance of capital cushions, which help to protect banks from financial hits such as soured loans and writedowns. Market pressure has
created what some analysts have deemed to be the new minimum acceptable ratio of 9 per cent in Canada, and the big banks all now have ratios ranging from 9.1 per cent to 10.5 per cent.

Three of the big five have taken the extraordinary step of issuing common shares in recent weeks. Earlier this week, Bank of Montreal CEO Bill Downe referred to his bank's move as "prudent." At least one bank chief has acknowledged some doubts about opting to raise capital. When Toronto-Dominion Bank CEO Ed Clark decided to raise capital late last month, he felt it was not in his bank's best interest. But he also felt pressure to bow to the market's whim, he said in an interview at the time.

What Mr. Carney advocates is almost a Keynesian approach to banking, in which a buildup of capital in good times is used to fund lending in bad times. The argument is that it's similar to the government practice of using deficit spending to prime the pump in a recession.

In a speech to a business audience in Toronto, Mr. Carney warned about the "paradox of thrift," which economist John Maynard Keynes coined to refer to destructive behaviour of individuals during a recession. At an individual level, people want to save more and invest less in a
recession. But collectively, this makes things worse. Banks may decide to stop lending because they fear losses, but their behaviour exacerbates the downturn.

"Of all places, Canada should be able to avoid this ... paradox of thrift," Mr. Carney told The Globe, because Canada's well-capitalized banking system does not need to hoard capital to cover eventual losses.

The Canadian banks are well positioned to heed critics such as Mr. Carney, since they all have capital levels well above the minimum requirements and access to relatively inexpensive government funding.

Even Canada's banking regulator, Julie Dickson, who has been prodding banks to conserve capital, now says it's "not the time to raise capital requirements across the board."

Former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge recently called on the bank, regulators and the Finance Department to band together and "lean against the wind" by combatting policies that could exacerbate the economic downturn.

As the financial crisis has gathered steam, officials around the world have identified policies that threaten to make the situation worse, ranging from accounting rules that cause the banks to take writedowns quarterly, to the regulations that cause employment insurance premiums
to rise when job losses loom.

In the future, banks should be required to build up capital buffers when the economy is good, Mr. Carney said.

With reports from Boyd Erman and Karen Howlett in Toronto, Heather
Scoffield in Ottawa and Kevin Carmichael in Saskatoon

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Home Decorating

Here's a great contribution from one of our trusted professionals and business partners ... hope you enjoy it! Whether you're listing your home for sale at this time of year or just want to make it shine over the holidays for family gatherings, this is great advice. Get in touch with Janet if you have more questions or would like to get her opinion and advice. Oh and don't forget to mention that you read about her on the Your Mortgage Matters Blog ! Best, Marshall

At this time of year with the Holidays approaching I am asked by clients and Realtors what you would recommend for Holiday Decorating.

First, let’s start with the outside.

I like to see lights outside but kept to specific areas that will make your house shine.

· A spot light on a beautiful door with a LARGE wreath is stunning.
· Showcase any trees you may have with lights. You can either hang lights from low branches and/or Spot Light those tall Evergreens.
· Use lights in the same color as not to “clutter” the visual affect. White lights are gorgeous, but will the perspective buyer notice another White Holiday lit home?
· All Red or All Blue or Green lights possibly. They need to flatter the selling features and compliment the homes color and style.

Warm & Inviting is always my desire for the exterior of a home for sale. The idea is to have the Buyer WANT to be there to EXPERIENCE the Holidays. WOW them with a bold statement done simply.

Second, now the Interiors it can be difficult. Really understanding who it is you are Marketing too is crucial.

· I ask my clients to minimize all religious icons.
· I recommend that my clients really discipline themselves to only display a small portion of their decorations.
· Keeping the product warm & inviting, cheerful and uncluttered should be the goal.
· This is the perfect time to have a Dining Room set for a party. This would have the buyer dreaming of perhaps them entertaining their friends and family in that room.

Do not leave decorations up after the New Year. It conveys that you are not “on top of things”. An exterior door wreath can be replaced with any other shaped decoration for winter such as a basket with cascading greens or a Pear shape. The circle wreath will look like a Holiday Wreath.

Please decorate your home even while it is in the market. Life is short and you need to enjoy your home during the selling process and holidays!

Happy Holidays,
Janet Marks, Certified CSP
HOW Solutions

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ontario Resale Market Summary

In a recent post we mentioned information from an economist at CMHC ... here are a few more observations made in his presentation:

  • Slower job market, rising prices and weaker consumer sentiment will cool demand in the resale market
  • The level of existing (already constructed) home sales will decrease but remain high by historical standards
  • Most markets in Ontario are currently classified as "balanced" rather than a "buyer's market" or a "seller's market"
  • High supply pressures are currently out-pacing demand (there are more houses available than normal demand for product)
  • As a result, the rate of house price increase will slow
  • The drops in the Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto markets have brought down the rest of the country on average even though 7 of 10 provinces experienced increases in the same period
  • 30% of mortgages arranged in Canada are done through mortgage brokers
Here is one final observation of our own ... there is concern in the mortgage and housing market in Canada however consider that there is a 40% chance a marriage will end in divorce but people still do it ... so don't be afraid to own a house or get a mortgage!

For more information on mortgage financing, please seek the experience of a mortgage professional.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Home Maintenance Schedule

Regular maintenance and inspection of your home is the best way to protect your investment. Whether you do it all yourself or hire a handy-man it is important to get into the habit of looking after the little things while they remain little. If you're ever in doubt after your own review then you can consult an expert for further advice or a professional eye on the problem.

Although most maintenance can be seasonal in nature, there are some things you should do frequently through the year such as:

  • Make sure air vents indoors and outdoors (intake, exhaust and forced air) are not blocked by snow or debris.
  • Check and clean range hood filters on a monthly basis.
  • Test ground fault circuit interrupters monthly by pushing the test button, which should then cause the reset button to pop-up.
  • If there are young children in the house, make sure electrical outlets are equipped with safety plugs.
  • Regularly check the house for safety hazards such as a loose handrail, lifting or buckling carpet etc.
Contact RMA-Spencer Group Mortgages for a free copy of a handy Home Maintenance Schedule. Check back here for seasonal updates as we progress through the year. "Winter" update coming up approximately December 20,2008,

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bank of Canada Rate Drop

Continuing good news for those in the mortgage market ... especially variable rate mortgages ... the Bank of Canada announces a drop in their overnight rate by .75%.

As we've said here before in the Your Mortgage Matters Blog, the overnight rate is the key indicator for the other lenders in the marketplace to set their prime rate as well as fixed mortgage rates.

Usually, except for once recently when many felt that some of the banks were trying to cheat their customers, a drop in the Bank of Canada prime rate signals an equivalent drop in the prime lending rate of the other lenders. Currently, the consumer prime rate is at 4.00% so we would hope that by this time tomorrow that the market lenders pass on that .75% reduction to their customers and drop their own prime rate to 3.25%.

We remind you to also pay attention to the fixed rates as well since the cost for those funds will drop slightly which may translate into savings for those with mortgages coming up for renewal in the next while.

Don't forget to take advantage of the services of a licensed mortgage broker who can lock in these lower rates for up to 120 days ... that means purchases taking place between Dec 9, 2008 out as far as approximately April 9, 2009 PLUS those with mortgages renewing during that time period should get their mortgage professionals working for them today.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ontario Land Transfer Tax

Here's a little information on one of those two inevitable parts of life (death and taxes). For your jurisdiction, make sure you check the appropriate references. This information is specific to transactions in Ontario, Canada.

If you buy land or an interest in land you must pay the Ontario Land Transfer Tax (OLTT). You should check that link for more specific information but we've included some answers to the more frequently asked questions in this post to get you by until you check with a professional such as a real estate lawyer to confirm how and whether the tax applies in your specific situation. There are certain exemptions available and again we always suggest you check with a qualified professional before making any moves.

The amount of the OLTT can be significant and is calculated using a progressive scale based on the purchase price of the property:
  • 0.5% on amounts up to and including $55,000
  • + 1.0% on amounts exceeding $55,000 up to and including $250,000
  • + 1.5% on amounts exceeding $250,000 up to and including $400,000
  • + 2.0% of the amount in excess of $400,000 (residential only)
So as you can see, the amount of tax payable is a key consideration to be included when budgeting for the purchase of a home. This is even more important if that home happens to be in the City of Toronto because there is also a Municipal Land Transfer Tax which applies on all purchases of homes within the city.

In general we note that the scale of rates and exemptions are similar between the two tiers. Our best advice is to seek the opinion of an expert BEFORE signing on the dotted line so that you are sure of your budget requirements and aren't in for any surprises.

If you are interested in contacting a real estate lawyer we suggest you contact the Law Society of Upper Canada which operates a referral service for a small charge or use a service such as CanLaw.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Subprime crisis in USA not affecting Canada to the same extent

Here's a little information of note ... makes you feel better that the other shoe isn't about to drop here in Canada when thinking about the subprime mess south of the border.

Information provided by an economist from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation told a gathering of mortgage professionals in Belleville, Ontario recently that approximately 20% of all mortgage loans in the United States are classified as "subprime" but at the same time, only 5% of the loans in Canada were in this category.

To put a number on the problem, in 2006 there were 800,000 of these subprime mortgages in default in the USA. In 2007, that number rose to 1.5 million and again in 2008 estimates are that another 1.5 million of these loans are in default. Numbers in Canada are nowhere near there so our banking system is quite a lot safer than that of our neighbours to the south and the risk of banks defaulting due to their clients not paying their debts is quite low.

A final note on defaults in the USA ... according to Lou Dobbs (CNN Dec 4/08) there are currently 2,250,000 foreclosures in the USA (yes that's OVER 2 million).

Other problems affecting the US mortgage market are the so called "ninja" loans that were made in the hey-day of the market run-up ...

o Income, No Job or Assets.

A person could get a mortgage without a job, without having to prove they had any income or assets such as downpayment to obtain financing. I recall seeing commercials on the television for 120% advances - you own a house worth $100,000 and get a $120,000 mortgage. Not a bad deal but who didn't see that eventually there would be a problem ? The same scenario in Canada at the time required at least 10% equity in the property so the maximum loan was $90,000. It had people complaining that it was "so hard" to get that equity, and "unfair" but now we see that the lenders were correct after all in requiring that a homeowner had some of their own skin in the game.

Additionally, there were mortgage products created which encouraged consumers to refinance rather than ever pay off their debts and some loans had limited or in some cases no ability to prepay - here we have a standard 20/20 prepayment where without penalty, a homeowner can pay off up to 20% of the amount borrowed with no penalty to do so and/or increase their instalment payment by 20% ... doing either/both measures can significantly cut down on interest costs and of course paydown the mortgage faster.

With the deductibility feature of a portion of mortgage interest, its not a wonder that Americans are unlikely to payoff their mortgage debt and are encouraged to get into the spiral of taking out equity to pay off other debts or buy goods. Of course here in Canada we can not deduct our mortgage interest payments from our income when it comes to tax time - although there are certain circumstances which allows this on rental properties or where the mortgage funds were used for investment - so again we were safe from this dangerous behavior.

Are we completely out of the woods ? That's not what we're saying here ... just that it isn't as bad as it could be and we are suffering a lot less of the downside than our neighbours south of the 49th are.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

10 great reasons to use a mortgage broker ... #10

10) Ongoing support and consultation.

Even once your mortgage is signed and paperwork is complete, we are here if you need and advice on closing details or even future referral needs. We are happy to be of assistance when you need it.

Well that concludes our series of the 10 great reasons to use a mortgage broker. We hope you enjoyed it and put a mortgage broker on your team the next time you're thinking about purchasing or refinacing.

And wouldn't it be a great gift for you to give this knowledge to someone you care about this holiday season ? With all the uncertainty in the stock market and financial sector these days and stories coming to light about how companies and bankers really are just looking after themselves, isn't it about time to put a trained, unbiased professional in your corner ?

We look forward to the opportunity to help you or someone you care about with what most likely is the biggest decision of your life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

10 great reasons to use a mortgage broker ... #9

9) No cost to you.

There's absolutely no charge for our services on typical residential mortgage transactions.

How can we afford to do that ?

Like many other professional services such as insurance, mortgage brokers are paid a finder's fee when we introduce trustworthy, dependable customers to a financial institution. These fees are quite standard and nearly industry-wide so that the focus remains on you, the customer.

Hey, we told you you'd be glad you checked in for reaon #9 - didn't we? So don't miss #10 in a couple more days. See you soon.

Monday, December 1, 2008

World Aids Day

The team at the Your Mortgage Matters Blog takes a moment today to remember all those touched by this terrible disease and the ones who work so hard towards a cure.

A brief history of World AIDS Day from Wikipedia:

World AIDS Day, observed December 1 each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection.

AIDS has killed more than 20 million people, with an estimated 38.6 million people living with HIV, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent, improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 3.1 million (between 2.8 and 3.6 million) lives in 2005, of which more than half a million (570,000) were children.

The concept of a World AIDS Day originated at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention. Since then, it has been taken up by governments, international organizations and charities around the world.From its inception until 2004, UNAIDS spearheaded the World AIDS Day campaign, choosing annual themes in consultation with other global health organizations.

In 2005 this responsibility was turned over to World AIDS Campaign (WAC), who chose Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise as the main theme for World AIDS Day observances through 2010, with more specific sub-taglines chosen annually. This theme is not specific to World AIDS Day, but is used year-round in WAC's efforts to highlight HIV/AIDS awareness within the context of other major global events including the G8 Summit. World AIDS Campaign also conducts “in-country” campaigns throughout the world, like the Student Stop AIDS Campaign, an infection-awareness campaign targeting young people throughout the UK.

It is common to hold memorials to honor persons who have died from HIV/AIDS on this day. Government and health officials also observe, often with speeches or forums on the AIDS topics.

Since 1995 the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day. Governments of other nations have followed suit and issued similar announcements.

World AIDS Day Themes 1988 - present
1988 Communication
1989 Youth
1990 Women and AIDS
1991 Sharing the Challenge
1992 Community Commitment
1993 Act
1994 AIDS and the Family
1995 Shared Rights, Shared Responsibilities
1996 One World. One Hope
1997 Children Living in a World with AIDS
1998 Force for Change: World AIDS Campaign With Young People
1999 Listen, Learn, Live: World AIDS Campaign with Children & Young People
2000 AIDS: Men Make a Difference
2001 I care. Do you?
2002 Stigma and Discrimination
2003 Stigma and Discrimination
2004 Women, Girls, HIV and AIDS
2005 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise
2006 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise - Accountability
2007 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise - Leadership
2008 Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise - Leadership