These are stories Report on Business is following Monday, Jan. 30, 2012. Get the top business stories through the day on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.
EU leaders focus on jobs Leaders of the European Union pledged today to try to stimulate employment, particularly among the continent's youth who are having exceptional trouble finding work amidst the debt crisis.
"More than 23 million people are unemployed in Europe today," the members of the European Council said in a statement. "Unless we can improve our growth rates, unemployment will remain high."
They promised to boost efforts to get young people their first job, and increase the apprecenticeship and training programs. Unemployment is a wise focus for Europe's leaders. In Spain, for example, almost one-quarter of the work force is out of work, including almost half the youth population.
There were other pledges, as well, in the area of small business and single market dealings, for example.
"There are no quick fixes," they warned. "Our action must be determined, persistent and broad-based. We must do more to get Europe out of the crisis."
As the leaders of the EU met in Brussels, 25 of the 27 leaders signed on to the new fiscal agreement, with Britain and the Czech Republic staying out.
"The treaty is all about more responsibility and better surveillance," said Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European Council.
"Every country that signs it commits to bringing in a 'debt brake' or 'golden rule' into its own legislation, and will do so at constitutional or equivalent level," he said.
The pact would see budget deficits come down to 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product.
"New voting rules and an automatic correction mechanism will enforce compliance more effectively," Mr. Van ROmpuy said. "Twenty-five member states will sign it, that is all except the U.K. and the Czech Republic. The treaty will enter into force once 12 euro countries have ratified it."
As the leaders met, though, perhaps the real drama was in Athens and Lisbon.
The meeting came amid a deteroriating outlook for the 17-member euro zone overall - just today Spain reported that its economy contracted in the fourth quarter, while bond yields in Portugal surged - and as Greece and Germany bickered about oversight of the Athens budget.
Troubles are also mounting in Portugal, The Globe and Mail's Eric Reguly reports, so much so that many observers believe another bailout is inevitable.
- Eric Reguly: While eyes fixed on Greece, Portugal crisis grows uglier
- Greece angrily rejects German plan for EU budget control
- For many Germans, the euro crisis remains a non-event
- Spain edges toward new recession
New drilling practices Canada's energy today unveiled new guidelines to protect water sources where companies drill for natural gas using an increasingly controversial technique known as fracking, The Globe and Mail's Carrier Tait reports.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the industry lobby group, said the guidelines apply to all of its members exploring for and producing natural gas in Canada. The rules address hydraulic fracturing operations in shale gas and tight gas reservoirs.
Target unveils franchis model for Canadian stores Target Corp. will be looking for new pharmacists when it takes over Zellers stores and opens its own discount outlets by early 2013, The Globe and Mail's Marina Strauss reports.
Zellers will now have to find alternative places for the pharmacies to operate while its stores close for renovations later this year.
The process means that rival pharmacies, such as Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. can now bid for Zellers’ customer prescription files in an attempt to lure those customers to their stores.
Target had the option of acquiring the Zellers prescription files under its deal with Zellers to buy up to 200 of its leases. But Target has decided not to exercise that option.
Siemens strikes deal for RuggedCom Canada's RuggedCom Inc. has found its white knight in the form of Siemens Canada Ltd., which has struck a deal to acquire the networking company for about $440-million.
The $33-a-share bid from Siemens eclipses a hostile attempt by Belden Inc. at $22.
“The Siemens offer is the culmination of a thorough and vigorous process run by the special committee to identify superior alternatives to the Belden offer," said RuggedCom chairman Peter Crombie. "Given the level of interest from qualified potential parties, the special committee facilitated a process to maximize the value on offer for RuggedCom."
Belden said it would allow its bid for RuggedCom to lapse, adding the Siemens price was too rich for it.
“While RuggedCom is a strong and innovative company with a talented team, we do not believe that matching the competing offer is in the best interest of Belden shareholders,” chief executive officer John Stroup said in a statement.
Valeant drops ISTA bid Less than two weeks after boosting its hostile bid for ISTA Pharmaceuticals Inc. , Canada's Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. says it's walking away.
Valeant had been offering about $360-million (U.S.), or $7.50 a share.
Valeant said in a statement today that it's frustrated by the lack of movement, so it's taking its pills and going home a day before the offer was to expire.
"As we stated last December, we were not interested in participating in a lengthy evaluation process and we are disappointed that the ISTA team was not willing to fully explore our proposal by Jan. 31," chief executive officer Michael Pearson said in a statement.
"We continue to be disciplined on our M&A strategy and we are actively working on other opportunities that we believe can create value for our shareholders. We wish the ISTA team well in their future endeavors."
OSFI sounds alarm Canada's banking regulator is concerned over what it sees as lenders growing "increasingly liberal" with mortgages and lines of credit tied to a borrower's home equity where no proof of income is required.
Warnings from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions include mortgages and home equity loans to people who are self-employed and have recently immigrated to Canada, Bloomberg News reports today, citing more than 150 pages of documents it obtained under access to information laws.
Such cases "have some similarities to non-prime loans in the U.S. retail lending market," the documents say, according to the news agency.
There has not been much concern in Canada over such loans, which a CIBC World Markets economist puts at representing less than 5 per cent of the overall market.
There are many differences between the markets in the United States and Canada, which has recently tightened mortgage rules, as well.
A spokesman for OSFI told Bloomberg that it "identifies areas that may require an increased level of monitoring" as part of its normal process, while a spokeswoman for the Canadian Bankers Association said banks in Canada carefully manage their risk.
The debt burden among Canadians has grown to worrisome levels, prompting repeated warnings from policy makers of the vulnerability of consumers when interest rates inevitably rise. Amid that, Canada's housing market is slowing.
Sherry Cooper, for one, isn't overly worried where the country's mortgage insurer, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., is concerned. CMHC is solid and the quality of its portfolio strong, the chief economist at Bank of Montreal said in a report Friday.
Indeed, the pace of delinquencies is low, she said, shy of 0.5 per cent, compared to 8 per cent in the United States.
"In addition, CMHC is working closely with the Bank of Canada and the Department of Finance to analyze Canadian house prices by city (CMA) looking for warning signs of a potential bubble," Ms. Cooper said in her report.
"They are carefully modelling house prices in each province and CMA based on such underlying factors as demographic changes, economic growth, interest rates and construction costs. At the moment, there is little evidence to suggest a problematic overvaluation in the Canadian housing market overall, although some centres 'warrant close monitoring,' according to their most recent quarterly report issued in September 2011."
- When your debt burden rises and your pay lags inflation
- Older consumers pile on new debt
- No housing crash for Canada: BMO
Working with those you hate If the headline above prompted you to immediately turn and glance at the person sitting next to you in the office, check out the Harvard Business Review, which reports today on how to work with people we loathe. As Amy Gallo puts it on the HBR blog, the "pompous jerk, annoying nudge, or incessant complainer."
If done wrong, working with them can be a waste of time, she writes. But done right, there can still be a good relationship at work.
Here's what she advises:
Manage your reaction: You can control your behaviour, but not that of the person you can't stand. Maybe try a relaxation routine.
Hold it in: Don't complain to other people about the one you hate. Not only can that be contagious, it may also not look good on you.
Maybe it's you: Ouch. Think about what you don't like about said colleague. Maybe he or she is just different, while there can be things such as jealousy that lead to negative reactions.
Spend more time with them: You might learn why you don't like your colleague.
Consider feedback: When all else fails, try telling the person what's wrong, unless you think he or she is vindictive and will just cause further trouble.
Come what may: When all else fails, part two, just take on an I-don't-care attitude.
The spy game The U.S. government is finding new roles for its spooks in an era of heightened trade vigilance
In his State of the Union address last week, President Barack Obama outlined plans for a Trade Enforcement Unit, basically a crack unit that will fight unfair trade practices.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk added some details later, telling Reuters that the team would include officials of the Commerce and customs operations, and the intelligence services.
"Even some of the intelligence agencies will be working collaboratively together," Mr. Kirk told the news agency in an interview published yesterday.
The overall effort, Mr. Kirk said, "will provide a much better tool basket and put more bodies in terms of being able to develop some of these cases and gather the intelligence that is necessary to take some of these complex matters before the World Trade Organization."
It may not be as exciting as the old Cold War days for some - counting softwood lumber can't be as romantic as sneaking across the Iron Curtain - but it does illustrate how countries are scrambling to boost their exports and protect their markets in a troubled global economy. And, America's case, much of it does appear aimed at China.
What to watch for this week Markets will be watching closely when the U.S. Labor Department and Statistics Canada give their snapshots of labour markets Friday.
Economists believe the U.S. report will show that the economy created about 150,000 jobs this month, and that the unemployment rate held steady at about 8.5 per cent. Also worth watching, as The Globe and Mail's Kevin Carmichael writes in today's Report on Business, is the participation rate given the number of Americans who have given up looking for work.
"Recent encouraging news on the U.S. labour market should have continued into the start of 2012, although further improvement may well prove harder to achieve," said Andrew Grantham of CIBC World Markets.
"With growth settling to a more moderate pace, hiring would do well to average much in excess of 150,000 [a month]this year. This would not be enough to prevent the unemployment rate from edging up later in the year should previously discouraged workers return to the labour force."
In Canada, Friday's report is expected to show job creation in the area of 20,000, give or take, but an unemployment rate stubbornly stuck at 7.5 per cent.
"Canadian employment rose nearly 200,000 in 2011, but growth slowed sharply in the second half of the year," said Benjamin Reitzes of BMO Nesbitt Burns.
"The underlying deceleration is expected to persist in 2012. However, over the past two years, the first half of the year accounted for the bulk of employment gains, with January kicking things off with a strong report. We look for a similar pattern (though milder than last year), and are calling for an 18,000 headline increase for January."
In the markets, quarterly earnings season continues with reports from several major energy companies, including Imperial Oil Ltd. , Suncor Energy Inc. , Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. , and MEG Energy Corp. .
"We expect MEG registered very strong flush production in the months following its annual September turnaround," said analysts at UBS Securities Canada.
"Our estimate of 29,750 barrels a day would eclipse the Q2’11 record of 27,800 barrels a day, establishing good momentum into 2012 ... For [Suncor] we expect an update on operations at Firebag 3, where we have seen ramp-up contribute to strong oil sands production volumes in December. For [Canadian Oil Sands] we note Q4 production from Syncrude was the lowest since Q2’09. For [Imperial Oil] we await an update on Kearl which remains the key investor focus."
- Boyd Erman's Streetwise: Scotia kills Scotia Capital brand, unveils new name
- Stephen Gordon's Economy Lab: Austerity budget is coming, but is this the right time?
- Geoffrey York's Global Exchange: Africa - big beautiful and bereft of tourists
- Microsoft, Google push new plan to combat e-mail scams
- U.S. incomes rise strong 0.5%, consumer spending flat
- Carnival outlines earnings hit from Concoria wreck
- Ex-UBS trader denies fraud, faces trial
- Imax in deal to build theatres in India
- Wendy's profit falls, revenue climbs
- RBS chief waives bonus after U.K. political storm