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A man walks past graffiti that reads "Fight for our future" in Turon, northern Spain (ELOY ALONSO)
A man walks past graffiti that reads "Fight for our future" in Turon, northern Spain (ELOY ALONSO)

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A lost generation struggles amid Europe's crisis Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, May 2, 2012. Get the top business stories through the day on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.

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Europe on the ropes A lost generation is taking shape in Europe, adding to already mounting pressure on policy makers to shift their focus from austerity at all costs.

And with a youth unemployment rate of almost 23 per cent in the European Union, it really is a question of at all costs.

That overall youth jobless rate - there are more than 5.5 million young people without work in the 27-nation EU - masks the extreme differences among the countries.

In Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, for example, youth jobless levels are below 10 per cent. But in countries such as Greece and Spain, they're running at more than half the work force, the Eurostat agency reported today.

"In contrast to the manufacturing indicators from Asia and the U.S., the latest crop of data from the euro area offers a bleak picture of a region slowly sliding deeper into recession, with Spain and Italy in particular experiencing an accelerating decline," said James Nixon of Société Générale, referring to overall jobless levels and manufacturing numbers.

The overall unemployment rate hit 10.2 per cent in March, Eurostat said, with the level even higher, at 10.9 per cent, in the smaller 17-member euro zone. Almost 25 million people are struggling to find work in the EU.

"Since the current deterioration phase began over a year ago, Europe has now seen over 1.7 million people becoming unemployed over that interlude," said Mark Chandler, chief of fixed income and currency research at RBC Dominion Securities.

Barrick boosts dividend Barrick Gold Corp. hiked its dividend by 33 per cent today as it posted a slight gain in first-quarter profit.

The Canadian gold producer said its quarterly dividend will rise to 20 cents (U.S.) a share.

The dividend hike came as Barrick reported a 3-per-cent increase in first-quarter profit to $1.03-billion or $1.03 a share, from $1-billion or $1 a year earlier.

"We made good progress on a number of areas in the quarter," said chief executive officer Aaron Regent.

"We had good operating performance, which translated into solid financial results and further advanced our projects under construction," he added " … We also progressed our exploration program, which continues to increase our resource base, improved our liquidity and returned more capital back to shareholders with a further increase in our dividend."

Loblaw posts lower profit Loblaw Cos. Ltd. posted a 22-per-cent dip in first-quarter profit today, reflecting money spent on technology and a shift to new store formats, The Globe and Mail's Marina Strauss reports.

Profit slipped to $239-million or 45 cents a share from $303-million or 58 cents a share a year earlier, while revenue rose 0.9 per cent to $6.94-billion.

"We are confident that our ongoing investments in infrastructure will enable efficiencies and expense leverage, setting the stage for future earnings growth," said executive chairman Galen G. Weston.

Intact strikes Jevco deal Canada's Intact Financial Corp. today unveiled a $530-million deal to acquire Jevco Insurance Co.

The deal comes as many executives in Canada’s property and casualty insurance business have been predicting a wave of consolidation, in which the larger players will gobble up the smaller ones, The Globe and Mail's Tara Perkins reports.

Jevco specializes in insuring recreational vehicles such as motorcycles and snowmobiles. It is currently owned by Westaim, a publicly-traded holding company. The deal to sell it to Intact is expected to close this fall.

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