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Dumb, smart & funny things people said and did today Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, Nov. 16. Get the top business stories through the day on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.

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Smart, dumb and arguably funny 1. "This government, ties to banks, to business, to the Vatican, to private universities, to the usual names, is the opposite of what this country needs," Paolo Ferrero, leader of a small communist party in Italy, said today as the country's new prime minister named a new cabinet with no politicians. Oh, I don't know. A pipeline to God might just come in handy when all else fails.

2. Here's what AIG chairman Steve Miller told Bloomberg TV today as he remarked that no one will ever know what would have happened had the insurer collapsed: "The understanding of the Occupy Wall Street crowd of what makes our country work is probably fairly limited." Um ... what's making the country work are mega-bailouts and government ownership.

3. Spot the connection: In vitro fertilization using donated sperm increased markedly last year in Britain, the Human Fertlization Embryology Authority said in a new report today. Britain's Office for National Statistics reported separately that 2.6 million people are unemployed amid the highest jobless rate in 15 years. The number of young people out of work topped one million while the unemployment rate in that group climbed to almost 22 per cent. As Bloomberg News reports, donors to the European Sperm Bank are paid €25, and about half are students.

4. Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg and chief of the euro zone, says there's not a snowball's chance in you-know-where that he'd take on the job of permanently leading the monetary union. He told Tageblatt: “It was me who suggested this post should become full-time because I saw how difficult it can be to do this as a side job. Especially in an absolute time of crisis like we have this has almost become impossible. I won’t be a candidate for such a post. Really not.”

5. Tweet of the day from @JustinWolfers: "Welcome to the free market! Lululemon's stock down 3.5% as they learn latte-sipping yoga moms abhor Ayn Rand." A reference to today's article by Simon Houpt.

6. The young woman who claimed that Justin Bieber sired her baby has dropped her paternity suit. The young Mr. Bieber had denied this claim vigorously. Does this now mean we won't get a cover of Paul Anka's You're Having My Baby?

7. "I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom." Abraham Lincoln

"But only if I believe that my directing talents will improve the material I'd be working on. I want to make sure I don't sacrifice beautiful material on the altar of my direction." Andre Braugher

"Some day the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit!" Mother Jones

"It's possible to honourably sacrifice yourself on the altar of acceptance." Joseph P. Blodgett

"Government sacrificing dairy and poultry producers on the altar of free trade." Federal NDP

Oh, come on, guys.

Enbridge takes Seaway stake Canada's Enbridge Inc. today unveiled a new plan to ship greater volumes of Canadian and U.S. crude to the Gulf Coast, teaming up with Enterprise Products Partners L.P. to reverse a 150,000 barrel per day pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to Texas.

Enbridge is spending $1.5-billion (U.S.) to purchase a half interest in the Seaway crude pipeline from ConocoPhillips Co. , The Globe and Mail's Shawn McCarthy reports. Enterprise owns the other 50 per cent and operates the line, which currently brings crude from Texas to the smaller refining hub at Cushing.

Cushing has become a key choke point for Canadian crude producers, as a glut of supply there has driven down the price of West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark against Canadian oil is priced.

RIM shares rise Shares of Research In Motion Ltd. climbed today after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. boosted its rating on the stock to "neutral" from "sell." But ... analyst Simona Jankowski also cut her price target for the shares to $18 (U.S.) from $22 as she changed the way she values the BlackBerry maker.

You've got to look at why she did what she did:

"We are upgrading RIM to neutral from sell, as we believe the stock’s discount valuation at a P/E of 3.8X our below-consensus CY12 EPS estimate already fairly captures our fundamental concerns. We are transitioning from P/E to sum-of-the-parts valuation for the stock, which we view as a more meaningful valuation methodology at this stage, given the company’s likely rapidly declining earnings trajectory. Our sum-of-the-parts valuation assigns value to three of RIM’s assets: (1) its intellectual property (IP), (2) its services cash flow stream, and (3) its cash."

By her reckoning, RIM is worth about $9.6-billion on that sum-of-its-parts basis. That's intellectual property at $3.4-billion, services cash flow at $4.8-billion and cash and investments at $1.4-billion.

RIM shares climbed today, though they were already above her new target, as the Nasdaq slipped.

By the way, RIM, which unveiled two new models yesterday, reached a milestone in Britain today by topping the 8-million subscriber mark.

Flaherty warns Canada's finance minister issued a dire warning today, saying the euro debt crisis could take the world to the brink of another recession.

In a speech in Tokyo, Jim Flaherty urged the 17-member euro zone to take "concrete actions" to deal with the dual debt and banking crises.

"It could even, potentially, bring the world to the verge of another recession," Mr. Flaherty said, according to Bloomberg News. (I think we might already be on the verge, but I'm not quibbling.)

"Global growth is weakening, downside risks have heightened considerably, and confidence has waned," Mr. Flaherty added.

How to fix Europe? The bond market has decided that the euro zone is rotten almost to the core.

What began as a rout in the periphery has now spread well beyond, as Eric Reguly writes in today's Report on Business. Yesterday, bond yields spiked for France, Belgium, Spain and Austria as well.

"The ECB stepped in this morning and bought Italian and Spanish bonds in the secondary market in order to help bring yields back down after borrowing costs jumped not only in those two countries yesterday but in several other major European countries, such as the Netherlands and Austria, as worries over the lack of resolution in Europe starts to spread," said Derek Holt and Karen Cordes Woods of Scotia Capital.

Yields then jumped again as the reprieve evaporated. Yet again, the markets are being fed by rumour and speculation, and there's little in the way of concrete developments, in the run-up to other bond auctions.

"Specifically, whispers were making the rounds that French and Austria were within a scratch of being downgraded, though we have not yet seen anything official," said Mark Chandler and Ian Pollick of RBC Dominion Securities.

"The French rumour has been circulating for a while and shouldn't be taken as too much of a surprise, though on Austria we are fairly certain the breeding ground for the rumour is a function of the Moody's visit to Vienna - though it should be noted this had been pre-scheduled for some time. On the back of this, however, peripheral spreads are actually tightening - again though, this could be chalked up to nothing more than ECB buying given the inconsistent backdrop. Recall, tomorrow we have an extremely heavy issuance calendar, with big supply coming down the pipeline from both France and Spain."

In a report yesterday, Richard Kelly, the chief of european rates and foreign exchange research at Toronto-Dominion Bank in London, said there are only three options for the euro zone: Large scale buying by the ECB, a fiscal union or a breakup.

Jobless rates climb Unemployment has become the blight of our times. It's not a jobless recovery, it's a job-loss recovery in this new era of austerity.

In Britain, according to official numbers released today, the unemployment rate now stands at 8.3 per cent, its highest in 15 years. More than 1 million youth are now without work.

In Portugal, the jobless rate has jumped to 12.4 per cent, also according to fresh numbers today. And in Spain, where unemployment is an ugly 20 per cent, there's no sign of a letup. Its statistics agency said today that economic growth flatlined in the third quarter, promising no easing in the jobless rate.

U.S. inflation easing slowly Not that inflation was a particular priority anyway for Ben Bernanke at this point, but it is easing.

Consumer prices in the United States dipped 0.1 per cent in October from September, largely as pump prices fell, and the annual pace of inflation slowed to 3.5 per cent from 3.9 per cent a month earlier. The so called core rate measured by the U.S. Labor Department came in at 2.1 per cent.

"Today’s CPI and yesterday’s [producer price index]report confirm that price pressures are moderating in the U.S., and support the Fed’s ultra loose monetary policy," said senior economist Krishen Rangasamy of National Bank Financial.

In Europe, where the central bank has tied itself in knots fighting inflation, the annual pace remained unchanged at 3 per cent in October.

Loblaw profit climbs Helped by financial services and higher food prices, Loblaw Cos. Ltd. enjoyed a better third quarter than a year earlier but still warned about coming pressures as the Canadian grocer invests further to update its systems.

In its third quarter, profit jumped almost 20 per cent to $236-million or 84 cents a share from $197-million or 71 cents a share a year earlier, The Globe and Mail's Marina Strauss reports. Revenue picked up 2 per cent to $9.7-billion from $9.5-billion.

In Economy Lab The Conference Board of Canada has run a model simulation to figure out how much richer Canada would be had the country's labour productivity growth kept up with the U.S. in the past 20 years. The results are startling, Tavia Grant writes.

In International Business The European Union needs to radically change its ways, or it may not survive, Nicolas Veron writes.

In Globe Careers With so many national and international head offices in or near Toronto, the winners of the GTA’s Top Employers contest faced fierce competition.

From today's Report on Business

 

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