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Billionaire investor George Soros. (Tim Fraser For The Globe and Mail)
Billionaire investor George Soros. (Tim Fraser For The Globe and Mail)

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Global financial system on verge of collapse, George Soros says Add to ...

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

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Soros warns of trouble George Soros believes the global financial system is nearing collapse.

The world financial system, Mr. Soros said, according to The Wall Street Journal, is in a "self-reinforcing process of disintegration," and the fallout could be "quite disastrous."

"You have to do what you can to stop it developing in that direction," the legendary financier said in New York.

Merkel tells it like it is Angela Merkel put a little spark in global markets today by repeating her call for a tighter fiscal union. But what's most notable about the German chancellor's remarks in Parliament today is how straight she's shooting when it comes to the bleak outlook for the euro zone.

Ms. Merkel again rejected the idea of eurobonds for the 17-member monetary union, and warned that there is no quick fix to end the raging debt crisis.

“In order to win back trust, we need to do more, where we today have agreements, we need in the future to have legally binding regulations,” she said, adding that the euro zone must win back the trust that was "damaged 60 times."

Her comments followed those of her French colleague Nicolas Sarkozy a day earlier.

All eyes are now on an EU summit in Brussels Dec. 9, where Mr. Sarkozy and Ms. Merkel will push for changes to the treaty that binds the group. But economists warn markets may be disappointed, as they have been many times before in this two-year-old crisis.

"This is about closer monitoring of member states with tougher sanctions for those who break the rules," said currency strategist Elsa Lignos at RBC in London. "Expecting more than that from the Dec. 9 Summit is a set-up for disappointment."

RIM takes hit Research In Motion Ltd. is having a shockingly bad day.

Not only has it been forced to deal with the fallout from two employees and their drunken behaviour on an Air Canada flight, the BlackBerry maker's stock tanked again today after it warned it will miss its financial targets and take a huge hit on its PlayBook tablet. And in a troubling sign, The Globe and Mail's Iain Marlow reports, RIM said it expects to ship fewer BlackBerry units in the fourth quarter than it did in the third.

RIM said it would take a $485-million (U.S.) provision in the third quarter, or $360-million after tax, given the "high level" of the tablet's inventory.

“The company now believes that an increase in promotional activity is required to drive sell-through to end customers," RIM said in a statement.

"This is due to several factors, including recent shifts in the competitive dynamics of the tablet market and a delay in the release of the PlayBook OS 2.0 software. As a result, RIM will record a provision that reflects the current market environment and allows it to expand upon the aggressive level of promotional activity recently employed by the company in order to drive PlayBook adoption around the world.”

Retailers have been discounting the PlayBook, which is trying to compete in a world dominated by the iPad from Apple Inc. .

"RIM is continuing to suffer from its PlayBook endeavors," said CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber, according to Reuters. "It hurt RIM initially by diverting focus, but muted demand is now becoming clearly visible in the financials."

RIM, which reports results in mid-December, warned it won’t meet its earnings targets.

"RIM's soft Q4 outlook sustains concerns re further franchise erosion, and raises the bar for turnaround," said RBC Dominion Securities analyst Mike Abramsky.

First, RIM said it now expects adjusted earnings per share in the quarter to be “at the low to mid point” of its previous forecast of $1.20 to $1.40. That excludes the hit from the PlayBook and the costs associated with the BlackBerry blackout earlier this year. As well, it said it doesn’t expect to meet its full-year forecast of $5.25 to $6.

"The lower expected shipments in the fourth quarter are due to several factors including lower than expected sell-through in the third quarter and RIM’s current view of fourth quarter demand," RIM said of its BlackBerry outlook.

Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said in a statement the company remains committed to the PlayBook, describing the tablet market as "still in its infancy."

"Although a number of factors have led to the need for an inventory provision in the third quarter, we believe the PlayBook, which will be further enhanced with the upcoming PlayBook OS 2.0 software, is a compelling tablet for consumers that also offers unique security and manageability features for the enterprise," he said.

Berstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu found that troubling.

"What is more worrying, of course, is the profound denial the tone of the release reflects," he said, Reuters report. Although it appears obvious to us that RIM's current strategy is bound to fail rapidly, the company continues to support it vehemently."

Jobless rate climbs Canada's jobs markets is clearly on the ropes, although the details aren't as bad as they seem on first blush.

Canada's economy lost almost 19,000 jobs in November - that's the third decline in four months, The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant reports - and the unemployment rate edged higher to 7.4 per cent. Today's report from Statistics Canada follows a loss of 54,000 jobs in October.

Here's what to keep in mind: Part-time employment fell by 53,000, while the gain in full-time work numbered 35,000. And over the course of the past year, some 212,000 jobs have been created, largely full time.

"Within industries, there were decent gains in construction, but manufacturing dipped to new lows, and there were big declines in wholesale/retail trade, consistent with the loss of part-time jobs," said chief economist Avery Shenfeld of CIBC World Markets.

"Over all, while there was at least some encouraging news in the lean back towards full time work, the overall picture is one of a continued softening in Canada’s jobs market, suggesting a slowing in economic growth after a brisk third quarter."

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has said he stands ready to act on the jobs front, and he has already taken some baby steps. But with the jobless rate continuing to climb, it's clearly time to do more.

Only this morning, Mr. Flaherty said he met for pre-budget talks with business and other officials in Charlottetown, launching what he called "a series of cross-Canada consultations on how best to ensure Canada's economy continues to produce jobs and growth in a difficult global economy."

That, too, is a good sign, but it must be a priority for the government. While Canada is still in an enviable position - the U.S. jobless rate is 8.6 per cent and the euro zone's above 10 per cent - the outlook is dimming.

Derek Burleton, the deputy chief economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank, for example, projected today that Canada's jobless rate will climb further to between 7.5 per cent and 8 per cent over the next six months.

"There appears to be little on the horizon that will breathe new life into the job market," Mr. Burleton warned.

"In particular, government hiring, which has been a cornerstone of employment growth in recent years, is set to cool significantly. Export-oriented jobs will be kept in check by the ongoing turmoil in Europe and likelihood of spillover to the broader global economy. Growth in hiring in private-sector services in Canada will probably fare somewhat better than average, but today’s report shows few areas of strength on that front. Add it all up, and the hiring struggles are likely to extend well into 2012."

This will, of course, put a damper on the economy.

"The numbers don’t bode well for near-term consumer spending trends," Mr. Burleton said. "Despite the rebound in wage growth in November, weakness in personal incomes combined with elevated household indebtedness will continue to keep consumers hesitant to spend this holiday season and into the New Year."

U.S. jobless rate tumbles Canada's fortunes are, of course, tied to the United States, where unemployment appears to be slowly easing.

There's something troubling about today's U.S. jobs report, though. True, the economy created 120,000 jobs in November, according to the Labor Department, but the unemployment rate tumbled to 8.6 per cent from 9.4. That drop seems large compared to the number of jobs created, though the two figures come from different surveys.

There were other optimistics signs as well, however. The Labor Department revised its readings from September and October to show more jobs were gained than previously reported.

"Job creation remains soft by historic standards," said senior economist Krishen Rangasamy of National Bank. "We need monthly employment gains over 200,000 to make a significant and sustainable dent in the unemployment rate. So, the sooner Congress extends the payroll tax cuts, the better will be prospects for employment creation and consumption spending."

Banks beat Street Canada's major banks are performing better than markets expected.

Yesterday, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce beat the estimates of analysts for fourth-quarter results. Today, Royal Bank of Canada followed suit, The Globe and Mail's Grant Robertson reports.

RBC's profit in the quarter climbed 43 per cent to $1.6-billion or $1.07 a share, from $1.12-billion or 74 cents a year earlier. Revenue increased slightly to $6.8-billion as strong results from the bank's Canadian operations helped offset weakness in capital markets.

Bank of Nova Scotia , in turn, earned $1.24-billion or $1.08, up from $1.15-billion or $1 a share. Scotiabank grew by acquisition and boosted its loans, The Globe and Mail's Boyd Erman writes.

In Economy Lab The Canadian experience with greater dental competition has lessons for the U.S., Frances Woolley writes.

In International Business Now that the European Union has made clear it is moving towards imposing an embargo on Iranian oil, how will Tehran respond? Javier Blas of The Financial Times examines the issue.

In Globe Careers The experiments of personal development coach Steve Pavlina encourage us to think of our own sleep patterns, and how they might be tweaked or revamped, Harvey Schachter writes.

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