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Great time for European vacation as loonie hits record high against euro Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, July 12, 2012.

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Loonie at high v. euro

As Bank of Montreal's Douglas Porter put it today, it's a great time for a European vacation. If you can avoid the protests.

The Canadian dollar has pushed above Europe's common currency's 80-cent mark recently, hitting a record high of 80.5 cents today.

That comes amid the ongoing financial crisis in the 17-member euro zone and after last week's cut in interest rates by the European Central Bank.

This has less to do with the loonie, which, admittedly, is strong against many other currencies and has hovered near parity with the U.S. dollar, and more to do with the troubles of the euro zone.

"With the C$ still hovering close to par (despite the recent pullback in many key commodities), and the euro sliding broadly, this represents an all-time high for the loonie against the euro (dating back to the euro's start in 1999)," Mr. Porter said. "Great time for a European vacation."

Playing into the overall scene is the Federal Reserve standing ready for another round of quantitative easing, dubbed QE3, if needed.

"As long as the door is open to QE3, it is difficult to see an environment where the [U.S. dollar] can prove materially and sustainably strong," said chief currency strategist Camilla Sutton of Bank of Nova Scotia. "Accordingly, we continue to expect [euro] to trend lower, but avert a collapse."

Some central banks move
Investors are troubled by the lack of action from the Federal Reserve, but central banks in Brazil, South Korea and Japan are taking some action as economic malaise sets in.

As The Globe and Mail's Kevin Carmichael writes in today's Report on Business, minutes from the last meeting of the U.S. central bank, released yesterday, showed the Fed could yet move if conditions worsen. But investors want another round of quantitative easing - dubbed QE3 - and they're not getting it at this point.

The Bank of Japan did boost its asset-buying program, though it wasn't much, while central banks in Brazil and South Korea cut their benchmark rates.

"Disappointment has set in as the world's most powerful central bank still seems unwilling to provide another sugar rush of cheap money," said market analyst Chris Beauchamp of IG Index in London.

"The minutes of the most recent Fed meeting did not suggest that policy makers in the U.S. were about to embark on more extensive easing measures, with only 'a few' committee members in favour of further easing," he said in a research note.

"Others seemed content to wait for more concrete signs that the U.S. economy was slowing down, leaving markets on their own for now. Easing measures over the past few hours from the Brazilian, Japanese and South Korean central banks provided scant comfort, and losses are the order of the day for most assets."

TMX deal near done
Canada's financial services industry is very sound, arguably the strongest in the world. It's also highly concentrated, and now about to become even moreso.

First, Canada's big banks bought the brokerages. Then bought the trusts. Then they tried to buy each other. And now, they're poised to swallow the stock exchanges.

As Streetwise columnist Boyd Erman reports today, the financial institutions that call themselves the Maple Group have cleared the last regulatory hurdles in their $3.6-billion deal for TMX Group Inc.

Maple includes some of the country's major banks, such as Toronto-Dominion Bank, National Bank of Canada, but also other major players in the industry such as the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Maple was put together to block the proposed takeover of TMX by London Stock Exchange Group PLC and keep it in Canadian hands.

Sovereignty issues aside, a small group of banks hold tremendous economic power in Canada.

Here's a history lesson:

There were, at one point in Canada, four pillars of the industry, the banks, the securities deals, the insurance companies and the trust firms.

That model no longer exists after the rules began to change in the mid-1980s with the Big Bang that allowed the banks to buy the brokers.

The rush to the altar was swift: Royal Bank grabbed Dominion Securities, Bank of Montreal swallowed Nesbitt Thomson, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce acquired Wood Gundy, Bank of Nova Scotia Scotia went for McLeod Young Weir, and National Bank took Lévesque Beaubien.

Later, though for different reasons, the oft-troubled trust industry went, some of the firms being acquired by the banks.

Then there were the controversial bank merger proposals of the late 1990s, which were scotched by Paul Martin, Canada's finance minister at the time, because of the economic clout that would reside in the hands of even fewer banks.

Note, too, as The Wall Street Journal reports, TMX is now poised to acquire Direct Edge, a U.S. electronic exchange, though that deal could still fall apart.

Supreme Court scraps some fees
Online music stores will not have to pay royalties on song previews to publishers and songwriters, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled today as part of a series of decisions on copyright.

Song previews on digital stores like Apple Inc.’s iTunes, which usually last about 30 seconds, were determined by the Copyright Board as “research” in 2007, and thus did not infringe copyright and warrant royalties, The Globe and Mail's Josh O'Kane reports. The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, but were not successful.

The series of five copyright-related decisions also clarified Internet service providers’ role in the consumption of digital music.

Corus warns
Corus Entertainment Inc. warned investors today that it could have trouble hitting its profit targets for the year, despite stronger than expected advertising sales this summer, The Globe and Mail's Steve Ladurantaye reports.

The Toronto-based television and radio broadcaster saw its profit increase in its third quarter, but revenue slipped as subscriber and advertising revenues decreased.

Weakness across those key categories has the company concerned it won’t hit the targets it set for itself at an investor day in November.

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