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A Greek flag flies east of Athens (Yiorgos Karahalis/Reuters)
A Greek flag flies east of Athens (Yiorgos Karahalis/Reuters)

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Greece credit rating worst in world. Can it get worse? Yes Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Monday, June 13. Get the top business stories through the day on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.

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Pressure mounts on Greece Pressure further mounted on Greece today as Standard & Poor's slashed its sovereign rating by three notches, to CCC, warning that Athens is "increasingly likely" to restructure its debt.

Under its criteria, S&P said, restructuring would probably count as "one or more defaults."

Greece now has the lowest credit rating in the world. As The Financial Times noted, that puts Athens below Ecuador, Jamaica, Pakistan and Grenada. If there was a "de facto" default, it would be ranked "SD" for selective default, reports said.

"Risks for the implementation of Greece's EU/IMF borrowing program are rising, given Greece's increased financing needs and ongoing internal political disagreements surrounding the policy conditions required by Greece's partners," S&P said.

Observers are growing increasingly concerned over the outlook as the European Central Bank remains at a standoff with Germany over the terms of further bailout money.

"Divisions between the ECB and EU politicians about how best to deal with the debt situation and a default scenario continue to weigh on sentiment with Portuguese and Spanish bond yields pushing higher, with Portuguese 10 year yields hitting their highest ever post euro level, at 10.7 per cent," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

It's not just the stalemate between the central bank and politicians over whether investors in Greek debt share in the pain, but also the ECB's signal that it plans to raise interest rates in July.

"A further rise in borrowing costs only makes a default much more likely and increases the burden on fiscally strained economies, yet the bank seemingly appears to be oblivious to this, with its fixation on inflation," said Mr. Hewson said.

"At the weekend Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann suggested that a Greek default could be manageable, while Luxembourg PM and Eurogroup head Junckers also backed the idea of a voluntary restructuring, however this is not a view shared by the ECB, and so the impasse and uncertainty looks set to go on," He added. "Officials are hoping to reach an agreement in time for the EU summit on June 23-24."

Germany, for example, wants creditors to share some of the cost of a Greek bailout, while the ECB is against any form of debt restructuring.

For Roubini, 2013 looms To the man who forecast the 2008 financial crisis, 2013 could be a troubled year.

"There are already elements of fragility," Nouriel Roubini, the New York University professor and chairman and co-founder of Roubini Global Economics, told Bloomberg News in an interview.

"Everybody's kicking the can down the road of too much public and private debt," he said. "The can is becoming heavier and heavier, and bigger on debt, and all these problems may come to a head by 2013 at the latest."

He cited America's fiscal troubles, slower growth in China, Europe's debt crisis and stagnation in Japan as coming together to kick the global economy, according to the news agency.

There's a one-in-three chance that will happen, he said. The other scenarios include tepid growth, and a more optimistic outcome.

Today, in a speech in Singapore, Mr. Roubini again warned investors, The Associated Press reports.

"In the last month, things have changed, the evidence is that maybe this is not just a soft patch but something worse," he said. "If your horizon is the next two or three months, I would be a bit defensive on equities ...This is time to be cautious, and safe rather than sorry."

TSX sinks A broad-based commodities downturn hit the Canadian benchmark index today, delivering a second consecutive triple-digit decline and bringing the total retreat to 9.3 per cent since the beginning of April (based on closing levels).

The S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,939.72, down 144.28 points or 1.1 per cent. Major U.S. indexes, which have considerably less exposure to commodity producers, fared better, David Berman writes in Market Blog.

The decline by Canadian stocks brings the prospect of a correction - loosely defined as a decline of 10 per cent - into view as commodity producers follow commodity prices down. Investors continue to react to a recent batch of disappointing U.S. economic numbers, which have challenged the economic recovery.

Bidders launch TMX offer The rival bidders for TMX Group Inc. officially launched their offer today, bulked up by gaining four new members to their hostile quest.

The bidders, which call themselves the Maple Group, say they are offering $3.7-billion for the stock exchange operator, which has already agreed to a merger with London Stock Exchange Group Inc. As The Globe and Mail's Boyd Erman reports, some $2.5- billion would be in cash.

Yesterday, the group of Canadian banks and pension funds added to its ranks Manulife Financial Corp., Desjardins Group, GMP Capital Inc. and Dundee Securities Corp.

Today, the group is mailing the offer to shareholders and starting talks with regulators.

Regulator asks for panel Newfoundland's offshore regulator has asked Ottawa to strike a special panel on oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence after a drilling proposal at the controversial Old Harry site drew an unprecedented backlash, The Globe and Mail's Shawn McCarthy reports.

In a letter to Environment Minister Peter Kent, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board said the evidence so far suggests the project by Halifax-based Corridor Resources Inc. is unlikely to cause significant environmental harm.

But in the wake of BP PLC's blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, Canadians are demanding a high level of environmental screening for contentious project, CNLOPB chair Max Ruelokke said in a statement.

Air Canada gears up Air Canada is putting contingency plans in place, promising to keep a full flight schedule as the clock ticks down toward a strike deadline tonight.

As Globe and Mail transportation writer Brent Jang reports today, Canada's biggest airline is recommending that passengers obtain boarding passes online, show up early at the airport tomorrow and avoid checking in bags at the counter, if possible, to help cope with long lineups.

The Canadian Auto Workers union, which represents some 3,200 airport customer service agents and 600 call centre staff, warns it will strike the carrier just before midnight tonight unless Air Canada backs off demands to overhaul pension plans.

CIBC downbeat on RIM Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has cut its price target on shares of Research In Motion Ltd. as investors await details of the BlackBerry maker's quarterly results Thursday.

Analyst Todd Coupland cut his target to $75 (U.S.) from $90 "due to delays in new products.

Several analysts have recently cut their targets.



VF strikes deal for Timberland It's a marriage made outdoors.

VF Corp. , whose clothing brands include the likes of Wrangler, The North Face and Nautica, struck a deal today to acquire Timberland Co. , the boot and clothing maker.

VF is paying $43 (U.S.) a share, or about $2-billion.

VF said it is targeting annual revenue growth for Timberland of 10 per cent, and thinks it can "substantially increase" the company's profitability.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, VF is taking advantage of Timberland's low stock price to pump up its business.

Insolvencies fall Insolvencies in Canada fell 10.6 per cent in April from March, and 12.8 per cent from a year earlier, the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada reports.

Over the 12-month period, insolvencies declined by 12.1 per cent, compared to the same 12-month period a year earlier. However, the agency said, "it is worth noting that the total volume of insolvency still remains 17.1 per cent higher than the 12-month period (October 2007 - September 2008) preceding the recession."

For the 12-month period, consumer insolvencies fell by 11.7 per cent, and business insolvencies by 22.2 per cent.

Insolvencies include bankruptcies and proposals, which are new plans to creditors.

The agency noted that proposals for consumer insolvencies climbed 33.1 per cent in the 12-month period, which "may be an indication that consumers are taking advantage of changes to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA). The changes, implemented on Sept. 18, 2009, allow consumers more flexibility in filing proposals."

In Economy Lab today

It's called the 'Dutch Disease': Rising commodity prices lead to a currency appreciation, and the higher exchange rate reduces employment in other export sectors, most notably in manufacturing. This mechanism is reasonably well understood. What's not clear to economist Stephen Gordon is why it deserves a pejorative label.

In International Business today

Italian bling house Prada has had no fewer than three initial public offering attempts in the last decade. Each was yanked. The fourth attempt - this time on the Hong Kong exchange - looks set to go. But the price range looks rich. Eric Reguly reports.

In Personal Finance today

Some considerations to keep in mind when weighing experience against summer job income.

An estimated 160,000 Canadians qualify but do not receive GIS, a government pension program that is often overlooked.

It's not cheap to own a car these days, especially if you have to borrow to make it happen. These tips will make sure you get the loan that's right for you.

From today's Report on Business

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