These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013.
Japan's Finance Minister on the elderly
Given that he’s 72 years old, Japan’s Finance Minister might want to reconsider his approach on social services and health costs for the country’s aging population.
According to reports today, Taro Aso thinks the elderly should just “hurry up and die.”
“Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die,” the one-time prime minister told a meeting of the national council on social security reforms, according to The Guardian.
“I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government,” he said, noting the “several tens of millions of yen” care for the dying costs a month per patient.
“The problem won’t be solved unless you let them hurry up and die.”
He went even further, labelling as “tube people” those who can no longer feed themselves.
According to the newspaper, one-quarter of Japan’s population is over 60, and costs are high, and projected to spiral, in a country known, like Canada, for its universal health insurance scheme, or kaihoken.
Last year, to deal with spiralling costs, Japan’s former government boosted the country’s sales tax. And, of course, Japan’s level of debt is horrendous, estimated by the International Monetary Fund to top 240 per cent of gross domestic product this year.
Bank of Japan hikes inflation target
The Bank of Japan today bowed to intense political pressure with a plan to fight deflation and juice its faltering economy.
The central bank and the country’s new government said in a joint statement today that Japan’s target for annual inflation will rise to 2 per cent from its current 1 per cent.
At the same time, the central bank unveiled forceful Fed-like plans to buy up assets. But, in a disappointing move for markets, that won’t start until next year.
"Overall, it appears that any major changes in the policy framework will be left to the successor to Governor Shirakawa, whose term expires in April," said Julian Jessop of Capital Economics in London.
"This might provide a fresh focus for speculation about a more radical shift. But in the meantime, calling a policy 'bold' does not necessarily make it so."
Just yesterday, the chief of Germany’s Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann, warned in a speech of the threat of a currency war, citing not only Japan, but others as well.
- Bank of Japan makes boldest attempt yet to lift economy
- ROB Insight (subscribers only): Is China rhetoric toward Japan just a smokescreen?
Inmet says no
Not that many were expecting much different, but Inmet Mining Corp. is urging shareholders to reject First Quantum Mineral Ltd.'s $5.1-billion hostile bid.
Inmet said today the cash-and-stock offer doesn't reflect the value of its huge Cobre Panama project, which will be one of the world's biggest copper mines when the project is complete in 2016, The Globe and Mail's Pav Jordan reports.
It added it has gone searching for white knights.
"The Inmet board has concluded that the First Quantum Offer fails to adequately compensate shareholders for Inmet's low-risk asset base and its strong prospects for growth and value creation at Cobre Panama, which has the potential to become one of the world's largest copper mines,” chairman David Beatty said.
Ottawa tries to lure VW
The Canadian government is dangling its newly replenished $250-million auto innovation fund as part of an aggressive pitch to get Volkswagen AG to locate some manufacturing in Canada, The Globe and Mail's Barrie McKenna reports.
Industry minister Christian Paradis said today he urged senior Volkswagen executives to “look North” during meetings in Berlin this week.
“They listened with a positive attitude,” Mr. Paradis said in an interview. “We are going to stay in touch with Volkswagen.”
CN hikes dividend
Canadian National Railway hiked its quarterly dividend by 15 per cent today as it posted record revenue and carloads.
Today's fourth-quarter profit of $610-million or $1.41 a share caps a year of carrying more oil by rail and other areas of growth, The Globe and Mail's Guy Dixon reports.
“In 2012, we experienced strong growth in commodities related to oil and gas, particularly crude oil, and saw continued market share gains in overseas and domestic intermodal,” said chief executive officer Claude Mongeau.
Battle of the discounters
Canada is shaping up as a battleground for America’s big discount chains.
With Target Corp. poised to open 135 stores, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. today unveiled a $450-million expansion, The Globe and Mail’s Bertrand Marotte reports.
The giant U.S. discount retailer plans to complete at least 37 supercentre outlets in the next fiscal year, expand its distribution system, and remodel.
“This year, we are ramping up our focus on lowering prices and helping customers lower their cost of living, as we continue to bring our supercentre format to more Canadians,” said Wal-Mart Canada chief Shelley Broader.
- Wal-Mart Canada expanding, girds for battle with Target
- The Target invasion: How pricing will be key to Canadian success
The RIM apps
As Research In Motion Ltd. draws closer to next week's launch of its key BlackBerry 10 models, The Globe and Mail's Iain Marlow takes an in-depth look today at RIM's place in the app battle.
Canada’s labour market put in a resilient performance last year, an anomaly compared with most other countries, The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant reports.
Global unemployment grew by another 4 million people over the course of last year amid weaker economic activity and lingering uncertainty about hiring, the International Labour Organization said in its annual study of global employment trends.
All told, unemployment has swelled by 28 million people since the start of the financial crisis, with half of that increase in advanced economies.
Whither home prices
Among the more interesting bits in a new survey released today is that 71 per cent of homebuyers in British Columbia believe real estate values will rise or hold steady over the next year.
According to the survey released by Re/MAX, they’re the “least bullish” in the country. But, still, that level may seem surprising considering the decline in prices in cities like Vancouver.
As The Globe and Mail’s Brent Jang reported earlier this month, sales in the Vancouver area plunged in December, by 50 per cent from November and more than 15 per cent from December of 2011.
Prices based on the Multiple Listing Service slipped 2.3 per cent from a year earlier.
Vancouver has become the focus for Canada’s cooling housing market. While sales have slumped across the country, prices have held up generally well and economists believe the real estate sector is in the midst of a soft landing, but for Vancouver.
According to today’s Angus Reid study among more than 1,100 people who plan to purchase within the next two years, more than 80 per cent across Canada see values rising or holding steady.
The “most bullish” were in Ontario.
- Vancouver remains second least-affordable market as measure improves slightly
- New listings, sales down as Vancouver residential market cools
- Is the slump in home sales nearing bottom?
ROB Insight (subscription)
- Life insurers in for a big tumble if low rates persist
- Why everyone should care that private jet sales aren't taking off