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Not a trick question: Who’s smarter, Ireland or Iceland? Add to ...

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Which country has the best approach? Iceland, the poster child of the meltdown, believes its approach to its crisis will prove to have been a smarter move than the measures undertaken by Ireland.

Here’s the difference: Iceland chose to let private investors, the bondholders, take a hit when its banks tumbled, while Ireland has gone the route of an €85-billion bailout to prop them up.

Now, according to Bloomberg News, the people of Iceland are looking at a smaller debt burden than those in Ireland. Iceland expects a deficit equal to 6.3 per cent of GDP this year, well short of Ireland’s 32-per-cent deficit. The decision to force bondholders to take the hit may help Iceland recover at a faster pace, Bloomberg said.

“The difference is that in Iceland we allowed the banks to fail,” the country’s president, Olafur Grimsson, told Bloomberg Television. “These were private banks and we didn’t pump money into them in order to keep them going; the state did not shoulder the responsibility of the failed private banks.”

Iceland also took an IMF bailout, but not for the banks.

ECB extends program The European Central Bank today held interest rates steady as expected, but responded to the turmoil on the continent by saying it will keep its emergency program in place longer than expected.

The ECB had planned to offer banks crisis loans until early next year, but president Jean-Claude Trichet said the central bank would continue the program "for as long as necessary," and at least through the first quarter.

That may not have been enough, though.

"Markets were expecting big things from the ECB and appear to be initially disappointed by the lack of impactful action, with the euro falling sharply following the introductory statement," said BMO Nesbitt Burns economist Benjamin Reitzes.

"The ECB opted to do the minimum necessary, merely extending liquidity measures. President Trichet stayed mum on the bond buying program, other than saying it is ongoing.

"Interestingly, Trichet has been adamant that the euro will come through this crisis, and yet, given the opportunity to provide further support, the ECB chose to take only modest action. It appears, that at least for now, any further public support measures for the euro area will have to come from politicians, not the ECB as many hoped."

TD keeps 'em guessing Toronto-Dominion Bank is keeping investors guessing on whether it will, like National Bank of Canada , hike its dividend.

“We expect to hold more capital as a result of the new rules being finalized by regulators. However, our current levels are very strong and we do not believe we will need to raise additional capital as a result,” chief executive officer Ed Clark said in a statement today as the bank unveiled its fourth-quarter results.

“Our dividend policy remains driven by our outlook for earnings, rather than our capital position, and we expect to provide the market with some clarity in that regard in the next several months.”

National Bank boosted its dividend earlier this week, a result of the regulator allowing the country's bank to start payouts again, and some analysts believed TD could be next.

As for earnings, TD profit dipped about 2 per cent to $994-million or $1.07 a share, compared to $1.01-billion or $1.12 a year earlier, Globe and Mail banking reporter Grant Robertson reports today. Revenue rose to $5.017-billion from $4.718-billion.

The drop in profit was attributed to several one-time charges, along with lower earnings at the wholesale banking division, a trend seen across the banking sector in recent months.

CIBC profit dips Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce today posted a dip in profit, taking a hit from both weak trading and investment banking fees as well as a deteriorating structured credit portfolio. But its adjusted numbers still topped estimates.

Fourth-quarter profit came in at $500-million, or $1.17 a share, down from $640-million and $1.53 a share the previous quarter. Earnings were also down from the same period in 2009 when CIBC brought in a $644-million profit, Globe and Mail reporter Tim Kiladze writes.

The biggest hit came from the wholesale banking division, which includes trading and investment banking. Total revenue for the segment fell $77-million from the third quarter and the unit reported a net loss of $56-million.

Trading income fell into a deep slump, generating just $8-million versus $84-million the previous quarter. Underwriting and advisory fees also dropped to $87-million from $108-million in the third quarter.

Streetwise columnist Boyd Erman writes this morning about the tough quarter for the securities business.

Bombardier falls shy Bombardier Inc. missed analysts estimates today as third-quarter profit and revenue slipped amid still challenging conditions for boths its commercial and business jet operations.

The plane and train maker said net third-quarter profit was $143-million (U.S.) or 8 cents per share, compared with $168-million or 9 cents in the same period for the previous year, Globe and Mail reporter Bertrand Marotte writes from Montreal.

Revenue slipped to $4-billion from $4.6-billion in the quarter.

On the aerospace front, Bombardier delivered a total of 53 aircraft, down from 61 for the same period last year.

"Booking activity for business jets was soft, coming in at 13 net orders compared with 14 aircraft in [the second quarter]," said Desjardins analyst Benoit Poirier.

"This reflects a higher number of gross orders (27 vs. 26), but also a higher number of cancellations (14 vs. 12).

"In our view, order activity remains soft and will need to pick up in order to replenish the backlog. However, our estimates already reflect a longer-than-expected business jet recovery and a further production cut in Learjet and Challenger."

Gildan unveils dividend Gildan Activewear Inc. unveiled its first dividend today as it posted record profits and revenues for the fourth quarter.

The Montreal-based T-shirt maker also said that strong sales in the United States, added to other factors, helped offset the impact of surging cotton prices.

"Although selling price increases have been implemented in the U.S. wholesale distributor channel since July, to offset inflation in cotton and other input costs, these price increases were not applied to back-orders already placed at the time of implementing the increases, and therefore only partially offset the impact of the significant cotton cost increases in the quarter," the company said.

Gildan announced its first quarterly dividend, of 7.5 cents (U.S.).

Gildan earned $56.8-million or 47 cents a share, compared to $42.4-million or 35 cents a year earlier.

China mulls huge investments China is mulling the possibility of pumping up to $1.5-trillion (U.S.) - yes, with a T - into seven industries it considers strategic, the Reuters news agency reports today.

Such an investment, which would be made over five years, would be to speed up the country's change into a leading source of "high-value" technology, the report said.

The industries involved would include alternative energy, biotech, information technology, equipment production, advanced materials, alternative-fuel cars and environmentally friendly technologies, Reuters said.

The amount cited is equal to about 5 per cent of the country's GDP, leading analysts to doubt the size of the plan, according to the report.

From today's Report on Business

And, read our Streetwise blog and Your Business section.

Editor's note: This column has been corrected from an earlier version.

Follow on Twitter: @michaelbabad

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