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Week In Review

Santa shuns potty-mouth Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (and other links that wouldn’t fly) Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business followed this week.

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Situations that wouldn't fly
There’s a mad rush to get as far away as possible from any association with Rob Ford.

The Toronto Argonauts, no doubt cringing as the mayor went potty-mouth wearing a club jersey, quickly distanced themselves.

The Santa Claus Parade asked him not to walk in Sunday’s event so it could “put the focus back on Santa and Mrs. Claus” (who would never talk like that).

And Ford Motor Co. noted it had not authorized the use of its renowned logo by his supporters. (“We’re very serious about defending the trademark,” said spokesman Jay Cooney in Detroit. “It’s not Rob Ford. It’s anybody.”)

All of which got me dreaming up a few unlikely associations that wouldn’t fly:

1. Canadian Payday Loan Association, and Senator Mike Duffy

2. The Bargain Shop (Toronto), and Barrick Gold Corp.’s compensation committee

3. Planned Parenthood, and Arnold Schwarzenegger

4. National Trust and Savings Association, and Bernie Madoff

5. Women’s Christian Temperance Union (whose Toronto headquarters were at Bay and Elm Streets in the late 1800s, not on the Danforth), and Rob Ford

6. Prim and Proper Photography (McDonough, Ga.), and Alison Pill

7. The Party Shop (Brescia, Italy), and Silvio Berlusconi

8. Kiss the Bride Wedding Boutique (St. Augustine, Fla.), and Tiger Woods

9. Virgin Group, and Michael Douglas

10. The publisher of Enjoying French Meals For Dummies, and Quebec’s language police

11. Coke and Mayor Ford, after he admitted it was the real thing

12. TextSecure, and Anthony Weiner

13. Hasbro’s Monopoly game, and Canada’s phone companies. And banks

14. Company Rescue Co. (London), and Nortel Networks

15. Society for Business Ethics, and Enron

16. The World Gold Council, and Bre-X

Then there’s the other side, where associations just might ring true:

1. Seethrough Concept Store (Kuala Lumpur), and Lululemon

2. The Bubble Room (Captiva, Fla.), and Canadian condo developers

3. Outrageous Boutique (Plainview, N.Y.), and Barrick Gold Corp.’s compensation committee

4. Virgin Group, and the Jonas Brothers

5. The Spare Parts Company (Philadelphia), and Nortel Networks

6. The Rent All Centre, and Hugh Grant

7. Second Chance (London), and BlackBerry

Europe, Japan slow
Several of Europe's economies have stalled, and Japan's has slowed, snuffing out some of the optimism five years after the start of the financial crisis.

The economy of the 17-member euro zone expanded by just 0.1 per cent in the third quarter of the year, according to official statistics this week, while that of the bigger 18-country European Union grew by  0.2 per cent.

Notable are the troubles of the major countries, such as Germany, where growth slowed to 0.3 per cent, and France and Italy, whose economies contracted by 0.1 per cent.

Unemployment remains high across Europe, with some 27 million people out of work, and is absolutely crippling in countries such as Greece and Spain.

In Japan, according to the Cabinet Office this week, economic growth slows to an annual pace of 1.9 per cent in the third quarter, from 3.8 per cent in the second, spelling a setback for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his "Abenomics' program.

Yellen, Carney in spotlight
Two of the world's major central bankers were front and centre this week, one with a new message, the other with an old.

First up was Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, on Wednesday, who sent markets for a loop by suggesting the country's jobless rate could ease to 7 per cent as early as the third quarter of 2015, compared to an earlier projection of 2016.

Investors were fretting over that because it raises the possibility of the central bank raising rates earlier than expected.

That was the new message. It was Janet Yellen who delivered the old.

Ms. Yellen, tapped to succeed Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chief, told her confirmation hearing Thursday that the U.S. economy had made gains, but had further to go.

Most importantly, she gave no signal of an early pullback to the central bank's massive bond-buying stimulus program, known as quantitative easing, or QE, which buoyed investors.

"Increasingly, central bankers are throwing away their playbook," said Kit Juckes, the chief of foreign exchange at Société Générale.

"In the U.K. and U.S., unemployment rate triggers chosen to frame forward policy guidance are set to be revised because they will be reached before the central banks are ready to raise rates," he said in a research note titled "Living without rules (central bank anarchy)."

"Even at the ECB, there is acknowledgement that the link between economic activity and inflation has ‘become more tenuous in recent years," he added in Friday's note.

"I was thinking about this as I listened to Mr Carney at the BOE inflation report press conference and as I watched Yellen's confirmation hearing for the Fed chair yesterday. When I read Jeremy Warner in the Telegraph this morning expressing concern about the way politicians have effectively handed over the reins of macroeconomic policy making to central bankers. I can't help thinking that we have put our faith in people who are 'winging it.'"

Heinz to shut plant
H.J. Heinz Co. is shutting one of its Canadian plants, dealing a blow to the Ontario community of Leamington where ketchup has been produced for more than a century.

Some 740 jobs will be lost in Leamington in the cutbacks unveiled by the company's new owners, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and a Brazilian hedge fund, The Globe and Mail's Eric Atkins reports.

Two U.S. plants are also being shuttered, one in South Carolina, the other in Indiana.

"They've been here for 104 years," said Leamington Mayor John Paterson.

"And in those 104 years there have been so many families that made a good living from that firm," he added.

"And they have been super-excellent corporate citizens. So there I guess that's where it will hurt us the most - they will no longer be around in that aspect."

The week in Business Briefing

The week in Streetwise (for subscribers)

The week in Economy Lab

The week in ROB Insight (for subscribers)

Required reading
The global market for business jets is rebuilding and manufacturers are increasingly fighting for the high end of the market. Bertrand Marotte looks at the industry five years after the financial crisis.

Natural resource companies are growing increasingly skittish about Latin America, a region that until recently was one of the world's most powerful magnets for foreign investments. Marta Lillo reports from Santiago.

The U.S. oil boom will vault the country into first place among crude producers within two years, the International Energy Agency says, which will post a challenge for Canada's energy industry, Shawn McCarthy reports.

What's good consumers is causing indigestion for grocery retailers, Marina Strauss writes as she looks at the latest results from Loblaw Cos. Ltd. and Metro Inc.

Evidence is mounting that the smartphone industry has only been kind to two manufacturers, and especially cruel to one. Omar El Akkad and Sean Silcoff look at the fortunes of Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. and BlackBerry Ltd.

In the know

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