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The Week

'Scrappy RIM attempts a comeback' Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business followed this week.

Follow Michael Babad and the Globe’s top business stories on Twitter.

'Scrappy' RIM in the spotlight
From RIM and Apple to Samsung and Microsoft, this was the week that set the stage for the next smartphone battle.

Apple Inc. found it self in the rare spot of being on the defensive, while Research In Motion Ltd. was in the unusual position, of late, of being on the upswing, its stock rallying amid upgrades from analysts.

Apple posted record quarterly results, and fantastic sales for its iPhone and iPad, but still couldn't satisfy the market in this fast-paced industry.

RIM, in turn, continued to generate a lot of talk about its new BlackBerry 10 devices in the run-up to their Jan. 30 launch, and, reportedly, growing support among wireless carriers and app developers.

"We're recalibrating our estimates ahead of RIM's BB10 launch," analyst Mark Sue of RBC Dominion Securities said in a report titled Scrappy RIM attempts a comeback.

"Pre-orders appear concentrated in Canada and the U.K.," he said in a research note, referring to the BlackBerry maker by its U.S. stock symbol.

"Normalized earnings are not likely until FY15. While sentiment on RIMM is positive at the moment, things can quickly reverse if sell-though data is not favourable or if returns are high."

Rate hikes pushed back
The Bank of Canada is still fretting about the broader economy. But about consumer and the housing market, not so much anymore.

As The Globe and Mail’s Kevin Carmichael reports, the central bank this week dropped from its policy announcement the suggestion that it could boost interest rates to tame the record debt load of Canadian consumers.

Credit growth has slowed and the housing market has cooled, prompting Governor Mark Carney and his colleagues on the Bank of Canada’s policy-setting committee to push back the timing of a rate increase.

"While some modest withdrawal of monetary policy stimulus will likely be required over time, consistent with achieving the 2-per-cent inflation target, the more muted inflation outlook and the beginnings of a more constructive evolution of imbalances in the household sector suggest that the timing of any such withdrawal is less imminent than previously anticipated,” the Bank of Canada said.

That’s central bank-speak that means it’s in even less of a rush to hike its benchmark overnight rate from its current level of 1 per cent as Canadians start to get their household budgets in order.

At the same time, the central bank trimmed its forecast for economic growth this year, projecting expansion of 2 per cent, below the original 2.3 per cent.

It also sees the economy growing 2.7 per cent next year, and reaching full capacity in the second half of 2014, later than expected.

Markets climb
U.S. stock markets are at or near levels we haven't seen in years.

The question is whether they can keep it up, given the still troubled euro zone and the fiscal issues that will return to haunt investors in a few months. Those issues are off the table for now, allowing investors to focus on corporate earnings reports and the somewhat better economic prospects for the United States, notably in the housing sector.

"There’s no stopping the equity market these days, with the S&P 500 gaining 1.1 per cent this week and punching above the 1,500 level, while the Dow sits less than 2 per cent away from the record high set in late 2007," said senior economist Robert Kavcic of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

"Even the laggard TSX has sprung to life in recent months, hitting a new 1½-year high this week en route to a 0.7-per-cent advance," he said in a report Friday.

"Less uncertainty over the fiscal cliff and more stability in Europe have allowed the market to set its sights on economic prospects six to eight months down the road. By then, the strengthening housing market will conceivably prop U.S. economic growth up to a 3-per-cent-plus pace."

So far, Mr. Kavcic noted, about one-third of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported results, and three-quarters of those have topped estimates.

"Importantly," he added, "the revenue improvement has been even better, with 67 per cent topping the mark versus just 42 per cent in the prior season."

The week from Top Business Stories

In Streetwise this week (for subscribers)

Eight things
1. Tweet of the week, from @russian_market: "There were times Apple could buy Poland... Now analysts from Poland are downgrading Apple target price"

2. Here's what Jodie Foster said at the Golden Globes, Jan. 13:

“But seriously, if you had been a public figure from the time that you were a toddler, if you'd had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else. Privacy.”

Here's what Mark Carney said at an Ottawa press conference, Jan. 23:

“I understand a few people had questions about it, but in the end ... what we are talking about is my private life, my private vacation. I don’t see that I need to detail my private life and my interaction with my friends.”

3 From The Associated Press: "Councilmen in Kerry, southwest Ireland, passed a motion this week asking the government to create a permit that would allow isolated farmers the ability to drink a few pints and then return home in their car, or on their tractor, without fear of being busted. Its backers say the measure is needed to combat an epidemic of boredom and depression on farms ever since Ireland imposed tough new blood-alcohol limits on drivers in 2011. But Justice Minister Alan Shatter shot down the proposal during a speech in parliament Thursday as 'grossly irresponsible.'"


4. From NBC: "A German court has ruled that the Internet is as much of a necessity for daily life as a fridge or car. The legal decision means Germans now have the right to claim compensation from service providers if their Internet access is disrupted."
 

5. According to the police chief of Helena, Mont., a man tried to rob a pizza shop to help feed his family, got talked out of it by the "astute" clerk, started crying, and left with free pizza and chicken wings.

6. Also from The Associated Press: "Police say three masked men who tried to rob a Chinese restaurant in Massachusetts ran away empty handed because they couldn't figure out how to open the cash register."

7. Colour commentary of the week, from chief economist Carl Weinberg of High Frequency Economics, on what he sees as the Bank of Canada's changing, and worsening, tune since April: "Now, finally, the bank has informed us that the time to withdraw monetary stimulus is not now. We thought all along that this language was incendiary to Bay Streeters, who only want to live peacefully with steady interest rates at present low values. Canadians do not need their central bankers to agitate them every six weeks, at each interest rate announcement or Monetary Policy Report."

8. At 72, Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso may end up regretting his comments on social services and health costs for the nation's aging population: “The problem won’t be solved unless you let them hurry up and die.”

Required reading
In an era of hackers and corporate espionage, the kind of state-of-the-art security offered by businesses such as Q9 Networks is no longer considered a frill, Rita Trichur writes.

Lumber prices have surged to their highest level in nearly eight years, busting out of a slump and lifting the outlook for producers, Brent Jang reports from Vancouver.

It has been, for Alberta, a dismal new year. With pipelines out of the province effectively full, Canadian crude has become a discount brand, and once-expected money is evaporating. Nathan VanderKlippe reports from Calgary.

U.S. authorities announced criminal charges against three men for what they alleged was a multiyear scheme to steal money from the bank accounts of individuals and businesses using a computer virus, Joanna Slater writes from New York.

Jeff Gray examines the high-stakes, high-priced universe of cross-border bankruptcy litigation, where what remains of Nortel Networks Corp. is being slowly drained away by lawyers and consultants.

Follow on Twitter: @michaelbabad

 
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