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A demonstrator with Occupy Chicago stands outside the Federal Reserve Bank building October 5, 2011 in Chicago (Scott Olson/2011 Getty Images)
A demonstrator with Occupy Chicago stands outside the Federal Reserve Bank building October 5, 2011 in Chicago (Scott Olson/2011 Getty Images)

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Unrest: Don't ignore what's happening in the streets Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, Oct. 5. Get the top business stories through the day on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.

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Social unrest mounts Policy makers around the world should play close attention to what's happening in the streets.

From New York to Athens to Madrid and, soon, to Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, the people are speaking with a unified voice, telling their leaders they've had enough. Half a century ago, it was the Vietnam war, now it's the financial system and the economy, which are showing new strains.

Amid high unemployment and harsh cutbacks, these things have a way of blowing in the faces of politicians.

The protests in Europe, particularly in Greece, have been under way for some time. That's no surprise. The jobless rate is 16 per cent and the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou is pushing for ever-greater cuts so Athens can qualify for bailout money.

The actions in the United States are more of a surprise, though I'm not sure why they should be. As the ghost of the financial crisis still haunts, millions of people have lost their jobs and their homes. Many are on food stamps. And young people are struggling to find work, made even harder as the U.S. economy slows.

The protests, which began in New York last month as "Occupy Wall Street" and have spread to several other cities, is drawing not only the disenfranchised, but university students and unions.

And here's a tidbit that drives home the point: Sesame Street is tackling the issue of poverty and hunger, and introducing a new Muppet, the seven-year-old Lily who doesn't know where her next meal is coming from.

Lily debuts in a one-hour special this Sunday in prime time, Growing Hope Against Hunger, sponsored by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. . She is, according to the people behind the show, a representative of the millions of American kids coping with hunger, which estimates put at almost one in four.

“Sesame Workshop has always been at the forefront of creating resources for families with young children to help address some of life’s most difficult issues.”H. Melvin Ming, the group's chief operating officer, said in a statement. “ Growing Hope Against Hunger is Sesame Workshop’s contribution to all those who face the invisible crisis in the United States that is food insecurity.

It would be wise to not ignore what's playing out, and determine what, if anything, to do about it.

Banks near rescue? Don't count on a recapitalization of Europe's banks just yet.

Indications that finance ministers are working on such a plan are buoying investors, and I'm not saying it won't happen, but noise from the embattled euro zone has often been sparked by offhand comments, rumour and speculation, and by hopes and dreams, rather than actual co-ordination among the 17 countries of the monetary union.

And, to date, Europe's actions have been more Band-Aid than innoculation.

As The Globe and Mail's Tara Perkins and Grant Robertson report, fears of a European banking crisis are mounting, heightened by the troubles of Franco-Belgian lender Dexia, which the two governments have promised to rescue.

This began late yesterday with a report that Oli Rehn, the EU's top economic official, told The Financial Times that the group's finance ministers are studying ways to co-ordinate a package.

"Word that the EU is set to throw ailing banks a liquidity lifeline certainly injected some buoyancy into markets late last night, but in what seems to be [becoming]tradition, such intervention is already looking like being little more than a short-lived shot in the arm," said sales trader Yusuf Heusen of IG Index.

The IMF today also pushed the EU to take swift action, saying it needs between €100-billion and €200-billion to boost the banks.

Comments today from German Chancellor Angela Merkel don't suggest this is about to happen any time soon. She said it could be done if it's necessary, and that time is running out if it's going to happen. So it's far from clear whether recapitalization will happen, and what it might achieve because everything is so vague.

"Nothing tangible has been offered, just policy comments, and it’s not clear what signal is being sent," said Derek Holt and Karen Cordes Woods of Scotia Capital.

"Yes it would be a positive to inject capital into the most pressured banks in order to mitigate what is already showing signs of a lending crunch in Europe as bank funding pressures intensify," they said in a research report.

"But the horse is already out of the barn in that sense, and the further negative impact this may have upon European government finances, combined with the possibility that it would be a step along the path toward the growing realization that Greece can’t do enough at a quick enough pace to avoid default are not being considered here."

Observers believe the discussion may be under way in an attempt to bullet-proof the banks for a Greek bankruptcy, or, at the very least, a bigger haricut by private Greek debt holders, which include the financial institutions.

That haircut now stands at 21 per cent, but there's talk of pushing the debt holders to share more of the pain. According to some measures cited today by Capital Economics, a 50 per cent haircut, for example, on bank exposure to debts of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy would mean losses of about €290-billion.

"Injecting capital on this scale, let alone to deal with the banks’ exposure to other troubled assets, would mean a massive transfer of risk from the banking sector to the public sector, magnifying investors’ concerns about the sovereign debt crisis," said John Higgins of Capital Economics, who speculated on the use of the euro bailout fund known as the EFSF.

"Some stronger countries could feasibly recapitalize their banks without the need for external support," Mr. Higgins said in a report.

"But others would presumably turn to the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which will be able to provide funds to non-program countries for bank recapitalization as and when its revamped status is ratified by all. But the more the EFSF’s funds are used to recapitalize banks, the less it will have to provide official financing, or to intervene in the debt markets. And the more the EFSF is expected to deploy its firepower in whatever capacity, the more investors will believe it will have to be leveraged, with the result that its own cost of borrowing could keep on rising."

Flaherty sees no bubble Canada's Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the country's housing market has cooled somewhat but there's no "clear evidence of a bubble" at this point. So he's not planning any further moves to cool the real estate market down, as he did when he tightened up the morning rules earlier, he told reporters in New York today.

His comments, reported by Bloomberg News, came after a speech at an investment conference.

He did cite heightened demand in some regions, including Vancouver, whose high prices have skewed national numbers.

All in all, what he said fits with what other observers and economists have said.

As Kevin Carmichael reports today, the International Monetary Fund doesn't necessarily agree, saying in a report that "developments on the housing front require increased vigilance, and consideration may need to be given to additional prudential measures to prevent a further buildup in household debt."

Canada won't regulate Netflix Canada's broadcast regulator says there's still no conclusive evidence that Internet-delivered TV services such as Netflix are disrupting the traditional TV business in Canada.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said today a fact-finding mission it launched in May to look into such services, known as “over-the-top” TV, led to “inconclusive results,” The Globe and Mail's Susan Krashinsky reports.

That means the CRTC will not heed calls to dip its hands in the muddy waters of regulating broadcasting on new platforms - at least for now.

Talisman cuts forecast Canada's Talisman Energy Inc. has cut its projection for production this year to 425,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, from between 430,000 and 440,000 in an earlier forecast, as some operations ramp back up.

Production has now resumed at its Rev operation in Norway after maintenance, the company said, and its Claymore project in Britain is also poised to resume production after work done to comply with health and safety regulations. But it's also doing safety upgrades at its Tartan operation in the North Sea, and expects that will run throughout the fourth quarter.

"None of these repairs reflect substantive issues with respect to the integrity of the platforms, but are important for ongoing safe operations," the company said in a statement.

All told, Talisman's North Sea production will fall by 13,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day in the third quarter and 7,000 in the fourth.

"In our view, the revision of growth targets is indicative of the execution challenges faced by the company in the near-term," said analyst George Toriola of UBS.

Mr. Toriola held his 12-month price target on Talisman shares at $26, tough Phil Skolnick of Canaccord Genuity cut his.

"Despite new management's goal to significantly reduce headline risk around the North Sea, it remains a risk," Mr. Skolnick said.

Upsetting the Apple cart It's a rare event when Apple Inc. doesn't blow the socks off investors, analysts and reviewers with a product launch. And I do wonder why a new CEO wouldn't make sure he comes out with a bang.

But, as The Globe and Mail's Omar El Akkad writes, the tech giant showed yesterday that it can't consistently churn out such revolutionary gadgets.

The world was expecting an iPhone 5, but what it got was an upgraded iPhone 4S. And for the record, Apple never promised a fifth, only that it would talk about the iPhone.

So, is the upgraded iPhone a disappointment, or still a cool device with a dual-core A5 processor, an 8-megapixel camer, and other neat stuff? Perhaps it's both. Here's what observers say:

"The iPhone 4S is what cruise control looks like." Omar El Akkad, The Globe and Mail

"iPhone 4S could be the first disappointing device since the launch of the brand.” David McQueen, Informa Telecoms & Media

"While iPhone 4S may be seen as a mild disappointment by investors as it retains the form factor of iPhone 4, we believe the model features several important hardware upgrades, including a dual-core A5 processor, 8mp camera, and re-designed cellular antenna that supports both HSPA+ and EVDO standards to provide 'world-phone' capabilities. Further, we believe compelling new capabilities in iOS 5 and iCloud will generate strong sales of iPhone 4S and increased iOS ecosystem stickiness to generate future recurring device sales." Michael Walkley, Canaccord Genuity

"At the end of the day, there are still going to be long lines for this. They could have been even longer if they’d changed the hardware more.” Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray, to The New York Times

"Despite upgrades to its internal components and some new software capabilities, the iPhone 4S looks like its predecessor physically and doesn't make a big leap in its overall capabilities. Many of its features are also already available on competitors' phones." Geoffrey Fowler and John Letzing, The Wall Street Journal

"It’s a measure of how Apple has habituated its legions of fans to regular, eye-catching design changes that the news about the latest version of the iPhone qualified as a disappointment for some." Nick Wingfield, The New York Times

“There are still many consumers who don’t have the iPhone experience, and Apple still has a lot of markets and carriers to enter, so when there’s a new model with better specs, it helps to lift shipments.” Ming-chi Kuo, Concord Securities, to Reuters

"Underwhelming is the word that hit me." Roger Kay, Endpoint Technologies Associates, to The Wall Street Journal

“It’s been 16 months and all you’ve got is an A5 processor in the existing iPhone 4. It’s a mild disappointment, but they’re still going to be selling millions of units.” Colin Gillis, BGC Partners, to Reuters

“Expectations for Apple's product roll-outs have become really unrealistic. What are (investors) expecting?” Channing Smith, Capital Advisors Growth fund, to The Associated Press

"That was a pretty big step forward. To be able to just converse with your gadget. You’ve got more options than just poking and swiping at it with your finger.” Frank Gillett, Forrester Research, to Reuters, referring to the new voice-recognition system called Siri

Mattel in new environmental pledge Barbie is going green.

Toy giant Mattel Inc. said today it's moving to "advance sustainability" with a three-point plan packaging and product plan to boost recycled content, avoid "virgin fiber from controversial sources," and boost the use of material certified by a "credible" third party.

Mattel, the maker of Barbie and other toys, said its goal is to have 70 per cent of paper packaging come from recycled material or "sustainable fiber" by the end of this year, and to boost that to 85 per cent by the end of 2015.

Headlines of note

In Economy Lab If commodity prices drift sideways for the next few months, Canada's not-particularly-rapid recovery will be slowed, and more at risk from another downturn in the U.S., Stephen Gordon writes.

In International Business To check the health of the dry-bulk shipping industry, don’t bother inspecting bunker fuel prices or cargoes leaving the Pilbara. Focus on the ongoing orgy of destruction in the ship-breaking yards of South Asia, The Financial Times Lex team writes.

In Globe Careers If you’re eager to climb the corporate ladder, international experience is essential. Miranda Gulland examines the issue.

In Personal Finance Between mobile phones and Skype, there’s not much reason to keep your home phone any longer.

From today's Report on Business

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