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The Week’s Highlights

What’s French for ‘car pooling’? Add to ...

Every day ROB Insight delivers exclusive analysis on breaking business news and market-moving events. Streetwise offers news and analysis on Bay Street and the world of finance. Inside the Market delivers up-to-the-minute insights on market news as it develops.

Here are our editors’ picks of some of the best reads available to Globe Unlimited subscribers this week.

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Car-sharing for fun and profit

Ever considered car pooling to work? Well, there’s an app for that. Specifically, BlaBlaCar, a French concern that connects travellers looking for a cheap ride with drivers who have empty seats. Already active in about a dozen European countries, BlaBlaCar this week raised $100-million (U.S.) from American venture investors. It’s part of a growing trend you might being called “the sharing economy,” that seeks to profit from what are essentially underutilized resources in the private economy. Better-known examples include taxi service Uber, and Airbnb, a U.S. startup that allows people to cash in on their homes while they’re away, or rent cheap accommodation from others in the same position. (It’s also under scrutiny from New York’s Attorney-General over concerns about unreported income, but we won’t go there just now.) While these outfits may benefit consumers, the jury is still out – way out, actually – on whether investors can benefit too. In ROB Insight, Ian McGugan examines the growing trend and weighs in on it as an investor proposition.

Retirees train big guns on New Brunswick

Like many pensioners who have the terms of their benefits altered for the worse, retired public sector workers in New Brunswick are hopping mad and fighting back. What’s unusual, though, is that they’re citing the authority of the Constitution in their challenge. The group is firing back at the province’s decision to convert their conventional indexed pension plans into a shared-risk model by filing a human rights complaint under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In Streetwise, Anna Nicolaou examines the controversy and looks at the potential precedent-setting repercussions for retired public sector workers in other provinces.

DIY investing, with a little help

There’s hire-a-pro investing, where you pay a fee to have someone to advise and then invest according to your comfort level, and then there’s the DIY route, where you can invest at the lowest cost for buying and selling and pay no management fees, but you’re on your own. The latter route is obviously going to cost a lot less, but unless you know what you’re doing it can be a pretty false economy. In Insight the Market, Rob Carrick looks at the new middle ground emerging for those willing to pay a little more to have their money invested with much of the grunt work taken off their hands.

Investment banks on a roll

Surging markets and improving sentiment are just what the doctored ordered for investment banks, with stock offerings rocketing a whopping 43 per cent in the first half of the year compared to the first six months of 2013. The value of M&As involving Canadian companies was close behind, with a 40-per-cent jump, while debt issue climbed a much more modest, but still positive 6 per cent. Can they keep it up? In Streetwise, Boyd Erman looks at some of the big winners and the encouraging signs for strong business in the second half.

The incredible shrinking trade deficit

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz has repeatedly stressed the importance of boosting exports in getting the economy on track ahead of any move on interest rates, so the news that the monthly trade deficit tumbled has made many sit up and take notice. A $961-million shortfall for April was whittled down to just $152-million in May, with the total value of exports hitting their the second-highest level ever and volumes reaching a seven-year high. So is the horizon for a central bank interest rate hike suddenly much closer than it was? In ROB Insight, David Parkinson dives into the detail, examining the trend, the volatility, and the effects of the recent reversal of the loonie’s fortunes.

The TSX’s half-year report card

Six months down, six more to go. The midpoint of 2014 is a good place to take stock of how the various sectors have been performing in the market and, more importantly, the direction some of them are likely to take. So far, autos, food and beverage, technology and energy stocks have been top of the heap, while media, retailing and consumer services disappointed. Will the same trend continue? In Inside the Market, Scott Barlow rakes through the numbers for some of the better-performing stocks in the winning sectors and tries to get a bead on where they might be heading.

JPM succession moves into sharper focus

The news this week that JPMorgan’s high-profile and often controversial CEO Jamie Dimon has throat cancer has brought succession plans for the corner office into sharper focus. While Mr. Dimon is expected to make a full recovery after treatment, his tenure at the helm through some of the roughest seas the bank has had to navigate has been considered one of the biggest reasons JPMorgan has managed to prosper. In Streetwise, Joanna Slater takes a look at the plaudits and brickbats he’s earned over the past eight years and the challenge the bank faces when he eventually steps down.

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