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Apple and its cash hoard: Buy RIM? Bail out Greece?

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Apple's cash I know at least where I'd start if I had $76.2-billion (U.S.). What I don't know - and its shareholders don't, either - is what Apple Inc. plans to do with its cash and securities.

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As The Globe and Mail's Omar El Akkad reports, Apple turned in stellar quarterly results late yesterday, boosting its stock price. Buried in its report was the eye-popping amount of money that's sitting around.

What could Apple do?

  • Buy all the state assets Greece has put up for sale, and have change left over.
  • Give each and every American $247, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • Buy Goldman Sachs Group Inc. , as observers noted yesterday, and get picked on every time you do something.
  • Buy Iceland several times over (based on GDP), and then demand a bailout.
  • Buy Research In Motion Ltd. and have a lot of change left over. (Or buy a hockey team and really rub it in.)

Where's the dollar headed? Just the promise of higher interest rates sent the Canadian dollar surging, so imagine what an actual rate hike could do.

The loonie is sharply higher since the Bank of Canada signalled in its statement yesterday that it's poised to hike its benchmark overnight rate beyond 1 per cent, possibly in the fall, rather than next year. That's obviously a concern for the country's exporters, and the central bank itself, which has cited the strong loonie as one of the threats to the economy.

So that's something of a Catch 22.

"Pull the trigger on actual hikes, and an overvalued currency risks marching in the direction toward a dime north of parity and further overshooting (note that [Canadian dollar] strengthening of late has occurred despite soft energy prices)," said Scotia Capital economists Derek Holt and Karen Cordes Woods.

In its Monetary Policy report today, the central bank said Canada's recovery is gaining speed after a soft second quarter, and will expand more quickly than expected in the first three months of next year, Globe and Mail economics writer Jeremy Torobin reports.

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A day after it held interest rates steady, it repeated its warning that global risks have also picked up. Though it now appears any any rise in rates will be slow and measured.

"The bank is preparing the groundwork for rate hikes later this year, and may quietly welcome a further accompanying rise in the Canadian dollar to keep inflation in check," said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns.

"However, there is zero indication that the bank is poised to aggressively move on rates - Carney stressed the word 'some' re the stimulus being withdrawn, in today's press conference - and the rate-hike case is built entirely on the assumption that the drama surrounding U.S. and European debt subsides."

China to rescue OPTI China is moving deeper into Canada's oil sands with a deal for ailing OPTI Canada Inc., The Globe and Mail's Carrie Tait reports today from Calgary.

China National Offshore Oil Corp., or CNOOC, is paying $2.1-billion for the energy company, which filed last week for court protection from credits. Most of the cash will end up with OPTI's creditors, while stockholders get about 12 cents a share under the deal announced today.

The proposal not only rescues OPTI, but gives Nexen Inc. a wealthy partner for the Long Lake oil sands project – a major, but troubled, effort.

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Merkel, Sarkozy meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting today with her French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in advance of an emergency summit of EU leaders in Brussels tomorrow.

There are strong divisions in the euro zone as policy makers seek a solution to ease the debt crisis that has dogged the 17-member monetary union for more than a year. In particular, Ms. Merkel wants private creditors to share in the pain of another bailout for Greece, but the European Central Bank is opposed to anything that would lead to Greek bonds being declared in default.

An aide to Ms. Merkel said today that "we are very confident that there will be a good and sensible solution" coming out of tomorrow's summit, according to Reuters, but observers are skeptical. After all, Europe's leaders have so far acted like a dysfunctional family, and have been unable to find a solution. And only yesterday, Ms. Merkel said she didn't expect a radical solution to be reached in Brussels.

Prospects for marked progress tomorrow are "slim," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson, given that "Merkel played down hopes of a quick solution, with the IMF weighing in with a dire warning about the costs to the world economy of a failure to obtain a solution this week."

China pushes U.S. The prospect of movement on the U.S. budget discussion has buoyed hopes today, though the pressure's still on as policy makers sramble ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling.

China again today added its voice, pushing the Americans to settle the issue.

"We hope the U.S. government will earnestly adopt responsible policies to strengthen international market confidence, and to respect and protect the interests of investors," Beijing's State Administration of Foreign Exchange said on its website.

As The Globe and Mail's Kevin Carmichael reports from Washington, President Barack Obama yesterday endorsed a bipartisan plan to ease America's debt burden.

"While this is surely grounds for optimism and has gained tacit support from some Republicans, it would appear that Speaker of the House of Representatives Republican John Boehner has stated that the proposal continues to fall short of Republican expectations, thus reinforcing perceptions that Republicans are continuing to play party politics with the debt ceiling, and will probably string it out until the eleventh hour in the hope of wringing out further concessions," said CMC's Mr. Hewson.

Zillow starts out strong The volatility of recent initial public offerings hasn't dented the enthusiasm among investors for other stocks on their first day of trading, David Berman writes today in our Market Blog.

Zillow Inc. surged in early trading today, opening at $60 (U.S.), or triple its IPO price of $20, before settling back.

Boeing turns up heat Boeing Co. is turning up the heat in the high-stakes rivalry with Airbus SAS and Canada's Bombardier Inc. over the lucrative single-aisle airplane market, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports today.

The U.S. aerospace giant now says it is moving in the direction of offering a variant of its 737 commercial aircraft rather than waiting until it can design and develop a completely new airplane at a later date.

In doing so, it is matching Airbus's strategy to re-engine its popular A320 family of airplanes, a move that puts more immediate pressure on Montreal-based Bombardier's all-new C Series jet.

In International Business today Europe's proposal to force shipping fleets to cut emissions of sulphur-dioxide gas will only add painful costs to an industry already in tight straights, William Stoichevski writes from Oslo.

In Personal Finance today You can minimize your mortgage by moving to a cheaper community, like Windsor or Amherst, but there are factors you should consider besides price.

Causation and correlation are important things to consider when digesting the numerous studies out there.

From today's Report on Business

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