Skip to main content
top business stories

These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, Sept. 8. Get the top business stories through the day on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.

Follow Michael Babad and Globe top business news on Twitter

Bartz fires back An angry Carol Bartz shoots back in an interview at Yahoo Inc. and the "doofuses" on the board who fired her this week, telling Fortune magazine: "These people fucked me over."

Ms. Bartz told the magazine she was in New York Tuesday, and was scheduled to speak to Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock by phone. When she called, she said, he read a lawyer's statement to oust her.

"I said, 'Roy, I think that's a script,'" she said, and "why don't you have the balls to tell me yourself?'"

Ms. Bartz said the board wanted to see revenues rise, which wasn't going to happen until next year. Its partnership with Microsoft Corp. holds that back because it's paying the software giant 12 per cent of its the revenues from its search business. But that deal will help Yahoo in the longer term, according to Ms. Bartz, who struck the agreement two years ago.

But the board had been criticized for not selling the company to Microsoft, and was impatient.

"The board was so spooked by being cast as the worst board in the country," Ms. Bartz said. "Now they're trying to show that they're not the doofuses that they are."

On Tuesday, Yahoo did not say why Ms. Bartz was fired, only that "the board sees enormous growth opportunities on which Yahoo! can capitalize, and our primary objective is to leverage the company's leadership and current business assets and platforms to execute against these opportunities."

Rogers won't bid Rogers Communications Inc. plans to get out of the Olympic Games.

After steering the broadcast of the Vancouver Games through a recession that hammered advertising budgets and complicated sales, and as it gears up for its broadcast of the Olympics in London in 2012, the company's media division has decided not to renew its partnership with CTV to bid on the rights to broadcast the Games in 2014 and 2016, The Globe and Mail's Susan Krashinsky reports today.

It's a change of strategy for Rogers, which had previously planned to continue with Canada's Olympic Broadcast Consortium -- the name for its combined Olympic effort with competitor and partner CTV, now owned by BCE Inc.

Bernanke sees 'moderate' rebound Ben Bernanke says the Federal Reserve still expects "a moderate recovery" to continue and pick up in time, although the recovery has been less than hoped for.

And, he said today in the text of a speech to the Economic Club of Minnesota in Minneapolis, the U.S. central bank has "a range of tools that could be used to provide" added stimulus as the economy chugs along.

"Economic policy makers face a range of difficult decisions, and every household and business must cope with the stresses and uncertainties that our current situation presents," the Federal Reserve chairman said.

"These are not easy tasks. I have no doubt, however, that those challenges can be met, and that the fundamental strengths of our economy will ultimately reassert themselves."

The central bank's policy-setting panel, the Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, expects "a moderate recovery to continue and indeed to strengthen over time," he said.

"The Federal Reserve has a range of tools that could be used to provide additional monetary stimulus," Mr. Bernanke added.

"We discussed the relative merits and costs of such tools at our August meeting. My FOMC colleagues and I will continue to consider those and other pertinent issues, including, of course, economic and financial developments, at our meeting in September and are prepared to employ these tools as appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability."

Central banks on hold He didn't say he made a mistake by hiking interest rates earlier, but the chief of the European Central Bank admits that troubles are growing and that rates are likely on hold for some time.

Many observers believe Jean-Claude Trichet made a big policy error in raising his benchmark rate while Europe stumbled through a debt crisis, and several countries showed economic weakness. Today, though, Mr. Trichet held the key rate at 1.5 per cent and said threats are growing in the 17-member monetary union that is the euro zone.

"We expect the euro area economy to grow moderately, subject to particularly high uncertainty and intensified downside risks," he said.

The ECB also now says it expects economic growth of between 1.4 per cent and 1.8 per cent this year, and 0.4 per cent and 2.2 per cent in 2012, down from earlier projections.

"The ECB has shifted into neutral, which looks to be the first step towards an eventual rate cut if economic conditions continue to worsen," said senior economist Benjamin Reitzes of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

"Indeed, with the sovereign debt crisis far from resolved, it's unlikely the recent softer data trend is going to change, which will put even greater pressure on the ECB to ease. Watch inflation rates closely, as the ECB will be reluctant to ease until it's very clear that inflation is headed below the 2-per-cent target, which may not be until early 2012. Unless European leaders find a way to solve the debt crisis and boost confidence in the near term (not likely), it appears likely we could see rate cuts by early next year."

The Bank of England also held its benchmark rate steady at 0.5 per cent.

Greek economy shrinks It's no wonder Greece's economy can't find its footing: You can't find a doctor, dentist or taxi driver, either, because they're on strike again today to protest the government's harsh austerity measures.

Cab drivers have launched a 24-hour walkout, while hospital doctors and dentists have started a two-day strike.

This came as Greece's Hellenic Statistical Authority said the economy contracted even more than expected in the second quarter, slipping 7.3 per cent. That followed an 8.1-per-cent contraction in the first quarter.

Greece also reported today that unemployment eased in June to 16 per cent, from 16.6 per cent in May. But that's a stunning jump from 11.6 per cent a year ago.

Elsewhere in the embattled euro zone, Italy's cabinet backed a constitutional change to force governments into balanced budgets beginning in 2014, part of a wider austerity package.

Economies to limp Canada's economy is limping through the second half of the year, but is still expected to outperform others in the G7 in the final quarter, the OECD says.

The economy is projected to grow at an annualized pace of 1 per cent in the current quarter, and 1.9 per cent in the final three months, the Paris-based group said in a new forecast today.

That compares to 0.4 per cent in the United States, no growth in Japan, 0.4 per cent in France, 0.1 per cent in Italy and 0.3 per cent in Britain. Germany's economy is projected to contract by 1.4 per cent in the fourth quarter. The outlook for Germany is particularly ominous given that it's Europe's biggest economy and has been the major player in the bailouts of its weaker neighbours.

The current quarter should show growth of 1 per cent in Canada, not as strong as the United States, Japan or Germany, but better than France, Italy and Britain.

That's in line with what the Bank of Canada said yesterday, when it held its benchmark rate steady at 1 per cent and projected a pick-up in the second half of the year after the economy stalled out in the second quarter.

Over all, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development painted a gloomier picture for major economies, and warned that the outlook for jobs is weakening.

"Earlier improvements in the labour market are now fading, hiring intentions are softening and there are greater risks that high unemployment could become entrenched," the OECD said.

Trade gap shrinks There's some better news today for Canada's exporters, though policy makers still warn of weaker times ahead as global demand softens and the Canadian dollar remains strong.

Canadian exports climbed 2.2 per cent in July, outpacing the 0.5-per-cent increase in imports to narrow the country's trade deficit to $753-million from $1.4-billion in June, Statistics Canada said today.

Export volumes rose 4.1 per cent, while prices slipped 1.9 per cent. Machinery and equipment, auto products and industrial goods led the way. On the import side, volumes actually slipped 0.4 per cent, though prices rose.

"Energy product exports were down 2.1 per cent on both prices and volumes, suggesting that temporary disruptions to production in that sector will likely take longer to ease," said Emanuella Enenajor of CIBC World Markets.

"Somewhat encouragingly, crude petroleum imports were up sharply, taking overall energy imports up 6.1 per cent, as some refineries resumed production ... Overall, the report was better than expected, and the 4.1-per-cent surge in export volumes sets the quarter up for a slightly better performance for net trade, following [the second quarter's]sharp drag."

Those numbers are now a few months months old, and the Bank of Canada warned just yesterday that softer exports would be a drag on the economy.

There was also better news today for U.S. exporters, which posted record levels in July, knocking America's trade deficit down by 13 per cent, to almost $45-billion (U.S.). That came as oil import prices declined.

But - and this is likely to cause some noise - the U.S. trade gap with China increased to its fattest in several months.

Building permits rise There's still some spunk in Canada's residential construction industry. The value of building permits climbed in July by more than 6 per cent, to $7-billion, which matches a record high set in May 2007.

Building permits can be volatile, and July's numbers were pumped up by condo permits in Ontario. Still, the report shows "continued resiliency in residential construction going forward," CIBC's Ms. Enenajor said.

Permits were up in the residential sector, by almost 15 per cent to the highest since December 2005, and down by 4.5 per cent in the non-residential area.

Consumer woes A majority of Canadian employees are living paycheque to paycheque and report they would be in financial difficulty if their pay were delayed by even a week, according to a new survey on the financial health of the country's workers.

The survey by the Canadian Payroll Association also found 40 per cent of Canadians now report they expect to retire later than they had previously planned, acknowledging they are not saving enough for retirement, The Globe and Mail's Janet McFarland reports today.

Smith & Wesson revenue up The U.S. economy may be stumbling but Americans are still buying guns.

Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. yesterday posted first-quarter results that included lower profit of $791,00 (U.S.) or a penny a share, but a 4.5-per-cent jump in revenue to $99.2-million. Revenue in the firearm division climbed 18 per cent, buoyed by a boost of almost 27 per cent in Smith & Wesson brand handguns.

The firearm unit is expected to grow by between 11 per cent and 13 per cent in the next fiscal year.

Here's a telling comment from CEO Michael Golden:

"In fact, firearm unit sales in our consumer channel were up 44.4 per cent ... Professional orders for our M&P pistols increased, and handgun growth in general was supported by the continuing consumer trend toward smaller firearms designed for concealed carry and for personal protection. While the environment for our security solutions business remained challenging primarily related to constraints in government spending, we continued to focus on reshaping the business and expanding our portfolio with new products to better address the current market environment."

Gadhafi sold gold Libya's central bank sold 29 tons of gold in the spring so Moammar Gadhafi could pay salaries, according to reports today from Tripoli. That's about $1.4-billion (U.S.), and some 20 per cent of Libya's gold reserves, according to Reuters and The Associated Press.

Qassim Azzuz, the new central bank chief, said the regime sold the bullion to Libyan traders during the uprising that toppled the government.

"The gold was liquidated in order to pay salaries and to have liquidity, in Tripoli in particular," the central bank chief said, according to Agence France Presse, which quoted officials as saying that the gold was probably taken out of LIbya.

In Economy Lab Mike Moffatt looks at the Ontario NDP's proposal to cut gas taxes.

In International Business One thing can be said in favour of Greek banks: They're still standing. The Financial Times examines the financial sector.

From today's Report on Business

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct

Tickers mentioned in this story