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Canada appears to have its act together, Bill Gross says

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Gross recommends Canada PIMCO's Bill Gross suggests investors look at Canada other countries "that appear to have their act under control."

Mr. Gross, managing director at Pacific Investment Management Co., laments in an article on the company's website that American politicians and citizens alike just don't get it when it comes to their swollen deficits. He warns of higher inflation, a saggy dollar and the potential cut to America's credit rating.

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"The American hegemon knows no limits, it seems, when it comes to spending other people's money for their own consumption," says Mr. Gross, who runs the world's biggest bond fund.

"Unlike euroland or the United Kingdom, which appear to have gone on an extreme fiscal diet, the American answer to a bulging waistline is always 'mañana.' Debt commission recommendations are tossed in the trash can, tea party election rhetoric eventually focuses on miniscule and merely symbolic earmarks, and both Democrats and Republicans congratulate each other on their ability to reach a bipartisan agreement for the good of the nation."

For investors looking for stocks, he writes, go where the growth is.

"If the U.S. must pay an eventual price for mindless deficit spending, then find countries and currencies that appear to have their act under control: Canada, Brazil and yes even Mexico with its drug-related violence."

His comments come as the Canadian dollar continues to hover around parity with the greenback, buoyed by yesterday's stronger-than-expected reading in a U.S. employment report.

That report from Automatic Data Processing, which showed strong hiring by the U.S. private sector, has boosted optimism on the U.S. economy, particularly that, finally, unemployment may be easing.

But the report, which showed companies created almost 300,000 jobs in December, has also heightened expectations for tomorrow's official measure by the U.S. government.

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Investors are now expecting a stronger reading, and a weak showing could dash their hopes.

For now, though, the loonie is riding on the coattails of the U.S. showing as Canada would benefit from a stronger recovery in the United States, its largest trading partner, said Scotia Capital currency strategist Camilla Sutton.

"What's good for the U.S. is good for Canada," Ms. Sutton said.

The Canadian dollar has been gaining, ironically on a generally weaker U.S. dollar, but also on the back of strong commodity prices and a optimistic economic and fiscal outlook.

Jobless claims rise Applications for jobless benefits rose in the U.S. last week, perhaps taking some of the steam out of the ADP numbers, though economists suggest not reading too much into that.

Applications rose by 18,000 to top 400,000, somewhat disappointing given that a week earlier they were at their lowest in over two years and had pumped up hopes.

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"Of course a rebound in claims is a negative but after the prior week's 29,000 drop to 391,000 (the first venture below the 400,000 level since July 2008), some reversal was expected," said BMO Nesbitt Burns senior economist Jennifer Lee. "And this is a messy time of year for these data. But here's the main takeaway: the downward trend is still intact."

Jill Brown, vice-president of economics at Credit Suisse Securities in New York, also pointed out that, aside from last, today's reading is still the lowest since July of 2008.

"The smoother four-week average is also the lowest since 2008," she said. "This further supports other reports that suggest the labour market is recuperating."

Floods to hit Australia economy Economists are trying to tally the damage to Australia's economy from the crushing floods that have hit coal mines and crops, dealing a blow to key exports.

A Bloomberg survey of economists projected the damage in the Queensland region may hit growth by about 0.2 of a percentage point this quarter. It could also stop the Reserve Bank of Australia from raising interest rates again.

"Sad news continues to come from Queensland, where the reported flooded areas are bigger than Texas," Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, said in a research note today.

"No one can judge yet what the impact of this disaster will be on Australia's economy. It is clear that coal and wheat production will be sharply impacted. Wheat inventories, worldwide, are already quite low and prices are jumping on world grain markets. Nothing good can come of this."

Brazil acts on currency Brazil has introduced new measures to keep a lid on its rising currency, the real, which has climbed almost 40 per cent against the U.S. greenback since the beginning of 2009.

The country's central bank is boosting reserve requirements on currency positions held by local banks. Interest will then not be paid on reserves that are held in cash.

"It's the latest of a confusing set of signals sent by Brazil with respect to its openness to cross border capital flows," Scotia Capital economists Derek Holt and Gorica Djeric said in a research note today.

"It follows liberalizing steps toward allowing more foreign inflows into corporate bond markets to feed massive infrastructure financing requirements in the years ahead, and before that higher taxes on portfolio flows. We want it, we don't want it. One thing we continue to believe is that emerging markets will continue to face a large net inflow of capital being siphoned off from developed countries not because of Fed policy, but simply because they are out-performing on growth compared to developed economies."

Double, double toil and trouble Jim Flaherty, take note. Romania's witches are cursing their government - that's like a spell, not a four-letter word - because the government is changing labour laws to start taxing them.

Sorcery's actually a big deal in Romania, where, according to The Associated Press, President Traian Basescu and his aides wear purple on Thursdays to keep evil spirits away.

So today, reports say, witches are heading to the Danube River to threaten the administration with sorcery. One witch, who goes by just one name as is their custom, told the news agency that several witches will put a hex on the government and throw mandrake into the Danube.

According to the new laws, witches will join the self employed in paying 16 per cent in income tax. That will also take in astrologers and embalmers.

CES kicks off The International Consumer Electronics Show kicks off officially today in Las Vegas as door open to trades people. Wednesday was press day and the Globe's Omar El Akkad and freelance writer Saleem Khan filed several stories to

  • RIM reveals more PlayBook details
  • CES kicks off with speech from Microsoft CEO
  • Motorola sets the tone at CES with launch of powerful mobile hardware
  • Black & Decker time machine also shreds paper
  • Preview: All-terrain video camera made for jockish nerds and nerdy jocks

In Your Business today

How can you make your business easier to find online? Keep it relevant, keep it clean, keep it connected.

David Lowenstein, who co-founded Federated Networks in 2005, says he believes the Toronto-based company can compete with bigger cybersecurity hitters based purely on its innovation, including its proprietary security protocol that he claims is more robust than the industry standard.

Face Atelier is found in the kits of makeup artists worldwide and it is worn by celebrities including Lady Gaga and Fergie, as well as the everyday woman. Its products have been featured in many of the major consumer magazines and brand was a sponsor for Madonna's Confession tour. Founder Debbie Bondar is humble and avoids overanalyzing the strategy behind her success. "I did not take a clinical approach to starting my business. I just shot from my hip. I followed my gut."

In Personal Finance today

What, exactly, does it mean to save "enough" for retirement? Rob Carrick says we need to clarify this "before we set off on yet another instalment of the Canadians Aren't Saving Enough For Retirement drama."

Tax Matters columnist Tim Cestnick explains why there are better ways to set aside retirement savings for a spouse than giving him or her money to contribute to an RRSP.

From today's Report on Business

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