These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014.
The Canadian dollar bounced around by more than a penny today, underscoring the fretful nature of the market.
Still, it was seen as a good sign that the currency didn't hit a fresh low.
The loonie, as the country's dollar coin is known, sank as low as 88.02 cents U.S. and climbed as high as 89.04 cents. By late in the day, it was just shy of the 89-cent mark.
Like stocks over the past few days, the loonie has been bounced around amid the general market turmoil, the hit to oil prices, projections for interest rates in the U.S. and Canada, and the fortunes of the American dollar.
George Davis of RBC Dominion Securities sees it all as a shift from "greed" in bullish times to "fear" amid investor angst.
Or, as he put it in a research note today amid the wild volatility, "greed begets fear."
"I think that what we've seen over the past couple of weeks is certainly a shift away from a psychological condition defined by greed to and environment defined and driven by fear," the chief fixed income and currency technical analyst added in an interview.
And we've seen that in the stock, commodity and bond markets, as well.
As investors become more "risk averse," the loonie gets hit, Mr. Davis added.
Chief currency strategist Camilla Sutton of Bank of Nova Scotia noted, though, that at least the loonie had not touched a new low, thus signifying some stability. Yesterday, it hit a five-year low.
Is it safe to look?
That's the question BMO's Jennifer Lee asked today amid the turmoil in global markets.
Well, yes, it's getting there.
The senior economist was referring to the flashes of red on trading screens around the world as stocks sank initially, though later pulled back from their earlier lows.
Indeed, the S&P 500 rose , though only slightly, while the Dow Jones industrial average slipped 0.2 per cent and Toronto's S&P/TSX composite actually climbed, up 1.3 per cent or more than 180 points.
Markets were buoyed by comments from James Bullard, who heads the St. Louis Fed, but who isn't a voting member of the central bank's policy committee, who said the Fed should think about extending its asset-buying stimulus program.
"The afternoon session has been an absolute roller coaster with U.S. data showing an improvement in the U.S. economy while comments from Federal Reserve members sent markets gyrating in all directions with hawkish and dovish statements in equal measure," chief analyst Michael Hewson said of European markets.
"What was most interesting was a statement from Fed board member James Bullard that the end of QE should be delayed if necessary, which suggests a deep anxiety at the heart of the U.S. central bank with respect to the slowdown in global growth and perhaps the strength of the U.S. dollar."
- Follow our Inside the Market blog (for subscribers)
- Tim Kiladze in Inside the Market (for subscribers): Relax. We will recovery from this market meltdown
- The (painfully slow) rise and (gut-wrenching) fall of the TSX
- Jeffrey Jones: In Alberta, anxiety grows over declining oil prices
- Eric Reguly: Winners and losers from oil's fall
- Oil spikes on options expiry, tight U.S gasoline stocks
Shares of Google Inc. slipped in after-hours trading today as the Internet giant missed expectations, despite what it called "another strong performance" in the third quarter.
The stock was down, by 2.9 per cent, within about 30 minutes of the results being released just after markets closed.
Google profit slipped to $2.81-billion (U.S.), or $4.09 a share, diluted, from $2.97-billion or $4.38 a year earlier.
Revenue climbed to $16.5-billion from $13.8-billion.
Adjusted, Google said earnings per share came in at $6.35.
Analysts had estimated that would be $6.53, and that revenues would be slightly higher at $16.6-billion.
"Google had another strong performance this quarter, with revenue up 20% year on year, at $16.5 billion," chief financial officer Patrick Pichette said in a statement.
"We continue to be excited about the growth in our advertising and emerging businesses."
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Acropolis
For a continent already in despair, fresh woes in Greece couldn't come at a worse possible time.
Greece, the poster child of the euro crisis, is in deep, deep trouble again. And a big question today is how that could affect its already-suffering neighbours and, indeed, the world.
The troubles have investors worried about a replay of the debt crisis that plagued the euro zone, which, of course, is a much broader area of concern given a stalled economy, high unemployment and the very real threat of deflation.
As BMO Nesbitt Burns put it, borrowing from the original book and now the movie, yesterday marked a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day" as Greek stocks plunged and bond yields surged.
"Investors seem to believe that 'whatever it takes' might not be good enough to help Greece," said BMO senior economist Sal Guatieri, noting that the Greek stock market has lost more than a third since March.
There's so much more at play this time around as global markets are hit hard by concerns over the outlook for world economies and the euro zone, in particular, is struggling.
The latest jitters over Greece are related to politics in the run-up to an election and reports that it wants to scale back the terms of its bailout. According to Reuters, the European Union pledged today to bolster the king of the bailouts should its troubles deepen even further.
At this point, it looks like they will.
The 10-year bond yield shot up today, while yields in Spain, Portugal and Italy also rose.
Bank of Nova Scotia economists noted the rise even in French yields.
"It could be a massive U.S.-Europe yield convergence trade, tremors of a revival in the European crisis, or ongoing jitters in markets over admittedly ominous news headlines," said Derek Holt, Frances Donald and Dov Zigler.
"It is interesting that today's peripheral euro zone country bond selloff is happening precisely following World Bank/IMF meetings at which the consensus seemed to be that Europe had seen enough fiscal consolidation and that it could be possible for governments to open up their proverbial purse-strings."
The problem this time around is that the powerhouses of the euro zone are themselves in trouble, with the latest economic readings from Germany, for example, raising questions about its strength.
Just today, the Eurostat statistics agency reported that the annual inflation rate in the monetary union slipped in September to just 0.3 per cent, down from 0.4 per cent in August and 1.1 per cent a year earlier.
It's the slowest pace of inflation in the euro zone since October, 2009.
Unemployment, of course, continues to run high on the continent, now standing at 11.5 per cent, though that masks the divergence across the countries that share the euro.
And Greece, the latest focus of concern, suffers the highest rate, at about 27 per cent.
Then there's the question of a lost generation. Youth unemployment in the euro zone is running at almost 22 per cent. In Greece and Spain, more than half the youth work force can't find jobs.
And this is playing out across the globe.
"The timing of the end of QE3 is coming at the worst time possible for fickle investors, given that it is happening at a time when concerns about another euro zone crisis are growing by the day, with Greek bond yields in particular spiking higher, while Italian and Spanish yields have also started to turn around sharply from their lows," said chief analyst Michael Hewson of CMC Markets in London.
He was referring to the end of the Federal Reserve's asset-buying stimulus program known as quantitative easing, or QE, the third round of which is winding down.
- Eric Reguly: 'Fear index' spikes as investors unload European stocks
- Germany slashes growth forecasts
For shareholders of Netflix Inc., it's anything but entertaining today.
Netflix shares plunged today after the online phenomenon posted disappointing subscriber numbers late yesterday.
The company said it added more than 3 million new customers in the third quarter of the year, but that was below its earlier forecast of almost 3.7 million. In the U.S., Netflix added 980,000 new subscribers.
"While we anticipated domestic add trends would rebound strongly following dramatic network improvements during the quarter, the price increase appears to have dampened the impact," CanaccordGenuity analyst Greg Miller said as he lowered his price target on the stock, referring to Netflix raising the cost of a subscription.
"Despite an improved content library, managing any price increase relative to such improvements remains a delicate balancing act, in our view."
Netflix posted a stronger profit of $59-million (U.S.), or 96 cents a share, compared to $32-million or 52 cents a year earlier.
Goldman profit up
Shares of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. also slipped today, though it posted a stronger third-quarter report that topped the expectations of analysts.
The Wall Street giant reported a quarterly profit of $2.24-billion (U.S.), or $4.57 a share, diluted, compared to $1.52-billion or $2.88 a year earlier.
Revenues from investment banking climbed by 26 per cent.
Chief executive officer Lloyd Blankfein cited "improving economic conditions" in the United States, among other things.
Canadian manufacturers suffered their first sales hit this year as the summer was winding down.
Shipments sank 3.3 per cent in August, according to Statistics Canada today, largely offsetting the increases of the previous two months.
Driving sales lower were the auto and auto parts industry.
If you strip out that sector, sales fell 1.9 per cent, the agency said.
Still, 16 of the 21 industries measured, or 81 per cent of the sector, was hit.
Inventories fell 0.6 per cent, while the inventory-to-sales ratio rose to 1.37.
Unfilled orders slipped 0.1 per cent, and new orders 3.8 per cent.
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