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Crooks steal RIM PlayBooks (But can they fence them?)

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Thieves steal thousands of PlayBooks It appears that thieves in Indiana aren't content with the $300 discount on RIM's PlayBook tablet.

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Police in Chesterfield, Ind., say a truckload containing 5,200 tablets, worth some $1.7-million (U.S.) wholesale, was stolen last week on its way from Plainfield, Ind., to Waterloo, Ont., home of the BlackBerry maker.

The driver had pulled into a truck stop on I-69 in Chesterfield last Thursday to eat and shower, and came back to find the truck stolen.

There was more than one person involved, said police officer Mike Milbourn of Chesterfield, which is 34 miles north of Indianapolis on I-69. Police do have leads, he said, and "very good" video.

"This was not a random act," he added. "Somebody knew what was in that truck and tipped these guys off."

The theft caps what has been a troubled year for Research In Motion Ltd. , whose shares continue to sink and are now below $13. The PlayBook got off to a weak start, and its price has been slashed, key new BlackBerry devices with an upgraded system are being delayed, and its outlook just last week disappointed investors, to put it mildly.

The BlackBerry maker most recently took a huge hit on its inventory of PlayBooks.

RIM executives say they are committed to the tablet, and they cite their technology, services and base of 75 million subscribers when they pledge to overcome their recent challenges.

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Food, gas prices climb Higher food and gas prices continue to eat into the budgets of Canadian consumers, though at least increases at the pump are slowing.

The cost of food in Canada climbed in November by 4.8 per cent compared to a year earlier, the fastest increase since July of 2009, Statistics Canada said today. That's up from the 12-month increase of 4.3 per cent measured in October.

Gas prices increased 13.5 per cent, the statistics agency said, though that was down from October's 18.2 per cent and the slowed increase since the start of the year.

Over all, Canada's annual inflation rate was unchanged last month at 2.9 per cent in November. The so-called core rate, which excludes volatile items and helps guide the Bank of Canada, was also unchanged at 2.1 per cent.

Month over month, consumer prices increased 0.1 per cent from October, and core prices rose at the same pace. Both were slower than October's increases.

But make no mistake: Food and gas costs are still biting, in every province, according to Statistics Canada.

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Canada has one of the slowest inflation rates in the world, though that may be little solace when you're at the supermarket.

Over the 12 months, consumers were hit by increases of 5.7 per cent for store-bought food. Vegetable prices rose 13.2 per cent and bread 11.9 per cent. Meat prices climbed 6.2 per cent, and potato costs surged 20.3 per cent. Restaurant prices also rose.

Over all, today's measure was largely expected. The question for many households, though, will be what's ahead given that income gains in Canada have stalled.

"Price increases should cool somewhat in 2012, as food inflation ebbs and energy prices simmer down amid a slowing global economy," said deputy chief economist Douglas Porter of BMO Nesbitt Burns. "However, we would note that at an average rate of nearly 3 per cent this year, 2011 will mark the fastest full-year inflation in Canada in 20 years. Low versus the rest of the world perhaps, but high by recent standards."

As a point of interest, Mr. Porter noted that 1991 was also the year that the Bank of Canada began to target inflation.

Having said that, today's latest inflation reading is not expected to change Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney's mind on anything.

"While price pressures aren't easing as fast as the Bank of Canada had anticipated, that won't change the BoC's stance on monetary policy for now," said senior economist Krishen Rangasamy at National Bank of Canada.

"There are so many downside risks to the economy and the BoC is likely to play safe and leave monetary policy highly stimulative through next year."

Encana fights back Encana Corp. ramped up its battle against the Environmental Protection Agency today, attacking the U.S. watchdog for it says were "critical mistakes" when it found that drinking water in Wyoming had been contamined via a gas drilling process known as fracking.

The industry says the process, hydraulic fracturing, is safe, though there have been mounting environmental concerns.

Last week, the EPA issued a draft report about the water in Pavillion, Wyoming.

"It is our belief that the EPA made critical mistakes and misjudgments at almost every step in the process," David Stewart, the Encana chief for such issues, said on a conference call, according to Reuters.

"From the way it designed the study to the way it drilled and completed its wells, to the way it collected and interpreted the data, to its decision to release a preliminary draft report without independent third-party review."

TransCanada buys solar projects TransCanada Corp. is moving deeper into alternative energy.

The Calgary-based company said today it plans to buy nine solar projects in Ontario for about $470-million from Canadian Solar Solutions Inc., which will develop and build the projects.

TransCanada, which noted that it is now the biggest independent power producer in Ontario, will buy each after commercial operation begins by late 2012 and mid-2013.

All of the projects have 20-year buying agreements with the Ontario Power Authority.

Canada's housing market stands out Canada's housing boom is among the longest in the Western world at 13 years, but the next few years could chip away at the gains that have seen the average house increase in value by 85 per cent since 1998, The Globe and Mail's Steve Ladurantaye writes.

In a report released today that said the Canadian housing market was the strongest in the developed world in the third quarter, Bank of Nova Scotia economists said "the slow pace of the global economic recovery, intensifying sovereign debt concerns, weak consumer confidence and high unemployment all continue to weigh on residential property markets" in 10 countries it tracks.

Bell to cease 'throttling' After an intense controversy over usage-based billing earlier this year, Canada's BCE Inc. has decided to stop "throttling" Internet traffic on its networks, The Globe and Mail's Rita Trichur reports.

In a joint letter to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, dated yesterday, regulatory officials at Bell Canada and Bell Aliant indicate the companies will stop implementing the controversial traffic shaping practice in March.

Throttling generally targets peer-to-peer file sharing through sites such as BitTorrent by slowing down speeds of the heaviest users during peak traffic periods.

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In Economy Lab Sweden and Norway will share the crown as Europe's top safe havens in 2012, at least according to Saxo Bank's annual list of "outrageous" predictions, Naomi Powell reports from Stockholm.

In International Business Yesterday, South Korean equities were the world's worst performers. Today, they were among the best. Whatever the outlook over the 38th parallel, investors - particularly foreigners - won't easily take fright. The Financial Times reports.

In Globe Careers Done right, an away day can be an opportunity to plan strategy, deal with a variety of issues and build esprit de corps. Done wrong, writes Rhymer Rigby of The Financial Times, it can be a waste of an expensive hotel.

From today's Report on Business

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