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Dumb, smart & funny things people said and did today

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, Nov. 22. Get the top business stories through the day on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.

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Dumb, smart, interesting and arguably funny 1. "Price stability, the dogma on which the ECB's operations are structured, is now leading to the risk of deflation and the situation," Greece's Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said today, according to Reuters. I don't know about Mr. Venizelos, but whenever I go to my bank to beg for money, I try my best not to point out the things they're doing wrong.

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2. A study by two Canadians published in the journal Aggressive Behavior looks at how women aggressively compete with each other for the attention of men. It's not just on TV shows like The Bachelor, they find, but plays out also in areas like offices and schools. The study by Tracy Vaillancourt of the University of Ottawa and Aanchal Sharma of McMaster University is a worthy one, with great insight, and I'm not poking fun. But for those not in academia, like me, some of the passages are fascinating in how they mix the everyday with the professorial: "Examining participants' global negative reactions (bitchy or not bitchy) to the confederate we found striking differences by condition ( X 2 (2) = 51.71; P<.0001; see Table I. Specifically, when women were rated as bitchy, all but 2 were in the sexy condition. And of those rated as not bitchy, most were in the conservative condition. The remaining eight women's reactions were coded as unsure (two in the conservative condition and six in sexy condition)." (I love it when you talk dirty.)

3, Freelance writer Diana K. Sugg recounts a story about Ben Bernanke that's required reading for any student of the Federal Reserve. On TODAY Moms, Ms. Sugg tells of how she and her two kids - one was 10 months old at the time, the other a toddler - were on a red-eye from Washington to Zurich and sitting directly in front of Mr. Bernanke. This was January 2009, the hight of the troubles. Needless to say, kids were being kids, and one even "jabbered at Bernanke in baby talk." When the plane landed, the Fed chief asked Ms. Sugg if she got any sleep. She said no, and aplogized for the noise. Mr. Bernanke smiled and said that "I didn't hear a thing." I wonder if the more contentious FOMC meetings play out that way?

4. I never knew there was a soup season, though I guess that makes sense. (Maybe in Canada it's year-round?) Campbell Soup Co.'s CEO Denise Morrison, as she reported today that profit in the first quarter dipped, noted that "we also commenced our U.S. soup advertising later in the quarter to coincide with the start of soup season."

5. Lauren Perkins of writes today about how to approach networking events, advising readers to treat the preparatory work as they would a date. Among her recommendations is to have a stack of business cards ready to go. While she of course is talking about the idea of preparations in her smart piece, rather than the specifics, it still got me wondering what my wife would have thought had I handed her a business card on our first outing.

6. Companies are getting wise to their employees shopping online during work hours. A survey of Canadian chief information officers published today by Robert Half Technology shows a majority of companies have blocked access to online shopping sites, well up from last year. Almost one-third of those surveyed say they allow it, but monitor it and expect their employees to spend an average of just two hours a week looking for deals online. (For those who want it, I can start putting deals in my column, and you can always say you were reading Report on Business, not shopping.)

7. "The market has become a perverse mechanism where big monopolies dominate and ransack the people." One of the slogans from Occupy Wall Street? Nope, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

8. One of the lessons for today is that you don't mess with Jack Daniel's in Tennessee. Some people in Moore County had wanted to hit the whisky maker with a by-the-barrel tax, Reuters reports, but the local council ruled against that last night. It would have had to have gone to a referendum.

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Fed to stress test banks The Federal Reserve is launching annual stress tests of the biggest banks in the United States.

There were earlier tests this year, but the full plan will include banks more than $50-billion (U.S.) in assets, the Fed said today, warning banks of its power.

"Under the final rule, the Federal Reserve annually will evaluate institutions' capital adequacy, internal capital adequacy assessment processes, and their plans to make capital distributions, such as dividend payments or stock repurchases," the central bank said in a statement.

"The Federal Reserve will approve dividend increases or other capital distributions only for companies whose capital plans are approved by supervisors and are able to demonstrate sufficient financial strength to operate as successful financial intermediaries under stressed macroeconomic and financial market scenarios, even after making the desired capital distributions."

Germany squashes hopes Germany continues to dampen hopes that it's going to bend in its opposition to Europe pulling out its big guns to fight its spreading debt crisis.

"We don't have any bazooka to pull out of the bag," Michael Meister, who sits in the Angela Merkel's governing coalition, told Bloomberg News today. "We see no alternative to the policy we are following."

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As Brian Milner writes in today's Report on Business, the euro crisis has spread from the periphery countries of Greece, Portugal and Ireland into core nations such as France, which is now operating under a threat from Moody's Investors Service.

Many observers have called for Europe to pull out all the stops, primarily with a eurobond, large-scale bond purchases by the European Central Bank and a move to make the ECB the lender of last resort to ailing governments. The central bank itself is opposed, as well.

Indeed, this has been at the heart of a dispute between France and Germany, which, again today through Mr. Meister's comments, shows no sign of giving in.

Ms. Merkel today repeated her opposition, which, in effect, means it ain't going to happen.

"Again and again, there's a search for the answer that will bring a fast, immediate end to the whole crisis of confidence in the euro," she said. "And I say yet again, there won't be one."

This comes amid a disappointing debt auction in Spain, where, despite a new government, borrowing costs spiked, as they have been in other parts of the monetary union.

Marchionne on costs The costs of building vehicles in Canada must fall and match the costs of assembly in the United States, Chrysler Group LLC chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne says.

"You cannot have all things, you cannot have a strong currency, you cannot have an uncompetitive wage rate and then expect Chrysler or all the other car makers in this country to keep on making cars in this country and be disadvantaged," Mr. Marchionne said today after a speech to the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants in Toronto, The Globe and Mail's Greg Keenan reports.

Retail sales climb Canadians are still shopping, and digging deeper than expected at that.

Retail sales in Canada climbed 1 per cent in September, Statistics Canada said today. Not only did sales rise, they did so broadly and marked the biggest gain since last November. September's rise, sharper than economists had expected, was the fifth in six months, the federal agency said.

In terms of straight volume, sales climbed 0.6 per cent. The biggest increase came in sales of new autos, primarily trucks, though sales also rose among used car dealers and parts suppliers. Sales at clothing stores and accessories shops also rose to offset a drop a month earlier.

Note, too, that nine of the 11 groups tracked by the agency chalked up gains, accounting for 90 per cent of all retail sales.

"With September's strong result, retail volumes are up 1.9 per cent annualized in the quarter, an acceleration from [the second quarter] and suggest a healthy contribution from consumption spending to GDP in [the third quarter]" said senior economist Krishen Rangasamy of National Bank. "The good retail volumes complement the strength seen in factories and suggest a decent September. September GDP should come in at around +0.2 per cent, putting Canada on track for a quarterly growth rate near 3 per cent annualized."

U.S. growth revised down The U.S. economy didn't expand quite as quickly in the third quarter as initially estimated.

The U.S. Commerce Department today revised down its estimate of third-quarter growth to 2 per cent from its earlier reading of 2.5 per cent, but this was largely because of how inventories were measured.

"Growth of real final sales remained at the healthy 3.6 per cent originally reported - so the details are not as ugly as the headline would suggest," said Andrew Grantham of CIBC World Markets.

While the report is disappointing, added senior economist Jennifer Lee of BMO Nesbitt Burns, it is a case of looking in the rear-view mirror.

"It is encouraging, to say the least, to see the October data coming in stronger, which is good news for the current quarter."

Business ticker

In Economy Lab We are now seeing runs on government bonds within Europe, Leonard Waverman writes. If the country currencies were separate, this would be a classic currency run similar to the Asian crisis of 1997.

In International Business The use of gold to fund a euro zone bailout is coming closer to reality, writes Jack Farchy of The Financial Times.

In Globe Careers Networking events are a fantastic way to meet new business prospects, potential partners, and leverage relationships within your existing network for referrals, Lauren Perkins of writes.

In Personal Finance Some ways to reduce the financial sting of donating to your favourite charity.

From today's Report on Business

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More

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