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business briefing

These are stories Report on Business is following Monday, Feb. 2, 2015.

Follow Michael Babad and The Globe's Business Briefing on Twitter.

Things that repeat
Taking a cue from Groundhog Day, the 1993 comedy that stars Bill Murray as a weatherman whose day keeps repeating itself, here are things that keep happening over and over again, and are bound to continue happening over and over again:

1. The oil rout: Don't be fooled by today's rally in crude prices. Oil prices keep tumbling, and then rising a bit, and then falling again, marking a stunning collapse that's rippling through the global economy. The chances of this going on for the next six weeks are pretty good, I'd say.

2. The dollar: There's a reason Canadians call it the loonie, besides the picture on the coin. The Canadian dollar has tumbled along with oil prices, a strong U.S. currency and the shifting views of central banks, hitting a low point last month of 78.22 cents U.S. from as high as 94.15 cents in the past year. It's a virtual certainty that the woes of the loonie will go on and on and on for at least six weeks, with many expecting it to hit the 75-cent range. Or lower, though it rose sharply today along with oil.

3. The euro zone: If there's one thing you can count on, it's a Greek crisis. And you can bet on the angst in the euro zone mounting and mounting and mounting over the next six weeks. And then some.

4. Russia: Another safe bet for the next six weeks. The outlook is grim, a recession is a given, and the ruble is like the loonie, on a much grander scale. The troubles continuing for six weeks is a fairly safe bet.

5. Housing: Toronto just keeps building condos. Over and over again. It's the city's favourite pastime. Today, for example, a report from Urbanation Inc. showed a record 20,809 units finished in 2014. That left 52,446 more under construction, and 28,447 more in pre-construction projects. Well, that's at least six weeks right there.

6. Apple: Apple sells iPhones – about 9.4 of them every second of the day - and its stock goes up. And if it keeps up for the next six weeks, there will soon have to be a "plus" category.

7. Buy America: The 'Buy America' policy is guaranteed to irk Canadians endlessly. That'll be, oh, six years rather than six weeks. Like, find a footbridge somewhere and make sure the bolts are made in Pittsburgh.

8. BlackBerry: I's getting better. It's getting better. It's getting better.

9. Budgets: Alberta Premier Jim Prentice: "We must be prudent." Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver: "Everything's just fine."

10. Keystone: Anyone who doesn't know what the Keystone XL pipeline is all about hasn't been following the headlines. For, like, six years. The Republicans keep wanting it, the president keeps stalling it, and TransCanada Corp. chief Russ Girling no doubt keeps tearing his hair out. At this rate, he might be bald in six more weeks.

Wilson steps down
Founder Chip Wilson – you know, the thigh guy – is quitting the board of Lululemon Athletica Inc.

Mr. Wilson, who founded the company in the late 1990s and led it through an exceptional expansion, said today that Lululemon is "back on track" and he has done what he wanted.

The entrepreneur, who had offended some with his comments about the signature yoga wear not being, um, right for all women, didn't mention the company's earlier troubles, such as the recall of see-through pants.

"Upon returning from Australia, I saw that the company had lost its way and was driven by the wrong values," he said in a statement.

"Trying to affect a fundamental shift in direction is hard and I had to raise a strong voice to make myself heard while taking decisive action to implement change. I am happy to say that I now believe the company has returned to the core values that made it great - product, brand and culture - and is back on track."

Mr. Wilson had, along with a private equity firm, waged a fight for a board overhaul.

Exxon profit slips
The oil slump took a bite out of Exxon Mobil Corp.'s results.

Fourth-quarter profit fell to $6.6-billion (U.S.), or $1.56 a share, from $8.4-billion or $1.91 a year earlier.

The energy giant cited the slump in commodity prices and planned maintenance costs.

Imperial profit falls
Canada's Imperial Oil Ltd. also took a hit.

Fourth-quarter profit fell to $671-million, or 79 cents a share, from $1.1-billion or $1.24 a year earlier.

"The business environment of the past several months, with the dramatic decline in global crude prices, illustrates the cyclical nature of the oil and gas business," said chief executive officer Rich Kruger.

"Imperial plans and operates its businesses with a long-term perspective that results in resiliency across a wide range of market conditions."

Canaccord cuts
Canaccord Genuity Group Inc. is taking a hit from the global economic slowdown, laying off 4 per cent of staff in its capital markets business, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports.

The Toronto-based independent broker-dealer and wealth-management company said late Sunday the cuts will mostly affect operations in Britain, Europe and the United States.

Total pretax cost of the work force reduction is about $22-million.

The drop in the price of oil and commodities generally is taking its toll on financial-services firms as transaction activity and deal flow shrink.

Yellow Pages pulls back
Residences in some key cities across Canada will soon no longer be hearing the thump of the iconic Yellow Pages book on their doorstep every year.

Yellow Pages Ltd. said today it's dropping home delivery in "select neighbourhoods and areas" over the next 12 to 18 months, starting with three cities in Ontario, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports.

Instead of home-delivery in cities and areas being evaluated on a per-market basis, the company will make it available at various distribution points, including existing newspaper-style street-level boxes and racks in retail locations such as supermarkets and drugstores.

Sort of like postal delivery.

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