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Many expect to be debt-free in 5 years (Key word ‘expect’?)

These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, June 6, 2012.

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Canadians and debt
A new study today suggests a majority of Canadians expect to be debt-free within five years.

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"While Canadians have taken on more debt in the past five years, the majority expect to pay it off in the same amount of time," says the report by Bank of Montreal, citing the 54 per cent of those with debt as believing they'll pay it off within that time frame.

The survey done by Leger Marketing found that average household debt, including mortgages, credit cards, etc., tops $112,000.

The average monthly payment on those debts is almost $1.140.

And while one-quarter of Canadians are debt free, 41 per cent say they've loaded on more debt over the past several years because they're spending more.

Barrick changes chiefs
Troubled by its lacklustre share price, Barrick Gold Corp. has switched chief executive officers, promoting its chief financial officer to the role.

Jamie Sokalsky replaces Aaron Regent. He's also replacing Mr. Regent on the gold miner's board.

Barrick also named a new co-chairman, John Thornton, currently a Barrick director.

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"On behalf of our Board, I would like to thank Aaron for his significant contribution to Barrick's development," said chairman Peter Munk. "We are fully committed to maximizing shareholder value, but have been disappointed with our share price performance. Our Board has every confidence in Jamie's experience and commitment to take our company forward."

Mr. Sokalsky said in a statement that his focus will be on "maximizing shareholder value and our mission of superior performance."

Do or die?
Group of 7 finance officials talked yesterday in an emergency session - and did nothing - and observers today say they are fast approaching a "do or die" moment.

That's because while they know something has to be done fast, decisions that could be made won't come until a G20 meeting in two weeks, at the earliest, which comes dangerously close to the mid-June election in Greece.

After the last Greek vote left no party able to form a coalition government, the coming election may well determine whether Athens stays in the euro zone, and whether it defaults.

"There was some vague hope of co-ordinated policy action over the weekend, hope on the back of yesterday's G7 teleconference, and nothing at all came of it," said senior currency strategist of Elsa Lignos of RBC in London, where markets are back up and running after a four-day weekend.

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As Eric Reguly and Bill Curry write in today's Globe and Mail, G7 officials know something must be done, as does everyone else, as Europe struggles through its crisis with concern mounting daily.

"It was interesting that a potential 'policy response' was being considered, including Europe's progress toward 'financial and fiscal union,'" senior economist Jennifer Lee of BMO Nesbitt Burns said of the teleconference."So as the European debt crisis drags on, it is, I suppose, comforting to know that the leaders are worried enough to hold a conference call and that some progress is being made toward a fiscal union."It's not that simply talking, as the G7 officials did yesterday, isn't important. But markets have lost faith in Europe's leaders, in particular, and it's going to take action to change sentiment.

"Discussion of concerns is one step towards acknowledging that a solution has to be found and ultimately agreements are required to stabilize what is increasingly becoming an untenable situation," said Lauren Rosborough of Société Générale.

"The risk is that while the key decisions are pushed out to the next G20 meeting in two weeks' time, this runs too close to the Greek election results, making it a 'do or die' juncture," she added.

AGF sells trust arm
AGF Management Ltd. has struck a $415-million cash deal to sell its trust arm to Laurentian Bank in order to focus on its global investment management business, The Globe and Mail's Shirley Won reports.

AGF Trust, which provides everything from GICs and term deposits to investment loans, will be integrated in Laurentian Bank's B2B Trust subsidiary.

"We have built AGF Trust into a very successful business, and selling now will allow us to focus our resources on the highest potential opportunities for our company," AGF chief executive officer Blake Goldring said today.

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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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