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Measuring inflation in U.K.: Slow cooking out, iPads in Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, March 13, 2012. Get the top business stories through the day on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.

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Britain overhauls consumer price measure Britain's statistics agency gave a nod to modern times today as it overhauled the list of products it uses to measure inflation, ditching glass ovenware in favour of iPads and vampires.

The changes announced by Office for National Statistics to its Consumer Price Index and Retail Prices Index, which are reviewed annually, illustrate the changes in consumer behaviour.

"A number of new items are introduced to represent specific markets where consumer spending is significant, and existing items in the basket may not adequately represent price changes for such goods," the agency said.

"For example, baby wipes are being introduced to represent ‘cleansers on the go.’ Bundled communication packages comprising telephone services, internet access and television subscriptions are also included for the first time. The three component parts were already in the basket and its addition reflects the way in which consumers are increasingly buying these services."

Among the changes:

  • Tablet computeres such as the iPad were included for the first time.
  • Teenage fiction, such as Twilight, was also added.
  • Developing and print colour film was removed.
  • Glass ovenware casserole dishes were removed, as were step ladders.

Awaiting the Fed Markets are eyeing the Fed's decision this afternoon, but not much is expected. Having said that, economic prospects have brightened somewhat.

"The Fed is likely to signal slightly more encouragement insofar as job markets are concerned, but this isn't a shoe-in," said Derek Holt and Dov Zigler of Scotia Capital.

"The monthly pace of job gains has been stuck in a range since last Fall when it had improved from summertime readings. Today's gains are back on par with where things stood in early 2011 before sliding lower, so the Fed knows how quickly the story can turn particularly with rising gasoline prices that are eroding disposable income left over for other purchases. Besides, Chairman Bernanke has already put a cautious spin on job markets, and rightly so in our view as the monthly pace of gains is likely to ride in tandem to the monthly pace of labour force changes such that the unemployment rate will remain far above the Fed’s comfort zone for a long time yet."

Retail sales rise Americans opened up their wallets in February as retail sales in the United States rose at the best pace in months.

Sales rose 1.1 per cent, the Commerce Department said, boosted by a rebound in auto sales. Take out auto sales, and sales were up by 0.9 per cent.

How high will Viterra go? How much room do shares of Viterra Inc. have to run?

Of course it's impossible to say, particularly if a bidding war erupted for the Canadian agribusiness and grain handling company, but Raymond James suggests there's not a lot of room.

Viterra stock has surged since it disclosed Friday there have been "expressions" of interest from potential suitors. That, said Raymond James analyst Steve Hansen, is not really surprising after the loss of the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly, which will benefit the grain handler.

Mr. Hansen, though, said in a research note that his calculations suggest Viterra could bring $16.50 a share, though that excludes the win from the wheat board deregulation, which he added is a "meaningful" catalyst.

"Nevertheless, the ensuing share surge leaves only 4.2-per-cent upside to our target, forcing us to become more cautious," he said. "For those investors willing to keep their 'toes in the water,' we acknowledge there could still be healthy upside in the event a formal bid (or bids) transpirs, however we advise trimming into recent strength in the even one does not."

Transcontinental hikes dividend Transcontinental Inc. boosted its dividend by 7 per cent today even as the Canadian commercial printer and publisher swung to a first-quarter loss and posted a dip in revenue.

Transcontinental hiked its annual dividend to 58 cents from 54 cents, citing strong cash flow.

The company lost $33.3-million or 41 cents a share in the quarter, compared to a profit of $25.7-million or 32 cents a year earlier. Revenue slipped by 14 per cent to $495.9-million from $514.8-million, due largely to the sale of a printing unit, in turn part of a swap of assets that gave Transcontinental Quad/Graphics Canada.

"We continue to maintain a strong financial position with a solid balance sheet and an ability to generate significant cash flow," the company said. "If the advertising markets remain stable, we expect to improve our performance in the balance of the year given the lift from the Quad/Graphics Canada acquisition, the full impact from new contracts and the benefits related to the integration of our media and interactive sectors."

All the king's horses and all the king's men A curator has found 500 never-before-heard fairytales, myths and legends assembled by the late historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, which were hidden in an archive in Germany for 150 years, The Guardian reports. I haven't seen them, so I'm using my imagination for what could be tales of yore from the euro zone:

The kings and queens of all the realms joined together as one kingdom, ruled by a witch.

But to the people of her own land, she was as Snow White, but with 16 dwarfs, some grumpy, some sleepy, none bashful, many dopey.

A miller told one of the kings his daughter could spin straw into gold. And the king actually believed him.

The people of the land of Greece became the wisest in all the lands in the art of numbers. Until they ate poisoned apples and lost the ability to count.

The job of the noble court jester was to read aloud the finances of the king.

Wizards once gathered to magically cleanse the lands of their blights. It worked so well that they oft chose to do it .

The kings and queens taxed their people with ne'er a thought for mercy. And when the people rose up, they taxed them more. (Alas, Robin Hood had returned to England.)

The once (and future?) king of Italy had an eye for all the fair maidens. And ladies-in-waiting. And mermaids.

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