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RIM customer base hits new mark, results cheer investors

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RIM results cheer investors Research In Motion Ltd. shares jumped sharply in after-hours trading today after the BlackBerry maker posted second-quarter results that topped analysts' estimates. RIM, under pressure as it competes with Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Google's Android operating system, earned $796.7-million (U.S.) or $1.46 a share, up from $475.6-million or 83 cents and above the average forecast of $1.35 a share compiled by Reuters. Both profit and revenue, which climbed more than 30 per cent to $4.62-billion, were above what analysts were expecting. RIM added 4.5 million subscribers in the second quarter and shipped 12.1 million devices, above the 11.8 million units expected by analysts. RIM now has a subscriber base of more than 50 million. RIM has yet again proved the markets wrong, as many analysts have been down on its stock.

"This is a nice surprise on the upside. Revenue was better, EPS was better, units were better both for the current quarter, as well as the November quarter guidance," said Matthew Thornton from Avian Securities in Boston, according to Reuters.

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Added Michael Yoshikami, chief investment strategist with YCMNet Advisors, in an interview with Bloomberg: "Their subscriber growth and revenue growth is very impressive year over year. It suggests to me that RIM is not done by far and that they still have corporate America to use as a launching pad even if iPhone and Android are starting to attack their market share."

RIM's numbers came one day after market research firm comScore Inc. released a report showing RIM's share of the mobile market in the U.S. rose in the three months ended July to 9 per cent from 8.4 per cent in the period ending in April, though its share of the market for mobile operating systems fell to 39.3 per cent from 41.1 per cent as Apple also lost share, but Google made great strides.

RIM's co-chief executive officer Jim Balsillie said the company expects "a continuation of this momentum in the third quarter."

U.S. poverty rate rises, as does number of millionaires There's something very telling in three separate U.S. reports that speak to the haves and the have-nots, disparity and the ravages of the recession:

The poverty rate rose for the third straight year, reading 14.3 per cent in 2009, up from 13.2 per cent a year earlier. More than 43 million people are living in poverty and almost 51 million have no health insurance coverage. The level of poverty is the highest since 1994 and "the number of people in poverty in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates are available."

According to RealtyTrac Inc., the number of home foreclosures in the United States in August hit the highest monthly level since the beginning of the crisis in the industry. Banks foreclosed on more than 95,000 homes, an increase of 3 per cent from July and 25 per cent from a year earlier.

While millions are unemployed and living in poverty, the number of millionaires is rising again. "After downsizing in number through the market turmoil of mid-year 2007 to mid-year 2009, Wealth Market households rebounded at mid-year 2010," Phonex Marketing said in a report. "Recording an 8-per-cent growth rate from 2009 from the strength of increases in the equity markets, Wealth households now number nearly 5.6 million in the U.S."

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As for all affluent families - that covers those with at least $250,000 (U.S.) in investable or liquid assets or $150,000 in household income - Phoenix noted that "despite enormous volatility in the economy and stock markets, the broad affluent market in the U.S. has managed to register small gains in numbers over the past five years, and now number nearly 25 million households."

Where Canada stands on household debt Much has been said recently about how Canadian families are ringing up huge amounts of debt, and consumers have been warned repeatedly that they may be in over their heads as interest rates rise. A snapshot of the developed countries by Scotia Capital today shows just where Canada ranks in terms of leverage: As a share of total household assets, Canadian families are carrying more debt than those in five of the G7 countries. Only the United States ranks higher, and American consumers are beginning to get their act in gear after the recession.

"On household leverage, we're not so bad - compared to the worst example in the developed world," said economists Derek Holt and Gorica Djeric. :.. We only look good compared to the U.S., and that may well not last. As the U.S. deleverages and brings household debt as a fraction of assets and incomes lower, Canada has popped its leverage ratio three percentage points higher ever since the federal government liberalized the mortgage insurance sector in the spring of 2007. Then it reached a plateau in late 2008 through 2009, and very recently began marching upward again."

Geithner criticizes China U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner shot out at China today, criticizing Beijing's pace of currency reform. "We are very concerned about the negative impact of these policies on our economic interests, and are pursuing a carefully designed, targeted approach to address these problems," he said in testimony in Washington.

But Mr. Geithner suggested his government still won't take the leap and slap China with the label of currency manipulator. Though the yuan is undervalued and China is moving toward a more flexible rate is slow, naming China as a manipulator would "not be a particularly effective tool," he said.

The yuan, also known as the renminbi, has appreciated in the past few days, and one has to wonder whether Japan's move will complicate the issue further, given the mounting anger over China. "A spurt of renminbi appreciation in the last few days may not be enough to dampen growing anger in Washington at how slowly the Chinese currency has moved since the de facto peg was loosened in June," said Mark Williams, senior China economist at Capital Economics in London. "Japan's decision to intervene in currency markets may make it harder to place multilateral pressure on China, but will not be a bar to the U.S. Congress acting on its own."

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FedEx to cut 1,700 jobs FexEx Corp. today doubled its first-quarter profit and boosted its earnings outlook, but it fell shy of analysts' estimates, putting pressure on its shares, and announced plans to cut 1,700 jobs and close 100 facilities. The giant courier company, considered a bellwether of the economy, earned $380-million (U.S.) or $1.20 a share in the quarter ended Aug. 31, compared to $181-million or 58 cents a year earlier. It also forecast earnings per share for the quarter ending in November of $1.15 to $1.35, short of the $1.36 expected, according to estimates from Thomson Reuters. Chief Financial Offricer Alan Graf Jr. said the courier expects to see strong demand at least through December.

Microsoft scores with latest in Halo series The new Halo: Reach videogame from Microsoft Corp. is off to a strong start. The software giant said today the latest in the popular Halo series posted sales of $200-million (U.S.) on its launch. That sets the stage heading into the Christmas shopping season for Microsoft's new gaming system.

University blocks social media for week There are college abstinence movements, and then there are abstinence movements of a different kind. A small university in Pennsylvania has, for one week, blocked IP addresses and access to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and instant messaging. The goal of the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is to force its faculty and students to think about social media when there's no access.

"Our goal is to challenge people to think about how they came to rely on it," the university said on its website, announcing this week's move. "We too have used lots of social media, some successfully, some of it not so successfully. University faculty, in particular, use social media to communicate with colleagues about curriculum ideas, but what if they had to rely on face-to-face meetings? We wondered would the process take longer, or would the outcomes be any different."

Backed up by a Social Media Summit and panel discussions, the university said it "hopes to move the conversation about social media to a more strategic level. Many organizations use ads on social media sites, for example, but do not recognize how social media can be used for training and education, business innovation, and political advocacy.

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