Sunday, August 31, 2008

Manufacturers pinched as materials costs outrun product prices

Prices of manufactured goods and raw materials rose less in July than in the previous four months but were still far higher, after a record-breaking oil price spike, than they were a year ago, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

The news is grim for Canadian manufacturers because prices they pay for materials are rising much faster than prices they get for goods leaving their plants.

The manufactured goods price index was up 0.4 per cent from June and 6.8 per cent from July 2007. The raw materials price index was up 1.4 per cent from June and 28.9 per cent from July 2007.

Big Ontario auto parts firm lays off hundreds

Big Ontario auto parts firm lays off hundredsLinamar three-month chart

Linamar Corp. of Guelph, Ont., confirmed Tuesday that it is trimming 400 to 500 more people from its 12,000-strong workforce in tough times for the North American auto and construction-equipment industries.

Telus draws fire for cancelling 'unlimited' data plan

Telus draws fire for cancelling 'unlimited' data planTelus says government investment in rural broadband is needed.(Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

Lobster business reeling from Zoom collapse

The grounding of Zoom Airlines has left a Nova Scotia lobster export business scrambling.

Ryer and Ryer Lobster Ltd. in Indian Harbour sends 75 per cent of its lobsters overseas, much of it on Zoom flights to London so it can be trucked to the lucrative Brussels market.

"Now what do we do? Do we go to Montreal? Do we go back to Air Canada? Air Canada, I think, can't take it all," Dean Ryer told CBC News.

Ottawa-based Zoom Airlines Inc. sought court protection from creditors and suspended operations Thursday, stranding passengers at several airports, including more than 200 people in Halifax.

Power shifts to homebuyers as listings mushroom: brokers

Power shifts to homebuyers as listings mushroom: brokersWith more houses listed, buyers have more options, a real estate group says.(CBC)

Zoom's classic entrepreneur: some wins, a loss

Zoom's classic entrepreneur: some wins, a loss Hugh Boyle (l) and brother John in a publicity shot in front of a Zoom plane in 2007. (Craig Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

National Bank shares jump on profit surprise

National Bank shares jump on profit surpriseNational Bank three-month chart

National Bank of Canada saw its share price jump almost six per cent Thursday after it reported a record third-quarter profit even after taking another hit, $37 million this time, on its ill-fated foray into asset-backed commercial paper.

Exports, tax rebates spur U.S. economy in Q2

The U.S. economy performed better than expected in the spring as it grew at a 3.3 per cent annual rate.

Economists had been looking for annualized growth in the quarter of 2.7 per cent. The figure also topped the U.S. government's initial estimate of a 1.9 per cent pace.

The U.S. Commerce Department said Thursday that gross domestic product was driven by sales of U.S. exports and by government tax rebates that gave a boost to consumer spending.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Brace for $1.75-a-litre gas if storms ravage Gulf, CIBC's Rubin says

Toronto economist Jeff Rubin, who has predicted that oil will hit $200 US a barrel by 2010, says drivers should brace for gasoline to spike to $1.75 Cdn a litre this year as storms threaten oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.

CIBC World Markets, where Rubin is chief economist and chief strategist, issued a statement Friday quoting him as saying that tropical storm Gustav is "tracking another potentially lethal swath through America's energy heartland" three years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita upset production there.

Canadian economy grows at weak rate of 0.3% in Q2

The Canadian economy has skirted a recession so far this year as Statistics Canada reported Friday that gross domestic product grew at a weak annualized rate of 0.3 per cent in the second quarter of this year.

The federal government agency said Friday that it has also revised the first quarter annualized rate from its initial estimate of -0.3 per cent down to -0.8 per cent.

That means the country has avoided a recession — at least using the common definition of two consecutive quarters of economic contraction.

Ontario laser firm's stock stays firm as takeover bid dies

Ontario laser firm's stock stays firm as takeover bid diesVirtek three-month chart

Virtek Vision International, an industrial laser company based in Waterloo, Ont., saw its share price slip just a cent Friday after it announced a ceasefire in a takeover battle launched by a U.S. competitor.

Shift workers have higher levels of dissatisfaction: report

Canadians who do shift work report lower levels of satisfaction with their work-life balance, according to a recently released study from Statistics Canada.

While 22.6 per cent of people who worked a regular day reported being dissatisfied with their balance between their work and personal lives, the percentages were higher for people working on shift.

Percentages of shift workers who said they were dissatisfied ranged from 23.1 per cent of evening shift workers to a high of 37.7 per cent of shift workers who were on-call or casual. Statistics Canada said night-shift workers reported a 27.2 per cent level of dissatisfaction, while split shift workers came in at 32.6 per cent unhappy with their work-life balance.

TD earnings slide on drop at wholesale banking unit

TD earnings slide on drop at wholesale banking unitTD Bank 3-month TSX chart

TD Bank Financial Group bumped up its quarterly dividend on Thursday as it reported a slide in its bottom line for the third quarter.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Insulation business heats up as homeowners fear winter oil prices

Want to insulate your house? Get in line.

Home insulation and renovation companies in Cape Breton say business is booming as desperate homeowners hunt for ways to reduce their heating costs this winter.

Sydney contractor Francis Lynk, with Lynk Construction, has more work than he can handle.

"Friday of last week we had seven calls for work to be done and we turned them all down," Lynk told CBC News Thursday.

"I don't like it at all, but we just can't keep people waiting. We try to tell them to try someone else or give us a call back, see if we can squeeze them in."

Zoom suspends operations, strands passengers

Zoom suspends operations, strands passengersA Zoom plane sits on the tarmac at the Calgary International Airport.(Louise Moquin/CBC)

Zoom Airlines Inc. sought court protection from creditors in Canada and the United States and suspended all operations Thursday, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at airports.

Repair allows Petro-Canada stations to fill up again

Repair allows Petro-Canada stations to fill up againPetro-Canada's refinery in Edmonton suffered an equipment malfunction earlier this month, forcing the company to shut it down until repairs could be made. (CBC)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

RBC earnings off by 10%

RBC earnings off by 10%Royal Bank 3-month TSX chart

Royal Bank of Canada said its third-quarter profit tumbled by 10 per cent as rising loan losses and writedowns pulled down earnings.

The biggest of Canada's chartered banks, Royal Bank said it made $1.262 billion, or 92 cents a share, down from $1.395 billion, or $1.06 a share, a year earlier.

Rogers extends iPhone prices, revamps data plans

Rogers extends iPhone prices, revamps data plansJust over one per cent of 3G iPhone owners used more than one gigabyte of data in their first month, according to Rogers.(Ed Ou/Associated Press)

Canadians travel more, spend more to beat winter chill

Canadians travel more, spend more to beat winter chillCanadian residents made more than seven million trips involving stays of one or more nights outside the country in the first quarter of 2008.(CBC)

Canadian gas prices aren't so bad, industry expert insists

While Canadians complain about the soaring price of gasoline at the pumps, an oil industry spokesman says people in this country actually have it pretty good.

Peter Boag, testifying before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, told MPs that fuel prices are lower in Canada than they are in every other Western country except the United States.

And the fact that Canadian gas prices jump up and down from day to day is actually a good sign, he said.

Canadians earn more, lose buying power, statistics suggest

The average Canadian employee was paid about $789 a week in June but had less buying power than a year earlier, the latest federal figures suggest.

Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that average weekly earnings rose 2.5 per cent in the 12 months, including a slim increase of 0.1 per cent from May to June. The earnings figures are adjusted to smooth seasonal swings.

The agency previously reported that consumer prices were 3.1 per cent higher in June than a year earlier after rising 0.8 per cent from May to June, also on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bell moves to disconnect small ISP for non-payment

Bell moves to disconnect small ISP for non-paymentBell Canada is also in talks with Look Communications over non-payment for services.(Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Maple Leaf Foods facts

Maple Leaf Foods Inc.

Best-known brands: Maple Leaf, Schneiders, Dempster's

2007 Sales: $5.21 billion (71.6% from the Canadian market; 52% from meat products; 27.5% from bakery products)

2007 Profit: $207 million

Total number of employees: 23,500 as of the end of 2007.

Maple Leaf Foods facts

Toronto market, CIBC shares surge despite bad news

Toronto stocks were up more than 230 points at times Wednesday, lifted partly by a paradoxical enthusiasm for Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, which reported a 91 per cent drop in quarterly profit.

CIBC shares gained as much as $3.87 or 6.8 per cent to $60.93, even though the bank disclosed more big losses in little-understood markets involving structured credit, special-purpose entities, collateralized debt obligations, asset-backed commercial paper and other financial arcana.

Share price falls as Cott lowers sights on 2008 earnings

Share price falls as Cott lowers sights on 2008 earningsCott three-month chart

Toronto-based Cott Corp., a struggling giant in the business of making house-brand soft drinks, saw its share price fall another 16 per cent Tuesday after it lowered a 2008 earnings target and withdrew a target it had set for 2009.

Cultural sector helps drive economy: report

Arts and culture contributed $46 billion to Canada's economy in 2007, but the overall impact of the sector was a much broader $84.6 billion, according to a report from the Conference Board of Canada.

That amounts to 7.4 per cent of Canada's gross domestic product, according to the report, released Tuesday.

The study, commissioned with money from the federal Heritage Department, is the most comprehensive ever made of Canada's cultural sector.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Alberta fiscal update projects $8.5B budget surplus

The Alberta government said Tuesday its budget surplus for this fiscal year is projected to be $8.5 billion because of higher-than-expected oil and gas revenues.

The surplus is $7 billion higher than the government projected in its budget released in April.

"I think it's clear that Alberta is still leading the nation," Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans said after its fiscal update was released during the first quarter. "Our economic outlook continues to be bright."

Central banker says growth estimate may have been too cheery

Central banker says growth estimate may have been too cheeryDavid Longworth, deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, says Canadian banks look comparatively healthy.(Bank of Canada)

National Bank sees $65 million win on its bet on a 5-year-old firm

National Bank sees $65 million win on its bet on a 5-year-old firmNational Bank three-month chart

BMO, Scotiabank both see Q3 earnings retreat

BMO, Scotiabank both see Q3 earnings retreatBMO 3-month TSX chart

BMO Financial Group and the Bank of Nova Scotia on Tuesday both reported third-quarter profits that dipped lower as provisions for bad loans rose.

Transcontinental shares up on $1.7B deal to print Globe and Mail

Transcontinental shares up on $1.7B deal to print Globe and Mail Transcontinental three-month chart

Laptop with bank details of over a million Britons sold on eBay

The British government began an investigation Tuesday into how a computer containing highly sensitive bank information of over a million people was sold via online auction site eBay.

The laptop computer, which was sold for just under $70 to British IT manager Andrew Chapman, contained customers' credit card applications, account details, signatures, cellphone numbers and mothers' maiden names.

The Royal Bank of Scotland and Natwest Bank confirmed their customers' details were included in the computer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Q9 agrees to private equity takeover

Q9 agrees to private equity takeoverQ9 3-month TSX chart

Q9 Networks Inc. said Monday it has agreed to a friendly takeover bid from Boston-based private equity firm ABRY Partners LLC that values the company at $361 million.

Fourth time lucky as Precision Drilling acquires Grey Wolf

Fourth time's the charm for Canada's biggest oil and gas services firm.

After 2½ months of making successively sweeter takeover offers that were rebuffed one after the other, Calgary-based Precision Drilling Trust has finally reached a deal to buy Houston-based Grey Wolf Inc. for nearly $2 billion in cash and equity.

The two companies announced early Monday that their boards of directors had agreed to the deal.

Precision Drilling will pay $1.12 billion US in cash and 42 million of its units to acquire Grey Wolf, which owns 121 drilling rigs in the United States — 10 times more than Precision currently operates there.

Meat recall could cost millions more: Maple Leaf

The recall of Maple Leaf Foods products will cost the company at least $20 million directly, but it's too early to say how much more of a hit it will take in lost sales and to pay for advertising to rebuild its image, the Toronto-based food conglomerate's CFO said Monday.

"We are internally unable to estimate the effect on sales going forward," Maple Leaf's Michael Vels said.

Over the weekend, a Maple Leaf meat plant in Toronto was confirmed as involved in a Canada-wide outbreak of the food-borne bacterial illness listeriosis. Maple Leaf upgraded a precautionary recall of 23 of its products, issued last week, to all 220 packaged meats from the plant. It said the recall would directly cost $20 million — 10 times more than first estimated.

Jazz removes life vests to save fuel

Jazz removes life vests to save fuelAir Canada Jazz has removed inflatable life vests from its planes to save weight.(Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Air Canada's regional carrier Jazz has removed inflatable life vests from its planes to save weight, a spokeswoman said.

No federal contracts for N.L. shipyard

No federal contracts for N.L. shipyardMayor Sam Synard says the project would have meant 700 jobs and a $100-million investment in infrastructure for the town.(CBC)

There is disappointment in Marystown, on Newfoundland's Burin Peninsula, after the Canadian government cancelled two major ship building contracts, citing bids on the project came in over budget. The announcement came in a press release late Friday night.

Five minutes to midnight for banks

The real estate-led banking crisis in the United States has a bit of a Las Vegas feel to it these days as industry analysts and business executives handicap when the next American bank will shut its door.

Five minutes to midnight for banks

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Owens-Illinois closes B.C. facility; 3rd Canadian plant closure this year

The world's largest glass bottle maker says it will soon close its B.C. facility, making it the company's third plant closure in Canada this year.

Owens-Illinois Inc. said it will shut its bottle-making plant in Lavington, B.C., by the end of October, putting 300 people out of work.

The Ohio-based company said the closure was necessary as Owens-Illinois works to rationalize its North American business and cut costs.

"This closing was driven by our ongoing global asset utilization process which identified the opportunity to shift our production to other North American facilities, resulting in lower energy consumption and production costs," said Scott Murchison, president of Owens-Illinois's North America glass containers business.

Construction of downtown Calgary condo put on hold

Construction has ground to a halt on a major condominium development in downtown Calgary because of the rising cost of building in the city, the developer said Friday.

The Gateway Midtown project, located on the corner of 10th Avenue and 4th Street, is just a hole in the ground so far. The two-tower development was to have 650 units.

About 500 units have already been sold, with prices starting at $269,900

Shael Gelfand, who speaks for Resiance Corporation, the developer of the project, said Friday that the project's construction costs got out of control.

Chicago judges reject request to reconsider Conrad Black's appeal

Conrad Black, who is serving a 6½-year sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice in a Florida prison, has lost his bid to have a U.S. appeals court reconsider his case.

The former CEO of media empire Hollinger International, who lost an appeal of his conviction in June, had asked the Chicago-based court to review its decision to uphold his conviction and hold a so-called en banc hearing in which all the actively sitting judges on the court would reconsider the case.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Federal coffers have a June surplus

The federal government said it ran a $1.7 billion surplus in June, after running deficits in April and May.

In a release issued Friday by the federal Finance Department, the government said the June surplus was down from the budgetary surplus of $2.8 billion it ran in June 2007.

For the first three months of the 2008–09 fiscal year, the federal budgetary surplus is estimated at $1.2 billion, down $4.4 billion from the $5.6-billion surplus reported in the same period of the previous year.

CI Financial in 'combination' talks with number of companies

One of Canada's most prominent mutual fund companies says it has talked with a number of financial institutions over the past few months about merging part or all of its businesses.

On Friday, CI Financial Inc. confirmed that it has had informal talks with a variety of suitors concerning different merger or buyout possibilities.

"Over the past several months, CI has had discussions with a number of parties concerning possible strategic combinations involving CI and its subsidiaries," the company said in a press statement.

Chevron to step aside as Hebron operator

The company that was to be the lead operator of the Hebron offshore oil deal in Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to change.

Chevron Canada, with a 28 per cent stake in Hebron, was the project's designated operator, but news came Thursday that it has stepped aside and ExxonMobil Canada will now take the lead.

ExxonMobil has, at 37.9 per cent, the greatest ownership stake. Petro-Canada, and Norsk Hydro Canada Oil & Gas are the remaining partners.

Farmers pleased Monsanto is getting out of cow hormone business

A group of Ontario farmers is claiming victory after Monsanto Co. agreed to sell its Posilac brand of synthetic cow hormones to drug maker Eli Lilly and Co. for $300 million.

Dave Mackay, president of the Renfrew County chapter of the National Farmers Union (NFU) and a former dairy farmer in Beachburg, Ont., told CBC News Friday that the sale is good news. Mackay, now a sheep farmer with a flock of 300, speaks for 150 farmers in Renfrew County.

Duvernay shareholders endorse Shell offer

Shareholders of Duvernay Oil Corp. voted strongly in favour of Royal Dutch Shell PLC's takeover offer, tendering 97.7 of their common shares as of early Friday.

Shell's bid for Calgary-based Duvernay is worth about $5.6 billion in cash. Shell said last month it will pay $83 a share for Duvernay, a conventional gas and oil exploration and production company.

Duvernay has properties in northeastern B.C. and northwestern Alberta. The company is relatively small, producing the equivalent of about 27,000 barrels of oil a day in May, mostly natural gas. Its first-quarter revenue was $55 million, net of royalties and a $40-million unrealized loss of financial instruments.

Four-day work week slowly gaining momentum in North America

Years ago, about the only workplace where one heard the term "four-day work week" was in the public sector. After all, never-ending budgetary squeezes left governments scrambling for non-money incentives to give their workers.

Nowadays, however, more organizations are recognizing the benefits of packing 40 hours of weekly work into a smaller number of days. Whether they are actually doing anything to change their current set-up is still debatable.

Friday, August 22, 2008

RBC in talks to buy back auction-rate securities: report

Royal Bank of Canada is in talks with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo over a possible deal to buy back as much as $1 billion in specialized securities that the Canadian bank sold to investors, according to the Globe and Mail.

The Globe cited an internal RBC memo as stating that the bank was discussing with New York state how to structure the repurchase of the approximately $1 billion in so-called auction-rate securities that retail investors bought in the last couple of years.

Petro-Canada gas shortage affecting up to 90 stations in B.C., Alberta

A problem at Petro-Canada's refinery near Edmonton has led to gas shortages or pumps running dry at as many as 90 Petro-Canada and independent stations in B.C. and Alberta, CBC News has learned.

The Calgary-based company is still scrambling to fix a catalytic cracking unit necessary to refine fuel at the facility that broke earlier this month, said Petro-Canada spokeswoman Kelli Stevens.

Stevens said about 120 people are working on the problem to get it repaired at any given time, but the company's best hope is that the refinery is up and running in a week.

July inflation rate hits 3.4%

Canada's annual rate of inflation hit 3.4 per cent in July — its highest level since March 2003 — due to higher gasoline prices.

Statistics Canada said July's 12-month price increase was up from the 3.1 per cent annual rise seen in June.

With gasoline factored out, the one-year increase in prices was 2.1 per cent, up from the 1.8 per cent figure seen in June.

Driven by higher world prices for oil, prices at the gas pumps rose 28.6 per cent between July 2007 and last month.

Dawson council digs man's pitch to mine for gold under Dome Road

A Klondike miner's proposal to seek gold under a road in Dawson City, Yukon, is getting a warm reception from the town's mayor and councillors.

Stuart Schmidt said a 400-metre stretch of Dome Road, near the intersection at Mary McLeod Road, covers some valuable gold claims that have yet to be unearthed.

Appearing before council Tuesday night, Schmidt said he wants to reroute the road, as early as next month, to try placer mining the gold below the roadbed.

Hebron deal could lure Newfoundlanders back from Alberta's riches

Hebron deal could lure Newfoundlanders back from Alberta's richesThe Atlantic Kitchen, a restaurant in Fort Saskatchewan, just northeast of Edmonton, is a gathering place for relocated Newfoundlanders.(CBC)

BlackBerry Bold comes to Canada

Research in Motion's answer to Apple's latest iPhone arrived in Canada on Thursday, the first new model of the popular BlackBerry handheld device in more than a year.

Rogers Wireless announced on Thursday that Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM's BlackBerry Bold, or 9000, would be available through the wireless company's 3G high-speed network.

The Bold has twice the screen resolution of the current Curve model, more internal memory and a glossy metallic look. It adds stronger Wi-Fi capabilities and access to third-generation cellular networks.

New online store points to Canadian retail upswing

U.S. online retailer CSN Stores said Thursday that it is extending its services into Canada, an indication that the retail sector is not in as much trouble as analysts predicted earlier in the year.

That means consumers on this side of the border will be able to buy everything from barstools to game chairs from the Boston company's virtual home furnishings inventory.

CSN made the move because Canadians had been bombarding the firm with requests to be able to buy its products in this country, CSN said in a press release.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Buffet, Gates tour Alberta oilsands

Two of the richest men in the world made a surprise visit to Alberta's oilsands Monday, oil industry officials confirmed Wednesday.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet visited the $9-billion Horizon oilsands project, owned by Canadian Natural Resources, just north of Fort McMurray. Gates is the founder of Microsoft and Buffet owns the mammoth holdings company Berkshire Hathaway, which is worth a reported $62 billion.

Greg Stringham, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the first he heard about the visit was when he got a call asking him to make a presentation to the two men and their entourage.

Williams' Hebron victory: A long time coming

Two years ago, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams serenaded people in the province with a fight song that symbolized the struggle to get the controversial Hebron offshore oil project up and running.

"We believe in what we're fighting for; we love what we're fighting for — Newfoundland and Labrador," he croaked to a St. John's business audience back in 2007.

Nowadays, the combative Williams might be singing a different — and happier — tune.

Algerians killed in car bombings worked for Canadian company

Algerians killed in car bombings worked for Canadian companyA destroyed vehicle is seen in front of a hotel hit by a car bomb in Bouira, 60 miles southeast of Algiers. Twin car bombings rocked a hotel and military headquarters in the Algerian town of Bouira on Wednesday, killing 11 people, official media and witnesses said. (Ouahab Hebbat/Associated Press)

Retail sales driven by higher gasoline prices in June

Higher prices Canadians paid at the gasoline pumps in June pushed overall retail sales across the country up by 0.5 per cent for the month to $36 billion, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.

The figure matched economists' expectations.

Statistics Canada said the June increase was mainly due to a 4.2 per cent hike from May in sales at gasoline stations. After factoring out price fluctuations for all goods and services, retail sales in constant dollars decreased by 0.4 per cent.

N.L. expects $20B from Hebron oil deal

N.L. expects $20B from Hebron oil dealNewfoundland and Labrador's offshore oilfields.(CBC)

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is estimating the province will gain at least $20 billion in royalties and up to 3,500 jobs from the Hebron offshore oil project, after a final agreement was signed Wednesday in St. John's.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

GST not all that bad, say tax pros

Canada's much-maligned GST might not be so reviled after all, at least among the world's financial elite, according to a new study.

On Tuesday, KPMG Canada said senior tax professionals picked Canada's goods and services tax (GST) as a better regime than similar systems in the United States, Germany and Japan.

And that is good news, considering the Canadian executives surveyed said, by a two-to-one margin, that Ottawa will be getting more of its cash from these kind of taxes.

Arbitrator appointed in Air Canada labour dispute

Ottawa appointed an arbitrator on Tuesday in an attempt to resolve a dispute between Air Canada Inc. and its union concerning the layoffs of 2,000 employees.

On Tuesday, federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn named Brian Keller as the person to figure out under what conditions these workers, including 600 flight attendants, can be let go.

Air Canada announced the job cuts earlier this year as part of cost reduction program to deal with rising oil prices.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

U.S. wholesale prices rise faster than expected in July

U.S. wholesale prices rose more than twice as fast as expected last month and topped the one per cent level for the third month in a row, according to statistics released Tuesday.

In July, American wholesale prices rose 1.2 per cent from the prior month as measured by the U.S. Department of Labor's producer price index, or PPI.

The PPI measure, which calculates price hikes for goods and services that companies buy from other firms, is often considered to be a measure of future retail inflation. Wholesale prices in July were more than 16 per cent higher than the same month last year.

Disgruntled investors lose Ontario court bid in ABCP meltdown

Disgruntled investors, who bought asset-backed financial instruments, will need to go to the Supreme Court of Canada if they still want to scuttle an agreement in one of the country's largest financial meltdowns ever.

On Monday, the Ontario Court of Appeal turned down a bid by the investors to scuttle a 2007 deal concerning asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) investments.

The Ontario court said in Monday's decision that the agreement worked out between mainly larger investors last year can proceed.

Travel to Canada down over past year: StatsCan

Significantly fewer people travelled to Canada at the start of summer compared with last year, while more Canadians packed their bags for trips abroad over the same period, said a report released Monday by Statistics Canada.

Underlining a trend that has struck the Canadian tourism industry over the past months, the number of trips made by foreigners to Canada in June was down 12.7 per cent from the same period a year ago, the report said.

Hebron oil deal to be signed Wednesday, N.L. government says

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has announced the much-anticipated Hebron offshore oil deal will be signed Wednesday in St. John's.

Premier Danny Williams, Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale and representatives from the consortium of oil companies involved in the project will sign a final agreement at the Fairmont Hotel at noon, according to a press release from the Office of the Premier Tuesday.

The memorandum of understanding on the $5-billion project, announced in August 2007, expires on Thursday. The memorandum was reached after a fierce public battle between Williams and the companies over royalties and an equity stake in the project for the province.

Staples warns of lower sales growth, little profit in Q2

Staples Inc. said Tuesday that its sales grew by less and profit fell by more than initially anticipated in the second quarter of the year.

As a result, investors were selling shares in the Framingham, Mass.-based office supplies company.

In the morning session, Staples shares were off almost five per cent, down $1.22 US to $23.36.

The firm said revenue for the second three-month period of the year will inch up by three per cent and its earnings per-share will drop by 15 per cent compared to the same time last year.

Mega Brands sales weaken

Toy maker and art supply company Mega Brands Inc. said Tuesday that it lost $3.6 million US in the second quarter on falling revenues.

The Montreal-based company said revenue dipped 12.4 per cent year-over-year to $106.4 million on lower sales in its toy, stationery and activities product lines as well as additional product recall charges.

The company said its top line sales declined to $47.3 million compared to $57.9 million in the second quarter of 2007. The decrease in sales also reflects $2.5 million of additional product recall charges related to magnetic toys.

Canadians dump foreign stocks and bonds

Canadians dumped a record value of foreign stocks and bonds in June, based upon official figures released Monday.

Canadians dump foreign stocks and bondsForeigners bought more Canadian stocks and bonds for the seventh month in a row.

Lawyer to appeal ABCP ruling

The restructuring plan for $32 billion in asset-backed commercial paper hit another snag on Tuesday as lawyer Howard Shapray, who represents Ivanhoe Mines, says he plans to take his case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

"We are appealing," Shapray told The Canadian Press in a phone interview a day after the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the controversial restructuring plan should go ahead.

"My client is a large investor and while there are small investors who are being squeezed in this process, the principles here are simply too important."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Canadian ABCP restructuring FAQs

What is asset-backed commercial paper?

Asset-backed commercial paper, or ABCP, is short-term corporate debt that is made up of a bundle of loans like mortgages, credit card receivables and car loans. This debt is then resold to other investors, taking the original loans off the books of the company that first issued them. That can lead to lower lending standards because the originator of the loans doesn't have to worry about collecting.

What happened to the ABCP market?

Global mining market strong despite recent woes: Billiton

China and India will continue to buy minerals, buoying global markets despite recent signs to the contrary, said BHP Billiton on Monday as the mining giant released its year-end financial results.

The Australia-based company said that problems in key markets and the sputtering global economy are combining to present miners with economic pressures.

But "while short-term disruptions may occur, we expect that their long-term growth will remain robust as they continue on the path to industrialization" said the world's biggest mining company in its earnings news release.

Prospectors, landholders raise concerns about Ontario Mining Act meetings

A mining watchdog group, a prospectors' group and an aboriginal leader are hopeful that public meetings will lead to the creation of a better Ontario Mining Act, but they all have some concerns about the way the government is approaching its review of the act.

The Ontario government announced on Aug. 5 that it would be holding public and stakeholder meetings in five Ontario communities between Aug. 11 and Sept. 8 to get input about how to modernize the century-old act that regulates mining in the province "to be more respectful" of aboriginal communities and private landowners.

EA and Take-Two talking takeover

EA and Take-Two talking takeoverElectronic Arts wants to buy Take-Two primarily for the smaller company's massively successful Grand Theft Auto franchise.(Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

Electronic Arts Inc. is not planning to extend its takeover offer for Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., maker of the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto video game series, but the two companies are talking about a deal.

Takeover bid for Corel pulled

Software company Corel Corp. said Monday that its majority shareholder has scrapped a plan to buy up the rest of the company.

A subsidiary of San Francisco-based Vector Capital Corp. currently owns approximately 69 per cent of the outstanding shares of Corel, and had offered $11 a share in cash to acquire the remainder.

The Vector subsidiary has advised Ottawa-based Corel that it has withdrawn its offer so that Corel can pursue its alternatives with other parties.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Oil industry land sales net Sask. $243 M

Oil continues to be a hot commodity in Saskatchewan, with the second-biggest land sale in the province's history happening earlier this week.

The provincial government's August auction, in which companies bid for the right to drill for oil and gas, raised $242.7 million. That was only slightly above what was raised in the record-setting April auction.

"I think what it shows is ... we have a very competitive marketplace here in Saskatchewan [and] the companies are responding to that," said Energy Minister Bill Boyd. "They see a royalty structure, they see a regulatory structure, they see a business climate that is very, very positive."

Canadian manufacturing sales higher in June

Sales for Canada's manufacturing sector increased in June by 2.1 per cent over May to reach $52.5 billion, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The government agency said it was the fifth sales increase in six months for the sector.

Adjusting to constant dollars, sales were up by 0.6 per cent to $47.0 billion in June.

"Industrial prices for petroleum and coal, chemical products, wood products, and motor vehicles rose notably during the month," Statistics Canada said.

Housing starts will slip this year: CMHC

Housing starts are forecast to decline in both this year and next as high prices crimp demand, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Friday.

CMHC sees residential housing starts coming in at 215,475 units this year, down from 228,343 starts last year.

The latest CMHC forecast is slightly better than the outlook it offered in May, when it projected 214,650 units would be started in 2008.

Bob Dugan, the chief economist for CMHC said high employment levels, rising incomes and low mortgage rates will keep the housing market relatively solid this year.

Landmark Wal-Mart ruling released by Quebec arbitrator

A Quebec arbitrator has imposed a collective agreement on Wal-Mart for the first time in the world's largest retailer's history.

The arbitrator released the decision Friday on the contract for eight workers at a tire-and-lube garage at a Wal-Mart store on Maloney Boulevard in Gatineau, just across the river from Ottawa. The workers are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada.

Guy Chenier, head of the local representing the workers, said the union is delighted with the deal, which gives the workers raises averaging 35 to 40 per cent effective immediately, as well as more vacation.

100 million barrels: Husky marks milestone at White Rose field

Crews pumping oil at the White Rose field off Newfoundland's east coast have marked a milestone, operator Husky Energy said.

On Thursday, the company passed the 100 million mark for barrels of oil pumped at White Rose, which launched production in November 2005.

"The project has provided significant returns to our shareholders and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador," Husky chief executive officer John Lau said in a statement.

Home sale prices fall in July

Sale prices for resale home slid by 3.6 per cent in July from the same month last year, according to figures released Thursday from the Canadian Real Estate Association.

The group said the average sale price was $327,020 last month, and it attributed the drop on fewer sales year-over-year in the four most expensive major markets in the country – Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Toronto.

Prices in Calgary were off 7.8 per cent year-over-year, while Edmonton saw a retreat of 5.3 per cent in the same time period.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

British Airways, American Airlines, Iberia SA plan transatlantic alliance

British Airways PLC, American Airlines and Spain's Iberia SA on Thursday announced a plan to team up and share pricing plans and flight loads, a move rival airlines say will limit competition and raise prices for consumers.

The plan, which must first be approved by U.S. and European regulatory authorities, would affect flights to and from the U.S., Mexico, the European Union, Canada, Norway and Switzerland.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh said the revenue-sharing plan if accepted would help the airlines as they struggle to cope with record-high oil prices.

High pump prices not pulling Canadians off roads: StatsCan

Canadians are continuing to travel by car despite rising pump prices, Statistics Canada suggests in a report released Thursday on energy costs.

In 2007, Canadians drove 332 billion kilometres, an increase of 5.2 per cent from 2002, the federal agency said, noting the number of new cars on the road has also grown, climbing 9.4 per cent since 2002.

By comparison, a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration found Americans drove 19.6 billion fewer kilometres in June in year-over-year comparisons.

Sleep Country gets friendly takeover bid

Sleep Country gets friendly takeover bidSleep Country Canada president Christine Magee, seen here in a 2005 photo, has agreed to remain in her role with the company after the takeover.(PR Direct photo/Sleep Country Canada)

U.S. inflation surges in July

Consumer prices in the United States jumped more than expected in July, pushing the overall inflation rate to a 17-year high.

The U.S. Labour Department said Thursday that prices grew by 0.8 per cent in the month, double the 0.4 per cent growth economists had been projecting.

Higher prices for gas, food and clothing were behind the rise.

The July increase followed jumps of 0.6 per cent in May and 1.1 per cent in June.

From July 2007 to July 2008, prices were up 5.6 per cent — the biggest 12-month rise since January 1991.

Biovail sees sales shrink, profit disappear after turmoil

Biovail sees sales shrink, profit disappear after turmoilBiovail three-month chart

Canada's biggest publicly traded drug company lost money and saw its sales shrink in the second quarter as it absorbed the costs of a proxy fight, a management change and a losing legal battle over drug promotion tactics in the United States.

Ontario pension plan buying chunk of big Texas power distributor

One of Canada's biggest public pension plans has teamed up with a Singapore government fund to buy almost 20 per cent of the biggest electric transmission and distribution network in Texas.

The price: $1.25 billion US.

The buyers: the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, better known as OMERS, and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, or GIC, which seeks places to invest the country's foreign reserves.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Southern Newfoundland LNG plant ready to roll: proponent

Southern Newfoundland LNG plant ready to roll: proponentA design concept shows the terminal that Newfoundland LNG Ltd. plans to build at Grassy Point in Placentia Bay. (Newfoundland LNG Ltd.)

P.E.I wind turbines whirling again after gear box trouble

All 10 turbines at a wind farm in eastern P.E.I. are back in operation for the first time since March, when six of them were taken offline due to problems in their gear boxes.

P.E.I wind turbines whirling again after gear box trouble

Cameco shares slip as water rises in flooded Saskatchewan mine

Cameco shares slip as water rises in flooded Saskatchewan mineCameco three-month chart

The world's biggest uranium producer saw its share price dip Wednesday after it stopped work to dry out its flooded Cigar Lake mine in northern Saskatchewan.

HSBC may ditch BlackBerry for iPhone: report

HSBC may ditch BlackBerry for iPhone: reportApple introduced business e-mail support with its 3G iPhone, released July 11.(Ed Ou/Associated Press)

HSBC Holdings PLC, the world's largest bank, is considering ditching the BlackBerry in favour of the iPhone, according to an Australian report, a move that would be a huge blow to Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion Ltd.

Petro-Canada gas shortage costs retailers

Petro-Canada gas shortage costs retailersThis Calgary Petro-Canada station has already run out of regular and higher grade fuel. (Karen Wade/CBC)

A Petro-Canada fuel shortage in Alberta and B.C. is costing at least one Calgary station $20,000 in potential sales.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Oil prices ease but consumers still pinched at the pumps

Crude oil prices may be falling, but pump prices continue to hover, in part owing to higher wholesale margins and the weakening Canadian dollar, according to Liberal MP Dan McTeague.

In his online gasoline-price report, McTeague, who represents the Ontario riding of Pickering-Scarborough East, calls current pump prices "unjustifiably high."

"Today's gas price decrease continues to see less of a decrease proportional to the drop in crude oil and NYMEX gasoline," he says in the report. NYMEX is the New York Mercantile Exchange, a venue for commodities trading.

High prices inflate Canada's trade surplus as shipments decline

Canada's trade surplus with the rest of the world widened to $5.8 billion in dollar terms in June from $5.2 billion in May as companies exported less but got higher prices.

Total exports reached $43.2 billion, up 3.1 per cent from the previous month, as prices rose 4.5 per cent and volumes fell 1.4 per cent, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday.

The dollar-value increase was driven partly by oil shipments to the United States at a time of near-record oil prices.

Refinery problems leave Petro-Canada out of gas

Refinery problems leave Petro-Canada out of gasThis Petro-Canada station in Edmonton, showing only zeros for the price, is one of about a dozen in Alberta and B.C. that have run out of fuel. (CBC)

Don't assume mill spared from job cuts, Abitibi warns

Don't assume mill spared from job cuts, Abitibi warnsAbitibiBowater has not yet decided on job cuts at its Grand Falls-Windsor newsprint mill. (CBC)

Consumers lose heart, same-store sales fall: Rona

Consumers lose heart, same-store sales fall: RonaRona three-month chart(CBC)

Home-improvement giant Rona Inc. says its same-store sales fell 4.4 per cent in the second quarter, a setback it attributes to "a drop in consumer activity related to the decline in consumer confidence compared to the corresponding period in 2007."

Early lobster prices disappointing

Lobster fishermen on P.E.I. are already disappointed with the prices they're being offered for the first catch of the fall season.

The first traps were hauled in on Sunday, and the prices range from $8.80 to $9.90 a kilogram.

Those prices are even lower than what fishermen were getting earlier this year, prices that prompted the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association to ask the government to investigate buyers for price fixing. That investigation found no evidence of collusion, blaming the strong Canadian dollar, high landings, and a slow American economy for the prices.

Pensions shrink for P.E.I. workers in troubled national fund

The pension fund for former workers at the now-closed NOFG pork plant in Charlottetown has been a concern for months and now they've learned they'll be receiving only about half the pension they were expecting.

Pensions shrink for P.E.I. workers in troubled national fund

Monday, August 11, 2008

Housing starts, prices show more signs of slowing

Canada's housing industry showed more signs of softening amid reports of easing summer construction starts and slowing price increases for new homes.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Monday that the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts in July was 186,500 units, down from 215,900 in June.

Starts of urban multiple units, such as condominiums, dropped 20.2 per cent to 91,600, while starts of urban single homes eased 6.6 per cent to 69,800 units.

Giant machine first to be shipped on new Canadian route

A giant piece of machinery bound for the oilsands of northern Alberta from Japan has arrived in Thunder Bay, Ont., marking the opening of a new all-Canadian shipping route.

"This is the first of many components for the oilsands to move through the port of Thunder Bay," said Tim Heney, CEO of the Thunder Bay Port Authority.

The 450-tonne reactor, a tube-like structure the size of three railcars used in oilsands extraction, is heading to Fort McMurray on its way from the manufacturer in Japan. It arrived in Thunder Bay after being carried by freighter through the Panama Canal, up the eastern seaboard and west through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Sask. housing prices not headed for bust: home builders

The Canadian Home Builders Association is taking issue with a recent report that says Saskatchewan's housing boom is headed for a bust.

In a report released by Merrill Lynch Canada last week, economists David Wolf and Carolyn Kwan say housing is more than 10 per cent overvalued in a number of cities, including Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Sudbury and Montreal — with the situation in Saskatchewan's two biggest cities the most extreme.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Americans seeking employment benefits at 6-year high

The number of Americans seeking jobless benefits hit a six-year high in the most recent period, a sign that U.S. workers are feeling the pinch of a slowing economy.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labour said that 455,000 Americans filed for employment benefits in the week ended Aug. 2. That figure represented an increase of two per cent over the previous week and was the highest number of filers since March 2002.

Using a four-week average, 419,500 men and women were looking for jobless benefits, the highest level since July 2003.

Community trust impact differs across country

Community trust impact differs across countryLumber and mill operations in small communities are being hurt by the tough economic conditions facing the industry.(CBC)

The $1-billion government trust intended to help Canada's stressed single-industry communities and their residents is almost invisible in Ontario forestry towns, but in B.C., the same program is providing a short term lifeline to centres facing economic disaster.

Air Canada earnings lose altitude

Air Canada earnings lose altitudeHigher fuel prices hurt Air Canada's earnings.(Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Air Canada's earnings were grounded in the second quarter as the airline's rising fuel bill shrank its bottom line.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Canada's unemployment rate dips in July

Canada's unemployment rate dipped slightly in July to 6.1 per cent, despite losing 55,000 jobs in the month, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

Still, last month's jobless rate means that Canada's unemployment level remains close to a 30-year low.

Statistics Canada said July's job losses, the largest monthly reduction in 17 years, were offset by the number of Canadians who left the job market.

"The unemployment rate edged down 0.1 percentage points to 6.1 per cent, as many people, particularly youth, left the labour force," said the federal agency in a press release.

U.S. productivity slips in Q2

American productivity growth slipped in the second quarter of 2008 and was below what Wall Street expected, according to U.S. government statistics released on Friday.

The amount of goods and services each American worker produced went up by 2.2 per cent in the April to June period, the U.S. Department of Labour said.

But that was a drop compared with the first three months of the year, when productivity grew by 2.6 per cent.

Feds should use wireless cash to build more broadband: Telus

The federal government should spend the money it raised in its recent wireless auction to improve the country's broadband communications network, not on debt reduction, said the CEO of Telus Corp.

Ottawa should take the $4.2 billion in cash raised from its auction of wireless radio spectrum and build broadband communications access to more communities, Darren Entwistle said Friday.

"Canada has an unprecedented opportunity to enhance our global competitiveness by bringing broadband internet services to hundreds of communities," he said as the company released its second-quarter financial results.

Top court will hear appeals over Wal-Mart store closure

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear appeals from a number of workers who lost their jobs when Wal-Mart Canada closed its unionized store in Saguenay, Que., three years ago.

The decision to consider two related cases was announced Thursday. As usual, the court gave no reasons. No date has been set for the hearing.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union won certification at the Wal-Mart outlet in September, 2004, but could not reach a contract with the company.

Imperial Oil delays Kearl oil sands project

Imperial Oil Ltd. is delaying a decision to proceed with its $8-billion Kearl oil sands proposal, a move which could push the start date for the plant north of Fort McMurray, Alta., back by one year, the company said Thursday.

A successful environmental challenge and design revisions to the project have increased costs for the proposal, Imperial Oil said.

Now, Imperial Oil is targeting the first quarter of next year to make a final decision whether to go ahead, company officials noted.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Toyota's Q1 profit tanks

Toyota said Thursday that its fiscal first-quarter profit plummeted 28 per cent and stuck to its forecast that full-year profit will fall for the first time in seven years as it faces more problems from the weakening U.S. market.

Toyota Motor Corp., which had been riding on the success of its fuel-efficient cars, has consistently posted growing profit since it started reporting under U.S. accounting standards.

But sliding North American sales, a strong yen and rising material costs have battered the earnings of Japan's top auto maker, which is on track to end ailing General Motors Corp.'s 77-year reign as the world's top auto maker.

Profit air goes out of Canadian Tire

Canada's unseasonably wet summer and a slumping economy rained on Canadian Tire Inc.'s second quarter profit.

Weaker sales of the retailer's leisure equipment cut earnings to $97.7 million in the April to June period of 2008. That compared to a profit of $122.5 million for this time last year.

On a per-share basis, Canadian Tire earned $1.20 in the most recent quarter versus $1.50 in the second quarter of 2007.

Sales across the company inched up four per cent, reaching $2.95 billion in the period compared to $2.84 billion the same time last year.

Imax sees light in Dark Knight

The blockbuster movie The Dark Knight brightened the financial picture at Imax Corp. in the third quarter, but not enough for the company to break into black.

Imax, which makes ultra-sophisticated movie projection equipment, lost $12.2 million US, or 29 cents a share, in the third quarter of 2008. The net loss figure for the company was almost three times the $4.5 million, or 11 cents a share, Imax lost in the same three months of last year.

Landowners challenge Alberta's ownership of natural gas reserves

A group of landowners is challenging Alberta's right of ownership to the province's lucrative coalbed methane reserves.

The provincial government currently sells the rights to the natural gas, which is taken from coal seams, and collects royalties from the companies that extract it.

Landowners challenge Alberta's ownership of natural gas reserves

Coffee companies get the java jitters as sector slumps

Coffee companies get the java jitters as sector slumpsStarbucks Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Howard Schultz stands near the coffee shop's original store at the Pike Place Market in Seattle. The company introduced an 'everyday' brew hoping to revive slumping U.S. sales. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

Metro to dump A&P, Dominion names

Montreal's Metro Inc. plans to spend $200 million to switch the names of a number of popular Ontario grocery chains over to its flagship Metro brand, the company said Thursday.

That means that by the end of 2009, well-known supermarket labels, such as A&P and Dominion, will likely cease to exist, although the outlets themselves will continue to operate.

"We will convert our five conventional banners over a 15-month period to the Metro name. Following this conversion, the Metro banner will be a 376-store-strong national network that will contribute to the company's future growth," Eric La Fl├Ęche, Metro's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

$43M pot in Wednesday's 6-49 draw

Gamblers across the country — and others, drawn by the prospect of a life-altering win — have been scooping up Lotto 6-49 tickets for Wednesday night's draw.

At stake is $43 million — the second largest 6-49 pot ever.

Seventeen workers at Viking Holdings in Sedgewick, Alta., shared in the largest 6-49 win, when they split more than $54 million in October 2005.

There was also a $43 million prize won in the summer of 2006.

Man. and Sask. to lead Canada in growth

Manitoba and Saskatchewan, not Alberta and British Columbia, will be the country's hottest areas economically in 2008, the Conference Board of Canada predicted on Tuesday.

The two lower-profile prairie provinces should post the highest gross domestic product growth rates in Canada this year, the Ottawa-based business think tank said.

The Conference Board released its latest economic forecast this week.

Red-hot Saskatchewan will grow at a 4.2 per cent clip, while Manitoba's economy will expand by 3.6 per cent in 2008, the Conference Board estimated. Their results are being driven by high oil and gas prices and soaring demand for those provinces' grain crops.

Magna Entertainment pulls up lame in Q2

Magna Entertainment Inc. said on Tuesday its future is in "substantial doubt" as the horseracing heavyweight tries to work off its huge debt load.

Magna Entertainment, which has $230 million US in borrowings due within the next 12 months, said it would miss its end-of-year deadline to eliminate the company's outstanding debt.

"Although we continue to take steps to implement our debt elimination plan, U.S. real estate and credit markets have continued to demonstrate weakness in 2008 and we do not expect to complete our plan on the originally contemplated time schedule," said Magna Entertainment's chief financial officer Blake Tohana.

Money talk taboo for Canadians compared to love, politics, religion: survey

Canadians will tell friends and family how much they weigh, how they voted or the state of their love life.

But money changes everything.

A survey conducted for the Bank of Montreal indicates that money matters top the list of sensitive topics, ahead of religion, politics, weight and other matters deemed too sensitive for discussion at the dinner table.

The bank reported Wednesday that the topic that left most respondents uncomfortable was:

Agrium posts best-ever quarter

Agrium Inc. posted its highest-ever quarterly earnings on Wednesday, one day after the Egyptian government cancelled plans for the company's controversial new fertilizer plant.

The Calgary-based phosphate and potash heavyweight earned $636 million US, or $4 a share, for the April to June period this year. Those results represented a huge jump compared to the $229 million, or $1.70 a share, Agrium made for the second quarter of 2007.

BCE's profit falls ahead of sale

Communications giant BCE Inc. saw its second-quarter profit fall by almost 50 per cent as the company gets ready to go private.

BCE, which owns Bell Canada, made $361 million, or 43 cents a share, in the April to June period this year — down from $667 million, or 83 cents a share, in last year's second quarter.

Included in this year's figures, however, were charges related to discontinued operations and other unusual items totalling six cents a share.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stephenville: Forestry is finished, but the town is just getting started

In Stephenville, Nfld., all that's left of the pulp mill that employed nearly 300 people for 25 years is an empty paper storage shed and a few administrative buildings.

Stephenville: Forestry is finished, but the town is just getting started

11 around world accused in TJX, other identity-theft cases

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged 11 people in connection with electronic break-ins involving the theft of 40 million credit and debit card numbers, including thefts from a company that operates the Winners and HomeSense stores in Canada.

The 11 include three U.S. citizens, three people from Ukraine, two from China and one each from Estonia and Belarus. The 11th person is known only by the online alias "Delpiero."

The accused face charges ranging from conspiracy and computer intrusion to fraud and identity theft.

Bay gets new CEO

Hudson's Bay Co. on Tuesday appointed Canadian Bonnie Brooks as president and chief executive officer of its flagship Bay department store chain.

The move continues the makeover of Canada's oldest retailer since Hudson's Bay was purchased by American real estate magnate Richard Baker in July.

Brooks, who had been president of Hong Kong's Lane Crawford Joyce Group, will be charged with remaking the Bay into a "premier department store," said Jeffery Sherman, president and CEO of Hudson's Bay Company, which owns the Bay and Zellers.

Egypt cancels Agrium fertilizer plant

Canada's Agrium Inc. on Tuesday was turned down in its bid to build a fertilizer plant on Egypt's northeastern coast, a move that could cost the fertilizer maker $280 million.

This week, the Egyptian cabinet said it was cancelling a controversial plant to construct a $1.2 billion US nitrogen plant in a prime tourist area in the eastern Mediterranean.

Instead, the state-owed oil company MOPCO would acquire Agrium's Egyptian subsidiary and build the fertilizer plant at another location in the country, the government said.

Loonie dips on investor fears over slumping oil prices

The Canadian dollar sagged in trading on Tuesday as slumping oil prices turned investors away from the loonie.

The loonie dropped 1.3 cents US to 96.02 cents US in mid-morning trading. Investors were dumping the loonie because of the perception that Canada's economy will be hurt if crude oil prices keep slipping worldwide.

Loonie dips on investor fears over slumping oil prices

U.S. Fed leaves interest rate unchanged

The U.S. Federal Reserve Board on Tuesday left its key interest rate unchanged at two per cent, citing improving economic conditions in the United States.

The Federal Reserve decision had been expected by market watchers. The U.S. central bank has kept its key federal funds rate unchanged since April.

U.S. stocks markets reacted to the news favourably as the Dow Jones Industrial and the Standard & Poor's indices both rose more than two per cent.

Molson Coors Q2 profit falls on one-time charges

Molson Coors saw its second-quarter profit fizzle as a slew of one-time financial charges dragged down results.

The beer giant posted a profit of $80.9 million US, or 43 US cents a share, in the April to June period, a drop of 56 per cent compared with the year earlier.

Molson Coors Q2 profit falls on one-time charges

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bell's beavers bite it

Bell's beavers bite itFrank and Gordon made their debut in Quebec in 2005 as Jules and Bertrand.

After cutting a good portion of its middle management, Bell Canada has sent two more employees to the unemployment line: Frank and Gordon.

Montreal-based Bell Canada Inc. is axing the beavers as its mascots and spokesanimals as of Friday. The company made the announcement in full-page newspaper ads across the country.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Weaker crude costs cutting Canadian pump prices

Canadian drivers are starting to see pump prices drop in recent weeks because of weakening demand for crude oil, according to figures published by the federal government.

The Department of Natural Resources, which tracks gasoline prices within Canada, said the average price for a litre of gasoline across the country has slid almost 11 cents in the past two weeks.

As of the week of July 29, Canadian drivers are paying $1.29 a litre at the pump, representing an eight per cent drop compared to a year high of $1.40, reached in the middle of July.

Complex trade details kill WTO deal

When talks aimed at getting a new global trade deal began back in 2001, officials might not have believed it would take seven years for the countries in the World Trade Organization to reach an agreement.

But you can bet no one would have predicted that, at the end of this tortuous process, the 153 nations of the global group would be walking away from the bargaining table empty-handed.

Yet that is exactly what happened at the WTO talks this July.

U.S. unemployment rate climbs to 4-year high in July

The unemployment rate in the United States rose to 5.7 per cent — a four-year high — as employers reduced payrolls by 51,000 jobs in July, the U.S. Labour Department said Friday.

Unemployment in June stood at 5.5 per cent.

The tumble in payrolls was not as bad as some economists had been expecting. Projections had pointed to a cut of 72,000 jobs in July.

The U.S. economy has now lost 463,000 jobs this year. July's losses were the seventh straight monthly contraction in employment.

Rothmans gets takeover offer from Philip Morris

Rothmans Inc., Canada's only publicly-traded cigarette company, agreed Thursday to a friendly takeover offer from tobacco giant Philip Morris International Inc. that values that Canadian company at $2 billion.

PMI is offering $30 a share in cash for Toronto-based Rothmans.

A condition of the offer was that Rothmans settle tobacco-smuggling charges in Canada. That settlement with the governments of Canada and the ten provinces was also announced Thursday.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Car sales sink as sector woes grow

U.S automobile sales ran out of gas in July as major American auto producers posted negative growth in the number of cars and trucks they pushed off the lot in the month.

And the carmakers were already warning that conditions in the industry could get even worse.Car sales sink as sector woes grow

Prentice hints at reining in cellphone companies

Prentice hints at reining in cellphone companiesIndustry Minister Jim Prentice has not been shy about criticizing Canadian cellphone providers.(CBC)

In the wake of growing consumer frustration over Canadian cellphone prices, the government is issuing veiled warnings to providers that increased regulation of the industry may be on the way.

Canadians got more per bushel than U.S. farmers, wheat board says

Prairie farmers earned a record $7 billion from grain sold through the Canadian Wheat Board in 2007-08 — a 57 per cent increase over the previous year, the agency said Thursday in its annual report.

According to Larry Hill, chair of the Winnipeg-based grain marketer, the earnings worked out to more than $8.40 a bushel for high-quality spring wheat and more than $12 a bushel for high-quality durum, after freight and handling expenses are paid.

Nortel loss widens

Nortel loss widensNortel 3-month TSX chart

Nortel Networks Corp. shares retreated more than 15 per cent on Friday after the company reported a deeper-than-expected second-quarter loss.

Shares of the Toronto-based telecommunications company fell $1.19 to close at $6.66 on the TSX.