09/30/2014 (9:52 am)

Safety agency studying Toyota acceleration problem

Filed under: Finance, USA |

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. safety regulators are looking into a consumer’s petition alleging that older Toyota Corollas can accelerate unexpectedly at low speeds and cause crashes.

The inquiry covers about 1.69 million of the compact cars from the 2006 to 2010 model years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will decide whether to open a formal investigation.

An unidentified consumer said in a letter to the agency that a Corolla surged at low speeds several times, and the brakes failed to stop the car. The consumer said the problem caused one collision with a parked vehicle on June 8.

Investigators said they found 141 consumer complaints about the problem. No other crashes or injuries were reported.

The consumer filed the petition on Sept. 11.

Messages were left seeking comment from Toyota.

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09/28/2014 (4:24 pm)

On war and trade, it

Filed under: USA, marketing |

OTTAWA—You can call it buying time, or you can call it Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition providing the scrutiny it should.

But wherever you come down on the NDP, crunch time is fast approaching for Tom Mulcair.

In the space of five minutes on Parliament Hill at the end of last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper laid out two of the pillars of his party’s blueprint for re-election in 2015.

In so doing, the Conservative leader laid bare the realities of all three parties in the Commons.

On a major trade deal and an escalating war effort, the prime minister left no doubt where he stands.

On both files, Justin Trudeau and his Liberals have offered fuzzy support — with concerns — but would have to switch gears to formally oppose either measure.

They stand accused of offering tepid support on both questions without all the relevant information at hand.

But the trickiest manoeuvring awaits Mulcair, a shrewd politician who is again trying to avoid a crash on the shoals which have always imperiled his party — the demand from the true believers for fidelity to party roots and the need to broaden its appeal should it ever want to form a government.

On the trade deal, the NDP has always withheld judgment, demanding a text before passing judgment on the Canada-European Union deal.

Harper dug into his dusty bag of hyperbole to cast the deal as a “game changer,” a job creator that moves Canada into the big leagues.

“The Canada-EU trade agreement is deeper in substance and broader in scope than any such other agreement in Canadian history,” Harper said.

The NDP now has a text — and some wriggle room, courtesy of Germany.

The NDP did back a trade deal with Korea, but Mulcair points to a six-month escape hatch there on what is known as the investor state provision.

The European deal locks Canada in for 20 years and critics say that provision gives foreign companies undue power to fight government measures on areas such as health and the environment — a fight the NDP leader has fought during his days as Quebec environment minister.

The deal could be shaken by German opposition, but Harper will still be likely able to campaign on its benefits in 2015. New Democrats will have to carefully parse their opposition — if they go that way — to avoid being painted as anti-trade and anti-job online payday loans.

The more immediate decision rests with Canada’s increased involvement in an allied effort against the Islamic State in Iraq.

Cabinet will meet this week to discuss the use of CF-18s in airstrikes and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has stated that would be considered a combat mission and subject to a vote in the Commons.

“We do not stand on the sidelines and watch,” Harper said. “We do our part. That’s always been how this country has handled its international responsibilities and as long as I’m prime minister that’s what we will continue to do.”

The NDP has withheld any support of the so far limited Canadian role in Iraq, saying it has not received details of the mission from the government and been unable to vote.

They appear to be about to get details and that vote.

Mulcair has shifted his potential dissent, saying his party would have to weigh carefully the fact the mission in northern Iraq and Syria has not been officially sanctioned by NATO or the United Nations.

In a television interview he said he is not prepared to tell Canadians that we should repeat the wrong-headed American-British policies of 2003 which led to the present situation.

The extended Canadian involvement will likely receive broad backing in this country, but for a clue as to where the NDP is going, one should cast back to Canada’s 2011 involvement in the NATO mission in Libya.

Under the late Jack Layton, the NDP initially backed that involvement, but subsequently withdrew that support and refused to back an extension of the mission.

The first vote of support caused discomfort within the party.

When one looks at Libya today, hindsight allows us to see the futility of that mission.

Saturday in Sudbury, Mulcair told supporters that his was the “party of peace.”

Are they the anti-war party?

Are they anti-trade?

And does Mulcair play to his base or move the party to the centre?

The days of using Parliamentary process as a shield are coming to an end.

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09/27/2014 (1:28 am)

Stocks rise at the end of a rough week; Nike jumps

Filed under: Finance, online |

NEW YORK • The U.S. stock market headed higher Friday as investors welcomed good news on the U.S. economy at the end of a turbulent week of trading. Nike jumped after turning in higher profits, and Janus Capital Group soared following news that it had hired star bond fund manager Bill Gross.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average was up 90 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,036 as of 1:18 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose six points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,972 and the Nasdaq composite climbed 19 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,486.

The S&P 500, the benchmark for most mutual funds, is on track to lose 1.8 percent this week. The biggest drop came Thursday, the worst day for the stock market since July 31.

A VIEW: Steep drops are often followed by slight daily gains as investors hunt for beaten-down stocks. “After yesterday, it’s only normal to get a little bit back because people tend to buy on the dips,” said Jason Pride, director of investment strategy at Glenmede Trust.

Pride said he expects the market to resume its climb as the economy improves. “I think we’ll continue to grind higher because the economic momentum is still there,” he said. “Maybe the market gets overvalued. So, sometimes a little breather is helpful.”

SURPRISE: After a dismal winter, the U.S. economy expanded at an annual rate of 4.6 percent in the spring, the fastest pace in more than two years, the government reported Friday. Some economists expect the momentum to carry through the rest of the year.

SWOOSH: Late Thursday, Nike said its quarterly net income surged 23 percent thanks to solid sales and lower taxes. Both its earnings and revenue beat Wall Street’s estimates. Nike’s stock gained $8.56, or 11 percent, to $88.32.

MOVING ON: Famed bond-fund manager Bill Gross, a founder of bond giant PIMCO, is leaving to join Janus Capital no fax payday loans. Janus said Gross, who ran the world’s largest bond fund at PIMCO, starts work next Monday. Janus soared $3.72, or 34 percent, to $14.83.

CAJOLING: An investment fund with a stake in Yahoo sent a letter to Yahoo’s CEO urging the company to consider merging with AOL. Jeffrey Smith, who heads Starboard Value, wrote that a deal could save as much as $1 billion and create a more competitive company. Yahoo climbed $1.59, or 4 percent, to $40.53.

EUROPE: Major markets in Europe were mixed. Germany’s DAX slipped 0.2 percent and France’s CAC 40 gained 0.9 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 index picked up 0.1 percent.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 led most Asian benchmarks lower, falling 0.9 percent. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.4 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index edged up 0.1 percent.

ANALYST’S VIEW: Gary Yau, from Credit Agricole CIB, says that the estimate for U.S. economic growth is unlikely to drive a big move in the stock market after a rough week. “Cautious trading will likely prevail on the last day of the week,” he said.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 109.10 yen from 108.56 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro fell to $1.2729 from $1.2760.

BOND MARKET: Prices for U.S. government bonds fell, nudging yields up. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.54 percent from 2.50 percent late Thursday.

OIL: Benchmark crude oil for November delivery rose 58 cents to $93.11 on the New York Mercantile exchange.

__

AP Business Writer Kelvin Chan reported from Hong Kong.

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09/22/2014 (9:52 am)

Maple Leafs the worst? Where ESPN got it right and where ESPN got it wrong

Filed under: USA, economics |

Had a chance to take in ESPN’s annual rankings of North America’s 122 sports franchises where the Maple Leafs managed to finish 122nd.

Now, this was a survey of fans, and what Leaf fan is going to be happy with anything about his or her team after the way it finished last season?

COACHING

Fans are asked if they’re happy with the coach? Are you kidding me? Randy Carlyle finished a shocking 113th, ahead of the coaching situations in Pittsburgh (replaced), Carolina (replaced), New York Islanders (retained), Vancouver (replaced), and Florida (replaced).

BANG FOR THE BUCK

No shock really about bang for the buck (122nd), which marks wins per fan dollar. They could probably win all 82 games and still finish in the bottom half in that category.

FAN RELATIONS

Fan relations (117th), low in my books, probably the result of the spillover effect from such a horrible finish to the season. The amenities at the Air Canada Centre are quite good compared to a lot of rinks. The team does quite a bit of promotional and charitable work, much of it not covered in the media. Their rink refurbishing program and visits to hospitals are admirable. Their problem may be they’re in so much demand it’s hard to please everybody.

I know there were problems with long lines and the price point of the recent fan fest, but give the team credit for trying. And more gamee tickets will be available to the general public this year.

OWNERSHIP

Ownership came in at 105th, the highest ranking. Yikes. This Bell-Rogers partnership is going to be a disaster and with Tim Leiweke leaving, there isn’t going to be a referee to end the feuds and set direction. It could well turn out that fans will pine for the “good old days” when the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan owned them.

AFFORDABILITY

Dead last. That’s 122nd, if you’re counting. No argument here.

PLAYERS

Players (120th) based on effort and likability. On the surface, this would sting. But if you think about the Leafs, who comes to mind first? Phil Kessel? Dion Phaneuf? Nazem Kadri? Jonathan Bernier? Hard to say, really. Kessel’s a singular talent, but not good in front of cameras and that hurts his image. (Let’s not forget the “Thank You, Kessel” cheers that rained down on him in the 2013 playoffs.) Phaneuf seems stilted while he and the more affable Kadri are both polarizing figures, with fans demanding they shore up the parts of the game that are flawed. Bernier’s a nice dresser and all, but he supplanted a fan favourite — James Reimer.

Toronto historically has loved its fighters and grinders and on-ice menaces, especially if they can score a bit. Think Wendel Clark. Tiger Williams. Tie Domi. Even a Darcy Tucker.

Who could be popular Leafs?

Colton Orr? Not a chance, especially since the age of the enforcer is passing. Leo Komarov? Maybe if he plays in Toronto for consecutive years. Morgan Rielly? It would be something if the fans oohed and aahed at his talent. William Nylander? Get back to us in five years. My money’s on Kessel if the team turns it around.

TITLE TRACK

Title track put the Leafs at 121st, in front of only the Minnesota Timberwolves. That’s the fans’ way of saying they don’t like the direction of the team. Most likely that’s a shot at GM Dave Nonis. The core of players are his. The core has let the fan-base down in spectacular fashion three years in a row. You can’t blame the fans for how they feel.

STADIUM EXPERIENCE

Stadium experience is an interesting one. Leafs come in at 109th, ahead of Calgary, Edmonton and the New York Islanders. That the Isles are last, with the shoestring budget and the oldest arena in the NHL, is no surprise. The fans of the Leafs, Flames and Oilers truly haven’t had much to cheer about in recent years.

But there’s no doubt, the Leafs stadium experience could be better. For one, copy Montreal’s use of the big screen. At the Air Canada Centre, any stoppage in play is a reason for some in-game host to yammer on about some lame contest, or for some ad to blare. By contrast, the screen in the Bell Centre shows commercials — but without sound. The sound of the game — be it an organ or a chant — continues.

The Leafs are aware their in-game experience is lacking. Changes are coming this season. Let’s hope they get it right.

MLSE REACTION

“The Toronto Maple Leafs is one of the most historic teams in sports, with one of the strongest fan bases, and we obviously don’t think this list accurately reflects that. Our focus though is on building a winning club and continuing to create even more access for Leafs Nation, not for the sake of a ranking on a list, but for our fans.” –Dave Haggith, MLSE senior director of communications.

SIZE MATTERS

How about this tidbit from the IIHF’s website that points out that the average goalie is four centimetres — or about an inch and a half — taller this season, compared to 20 years ago.

The IIHF measured the 1994 Olympians, who played at 181.9 centimetres (5-foot-11). Back in that era, goalies that were 5-foot-8 were fairly common and Curtis Joseph (5-foot-9) and Ed Belfour (6-foot) would be considered undersized by today’s standards.

At the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, the IIHF said the average height of the 36 participating goaltenders was 185.9 centimetres (a little more than 6-foot-1). Within the NHL, the average height of goaltenders league-wide during the 2013-14 season was 186.2 centimetres.

AROUND THE WORLD

The Champions Hockey League resumes play this week. It’s basically European hockey’s version of soccer’s champions league where the best teams from the European league’s play off for a champion, taking small breaks from their league games.

Leafs prospect Andreas Johnson (Frolunda) is second in CHL scoring. Here’s a YouTube compliation of a recent six-point game.

AROUND THE NHL

Thought by many to be washed up, Dany Heatley is getting an audition on the top line with the Anaheim Ducks. He is practising with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

09/18/2014 (10:44 pm)

Home Depot breach affected 56M debit, credit cards

Filed under: Finance, legal |

NEW YORK (AP) — Home Depot said that 56 million debit and credit cards are estimated to have been breached in a data theft between April and September at its stores in the U.S. and Canada. That makes it the second-largest breach for a retailer on record.

The nation’s largest home improvement retailer, based in Atlanta, also confirmed Thursday that the malware used in the data breach has been eliminated. The retailer said there was no evidence that debit PIN numbers were compromised or that the breach affected stores in Mexico or customers who shopped online at Homedepot.com. It said it has also completed a “major” payment security project that provides enhanced encryption of customers’ payment data in the company’s U.S. stores.

The disclosure puts the data breach behind TJX Cos.’s theft of 90 million records, disclosed in 2007 and ahead of Target’s pre-Christmas 2013 breach which compromised 40 million credit and debit cards.

Home Depot confirmed its sales-growth estimates for the fiscal year and said it expects to earn $4.54 per share in fiscal 2014, up 2 cents from its prior guidance. The company’s fiscal 2014 outlook includes estimates for the cost to investigate the data breach, providing credit monitoring services to its customers, increasing call center staffing and paying legal and professional services.

However, the profit guidance doesn’t include potential yet-to-be determined losses related to the breach. The company said it’s not yet able to estimate costs beyond those included in the guidance issued Thursday. Those costs could include liabilities related to payment card networks for reimbursements of credit card fraud and card reissuance costs. It could also include future civil litigation and governmental investigations and enforcement proceedings installment payday loans.

“We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and anxiety this has caused, and want to reassure them that they will not be liable, for fraudulent charges,” said Frank Blake, chairman and CEO in a statement. “From the time this investigation began, our guiding principal has been to put our customers first, and we will continue to do so.”

The breach at Home Depot was first reported on September 2 by Brian Krebs of Krebs on Security, a website that focuses on cybersecurity. Krebs said multiple banks reported “evidence that Home Depot stores may be the source of a massive new batch of stolen credit and debit cards” that went on sale on the black market earlier Tuesday. Later that day, Home Depot said it was working with both banks and law enforcement to investigate “unusual activity” that would point to a hack.

The next day it said that it had hired security firms Symantec and FishNet Security to help it investigate the possible hacking

Unlike Target’s breach, which resulted in falling sales as shoppers worried about security, Home Depot’s business appears to remain intact.

The reason? Customers appear to be growing accustomed to breaches, following a string of them this past year, including Michaels, SuperValu and Neiman Marcus. Home Depot might have also benefited in the timing in another way— the disclosure came in September, months after the spring season, which is the busiest time of year for home-improvement chains.

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09/17/2014 (3:36 pm)

Daily Wrap: Dow sets record close following Fed pledge to keep rates low

Filed under: Uncategorized, online |

TODAY’S INDEXES                 Dow industrials  17,156.85   + 24.88   S&P 500   2001.57    + 2.59   Nasdaq   4,562.19   + 9.43

STOCKS RIDE WAVE: The Dow Jones industrial average set a new record today after the Federal Reserve said it would keep interest rates low for a “considerable time.” Policy makers said the economy is expanding at a moderate pace and inflation is below its goal, according to Bloomberg News. Officials also raised their median estimate for the federal funds rate at the end of 2015 by 25 basis points. “This doesn’t change the path for expected Fed rate increases,” Chad Morganlander, a money manager at St. Louis-based Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., which oversees about $160 billion, said in a phone interview with Bloomberg. “The message was right down the middle. The market is taking that in stride and sighing in relief that they’re not going to move in a hawkish manner. You’ll continue to get additional dollar strength from the forward-looking guidance going into 2017.” The Fed also tapered its monthly bond buying by $10 billion for a seventh time, with plans to end the program next month.

U.S. STEEL RALLIES: Shares of U.S. Steel, the parent of local mill Granite City Works, surged more than 10 percent today after the company announced late Tuesday that its Canadian unit had sought creditor protection in Canada and that the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker would cancel more than $800 million worth of U.S. capital investments. U.S. Steel also said its third-quarter adjusted earnings will be higher than Wall Street expectations; analysts polled by Bloomberg expected the steelmaker to earn 88 cents a share.

IPAD READY FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Word is that Apple will be introducing its newest version of its IPad tablet around mid October to get ahead of the holiday shopping season. Bloomberg News attributes the news to a person with knowledge of Apple’s plans. The company is trying recapture market share that’s been lost this year as consumers have been switching to smartphones with larger screens. Apple last introduced a new iPad in October 2013. The Cupertino, Calif.,-based company is about to launch its own larger-screen smart phones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

DOLLAR ON HOLD: Family Dollar Stores is blaming antitrust hurdles for its decision to reject a $9.1 billion takeover by Dollar General Corp. And a small bit of research by Bloomberg Intelligence, which looked at two Family Dollar Stores in New Jersey, seems to support that contention. The survey found that prices were lower at the Family Dollar Store located near a Dollar General store than they were at a Family Dollar operating without nearby competition. “There’s definite antitrust risk,” said Poonam Goyal, a senior retail analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence who oversaw the research.  Instead of the merger with Dollar General, Family Dollar’s board has recommended accepting a lower offer from Dollar Tree Inc. The deal is seen as an easier sell to regulators, since the two chains do not compete directly.

LOCAL INDEX: The Bloomberg St. Louis Index rose 0.3 percent, performing slightly better than the Dow, which rose 0.15 percent.

   STL STOCKS                GAINERS                                          LOSERS                           SunEdison Semiconductor  3.3%     Allied Healthcare Products   -3.3% Huttig Building Products  3.0%      FutureFuel Corp.  -2.5% Panera Bread Co.  2.1%      Perficient Inc.  -2.4%

LOCAL GAINER: Panera Bread Co. received a boost Wednesday after BofA/Merrill Lynch analyst Joseph Buckley toured two of the recently converted Panera 2.0 cafes and reiterated a buy-rating. 

ANALYST’S INSIGHTS:  “The bias is toward a bit more easing, but the steps are still relatively measured. Growth will slow further in the fourth quarter, dragged down by further property construction weakness. That will bring about more policy support,” said Wang Tao, chief China economist at UBS in Hong Kong. Tao was addressing a recent injection of capital into China’s largest banks in response to that nation’s economic slowdown.

THE DAY AHEAD: We’ll see whether August can continue July’s strong rebound in home construction. The Commerce Department will release its monthly housing starts survey. July saw housing starts hit a 1.09 million annualized rate, the strongest since November 2013. Analysts expect August’s number to come in at 1.04 million. 

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09/14/2014 (9:44 am)

One man dead, one in critical condition after Scarborough shooting

Filed under: Mortgage, UK |

One man is dead and another is in critical condition after a shooting in Scarborough near Markham Rd. and Lawrence Ave. E., Toronto EMS said.

Toronto EMS responded to a call around 12:12 a.m. and found two men with gunshot wounds. One was without vital signs and pronounced dead on the scene. A second man in his 50s was rushed to Sunnybrook Hospital in critical condition.

The Toronto Police homicide squad is investigating.

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09/05/2014 (8:40 pm)

Regulators may put stricter oversight on MetLife

Filed under: management, money |

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. regulators are proposing to label insurer MetLife Inc. as a potential threat to the financial system, a designation that brings stricter government oversight.

New York-based MetLife says it “strongly disagrees” with the decision by the Financial Stability Oversight Council on Thursday to propose designating the company as “systemically important.” If the designation becomes final, MetLife would have to increase its cushion of capital against losses, limit its use of borrowed money and submit to inspections by examiners free 3-in-1 credit report. The company would come under the supervision of the Federal Reserve. Its primary regulator now is the state of New York.

The regulators’ council, created by Congress after the 2008 financial crisis, is led by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and includes other top regulators such as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

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09/04/2014 (4:08 pm)

Fastest Services Growth Since 2005 Lifts U.S. Expansion: Economy - Bloomberg

Filed under: UK, marketing |

Service providers such as retailers and construction firms expanded in August at the fastest pace in nine years, pointing to greater momentum in the economy that

08/29/2014 (1:52 am)

U.S. bank earnings up 5.2 percent in the second quarter

Filed under: Business, money |

WASHINGTON • U.S. banks’ earnings rose 5.2 percent in the April-June quarter from a year earlier, as banks reduced their expenses and lending marked its fastest pace since 2007.

The data issued Wednesday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. showed a robust picture as the banking industry continues to recover from the financial crisis that struck six years ago. The improving economy has brought greater demand for loans and stepped-up lending.

The FDIC reported that U easy to get unsecured personal loans.S. banks earned $40.2 billion in the second quarter of this year, up from $38.2 billion in the same period in 2013.

The number of banks on the FDIC’s problem list fell to 354 in the second quarter, the lowest number in more than five years and down from 411 in the January-March period.

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