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August 27, 2014

Why the Tim Hortons-Burger King deal boosted the Canadian dollar today

Filed under: Uncategorized, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:48 pm

The Canadian dollar was higher Wednesday, benefitting from the major deal struck that will see American fast-food giant Burger King buy Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons for $12.5 billion.

The loonie rose 0.41 of a cent to 91.72 cents US.

The cash-and-stock deal will see the parent of the U.S. firm, 3G Capital, own 51 per cent of a new company, which will be the world’s third-largest quick service restaurant company.

The loonie has been pushed higher in the past by big corporate deals. That’s because a foreign buyer acquiring a Canadian company will need Canadian currency to close the deal, boosting demand for the loonie on financial markets.

Our double-doubles better not start tasting like double-singles: editorial

Traders also anticipated a strong economic growth update Friday when Statistics Canada releases the June reading on gross domestic product. Economists expect that GDP grew by 0.2 per cent in June, which would translate into annualized growth of 2.6 per cent.

And next Wednesday, the Bank of Canada releases its next decision on interest rates.

On the commodity markets, October crude in New York was up 22 cents to US$94.08 a barrel.

December copper was down a cent to US$3.21 a pound, while December bullion gained $1.30 to US$1,286.50 an ounce.


August 9, 2014

Financial health can be a matter of time, not smarts

Filed under: Uncategorized, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:28 pm

Conventional wisdom says the more you know about personal finance, the better off you’ll be at managing your money.

But a new survey suggests that knowledge alone is not enough. For your finances to be in good shape, you also need to be aware of something else: your attitude toward time.

Dwell too much on the past, present or future, and you could make decisions that are bad for your financial health, even if you know to do otherwise.

“Ideally, we’d all have happy memories, take time out in the present and plan for the future. But if you get out of whack in any one of those, bad things can happen,” said Nick Clements, co-author of the study and co-founder of MagnifyMoney, which reviews credit cards and other bank products.

Survey participants had to complete a “time personality” quiz developed by Philip Zimbardo, a professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University and co-author of the study.

Participants were also scored on their financial smarts (say, whether they could calculate compound interest) and the state of their finances (for example, had they ever filed for bankruptcy). In all, 3,000 people in six countries, including Brazil, Germany and the U.S., participated.

The results showed that, despite your financial know-how, your time personality has a lot to do with how well you manage your money. Someone, for example, whose personality skews toward living it up today is often financially sick. You may understand how compound interest works, but the knowledge doesn’t help if you habitually overspend your paycheck.

On the flip side, you may think primarily about the future. But people who are too goal-oriented are often so harried by career and other obligations that they have little time to think through their financial options.

“It may be on your to-do list to buy insurance or invest in your 401(k),” Clements said. “But because you don’t have enough time, you rush through and make bad decisions.”

You might assume that young adults would fall into the camp of people who think too much about the present, the so-called hedonists, according to the survey. But that was not the case.

In fact, 25.3 percent of millennials have a past-negative personality: This group came of age about the time of the 2007-09 financial crisis, and the experience, colored by home foreclosures, big stock market losses and high rates of unemployment, dominates their financial decision-making.

In comparison, only 16.5 percent of baby boomers (people born from 1946 to 1964) were past negative in the study.

To get a sense of what your time personality is, take the quiz at After answering the questions, you’ll see where you fall on the time personality spectrum.

What if the results show you’re past negative? According to the survey, most millennials don’t rate themselves as being money-savvy. But those who land in this group tend to be financially healthy because they’re not taking the kinds of risks that can lead to bankruptcy or other money catastrophes.

Just keep in mind that too much caution can be a bad thing.

Without some risk, you may never be hired for that dream job or grow your savings into a comfortable nest egg. (A fact that young adults might appreciate more if they had more financial knowledge.)

Similarly, you don’t want to be so financially conservative that you forgo having any fun today.

Said Clements: “Think of Ebenezer Scrooge, sitting on a pile of gold coins. He is financially healthy, but you probably don’t want to be him.”

Carolyn Bigda is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.


August 5, 2014

Funeral homes sues family of teen killed at parade

Filed under: Uncategorized, loans — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 12:12 am

The family of the Brampton teen killed during last year’s Toronto Caribbean Carnival is being sued by a funeral home for what it claims is an unpaid debt of more than $15,000 from his extravagant burial service.

The total bill for the funeral at Scott Funeral Home in Brampton was $28,856.62, including $2,725 for limousines and other vehicles in the funeral procession, a $3,995 casket, $4,400 in catering and almost $1,500 in flowers. The invoice also included a $199 fee for an online obituary DVD and $999 for custom printing.

The relatives, in a statement of defence, claim that days after Rueshad Grant’s accidental death, Scott Funeral Home “induced” them to spare no expense by telling them that a lawsuit would pay for everything.

Neither side’s allegations have been tested in court.

Arbor Memorial, which owns the funeral home, did not respond specifically to the Star’s questions.

“Options and choices are presented and families choose what is meaningful to them,” vice-president Gary Carmichael wrote in an email. “For privacy reasons we do not discuss the specifics of any family’s arrangements with the media.”

Grant was killed when he was pulled under a float during last summer’s grand parade. Because the incident was considered a motor vehicle accident and no one in Grant’s family had car insurance, the only money for funeral costs came from the float driver’s insurance company, said the family’s lawyer, Rishi Singh Bhasin.

The family paid the funeral home $13,300, according to Arbor Memorial’s statement of claim. The family says $6,000 of that was received from the insurance payout and the balance was put on Rueshad’s grandmother’s credit card.

“It’s still being paid off,” said the teen’s mother, Shaundel Ramessar, who hasn’t been able to return to her job cleaning rooms at the Radisson since her son’s death.

In the statement of claim filed in Brampton in April, Scott Funeral Home is demanding Grant’s stepfather and grandmother pay the outstanding $15,556.62, plus $2,537.66 in interest.

Arbor Memorial’s statement of claim asserts that the company “contracted with the defendant to provide funeral services for the late Rueshad Grant . . . (and) therefore claims against the defendant the sum of $18,094.28,” along with any further interest and Arbor’s legal costs.

“From our understanding, we would have time to pay it off,” Ramessar told the Star in an interview. “Then they started running us down for the payments. At that time we weren’t expecting all this to happen. It was just a shock to us.”

In the statement of defence, the family alleges that an employee of the funeral home “advised the mother of deceased, Shaundell Grant, and (his step father) Robert Grant, that he knew a lawyer that could obtain a very large settlement for the Grants with the Scotia Bank and the City of Toronto.”

It goes on to allege that, “The actions of (the employee) were extremely deceptive and constitute a fraudulent misrepresentation … (The relatives) were vulnerable due to the recent loss of their family member and as a result were more receptive to the statements.”

Even before the funeral, the family publicly expressed doubts that they would be able to afford it, and called on parade organizers for help.

At the time, Stephen Weir, a spokesperson for the Caribbean Carnival, said the organization was seeking to help the family. Last week, Weir would not say whether any money had been paid out.

Ramessar says they received no assistance and were soon inundated with calls from a collections agency.

“We paid what we had, and here it is — 28 per cent (interest) that they added onto the balance. It’s just crazy.”

In 2007, a man lost his leg in a similar incident when he fell from a float and was dragged under the truck.

“Caribana is supposed to be a fun event,” Ramessar said. “It shouldn’t be a tragedy for anyone.”

The Grant family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the organizers of the parade for “several million dollars,” Bhasin said, but don’t expect to see any money for years. The final settlement is also likely to be far less, he said.


November 27, 2012

Cyber Monday starts early this year

Filed under: Uncategorized, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:28 am

Post-Thanksgiving online discounts were once relegated to Cyber Monday — but these days, websites are launching deals even before Black Friday. And the resulting shopping frenzy is expected to set records.

IBM Benchmark reported total online sales for Black Friday were up nearly 21% from last year. On Thanksgiving, sales rose more than 17% compared to 2011. Black Friday was the stronger of the two days, eclipsing Thanksgiving by 4:10 p.m. ET.

And a long list of retailers — including , Fortune 500), , Fortune 500), , Fortune 500) and ) — unveiled “pre-Black Friday deals” even before Thanksgiving. , Fortune 500) posted its one-day online shopping discounts on Black Friday, as did beauty brand MAC Cosmetics.

“We’ve absolutely seen this whole weekend turn into one big promotional event,” said Jay Henderson, strategy director for IBM Smarter Commerce. “Black Friday deals are no longer just for the [brick-and-mortar] store, and Cyber Monday deals are no longer just for Monday.”

Cyber Monday’s original appeal, as the first weekday after Thanksgiving, was access to quick Internet speeds while at work. But now broadband at home is ubiquitous, and consumers can also shop on a slew of mobile devices.

And so retailers’ online deals stretch well ahead of Cyber Monday — in some cases, nearly a full week before.

“Retailers are trying to draw consumers in earlier, and one way to do that is to stagger the deals: Pre-Thanksgiving, some on Thanksgiving Day, another set over the weekend, and finally the big bang to close it out on Cyber Monday,” Henderson said.

Mobile devices have become increasingly important during that week before Cyber Monday creditreport. The number of consumers using their mobile device to make a purchase on Black Friday this year increased by nearly two-thirds from 2011, IBM data show.

Apple’s iPad made up nearly 10% of online shopping traffic on Black Friday this year, according to IBM, while the iPhone brought in almost 9% and Android devices comprised 5.5%.

And IBM said shoppers are taking advantage of the technology to find better deals. Despite spending more overall, the average online order fell 4.7% to $181.22, and the number of items in each order decreased 12% to 5.6.

Retailers are taking note. Companies like , Fortune 500) and , Fortune 500) developed special Black Friday mobile apps featuring exclusive deals and store maps.

Still, despite the expanded schedule, Cyber Monday itself remains an important part of the holiday shopping season.

Andrew Lipsman, an industry analyst at data tracking firm ComScore, said he expects sales for the one-day Cyber Monday shopping event to be around $1.5 billion this year. That’s up from his calculations of $1.3 billion in 2011.

It will be a few weeks before full details on Thanksgiving week’s sales are made clear, but last year both Black Friday and Cyber Monday broke records. Total spending over the four-day weekend after Thanksgiving 2011 reached a record $52.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Black Friday 2012 was shaping up to be robust, with shoppers turning out even on Thanksgiving Day at stores including Toys R Us and , Fortune 500).


October 9, 2012

California gas prices hit record

Filed under: Uncategorized, canada — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:56 pm

Gas prices across California have soared to record highs, shooting up 50 cents a gallon in just the last week.

But even as prices are expected to rise slightly before falling, the spike is not likely to spread to other parts of the United States, experts say.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas in California edged up another 0.3 cent Tuesday, according to AAA’s latest reading, setting a record at $4.671.

It stood at around $4.17 on Oct. 1 but has risen every day since then. The biggest increase was a 17-cent spike Friday, followed Saturday by a 13-cent increase.

On Sunday, California environmental regulators, acting on a request from Gov. Jerry Brown, agreed to allow refineries to start making a cheaper, winter blend of gasoline as soon as possible — a move that could solve shortages of the more expensive summer blend that sparked the price spike.

Normally, refineries wouldn’t start making the winter blend until the end of October.

Most of the country makes the transition from the cleaner summer blends of gasoline to the cheaper winter blends on Sept. 15. California, with warmer average temperatures and the nation’s strictest air pollution rules, makes the transition six weeks later.

The cleaner gasoline is used in the summer to mitigate against the smog that accompanies warmer temperatures.

The switchover can often cause shortages of the summer blend and a temporary rise in prices. Refineries and stations don’t want to have an inventory of the more expensive gas when it is time to start selling the cheaper gas.

Refining capacity is also an issue. Tom Kloza, chief analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, which compiles prices for AAA, said a major refinery in Richmond, Calif., owned by , Fortune 500), still hasn’t returned to operation since an August fire.

More recently, California refineries owned by , Fortune 500) and , Fortune 500) were also off line for maintenance, although the Exxon refinery came back Friday, while Gov. Brown said the Tesoro refinery is due back in operation this week.

But Kloza said supplies are so tight that those latest disruptions caused wholesale gas prices to spike by $1.12 a gallon to $4.15 a gallon between Sept. 25 and Oct. 4.

He said the wholesale prices have already started to fall, dropping 47 cents on Friday and 10 cents Monday.

“I don’t want to say the coast is clear but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Kloza said. California retail prices are likely to top out at about $4.75 a gallon and then start to decline, he said.

The spike in California comes while gas and oil prices have remained relatively stable in the rest of the country. The national average for a gallon of regular gas has kept to a narrow range of between $3.78 and $3.82 during the last week. It edged 0.3 cent lower Tuesday, remaining around $3.82 a gallon.


September 28, 2012

Fiscal cliff: Payroll tax cut may not survive

Filed under: Uncategorized, loans — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:56 am

For all the uncertainty over how lawmakers will handle the expiring tax cuts under the fiscal cliff, there seems to be growing clarity surrounding at least one measure: the temporary 2% payroll tax cut.

Bottom line: It’s likely toast.

“Nobody is a champion for it,” said Sean West, the U.S. policy director for the Eurasia Group.

That isn’t necessarily surprising, since the payroll tax cut — worth 2% of one’s wages up to $110,100 — was intended to be a temporary way to boost the economy. It was put in place for one year in 2011 but was then extended for this year.

During that time, the measure has saved most of the country’s 160 million workers anywhere from $700 to $1,800 a year.

The payroll tax funds Social Security. The tax cut costs roughly $120 billion a year, but rather than let Social Security funding suffer, the Treasury Department has made the program whole with money from general funds. Translation: It’s adding to the country’s deficit.

At the same time, letting it expire will take money out of workers’ paychecks while the economic recovery is still tempered.

The Congressional Budget Office has noted that the payroll tax cut’s expiration, in combination with the end of extended unemployment benefits, would represent “significant sources of fiscal tightening” next year. (Related: CBO warns of fiscal cliff recession)

And a majority of economists recently surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics indicated they do favor another year-long extension Online payday loans.

But on Capitol Hill, no one from either party has really pushed for another year of the tax cut.

And the White House has been noncommittal. “We’ll evaluate the question of whether we need to extend it at the end of the year when we’re looking at a whole range of issues,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in early September.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did allow last week that she won’t advocate for an extension and said it’s time to think about reforming the tax code.

But, she added, “I could be convinced if [a payroll tax cut extension] was part of something that advanced our economy down the road.”

As big a tax break as the payroll tax cut may represent to individuals, it pales in political magnitude to the pending expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which promise once again to suck up most of the oxygen when Congress returns to work in mid-November.

“Perhaps there’s a small chance [President] Obama would take a payroll extension as a sweetener in a deal where he gets re-elected with a weak mandate and can’t get other things he wants,” Eurasia Group’s West said. “But that’s a lot of ifs.”


August 1, 2012

Manchester United IPO ranks team world’s most valuable

Filed under: Uncategorized, loans — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:28 am

The British soccer team Manchester United has filed for an initial public offering that would cement the team’s standing as the world’s most valuable sports franchise.

The IPO would trade at $16 to $20 a share and value the team at $2.6 billion to $3.3 billion. Overall, the IPO would value the team well above the $1.47 billion paid by its owners in a debt-financed takeover battle that concluded in 2005.

Shares are expected to start trading next week on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MANU.

Despite the team’s popularity and success, the company was not very profitable last year. The stock would trade at a valuation even pricier than the IPO of Facebook ().

One expert, Francis Gaskins, president, called the IPO price tag "awfully high" considering that the company’s revenue is growing only 6% annually in recent years. He said the valuation is one commonly associated with a fast-growing tech company.

"I wouldn’t buy it," he said.

The values of sports franchises are often inflated by owners willing to overpay for the glory of controlling a team.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, which Forbes estimated was worth $1.4 billion, was recently bought out of bankruptcy for $2.15 billion. ManU is already the world’s most valuable sports team, estimated to be worth $1.9 billion, just ahead of a $1.85 billion estimates for both the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys high quality business cards.

And the few teams that have been publicly traded in the past have not been great investments. The stocks of the Boston Celtics, the Cleveland Indians and the Florida Panthers all performed badly during their brief runs in public markets.

ManU is already taking steps to increase revenue and profits. On Monday it signed a seven-year deal with General Motors (, Fortune 500) to have its players wear the Chevrolet logo on their uniforms for a reported £27 million a year, starting in 2014, up from the £20 million annually that insurer Aon (, Fortune 500) is paying for the current deal.’s soccer coverage

The team intends to use much of the proceeds it expects to raise in the IPO to reduce its debt, which are one of the biggest drags on a company’s earnings.

But only about half the shares are being sold by the club; the other half are being sold by the Glazer family, the American owners of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers who bought ManU in a debt-financed takeover battle 2005.

ManU’s American owners are very unpopular with many of the team’s fans. That has made the IPO, especially the decision to trade in New York rather than London, extremely unpopular with fans as well. 


July 20, 2012

U.K. Budget Deficit Widens, Casting Doubt on Fiscal Targets - Bloomberg

Filed under: Uncategorized, canada — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:28 pm

Britain had a bigger budget deficit than economists forecast in June, casting fresh doubt on whether Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne can meet his full- year fiscal goals.

The shortfall, which excludes government support for banks, was 14.4 billion pounds ($23 billion) compared with 13.9 billion pounds a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics said in London today. The median forecast of 20 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey was for a deficit of 13.4 billion pounds. Revenue rose 3.6 percent and spending declined 0.8 percent.

With the economy struggling to climb out of a double-dip recession, concerns are mounting that Osborne will miss his target of cutting the deficit to 120 billion pounds in the current fiscal year.

June 22, 2012

U.K. Retail Sales Rise More Than Forecast After April Slump - Bloomberg

Filed under: Uncategorized, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 1:44 am

U.K. retail sales rose more than economists forecast in May, recovering some of the ground lost the previous month when poor weather damped demand.

Sales including auto fuel gained 1.4 percent from April, the Office for National Statistics said today in London. The median forecast of 20 economists in a Bloomberg News survey was for a 1.2 percent increase. Retail sales fell a revised 2.4 percent in April, curbed by the wettest April on record. Excluding fuel, sales increased 0.9 percent in May.

While easing inflation is easing the squeeze on Britons

June 18, 2012

Australia Has Scope to Respond to Europe Turmoil, Parkinson Says - Bloomberg

Filed under: Uncategorized, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 11:20 pm

Australia has scope to respond to an economic shock emanating from Europe, where

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