Sunday, 14 September 2014

Home Depot security hack: What to do if your cards are breached

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .

Consumer Confidence

The recent hacking of Home Depot's payment data systems serves as a reminder to consumers that their personal data from their payment cards can be vulnerable to security breaches.

On Monday, Home Depot announced that customers who used credit or debit cards at stores in Canada and the U.S. from April could be affected by the breach. The news came months after another large retailer, Target, revealed that more than 70 million people may have been affected by its own data breach, which, along with credit card data, included the stealing of names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.

But there are steps consumers should take after such a breach, and some steps to help maximize their protection.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

If Yes side wins, Royal Bank of Scotland would move to London

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .

Britain Earns RBS

The Royal Bank of Scotland has said it will move its headquarters to London if Scotland votes to break away from the United Kingdom.

Lloyds Banking Group, owner of Halifax and Bank of Scotland, also confirmed it will move its legal entities to Britain if the Yes campaign succeeds.   The smaller Clydesdale Bank has also announced plans to relocate south of the border to mitigate risks.

Pensions and insurance giant Standard Life has also advised investors it is “planning for new regulated companies in England to which we could transfer parts of our business if there was a need to do so.”

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Mark Carney signals U.K. interest rates to rise by spring

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .

Britain Mark Carney

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has served notice that Britain's interest rates could start rising next spring.

In a speech delivered Tuesday to U.K. trade unions, Carney said there was no firm timetable for rate hikes, but he expects the bank would meet its inflation target if it started lifting borrowing rates gradually in the spring.

That is in line with what investors currently expect, and could dovetail or come slightly ahead of the U.S. Fed’s timetable for rate hikes.

Fed chair Janet Yellen has said rates might rise “six months or so” from when the central bank stops its bond-buying program geared at keeping rates low. She is expected to halt the Fed's bond buying completely in October, which means she could be considering rate hikes in May or June.
In his speech, Carney has told trade unions he expects wages should start rising in real terms "around the middle of next year" and then accelerate higher. That would push up inflation in the U.K. and give Carney more justification for a rate hike. He also forecast unemployment should fall to 5.5 per cent.

Currently the Bank of England’s nine-member monetary policy committee is split on the issue of rate increases.

Last month, two members voted to move rates higher, but the rest said they wanted to see an improvement in wages and job creation.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Homeownership gap between starter, dream residence widens

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .


It’s getting harder for young families to move up from their first home to a mid- or higher-priced one because of the widening gap between starter and dream homes, according to a new report from CIBC World Markets.

In already expensive housing markets such as Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa, the mid- to high-priced homes are rising in price more quickly than cheaper homes, CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal says after studying housing data from across Canada.
Most Canadian couples assume they’ll start out in a smaller home, or possibly a condo, sometime in their 20s or 30s, then move up to a larger home as their family grows, Tal says.
"However, there are many indications that this cycle that dominated the Canadian housing market for decades is breaking," Tal says.

In the lower-price ranges, the Canadian housing market has cooled, in part because of measures taken by the federal government to make it harder to qualify for a mortgage. An abundant supply of new condos also prevents prices from rising quickly in this segment of the market, the CIBC report said.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Bombardier says CSeries test flights to resume this month

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .

Bombardier C series

Bombardier Aerospace announced plans Friday to resume test flights later this month with its CSeries commercial jetliner, nearly four months after an engine failure shut down the trials.

One test aircraft will resume flights this month and be joined later in the fall by other aircraft as they receive new engines. The aircraft that was damaged in May is being repaired and will rejoin the flight test fleet.
Rob Dewar, vice-president of the CSeries program, said the company is confident the CS100 aircraft will enter into service in the second half of next year despite the delay.

In June, Bombardier chairman Laurent Beaudoin suggested the flight tests would only be put on hold for a month following the malfunction which occurred during maintenance testing on the ground.

The much-delayed aircraft has completed 330 of 2,400 hours of flight tests required to win certification.
The company has not disclosed the cause of the May 29 engine failure that damaged a test aircraft and grounded flight testing, but it said the CSeries program has made headway in recent months by completing a series of activities including additional ground tests and software upgrades.

The delay has created some nervousness among investors and industry analysts, some of whom predicted further delays.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Malaysia Airlines renames controversial bucket list promotion

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .

Malaysia Airlines bucket list promotion

Malaysia Airlines has renamed a promotional competition asking people what activities and destinations are on their "bucket list" after acknowledging it was inappropriate given the two deadly disasters it has suffered this year.
A bucket list is a term used by some English-speakers to describe a list of adventures they want to have before they die.

The "My Ultimate Bucket List Campaign" asked customers to come up with suggestions, the best of which would win prizes including flights on the airline.

All references to the bucket list have been scrubbed from the airline's website but cached copies of the competition's terms and conditions are still visible in Google searches.

A statement from Malaysia Airlines didn't say what the new name of the campaign was, which is running in Australia and New Zealand until the end of the year.

The airline said Thursday that it had withdrawn the title because it was "found to be inappropriate at this point in time."

"The airline appreciates and respects the sentiments of the public and in no way did it intend to offend any parties," it said.

A Malaysia Airlines jet with 239 people on board went missing March 8 while en route to Beijing and no trace of it has been found. In July, a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Microsoft Windows targeted in China anti-trust probe

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .


Chinese anti-trust investigators are targetting Microsoft Corp. and its practice of bundling  its Windows operating system and Microsoft Office software.

Microsoft has not been fully transparent with information about its Windows and Office sales, Zhang Mao, the head of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), told reporters at a briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.

The anti-trust probe is part of a China-wide investigation that has zeroed in on companies such as QualComm, Daimler AG and Chrysler.
But the focus on Windows, which is the dominant operating system in China as in the rest of the world, has raised questions about whether China is clearing the decks for its own made-in-China operating system, currently under development.

After Edward Snowden exposed the vulnerabilities of Western operating systems by releasing U.S. government files, China stepped up the pressure on its software and technology firms to develop a domestic alternative.

The new operating system, expected to launch in October, with support for mobile devices landing later, is based on Linux.

The SAIC has raided Microsoft offices in China and accused the company of being unwilling to work with investigators.

"The investigation is presently ongoing, and we will disclose the results to the public in a timely fashion," Zhang said, adding that the probe is one of nine opened this year which include the software, tobacco, telecommunications, insurance, tourism and utilities sectors.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer steps down from board after buying Clippers

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is stepping down from the company's board, bringing to a close 34 years with the software giant.

Ballmer says he plans to devote more time to his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, civic contributions, teaching and study.
Microsoft published Ballmer's resignation letter on its website Tuesday along with a response from current CEO Satya Nadella thanking him and wishing him well.

The 58-year-old says he plans to hold on to his Microsoft stock and will continue to offer feedback on products and strategy. With 333.3 million shares worth $15 billion, Ballmer's 4 per cent stake in the company makes him the largest individual holder of Microsoft shares. A few institutional investors hold slightly more.

"I bleed Microsoft — have for 34 years and I always will," Ballmer wrote. "I will be proud, and I will benefit through my share ownership. I promise to support and encourage boldness by management in my role as a shareholder in any way I can."

Ballmer stepped down as chief executive in February, and since then Microsoft shares have risen about 24 per cent. He says his resignation from the board is timely as the company prepares for its next shareholder meeting set for sometime this fall.

Nadella thanked Ballmer for his support during the transition period and used the opportunity to reiterate the company's new focus on mobile devices and cloud computing. "Under your leadership, we created an incredible foundation that we continue to build on — and Microsoft will thrive in the mobile-first, cloud-first world," Nadella said.

Ballmer's departure leaves the board with 10 members. It has no immediate plans to replace him. The company adds a new board member about once every year or so. The most recent addition was John Stanton, chairman of wireless technology investment fund Trilogy Equity Partners, in July.

New Icelandic volcano rumblings threatens to ground air travel — again

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .

Iceland Volcano

The world's airline industry is on alert after Icelandic authorities have raised the alarm over a sudden flurry of small earthquakes that could cause one of the country's largest volcanoes to erupt.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office warned Tuesday it has detected more than 3,000 minor earthquakes since Saturday along a fault line in the country's centre.

Iceland earthquake Bardarbunga

Much of the activity is clustered around Bardarbunga — a subglacial stratovolcano under Iceland's largest glacier. "Several of these events were larger than magnitude 3," the office warns, with one touching 4.5 on the Richter scale — the strongest in that region since 1996 — although none has been that strong in the past 24 hours.

Although seismic activity in Iceland is routine, the sudden increase in number and intensity has volcanologists worried, because the last time similar activity was seen was in April 2010, when Eyjafjallajokull erupted and the plume of ash and smoke grounded transatlantic air travel for the better part of a month.

Seismologists say magma is moving horizontally, not yet vertically, and "no signs of migration towards the surface or any other signs of imminent or ongoing volcanic activity have been detected so far."

However, the aviation alert level has been raised to the second-most severe level as a precaution.
"Presently there are no signs of eruption, but it cannot be excluded that the current activity will result in an explosive subglacial eruption, leading to an outburst flood … and ash emission," the office said.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Canadians spend more on taxes than food, shelter: Fraser Institute

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .

Loan calculator

The average Canadian family spends more on taxes than on food, shelter and clothing combined,a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, a Canadian public policy think-tank that focuses on free markets and government policies targeting consumers. 

"If you asked people to name their household's biggest expense, many would likely say housing, but in reality, the average Canadian family spends more on taxes than all basic necessities including housing," the report's author Charles Lammam said of the paper, which tracks the total tax bill of the average Canadian family from 1961 to 2013.
In 2013, the study says the average Canadian family earned $77,381 and paid $32,369 in total taxes (or 41.8 per cent of income) compared to 36.1 per cent for food, shelter and clothing combined, the paper found.

By comparison, in 1961, the average family earned approximately $5,000 and spent much more of its income on food, shelter and clothing (56.5 per cent), while $1,675 went to taxes (33.5 per cent).

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Chrysler on comeback trail, but doubts linger about Fiat merger

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .

Fiat Chrysler

Chrysler remained on the comeback trail with a 22 per cent second-quarter profit increase, but its planned merger with Fiat is looking doubtful.

Shareholders of Fiat, the majority owner of Chrysler, overwhelmingly voted last week to merge the two companies. But on Wednesday, Fiat shares fell 5.5 per cent in Italy due to concerns that the merger could be derailed by investor flight.

The merger would move the new company's tax headquarters to London and list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange. It could be completed by mid-October.

But one important hurdle remains. Italian law gives dissenting shareholders the right to cash out. If they require the company to buy back stock worth more than 500 million euros, the merger is off.

Fiat shares hit

The Italian market drop reflects concerns that the payout, which has been set at 7.727 euros a share, or 16 per cent above Wednesday's close, will exceed Fiat's ceiling.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both companies, said Wednesday that fear of the merger being scuttled is overblown. If it doesn't happen, joint operations would continue, and Fiat would return with another proposal when conditions are more favourable, he said.

"I am absolutely unfazed by all of this," said Marchionne. Marchionne's comments came after Chrysler reported a relatively strong performance for the quarter, with profits fuelled by rising U.S. sales. The company made $619 million, compared with $507 million a year ago. Revenue rose 14 per cent to $20.5 billion.

But Marchionne also said he was not satisfied with the results, indicating that the next phase of Chrysler's revival would be to improve its profit margin — the per cent of revenue that it gets to keep.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Toronto restaurant brings home the bacon — on everything

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .

165615758 bacon

There’s lots of sizzle when you work with four types of bacon. Andrew Motta first fries up a ground bacon patty, tops it with bacon strips, and tops that off with Canadian peameal bacon. "We’re not done yet," he warns, as he piles on chipotle pulled pork and, to top it all off, a bun embedded with bacon bits.
"Because this is a sandwich you just don’t eat, you actually conquer, you get the bacon flag," Motta explains, puncturing The Notorious P.I.G. burger with a tiny paper flag promoting his new Toronto restaurant, Bacon Nation.

After downing the burger, customer Marcel Tualla concludes, "It was heaven."
Tualla was a vegetarian for 10 years, but he always missed bacon: "the saltiness, the texture, the fattiness."  So he’s returned to the processed pork treat he can’t resist.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Chocolate bar prices rising as candy bar makers see higher costs

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .

Britain Chocolate

Mars Inc., the snack company that makes M&M's, Snickers and their eponymous chocolate bar, said Thursday it will raise consumer prices for its products by an average of seven per cent to offset rising costs.
It's the first time the company has moved to hike prices since 2011.

The move comes after Hershey Co., the largest seller of chocolate in the U.S., said last week it would also raise prices by an average of about eight per cent.
"In the three years since our last price increase, in March 2011, we have invested significantly in the category and have experienced a dramatic increase in our costs of doing business," Mars said.

Globally, Mars is the third biggest confectionery business next to Nestle and Cadbury, which is owned by consumer goods conglomerate Mondelez International.

Monday, 21 July 2014

3 ways Target missed the mark in Canada

Otmane El Rhazi from CBC | Business News .

Target Canada 20140124

The impending Canadian launch of fabled American retailers Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue is eagerly anticipated by consumers, but the disastrous rollout of Target stores might make executives pause.

It’s no secret that Target stores in Canada have struggled out of the gate. The Minnesota-based retailer posted a $1-billion loss in Canada last year. Customer satisfaction is abysmal, despite efforts to improve product availability and pricing.
Just this week, a retail analyst at Credit Suisse recommended executives shutter the Canadian operations entirely only 18 months after the stores opened. The company has balked at such a move and is reaffirming its commitment to the Canadian market, at least for now.

But Target is not the only American retailer to flounder.
In the wake of the 2008 recession, many American retailers turned their sights north, a market that was spared the worst of the economic downturn.