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Ah, science.

Posted by on 04 Dec 2009 | Tagged as: Business, Humour

The BMJ’s Christmas issue is full of goodness as usual.

Ingested foreign bodies and societal wealth: three year observational study of swallowed coins

Objective: To examine the relation between coins ingested by children and the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

But sadly, for it would’ve made a fine headline had the results been different,

Conclusion: There was no detectable difference in the total value of coins ingested, or ratio of coins to other objects swallowed, before or after a massive stock market crash

Contagion risk (non-flu version)

Posted by on 26 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: Business

Business reporters fell over each other today in an effort to categorize the impact of Dubai’s announcement that it was implementing a six-month “stand-still” on the debt of the real estate arm of its conglomerate Dubai World, essentially asking debtholders to hold onto bonds past maturity. Complicating the efforts of reporters to put the story into context was the fact that it is both American Thanksgiving and Eid Al-Adha in the Gulf, leading to an unusual absence of groupthink. So the shock of the Dubai default is either:

a. Similar to the Russian government’s default on its GKOs (short-term T-bills) in 1998, which led to the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management and — in retrospect — relatively short-lived market turmoil;
b. Akin to the Panic of 1907 (not really)
c. The Great Recession’s Creditanstalt, dragging Europe from its half-hearted recession into full-blown depression.

The ultimate effect won’t be clear for a while. (A conference call scheduled for today had to be cancelled because the phone lines were overwhelmed with worried investors, which didn’t help in soothing concerns.) There’s speculation Dubai could be forced to sell assets, such as major pieces of London real estate, to raise cash, which would certainly shake things up. British and European investors have by far the most exposure.

Apparently forethought isn’t one of the skills they should plan to share

Posted by on 16 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: Business, Current Events

Ah, woe. Carol Goar reports that retiring baby boomers plan to spend time volunteering, but:

But for the most part, the non-profit sector is not waiting with open arms for retired baby boomers with skills to share and time to spare.

“Logically, it should be a great opportunity,” says Michael Hall, vice-president of Imagine Canada, the umbrella organization for charities and non-profit organizations across the country. “But few organizations have the infrastructure to manage volunteers.

“You need to orient them, assist them and integrate them into your team. But where are the resources? Most organizations are stretched thin.”

Mmmhmm. And who, one might ask, was in charge a decade ago when nonprofits were told to “act more like businesses,” convert to a contract basis and stretch themselves so very thin, resulting in the current lack of capacity to manage volunteers?

Yeah. Boomers.

Well, THAT’ll fix the recession

Posted by on 09 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: Business

Funding one (1) 26-week internship is now worthy of a Federal press release:

Government of Canada helps post-secondary graduate gain work experience in aquatic research

The Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute will receive $14,189 for its Aquatic Health Researcher project through the Career Focus program of the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. This funding will help the Institute offer a recent post-secondary graduate a 26-week work experience placement, enabling this individual to use the skills he or she learned in school in order to gain permanent employment.

Perpetuating inequality

Posted by on 15 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Business

David Cay Johnston on why the government’s lack of interest in cracking down on Canadian users of tax havens is a problem:

“If the current law does not give the government the investigative tools to find wealthy and sophisticated tax cheats, then those tools need to be provided. Otherwise, you have a de facto policy that says that wage earners cannot cheat, because the government has a record of their income, but business owners, investors, and landlords can. That’s morally indefensible.”

I’ll have what they’re having

Posted by on 31 Aug 2009 | Tagged as: Business

You might think that, in a GDP report that revised the first quarter contraction to 6.1% from the already amazing 5.4%, a growth figure of 0.1% for June is not a conclusive sign that a recovery has taken hold. This is, apparently, because you are not Canadian business journalist, or economist employed by the Big 5.

The elusive bear

Posted by on 27 Aug 2009 | Tagged as: Business

Ontario forests are full of bears, but many hikers and campers never see the elusive animals at all. These days, financial bears are just as hard to find. I know I’m not the only one puzzled by the buoyant mood among economists and financial writers in Canada — ex-Merrill Lynch economist David Rosenberg and the Other Reader are on my side — but we appear to be alone in our skepticism, in spite of a host of economic indicators and other signs that might be expected to temper the unbridled optimism:

* Home sales have hit highs in some of the same areas (OK, Toronto) where unemployment is at an 18-year high, and is above the national average. How does that make sense?

* Back to unemployment for a second. It rose more than expected in July. Breaking down the figures shows that the part of the workforce actively looking for work has shrunk; another huge number of people are self-employed. Having recently spent a couple of months being counted among the self-employed, I can assure you that it is not an indicator that people laid off from higher-wage positions are replacing their former incomes, or are actually starting viable new businesses. It’s often a stopgap measure to bring in more income than EI would provide while looking for a job in a tough market.

*The number of people collecting EI has ballooned. In Toronto, the number has doubled in a year.

* We have deflation. Economists are spinning the most recent CPI reading the same way they spun the inflation beforehand: strip out crazy energy prices, everything is pretty stable. Except now, as before, we all have to pay for gas, heating oil, etc. Bottom line: not all prices are deflating, but some are. Never a sign of economic health.

All the consumer spending in the world can’t convince me that all the rest of it doesn’t matter.

Floating on a sea of oil

Posted by on 07 Jul 2009 | Tagged as: Business

So remember a year ago all those rumours about oil being stored at sea? Well, now there’s so much of it out there that I’d think twice before swimming in any ocean for a while. One oil-watcher calls it “the largest and longest continuous glut of supply that I have seen in 30 years of following energy prices” and thinks the price per barrel could fall from the current $70-ish to $20 before the end of the year.

I don’t see how this is unavoidable; I’m still puzzled that it hasn’t happened yet. In the early part of the decade, post Asian currency crisis, oil prices were at $20 per barrel. Now, however, consistently weakening demand and massive oversupply isn’t leading to lower prices — yet another example of markets not functioning like they should.

Canada has become so resource-dependent that a serious fall in oil prices would cripple any nascent recovery for quite some time. Wonder what the mood is like at the Stampede?

Wait… a contracting economy is *bad*?

Posted by on 02 Jun 2009 | Tagged as: Business, Current Events

Missed this the other day, but it jibes nicely with the giddy excitement about the Canadian economy reporting a mere 5.4% (annualized) contraction in the first quarter of 2009. -5.4%, guys! Practically growing! Never mind that the outlook is not for growth for the rest of the year, but for continued, if not necessarily as significant, contraction, while the now-official recession drags on. Who cares if there hasn’t been such a bad GDP reading since 1991. Green shoots!

And so, this makes sense:

Canadians optimistic about economy despite downturn: Poll

According to the article, the poll results show that Canadians have not been more optimistic about the economy in EIGHTEEN YEARS. Which, come to think of it, is also 1991, a miserable time of contraction that led to a painful, slow, lost decade (or most of one) in Canada. Good to see Canadians still have the sharp insight into the economic state of the nation displayed back then.

And there’s this: “Last weekend, 53 per cent of those surveyed said they thought the economy was in either in “good” or “very good” shape.” If this is the economy in “very good” shape, I’d hate to see the “fair” iteration.

Relax already

Posted by on 25 May 2009 | Tagged as: Business

Next casualty of the recession: spas. Any place whose doors I’ve darkened in the last ten years has been in touch over recent months; some highlights from this week:

We’re writing to share some news about some incredible Limited Time Only Offers. …Serious Savings While Appointments Last!

50% OFF Selected Facials

As a welcome back, we are pleased to offer you a *COMPLIMENTARY $25 Gift Card when you book a Therapeutic Body Massage of 60mins duration or more. You will also receive a 25% discount on retail items during your return visit!

Flash Promotion! $25 off Facials Tonight?

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