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Applications for US jobless aid fall by 14K to 298K, another sign the job market is healing

WASHINGTON - Fewer people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, another sign the job market is improving.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly claims for jobless aid fell 14,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 298,000. The prior week's figures were revised up slightly to 311,000.

The less-volatile four-week average rose 4,750 to 300,750. It remains close to levels that predate the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs.

"Readings at or below the (300,000) mark are extremely rare in an historical context," Robert Kavcic, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients. "Going back to 1990, we've seen it only for a short period during the height of the technology bubble and very briefly in early 2006 when the housing market boom was peaking."

Employers aren't just keeping workers. They're hiring, too. They added 209,000 jobs in July, the sixth straight month that job gains exceeded 200,000. The economy has generated 244,000 new jobs a month since February.

The recent hiring has encouraged more people to look for work, causing July's unemployment rate to rise to 6.2 per cent from 6.1 per cent in June. The government counts only people searching for jobs as unemployed.

Hiring has yet to boost wages by much. Wage growth has slightly outpaced inflation since the recession ended more than five years ago.

But more jobs mean more people getting paychecks, which could drive consumer spending and economic growth.

The economy has shown other signs of improvement. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that U.S. home construction rose to an eight-month high in July, regaining momentum after two months of declines.

And some Federal Reserve think the economy is healing fast enough that Fed should act sooner than previously thought to reduce the extraordinary support it's been providing the economy through super-low interest rates.

Minutes of the Fed's discussion at its July 29-30 meeting released Wednesday showed that some officials thought the Fed would need "to call for a relatively prompt move" to reduce the stimulus it has supplied since the financial crisis erupted in 2008. Otherwise, these officials felt the Fed risked overshooting its targets for unemployment and inflation.

The Canadian Press


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Gold stocks lead TSX lower amid glum eurozone, Chinese purchasing managers data

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market was lower Thursday amid data showing a weakening in Chinese manufacturing and tepid growth figures from the eurozone.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 21.3 points to 15,540.65, weighed down in particular by gold stocks as bullion prices continued to retreat.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.15 of a cent to 91.3 cents US.

U.S. indexes advanced with the Dow Jones industrials ahead 21.72 points to 17,000.85, the Nasdaq rose 2.17 points to 4,528.65 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 2.04 points to 1,988.55.

"There was a handful of purchasing managers index (PMI) readings for August released around the globe overnight, and the overall tone was not all that great," said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Robert Kavcic.

The preliminary version of HSBC's manufacturing index for China fell to a three-month low of 50.3 from 51.7 in July, indicating that manufacturing businesses are barely growing.

The HSBC report adds to other recent indicators that the recovery is still shaky. Earlier this month, data showed that China's exports accelerated but imports sagged, which may reflect weakening domestic demand.

Also, the purchasing managers index for the eurozone published by Markit Economics fell to 52.8 from 53.8 in July. The report followed other data earlier this month that showed the 18-country eurozone grew at only a slow pace in August, a sign it remains sluggish after a disappointing second quarter in which it did not expand at all.

The news from Japan was more positive — there was a firm increase in Japan's manufacturing PMI to 52.4 from 50.5 in the prior month, ahead of expectations and the best level since March.

Meanwhile, the minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting released Wednesday indicated that the U.S. central bank is in no rush to hike rates. However, the minutes also showed greater dissension among Fed members on how fast the labour market is improving, a key element in determining when the Fed will raise rates from near zero where they've been since the financial crisis.

The Fed has emphasized that economic data, not the calendar, will determine when it hikes rates, generally expected around the middle of 2015.

Slack in the labour market has been a particular concern, a topic that Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen is expected to address in her speech to the central bank's economic symposium at the end of the week.

The gold sector led decliners, down 1.6 per cent as worries the Fed could move sooner than expected to hike interest rates and a lessening of tensions in the Ukraine/Russia crisis continued to pummel bullion prices. The December gold contract in New York fell $18.90 to US$1,276.30 an ounce.

The metals and mining segment fell 1.15 per cent as the China data helped push September copper down one cent to US$3.16 a pound.

The energy sector edged 0.12 per cent lower while October crude in New York gained 18 cents to US$93.62 a barrel.

The TSX found some lift from financials and consumer staples stocks.

The Canadian Press


Sears 2nd-quarter loss widens as retailer continues to deal with sluggish sales

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. - Sears Holdings Inc. recorded a hefty second-quarter loss Thursday on another sales slump, raising more concerns about the future of a company that once was a staple of American shopping.

The company, which operates Sears and Kmart, said it plans to do more cost-cutting to right the ship. That includes closing more stores beyond the 130 that it had announced earlier this year.

But investors weren't encouraged. They sent shares down 4 per cent in premarket trading.

Sears, controlled by billionaire hedge fund investor Edward Lampert, lost $573 million, or $5.39 per share, for the period ended Aug. 2. That's more than double the loss of $194 million, or $1.83 per share, a year earlier. It marked its ninth straight quarterly loss.

Revenue declined 10 per cent to $8 billion from $8.87 billion. One bright spot was online and multi-channel sales, which increased 18 per cent.

The challenges facing CEO and Chairman Lampert are enormous. The company has been cutting costs, reducing inventory and selling assets to return to profitability.

At the same time, it's shifting its focus on running a store network to operating a member-focused business called Shop Your Way. But its biggest albatross remains its stores, which have been criticized for being outdated and shabby.

Lampert, a billionaire hedge fund investor, combined Sears and Kmart in 2005, about two years after he helped bring Kmart out of bankruptcy. But it has faced mounting pressure from nimbler rivals like Wal-Mart Stores and Home Depot.

Sears is also facing broader issues that are tripping up many other retailers. Like other stores catering to the low- to middle-income customers, Sears is grappling with a slowly recovering economy that's not benefiting all Americans equally. It also is wrestling with shoppers' shift away from physical stores to PCs and mobile devices for shopping and research.

Lampert said in a statement that the second-quarter performance was unacceptable even though he also said the chain has showed progress.

"I am personally committed to investing in and driving our transformation, improving the profit performance of the company, ensuring our financial flexibility, all while creating shareholder value," said Lampert in a prerecorded call.

Sears said it is still looking at options to sell its auto centre business and Sears Canada operations. It recently spun off clothing business Lands' Ends as a separate public company.

Sears also said it plans to improve pricing and promotions. And it said will continue to invest in its member-focused business called Shop Your Way where members receive incentives like extra discounts.

Sales to Shop Your Way members climbed to 73 per cent of eligible sales, compared with 71 per cent a year earlier.

Sales at Kmart stores open at least a year fell 1.7 per cent.

At Sears locations, the figure edged up 0.1 per cent. Sales at stores open at least a year is a key indicator of a retailer's health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

Its stock declined $1.44 cents to $34.51 in premarket trading.

The Canadian Press




Actor Matthew McConaughey is Lincoln's new pitchman

DETROIT - Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey is the new spokesman for Ford's luxury Lincoln brand.

Lincoln says McConaughey will appear in a series of TV and digital ads featuring Lincoln's new small SUV, the MKC.

McConaughey has a multiyear contract with the brand.

The actor says in a statement that he is a longtime admirer of Lincoln. In his 2011 movie "The Lincoln Lawyer," McConaughey stars as an attorney who works out of the back of a 1988 Lincoln Town Car.

The Canadian Press


Tooth fairy pays a premium for baby teeth in the Maritimes, skips Quebec

TORONTO - If you're a kid in Atlantic Canada, here's a reason to smile. According to a new survey, the tooth fairy is paying a premium for baby teeth in the Maritimes and Newfoundland.

At $3.46 a tooth, it's 19 per cent higher than the national average of $2.80.

Even better, 35 per cent of respondents in Atlantic Canada said their children found $5 or more per tooth under their pillows in 2014.

Quebec children were the least likely to get a visit from the tooth fairy — 13 per cent received no money for their lost teeth. For those who did, $2.06 was the average rate.

The findings are from a telephone survey of approximately 1,000 households with children under age 13 conducted for Visa Canada.

The company is promoting the launch of an online financial calculator that allows children and parents to compare their earnings with other children from similar households in Canada.

Ontario reported the second-highest going rate for baby teeth at $3.21 apiece.

"Generally, kids are doing really well," said Visa spokesperson Michelle Michalak.

If kids in Atlantic Canada and Ontario save the funds, by the time they lose all 20 baby teeth they will have stashed away $69 and $64 respectively.

"Every little bit adds up, so really it is an opportunity to talk to kids about managing their money," said Michalak.

The average in the Prairies was $2.43 per tooth, but 55 per cent could expect to receive up to $5. In British Columbia, children got an average of $2.47 per tooth.

The poll was conducted for Visa by GfK Canadian Omnibus Service and had a claimed margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The Canadian Press


Loonie rises amid tepid China/eurozone data; traders look to Fed chair speech

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar was slightly higher Thursday as markets focused on some glum purchasing managers data from China and the eurozone and looked to a key speech from the head of the Federal Reserve.

The loonie rose 0.06 of a cent to 91.21 cents US.

The dollar lost almost 1/4 of a cent Wednesday as the minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting indicated that the central bank is in no rush to hike rates. However, the minutes also showed greater dissension among Fed members on how quickly the labour market is improving, a key element in determining when the Fed will raise rates from near zero where they've been since the financial crisis.

Slack in the labour market has been a particular concern, a topic that Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen is expected to address in her speech to the central bank's economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Friday.

Oil and metal prices backed off as the preliminary version of HSBC's manufacturing index for China fell to a three-month low of 50.3 from 51.7 in July, indicating that manufacturing businesses are barely growing.

The HSBC report adds to other recent indicators that the recovery is still shaky. Earlier this month, data showed that China's exports accelerated but imports sagged, which may reflect weakening domestic demand.

Also, the purchasing managers index for the eurozone published by Markit Economics fell to 52.8 from 53.8 in July. The report followed other data earlier this month that showed the 18-country eurozone grew at only a slow pace in August, a sign it remains sluggish after a disappointing second quarter in which it did not expand at all.

The news from Japan was more positive — there was a firm increase in Japan's manufacturing PMI to 52.4 from 50.5 in the prior month, ahead of expectations and the best level since March.

On the commodity markets, October crude in New York declined 67 cents to US$92.78 a barrel.

September copper slipped two cents to US$3.16 a pound while December bullion fell $18.20 to US$1,277 an ounce.

The Canadian Press


Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary named among the best places to live: The Economist

TORONTO - Three Canadian cities — Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary — have been named as some of the best places to live in the world, according to a report by The Economist.

In the annual poll, the magazine's Intelligence Unit ranked Vancouver as the third most livable city in the world; followed by Toronto at number four, and Calgary tied for fifth place with Adelaide, Australia.

Melbourne, Australia topped the list of 140 cities for the fourth year in a row, with Vienna, Austria coming in second overall.

The Economist ranks the cities on 30 factors across various categories, including stability, health care, culture, environment, education and infrastructure.

Rounding out the top 10 were Sydney, Australia, Helsinki, Finland, Perth, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand.

The report noted the world's most livable cities were often mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with low population density.

"This can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure," said the report. "Eight of the top 10 scoring cities are in Australia and Canada, with population densities of 2.88 and 3.40 people per square kilometres respectively."

It also pointed out that although crime rates may be on the rise in some of the top-tier cities, it wasn't in the case in all the top 10 cities.

Vancouver was an example where crime has been steadily decreasing after the city hit a decade-long decline in the homicide rate to a record low in 2013.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, human rights violations and conflict were responsible for many of the reasons for the bottom 10 cities on the list.

Damascus, Syria was ranked the least livable city in the world, preceded by Dhaka, Bangladesh, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Lagos, Nigeria and Karachi, Pakistan.

"Conflict is responsible for many of the lowest scores. This is not only because stability indicators have the highest single scores, but also because factors defining stability spread to have an adverse effect on other categories," said the report.

"For example, conflict will not just cause disruption in its own right, it will also damage infrastructure, overburden hospitals, and undermine the availability of goods,services and recreational activities."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly referred to Vancouver's homicide rate.

The Canadian Press


Bank of America reaches $17B settlement with US over sale of securities

WASHINGTON - Bank of America has reached a record settlement of nearly $17 billion to resolve an investigation into its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis, officials directly familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

One of the officials, who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the announcement isn't scheduled until Thursday at the earliest, said the bank will pay $9.65 billion in cash and provide consumer relief valued at $7 billion.

The deal is the largest settlement arising from the economic meltdown in which millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure. It follows agreements in the last year with Citigroup for $7 billion and with JPMorgan Chase & Co. for $13 billion.

Like the Bank of America deal, those settlements were a mixture of hard cash and "credits" for various forms of consumer aid that the banks promised to provide in coming years.

The Bank of America settlement was negotiated through a joint federal and state working group established by President Barack Obama two years ago with the Justice Department and other federal and state authorities. Individual states are expected to share in the settlement.

Justice Department spokeswoman Ellen Canale declined to comment, as did New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a co-chairman of the group. The bank also declined comment.

The deal requires Bank of America to acknowledge making serious misrepresentations about the quality of its residential mortgage-backed securities issued by itself and by Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch. Those institutions were acquired by the bank when they were on the brink of failure in 2008 and they were responsible for the bulk of the questionable loans.

The deals are intended to offer some financial relief to homeowners, whose mortgages were bundled into securities by the banks in question and then sold to investors.

The securities contained residential mortgages from borrowers who were unlikely to be able to repay their loans. Still, the securities were promoted as relatively safe investments until the housing market collapsed and investors suffered billions of dollars in losses.

The poor quality of the loans led to huge losses for investors and a slew of foreclosures, kicking off the recession that began in late 2007. The cash totals now being paid by some of the country's largest banks are not nearly enough to reverse the damages caused by the bursting of the housing bubble and the ensuing recession.

Bank of America had argued that it shouldn't be held liable for the subprime mortgages issued by Countrywide and Merrill Lynch. Combined, those three firms issued $965 billion in mortgage-backed securities from 2004 to 2008, according to public records. Roughly 75 per cent of that total came from Countrywide.

In a federal lawsuit last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Bank of America and two subsidiaries with defrauding investors in an offering of residential mortgage-backed securities by failing to disclose key risks and misrepresenting facts about the underlying mortgages.

The Justice Department filed a parallel civil action against Bank of America alleging violations of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act.

___

Virtanen reported from Albany, New York. Associated Press writers Josh Boak, Pete Yost and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

The Canadian Press


Brigham Young bookstore removes Hallmark greeting cards celebrating same-sex marriages

SALT LAKE CITY - Greeting cards celebrating same-sex marriages turned up at the Brigham Young University bookstore Tuesday.

Placed by Hallmark, the cards reading "Mr. and Mr." and "Mrs. and Mrs." were quickly removed when bookstore staff discovered them after photos surfaced online. The outside vendor stocked the shelves without realizing the school wouldn't want to sell the cards marketed to buyers celebrating unions between two brides and two grooms, BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said.

It wasn't immediately clear when they were placed, but Jenkins said they weren't up long. BYU staffers have spoken with the company about leaving similar cards off university store shelves in the future. The school doesn't plan on ending its contract with Hallmark.

"This was just someone stocking the shelves who wasn't aware," she said. "We've been able to work with them."

Asked why they were removed, Jenkins referenced the BYU honour code. It states that while being attracted to people of the same gender doesn't violate the honour code, acting on those feelings is a violation.

"Homosexual behaviour includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings," it states.

BYU is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has stood behind its belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman despite a growing societal movement in support of legalizing gay marriage.

Calls to Hallmark weren't returned Wednesday.

Samy Galvez, president of the group Understanding Same Gender Attraction (USGA) and a senior at BYU, said changes to the honour code in 2007 and 2010 allowed students to talk about their sexual orientation without fear of being expelled.

Though he declined to comment on the greeting cards, calling it an accident, Galvez said he's generally found a welcoming environment at BYU.

"I was really amazed to see how welcoming and how loving people are," he said. "Even though you know people adhere to a standard of conduct of not advocating for same-sex marriage, at the same time that doesn't mean they aren't capable of showing empathy."

The Canadian Press


Some Fed officials argue that economy is improving fast enough to signal lower support

WASHINGTON - Some Federal Reserve officials think the U.S. economy is improving fast enough that the Fed will need to act sooner than previously thought to slow the extraordinary support it's been providing through ultra-low interest rates.

Minutes of the Fed's discussion at its July 29-30 meeting released Wednesday show that some officials thought the Fed would need "to call for a relatively prompt move" to reduce the stimulus it has supplied since the financial crisis erupted in 2008. Otherwise, these officials felt the Fed risked overshooting its targets for unemployment and inflation.

In the end, the Fed made no changes at the July meeting. It approved, 9-1, keeping its current stance on interest rates.

Still, the minutes revealed a sharp and perhaps intensifying debate within the Fed about how and when to scale back its help for a steadily improving economy.

Those who think the Fed should withdraw its support only slowly cited persistent drags on the job market despite solid hiring and a steady drop in the unemployment rate: High levels of people who have been unemployed for more than six months; many people who are working part time even though they want full-time jobs; and chronically weak pay growth.

In addition, the minutes showed that the Fed debated how to unwind the bond purchases it's made over the past six years to keep long-term rates low. Decisions such as how and when to start reducing its enormous investment portfolio — amounting to nearly $4.5 trillion — remain unsettled. The minutes showed that Fed officials expect to have more details on the process to announce before year's end.

There was also disagreement over what mix of tools the Fed should use to eventually raise rates. But "almost all" officials thought the Fed should keep its target for the federal funds rate, the rate which banks charge each other, as the key policy rate.

The Fed's target range for the funds rate has remained at a record low between zero and 0.25 per cent since December 2008. The minutes stated that officials think the Fed should keep using a quarter-point range when it begins raising this rate, rather than specifying a specific rate.

Officials felt the size of the bond holdings should be reduced "gradually and predictably" over time to the smallest level possible that would be consistent with the Fed's policy. Before the crisis hit with force in the fall of 2008, the Fed's balance sheet was only around $900 billion.

The minutes stated that most officials favoured ending or at least reducing the re-investment of the Fed's bond holdings sometime after the first increase in the funds rate. By stopping the re-investment of bond holdings as they mature, the Fed would begin reducing its overall holdings.

Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said the minutes showed the Fed was moving closer to raising rates.

Many economists still think the central bank will wait until next summer to start raising rates. But Dales said he foresees the first increase much sooner — in March — because he expects the job market to maintain better-than-expected improvement.

Dales said the information revealed in the minutes will heighten the attention paid to the speech that Fed Chair Janet Yellen will give Friday to open the annual economic conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Investors will be watching to see whether Yellen moderates her view that the economy still needs significant support from the Fed.

The minutes of the July meeting were released after the customary three weeks after the Fed's policy meeting. In its policy statement released after that meeting, the Fed acknowledged that growth was strengthening. But it indicated that it needed to see further improvement in the job market before it starts raising its key short-term rate.

It retained language in the statement that it planned to keep that rate low "for a considerable time" after it ends its monthly bond purchases.

At the meeting, the Fed reduced the bond purchases by another $10 billion to $25 billion. It was the sixth $10 billion reduction in the purchases. Before the reductions began in December, the Fed was buying $85 billion in bonds each month as a way to keep long-term interest rates low.

Charles Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, dissented from the Fed move. He objected to repeating language in the statement that the first rate hike won't occur until a "considerable time" after the bond purchases end. Plosser argued that retaining this language failed to take account of the considerable improvements in the economy.

Though many economists think the Fed will begin raising rates next summer, the discussion revealed in the minutes could alter such a timetable.

The Canadian Press


Most actively traded companies on the TSX

Some of the most active companies traded Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange:

Toronto Stock Exchange (15,561.95, up 84.78 points):

Mercator Minerals Ltd. (TSX:ML). Miner. Down one cent, or 28.57 per cent, to 2.5 cents on 13.5 million shares.

Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. (TSX:PRE). Oil and gas. Up 19 cents, or 0.89 per cent, to 21.65 on 11.9 million shares.

Banro Corp. (TSX:BAA). Miner. Up 4.5 cents, or 18 per cent, to 29.5 cents on 8.8 million shares.

Torex Gold Resources Inc. (TSX:TXG). Miner. Down six cents, or 3.49 per cent, to $1.66 on 4.3 million shares.

Twin Butte Energy Ltd. (TSX:TBE). Oil and gas. Up four cents, or 2.19 per cent, to $1.87 on 3.6 million shares.

Petrowest Corp. (TSX:PRW). Oil and gas. Down five cents, or 4.07 per cent, to $1.18 on 3.2 million shares.

Companies reporting major news:

Sears Canada Inc. (TSX: SCC). Retail. Down 12 cents, or 0.75 per cent, to $15.95 on 8,208 shares. The company lost $21.3 million in its latest quarter as it was hit by severance and impairment charges and an unseasonably cool spring that hurt sales. The loss amounted to 21 cents per share, in the second quarter, compared with a profit of $152.8 million, or $1.50 per share, in the same period last year when its results were boosted by early lease terminations.

The Canadian Press


TSX up as Fed minutes indicate no rush to hike rates, dissension on job growth

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed higher Wednesday as traders got some reassurance about interest rates from the minutes of the latest meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 84.78 points to 15,561.95. The Canadian dollar was down 0.23 a cent at 91.15 cents US as the greenback strengthened after the release of the minutes.

Most U.S. markets finished higher as the minutes indicated that the U.S. central bank is in no rush to hike rates. However, they also showed greater dissension among Fed members on how fast the labour market is improving, a key element in determining when it will raise rates from near zero, where they've been since the financial crisis.

The Dow Jones industrials gained 59.54 points to 16,979.13, the Nasdaq declined 1.03 points to 4,526.48 and the S&P 500 index climbed 4.91 points at 1,986.51.

The Fed has emphasized that economic data, not the calendar, will determine when it hikes rates, generally expected around the middle of 2015.

Slack in the labour market has been a particular concern, a topic that Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen is expected to address in her speech to the central bank's economic symposium at the end of the week.

"We’re looking to confirm the Fed’s accommodative stance and give us a bit of insight on how they think about the slack in the labour market," said Patrick Blais, managing director and portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management.

While U.S. job growth has been coming in at around 200,000 monthly, the participation rate has drifted down to a percentage in the lows 60s.

"And, in the back of their mind, they want to play safe and make sure the U.S. is on a real sustainable footing before giving any indication that they’re going to retreat from their easy monetary policy stance," Blais said.

Traders also digested a mixed bag of data from the retail sector.

Sears Canada Inc. (TSX:SCC) reported a quarterly net loss of $21.3 million, or 21 cents per share, compared with a profit of $152.8 million, or $1.50, a year ago. Same-store sales dropped 6.8 per cent, which the company attributed partly to an unseasonably cool spring. Its shares shed 12 cents to $15.95.

U.S. retailer Target, which is in the midst of a costly expansion into Canada, posted adjusted earnings of 78 cents a share, a penny less than expected. Revenue came in at US$17.41 billion, higher than the US$17.38 billion that analysts expected. Its shares erased early losses to advance $1.09 to US$60.34 as Target also cut its 2014 earnings forecast to between US$3.10 and US$3.30 a share, versus the previous forecast of US$3.49.

Quarterly net income at home improvement retailer Lowe's increased 10 per cent to US$1.04 billion, or $1.04 per share, bolstered by improving weather. The performance beat analysts' expectations, but the company lowered its full-year revenue outlook slightly. Its shares were up 80 cents at US$52.32.

The metals and mining sector led advancers, up two per cent as September copper shot up nine cents to US$3.18 a pound. Some analysts attributed the jump to signs of a rebound in the U.S. housing sector, including strong data on housing starts and solid improvement in a prominent builders' confidence survey.

The energy gained 0.7 per cent with the September crude contract — which expires Wednesday — surging $1.59 to US$96.07 a barrel. The October contract climbed 59 cents to US$93.45. Prices shot up as data showed a drop in U.S. supplies of about 4.5 million barrels last week, about three times the amount that had been expected.

The gold sector edged up about 0.15 per cent as December bullion dipped $1.50 to US$1,295.20 an ounce.

The Canadian Press


Alberta court fines food giant Cargill $80,000 for environmental law breach

EDMONTON - An Alberta court has fined the company that owns the largest beef processing plant in Canada $80,000 for breaking an environmental law.

A provincial court judge has ruled that Cargill Limited failed to immediately report intentionally diluted wastewater samples in 2012 from the company's High River plant.

According to the agreed statements of facts, an employee tampered with three treatment wastewater samples containing phosphorus before they were sent to an external lab for analysis.

The tampering made the phosphorus content of the samples too low.

Phosphorus can cause harm to aquatic life, but Alberta Environment says there is no evidence that happened in this case.

The employee was confronted by Cargill and has since resigned from the company.

Earlier this year Cargill said the test results were compromised during a time when its waste water treatment system was being improved.

The Canadian Press


Loonie lower, greenback strengthens: Fed minutes show growing debate about rates

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar closed lower Wednesday as the release of the minutes of the latest meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve showed a sharpening debate within the central bank about when to hike rates.

The loonie was down 0.23 of a cent at 91.15 cents US as the Fed also continued to indicate that the central bank is in no rush to raise rates from close to zero, where they have been since the financial crisis.

The minutes showed that some officials thought the Fed would need to call for "a relatively prompt move" to reduce the stimulus it has supplied since the financial crisis erupted in 2008. Otherwise, these officials felt the Fed risked overshooting its targets for unemployment and inflation.

Those who think the Fed should withdraw its support only slowly cited persistent drags on the job market despite solid hiring and a steady drop in the unemployment rate.

The Fed has emphasized that economic data, not the calendar, will determine when it hikes rates, generally expected around the middle of 2015.

Slack in the labour market has been a particular concern, a topic that Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen is expected to address in her speech to the central bank's economic symposium at the end of the week.

While U.S. job growth has been coming in at around 200,000 monthly, the participation rate has drifted down to a percentage in the lows 60s.

The loonie had traded higher in the morning after Statistics Canada reported that wholesale sales rose 0.6 per cent to $53 billion in June, a third consecutive increase.

The agency said that sales in the vehicle sector declined 2.4 per cent to $9.1 billion. But this was offset by gains in five subsectors, led by a 3.1 per cent rise in the miscellaneous subsector, which includes agricultural supplies, wholesalers of logs and wood chips, minerals, ores and precious metals, and second-hand goods

Prices were mixed on commodity markets with the September crude contract — which expires Wednesday — was up $1.59 to US$96.07 a barrel. The October contract climbed 59 cents to US$93.45. Prices rose as data showed a drop in U.S. supplies of about 4.5 million barrels last week, about three times the amount that had been expected.

September copper shot up nine cents to US$3.18 a pound. Some analysts attributed the jump to strong signs of a rebound in the U.S. housing sector, including strong data on housing starts and a jump in a prominent builders confidence survey.

December gold bullion dipped $1.50 to US$1,295.20 an ounce.

The Canadian Press




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197553810-4100 Gallaghers Parkland Dr.
2 bedrooms 3 baths
$719,000
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