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Post Holdings to acquire Michael Foods for $2.45 billion to expand range of food products

ST. LOUIS - Cereal maker Post Holdings Inc. is buying fellow packaged food maker Michael Foods Inc. in a $2.45 billion deal that will expand Post's range of products.

Privately held Michael Foods makes a variety of egg, potato and dairy products. Its brands include Papetti's, Crystal Farms and Simply Potatoes. It is based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

St. Louis-based Post says Michael will keep operating independently under current management.

Post also makes nutrition drinks and a variety of store brand products including pasta and peanut butter.

Post plans to fund the acquisition with debt and cash on hand. It also plans to raise up to $500 million with a stock sale.

Michael Foods is owned by an investor group that includes GS Capital Partners, Thomas H. Lee Partners and members of the company's management.

The Canadian Press




Six unions band together to fight 'devastating cuts' demanded by Liberals

TORONTO - Premier Kathleen Wynne likes to paint the Progressive Conservatives as the instigators of labour unrest, but she's the one waging war, union leaders said Wednesday.

Six public sector unions representing about 57,000 members are issuing a call to arms and joining forces to fight what they're calling "devastating" cuts to Ontario civil servants.

"We will not let the government pick us off one at a time," said Gary Gannage, president of the Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario.

The governing Liberals are demanding cuts, clawbacks and concessions on health and retiree benefits, sick pay and salary progression, he said.

It flies in the face of Wynne's recent comments that it would be a mistake to "declare a war on labour" as the Progressive Conservatives would do if they were in power, he said.

"I feel like posting that statement on the door of the negotiating rooms that I'm currently spending most of my days in, because it feels like war has been declared," Gannage said.

It hasn't been this bad in the 34 years he's been in the public service, he said. That's why the six unions have signed a "historic" pact to stick together, he added, something that hasn't been seen since the previous NDP government imposed austerity measures on the civil service — including the notorious unpaid "Rae Days."

The group includes the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents 35,000 government workers, and the Professional Engineers, Government of Ontario, which represents 615 surveyors and engineers who work directly for the province.

"We've got a lot of experience with burn barrels, strike lines and how to shut down the Ministry of Finance," said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

He said he doesn't understand why the Liberals are picking a fight with the public service. At least the Tories have been honest that they'd force a pay freeze, Thomas said.

"Even (Tory Leader Tim) Hudak, he'll just pass legislation, he wouldn't torture you so long at the table and cost you a lot of money," he said. "He'd just go screw you."

PEGO, which agreed to a two-year wage freeze in 2013, said its members take their role in protecting the public seriously and don't want to be concerned about potential cuts to their pensions and benefits.

"We want to make sure that the food you eat is going to be safe, the water you drink is going to be safe," said union president Ping Wu.

Government Services Minister John Milloy had little to say in response, insisting he won't negotiate through the media.

"Talks are continuing and I always remain confident and optimistic that we're going to reach a deal that's in everyone's best interest," he said.

Milloy wouldn't say what the government is seeking in its negotiations with AMAPCEO. But the union said the Liberals are effectively demanding a wage freeze for four more years and a halt to merit pay for most employees, which would prevent them from moving within their salary range.

The government is also trying to reduce long-term disability benefits and slash pensionable income for employees with a disability, among other things, the union said.

In 2010, the cash-strapped Liberals announced they would seek to freeze wages for two years from the public sector to balance the books.

Some groups have been able to negotiate hefty pay raises since then, such as this year's 8.5 per cent increase for the Ontario Provincial Police. Wynne also re-opened talks with public school teachers after the government made the controversial move to force contracts on them that froze their wages.

Gannage said he won't slam other unions for successfully negotiating new collective agreements, but there is "inconsistency" in the government's approach.

"In this season, there seems to be some availability to form partnerships with certain groups," he said.

"And then, you know, turn the corner and all of a sudden, the fiscal situation is so terrible that you have find your own offsets to pay for your own increases."

AMAPCEO, which represents 11,500 professional and supervisor employees, said negotiations are currently deadlocked and the two sides are in mediation.

The union received a 94-per-cent vote in favour in its strike vote in late March.

The Canadian Press


UnitedHealth's 1st-quarter profit tumbles 8 per cent, insurer cites overhaul costs

UnitedHealth Group's first-quarter net income slid 8 per cent as funding cuts to a key product and costs imposed by the health care overhaul dented the health insurer's performance.

The Minnetonka, Minn., company said Thursday the overhaul and government budget cuts added about 35 cents per share in costs during the quarter. The federal law aims to provide coverage for millions of uninsured people, but it also trims funding for Medicare Advantage plans, changes how insurers can write their coverage and adds an industry-wide tax, which is not deductible.

UnitedHealth shares fell deeper than the broader market in late-morning trading after it announced first-quarter results, but the overhaul hit didn't surprise many investors. UnitedHealth said in December it expects the federal law to reduce its after-tax operating earnings by $1.1 billion in 2014.

What may have rattled Wall Street a bit was the insurer's report that it saw intense price competition in several markets, including New York, where it has a lot of business. The insurer said some competitors there are pricing their coverage below the costs they will incur to attract customers, and that could hurt enrolment more than UnitedHealth anticipated.

The insurer also said a spike in hepatitis C drug use, driven by the expensive new treatment Sovaldi, added $100 million to medical costs in the quarter. Regulators approved Sovaldi, from Gilead Sciences Inc., last December. The drug is seen as a breakthrough treatment, but its $1,000-a-pill price tag has drawn some skepticism from care providers as well as insurers.

"We're working diligently to ensure this medication is applied under critically appropriate standards," UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley told analysts during a conference call.

Overall, UnitedHealth earned $1.1 billion, or $1.10 per share, in the three months that ended March 31. That's down from $1.19 billion, or $1.16 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose nearly 5 per cent to $31.71 billion.

Analysts expected earnings of $1.09 per share on $32.01 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.

The insurer said its Medicare Advantage business was hurt by both the overhaul and the mandatory across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

Medicare Advantage plans are privately run versions of the government's Medicare program for the elderly and disabled people, and UnitedHealth is the nation's largest provider of this coverage, with nearly 3 million enrollees. It said lower funding forced it to trim benefits and doctor networks this year and leave some markets.

UnitedHealth on Thursday also reaffirmed a 2014 earnings forecast that it announced last December. The insurer still expects earnings to range from $5.40 to $5.60 per share, while analysts expect, on average, $5.60 per share.

Company shares slid 2.8 per cent, or $2.20, to $75.99 in late-morning trading, while the Dow Jones industrial average slid slightly. UnitedHealth is a Dow Jones component.

After soaring nearly 39 per cent last year, UnitedHealth shares have reverted to more measured growth so far in 2014, with the stock climbing about 4 per cent as of Wednesday's close.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. is the first insurer to report earnings every quarter. Many see it as a bellwether for other insurers.

The Canadian Press




Mattel reports 1st quarter loss on weak sales of Barbie, weakness internationally

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Toy maker Mattel says weak sales of Barbie and markdowns to clear out excess inventory left over from a sluggish holiday season led to an unexpected first-quarter loss.

Its shares fell almost 5 per cent in premarket trading.

Toy makers are facing a weak environment globally due to the uncertain economy and popularity of electronic gadgets. The first quarter is the seasonally smallest for toy makers, coming after the key holiday quarter which can account for up to 40 per cent of revenue.

In addition, Mattel Inc. has been struggling with weakness in core brands like Barbie, which had a 14 per cent drop in sales, and Fisher-Price, down 6 per cent.

"Revenues were consistent with our expectations as we worked through inventories in a challenging global retail environment," said CEO Bryan G. Stockton.

The largest U.S. toy maker says its net loss for the three months ended March 31 totalled $11.2 million, or 3 cents per share. That compares with net income of $38.5 million, or 11 cents per share last year. Analysts expected earnings of 7 cents per share.

The company which makes Disney Princess dolls and Hot Wheels cars says revenue fell 5 per cent to $946.2 million from $995.6 million. Analysts expected $947.6 million. Revenue fell 2 per cent in North America and 7 per cent internationally.

Separately the company declared a second-quarter dividend of 38 cents, payable on June 13 to shareholders of record on May 23.

Its shares dropped $1.81, or 4.8 per cent, to $36.07 in premarket trading about two hours before the market opening.

The Canadian Press


Telecom company Rogers doles out nearly $40 million on its two CEOs in 2013

TORONTO - Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) doled out nearly $40 million last year paying the two executives who held the top position at the telecom company.

Guy Laurence, who only stepped into the CEO role on Dec. 2, made a total of $12.7 million in 2013, according to figures disclosed in Rogers' annual report.

Retired CEO Nadir Mohamed took home total compensation of $26.8 million last year, the bulk of it coming from his retirement package.

Laurence, who was the former head of UK-based telecom company Vodafone, received a base salary of $69,231 for the year.

He was also given $6.81 million in share-based awards, $5.01 million in option-based awards and other compensation worth $755,833. The value of his pension earned was $54,933 in 2013.

Mohamed, who retired in December, had a base salary of $1.13 million, $2.52 million in share-based awards, $2.52 million in option-based awards. All other compensation was $17,242 million, related to his retirement.

The value of his pension earned was $1.85 million in 2013.

Rogers is scheduled to report its first-quarter financial results on Monday after stock markets close.

The company's shares were 17 cents higher at $44.43 in Friday afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Guy Laurence's name and Vodafone.

The Canadian Press


Oil rises past $104 a barrel as Ukraine jiggers offset large rise in US crude supplies

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The price of oil rose past US$104 per barrel Thursday on worries over the upheaval in Ukraine.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery rose 54 cents to close at US$104.30 a barrel in New York.

Supplies in the U.S. are ample — the Energy Department reported the biggest gain in stocks in 13 years on Wednesday. But that wasn't enough to calm the fears of traders this week, who worry that Russia's actions in response to the turmoil in Ukraine could be met with sanctions that disrupt exports of Russia's oil and gas.

Despite indications of a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine Thursday, traders remained concerned that the situation could worsen over the coming long weekend and were reluctant to sell oil.

Oil markets are closed Friday.

Energy Analyst Jim Ritterbusch expects oil prices to quickly fall back next week if the Ukraine crisis does not worsen. "We still expect some downside rotation through the balance of this month," he wrote in a note to investors.

Brent crude, an international benchmark used to price oil used by many U.S. refineries, was down seven cents to close at US$109.53 a barrel for June delivery in London.

The price of natural gas surged nearly five per cent Thursday after the U.S. Energy Department reported that U.S. storage levels rose less than analysts had expected. Natural gas for May delivery rose 21.1 cents to US$4.741 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex, wholesale gasoline rose 1.4 cents to close at US$3.055 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litre) and heating oil fell 0.1 cent to close at US$3.001 a gallon.

(TSX:ECA), (TSX:IMO), (TSX:SU), (TSX:HSE), (NYSE:BP), (NYSE:COP), (NYSE:XOM), (NYSE:CVX), (TSX:CNQ), (TSX:TLM), (TSX:COS), (TSX:CVE)

The Canadian Press


Loonie advances as rising energy prices send March inflation higher

TORONTO - The Canadian dollar closed higher Thursday amid data showing inflation coming in slightly higher than expected.

The loonie was up 0.04 of a cent to 90.8 cents US as Statistics Canada reported that the consumer price index rose 0.6 per cent in March from the previous month, higher than the 0.4 per cent reading that economists had expected. The rise was mostly due to a three per cent increase in gasoline prices from February.

Excluding volatile items such as food and energy, the core rate of inflation rose 0.3 per cent, which was in line with expectations.

Year over year, the consumer price index was up 1.5 per cent, up from 1.1 per cent in February.

"Looking ahead, gasoline and natural gas prices are likely to put further pressure on the headline rate in April, but it will be a somewhat slower climb to get core prices to two per cent," said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets.

The dollar had slid 1/3 of a cent Wednesday in the wake of the Bank of Canada's announcement that it was leaving its key rate at one per cent, where it's been since September 2010. The bank also lowered its forecast for first-quarter growth this year to 1.5 per cent from 2.5 per cent, but attributed the downgrade mostly to temporary impacts of a unusually severe winter.

But the loonie rebounded Thursday as the "higher than expected Canadian inflation has shifted expectations back toward a firmly neutral from the neutral-dovish reaction to . . . (Wednesday's) Bank of Canada statement," said Colin Cieszynski, senior market analyst at CMC Markets.

Commodities were mixed as the May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 54 cents to US$104.30 a barrel.

May copper rose two cents to US$3.05 a pound while June gold bullion declined $9.60 to US$1,293.90 an ounce.

The Canadian Press


TSX advances amid mixed bag of U.S. earnings reports, positive economic data

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed higher Thursday as stocks continued to find lift from this week's positive Chinese and U.S. economic data, along with a generally upbeat slate of earnings news.

The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 53.87 points to 14,500.39, led by gains in energy and mining companies.

The Canadian dollar advanced amid data showing higher than expected inflation. The loonie was up 0.04 of a cent to 90.8 cents US as Statistics Canada reported that the consumer price index rose 0.6 per cent in March from the previous month, higher than the 0.4 per cent reading that economists had expected.

U.S. indexes were mixed as traders balanced a string of positive earnings reports from a number of corporate heavyweights, including Goldman Sachs, General Electric and PepsiCo, against earnings disappointments from IBM and Google.

The Dow Jones industrials was 16.31 points lower at 16,408.54, the Nasdaq gained 9.29 points to 4,095.52 and the S&P 500 index was up 2.54 points to 1,864.85.

On Thursday, General Electric posed earnings ex-items of 33 cents per share, down 15 per cent from a year ago but a penny better than analysts expected and its shares were up 1.68 per cent.

And Goldman Sachs posted quarterly earnings of $4.02 a share, beating analyst expectations of $3.45 and its shares were up 0.14 per cent.

But Google stock dropped 3.67 per cent as quarterly earnings growth faltered amid a persistent downturn in advertising prices, while IBM’s first-quarter earnings fell and revenue came in below Wall Street’s expectations amid an ongoing decline in its hardware business, pushing its shares down 3.25 per cent.

There was also some nervousness heading into the weekend even as the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine reached agreement on immediate steps to ease the crisis in Ukraine.

The agreement requires all sides to refrain from violence, intimidation or provocative actions. It calls for the disarming of all illegally armed groups and for control of buildings seized by pro-Russian separatists to be turned back to authorities. The tentative agreement puts on hold additional economic sanctions the West was prepared to impose on Russia if the talks proved fruitless.

North American stocks racked up solid gains this week, partly because Chinese economic growth in the first quarter came in better than expected. Also, the Federal Reserve‘s latest regional survey showed that the U.S. economy picked up over the past two months as bitter winter weather subsided. The TSX gained 1.7 per cent while the Dow industrials ran up 2.38 per cent.

It was a positive change from the previous week when U.S. indexes sustained sharp losses as traders rotated out of expensive biotechs and technology stocks. But there are doubts about whether that rotation is complete and if more volatility could be on the way.

"The concerns remain whether or not growth stocks, particularly the hyper-growth stocks, continue to be a victim of the growth-to-value rotation," said Ben Jang, portfolio manager at Nicola Wealth Management in Vancouver.

The TSX energy sector was up 1.3 per cent as the May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 54 cents to US$104.30 a barrel.

May copper was up two cents at US$3.05 a pound and the base metals component climbed 0.7 per cent.

The gold sector lost about 0.9 per cent as June bullion declined $9.60 to US$1,293.90 an ounce.

The Canadian Press


Most actively traded companies on the TSX, TSX Venture Exchange

TORONTO - Some of the most active companies traded Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the TSX Venture Exchange:

Toronto Stock Exchange (14,500.39 up 53.87 points):

Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Aerospace. Down six cents, or 1.47 per cent, to $4.01 on 16.4 million shares.

Osisko Mining Corp. (TSX:OSK). Miner. Up six cents, or 0.76 per cent, to $8 on 11.6 million shares.

Touchstone Gold Ltd. (TSX:TCH). Miner. Unchanged at 0.5 cents on 6.6 million shares.

B2Gold Corp. (TSX:BTO). Miner. Unchanged at $3.01 on 4.9 million shares.

Twin Butte Energy Ltd. (TSX:TBE). Oil and gas. Up one cent, or 0.41 per cent, to $2.47 on 4.6 million shares.

Yamana Gold Inc. (TSX:YRI). Miner. Down seven cents, or 0.79 per cent, to $8.76 on 4.4 million shares.

Toronto Venture Exchange (998.77 up 0.80 points):

Vanoil Energy Ltd. (TSXV:VEL). Oil and gas. Up two cents, or 44.44 per cent, to 6.5 cents on 9.6 million shares.

Diagnos Inc. (TSXV:ADK). Application software. Unchanged at seven cents on seven million shares.

Companies reporting major news:

Augusta Resource Corp. (TSX:AZC). Miner. Up one cent, or 0.30 per cent, to $3.30 on 15,386 shares. Shareholders have received conflicting advice from a couple of proxy advisory firms over the future of the company's shareholders rights plan in the face of a hostile takeover bid by HudBay Minerals Inc. (TSX:HBM). Proxy advisory firm ISS recommended shareholders vote against renewal of the rights and criticized as "truly egregious" the compenstation for the chief executive if the CEO leaves after the acquisition.

Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B). Telecommunications. Up one cent, or 0.02 per cent, to $44.27 on 660,228 shares. The company doled out a combined $39.5 million last year to the company's outgoing CEO and its new chief executive. Guy Laurence, who only stepped into the CEO role on Dec. 2, made a total of $12.7 million in 2013, according to figures disclosed in Rogers' annual report. Meanwhile, retired CEO Nadir Mohamed took home total compensation of $26.8 million last year, the bulk of it coming from his retirement package.

The Canadian Press


Record labels sue Internet radio provider Pandora over royalties for songs from before 1972

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Major record labels are suing Internet radio giant Pandora for copyright infringement for using songs recorded before 1972 without paying license fees.

The labels, including divisions of Sony, Warner and Universal, argue that songs such as Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and the Beatles' "Hey Jude" are not covered by federal copyright law, but they have been protected in common law by states including New York.

In the lawsuit filed in New York state court, the labels say artists and labels have been deprived of tens of millions of dollars every year by services such as Pandora Media Inc.

Pandora streams songs randomly according to artists or genres like "Motown" or "'60s Oldies."

The labels also sued satellite radio company Sirius XM Holdings Inc. last year in a similar case.

Oakland, Calif.-based Pandora said in a statement that it "is confident in its legal position and looks forward to a quick resolution of this matter."

The Canadian Press


Goldman Sachs' earnings fall 11 per cent as bond trading slumps; bank still beats expectations

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Goldman Sachs' earnings fell in the first quarter as bond trading slumped, but the results still came in ahead of what investors expected as other parts of the bank performed well.

EARNINGS AND REVENUE: The bank earned $1.95 billion in the quarter, down 11 per cent from $2.19 billion in the same period a year earlier. The earnings were equivalent to $4.02 a share, compared with $4.29 in the first quarter of 2013.

Revenue totalled $9.33 billion, down 8 per cent from $10.09 billion a year earlier.

EXPECTATIONS EXCEEDED: Goldman's earnings easily beat the $3.49 a share that analysts surveyed by FactSet predicted. First-quarter revenue also beat analysts' expectations of $8.7 billion. Goldman's stock rose 22 cents, or 0.1 per cent, to $157.44.

BOND TRADING SLUMP: Revenue from the bank's bond trading business fell 11 per cent to $2.85 billion. Goldman, like other big Wall Street banks including JPMorgan and Citigroup, has seen bonding trading slump in the first quarter. The business is "operating in a challenging environment and levels of activity generally remained low," Goldman said in its earnings release.

THE BRIGHT SPOT: Revenue at Goldman's investment banking unit rose, driven partly by higher client activity in its financial advisory business in Europe and more stock underwriting. The bank's investment banking revenue rose 13 per cent to $1.78 billion in the first quarter.

COMPENSATION EXPENSE: Compensation expense, the banks biggest single cost, was $4.01 billion, down 8 per cent from $4.34 billion a year earlier.

The Canadian Press


Crude oil remains near US$104 a barrel despite huge rise in US stocks

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Oil rose just a penny Wednesday as worries about upheaval in Ukraine offset the dampening effect of a huge increase in U.S. oil supplies.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery closed at US$103.76 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude for June delivery, a benchmark for international varieties, closed at US$109.36 in London. The May contract expired Tuesday at US$108.74 a barrel.

U.S. oil rose to nearly $105 per barrel in morning trading, but fell after the Energy Department's weekly supply report showed an increase of 10 million barrels, the largest in 13 years, on higher domestic production and imports.

More concerns about the Russian response to the upheaval in the Ukraine cushioned the price drop. Traders worry that Moscow's actions could be met with western sanctions that disrupt exports of the country's oil and gas.

Officials from the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and the European Union are set to meet in Geneva on Thursday for negotiations aimed at persuading Russia to back off in Ukraine following its annexation of Crimea.

"The increasing tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine could provide further upside momentum to the oil market, supporting crude oil prices higher," said Myrto Sokou of Sucden Financial Research in London.

In other energy futures trading in New York, wholesale gasoline fell 0.1 cent to close at US$3.041 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), heating oil gained 2.4 cents to close at US$3.011 a gallon and natural gas fell 3.7 cents to close at US$4.530 per 1,000 cubic feet.

(TSX:ECA), (TSX:IMO), (TSX:SU), (TSX:HSE), (NYSE:BP), (NYSE:COP), (NYSE:XOM), (NYSE:CVX), (TSX:CNQ), (TSX:TLM), (TSX:COS), (TSX:CVE)

The Canadian Press


Most actively traded companies on the TSX, TSX Venture Exchange

TORONTO - Some of the most active companies traded Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the TSX Venture Exchange:

Toronto Stock Exchange (14,446.52 up 142.60 points):

Osisko Mining Corp. (TSX:OSK). Miner. Up 51 cents, or 6.86 per cent, to $7.94 on 38.9 million shares. The gold miner has accepted a friendly takeover bid by Yamana Gold Inc. (TSX:YRI) and Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. (TSX:AEM) valued at $3.9 billion. Yamana shares were down 35 cents, or 3.81 per cent, to $8.82 on 7.2 million shares, while Agnico Eagle stock was down $2.74, or 8.19 per cent, to $30.71 on 3.5 million shares.

Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Aerospace. Down three cents, or 0.73 per cent, to $4.07 on 7.3 million shares.

Yamana Gold Inc. (TSX:YRI). Miner. Down 35 cents, or 3.81 per cent, to $8.83 on 7.2 million shares.

Fortis Inc. (TSX:FTS.IR). Utilities. Down three cents, or 0.08 per cent, to $35.95 on 4.2 million shares.

Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd. (TSX:CLL). Oil and gas. Up 4.5 cents, or 16.36 per cent, to 32 cents on 4.2 million shares.

Precision Drilling Corp. (TSXPD). Oil and gas. Up 84 cents, or 6.50 per cent, to $13.76 on 3.9 million shares.

Toronto Venture Exchange (997.97 up 5.87 points):

Spartan Energy Corp. (TSXV:SPE). Oil and gas. Up 25 cents, or 6.28 per cent to $4.23 on 9.1 million shares.

Yangarra Resources Ltd. (TSXV:YGR). Oil and gas. Up nine cents, or 9.68 per cent, to $1.02 on 7.5 million shares.

Companies reporting major news:

Metro Inc. (TSX:MRU). Retail. Up $1.58, or 2.46 per cent, to $65.86 on 882,772 shares. The Montreal-based supermarket chain posted adjusted earnings of $1.07 per share, five cents higher than analysts had expected. Overall sales were up 1.7 per cent year over year, rising to $2.55 billion from $2.51 billion as sales benefited from a 0.25 per cent increase in prices, the first in a year.

Sherritt International Corp. (TSX:S). Miner. Up five cents, or 1.06 per cent, to $4.78 on 1.9 million shares. The company is facing criticism from a new source — Takota Asset Management Inc., a private investment firm that counts the mining company among its largest holdings. Takota said it will vote in favour of three directors proposed by a group of dissident shareholders led by Halifax-based activist investment firm Clarke Inc. (TSX:CKI) and withhold its votes for three of the Sherritt nominees — Peter Gillin, Edythe Marcoux, and Bernard Michel.

The Canadian Press


Housing correction would damage Canada's economy, says BMO report

OTTAWA - The Bank of Montreal says a sudden and sharp correction in the housing market could have a devastating impact on the Canadian economy overall, enough to trigger another recession.

The analysis by senior economist Sal Guatieri finds that even a 10 per cent correction — what many would call a soft landing — could sap as much as one percentage point from gross domestic product growth.

Guatieri says a 20 per cent or more plunge in prices and homebuilding could send the economy into recessionary territory.

The conclusion stems from an analysis of the contribution of the brisk housing market on the economy between 2002 and 2007, when prices rose five percentage points faster than incomes.

According to the BMO, the rapid escalation in home values and construction activity added 0.56 percentage points to annual growth during those six years.

But now, with home values at or near record levels, a sharp correction would have the opposite effect.

The BMO report does not suggest the housing market will crash, in fact it argues against it, but warns homeowners to manage their debts prudently.

The Canadian Press




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