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Should Canada hope Saudis cut oil output?

These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Globe and Mail Update

12:17 EDT Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Stemming decline in price 'critical,' Scotiabank saysThese are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, June 27, 2012.

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Should Saudis cut output?

One of Canada's leading commodities observers says she hopes Saudi Arabia will cut its oil output to help prices in Canada, propping up exploration and development.

Saudi Arabia's overproduction in the first half of the year, meant to make up for lost Iranian crude in the wake of sanctions, has helped spark a sharp drop in global prices, Patricia Mohr said today. That, said Scotiabank's commodity market specialist, is pressuring Western Canadian crude.

Despite that weakening in global prices, Edmonton Light Sweet and Western Canadian Select, or WCS, heavy oil rallied in May, narrowing the discount to the West Texas Intermediate benchmark, she noted.

That was a result of seasonal demand and reduced congestion on pipelines carrying Canadian oil to the United States.

In mid-June, in advance of a July 1 European embargo on crude from Iran, Saudi Arabia again pledged to ensure there will be no shortage.

Such developments trouble Ms. Mohr, who worries about activity in the oil patch and what it means for Canada's economy.

"Having built up inventories to fill demand, we are hopeful that Saudi Arabia will quietly scale back its "actual' output in coming months to steady prices," Ms. Mohr said.

"Stemming the recent slide in oil prices is critical for Canada, with crude oil and petroleum products yielding a $55-billion trade surplus [year to date] and oil and gas exploration and development generating 250,000 high-paying jobs," she said in her report, projecting that the WCS price will slip to $55 (U.S.) early next month.

"Any further decline could trigger a drop in exploration and development in Western Canada," Ms. Mohr added. "A number of junior oil companies have already announced capital spending cutbacks - likely due to a pullback in equity funding."

In a separate report today, economists Craig Alexander, Derek Burleton and Diana Petramala projected commodity prices will probably stay "depressed" in the short-term, but that crude will climb back to a range of $90 to $100 next year.

"An improvement in the global backdrop heading into the final quarter of this year and 2013 will set the stage for a moderate rebound in world commodity prices and help provide a boost to overall Canadian export earnings," they said.


Barclays settles Libor probe

Barclays PLC is settling a probe over the setting of Libor, a benchmark rate banks charge when they lend to other banks.

Barclays announced today that it will pay a total £290-million, or $454-million (U.S.), to settle with Britain's Financial Services Authority, and, in the United States, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Department of Justice. Its CEO and other top executives are also giving up their bonuses.

The bank said it has "received credit" for its co-operation, and has put in place new controls. In the U.S., it was given "conditional leniency," as well, from the Justice Department's antitrust unit.

The settlement is part of an industry-wide probe that has caught up several financial institutions, and Barclays was notably humbled in its statement today.

“The events which gave rise to today’s resolutions relate to past actions which fell well short of the standards to which Barclays aspires in the conduct of its business," said chief executive officer Bob Diamond.

"When we identified those issues, we took prompt action to fix them and co-operated extensively and proactively with the authorities. Nothing is more important to me than having a strong culture at Barclays; I am sorry that some people acted in a manner not consistent with our culture and values."

There has been a sweeping probe over allegations the rate was manipulated.


MDA in huge deal

Shares of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. surged today after the Canadian company struck an $875-million (U.S.) deal for the satellite manufacturing business of Loral.

In announcing the deal for Space Systems/Loral late yesterday, MDA chief executive officer Daniel Friedmann heralded the acquisition as "game changing" for the company.

“With one move, we are bringing together two market leaders to create a unique global communications and information company with a strong commercial focus," he sad. "Post-acquisition, more than two-thirds of MDA’s total revenues will come from the commercial market."

MDA will boast annual revenue of $1.9-billion (Canadian) after the deal, he added.


Apple's billions

It's fascinating to look at how far the iPhone has come in just five years.

Apple Inc. celebrates the five-year anniversary of the launch of the popular smartphone Friday, prompting a look today by Strategy Analytics at what the iPhone means to the seemingly unstoppable technology giant, and where it goes from here amid heightened competition.

Since it launched in the United States June 29, 2007, iPhone models have brought in $150-billion (U.S.) in revenue around the world, the Boston-based research firm said. That's 250 million devices shipped.

"The iPhone portfolio has become a huge generator of cash and profit for Apple," said Neil Mawston, the executive director of Strategy Analytics.

"A quarter of a billion iPhones have been shipped cumulatively worldwide in the first five years since launch and Apple reaches its fifth birthday at the top of its game," he added.

"However, there are emerging signs that the iPhone’s next five years could get tougher. Some mobile operators are becoming concerned about the high level of subsidies they spend on the iPhone, while Samsung is expanding its popular Galaxy portfolio and providing Apple with more credible competition."

The report comes amid an escalating battle between Apple and Samsung Electronics Co. Only yesterday, Apple secured a court ruling that halts sales in the U.S. of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet.

The two companies are fighting over tablet design, and Samsung has pledged to fight on.

And just today, Google Inc. took the wraps off its tablet, the Nexus 7, which, at seven inches diagonally, is smaller than Apple's iPad.

It's worth noting, too, that Apple will celebrate the iPhone's birthday one day after Research In Motion Ltd. reports what is expected to be an operating loss for its latest quarter.


House prices rise 1.1 per cent

Home prices in Canada climbed 1.1 per cent in May from April, reaching a new high for the second consecutive month, according to the Teranet-National Bank home price index released today.

For the first time in 11 months, not one of the 11 markets measured declined, said senior economist Marc Pinsonneault of National Bank, noting that prices tend to rise in May and June.

Prices climbed 2 per cent in Calgary, and 1.4 per cent in Toronto and Edmonton. Price gains were lower in other centres: 1.1 per cent for Vancouver, 1 per cent for Winnipeg and Hamilton, 0.6 per cent for Ottawa and Montreal, and 0.4 per cent for Quebec City and Halifax. The Victoria market was flat.

On an annual basis, prices were up 4.8 per cent, marking the sixth straight month of slowing growth.

"Since prices rose 1.2 per cent or more in each month from last May through last July, further deceleration is possible over the next two months," Mr. Pinsonneault said.

"The only market in which 12-month inflation has followed the national composite in decelerating for six straight months is Vancouver."


Summit hopes fade

European summits have come and gone since the crisis erupted more than two years ago, with little accomplished and bumps in the markets from time to time.

This time, though, observers fear the failure of tomorrow's gathering in Brussels could have a more marked impact.

The leaders of the EU will meet for two days to discuss the crisis, and new proposals, but Germany continues, as recently as today, to oppose certain moves.

"In a way, it would be hard to lower expectations any further, since we have been here many times before, but there is a sense that this time the fallout from any apparent lack of progress will be severe," analyst Chris Beauchamp of IG Index said today, referring to the meeting.

"The fundamental sticking point remains the fact that Germany refuses to pick up the bill for everyone else."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly added to the fiery mix with comments to her coalition partners yesterday that she won't go for the idea of a euro bond for "as long as I live."


Glencore, Xstrata rush to save deal

Glencore International PLC and Xstrata PLC are working feverishly today to try to save their $30-billion (U.S.) merger, a deal hanging by a threat amid opposition from a major Xstrata shareholder.

As The Globe and Mail's Paul Waldie writes in today's Report on Business, Qatar's sovereign wealth fund wants better terms on the proposed merger. Given that it owns 11 per cent of the mining giant, it's in a strong position.

Glencore is bidding 2.8 of its own shares for each share of Xstrata, and the Qatar fund is looking for the companies to boost that to 3.25.

Glencore said today that Xstrata's board is proposing some changes, but they're in the area of management pay and it's far from clear where things go from this point.


Goldcorp wins court fight

Goldcorp Inc. has won a court battle against larger rival Barrick Gold Corp. over ownership of the El Morro copper-and-gold deposit in Chile, a potentially massive deposit that could become a mine as early as 2017 and keep running for nearly 20 years, The Globe and Mail's Pav Jordan reports.

The ruling, by Ontario Court Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel, may end a protracted dispute between Canada’s two largest gold miners, and comes at a time when the industry is finding it harder and harder to find new deposits of significant size and in friendly jurisdictions.

El Morro could hold more than three times the amount of gold that Goldcorp produced last year.


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