Not that the NHL has ever been confused with a class act.
So the NHL and its Great Satan commish, Gary Bettman, have for years been shortchanging player widows, a court decision finds, some beneficiaries getting a mere 10 per cent of what they've been owed over the years. Jim Balsillie will not be sending Mr. B a note of comisseration over the scandal. Makes you wonder, though, why the players association, which brought the suit, wasn't more forceful years ago about making this a cause celebre. I mean, this sort of thing falls squarely in its balliwick, or so we assumed once Alan Eagleson got the hook. And is it just me that marvels at the seeming lifetime appointments enjoyed by incompetent pro sports commissioners (there's a redundancy in that wording, I'm sure), when cab drivers have to reapply for their licenses every few years?
Already I can feel the surge of sympathy building nationwide as Toronto copes with a strike by its 30,000 municipal workers and threatened work stoppages by employees of its LCBO liquor monopoly (patrons of Alberta's privatized liquor stores will be especially sorrowful), and employees at the larger of Canada's two self-declared national newspapers (based in Toronto, where else, like its National Post rival). Such a flood of tears there will be, one might need a Starbucks grande cup to collect them. (Do they have Starbucks in Red Deer? Chicoutimi?)
The bad news, according to the EU and the Obama administration, is that China has been hoarding all manner of raw materials, subsidizing local manufacturers while forcing the price up for the rest of us by keeping them off the market. Then again, the diplomatic deep freeze in Sino-Canadian relations appears abruptly to be melting. All part of a sinister Bejing plot to win Ottawa approval for Chinese takeover runs at our own resources, no doubt. Ottawa was sanguine about the loss of Alcan's, Inco's and Falconbridge's local autonomy. No doubt, CEOs and shareholders of EnCana, Suncor-Petrocan, Nexen, Canadian Natural Resources and the like eagerly await a yuan-denominated windfall.
Bernanke's stay of execution
We're still betting the U.S. Fed chairman gets reappointed by Obama when his term expires early next year, following the tradition of Republican Ronald Reagan in reappointing Paul Volcker (a Carter appointee), and Democrat Bill Clinton in reappointing Alan Greenspan (a late-term Reagan appointee). No sooner had rumours ignited last week that Bernanke was out of favor than Obama lavished praise on him in a press conference yesterday - called, one almost wonders, just to make that one point. We're thinking wannabe Bernanke successor Larry Summers might as well start now firing off resumes to politically incorrect colleges - Pepperdine and Bob Jones University come to mind.
The Banker embarrasses itself
The house rag of global banking places a curious lot atop its annual list of the 1,000 "strongest" world banks: J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup Inc., Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (RBS) and HSBC PLC.
HSBC, the London/Hong Kong giant, is the only one of the top five not to have been rescued with government bailout funds. The others are all in varying conditions of fragility. Citi and Britain's RBS have been effectively nationalized.
The Banker's rankings are based on capital strength, or the amount of Tier 1 capital held. HSBC dropped from first place last year, having apparently erred in being too sound to need a government capital top-up. Someone at the Banker neglected to note that the four other "strongest" banks boast comfortable Tier 1 capital because Uncle Sam and the British treasury have lent it to them with a spider's web of strings attached. And that all five of these "soundest" banks have a ton of looming consumer-related loan losses in their immediate future.
Hold these stocks forever - or at least until next year
Remember that Mr. and Mrs. Bridge scene in the bank vault where Paul Newman hauls a sheaf of stock certificates out of the couple's safe deposit box and sternly cautions wife Joanne Woodward, "Never sell these. They will take care of you"? We'd be impressed with Fortune's annual list of "40 Best Stocks To Retire On" except...the editors dumped more than half of last year's hold-'em-forever picks in making this year's list. Dunno about you, but my definition of a stock on which to retire is that you don't have to replace it 12 months after buying it. I think that's called portfolio "churning," the means by which most mutual fund managers rack up impressive trading fees, passed along to the investor, cutting into his or her returns; and also miss those brief windows when a solid stock, in the blink of an eye, makes its episodic big advances before plateauing for awhile. Which is why funds so chronically underperform the indexes.
Read it here first
* Seeking Alpha: The global food crisis is poised for an encore.
For the purposes of this blog, the inception of the Great Recession in the U.S., the epicentre of the crisis, is taken as the start date for the global slump. The U.S. has been in recession since December 2007.