QuickNews, Thursday, Dec. 31.
BLOODBATH IN AFGHANISTAN
BOMBS, IED, KILL 13 AMERICANS AND CANADIANS
U.S. AIRLINES FEAR POST-ATTEMPTED ATTACK DOWNTURN IN TRAFFIC | Still more security hassles. Airline industry already heading into another money-losing year, after losses almost every year this decade. Now comes still more elaborate passenger screening, three-hour delays to board planes. It's not fear of attacks, but annoyance with security hassles, that will drive traffic away. “I don’t think people book away because of fear,” an unnamed airline exec tells NYT yesterday. “I think they book away because of inconvenience. If it means three hours in line at an airport, they aren’t going to take their trips.” U.S.airline CEOs fear encore of post-9/11 drop in traffic. * Canadian travelers, by contrast, are sanguine. Travelers are intrepid, says Canadian travel agent, and will take that sunspot vacation hell or high water * Obama pressed to have U.S. emulate Holland - point of departure for would-be Christmas Day bomber - and Nigeria, bomber's native country, in imposing full-body scanner use at America's 500-plus airports.
U.S. SECURITY SCREW-UP | As with 9/11, lots of advance warning, failure to connect dots. NYT reports in detail on numerous security and intel agencies with heads-up about would-be Detroit aircraft bomber, scraps of information here and there adding up to trouble - but no one, including the security clearinghouse set up for this very purpose in 2004 - tut all the info together. Read this and weep. There'd be no need for elaborate screening of the 99.99% of passengers posing zero threat if the army of intel agencies could get their act together.
INFLATION SCARE | U.S. businesses and consumers equally fear curse of inflation. Raft of recent surveys show that expectations of high inflation once recession ebbs is widespread. Based on fears of consequences of U.S. spending on stimulus and cost of restoring bank stability. Goldbugs, for whom gold is the classic inflation hedge, are feasting on prospect of runaway inflation. Google reports record number of users doing searches on "hyper-inflation." My conviction is that this is an over-reaction. Boom in infrastructure spending - on new N.A. power grid and high-speed passenger train network, among other necessary work - will create next economic boom, generating income-tax revenues to eradicate the admittedly scary, record $1.2 trillion U.S, current-year deficit. Also, the trillions provided by Fed and other central bankers to rescue financial institutions are loans, many already paid back (with a profit!), and guarantees have not been called. The stimulus, spent on alternative-energy R&D, retrofitting homes of offices for better fuel efficiency, replacing Civil War-era schoolhouses, and modernizing highways and bridges - will create tax-paying jobs in short- to medium-term and in long run make 21st century America more productive and globally competitive.
SCOTIABANK'S GLOBAL AMBITIONS | Investing heavily in Pacific Rim. Already the most international of Canada's Big Five banks, Scotiabank has just taken a 20% stake in a leading Chinese retail bank. (Most foreign bankers in China are focused on corporate services). In February, BNS raised to 49% its stake in major Thai lender; and recently its ScotiaMocatta unit, leading world precious-metals trader, set up shop in Dubai. CEO Rick Waugh is scouting still more prospects, in Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam, * Bank of Nova Scotia's 2008 profits triple.
WELCOME MAT FOR CHINESE | Ottawa sending signal with OK to huge PetroChina stake in oil sands. Never mind that Harper two years ago vowed to amend foreign-ownership rules to block takeovers of Canadian corporate assets by government-owned or controlled agencies, while allowing Canadian industrial icons like Alcan, Dofasco, Inco and Falconbridge to slip away to acceptable private sector buyers in capitalist nations. In volte face neither he nor anyone in Ottawa has explained, Beijing-controlled PetroChina, largest of China's Big Three oil giants, is greeted with open arms in act of unstated reciprocity designed to open Chinese market to Canadian business - like the $4-billion contract Bombardier signed in September to build 80 high-speed trains for China. Fed policymakers also fret that U.S. economy on which Canada is so reliant will be very slow to recover, and want to diversify. So it appears we've seen the end to the Communist China-bashing on human rights by Harper and his caucus - not on principle, but for the money.
Apple's latest generation desktop. Cool enough to justify the sticker shock.
APPLE TO THE CORE | Firm's PCs, once given up for dead, top October sales. Jobs himself has focused on wildly successful iPod, iTunes, iPhone. But those same brilliant Apple design sensibilities are propelling sales of latest generation iMac, the desktop and notebook leader in October. Market-sharp leap is a blip, as PC users are waiting for Windows 7, and Apple's market share won't surpass 5%. But it's a hugely profitable 5%, because of the lavish profit margins Apple reaps by justifying its high sticker price with app-rich, more bug-free and better-looking devices. A basketcase after it fired Jobs in the 1990s, Apple now commands a stock-market value in excess of larger rivals H-P and Dell combined.
ARCTIC GAS PIPELINE GETS GREEN LIGHT | Government panel OKs $16.2-billion scheme. Project, dating from the 1970s, would tap Arctic natural gas reserves for transport to U.S. markets. But the megaproject, promoted by consortium led by Exxon Mobil-owned Imperial Oil, may be too late as new sources of natural gas in the Lower 48 now appear to be in abundance. * Globe timeline on lengthy Mackenzie Valley pipedreamline saga.
QUOTE OF THE DAY | "There is hardly anything in the world that some man can't make a little worse and sell a little cheaper." -John Ruskin.
Courtesy The New Yorker, Dec. 14 edition.