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Business News as of Noon ET
[February 26, 2013]

Business News as of Noon ET

(Canadian Press DataFile Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) TUESDAY, FEB. 26 Noon ET BUSINESS NEWS ADVISORY Here are the top Business News stories from The Canadian Press as of Noon. All times Eastern unless otherwise stated. Coverage plans are included when available. Entries are subject to change as news develops.

Queries should be addressed to the business desk at 416-507-2138. To reach CP Business by email, send messages to business(at)

____ TOP BUSINESS NEWS THIS HOUR ___ Bank of Montreal raising dividend Bank-of-Montreal TORONTO _ Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) got the banking sector's first-quarter earnings season off to a bang, delivering surprisingly strong revenue and a profit that remained above $1 billion _ beating analyst estimates.Analysts had estimated about $958 million in adjusted profit, the equivalent of $1.48 per share. PHOTO. Moves Business and National; Will be updated.

___ Maple Leaf Q4 profit soars to $54.6M Maple-Leaf-Foods TORONTO _ Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (TSX: MFI) expects to raise prices due to cost increases caused by the droughts last year, chief executive Michael McCain said Tuesday as the company reported a fourth-quarter profit of $54.6 million."The effects of food inflation driven by the North American droughts of 2012 will be felt mostly in the first half of 2013," McCain said in a statement. PHOTO.

___ Bernanke signals rates will stay low for now US-Bernanke WASHINGTON _ The head of the U.S. Federal Reserve says inflation could be stirred up by economic stimulus provided by the central bank but the risk is contained for now. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke says in his latest report to Congress that low interest-rate policies are providing key support for an economy still struggling with high unemployment. PHOTO.

___ More jobs likely created in February Cda-Jobs OTTAWA _ The Conference Board of Canada says the country's employment prospects are picking up after going through a two-month soft patch.The think-tank says its help-wanted index for January jumped a strong 10 per cent, with 25 of 27 metro areas posting increases. PHOTO. Moves Business and National ___ Home Depot 4Q results top Street, OKs $17B buyback US-Earns-Home-Depot ATLANTA _ Home Depot Inc., the largest U.S. home improvement retailer, said Tuesday its fiscal fourth-quarter net income surged 32 per cent, beating expectations, helped by strong U.S. sales and the cleanup related to superstorm Sandy. The news follows smaller rival Lowe's Cos. results Monday, which also beat expectations, and is the latest sign that Americans are feeling more comfortable spending money on their homes as the housing market slowly recovers. PHOTO.

___ Bombardier Algerian aircraft sale questioned Bombardier-Algeria MONTREAL _ Bombardier Aerospace says it has no reason to be concerned about an Algerian investigation into the sale of eight aircraft to a local airline owned by state-run Sonatrach Petroleum Corp., which has been named in an investigation into engineering giant SNC-Lavalin. Spokesman Marc Duchesne said the Montreal-based aircraft manufacturer sold the planes directly to Tassili Airlines and didn't use the services of an agent, whose name has come up in connection with contracts won by SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC). PHOTO. Will be updated. Moves Business and National ___ US new-home sales jump to highest in 4 1/2 years US-New-Home-Sales WASHINGTON _ U.S. new-home sales jumped in January from the previous month to the highest level since July 2008, a sign that the housing recovery is accelerating.The Commerce Department said Tuesday that new-home sales rose nearly 16 per cent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 437,000. The percentage increase was the largest in nearly 20 years. And December's sales were revised higher to 378,000 from 369,000. PHOTO.

___ JPMorgan to trim 4,000 jobs, many in consumer bank US-JPMorgan-Job-Cuts NEW YORK _ JPMorgan is trimming about 4,000 jobs, or about 1.5 per cent of its work force, becoming the latest big bank to shrink its staff.The bank said the cuts will be focused in consumer banking and mortgages. Many of the cuts would come through attrition, but the bank will lay off workers as well, a bank spokeswoman said. PHOTO.

___ Oil falls as Italian election fuels market jitters Oil-Prices The price of oil fell below $93 a barrel on Tuesday, dragged down by the prospect that political uncertainty in Italy could rekindle Europe's debt crisis, weighing on the global economy. By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for April delivery was down 65 cents at $92.46 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 2 cents to settle at $93.11 on Monday. PHOTO.

___ ALSO IN THE NEWS ___ TSX moves lower amid Italian uncertainty Dollar-Markets TORONTO _ The Toronto stock market was slightly lower Tuesday as traders coped with heightened uncertainty over whether a new Italian government will follow through on crucial financial reforms to deal with that country's huge debt.The S&P/TSX composite index was down 18.27 points to 12,632.6 as energy and mining stocks turned negative. PHOTO. Will be updated ___ Loonie adds to losses on Italian uncertainty Loonie TORONTO _ The Canadian dollar turned lower late morning Tuesday as traders flocked to safe havens following the inconclusive result of the Italian elections Sunday and Monday.The loonie had advanced earlier following six straight days of losses but by late morning the currency was down 0.11 of a cent at 97.2 cents US. PHOTO. Will be updated ___ Natural gas prices have bottomed out: survey RBC-Shale-Gas CALGARY _ A new survey suggests the vast majority of North American exploration and production companies believe natural gas prices have hit bottom.The report by RBC Capital Markets and the Economist Intelligence Unit looked at the economic effects of growing shale gas production.

___ US 4Q bank earnings up 37 pct.; highest in 6 years US-Bank-Earnings WASHINGTON _ Profits at U.S. banks jumped almost 37 per cent from October through December, reaching the highest level in six years as banks continued to step up lending.The figures are fresh evidence of the industry's sustained recovery more than four years after the financial crisis. PHOTO.

___ Telus to buy electronic medical records firm Telus-Health-Records MONTREAL _ A division of telecom giant Telus (TSX:T) is buying Ontario's largest electronic medical record business, increasing the number of paperless files and bringing more than 5,000 more doctors online. Telus Health says it's acquiring MD Practice Software, part of a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association, for an undisclosed price. PHOTO.

___ Texting credit card info can be risky: survey Visa-Fraud-Oversharing MONTREAL _ Many young Canadians are "oversharing" their financial information, says a new survey that found nearly half of 18- to 34-year-old respondents admitting they take risks like texting their credit or debit card numbers. The poll by Visa Canada found that 45 per cent of this demographic group also shared their payment card information via email, loaned their cards and didn't keep their PIN confidential. PHOTO.

___ Consumer confidence rebounds in February US-Consumer-Confidence NEW YORK _ Americans' confidence in the economy rebounded in February, reversing three straight months of declines as shoppers began adjusting to a payroll tax hike last month.The New York-based Conference Board says Tuesday that its consumer confidence index stands at 69.6, up from a revised 58.4 in January. Economists had expected 60.5, according to research firm FactSet. PHOTO. APNewsNow.

___ First Majestic expects production growth First-Majestic VANCOUVER _ First Majestic Silver Corp. (TSX:FR) estimates its output this year will be nearly 40 per cent higher than in 2012 which was, in turn, 20 per cent higher than in 2011. The Vancouver-based company, which has five operating mines in Mexico, expects to produce the equivalent of between 12.3 million and 13 million ounces of silver in 2013, including other metals mined as a by-product.

___ Muskrat Falls stirs hopes, fears for Labrador Muskrat-Falls-Boom ST. JOHN'S _ There was a time when Mayor Leo Abbass knew almost everyone in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, a subarctic town of about 7,600 people near the mouth of Labrador's Churchill River.Those days are gone. The Muskrat Falls hydro project is ramping up and will bring thousands of jobs, spinoffs and a spike in construction work to the region. That buzz of activity will peak in 2015, two years before the dam is to produce first power. PHOTO. Moves Business and National; Please guard against duplication.

___ Corporate operating profits up in Q4 StatsCan-Profits OTTAWA _ Statistics Canada says Canadian corporations reported $72.5 billion in operating profits in the fourth quarter, up 1.4 per cent from the previous quarter. It says this was well below the 3.9 per cent increase recorded in the third quarter. PHOTO.

___ Payroll earnings up in December StatsCan-Payroll OTTAWA _ Statistics Canada says weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees averaged $908 in December, up 0.3 per cent from November. The agency says earnings were 2.8 per cent higher on a year-over-year basis. PHOTO. Moves Business and National ___ Calfrac Q4 profit slashed 86%; cuts dividend Calfrac CALGARY _ Calfrac Well Services Ltd. (TSX:CFW) saw its fourth-quarter profit plunge 86 per cent as its revenue declined 25 per cent in the face of reduced activity and lower prices in the U.S. and Canadian oilpatch. Calgary-based Calfrac, which provides services to the energy industry, said net income attributable to shareholders in the three months ended Dec. 31 fell to $11.2 million or 25 cents per diluted share.

___ Gran Tierra nets $42.2 million in Q4 Gran-Tierra CALGARY _ Gran Tierra Energy Inc. (TSX:GTE) says it made $42.2 million in the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2012, or 15 cents per diluted share. That's an 30 per cent improvement over the $32.5 million in net income, or 12 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

___ Conference Board touts Alberta sales tax Alta-Revenue-Conference-Board CALGARY _ The Conference Board of Canada has added its voice to the choir calling on Alberta to implement a provincial sales tax to offset its revenue shortfall. The Alberta government's bottom line continues to bleed red ink due to falling oil and gas revenue. PHOTO.

___ Higher expenses knock down Ritchie profit Ritchie-Bros VANCOUVER _ Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers Inc. (TSX:RBA) reports it had $22.1 million or 21 cents per share of profit in the fourth quarter, a 16 per cent decline from the year-earlier period. The Vancouver-based company's revenue from auction services improved to $117.1 million PHOTO.

(c) 2013 The Canadian Press

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