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Business News as of 6 p.m. ET
[February 26, 2013]

Business News as of 6 p.m. ET

(Canadian Press DataFile Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) TUESDAY, FEB. 26 6 p.m. ET BUSINESS NEWS ADVISORY Here are the top Business News stories from The Canadian Press as of 6 p.m. 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) delivered a number of surprises Tuesday, including an unexpected dividend increase and first-quarter results that beat analyst estimates, although its profit and revenue were both lower than a year before.The bank said net income slipped to $1.05 billion or $1.53 per share from $1.12 billion or $1.63 per share a year earlier. PHOTO. Moves Business and National.

___ Maple Leaf Q4 profit soars to $54.6M Maple-Leaf-Foods Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (TSX: MFI) is raising 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 company has already increased some and warned that lower hog production will likely cause higher hog and meat prices in first half of this year. PHOTO.

___ PotashCorp wants control of Israel Chemical PotashCorp TORONTO _ PotashCorp (TSX:POT) wants to acquire a controlling interest in Israel Chemical Ltd., not just increase its 14 per cent stake, chief financial officer Wayne Brownlee says."We're not interested in increasing our stake and still being a passive minority shareholder. In fact, that's not a tenable position for us on a long-term basis in any event," he told an investment conference in Florida on Tuesday. PHOTO.

___ Bernanke signals continued support for low rates US-Bernanke WASHINGTON _ The Federal Reserve's low interest-rate policies are giving key support to an economy still burdened by high unemployment, Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress on Tuesday. Bernanke signalled that the Fed's efforts to keep borrowing costs low will continue. PHOTO.

___ Airline group opposes Air Canada relief Air-Canada-Pensions Ottawa will create an unlevel playing field if it grants Air Canada's request for a decade of relief from the $4.2-billion deficit in its defined benefits pension fund, the Air Transport Association of Canada said Tuesday.The group, which represents small regional carriers and training centres, said Ottawa should provide broad pension assistance to all Canadian companies, instead of giving a competitive advantage to the former Crown corporation. Moved Business and National ___ Canaport not included in Repsol LNG sale Cda-Repsol-LNG CALGARY _ Repsol is hanging on to its interest in the Canaport LNG facility, which was left out of a $6.7-billion asset sale to Royal Dutch Shell announced Tuesday, because low natural gas prices prevented it from fetching a fair price.Shell is paying $4.4 billion for Repsol's liquefied natural gas assets in Trinidad and Tobago and Peru, as well as a gas-fired power plant in Spain. It will assume another $2.3 billion in financial leases and debt. Moves Business and National ___ More jobs likely created in February Cda-Jobs OTTAWA _ Canada's labour market may be more structurally sound than many may believe, according to two new reports that paint a relatively stable picture of jobs growth and wage distribution.Following two downward months that were backed by a 22,000 jobs setback in January, the Conference Board of Canada said Tuesday its forward-looking help-wanted index is pointing to a rebound in employment this month. PHOTO. Moves Business and National ___ Regulator slams pipeline company over oil spill Rainbow-Pipeline-ERCB CALGARY _ Alberta's energy regulator is sharply critical of a company responsible for a massive 2011 oil pipeline spill that fouled land in the northwestern part of the province.The Energy Resources Conservation Board issued four high-risk enforcement actions Tuesday against Plains Midstream Canada. Moves on both national and business wires; Guard against duplication ___ 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.

___ PERSONAL FINANCE ___ Government can help Canadians save: report Mintz-Retirement-Savings CALGARY _ A new report says there are steps the government can take to ensure Canadians have enough money in their retirement _ and they don't have to be sweeping measures to make a difference.The paper by the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy released Tuesday says Canadians have had a tougher time saving for old age since the 2008-2009 economic crisis, especially those with modest incomes. Moves National and Business ___ 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.

___ BUZZ ___ Suits: More water, less buzz in Bud, Michelob beer US-Watered-Down-Beer-Lawsuit PHILADELPHIA _ Beer lovers across the U.S. have accused Anheuser-Busch of watering down its Budweiser, Michelob and other brands, in class-action suits seeking millions in damages.The suits, filed in Pennsylvania, California and other states, claim consumers have been cheated out of the alcohol content stated on labels. Budweiser and Michelob each boast of being 5 per cent alcohol, while some "light" versions are said to be just over 4 per cent. PHOTO.

___ Apple handing out iTunes credits in settlement US-TEC-Apple-Lawsuit-Settlement SAN JOSE _ Apple has agreed to give more than $100 million in iTunes store credits to settle a lawsuit alleging that the iPhone and iPad maker improperly charged kids for playing games on their mobile devices.The 2-year-old case centres on allegations that Apple didn't create adequate parental controls to prevent children from buying extra features while playing free games on iPhones and iPads in 2010 and 2011.

___ ALSO IN THE NEWS ___ TSX inches higher amid Italian uncertainty Dollar-Markets TORONTO _ The Toronto stock market closed with a slight gain 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 edged up 9.57 points to 12,660.44, led by higher gold stocks as bullion prices surged on worries about Italy and remarks about the future of economic stimulus by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. PHOTO.

___ Loonie closes higher amid Italian uncertainty Loonie TORONTO _ The Canadian dollar closed slightly higher Tuesday amid a jump in gold prices as traders flocked to safe havens following the inconclusive result of the Italian elections Sunday and Monday.The loonie snapped a six-session losing run and moved up 0.12 of a cent at 97.43 cents US. PHOTO.

___ Oil ends lower on Italy elections, crude supplies Oil-Prices NEW YORK _ The price of oil was lower Tuesday as investors weighed the implications of political uncertainty in Italy, the latest assessment of the economy from the head of the Federal Reserve and prospects for growing US crude supplies.Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery finished down 48 cents at US$92.63 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price dropped below $92 earlier in the session.

___ 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 belonging to state-owned 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. Moves Business and National ___ Mining company Sherritt increases dividend Sherritt-Dividend TORONTO _ Sherritt International Corp. (TSX:S) said Tuesday it has increased its quarterly dividend to 4.3 cents per share, up from 3.8 cents per share.The new dividend will be paid April 12 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on March 29, 2013.

___ 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.

___ 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.

___ Funding running out for CO2 storage centre Carbon-Capture-Centre REGINA _ An organization in Saskatchewan that developed what was hailed as the first guidelines for safe carbon capture and storage is on the verge of shutting down.Premier Brad Wall says the International Performance Assessment Centre for Geologic Storage of CO2 did some great work on setting standards. Will be writethru. Moves on both national and business wires. Guard against duplication. With Sask-Funding-Investigation.

___ 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.

___ Best Buy to cut 400 jobs at headquarters US-Best-Buy-Job-Cuts NEW YORK _ Electronics chain Best Buy Co. says it is cutting 400 jobs at its headquarters as part of a larger $725 million cost-cutting plan.The cuts are part of a move to save $150 million in selling, general and administrative costs. Best Buy says they're the first phase of the larger cost-cutting plan that new CEO Hubert Joly announced in November. PHOTO. APNewsNow.

___ 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 another 5,500 doctors online.Telus Health said Tuesday that it's acquiring MD Practice Software, part of a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association, for an undisclosed price.

___ 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.

___ 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.

___ Best Buy to cut 400 jobs at headquarters US-Best-Buy-Job-Cuts NEW YORK _ Electronics chain Best Buy Co. says it is cutting 400 jobs at its headquarters as part of a larger $725 million cost-cutting plan.The cuts are part of a move to save $150 million in selling, general and administrative costs. Best Buy says they're the first phase of the larger cost-cutting plan that new CEO Hubert Joly announced in November. APNewsNow.

___ 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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