Rabat – Casablanca will host the city’s first ever Shopping Festival between July 5 and 16, with the aim of boosting the local economy.Using the slogan “Shop in Casablanca”, this festival will provide Moroccans with a new shopping experience.This event is organized by Casablanca’s Local Development Firm (SDL), whose objective is to increase the attractiveness of the city. To do this, SDL propose events and festivals to attract local, national and international visitors. The shopping festival also aims to raise awareness of Moroccan brands at both national and international levels. Consequently, Moroccan shopping centers including Morocco Mall, Anfa Place, Tachfien Center and Alpha 55 will all take part.“Through this first edition, dedicated to clothing and accessories, the shopping festival will also be an opportunity for Casablanca people as well as foreign visitors to discover the city from a different angle,” announced Casa-Events and Animation Society (CEA).The company aspires to make the event an annual festival.Hotel Sofitel will hold the festival’s press conferences as well as masterclasses in cooperation with fashion schools, according to Moroccan media platform, L’Economiste. read more

Rabat – Algeria’s Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia is “100 percent behind” the allegations of his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdelkader Messahel, who provoked a diplomatic crisis with the kingdom by accusing Moroccan banks of “laundering drug money.”“If our neighbors are angry, well that’s too bad for them, and all the better for us,” said Ouyahia on October 25, during an interview with a state-owned radio station.After being asked about his National Democratic Party’s stance on Messahel’s allegations, the prime ministers stated that they are “an Algerian political party.” For Ouyahia, it is obvious then that “we are 100 percent behind our government in everything related to Algeria‘s foreign relations.” On October 20, Messahel accused Morocco of “laundering drug money in Sub-Saharan Africa,”during a discussion hosted by the Forum of Algerian Business Leaders (FCE).The Algerian official claimed that Morocco has been laundering cannabis money through banks in the continent, adding that Moroccan banks are being used in laundering the revenues from the sales of hashish. “Everybody knows that,” he said.The head of Algerian diplomacy added that he was told this information by “African heads of state.”Messahel also accused Morocco’s state-owned airline, Royal Air Maroc (RAM), of “carrying something other than passengers,” referring to cannabis.Messahel’s claims prompted a strong backlash from Moroccan authorities, RAM, and La Confédération Générale des Entreprises du Maroc (CGEM), Morocco’s business union.Following his allegations against the country, Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a press release strongly condemning the official statements.“Following the very serious statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, concerning the African policy of the Kingdom of Morocco, the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Algeria in Rabat was summoned tonight, at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,” read the ministry’s statement, posted on its Facebook account.The ministry added that the allegations made by the Algerian minister showed a lack of knowledge regarding the Moroccan banking system and the rules of the international civil aviation.“The remarks made by the Algerian Minister on banking institutions and the national airline, testify to a deep and inexplicable ignorance of basic standards of the functioning of the banking system and civil aviation, both at national level and international,” said the ministry.RAM has also vehemently denounced Messahel’s claims.“The slanderous remarks of the Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs show a total ignorance of the sector,” said the airline. “Air traffic is a highly regulated environment by highly qualified international bodies.” read more

Rabat- The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, has called on King Mohammed VI immediate intervention to prevent the “Judaization of Jerusalem” operation.The news was confirmed by Palestinian Shehab News Agency, which is affiliated with the Hamad movement.“We call on King Mohammed VI, Chairman of the Al Quds Committee, to intervene immediately and promptly to prevent the permanent violations of the enemy government, which seeks to Judaize Jerusalem and change its demographic and urban characteristics,” said a statement by Hamas. Hamas message to King Mohammed VI came a few months after Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel and to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the area.Trump’s recognition was massively condemned by Arab and Western countries alike. Leaders, including King Mohammed VI, denounced the US decision, considering it as a threat to peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel.The monarch sent a letter to the US President on the eve of Trump’s decision (December 5), stressing how such decision would undermine peace negotiations over the region.The King also sent a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in which he expressed his deep concern over Trump’s decision, emphasizing that such an action would end peace negotiations between the two states.Despite the Arab and Western condemnation, Trump is standing firm on his decision. On February 11, Trump told the Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom.Reaffirming his decision on Jerusalem, Trump told the Israeli newspaper that ‘by taking Jerusalem off the table I wanted to make it clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and as for specific boundaries, I would support what both sides agree to.’ read more

26 February 2007The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries today expressed concern about the increasing involvement of private military and security companies in countries facing conflict, including their work protecting mining companies and the effect this has on local communities. During a week-long session, which ended last Friday, the Working Group addressed a whole range of issues, including emerging trends regarding mercenaries or mercenary-related activities and the impact of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on human rights. “The group expressed concerns on the effects of the increasing phenomenon of the recruitment of nationals from countries in many regions by subsidiaries of transnational private military and security companies with legal personality in another country, and providing services in countries experiencing violent conflict,” it said in a press release. “It expressed concern also on the phenomenon of conflicts involving private companies that provide security to installations and facilities of extractive industries and the effects on local communities and the enjoyment of land rights and a clean environment.” It also commended Honduras and Ecuador for moving towards acceding to the International Convention against the Use, Recruitment, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, and welcomed the fact that Peru will soon become the 29th State party to this Convention. The Working Group was established in 2005 by the now-defunct Commission on Human Rights, which was replaced last year by the strengthened Human Rights Council. The Group’s mandate includes monitoring the impact of the activities of private military and security companies on the enjoyment of all human rights. It has also been requested to prepare draft international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights on the part of those companies. It is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities, and headed by its Chairperson-Rapporteur, José Luis Gómez del Prado (Spain). The other experts are: Najat al-Hajjaji (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), Amada Benavides de Pérez (Colombia), Alexander Nikitin (Russian Federation) and Shaista Shameem (Fiji). read more

8 March 2007From the violence-scarred cities of Afghanistan to the rape-wracked lands of Darfur, from the teeming Palestinian refugee camps of Gaza to the lofty halls of its Headquarters in New York, the United Nations system today marked International Women’s Day with the focus on ending impunity for violence against women and girls. From the violence-scarred cities of Afghanistan to the rape-wracked lands of Darfur, from the teeming Palestinian refugee camps of Gaza to the lofty halls of its Headquarters in New York, the United Nations system today marked International Women’s Day with the focus on ending impunity for violence against women and girls. “Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message, calling on Governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector to work for a transformation in relations between women and men, at all levels of society. “It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their families and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence, yet the reality is that, too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned. The United Nations must be at the forefront of those endeavours,” he added, stressing also that in almost all countries, women continue to be underrepresented in decision-making positions, while their work continues to be undervalued, underpaid or not paid at all. Among the many special events marking the day was a panel discussion at Headquarters addressed by Mr. Ban and other senior UN officials. In Sudan’s Darfur region, where nearly four years of fighting between the Government, allied militias and rebels seeking greater autonomy has already killed over 200,000 people and uprooted 2.5 million more amid charges of massacres and mass rape, the UN refugee agency highlighted its work in providing counselling and psycho-social support at centres for internally displaced women and refugees. To date, some 80,000 women have benefited from the service provided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), contributing to a gradual change in the perception amongst displaced men and women about sexual violence in conflict. “This centre is vital for us,” one beneficiary, Fatma, said at a camp in West Darfur. “Some people may think that we just need food and water to survive. But what we are doing here is also a very important kind of assistance.” By its very nature, UNHCR’s observation of the day was spread widely across the world, from the many camps where it hosts those uprooted from their homes to its headquarters in Geneva, where High Commissioner António Guterres announced that his agency was joining nine sister UN agencies to take concerted action against sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations. “I hope these actions will make it absolutely clear that prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence is a UNHCR priority,” he said of The Stop Rape Now campaign co-launched by the agency in Nairobi, Geneva and New York. In a UN school, a 15-year-old Palestinian refugee girl summed up the hopes for her sex. “I want to be the first Palestinian woman to become president,” Suha said at the school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). “Today we not only commemorate but also celebrate your spirit,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd said in a message to Palestinian women. “It is your strength, your courage and your steadfastness that have kept hope alive in Palestine.” In another troubled land, hundreds of women joined the UN mission at events held across Afghanistan. In Kabul, the capital, women streamed into the Women’s Garden to mark the day with a UN fair, a film show and a photo exhibition highlighting the daily realities of the lives of Afghanistan’s women and girls. In the southern city of Kandahar the mission screened a film on the life of Afghan women’s advocate Safia Ama Jan who was murdered last year for her tireless efforts. Messages came in from the heads of all major UN agencies and departments. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called violence against women a scourge “of pandemic proportion… rightly termed the most common but least punished crime in the world.” UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid noted that while progress has been made in the adoption of laws, much greater action is needed to ensure laws are enforced. “Everyone should understand that violence against women and girls is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated,” she said. UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer stressed that all the progress made in advancing women’s rights could be destroyed by continuing violence against women, while UN World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan noted that intimate partner violence was the most common form of abuse, much more so than assault or rape by strangers or acquaintances. UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Kemal Dervis noted that at least one of every three women faces some form of violence in her lifetime, regardless of culture, religion, socio-economic class or education, while UN World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Executive Director Sheila Sisulu stressed how lack of adequate food often creates situations in which women and girls are vulnerable to all forms of violence. The UN International Labour Organization (ILO) highlighted the persistent gap in status, job security, wages and education between women and men that contributes to the “feminization of working poverty.” For its part, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) pledged to enhance further the role of women in tourism, stressing their role as agents for sustainable tourism. read more

“Never before have global anti-doping efforts been stronger or more focused on providing an honest and equitable playing environment for athletes,” UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said at a ceremony in Paris. The International Convention Against Doping in Sport, which promotes no-advance-notice, out-of-competition and in-competition testing, was adopted unanimously by UNESCO’s General Conference in October 2005 and came into force on 1 February 2007 following its 30th ratification. The treaty, designed to ensure a consistent approach to anti-doping efforts and compel governments into action to restrict the supply of performance-enhancing substances and methods, curtail trafficking and regulate dietary and nutritional supplements, is UNESCO’s most successful convention in terms of speed of development and implementation. In just three years, more than half UNESCO’s Member States from all regions of the world committed to fighting doping in sport. “Recent high profile doping cases and investigations have shown how decisive Government action can be,” World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Director-General David Howman said. During this year’s Beijing Olympics, the first to be held since the Convention entered into force, the largest ever testing programme was conducted, involving more than 4,770 doping controls. “The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is committed to doing all it can to eliminate doping from sport,” International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said in a written statement. “WADA now looks forward to the ratification of the Convention by the remaining 93 Member States of UNESCO,” WADA President John Fahey said in a written statement. 12 November 2008The United Nations today celebrated a new milestone in the battle to eliminate doping in sport when Paraguay became the 100 country to sign the first worldwide binding legal instrument that imposes uniform rules, tests and sanctions against the scourge. read more

The Security Council today renewed for another 12 months the authorizations granted to States and regional organizations cooperating with Somalia’s transitional government to fight piracy off the country’s coast.As set out in previous resolutions, this includes the authorization for States and regional organizations to enter Somalia’s territorial waters and use “all necessary means” – such as deploying naval vessels and military aircraft, as well as seizing and disposing of boats, vessels, arms and related equipment used for piracy.In the resolution it adopted today, the 15-member body reiterated its condemnation of all acts of piracy and armed robbery against vessels in the waters off the Somali coast.According to figures by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), over 438 seafarers and passengers and 20 ships are held by pirates as of 4 November – an increase of almost 100 kidnapped victims in less than a month. The Council encouraged Member States to continue to cooperate with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which has the primary role in the fight against piracy. Among other things, it also recognized that the ongoing instability in Somalia is one of the underlying causes of the piracy problem, and stressed the need for a comprehensive response by the international community to tackle it. Earlier this month, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs told a meeting of the Council that the growing problem of piracy off the Somali coast demands more than just military efforts, and called for simultaneous action on three fronts – deterrence, security and the rule of law, and development – to combat the scourge.“Piracy is a menace that is outpacing efforts by the international community to stem it,” B. Lynn Pascoe stated, adding that as long as piracy is so lucrative, with ransom payments adding up to tens if not millions of dollars, and other economic options so bleak, the incentives are obvious.“Economic rehabilitation and the creation of alternative livelihoods, especially the development and rehabilitation of coastal fisheries, must be at the centre of our efforts to fight piracy.” 23 November 2010The Security Council today renewed for another 12 months the authorizations granted to States and regional organizations cooperating with Somalia’s transitional government to fight piracy off the country’s coast. read more

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has re-allocated funds to support the Government’s aid efforts, and will provide 735 metric tons of food assistance to feed approximately 400,000 of those affected, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).Torrential rainfall has lashed the Indian Ocean island nation since 26 December, triggering floods and mudslides, mainly in the eastern and central parts of the country, with Batticaloa district in the east reported to have received the largest amount of precipitation in a century.According to the Government’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC), the total number of affected people stands at nearly 863,800, including 13 deaths, one missing and 44 injured as of today. Roads in affected areas remain submerged, reducing access, OCHA reported.Initial assessments in some of the affected areas over the past 24 hours have identified food, non-food items and water and sanitation services as priority needs.Sri Lanka’s health ministry has sent five medical teams to the eastern and Polonnaruwa areas ready to control possible outbreaks of diseases, and to set up mobile medical clinics to assist internally displaced persons. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) will bear the cost of the mobile clinics.In addition, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been delivering water tanks and taps to the eastern region since the beginning of the flooding and is supporting further assessments. 11 January 2011Floods caused by heavy rainfall in Sri Lanka have affected nearly a million people, including more than 127,000 displaced from their homes, the United Nations humanitarian office reported today, quoting figures provided by the Government. read more

21 January 2011An independent United Nations human rights expert today called on Indian authorities to do much more to ensure a safe and conducive environment for human rights defenders working in the country. “I am particularly concerned at the plight of human rights defenders working for the rights of marginalized people, i.e. Dalits, Adavasis (tribals), religious minorities and sexual minorities, who face particular risks and ostracism because of their activities,” Margaret Sekaggya said at the end of her fact-finding mission to the country. The visit by Ms. Sekaggya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, began on 10 January and included discussions with State officials, a broad segment of civil society and the press, representatives of UN agencies and the diplomatic corps, as well as visits to five states.She underscored the testimonies she received about human rights defenders and their families, who have been killed, tortured, ill-treated, disappeared, threatened, arbitrarily arrested and detained, falsely charged and under surveillance because of their legitimate work in upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms. “I am deeply concerned about the branding and stigmatization of human rights defenders, labelled as naxalites (Maoists), terrorists, militants, insurgents or anti-nationalists,” Ms. Sekaggya said. Defenders, including journalists, who report on violations by State and non-State actors in areas affected by insurgency are being targeted by both sides, she noted. “I urge the authorities to clearly instruct security forces to respect the work of human rights defenders, conduct prompt and impartial investigations on violations committed against human rights defenders and prosecute perpetrators.” Among her other recommendations, Ms. Sekaggya said the Government should enact a law on the protection of human rights defenders “in full and meaningful consultation with civil society,” and review the functioning of the National Human Rights Commission with a view to strengthening it. Noting the “arbitrary application of security laws at the national and state levels,” she urged the Government to repeal the Public Safety Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and to review the application of other security laws which negatively impact on the situation of human rights defenders. Ms. Sekaggya, who works in an independent and unpaid capacity, will present her report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council at a future session in 2012. read more

12 May 2011The United Nations envoy leading the world’s body efforts to eliminate sexual violence during conflict has welcomed the release of a new study on sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that indicates the prevalence of the crime is much worse than previously reported. The study, published yesterday in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), estimates that almost two million Congolese women have been raped and that women and girls are victimized at a rate of nearly one per minute.Margot Wallström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, last night issued a statement describing the study as “a commendable effort that helps to fill the gap in empirical research in this area.”Ms. Wallström is tasked with tackling sexual violence committed during conflicts or in post-conflict situations while the AJPH study examined a broader field that included acts of domestic violence.“This inevitably makes the AJPH figures higher,” she said, noting that official UN figures tend to be conservative because the Organization can only report to the Security Council on sexual violence that it has been able to verify.“The UN cannot extrapolate from a small sample the incidence of sexual violence throughout the DRC. Additionally, the UN has ethical obligations that are not generally incumbent upon academic researchers – namely to avoid interviewing survivors or exposing them to any risk of reprisal/re-traumatization in the absence of the ability to deliver services or follow-up on the case.”But the envoy stressed that “studies like this are important, and valuable in shedding light on risk factors, such as age, or region of residence, which moves the analysis beyond isolated incident reports to convey a sense of patterns.”Ms. Wallström underscored that conflict-related sexual violence remains one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the DRC.“Although a lot of work remains to be done, achievements include the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1960 last December, which gives us the instruments needed to ensure that mass rape is never again met with mass impunity.” read more

CALGARY — Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. has reported lower second-quarter profits and once again trimmed its 2012 production outlook.The largest owner of the Syncrude Canada Ltd. oilsands mine said net income was $101-million, or 21 cents per share, compared to $346-million, or 71 cents per share, during the same period a year ago.Revenues were $866-million, down from $994-million during the second quarter of 2011.Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were on average expecting Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. to earn 32 cents per share and book revenues of $729-million.[np-related]The Calgary-based company expects annual Syncrude production to range between 106 million and 112 million barrels.It’s the second time Canadian Oil Sands trimmed the upper target of its production range. In February it said it expected an upper end of 117 million and in April it lowered it to 114 million.CEO Marcel Coutu said the results were in line with expectations, reflecting periods of planned maintenance downtime at the Syncrude mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta.“With these main upgrading units now back in operation and no major maintenance planned for the remainder of the year, we expect robust production over the balance of 2012,” he said.Canadian Oil Sands owns a 37% stake in Syncrude, the biggest project of its kind in the world.Syncrude’s other owners include Imperial Oil Ltd., Nexen Inc., Suncor Energy Inc., China’s Sinopec, Mocal Energy Ltd. and Murphy Oil Co. Ltd.In April, Canadian Oil Sands increased its quarterly dividend to 35 cents from 30 cents. On Friday it said its next payout would remain steady at 35 cents.Shares in Canadian Oil Sands, which reported its results after markets closed, rose 14 cents to close at $21. read more

MONTREAL — Bell is asking the federal cabinet to direct the CRTC to follow its own policies after the regulatory body nixed its $3.4-billion takeover of Astral Media.Bell says it has asked cabinet to issue a “policy direction” under Section 7 of the Broadcasting Act, which requires the CRTC to follow its already in-place policies when reviewing change of control transactions in broadcasting.However, the government has suggested it has little appetite to intervene, with Industry Minister Christian Paradis saying that the CRTC is an independent commission that makes its own decisions.The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission turned down the friendly takeover of Astral last week, saying it wasn’t in the best interests of Canadians.[np-related]CRTC commissioner Jean-Pierre Blais said had the regulator allowed the deal, BCE would have controlled almost 45% of the English TV viewership and almost 35% of the French.But Bell disagrees, saying Bell and Astral combined would have an English-language TV market share of 33.5% and the combined companies would have a 24.4% stake in the French-language TV market, both within the rules.The discrepancy arises because Bell included U.S. competitors in the calculations, while the CRTC did not.As well, it would have become the largest radio station operator in Canada and control over half of TV pay and specialty services.The telecom giant also says the CRTC overestimated Bell’s share of the English-speaking market because it did not include U.S. content viewed by Canadians.Bell says the CRTC has ignored its own rules, creating new criteria not included in any of its existing policies and never used before, without giving Bell any opportunity to comment.“In rejecting the Astral transaction, the CRTC rejected its own established policies, creating serious regulatory uncertainty in Canada’s vital broadcasting sector,” Mirko Bibic, Bell’s chief legal and regulatory officer said in a statement.“We’re requesting that cabinet provide the required guidance to the CRTC to follow its own rules in place, with which the Astral-Bell transaction fully complied.”The Canadian Press read more

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market closed higher Thursday as traders watched American politicians engage in finger-pointing while weighing the progress of negotiations aimed at getting a deal on averting a U.S. fiscal crisis by the end of December.Here are the closing numbersTSX — 12,202.85 +62.52 0.51%S&P 500 — 13,021.82 +36.71 0.28%Dow — 13,021.82 +36.71 0.28%Nasdaq — 3,012.03 +20.25 0.68%The S&P/TSX composite index gained 62.52 points to 12,202.85 while the TSX Venture Exchange climbed 13.01 points to 1,218.38Traders also took in an earnings report from Royal Bank that beat expectations. The bank posted quarterly net earnings of $1.9 billion or $1.25 a share. Adjusted net earnings came in at $1.27 a share, beating estimates by a penny.RBC also handed in a record full-year profit of $7.5 billion, up 17% from 2011. Its shares were 26 cents higher to $58.61.The Canadian dollar was down 0.09 of a cent to 100.73 cents US.U.S. indexes were higher, but off the best levels of the session after House Speaker John Boehner expressed disappointment with the pace of talks with the White House to avoid going over the fiscal cliff.Following a meeting with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, he said Republicans have put concessions on the table, but President Barack Obama still has to outline the spending cuts he’s willing to make.“We have a debt crisis, it’s the spending that is out of control,” he told reporters following the meeting.Shortly after, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid chimed in, saying President Obama is still waiting for a serious offer from Republicans.“We need Republicans to come forward with something,” he said.The Dow Jones industrials was up 36.71 points to 13,021.82.The Nasdaq was up 20.25 points to 3,012.03, while the S&P 500 index climbed 6.02 points to 1,415.95.Traders have been focused on negotiations aimed at avoiding the fiscal cliff, the name for sharp tax increases and spending cuts that would occur in January without a deal. There are fears that the combination could deliver a shock to the economy that would result in knocking the U.S. back into recession.Markets have been whipsawed as every day seems to bring a new assessment of where negotiations stand. Traders were reassured Wednesday and markets advanced after House Speaker John Boehner said he was optimistic that a deal can be reached with the president.Optimism was further bolstered after Obama said that he believes that members of both parties can reach a “framework” on a debt-cutting deal before Christmas.Analysts believe that would suit markets just fine since expectations for a full deal covering everything on the table just isn’t realistic.“Do you get a nice, sweet all-agreed-to-sum-up deal together in one great big shot by Dec. 31? No,” said Gareth Watson, vice-president Investment Management and Research, Richardson GMP Ltd.“That’s something that is going to take a lot more time to figure out. So you get some type of deal which essentially carries us through to the new Congress, delays the pending cliff in terms of tax increases and spending cuts for another month or two.”The tech sector led advances and Research In Motion Ltd. shares ran up 48 cents or 4.36% to $11.48 after Goldman Sachs upgraded the BlackBerry maker to buy from neutral. RIM stock has boosted over the last couple of weeks on upgrades and optimism as it prepares to unveil its new BlackBerry 10 lineup at the end of January.The base metals sector was ahead about one% as March copper on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained seven cents to US$3.61. Inmet Mining rose $3.50 or 5.65% to C$65.50 a day after it rejected an unsolicited takeover offer worth $4.9 billion by First Quantum Minerals Ltd. Thompson Creek Metals gained 10 cents to $2.83.The energy sector moved ahead 0.5% as January crude rose $1.58 to US$88.07 a barrel. Canadian Natural Resources advanced 30 cents to C$28.45 while Cenovus Energy was 35 cents higher to $33.07.The financials sector was up almost 1% in the wake of the Royal Bank results. Other advancers included TD Bank, up $1.15 to $82.67 while Manulife Financial advanced 21 cents to $12.83.The gold sector was flat with February bullion ahead $10.70 to US$1,727.20 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. faded 35 cents to C$38.96.Positive momentum had earlier been maintained in part because of data showing the economy grew at an annualized rate of 2.7% during the third quarter, which was much better than the two% rate estimated a month ago.Still, most economists say growth has slowed since then to below two% in the October-December quarter.One reason is that superstorm Sandy halted business activity along the East Coast in late October and November. And many businesses and consumers could end up scaling back on spending in the final weeks of the year, if lawmakers fail to avert the “fiscal cliff.”Indexes had also softened on news that major U.S. retailers such as Kohl’s, Target and Macy’s reported weak sales in November as a strong Thanksgiving weekend wasn’t enough to fully offset a slow start to the month caused by superstorm Sandy.In other earnings news, Gildan Activewear Inc. said quarterly net income jumped to US$89 million or 73 cents per share, up from US$48.5 million a year ago. Ex-items, earnings came in at $94.9 million or 78 cents per share, a penny short of estimates. Gildan also said it will increase its quarterly dividend to shareholders by 20%, which will be nine U.S. cents a share and its stock rose 89 cents to C$33.98.Here’s the news investors were watching today:RBC showcases strengths (and weaknesses) of Canadian banksBoehner tells Democrats to ‘get serious,’ says no progress in fiscal cliff talksRIM rises on upgrade from Goldman SachsWho knew? The world economy seen in best shape for 18 monthsON DECK FRIDAYECONOMIC NEWSCANADAOttawa fiscal monitor 8:30 a.m.Real GDP (Q3): Economists expect growth of 0.8% quarter over quarter, 1.2% growth year over year UNITED STATES8:30 a.m.Personal income & consumption (Oct): Economists expect 0.2% gain in income, no increase in spending 9:45 a.m.Chicago PMI (Nov): Economists expect a reading of 50.5, up from the month before read more

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market was flat Tuesday afternoon 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 two points lower to 12,648.87, 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.The TSX Venture Exchange dipped 9.34 points to 1,131.66.The TSX found some support from the financial sector after Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) said Tuesday that its net income slipped to $1.05-billion or $1.53 per share from $1.12-billion or $1.63 per share a year earlier. On an adjusted basis, earnings were $1.52, beating analyst expectations by four cents.The initial results of the Italian election showed voters were fed up with the austerity measures enacted by the previous technocratic government led by Mario Monti, who was brought in to deal with the country’s huge debt levels.But voter anger against the Monti government was channelled through several outlets. The centre-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani appears to have won a narrow victory in the lower house of parliament while the Senate looks split with no party in control.“We expect risky assets to remain under pressure until the picture in Italy becomes clearer,” said a commentary from Barclays Research.The Canadian dollar was little changed after six days of losses that have brought the loonie to its lowest levels since late last June. The currency was up 0.03 of a cent at 97.34 cents US.U.S. indexes were higher amid a strong earnings report from Home Depot and positive news from the housing sector.The Dow Jones industrials was up 101.2 points at 13,885.37, while the Nasdaq composite index advanced 10.53 points to 3,126.78 and the S&P 500 index climbed 6.8 points to 1,494.65.Home Depot’s fiscal fourth-quarter net income surged 32% to $1.02-billion, or 68 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expected 64 cents per share and its shares ran ahead 5.66% to US$67.54.Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index showed that American home prices rose 6.8% in December compared with the same month a year ago. That’s up from a 5.5% annual gain in November.Other data showed that U.S. new-home sales jumped nearly 16% in January from the previous month to the highest level since July 2008.Italy’s FTSE MIB index was the worst-performing index in Europe, closing trading 4.89% lower, having earlier been nearly five% down at one point Tuesday.The interest rate on the country’s benchmark 10-year bond — an important gauge of investor sentiment — rose by 0.38 percentage points to 4.83%.Traders have good reason to be nervous about how Italy deals with its finances. Though its budget deficit is fairly small compared with other euro countries at three% of annual gross domestic product, its overall debt stands at a huge (euro)2 trillion.Last July, concerns over the country’s ability to pay down its debt and the stability of the wider eurozone sent the interest rate on its 10-year bonds to 6.36%.“Basically, Italy is going to struggle here,” said John Johnston, chief strategist at Davis Rea Ltd.“Italy’s ability to service its debt long term is incredibly, badly impaired by its lack of growth and the lack of growth needs reforms and the kind of political environment in Italy right now is not constructive for reforms.”New York also found support from comments by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke which signalled that the Fed’s efforts to keep borrowing costs low will continue.Bernanke acknowledged that the Fed’s aggressive program to buy US$85 billion a month in bonds to keep rates low could eventually ignite inflation or unsettle investors. Several Fed policy-makers said at their most recent meeting that the Fed might have to scale back its bond purchases because of those risks.But Bernanke said the risks remained contained for now.The TSX gold sector led advancers, up 1.5% as Bernanke’s remarks and the uncertainty over Italy pushed the April bullion contract $28.90 higher to US$1,615.50 an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) rose 83 cents to C$34.47.The metals and mining sector was slightly higher at 0.2% while March copper was up two cents at US$3.57 a pound. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) rose 30 cents to C$18.71.The energy sector fell 0.62% as the April crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange lost 74 cents to US$92.37 a barrel. Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) slipped 41 cents to C$30.96.The information technology sector led decliners, down 0.9% as CGI Group (TSX:GIB.A) fell 44 cents to $26.51 while Wi-Lan Inc. (TSX:WIN) dropped 11 cents to $4.31.In other earnings news, Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (TSX: MFI) said net income attributable to common shareholders was $54.6-million or 38 cents per diluted share in the three months ended Dec. 31, up from $8.4-million or six cents per diluted share in the same 2011 quarter. Revenue fell slightly to $1.2-billion from $1.24-billion and its shares were up 46 cents to $13.64. read more

The TSX was slightly higher Thursday with strength coming from mining stocks while the market gave a tepid reception to higher profits at Royal Bank (TSX:RY) and CIBC (TSX:CM).The S&P/TSX composite index was up 16.4 points to 12,749.01 as Royal Bank posted $1.9 billion of net income in the second quarter, up 26 per cent from a year earlier. The profit amounted to $1.27 share while adjusted diluted EPS was $1.31, which met a Thomson Reuters estimate but missed a Bloomberg estimate by a penny. RBC shares lost $1.24 to $62.74.CIBC had a second-quarter profit of $876-million, up eight per cent from a year ago. Its net income and adjusted net income both came in at $2.12 per share, above the consensus estimate. CIBC said its quarterly dividend will rise by two cents to 96 cents per share.CIBC also said it has taken steps to create alternatives in case it does not renew its Aeroplan credit card agreement with Aimia (TSX:AIM), which is set to expire at the end of the year. President and chief executive Gerry McCaughey didn’t rule out the possibility of renewing the existing contract with the company formerly known as Aeroplan, which has partnered with the bank for more than two decades to create the popular CIBC Aerogold Visa. CIBC shares dipped 70 cents to $79.73 while Aimia slipped 11 cents to $15.06.The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.45 of a cent to 97.05 cents US amid rising prices for gold and copper.U.S. markets were positive amid a slightly weaker than expected showing in U.S. economic growth during the first quarter, a rise in jobless insurance claims and an indication of further strength in home sales in the coming months.The Dow Jones industrials rose 42.56 points to 15,345.36, the Nasdaq gained 21.59 points to 3,489.11 while the S&P 500 index rose 6.89 points to 1,655.25.A second reading on U.S. gross domestic product for the first quarter showed GDP coming in at an annualized rate of 2.4 per cent, a bit below the initial reading of a 2.5 per cent gain. But the showing was still a marked improvement from the 0.4 per cent gain in the final quarter of 2012.The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 354,000, a sign layoffs have increased. The Labour Department also said the four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 6,750 to 347,250, the third straight gain. The average had fallen to a five-year low of 338,000 earlier this month.On the housing front, the National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted index for pending U.S. home sales rose 0.3 per cent to 106, the highest since April 2010, when a homebuyer tax credit inflated sales. Signed contracts have jumped 10.3 per cent in the past 12 months. Also, sales of previously occupied U.S. homes rose in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million, a 3 1/2 year high.The gold sector led TSX advancers, up 4.5 per cent while gold was up $23.70 to US$1,415 an ounce. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) jumped $1.35 to C$21.88 while Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) ran ahead $1.20 to $29.90.The base metals sector rose 1.54 per cent as copper futures were ahead two cents at US$3.32 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) advanced 91 cents to C$28.81.Most bank stocks were lower, taking the financial sector down 0.4 per cent as Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) shed 39 cents to $62.11.The energy sector fell 0.2 per cent as oil prices backed off for a second day as the July crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was off the worst levels of the session, down 44 cents to US$92.69 a barrel.Data from the U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration is expected to show a decline of 1.5 million barrels in crude oil stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) was down 25 cents to C$31.83.Traders also looked to a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries Friday to discuss, among other things, production levels.Overhanging the meeting is the rise of shale oil production in the U.S. and a report from the International Energy Agency saying total production could top nine million barrels a day by 2018. That would mean near self-sufficiency for the U.S. as well as significantly less dependence on OPEC imports.In other corporate news, shares in Facebook Inc. jumped $1.25 or 5.36 per cent to US$24.57 after BMO Capital Markets analyst Daniel Salmon raised his rating on the social-networking giant to outperform from market perform. Salmon also lifted his price target on Facebook’s stock to $33 a share from $32, saying “sentiment around Facebook advertising remains quite positive.”European bourses advanced with London’s FTSE 100 index ahead 0.19 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX was up 0.64 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 gained 0.58 per cent. read more

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market advanced for a third consecutive session Tuesday as sharply rising oil prices supported a continuing rally the energy sector.The S&P/TSX composite index closed 95.06 points higher at 13,647.26 after a combined advance of more than 300 points the previous two trading days.The capped energy and materials sectors were among the top performers on the TSX as the November contract for benchmark crude oil soared $2.27 to US$48.53 a barrel, adding to a rebound from under US$45 just a week ago.“We have (an) energy rally … that’s the key,” said John Stephenson, president and CEO of Stephenson and Company Capital Management.“There is just a series of more bullish themes out there,” added Stephenson, pointing to a new report quoting a top OPEC official as predicting a rebound in prices and a short-term outlook from the Energy Information Administration calling for a decline in U.S. oil production.That, along with the feeling that perhaps that badly mauled energy issues have been oversold has may traders believing “the worst is over,” he said.Stocks are on the best tear of the year and this time they might crack the ceiling“(But) I don’t think there is any compelling reason for that truthfully,” said Stephenson, who believes oil could still test lows under US$40 a barrel in the current slow-growth economy.“I do think it goes lower and it goes lower because I don’t think that we have enough demand out there,” he said.“That’s one of the issues that’s driven things down to this level and nothing really has changed tremendously.”Beyond demand, supply issues also remain unresolved, with U.S. production cuts being far from “earth shattering” and with Iranian oil yet to come on the market as a result of an end to western-led sanctions, he said.Elsewhere on commodity markets, November natural gas was up two cents at US$2.47 per thousand cubic feet, while the December gold contract rose $8.80 to US$1,146.40 an ounce.The loonie also continued its recent uptick, up 0.35 of a U.S. cent at 76.76 cents US.In New York, markets were mixed as the Dow Jones industrial average posted a modest advance, up 13.76 points to 16,790.19, while the broader S&P 500 fell 7.13 points to 1,979.92.Biotechnology stocks were among the worst performing issues and the tech-heavy Nasdaq gave back 32.90 points to 4,748.36. The sector has been hammered in the past month on investor concerns that the industry might face more scrutiny from Washington over its drug pricing practices.In corporate news, stock in First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) soared $1.30 or 21 per cent to $7.49 after the Vancouver-based mining and metals company said it wanted to slash outstanding debt by at least US$1 billion within six months though a combination of asset sales and other strategic initiatives.First Quantum also announced it was cutting 644 people from its workforce and reducing salaries by up to 20 per cent while also lowering the cost target for its flagship Cobre Panama project by seven per cent to US$5.95 billion. read more

MONTREAL — Opponents of oil and gas development in Quebec say they’re prepared to ramp up their fight amid expectations that the provincial government could release new regulations on resource extraction in the coming weeks.At the end of last year, the government passed legislation to enable production of oil and natural gas. In May, Natural Resources Minister Pierre Arcand said rules governing that activity would be released a month later and since then, both industry and opponents have been eagerly waiting for them.Carole Dupuis of the Regroupement vigilance hydrocarbures Quebec, which opposes oil and gas development, said her group will take their battle to communities in an effort to prevent an energy industry from taking off in the province.“If our politicians aren’t there to defend us, the public will defend itself,” said Dupuis.Patrick Bonin, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said the push towards fossil fuel development runs counter to the province’s global commitment to combat greenhouse gas emissions.“If the government was serious about its intention to respect the Paris Accord, then obviously there wouldn’t be any project to get the green light,” he said.While the province may be better known for its wealth of hydroelectricity, it has plenty of natural gas. According to both the Quebec Oil and Gas Association and Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, it’s believed to have enough natural gas to meet its needs for at least a century.About 15 per cent of the estimated 176.7 trillion cubic feet of gas mainly in the Utica Shale formation along the St. Lawrence River is believed to be recoverable, the Canadian Energy Research Institute says. A similar proportion of the 43.6 billion barrels of oil is recoverable primarily beneath Anticosti Island, though on Friday the government announced an end to drilling there.The regulations will permit fracking — which has riled some — but questions remain over where drilling will be allowed.A de facto moratorium on fracking has been in place since 2012, but the law passed in December will allow for it as long as companies secure authorization under the Environment Quality Act and social licence (though it’s still unclear what constitutes social licence).Arcand was unavailable for comment, but a spokesman said the government’s goal is to have the strictest legal framework on energy development in North America.Pierre-Olivier Pineau, a professor specializing in energy at the University of Montreal HEC business school, said the government can’t politically afford to have regulations that aren’t stringent, even if the chances of widespread production are slim.Junex (TSX-V:JNX) and Petrolia (TSX-V:PEA) are seeking to extract oil and gas in remote regions of Gaspe, and Pineau said he believes they won’t face much opposition, partly because they’re in economically stressed areas.Neither energy producer responded to requests for comment.Michael Binnion, CEO of Calgary-based Questerre Energy Corp. (TSX:QEC) and president of the Quebec Oil and Gas Association, said he hopes the regulations will be strong enough to gain public confidence that their water, air and land will be protected.It will then be up to energy companies to secure social acceptance from communities, something Binnion concedes is largely lacking. Questerre Energy has drilled test wells on about 405,000 hectares it holds in the Utica Shale formation.“We don’t think the regulations by themselves are going to open a floodgate at all,” he said. “We think the regulations could open the door to a discussion about the benefits and impacts.”Follow @RossMarowits on Twitter. read more

Four others were also granted bail by the Colombo High Court in relation to the case. Silva returned to the island from Singapore last month after receiving treatment for the injuries he suffered during the shooting incident in 2011 in which presidential adviser Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra was killed.Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra was killed in the shooting incident in October 2011 and Silva was seen as one of the main suspects in the murder. Parliamentarian Duminda Silva left the Nawaloka hospital this morning and was scheduled to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa.Silva was receiving treatment in hospital for injuries suffered during the Bharatha Lakshman shooting incident. Silva was this week released on bail in the Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra murder case. Hirunika Premachandra, the daughter of late government member Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, had told the Colombo Gazette last month that she feared for her life as the case involving Duminda Silva gathered steam.Premachandra also raised hope that justice will finally be meted out against her father’s killers. (Colombo Gazette) read more

The opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is suspicious about the motives behind government moves to hold elections in the Northern Province.JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said the election is a sinister attempt by the government to grab full control over the north like it has already done in the South. He said holding Northern Provincial Council elections is not the solution for the Tamil issue and instead their rights should be secured through the constitution. Addressing the  media today the JVP MP said that the government has clearly failed to address Tamil issues particularly in the north. Dissanayake also said that the government is using former LTTE officials like Kumaran Pathmanathan and Daya Master while those who were forced to work under them are still in prison.The MP said that he had met a former LTTE cadre in prison who claims to have been arrested as he possessed an LTTE ID card which had the signature of Daya Master.“Yet Daya Master, who had authorized that ID card is a free man,” the JVP MP said. (Colombo Gazette) He says the militarization of the north, four years after the war, shows that the government is not looking out for the welfare of the Tamils.The JVP MP said that the government has failed to address issues faced by Tamils in the north and get all communities together but instead has taken actions which has seen the relationship between communities drift apart. read more

Ambassador of Iraq in Colombo Mr. Kahtan Taha Khalaf Kali accompanied al-Rubaie, along with several other high-level officials from Iraq for the meeting. Minister al-Rubaie agreed and thanked the President for re-establishing diplomatic ties with Iraq. President Rajapaksa, remembering his own numerous visits to Iraq decades ago, said relations between the two countries must be strengthened to the level they were many years ago. Minister al-Rubaie also requested for Sri Lanka’s assistance in the construction sector. While the Minister pointed out the great need in Iraq for new structures, President Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka has a very experienced construction sector and that businesses could make good use of this opportunity.Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris extended an invitation to Iraq to send a high-level delegation to the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) that will take place on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013 in November. Minister al-Rubaie accepted the invitation and agreed to send a delegation. Iraq and Sri Lanka have sought stronger ties after both countries had re-established diplomatic ties.Iraq’s Labor and Social Affairs Minister Nassar al-Rubaie called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa this morning at the President’s Office. read more