Thumbs-up for Manitoba
FOR the second time in a week, a major economic forecaster is predicting more good times ahead for the Manitoba economy.
In its latest provincial Economics Outlook report released Thursday, the Royal Bank of Canada predicts the Manitoba economy will follow this year's projected 2.5 per cent growth with growth of 2.3 per cent in 2014 and 2.6 per cent in 2015.
The bank predicts Manitoba won't see a repeat of this year's bumper grain crop, so that will decrease agricultural production in 2014. That decline will offset the positive impact of an anticipated increase in manufacturing output and a continued high level of residential and non-residential construction, it adds.
However, "a return to positive growth in agriculture in 2015, along with continued growth in manufacturing, is expect to offset some slowing in residential construction," it says, "thereby allowing overall GDP growth to be maintained at a solid 2.6 per cent in 2015."
Earlier this week, the Conference Board of Canada predicted the Manitoba economy will grow 2.2 per cent this year and a robust 3.4 per cent in 2015. However, it's not as optimistic as RBC about how well Manitoba has done this year. It thinks it will finish the year with real gross domestic product growth of only 1.5 per cent -- a full percentage point less than RBC's estimate. It blamed this year's lacklustre performance on weakness in the metals-mining sector, which weighed down overall GDP growth.
IPhone factories reform
SAN FRANCISCO -- A labour group monitoring three Chinese factories that make iPhones and other Apple products says once-oppressive working conditions have steadily improved in the last 18 months, but more must be done to reduce the amount of overtime employees work.
The audit released Thursday by the Fair Labor Association represents the final assessment in a process that started last year at plants run in China by Apple's largest supplier, Foxconn.
Reports depicting the Foxconn plants as inhumane sweatshops prompted Apple Inc. to hold its foreign contractors to higher standards. The Cupertino, Calif., company joined the Fair Labor Association last year as part of a commitment to improve the situation.
Apple is the only major tech company in a 14-year-old labour group that includes clothing makers, shoemakers and other manufacturers promising to curb abuses in overseas factories.
The report concluded Foxconn factories in Longhua, Chengdu and Guanlan had reached virtually all the goals set out in a plan adopted last year.
Excessively long work schedules remain a problem, however. The FLA says more than half the 170,000 employees at the Foxconn factories exceeded China's legal limit of 36 monthly overtime hours from March through October.
Auto mileage improving
DETROIT -- New cars and trucks sold in the U.S. last year got an average of 23.6 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, a record that came mainly through improvements to engines and transmissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Mazda led all automakers with an average of 27.1 mpg, followed closely by Honda with 26.6 and Volkswagen at 25.8. Chrysler-Fiat, which relies more on trucks and larger cars for its sales, had the worst mileage at 20.1, followed by Daimler, maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury vehicles, at 21.1. General Motors, which also sells a lot of trucks and SUVs, was third from the bottom at 21.7 mpg, according to the report.
The increase for 2012, the latest year for which full calculations are available, was 1.2 mpg above 2011's number, the second-largest annual increase in 30 years, the agency said in an annual report released Thursday. The EPA estimates the average mileage of 2013 cars will rise another 0.4 mpg to 24. Final figures for 2013 won't be available until next year. Carbon dioxide emissions also are at a record low, 376 grams per mile.
Poker hostess admits guilt
NEW YORK -- A former high-stakes poker-game hostess to the stars has pleaded guilty in New York in a sprawling federal prosecution.
Molly Bloom pleaded guilty Thursday to illegal gambling in Manhattan.
Prosecutors allege two Russian-American organized-crime enterprises laundered $100 million from illegal online sports betting.
Bloom moved her poker games from Los Angeles to New York to cater to Wall Street financiers. She returned to the West Coast in 2010. Her lawyer says she was giving up poker. She has since signed a book deal.
Media reports have linked Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck to the games.
-- staff / news services