Canada’s Ivey Index of Purchasing Managers Was 55.3 in June

Canada’s Ivey purchasing managers’ index was 55.3 in June on a seasonally adjusted basis, following a May reading of 63.1, according to a statement on the website of Western University’s business school.

Readings of more than 50 indicate purchasing by governments and companies advanced.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Quinn in Ottawa at gquinn1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Badertscher at pbadertscher@bloomberg.net

Canada Jobs Little Changed in June After May’s Huge Gain

Canadian employment was little changed in June, government figures showed, following the biggest gain in a decade the month before.

Employment fell by 400 last month after May’s surge of 95,000 while the jobless rate was unchanged at 7.1 percent, Statistics Canada said today in Ottawa. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected a 7,500 job decline and an unchanged jobless rate, according to median forecasts of surveys with 20 responses.

“It’s a flat number but it’s probably the most shocking flat number we have seen in a while,” said Jimmy Jean, a fixed-income strategist at Desjardins Capital Markets in Montreal. “The concern was we were going to see a big payback after a strong month,” he said. “I was skeptical we could even hang on and we did that.”

The report adds to other evidence of an inconsistent expansion, including a record string of 17 monthly trade deficits and inflation that has been below the central bank’s 2 percent target for more than a year. Jean said future job gains will probably be closer to a range of between 10,000 and 20,000 than the 95,000 recorded in May.

The Canadian dollar fell to the lowest since October 2011 after the job decline contrasted with a U.S. payrolls gain of 195,000. The currency fell 0.7 percent to C$1.0583 per U.S. dollar at 9:44 a.m. in Toronto. One dollar buys 94.49 U.S. cents. Government bonds fell, with the yield on the two-year benchmark rising 5 basis points to 1.23 percent and the 10-year climbing 14 basis points to 2.55 percent.

Slowing Gains

Canada’s job gains have slowed so far this year, with the average monthly gain of 14,000 less than the 27,000 recorded in the second half of last year, Statistics Canada said.

Full-time employment fell by 32,400 in June, following a 76,700 gain the prior month. Part-time positions rose by 32,200, Statistics Canada said.

Private companies cut 5,300 workers last month after May’s 94,600 increase, while public-sector employment rose by 1,000.

By industry, construction employment rose by 1,400 in June after May’s gain of 42,700. The biggest rise was the 27,000 increase for professional, scientific and technical workers and declines were led by accommodation and food services at 20,300.

Workers designated by Statistics Canada as employees fell by 4,400 after May’s 101,200 surge. The self-employed category rose by 4,000.

Average hourly wages of permanent employees rose 2 percent in June from a year earlier, matching the prior reading.

Curb Spending

Consumer spending underpinned by job creation and a housing boom has led growth in the world’s 11th largest economy since the global financial crisis of 2008. Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz has said households should curb record debts and the expansion needs to be led by business spending and exports.

“We spent our way through the crisis and recouped our lost jobs earlier than the U.S. did,” said Derek Holt, Scotiabank’s vice president of economics in Toronto. “The U.S. is going to be leading Canada on growth as they unleash pent-up demand.”

Unemployment will remain close to where it is now over the next year, according to a Bloomberg economist survey that forecasts a 6.9 percent rate for the third quarter of next year.

The compilation of the report was slowed in Alberta by flooding last month, which appears to have had a “negligible” impact on the results, Statistics Canada said. The next job survey will add special questions on the impact of the flooding on hours worked in the oil-rich western province.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Quinn in Ottawa at gquinn1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net; David Scanlan at dscanlan@bloomberg.net

If you back a Kickstarter game, don’t be surprised when it’s late

(gigaom.com) — More than a year ago, point-and-click legend Tim Schafer and the folks at Double Fine Adventure won Kickstarter (for that month, anyway) by raising more than eight times their original goal and pulling in $3 million to fund their latest release. Gamers, aware of Schafer and Double Fine’s reputation, backed it sight unseen — no concepts to back it up, no plot to get backers interested and no completed work in the pipeline. In October 2012, Double Fine promised, the game (later titled Broken Age) would speak for itself as it shipped to its faithful backers.

But October 2012 came and went. And October 2013 will come and go. And so will October 2014, if the tone of Schafer’s latest blog entry to backers is a sign of the Broken Age‘s development trajectory.

The reasoning for such a massive delay on a record-breaking blockbuster gaming project? Schafer got too ambitious and “designed too much game.”

What began as a small team involved in an agile game turned into a far more complex project after the fundraising success, with millions of dollars of runway to bring it to market. But Broken Age has outspent its savings, and Double Fine will release an unfinished version of the game in January 2014 on Steam’s Early Access platform to raise even more money — and hopefully bring the second half of the game to market by the end of that summer.

“We have been making more money since we began self-publishing our games, but unfortunately it still would not be enough,” Schafer explained.

While the blow of Double Fine’s debacle may sting the community of more than 87,000 backers who happily handed over money for Broken Age, it’s certainly not the first game delay on Kickstarter, much less gaming history at large. In fact, a couple of Double Fine’s Kickstarter contemporaries, Harebrained Schemes’ Shadowrun Returns (which raised $1.8 million) and Replay Games’ Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded (which raised more than $600,000) both faced considerable delays in development. The former, which was originally slated for release January 2013, is set to hit Steam on July 25 after multiple delays and setbacks. The latter had an October 2012 release date and, after extensive issues related to in-game bugs, finally released late last month.

These, of course are two small examples of delays via Kickstarter, but they’re not alone. In fact, a study by CNN Money last year concluded that 84 percent of the website’s top 50 products shipped late — including both Double Fine and Replay Games’ efforts. It’s endemic to the site at large, particularly because there’s no allowance for setbacks. Either developers are right, or backers are disappointed.

But that situation is acceptable compared to the games that have out-and-out disappeared post-funding, never to see the light of day. Backers of the December 2011 fundraising effort for independent game developing sandbox Code Hero are still seething after developer Alex Peake disappeared months after raising $170,000 — only to reappear and admit to Polygon that the money had all been spent. Peake has recently assured that Code Hero will finally see the light of day in an Alpha build at PAX this August, but that hasn’t stopped backers from expressing doubt at the game’s ultimate release and threatening with a lawsuit. Smaller funding efforts from indie developers — particularly 2010′s Perdition (which raised just over its goal of $10,000) and 2012 Haunts: The Manse Macabre (which raised $28,000) — will likely never get in the hands of gamers at all, although the latter does have an open source project for any person valiant enough to try.

Gamers are not protected from failed projects on Kickstarter, as it’s “the project creator’s responsibility to complete the project,” according to the company’s FAQ. It’s the developer’s responsibility to offer refunds to backers if the project isn’t completed, so lawsuits are a very real risk — it just needs enough manpower and legal fees from backers to happen.

This problem won’t disappear from Kickstarter or even gaming development at large, but it’s a hard lesson to learn for eager backers who shell out cash up front for the privilege of waiting for sparse updates and multiple, inevitable delays. Games, which Kickstarter CEO Perry Chen has highlighted as a popular category, had the most money pledged of any category on Kickstarter last year, raising $83 million to fund various projects, so something has to give. Either more users accept the risk of crowdfunding and become more prudent with their wallets, or Kickstarter and development companies must be held accountable to backers in some way when projects get derailed.

But things are going fine for Double Fine, particularly now that the company has raised another $1.2 million for another game, called Massive ChaliceLet’s hope the September 2014 release date isn’t another display of wishful thinking.

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FCC approves Sprint, SoftBank and Clearwire’s three-way tie-up

(gigaom.com) — You can always count on the Federal Communications Commission to pick slow news days for its big decisions. On the Friday after the July 4th holiday, just as the afternoon started to wind down, the FCC issued its order (pdf) approving both SoftBank’s acquisition of Sprint and Sprint’s takeover of Clearwire.

The FCC’s public interest and a Monday vote of Clearwire shareholders were the final steps necessary to close this three-way deal. Assuming Clearwire’s stockholders give their okay, then Sprint and SoftBank could wrap up this transaction in a matter of weeks.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse immediately issued a statement saying that this deal is exactly what the U.S. mobile market, long dominated by AT&T and Verizon Wireless, needs to remain competitive. Clearwire’s vast stores of spectrum along with SoftBank’s capital will give Sprint the fuel it needs to go after the Big 2. Said Hesse:

“Just two years ago, the wireless industry was at the doorstep of duopoly, but with these transformative transactions, we are one step closer to a stronger Sprint which will better serve consumers, challenge the market share leaders and drive innovation in the American economy.”

Though the Clearwire deal needs to close before the SoftBank takeover of Sprint can go into effect, the FCC decided to weigh both deals as a unified transaction. In truth, there wasn’t much of a public interest review in the matter of Sprint-SoftBank. SoftBank will take over 78 percent of Sprint, but since the Japanese mobile operators has no substantive operations in the U.S., the deal would result in no consolidation of operations, subscribers or spectrum. On the contrary, the FCC concluded that the big capital investment SoftBank would make in Sprint would help promote competition.

“The increased investment in Sprint’s and Clearwire’s networks is likely to accelerate deployment of mobile broadband services and enhance competition in the mobile marketplace, promoting customer choice, innovation and lower prices,” Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said in a statement.

The Sprint-Clearwire deal was a little bit tricker, and most of the 64-page order was devoted to discussing it. Taking over Clearwire gives Sprint the single-largest spectrum portfolio in the U.S., though the individual licenses aren’t quite as valuable as the low-frequency spectrum held by AT&T and Verizon. Many of Clearwire’s licenses are in weird configurations, making them difficult to deploy networks over. Still Verizon and AT&T asked the FCC to force Sprint to divest some of those licenses as a condition of its approval.

The FCC ultimately opted to let Sprint keep everything. Sprint has held a substantial stake in Clearwire (it’s currently the majority owner) since 2008, and though it’s never had direct control over the company, the FCC has always counted Clearwire’s spectrum as part of Sprint’s holdings in all other transactions. From the FCC’s perspective, nothing has changed under this deal except Sprint’s majority ownership of Clearwire now becomes complete ownership.

We will update this post as we gather more information.

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Even with a $30 price cut, HP’s Slate 7 tablet faces stiff competition

(gigaom.com) — Tablet price cuts continue to hit the market this day after the July 4 holiday: Earlier today, both Barnes & Noble and Amazon dropped the price on their respective tablets and HP is doing the same. There’s one key difference though: HP isn’t likely going to significantly increase sales of its slate.

When the HP Slate 7 arrived to market in April, I figured it would see limited success at best. Why? For $169, I think the tablet is generally overpriced for what you’re getting. The device is a basic Android tablet with a lowly 1024 x 600 display and meager 5 hour video playback time. It only has 8 GB of internal storage, although you can add more with a memory card. For $30 more, I posited, you can get a Google Nexus 7 with much better display, double the internal memory and faster software updates. You’d lose a rear camera — the Nexus 7 only has a front camera — but you’d also gain about 60 percent more battery life: the Nexus 7 plays video for 8 hours.

Now HP is selling the Slate 7 for $139 notes Android Community. That’s a bit more reasonable, but the market has already evolved. Consider a relative newcomer to the tablet market, HiSense, and it’s Sero 7 Pro tablet. It costs $149, or $10 more than the reduced price Slate 7. What’s the difference?

Again, you get a higher resolution 1280 x 800 IPS touchscreen, video playback of 7 hours, and a quad-core 1.3 GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 chip. The Slate 7 runs on a 1.6 GHz dual-core processor. HiSense boosted the rear camera to 5 megapixels as compared to the HP Slate 7′s 3 megapixel option. And the Sero 7 trumps both the Nexus 7 and Slate 7 with support for HD video output: Using an MHL adapter you can connect the tablet to an HDTV.

If HiSense can deliver that for just $10 more, I’m not sure why HP can’t match the product, let alone exceed it. We know that HP understands it needs to be a mobile player, but so far, its Android effort looks more like a half-hearted experiment than a serious attempt at challenging its peers.

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The demise of the News Feed: Facebook, where did you go?

(gigaom.com) — Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook is the place to connect people from around the world, but right now, my Facebook News Feed feels more like a place to connect me with things to buy.

The News Feed is getting junkier and more ad-filled by the day. Sure, Facebook needs to make money, and its advertising business plays a dominant role in that growth. But recent changes on the platform like the News Feed re-design, as well as the explosion of Facebook’s advertising business to include things like re-targeted ads from my browsing history, are making the site a much different place to visit than it was a few years ago.

Let’s take a look at how the News Feed has changed in recent years. Here’s a view from 2011, not that long ago:

And here’s a sample from today:

Sure, the 2011 version was pretty cluttered, but because there were so many updates on the page, chances were good that most of them came from real people. In the 2013 view, if you hit the page at a certain moment, it’s not uncommon to see a page where a single ad dominates the view.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the new News Feed in March, and the basic idea was to make it a more interesing place to find news, and to highlight beautiful photos of your friends. But this development has two sides to it.

Yes, photos look nicer and larger, but so do ads. Depending on your browser size, you can end up with one story dominating the whole feed. So if that feed is an ad, like I found when I logged on Facebook this morning, you can end up with a page with no updates from real people.

Now, maybe a page filled with ads isn’t the worst thing in the world. Sometimes my feed is filled with updates from companies and brands that I’ve liked, which aren’t really ads at all, since the companies don’t pay for that real estate. And many of the ads based on my browsing history and online shopping are fairly tailored to my interests, and are things I might buy. But compared to the News Feed in 2011, the modern version is starting to feel like it fulfills a totally different function.

So will a page full of ads and updates from companies encourage people to quit Facebook? That’s the big question. Craig Mod wrote on Friday that he actually likes using Facebook as long as he takes care to hide all of the people and updates he doesn’t like. And it’s true that Facebook says the strongest signal you can send its algorithims is hiding something or someone from your feed. So you can certainly make the ads more useful if you want to keep using the site.

But if the company rolls out auto-play video ads like people suspect, that could send a lot of people over the top. While 94 percent of teens are on Facebook, a recent Pew study said that their enthusiasm for the site is waning as more adults fill the service. And in February, one in four people told Pew that they expected to spend less time on Facebook in the coming year.

Facebook has denied that teens are losing interest in the site, but on a recent earnings call they pointed to Instagram as the service teens were using — the app that currently has minimal advertising in its feed. Facebook’s future growth potential as a business hinges on its ability to strike the right balanace between revenue from advertising and the quality of user experience.

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Students in the Netherlands unveil a solar-powered family car

(gigaom.com) — Will we ever be able to live in a world powered by the sun? Solar Team Eindhoven, made up of students from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, has solved a crucial part of going solar: An solar-powered car that comfortably seats a family of four.

Named Stella after the latin word for “star,” the proof-of-concept vehicle comes equipped with solar cells that actually collect more energy than is used by the car’s engine, sharing surplus solar energy back to the power grid. The car’s development began just last September, and the group of 22 students across multiple disciplines of the Eindhoven University of Technology built the car from the ground up in only six months.

The materials used on the Stella’s body – carbon and aluminum — work in combination with its bullet-like aerodynamic design to maximize efficiency without sacrificing space. In addition to powerful generators and a futuristic look, the car can seat a family of four, has enough room for a trunk and even has a smart steering wheel that expands or contracts depending on how fast the car is going (a sign that the driver is either too fast or too slow). The car, which has a range of 600 kilometers or roughly 372 miles, doesn’t have a top speed available and isn’t likely to breeze past the one currently in your driveway. However, Solar Team Eindhoven does have plans to make the Stella officially street legal.

Check out a video of the Stella’s unveiling below:

Solar Team Eindhoven, which has continued to document the Stella’s development on its team website, will now move into final tests for the vehicle before entering the 2013 World Solar Challenge in Australia this October. The car will compete in the “Cruiser” class, which pits other solar-powered vehicles against each other in a 3,000 kilometer race across the Australian Outback that puts more emphasis on efficiency and ease of use than speed. After the competition, the Stella will tour Dutch schools to promote STEM education in the country.