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Almost €100-billion in capital flees a troubled Spain

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Spain's misfortunes More than €97-billion in capital fled Spain in the first quarter of the year as the country's crisis escalated along with the troubles of the euro zone.

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That stunning number, published today by the country's central bank and reported in The Financial Times, represents almost 10 per cent of Spain's gross domestic product.

Spain is the new focus of the crisis in the 17-member euro zone, and its troubles promise to haunt markets for some time yet. Greece remains an issue, of course, and together they suggest worrisome times.

"The recent bank runs in Greece and Spain are part of a broader trend that has been building for months now," Eric Sprott and David Baker of Sprott Asset Management said in a report today.

"Foreign depositors in the peripheral EU countries are understandably nervous and have been steadily lowering their exposure to euro zone sovereign debt. According to JPMorgan analysts, approximately €200-billion of Italian government bonds and €80-billion of Spanish bonds have been sold by foreign investors over the past nine months, representing more than 10 per cent of each market."

Added Derek Holt and Dov Zigler of Scotia Capital: "The extent to which European capital is cycling out of Spanish (and to a lesser extent Italian) paper and into German paper is extreme."

As our European correspondent Eric Reguly writes in today's Report on Business, Spain is different than Greece, Ireland and Portugal because it's so much bigger and thus would be far more costly to bail out.

Indeed, it may be too big to save. But at the same time, it may be too big to fail lest its collapse cripple the monetary union. Amid all this, of course, and key to the future of the monetary union, is just how much the Germans are wiling to put up with.

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CGI's big deal It's a big day for Canada's CGI Group Inc. , with a huge acquisition, the largest in its history, and a big vote of confidence from the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

The Montreal-based IT company announced it has struck a deal to acquire Logica, a huge European business and tech service company, for 105 pence a share, or a total £1.7-billion, roughly $2.8 billion (Canadian).

Separately, the Caisse said it's pumping $1-billion into CGI.

"This investment is fully aligned with our strategy, which aims to encourage the growth of Quebec companies abroad while generating attractive long-term returns for our depositors," said Caisse chief Michael Sabia.

"On the strength of more than 70 successful acquisitions, CGI's management team is now writing a new chapter in the company's history: This acquisition more than doubles its size and positions it very favourably in the markets."

Ottawa won't help RIM The Canadian government rushed to the aid of the auto industry at the height of the crisis, but it's ruling out helping Research In Motion Ltd.

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That's not to suggest that RIM is going to need Ottawa's help amid its mounting troubles - and it doesn't appear to have asked for any - only that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is already saying no, when asked.

"It has been a leading company for Canada in terms of research development and innovation, but it does need to reorganize itself, and that's something that we expect the leaders in the company to do on their own," Mr. Flaherty told reporters today, according to Bloomberg News.

Mr. Flaherty's comments come as RIM's fortunes decline. Earlier this week, the BlackBerry maker warned it expects to post an operating loss in its first quarter, and that there will be troubles for several more quarters after that. Big layoffs are also expected.

It does have more than $2-billion in cash, and expects to have more. Analyst Mark Sue of RBC Dominion Securities described that as a "near-term" positive but said his revised outlook would see RIM burn through $500-million in cash over the rest of the current fiscal year given the "increasing challenging fundamentals."

RIM also hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. and RBC to help plot the way forward.

CIBC profit climbs Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce today posted a 6-per-cent jump in first-quarter profit, boosted by its retail and business banking operations.

CIBC earned $811-million, or $1.90 per share, in the quarter, compared to $767-million, or $1.80, a year earlier, The Globe and Mail's Grant Robertson reports.

Revenue rose 2 per cent to $3.08-billion.

Excluding one-time items, the bank earned $2 a share, beating analysts forecasts for the quarter. On average, analysts expected CIBC to report adjusted earnings of about $1.86 a share. CIBC kept its quarterly dividend the same at 90 cents.

National Bank of Canada also posted a big gain in profit, and hiked its quarterly dividend to 79 cents from 75 cents.

India growth slows India's economic growth is slowing at a faster pace than projected.

Gross domestic product expanded at a year-over-year rate of 5.3 per cent in the first quarter of the year, according to government data, down from 6.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year.

"Manufacturing was particularly weak, contracting from a year ago, while the utilities and construction sectors were softer as well," said Benjamin Reitzes of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

"Overall, the economy grew at its slowest pace in over seven years (or since 2004Q4). India's mass of regulations and a lack of political will to reform are clearly holding the country back. Indeed, given the uncertain and generally soft outlook through the rest of this year, regulatory reform is likely India's best chance at reigniting growth."

U.S. growth slips Growth in the U.S. was slower in the first quarter than initially reported.

The U.S. Commerce Department today revised down its earlier estimate to an annual pace of 1.9 per cent, from its earlier measure of 2.2 per cent, as growth in consumer spending slipped a bit.

Today's reading shows again has growth has tapered after the bounce of late last year.

"The sub-2-per-cent overall print confirms that the U.S. is going through a soft patch (Q2 won't be stellar either based on the the monthly reports to date)," said senior economist Krishen Rangasamy of National Bank Financial.

U.S. first-quarter growth revised down to 1.9%

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More

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