These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012.
Facebook's new mark
Its stock may be rocky, but Facebook itself has hit a new high.
The social network now has more than 1 billion active monthly users, chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg announced today.
"Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life," Mr. Zuckerberg said in a statement.
Facebook said it hit the billion mark at 12.45 p.m. Pacific Time on Sept. 14.
Some highlights cited by Facebook, since its launch:
- More than 1.13 trillion “likes.”
- More than 140 billion “friend connections.”
- Almost 220 billion photos uploaded.
- Some 17-billion “location-tagged posts.”
- Almost 62 million songs played 22 billion times.
- Median user age of 22.
- Mobile users now number 600 million.
"I am committed to working every day to make Facebook better for you, and hopefully together one day we will be able to connect the rest of the world too," Mr. Zuckerberg said.
Hopefully together one day we'll be able to get the stock back to its $38 (U.S.) IPO price, too.
Mr. Zuckerberg said today in a televised interview that Facebook is "in a tough cycle now and that doesn't help morale, but people are focused on what they're building."
He reiterated that the company has been putting its focus on the mobile market.
- Read Zuckerberg's comments
- Russia accepts Facebook's friend request
- Zuckerberg sketches new areas of growth for Facebook
ECB holds rates
European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi painted a bleak outlook today, but still refused to budge on the interest rate front.
The ECB held its benchmark rate at 0.75 per cent. These people care more about inflation creeping up – 2.7 per cent in September – than they do about crippling levels of unemployment.
"Economic indicators, in particular survey results, confirm the continuation of weak economic activity in the third quarter of 2012, in an environment characterized by high uncertainty," Mr. Draghi said, noting that the economy of the euro zone contracted by 0.2 per cent in the second quarter.
"We expect the euro area economy to remain weak in the near term and to recover only very gradually thereafter. The growth momentum is supported by our standard and non-standard monetary policy measures, but is expected to remain dampened by the necessary process of balance sheet adjustment in the financial and non-financial sectors, the existence of high unemployment and an uneven global recovery."
Okay, there he talked about high unemployment. But he also said:
"Based on our regular economic and monetary analyses, we decided to keep the key ECB interest rates unchanged. Owing to high energy prices and increases in indirect taxes in some euro area countries, inflation rates are expected to remain above 2% throughout 2012, but then to fall below that level again in the course of next year and to remain in line with price stability over the policy-relevant horizon ... Let me repeat again what I have said in past months: we act strictly within our mandate to maintain price stability over the medium term; we act independently in determining monetary policy; and the euro is irreversible."
Yes, the ECB is an inflation-fighting central bank.
But the people who sit on its governing council all have jobs. Unlike the 18.2 million people who can't find work in the 17 countries that make up the monetary union.
Trouble in Tehran
The collapse of Iran's currency is taking a severe toll on the country, sparking social unrest amid spiralling costs.
Iranians are having trouble paying for ordinary goods, while importers have lost millions of dollars, Agence France Presse reported.
As The Globe and Mail's Brian Milner reports today, the rial has lost about 40 per cent against the U.S. dollar this week.
While the currency has been crashing, yesterday saw the first widespread social unrest, sparked by a strike by bazaar sellers and currency traders, according to The Financial Times.
Police with tear gas clashed with protesters in Tehran.
As Bloomberg News reported, costs for items such as meat are surging. Some stores are hoarding goods, hoping for higher prices still. Many are closed today.
"Most of my customers just look at products behind the window and pass," Behrouz Madani, who owns a butcher shop in the city, told the news agency.
"I see them going to the next store, which is a bakery, to feed their families with bread."
Iran's currency, the rial, has plunged as sanctions by Western nations translate into less foreign currency coming into the country from oil exports.
Tokyo's Nikkei gained 0.9 per cent today, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng 0.1 per cent.
In Europe, London's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by between 0.1 per cent and 0.5 per cent by about 8:15 a.m. ET.
Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 futures were on the rise.
"Dow futures are suggesting a rise at the market open," said Derek Holt and Dov Zigler of Bank of Nova Scotia. "Currency markets are at a different party, embracing risk by avoiding the [U.S. dollar] this morning. All major crosses are up against the greenback except for the rand, yen, and a flat real. Global bond markets are marked by only minor moves across the safe havens and stressed European sovereigns."