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RVs

Shipments of RVs in the U.S. have increased 5 per cent over 2010 and are expected to grow another 7 per cent by the end of 2012. Some areas are seeing double digit growth in sales. RVs sell for as little as US$5,000 for a caravan to $1.5-million for a deluxe motor home. More than 90 per cent of them are made in the U.S. and more than 80 per cent in a single county in Indiana. The RV market is considered by some as a an indicator of the health of the American economy and a growth in sales indicates that credit is opening up.

CUBA

Authorities in Cuba report that tourism revenues rose 12.8 per cent in 2011, returning to levels three years earlier as the key sector recovers from losses due to the global financial downturn. Tourism income was US$2.5-billion compared with $2.2-billion the previous year. In all, the island hosted 2.7-million visitors, up 7 per cent from 2010.

OIL

Besides drugs, extortion and people-smuggling, a growing sideline in Mexico is stolen oil. In 2010, criminals made off with 3.35-million barrels of oil belonging to Pemex, the state owned oil monopoly, up from 2.16-million barrels in 2010. The thefts are reckoned to deprive the company of as much as US$1-billion a year. Some goes missing from trucks and some siphoned out of lengthy exposed pipes. Last year, Pemex detected 1,324 taps, over twice as many as the year before.

MOVING

Tape and corrugated cardboard boxes for moving are apparently on their way out. Now, starting in California but spreading across the country, several companies are offering reusable tough plastic boxes which are delivered to the mover and then picked up afterwards. These containers can stack higher than cardboard and have built-in carrying handles for easy carrying. One company charges US$99 for 25 of its containers, suitable for a small apartment and has a variety of other rates up to $269 for 100 containers. Customers have the use of the boxes for two weeks.

COUPONS

Canadians realized only 3.72 per cent of all the savings available through the use of coupons in 2006, according to an industry study. That's just C$134-million saved out of a possible $7-billion that year. Unlike in the U.S, Canadians still don't take extreme couponing seriously.

SPACE

Researchers predict that space tourism and commercial spaceflight could become a US$1.6-billion business in the next decade. It is estimated that there will be enough demand for such space flights to fill 400 to 500 seats per year at an average of $200,000 per seat.

ART

China's explosive economic growth and the global rebound last year propelled the sale of art and antiques to US$60-billion last year, up by more than 50 per cent over previous years. $20.4-billion were sold in the U.S. 34 per cent of the total market: $13.8-billion in China, $13.2-billion in the U.K and $3.6-billion in France.

DEGREES

It is estimated that there are 18,000 parking lot attendants in the U.S. with college degrees. and some 5,000 janitors in the U.S. with PhDs. In all, some 17-million college educated Americans have jobs that do not require their level of education.

WASTE

It is estimated that Americans throw away nearly half their food and, in 2010, recycled only 34 per cent of their waste. In Sweden, by contrast, only four per cent of waste from households ends up in landfills. And burning waste powers 20 per cent of the country's district heating as well as supplying electricity for a quarter million homes. Because it has become so good at recycling, Sweden now imports 800,000 tonnes of trash each year from other European countries, including Norway, to power its waste-to-energy program.

DEBT

By September of this year America's total national debt, which includes government debt owed to business and foreign government, passed US$16-trillion for the first time. It passed $15-trillion only ten months previously.

ARMS

Delivery of arms to developing countries last year were the highest since 2004, totalling US$28-billion. The U.S. and Russia, the world's leading arms suppliers, accounted for two-thirds of deliveries to the developing world. America's exports in particular are helped by a long-standing client base, which orders upgrades, spare parts and support services every year. Arms deals were buoyed last year by unusually high demand from Saudi Arabia which is the Middle East's biggest arms buyer with $2.8-billion in purchases. India, which is Russia's biggest high-value client was close behind at $2.7-billion.

IGUANAS

Dubbed the "green plague" an infestation of iguanas are wreaking havoc on Puerto Rico chewing up plants and crops and burrowing under roads and dikes. The reptiles, which are not native to Puerto Rico, have few natural predators and their numbers are now estimated to be around four million, outnumbering humans in the U.S. territory. Now, the authorities are planning on slaughtering them and exporting the meat to countries in Latin America, Asia and elsewhere with a taste for lizards. In Central America where they are prized, they are eaten roasted and in stews

MILK

The organic milk business in Canada and the U.S. is worth US$2.4-billion a year and is growing. However, this is an industry with headaches, from legal battles to accusations of putting profits before quality, to conflicts over what "organic" really means. Both Canada and the U.S. have regulations as to what qualifies as organic milk, including requirements that cows consume organic feed and graze on fresh grass.

TRADE

After 18 years of growing pains, Russia has become the 156th full member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the ninth largest economy on the planet. Canada may be a prime beneficiary of the Russian opportunity. Canada-Russia trade is now only about C$2.5-billion a year, about half Canada's trade with Brazil and a fifth of Canada's investment in the Netherlands. There are not many economies that are growing and modernizing at the rate Russia's is. Canada is already involved with agriculture in Russia and with mining and industrial machinery.

FARMING

Argentine growers are planting corn and soy after ideal conditions, thanks to a record August rainfall that has raised hopes that the country's harvest could bolster global grain stocks depleted by the worst U.S. drought in decades. The dry spell in the U.S. Midwest and poor crops from the Black Sea bread basket have lifted prices of corn, wheat and soybeans. The world is now looking to Southern Hemisphere producers, Argentina, Brazil and Australia to replenish shrinking grain reserves. Argentina is the world's biggest corn exporter after the U.S.

TIRES

The cost of mining-truck tires, those of 3.5 metres in diameter, is soaring. Resurgent global growth and China's appetite for raw materials haven't just propelled gold over US$1,600 an ounce, they have tripled the price of mining-truck tires. Normally about $30,000 to $60,000 apiece, the gargantuan tires are now selling for up to $100,000. When one considers that mining trucks run on six wheels and wear out tires in about 12 months, the cost of keeping a mining vehicle on the road could be $600,000 a year.

COFFEE

Thanks to decades of diligent brand-building, Colombian coffee sold for a premium in the world market. But nowadays most coffee served in the country is from beans grown in Ecuador or Peru. Output in Colombia, once the second producer after Brazil, hit a 35-year low in 2011 of 7.8-million 60kg bags, down from an average of 13-million in the 1990s. Although the collapse in the harvest was partly due to unusually heavy rains over the past three years, the farmers face other problems such as fungal rust and insect infestations as well as the price volatility caused by the strength of the peso.

TAXES

A giant federal tax hike has spurred a historic drop in smoking in the U.S. The tax jumped from US39 cents to $1.01 per pack in 2009 to finance expanded health care for children. Since then the tax has brought in more than $30-billion in new revenue. About three million fewer people smoked last year than in 2009, despite a larger population. Teen smoking immediately fell between 10- and 13 per cent when the tax hike took effect.

PETS

Across the United States, 26 per cent of dogs had implanted microchips in 2010, compared to 17 per cent in 2009. Some 12 per cent of cats also had microchips in 2010. These figures are likely going to increase this year after two highly publicized cases of owners being reunited with their pets because of implanted microchips. Most shelters and humane societies now implant microchips in animals before allowing them to be adopted.

CROATIA

Tourism to Croatia is on the rise. In July, nore than 3.1-million people visited the Adriatic country. A total of 6.6-million tourist visits have been recorded since January. In 2011 more than 11.4-million tourists visited Croatia spending about US$8.3-billion. The Croatian economy recorded essentially no growth in 2011 for the third consecutive year but in the first quarter of 2012 the economy expanded for the first time.

HOTELS

Best known for its DIY furniture, Scandinavian retailer Ikea is planning to launch a chain of 100 budget hotels in Europe. The first two will open in Germany in 2014.

STEEL

China is ramping up its exports of cheap steel, sometimes at a loss, as bulging stocks give way to a worsening domestic demand. Slowing construction and industrial activity has hit Chinese steel demand and prices hard, prompting market participants to export more agressively than ever, even to markets such as the Middle East and Africa where it doesn't usually sell.

RISK

Emerging economies in Asia, including India and the Philippines face the greatest financial risk from natural disasters. Last year was deemed to0 be the most costly 12 months on record for natural disasters costing US$380-billion. The main reason was the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 which was estimated to have cost $210-billion.

WINNERS

In the UK, approximately 50 per cent of lottery winners move house within the first three months of a big win and thirty per cent said they now employ a cleaner to look after the new home. 2,800 millionaires have been created by the National Lottery since it started.

ACCIDENTS

Pedestrian fatalities in car crashes in the U.S. are on the rise again after five years of decline. Nearly 4,300 people died when hit by cars in 2010, a 4 per cent increase from 2009. About 75 per cent of pedestrian deaths were in urban areas. A meeting was held recently to finalize a global safety standard that includes proposed changes to the design of hoods and fenders so they absorb more of the impact when cars collide with people. In 2010 there was a total of 32,885 fatalities in car crashes.

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