Take stock – August 26

Google is rolling out a new feature in Gmail that allows users to make free — or cheap — long-distance phone calls.

Google offers free or cheap long-distance calls

Google is rolling out a new feature in Gmail that allows users to make free — or cheap — long-distance phone calls. Voice in Gmail lets users with a microphone or headset ring a landline or cellphone. Although the feature will be officially available only in the U.S. for now, a Google Canada spokeswoman says it may work for Canadians if their settings are set to English-US. Not all users will have access to the feature until it’s fully rolled out. Google says calls to any phone in North America will be free until at least the end the year, while fees are charged for calls around the world.

For example, calls to the U.K. are priced at two cents per minute for dialling a landline or 18 cents for a cellphone.


Corporate profits drop

Operating profits for Canadian corporations totalled $61.7 billion in the second quarter, down 1.8 per cent from the previous quarter.

Statistics Canada reports overall profits were down despite the fact that 15 of 22 industries reported higher profits. The insurance and oil-and-gas industries led the declines. In the non-financial sector, profits decreased 1.5 per cent to $46.4 billion, while financial industry profits declined 2.7 per cent to $15.3 billion.

However, on a year-over-year basis, profits in both sectors in the second quarter were roughly 28 per cent above the levels in the second quarter of 2009. Operating profits for oil-and-gas extraction and support activities declined 13.9 per cent to $4.3 billion between the first and second quarters of this year. Profits for retailers fell 6.3 per cent to $3.8 billion, while manufacturers remained relatively flat, with their profits rising 0.2 per cent to $10.4 billion.