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What every Canadian investor needs to know today

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U.S. and Canadian stock futures are modestly lower this morning, as unease among investors continues after the S&P 500 posted its worst daily performance on Monday since Oct. 27.

While surging gold stocks kept the TSX in positive territory on Monday, the S&P 500 lost 1.5% and the Dow shed 382 points after being down 700 points at one point during the day.

The soft tone in markets today is very much tied to the concerns circulating on Monday: stretched valuations at a time COVID-19 continues to explode in many parts of the developed world, leading to more extensive lockdowns that are stalling economies. Politics is also a key issue, as investors looked to twin Senate runoff elections in Georgia that would determine the balance of power in Washington.

A Democratic victory in both races could tip control of the Senate away from Republicans, potentially boosting the agenda of President-elect Joe Biden.

While a “blue sweep” of Congress could usher in greater fiscal stimulus to aid the coronavirus-ravaged economy, it could also pave the way for Biden to push through greater corporate regulation and higher taxes, hurting some areas of the market.

Latest polls from data website 538 gave a slight edge to both Democratic candidates in their respective races.

The Cboe Volatility Index eased after closing at its highest level in two months in the prior session as investors braced for a “Blue Sweep.”

While the start of vaccine rollouts and massive monetary support powered the major U.S. stock indexes to record levels, the discovery of a more contagious strain of the coronavirus and the latest virus-related curbs have muddied the economic outlook.

A reading of ISM’s manufacturing sector PMI is expected to drift lower for a second straight month in December. The Federal Reserve’s minutes from its latest policy meeting as well as monthly employment report are also on tap this week.

Stock futures for the major U.S. and Canadian indexes are in the -0.10% to -0.20% range. European stocks are similarly under pressure, with the Stoxx 600 index off about half a percentage point.

In overseas action, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan pulled back from a record high. Australian stocks fell 0.3%. Chinese shares ended higher.

In Hong Kong, China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom rallied by more than 6% after the New York Stock Exchange suddenly abandoned plans to de-list the companies’ shares following a U.S. executive order.

Japanese shares lost 0.3% after the government said it would reach a decision on a state of emergency for Tokyo and surrounding cities on Thursday to curb record coronavirus infections.

Equities

Commodities

Oil prices rose by around $1 on Tuesday as tension simmered following Iran’s seizure of a South Korean vessel and as the OPEC+ group studied a possible production cut in February.

Brent crude futures for March rose 96 cents to $52.05 a barrel by 1206 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for February was at $48.53 a barrel, up 91 cents.

Both contracts fell more than 1% on Monday after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, known as OPEC+, failed to agree on changes to February’s oil output.

Saudi Arabia argued against pumping more because of new lockdowns that are likely to limit demand, while Russia led calls for higher production, citing recovering consumption.

An OPEC document dated Jan. 4, showed the group was studying a 500,000 barrel per day (bpd) cut for February, and other scenarios that include stable production or an increase of 500,000 bpd.

Tensions around OPEC member Iran’s seizure of a South Korean vessel continued, as Iran said the Asian country owed it $7 billion.

More bearishly, given the implications for fuel demand, England began a new lockdown on Monday as its coronavirus cases surged.

Gold prices hit a two-month high on Tuesday, lifted by a lackluster dollar as investors awaited the U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia that will determine which party controls Congress and prospects of additional fiscal stimulus.

Spot gold was up 0.1% to $1,944.91 per ounce by 1013 GMT, after hitting its highest since Nov. 9 at $1,947.96. U.S. gold futures edged 0.2% up to $1,950.10.

Currencies and bonds

The Canadian dollar is a little firmer this morning, finding support from the stronger crude prices.

“The broader U.S. dollar tone and risk appetite remain key drivers for the Canadian dollar at present but we do feel that the CAD’s recent gains are largely justified by background fundamentals,” said forex strategists at Scotiabank in a note. “We remain sensitive to seasonal trends which often see the CAD soften against a mostly stronger USD early in the new calendar year, however. With spot opening up more or less mid-way between yesterday’s range extremes, spot may continue to drift in the short run until levels are more attractive for USD buyers or sellers.”

Other corporate news

Canadian miner Agnico Eagle Mines said on Tuesday it would buy TMAC Resources increase for about $286.6 million, two weeks after Canada rejected Shandong Gold Mining’s bid for the indebted company. Toronto-based Agnico Eagle said it will pay $2.2 per share for TMAC, which has a gold mine in Canada’s far north, higher than the $1.75 per share Shandong Gold was to pay for the company. Shandong Gold’s $230 million bid for TMAC was blocked by the Canadian authorities on concerns about a Chinese state-owned entity operating in the country’s sensitive Arctic region.

Suncor Energy Inc. says it will take a $425-million impairment charge related to its stake in the White Rose offshore oilfield and West White Rose expansion project. While White Rose is currently producing, the $2.2-billion West White Rose Project was intended to access 200 million barrels of crude oil and extend the life of the White Rose field by about 14 years. However, Suncor says the recent acquisition of Husky Energy, the project’s operator, by Cenovus Energy Inc. has cast doubt on the future of the West White Rose project which has been under review since September.

Chipmaker Micron Technology Inc rose 4% after Citigroup raised its rating on the stock to “buy” from “neutral.”

Economic news

(10 a.m. ET) U.S. ISM Manufacturing PMI.

With files from Reuters

Source: – The Globe and Mail

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Alberta cancels recently issued coal leases in response to public outcry – Global News

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The Alberta government has reversed its plans to expand coal mining in the Rocky Mountains.

Public opposition to the move has grown significantly in the last number of days, with tens of thousands of people signing petitions, writing letters and joining online groups.

Read more:
Public opposition growing: Petitions against Alberta coal mines top 100K signatures

Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in an emailed statement that the province would cancel 11 recently issued coal leases and pause any future coal lease sales in former Category 2 lands.

“We have listened carefully to the concerns raised in recent days, and thank those who spoke up with passion,” she said.

“As a result, we will pause future coal lease sales in former Category 2 lands. The coal leases from the December 2020 auction will be cancelled.”

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Click to play video 'Impact of Alberta rolling back open-pit coal mine restrictions'



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Impact of Alberta rolling back open-pit coal mine restrictions


Impact of Alberta rolling back open-pit coal mine restrictions – Aug 19, 2020

“I want to be absolutely clear: Under the current terms, just as it was under the 1976 coal policy, coal leases do not allow for exploration, development or production without a comprehensive regulatory review. A lease holder has no more right to set foot on lease property than any other Albertan. The same rules apply now, as before.”

Read more:
Alberta offers Rocky Mountain coal leases after rescinding protection policy

“This pause will provide our government with the opportunity to ensure that the interests of Albertans, as owners of mineral resources, are protected.

“Coal development remains an important part of the Western Canadian economy, especially in rural communities, but we are committed to demonstrating that it will only be developed responsibly under Alberta’s modern regulatory standards and processes.

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“This decision has no impact on existing coal projects currently under regulatory review.”

More than 100,000 signatures had been collected by Monday on two petitions opposing the United Conservative government’s move on two related fronts.

READ MORE: Alberta offers Rocky Mountain coal leases after rescinding protection policy

A Facebook site called Protect Alberta’s Rockies and Headwaters has more than doubled its membership over the last week to more than 10,000.

Last week, musician Corb Lund posted a Facebook video lambasting the province’s plans to open a vast stretch of its Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining.

“The scope of this thing — it’s huge,” Lund said in an interview.

“I’m from the foothills and it threatens the hell out of our water. And the mountains. It’s a big one.”

Read more:
Alberta musician Corb Lund on proposed coal mines in Rockies: ‘I 100% oppose these policy changes’

The NDP said the decision is a “small victory” but that eight leases that were already sold remain in effect.

“Today’s backpedaling from the UCP on their removal of protections for Category 2 public lands is a small victory for the thousands upon thousands of Albertans who have spoken up against this UCP government’s reckless decision to rip up Peter Lougheed’s coal policy,” NDP Environment Critic Marlin Schmidt said in a statement.

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“While the UCP government has agreed to cancel the 11 most recently issued coal leases, there are another eight leases they sold last May that remain in effect.

“Further, they still have not committed to reinstating the coal policy and to consulting before making further changes. Without these commitments, these precious wild spaces are still under threat.”

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is still very worried about existing coal leases.

“While this is a step in the right direction, this ‘pause’ will have little effect on the ability of existing leases to be explored and developed for coal in the region,” said Katie Morrison, conservation director with CPAWS Southern Alberta.

“There are more than 840,000 hectares of coal leases and rights in the Eastern Slopes (of the Rocky Mountains). This area includes around 420,000 hectares within lands formerly protected as Category 2 (an area approximately the size of Kananaskis Country) that are now, and still with today’s announcement, open for development as open-pit coal mines. These areas continue to be open and at risk from coal exploration and mine development.”

The group says the 11 leases covered in the province’s announcement are small and only cover about 1,800 hectares — or 0.002 per cent of the area that’s already been leased.

“Whether or not the coal leases were existing or new, open-pit coal mines are now allowed in Alberta’s headwaters where they previously were not,” Morrison explained.

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CPAWS is urging the government to fully reinstate the province’s previous coal policy, hold public consultations on the issue and permanently prohibit new coal proposals, exploration and open-pit mines in these areas.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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B.C. focuses on second doses of COVID-19 vaccine after Pfizer delay: top doctor – News 1130

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C. is still on track to vaccinate the most vulnerable people despite a reduction in deliveries from Pfizer, the provincial health officer says.

Dr. Bonnie Henry explained the supply issue will have the biggest impact over the next week after which deliveries of vaccines will start to pick up again.

She said this will slow down getting the shots to some hospitals, but the province will continue on schedule for giving the first dose to those most at-risk.

“We have, however, been able to rearrange and look at the process that we have to make sure that we are continuing with providing the first of two doses to those at highest risk, and that we are able to start second doses at day 35, in accordance to our plans that we announced a few weeks ago,” she said during Monday’s briefing.

“It is a bit of a setback, but it is only a delay.”

RELATED: COVID-19 outbreak at Port Moody care facility

She said the province expects to receive extra doses at the end of February and into early March, when it will look at expanding its program.

Until then, the plan is still to give people their second dose before focusing on getting others their first dose.

Henry added 87,346 people have received a COVID-19 shot since immunizations started.

She stressed that while immunizations are underway, the risk remains high across the province as transmission continues.

Since Friday, 31 people lost their lives to the virus, with the deaths in every health authority. The total since the start of the pandemic climbed to 1,078.

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Another 1,330 infections were reported over the weekend.

There was also a jump in cases in non-resident Canadians, which Henry explained is mostly farmworkers coming for the season. Henry noted there are quarantine accommodations.

She again said the arrival of coronavirus mutations requires caution and following health measures.

“The biggest risk and the biggest variants we have right now is all of us, our human behaviour, the choices that we make every day,” she said.

Henry added the investigation is ongoing after someone tested for the South African variant in B.C. without knowing how they contracted it.

RELATED: South African COVID-19 variant not immune to vaccines but source of B.C.’s first case remains a mystery

Health Minister Adrian Dix noted it has been almost a year since the first COVID-19 joint release from the province, noting it hasn’t been easy.

“We’ve seen through the course of the pandemic a lot of worry, a lot of fear, a lot of loss, a lot of uncertainty. While COVID-19 gives each of us every reason to experience those feelings, each and every day, I also saw from that day something else, something reassuring – resolve, spirit, strength compassion, and well fear and uncertainty. I think are part of every day in a pandemic. What has kept us going to seeing how British Columbians in every part of our province refuse to let fear and uncertainty rule,” he said.

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Ontario's top doctor says daily COVID-19 cases will have to fall to around 1000 to lift lockdown – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Ontario’s top doctor has said the number of new COVID-19 cases reported daily should be “around or below 1,000” before the lockdown orders can be lifted.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday afternoon, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said that officials would have to be able to guarantee hospital capacity could be protected before changing public health measures in Ontario.

“If you do that knowing the different numbers and per cents that usually get admitted to hospital and how many of those end up in the (intensive care unit) ICU you get a general sense that you have to get somewhere around or below 1,000 new cases a day,” he said.

“It was only a few months ago, the end of October that we were there, and we can get back there I believe.”

Williams added that the number of people being treated in Ontario intensive care units (ICU) for COVID-19 would also have to be reduced from 400 to about 150.

The province said that it becomes harder to support non-COVID-19 needs when the number of ICU patients with the novel coronavirus exceeds 150.

It becomes “impossible” to handle once it exceeds 350 people.

As of Monday, there are currently 1,571 patients in hospital with COVID-19. Of those, at least 394 patients are being treated in the ICU and 303 are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued a province-wide lockdown on Dec. 26 that shuttered all non-essential businesses and prohibited in-person dining at bars and restaurants.

As the number of COVID-19 cases neared 4,000 a day in early January, Ford declared a state of emergency and issued a stay-at home order.

Under this order, residents are required to stay at home with the exception for essential reasons.

Ontario’s COVID-19 case total now stands at 240,364, including 5,433 deaths and 206,310 recoveries.

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