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Benefits outweigh risks of AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot as review continues: WHO – CTV News

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GENEVA —
A World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine safety panel said on Wednesday that it considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue.

The WHO listed AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s vaccine for emergency use last month, widening access to the relatively inexpensive shot in the developing world.

More than a dozen European countries have suspended use of the vaccine this week amid concerns.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said it was investigating reports of 30 cases of unusual blood disorders out of 5 million recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In total, 45 million COVID shots have been delivered across the region.

The EU regulator will release its findings on Thursday but its head, Emer Cooke, said she saw no reason to change its recommendation of AstraZeneca – one of four vaccines that it has approved for use.

The WHO said its Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety is carefully assessing the latest available safety data for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Once that review is completed, WHO will immediately communicate the findings to the public,” WHO said in its statement a day after its experts held a closed-door meeting.

“At this time, WHO considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue,” it added.

Kate O’Brien, director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, said that its vaccine safety panel was assessing whether adverse events such as blood clots were actually related to vaccination.

“We should not over-interpret these specific numbers that come out of trials. They are highly effective vaccines, they are life-saving vaccines, they are safe vaccines and we should get on with deploying them,” O’Brien told a news conference.

“So anybody who is offered vaccine should take whatever is being offered by the program and ensure that the vaccines that are being produced, are used to their maximum benefit,” she said.

(Editing by Michael Shields and Nick Macfie)

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Credit Suisse stops custodian service for some U.S. cannabis stocks

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By Shariq Khan and Matt Scuffham

(Reuters) – Credit Suisse Group AG has told customers in recent months it will no longer execute transactions in shares of cannabis companies with U.S. operations or hold them on behalf of clients, a cannabis company executive and other industry sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

The Swiss lender was among a handful of banks that had been willing to buy and sell marijuana-related stocks for clients in the United States and hold those shares as a custodian.

Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law, even though many states have legalized its use. This represents a legal risk for investment banks working for companies that produce or trade the drug.

Credit Suisse’s compliance and risk management procedures have come under scrutiny from investors and analysts after it lost at least $4.7 billion from the collapse of Archegos, an investment firm dedicated to managing the fortune of hedge fund veteran Bill Hwang, as well as the suspension of funds linked to insolvent supply chain finance company Greensill.

The MSOS exchange-traded fund, which tracks U.S. marijuana stocks, has fallen by more than a fifth since early February. Several market players said they believed Credit Suisse’s actions played a role in the selloff.

“(When) Credit Suisse pulled custodian (services) on cannabis stocks, a number of large investors in the space lost their ability to custodian the stocks,” said Abner Kurtin, Chief Executive Officer of newly-floated marijuana grower Ascend Wellness Holdings Inc.

“That led to a significant selloff.”

A custodian bank holds customers’ securities for safekeeping, to prevent them from being stolen or lost, while also collecting dividends and handling other corporate actions. It plays an important role in helping many investors to hold shares in companies.

The weed industry has boomed over the last three years, as Canada and a succession of U.S. states, including most recently New York and New Jersey, legalized recreational use.

Credit Suisse shares are down over 20% so far this year, and the bank has said it is cutting its prime brokerage business, which caters to hedge fund clients, by about a third.

 

(Reporting by Shariq Khan and Matt Scuffham; Writing by Patrick Graham; Editing by Howard Goller)

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Sun Life’s misses first-quarter profit estimates

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Sun Life

TORONTO (Reuters) – Sun Life Financial Inc on Wednesday missed analyst estimates for first-quarter core profit, which rose from a year earlier due to business growth and earnings in its asset management and Canadian units.

Underlying profit was C$850 million ($693 million), or 1.45 Canadian cents a share, in the three months ended March 31, from C$770 million, or C$1.31, a year earlier. Analysts had expected C$1.46 a share.

Reported net income jumped to C$937 million, or C$1.59 a share, from C$391 million, or 67 Canadian cents, a year earlier.

($1 = 1.2266 Canadian dollars)

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Manulife, Sun Life post improved first-quarter core profits on business growth, investments

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Manulife

TORONTO (Reuters) – Manulife Financial and Sun Life Financial Inc on Wednesday reported increased core profits from a year ago, driven in part by business growth and improved earnings across all major business units.

But while Manulife beat analyst expectations for the quarter ended March 31, Sun Life missed estimates.

Payouts globally have risen due to claims related to the coronavirus pandemic, but strength in stock markets has helped soften some of that impact. Earnings of Canada‘s top two insurers were affected by steepening yield curves in North America.

While it tempered Sun Life’s results, the No. 2 insurer still saw reported profit more than double from a year ago as a result of favourable equity markets and interest rate changes.

Sun Life also took an after-tax restructuring charge of C$57 million related to changes it is making to its workspace, the company said.

Manulife reported core earnings of C$1.6 billion ($1.3 billion), or 82 Canadian cents a share, in the three months ended March 31, from C$1 billion, or 51 Canadian cents, a year earlier. Analysts had expected 77 Canadian cents.

Reported net income attributable to shareholders declined to C$783 million, or 38 Canadian cents, from C$1.3 billion, or 64 Canadian cents, a year earlier.

Sun Life reported underlying profit of C$850 million ($693 million), or 1.45 Canadian cents a share, in the three months ended March 31, from C$770 million, or C$1.31, a year earlier.

Analysts had expected C$870.8 million or C$1.46 a share.

Reported net income jumped to C$937 million, or C$1.59 a share, from C$391 million, or 67 Canadian cents, a year earlier.

($1 = 1.2277 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting By Nichola Saminather; Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio)

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