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Cargill plant, long-term care facilities dominating Alberta's COVID-19 cases – Calgary Sun



The provincial total is now 3,401 cases, one of which is the first case on a First Nation

Outbreaks of COVID-19 at a High River meat processing plant and at long-term care facilities in the Calgary zone are dominating the provincial tally of novel coronavirus cases.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, on Wednesday announced there have been 375 COVID-19 cases and 44 deaths in continuing-care facilities across Alberta. Meanwhile, a single High River business — the Cargill meat-packing plant — now has 440 workers who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and one death.

“I know many Albertans, including me, want the numbers to stop growing and for outbreaks to end as soon as they are identified. Believe me when I say we are doing everything possible to limit the spread of this virus both within outbreak settings and across Alberta,” said Hinshaw.

She said that many of the 306 new COVID-19 cases announced Wednesday are linked to outbreaks at the Cargill plant, the JBS beef production facility in Brooks and other breakouts of the deadly virus.

Operations have temporarily been halted at the Cargill plant, but the union representing its workers said the decision came too late. The Alberta Federation of Labour is now calling for a criminal investigation into the death.

An Occupational Health and Safety probe is already underway, government officials said Wednesday.

The provincial total is now 3,401 cases, one of which is the first reported on a First Nation. The individual, from the Sucker Creek First Nation, was in contact with a case in nearby High Prairie and is currently in self-isolation. There is no outbreak in the community.

Five more people have died from the deadly virus, bringing the provincial death toll to 66. One of the five deaths was in the Calgary zone, though it was not linked to any outbreaks in the area.

Hinshaw announced Tuesday the province is now publicly sharing the name and location of long-term care, acute-care and supportive-living facilities with “active outbreaks.”

These are defined as having two or more cases in a single facility, indicating transmission has occurred.

In the Calgary zone, 25 supportive-living and long-term care facilities have active COVID-19 outbreaks. This includes McKenzie Towne and Clifton Manor in the city’s southeast, with 21 deaths and five deaths, respectively.

An outbreak is only declared over after one month without any new cases.

Signs are hung as friends and family are seen outside the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre. The seniors facility is Alberta’s worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Monday, April 13, 2020. Brendan Miller/Postmedia

More than 70 per cent of Alberta cases are in the Calgary zone, which extends north to Didsbury, east to Gleichen, south to Claresholm and west to the Rocky Mountain parks.

A provincial order by Hinshaw has restricted staff from working at more than one health-care facility, defined as a nursing home, auxiliary hospital or designated supported-living centre. The mandate began April 16 but staff have been given until Thursday to adhere to the order.

However, the union representing 30,000 nurses across the province said Hinshaw and medical officials have failed to provide clarity on how they will restrict movement among worksites and who is affected.

David Harrigan, a spokesman with United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), said that without a clear understanding of how the order applies to employees, it could result in confusion and staff shortages.

“The last thing we need right now is this kind of chaos and confusion,” said Harrigan.

“Now, for reasons that we don’t know, neither the department of health nor Alberta Health Services is prepared to give us an answer. We’ve been asking ever since the order came out and as late as (Wednesday) morning.”

He said there are acute-care hospitals that are also designated as nursing homes or auxiliary hospitals in Alberta, which prompted the union’s push for clarity to understand whether those are included in the order.

Additionally, there are places such as the Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary that isn’t designated as a nursing home or an auxiliary hospital, but has transition units for residents that are awaiting long-term care placement.

“It appears the order doesn’t apply there but, again, we’ve asked and asked and asked and there doesn’t appear to be any clarity on that,” said Harrigan. “The last thing we want is for our members to do something that medical experts have determined they shouldn’t be doing.”

UNA has filed a provincewide grievance seeking immediate clarity from Alberta Health Services.

Hinshaw said she learned of the grievance Wednesday and that details of the order are still being worked out.

“We do know that some staff work in other settings such as acute care or home care and then in a long-term care site. It would be ideal to restrict people to as few sites as possible, however, the intent of the order is to start with those sites that are the highest risk,” said Hinshaw.

Alberta donates additional supplies to harder-hit provinces

Premier Jason Kenney on Wednesday also announced additional donations to harder-hit provinces in the nation.

The province donated personal protective equipment and ventilators to Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia earlier this month. As Alberta continues to perform better than projected, Kenney said Alberta will be giving 25 ventilators to Quebec and 20,000 procedural masks to the Northwest Territories.

“Our stockpile of medical equipment, including ventilators, remains far larger than both our current or anticipated needs,” said Kenney. “We project that we will have a margin of several hundred ventilators even at the peak of the pandemic in Alberta.”

He said Albertans cannot stand by “indifferently” while COVID-19 threatens the lives of other Canadians, notably Quebec where more than 1,100 people have died of the virus.

Twitter: @alanna_smithh

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At midday: TSX flat following release of dismal trade data – The Globe and Mail



Canada’s main stock index was flat on Thursday with bleak trade data for April denting sentiment.

The nation’s exports and imports plunged in April as the coronavirus-fueled lockdowns forced factories and retail stores to shut businesses, Statistics Canada said.

At 11:51 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 1.65 points, or 0.01%, at 15,573.58.

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The energy sector erased early losses and sat 0.1%, despite a slide in oil prices.

The financials sector was up 0.3%. The industrials sector rose 0.2%.

The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 1% as spot gold futures rose 0.5% to $1,706.05 per ounce, recovering from a slide to a near one-month low of $1,688.89 in the last session. U.S. gold futures were up 0.4% at $1,710.90.

Canada posted a trade deficit of $3.25-billion in April as exports fell by nearly 30% to the lowest level in more than 10 years at $32.7-billion. Analysts had forecast exports would be $42.1-billion.

“This dismal report adds to the evidence that the economy contracted sharply in April,” said Ryan Brecht, a senior economist at Action Economics. “However, the reopening of the economy and recovery in energy prices in May suggests that April will mark the bottoming out of activity.”

On Wednesday, the Bank of Canada said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global economy appears to have peaked, while the Canadian economy seems to have avoided worst-case scenario projections.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes edged lower in choppy trading on Thursday, as a rally fueled by hopes of a post-coronavirus economic recovery fizzled out even with weekly jobless claims dipping below 2 million for the first time since mid-March.

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Still, the Nasdaq 100 became the first U.S. equity index to reclaim its intraday record high, powered by the NYSE FANG+TM index, which includes Facebook Inc, Apple Inc , Inc, Netflix and Alphabet Inc.

Wall Street’s main indexes have recovered sharply from their March lows and the tech-heavy Nasdaq index is now only 2% below its all-time closing high hit in February.

“In this market, you need to be selective and technology continues to be one of our favorite sectors,” said Larry Adam, chief investment officer at Raymond James in Baltimore, Maryland.

“There’s going to be much more reliance on fundamentals … and (technology-related) are the types of companies that have the earnings growth that will be rewarded by the market.”

A report from the Labor Department showed new claims for state unemployment benefits totaled 1.877 million for the week ended May 30, down from 2.126 million in the prior week. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 1.8 million initial claims in the latest week.

Focus will now shift to the closely watched employment report for May, due Friday, which is expected to show the unemployment rate rocketing to 19.8%, a post-World War Two record.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 14.28 points, or 0.05%, at 26,284.17, the S&P 500 was down 7.23 points, or 0.23%, at 3,115.64 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 37.95 points, or 0.39%, at 9,644.96.

American Airlines Group Inc jumped 24.5% after the airline revealed plans to fly more than 55% of its July 2019 domestic capacity and boost its U.S. flight schedule next month.

Jif peanut butter maker J.M. Smucker Co fell 3.8% after the company forecast a decline in full-year sales on weakness in sales to restaurants and schools.

Charles Schwab Corp gained 1.5% after it received an anti-trust approval from the Department of Justice for its purchase of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. Shares of TD Ameritrade jumped 3.5%.

EBay Inc jumped 6.3% after it raised its current-quarter revenue and profit forecast, as people stuck at home ordered more from its platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oil prices fell on Thursday on doubts over the ability of top crude producers to agree to extend record output cuts, heightened by worries over a build in U.S. fuel inventories.

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Brent crude futures were down 48 cents, or 1.2%, at $39.31 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dropped 74 cents, or 2%, to $36.55.

Saudi Arabia and Russia, two of the world’s biggest oil producers, want to extend cuts of 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) that major producers agreed to in April. But a suggestion by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ current president Algeria to meet on Thursday was delayed amid talks about poor compliance by some producers.

OPEC and allies led by Russia, a group known as OPEC+, could still hold a ministerial video conference this week if Iraq and others which have not fully complied with existing supply cuts agree to boost their adherence, three OPEC+ sources told Reuters.


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Gold shrugs as ECB throws more stimulus into markets to fight COVID-19 – Kitco NEWS



Editor’s Note: With so much market volatility, stay on top of daily news! Get caught up in minutes with our speedy summary of today’s must-read news and expert opinions. Sign up here!

(Kitco News) – The gold market is holding steady above $1,700 but is seeing little reaction as the European Central Bank threw more stimulus into financial markets Thursday.

As expected, following its monetary policy meeting, the ECB announced that the interest rate on the main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility will remain unchanged at 0.00%, 0.25% and -0.50% respectively.

However, in an effort to support the European economy, devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ECB said that its pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP) will be increased by €600 billion to a total of €1,350 billion.

“In response to the pandemic-related downward revision to inflation over the projection horizon, the PEPP expansion will further ease the general monetary policy stance, supporting funding conditions in the real economy, especially for businesses and households,” the ECB said.

The timeline for the PEPP program will also be extended until at least June 2021.

Andrew Kenningham, chief Europe economist at Capital Economics said that the latest move by the ECB more than meets market expectations.

“It also does enough to justify the view that euro-zone policymakers have got their act together, for now at least, in responding to the coronavirus crisis,” he said.

Along with the emergency spending measures, the central bank said that its regular asset purchase programme (APP) will continue at a monthly pace of €20 billion, together with the purchases under the additional €120 billion temporary envelope until the end of the year.

The ECB also reiterated that its asset purchase programme will run for as long as the committee deems necessary.

The gold market is not seeing much reaction to the new stimulus measures. August gold Futures last traded at $1,711.20 an ounce, up 0.38% on the day.

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U.S. trade gap widens in April masking steep declines in both exports and imports – MarketWatch



The numbers: The U.S. trade deficit widened to $49.4 billion in April from a revised $42.3 billion in the prior month, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a $49.5 billion shortfall. The wider trade gap masks a significant decline in trade flows from the COVID-19 pandemic.

What happened: Exports fell 20.5% to $151.3 in April. The decline was led by civilian aricraft, crude oil, and autos.

Imports dropped 13% to $200.7 billion. The decline was led by passenger cars, semiconductors and consumer goods including pharmaceutical preparation and apparel.

Exports are down 9.5% year-to-date, while imports are off 10.2%. The U.S. services surplus narrowed $1.3 billion to $22.4 billion.

The trade gap with China widened $9 billion to $26 billion in April.

Big picture: The COVID-19 pandemic has depressed trade flows into and out of the United States, economists said. The wider deficit should depress second-quarter gross domestic product even further. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch are expecting GDP to decline at a 27.2% annual rate in the April-June quarter.

Market reaction: Stocks futures indicated a lower opening on Thursday. Stocks have been on a tear lately. with the Nasdaq Composite

moving to with 2% of its all-time high.

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