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COVID-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir to be manufactured in Canada – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Merck Canada announced on Monday that it is partnering with Thermo Fisher Scientific to manufacture the investigational COVID-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir at a facility in Whitby, Ont., for distribution to global markets.

The Canadian location will produce doses of molnupiravir, developed in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, for distribution in Canada, the U.K., the European Union, Asia Pacific, and Latin America, pending approvals in those respective regions. The drug is awaiting approval by Health Canada.

The facility was chosen because of its capacity, capability, and the speed with which it is able to produce the drug, Merck Canada’s new president Marwan Akar said during a press conference.

Thermo Fisher’s existing Whitby manufacturing site is one of three locations in the world that will produce molnupiravir.

“We are marking a very key milestone, and rebuilding Canada’s biomanufacturing capability,” Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne said during the news conference.

“We’ll be producing COVID medications for Canadians and indeed for the world…so to me this is a very big step in how we intend to reveal our biomanufacturing sector in Canada.”

Earlier in the pandemic, Canada came under criticism for its inability to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines domestically, leaving Ottawa reliant on U.S. and European manufacturers to produce and provide doses.

Minister Champagne said the latest announcement is part of the government’s efforts to ensure Canada is better prepared and that “we redesign the supply chain so whatever may come next, we would be ready.”

The new manufacturing deal will also help Ontario’s economic recovery with a $19 million capital investment supporting more than 50 high-paying jobs in the region, according to Victor Fedeli, Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.

Last week, the federal government signed a deal with Merck to purchase 500,000 molnupiravir pills, with an option for another half million, pending approval. Request for approval of the drug was submitted in August.

Antiviral drug treatments are considered another tool in the fight against COVID-19, experts say, after personal protective equipment, testing, and vaccines.

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Oil Falters On Unexpected Crude Inventory Build – OilPrice.com

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Oil Falters On Unexpected Crude Inventory Build | OilPrice.com


Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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Crude oil prices moved lower today after the Energy Information Administration reported a crude oil inventory build of 2.4 million barrels for the week to January 21.

This compared with a modest build of half a million barrels for the previous week.

In gasoline, the EIA estimated a build of 1.3 million barrels for the week to January 21, with production averaging 8.9 million barrels daily.

This compared with a 5.9-million-barrel build reported for the previous week, which extended a two-week build streak to three weeks. Production for the previous week averaged 8.7 million bpd.

In middle distillates, the agency estimated an inventory decline of 2.8 million barrels for last week, with production at 4.8 million bpd.

This compared with an inventory decline of 1.4 million barrels for the previous week, when production averaged 4.7 million bpd.

Refinery runs averaged 15.5 million barrels daily last week, which was almost unchanged on the previous week. Imports stood at 6.2 million bpd, compared with 6.7 million bpd for the previous week.

U.S. crude oil inventories have been on the decline for several weeks now, and the total is palpably below what’s normal for this time of the year, Reuters’ John Kemp noted in a recent column.

Kemp noted in the column that this points to a chronically undersupplied global oil market as OPEC+ and U.S. shale producers are either unable or unwilling to ramp up production more substantially.

Commercial U.S. crude oil inventories, Kemp, noted, had shed 273 million barrels since hitting a peak in July 2020, more than offsetting additions totaling 204 million barrels during the first wave of lockdowns after the pandemic hit.

Oil prices are reflecting these developments, with Brent crude topping $89 per barrel and West Texas Intermediate at over $86 per barrel at the time of writing. Besides the chronic undersupply in the U.S., there is also growing worry bout a global undersupply of crude oil, which is also helping keep prices higher, with forecasts for Brent topping $100 per barrel later this year multiplying.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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Despite record high inflation, Bank of Canada holds interest rate steady — for now – CBC News

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The Bank of Canada has decided not to raise its benchmark interest rate just yet.

Like many other central banks around the world, the bank slashed its core lending rate — known as the target for the overnight rate — at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, to ensure that consumers and businesses had access to cheap lending in order to keep the economy afloat.

But two years of rock-bottom lending rates have been a major contributor to inflation, which rose to almost five per cent in Canada last month — its highest level in more than 30 years.

That prompted expectations that the bank would need to start raising its rate soon. But the bank decided not to do that yet, although it makes it clear that it could be leaning that way in the very near future.

While the rate stayed the same, the bank did decide to do away with what it calls its “exceptional forward guidance” to keep rates where they are for as long as is needed, until the slack in the economy gets absorbed.

“This is a significant shift in monetary policy,” governor Tiff Macklem said at a press conference following the announcement. “[It] signals that interest rates will now be on a rising path.”

But the bank said the ongoing uncertainty around the Omicron variant means it’s not ready to take its first steps along that path yet.

Why not now?

At least one bank watcher says standing pat was a mistake.

“The decision, in our view, is a policy misstep,” foreign exchange analyst Simon Harvey with Monex Canada said, “and is one that could prove costly later down the line.”

By waiting to raise its rate, Harvey said, the bank risks “emboldening near-term inflation expectations and flaming the fire underneath the housing market.”

Canada’s housing market has been on fire during the pandemic, with cheap lending acting like rocket fuel and sending prices higher. 

The central bank’s rate impacts the rates that Canadians get from their banks on things such as variable-rate mortgages, so keeping the rate low will extend that.

Investors expect as many as half a dozen rate hikes this year, which means the door was open for the bank to raise the rate.

“The question is why didn’t they take it?” Harvey said. “Governor Macklem will have a lot of explaining to do.”

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Microsoft offers strong forecast, lifting shares

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Microsoft Corp on Tuesday forecast revenue for the current quarter broadly ahead of Wall Street targets, driven in part by its Intelligent Cloud unit.

The outlook soothed concerns about growth sparked by results for the December quarter, which initially dragged on Microsoft’s shares in after-hours trade. But the shares reversed course following the outlook, trading 3% above the closing price.

Investors were seeking assurances that the enterprise cloud business is still growing strongly and got it from Microsoft.

“So the quarter itself was, ho hum. Good, but not as great as we’ve seen past quarters,” said Brent Thill, an analyst at Jefferies. “But then the guidance for the third quarter really turned the tape around and saved the Nasdaq, if you will.”

Thill said Microsoft’s guidance that Azure revenue would be up sequentially was strong assurance that cloud demand was solid.

Microsoft forecast Intelligent Cloud revenue of $18.75 billion-$19 billion for its fiscal third quarter, driven by “strong growth” in its Azure platform. That compared with a Wall Street consensus of $18.15 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

Thill said the strong momentum for cloud computing benefiting Microsoft will likely also be reflected in upcoming results for rivals Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

Microsoft delivered strong outlooks in other areas, too.

The More Computing unit expects revenue of $14.15 billion-$14.45 billion for the third quarter, ahead of the Wall Street target of $13.88 billion, and Productivity and Business Processes of $15.6 billion-$15.85 billion compared with the consensus target of $15.72 billion.

Full-year operating margins are forecast to be up slightly from the previous year.

Microsoft’s total second-quarter revenue beat expectations but Azure revenue growth of 46% was only in line with analyst expectations as compiled by Visible Alpha. The Azure growth showed a steady drop from fiscal 2020 when growth was in the 60% range.

Microsoft has become one of the most valuable companies in the world https://www.reuters.com/technology/apple-set-hand-crown-worlds-most-valuable-company-microsoft-2021-10-29 by betting heavily on corporate software and services, especially its cloud services and the movement to the web of its Outlook email and calendar software, known as Office 365, which benefited from the switch to working and learning from home during the pandemic. Demand for cloud services from Microsoft and rivals Amazon.com and Alphabet also benefited from the pandemic-fueled shift online.

Revenue from Microsoft’s biggest segment, which offers cloud services and includes Azure, its flagship cloud offering, rose 26%, while the business that houses its Office 365 services increased 19% in the quarter.

Net income rose to $18.77 billion, or $2.48 per share, from $15.46 billion, or $2.03 per share, a year earlier.

The company said revenue rose to $51.73 billion in the three months ended Dec. 31, from $43.08 billion a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $50.88 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

Investors are also focused on Microsoft’s proposed $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard Inc https://www.reuters.com/technology/microsoft-buy-activision-blizzard-deal-687-billion-2022-01-18, announced on Jan. 18, a huge expansion for its gaming division. It also broadens the company’s efforts in the so-called metaverse, or the merging of online and offline worlds, which will have corporate and consumer applications.

Microsoft said the Activision Blizzard deal would help boost Xbox content and services revenue. Growth has fallen sharply from a high in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020 when Xbox content and services grew 65%. In the past quarter, revenue rose 10%, while in the year-ago quarter it rose 40%.

“They have a ton of great content and franchises. And that’s where that revenue would eventually come in when the deal lands, for sure,” said Brett Iversen, general manager, investor relations at Microsoft, referring to the Activision deal.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru, Jane Lanhee Lee in Oakland, California, and Danielle Kaye in New YorkEditing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Peter Henderson, Matthew Lewis and Leslie Adler)

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