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Hospitalizations drop below 450 as Alberta records 4 more COVID-19 deaths – CBC.ca

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Alberta reported four more deaths due to COVID-19 on Sunday, along with 351 new cases.

Currently, there are 6,242 active cases in the province, down slightly from 6,266 reported Saturday. 

Hospitalizations also dropped below 450 on Sunday, with 434 people in hospital with the illness, including 81 in intensive care unit beds. On Saturday, there were 457 people in hospital with the illness, with 84 in intensive care.

As active cases and hospitalizations continue to go down, the province will move ahead with the first round of eased COVID-19 restrictions, including limited school and minor sport training.

“Let’s continue to make safe, responsible choices to help keep our cases and hospitalization numbers on their downward trend,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, on Twitter. 

While 450 was the number that hospitalizations would have to drop below to ease restrictions further, the next phase of Alberta’s reopening plan would only kick in at least three weeks after the first stage, which begins Monday, Alberta Health said. 

Provincial labs completed 8,241 tests as of end of the day Saturday for a positivity rate of 4.3 per cent, which was slightly higher than the positivity rate of 3.6 per cent from the previous day. 

Of the four deaths reported Sunday, all of them were linked to outbreaks at continuing care centres, three in the Edmonton zone, and one in the Calgary zone. The deaths occurred between Jan. 4 and Feb. 5, bringing the total number of deaths in the province since the pandemic began to 1,709.

Here is how the active cases break down among health zones, as reported on Sunday:

  • Calgary zone:  2,508 cases
  • Edmonton zone: 1,889 cases
  • North zone: 814 cases
  • Central zone: 694 cases
  • South zone: 318 cases
  • Unknown: 19 cases

The number of doses of vaccine administered by the end of the day Saturday was 118,816, up 2,100 from the previous day. 

The next live update by Hinshaw will be on Monday.

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N.S. reports three new COVID-19 cases Wednesday; 21 active infections remain – CTV News Atlantic

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HALIFAX —
Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting three new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.

All of the new cases are in the Central zone. One is a close contact with a previously reported case, while two are under investigation.

Two of the province’s previously reported cases are now recovered, with the active cases increasing to 21.

TOP DOCTOR CONCERNED CASES COULD RISE

Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang, says he is concerned about community transmission after seeing several cases this week with no clear link to travel or another case.

“Many of those testing positive for COVID-19 recently have been socializing more with a broad range of close contacts,” said Strang. “The good news is that people are, by in large, respecting the limits and they are not gathering in large groups, but they are socializing frequently with different groups of people.”

Strang says, based on this information, the province does expect to see more positive COVID-19 cases in the coming days. He is reminding all Nova Scotians to be cautious and to remember to follow public health measures.

“We need to continue to be cautious. I recognize that COVID fatigue is real. We’ve been at this for almost a year, but as tired as everyone is, public health measures are as important now as they were last March and April,” said Strang.

“So, enjoy your friends, go out to dinner, and socialize in other ways, but I am just asking people that, even if you’re living within what’s required in the public health regulations, you need to go further to slow down your social activities. Spread out the frequency, keep your social groups, ideally, to a single social group no more than 10 and keep it consistent.”

STRANG ASKS TWO AREAS OF PROVINCE TO GET TESTED

Strang says the province identified 93 close contacts to a cluster reported in the Central zone last week that also had connections to Beaver Bank-Monarch Drive Elementary School, in Beaver Bank, N.S. He says of the close contacts, 89 have received negative test results. The province is still working to identify four close contacts to the cluster.

“So, that’s good news to share, that a cluster that does not appear to have spread further from that,” said Strang.

As a result of an increase in general community testing in the Lower Sackville/Beaver Bank area, an additional positive case has been identified, which remains under investigation.

Strang says due to the concerns surrounding the possibility of undetected community transmission, they are increasing the testing capacity and access to testing in two parts of the province.

“In Lower Sackville and Beaver Bank we are in the process of establishing a primary assessment centre… and in the communities between Wolfville and Berwick, because we have some other cases in there that we’re working to determine how they may be linked and we have concerns that it might be some undetected community spread.”

The province’s top doctor says they are asking anyone in the two areas to get tested, even if they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms.

“So, specifically focused testing in geographical areas is what we’ve done previously when we’ve detected concerning signs. We’re doing that again and it’s important. It’s what helped us robustly to deal with the Halifax outbreak, it’s what’s going to help us out right now. So, we ask people in those areas to take advantage and go get tested in the next few days.”

FIRST COVID-19 VACCINATION CLINIC IN FIRST NATIONS COMMUNITY

The first COVID-19 prototype clinic focusing on First Nations Communities took place at Millbrook First Nation on Wednesday.

“These clinics will start for those who are aged 55 and older, as well as other people that identified as important knowledge and language keepers in those communities,” said Strang.

Strang says the decision to start vaccinating at the age 55 was made to recognize that Indigenous communities, due to the impacts of systemic racism, may experience “disproportionate consequences.”

“It also recognizes that elders in the community play a very important role as holders of the language and knowledge keepers in their communities,” said Strang.

Elder Patsy Paul-Martin was the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at Millbrook First Nation on Wednesday. She says she feels privileged.

“I was excited. I feel protected,” said Paul-Martin.

Strang says the province is also working with African Nova Scotian communities, which they plan to have their first prototype clinic ready for at the end of March.

“We’re working closely with the community leaders to develop this prototype, and from there we will expand these clinics to other African Nova Scotian communities, and support access to community vaccine clinics, as well as working with community leaders to address the vaccine mistrust,” said Strang.

NOVA SCOTIANS OVER 80 TO BE VACCINATED SOON

Strang says beginning March 1, Nova Scotians over the age of 80 will be able to start booking their COVID-19 vaccine appointments. He says letters to people in that age group who hold an MSI card have been mailed out, which provide information on how to book an appointment.

Vaccinations will start being administered for this age group on March 8, with clinics being held at the IWK Health Centre, the Canada Games Complex Centre in Sydney, the NSCC Truro Campus in Truro, N.S., and the New Minas Baptist Church in New Minas, N.S.

Strang also announced six additional vaccination clinics that will be opening in Nova Scotia throughout the month of March.

Three of the new clinics that are scheduled to begin booking appointments on March 15 will be located at:

  • St. Francis University in Antigonish, N.S.
  • Halifax Forum in Halifax
  • NSCC Burridge Campus in Yarmouth, N.S.

Strang says the other three clinics, which are expected to begin on March 22, will be located at the NSCC Lunenburg Campus in Bridgewater, N.S., one in Amherst, N.S., and another one in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

N.S. CASE DATA

The Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 2,754 tests on Tuesday. The province has completed 320,346 tests since the pandemic began.

There have been 1,616 COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia. Of those, 1,530 cases have recovered and 65 people have died due to the novel coronavirus.

There is one person in hospital because of COVID-19 and they are in the intensive care unit.

There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the Central Zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.

The numbers reflect where a person lives and not where their sample was collected.

  • Western Zone: 99 cases (4 active case)
  • Central Zone: 1,307 cases (15 active cases)
  • Northern Zone: 128 cases (0 active cases)
  • Eastern Zone: 82 cases (2 active cases)

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, 2020, has been extended to March 7, 2021.

VACCINE UPDATE

Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 online dashboard now provides an update on the amount of vaccines that have been administered to date.

As of Wednesday, 29,237 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered so far. Of those, 17,579 were first doses and 11,658 were Nova Scotians receiving their second dose.

Of the vaccines administered 22,497 went to health care workers, and 3,160 were long-term care residents.

“We anticipate receiving 14,700 doses of vaccine, well, we are receiving them throughout this week, and our vaccine supply is expected to be steady with weekly shipments of at least 10,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine until the end of March,” said Strang. “Meaning that we are on target to meet the outcomes for the first 90 days of a vaccine strategy.”

NOVA SCOTIANS ENCOURAGED TO SEEK ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING

Public health is strongly encouraging Nova Scotians to seek asymptomatic COVID-19 testing, particularly if they have attended several social interactions, even with their own social circle.

COVID-19 tests can be booked through the provinces online self-assessment COVID-19 tool, or by calling 811.

People can also visit one of Nova Scotia’s many rapid pop-up testing sites that continue to operate throughout the province.

COVID ALERT APP

Canada’s COVID-19 Alert app is available in Nova Scotia.

The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

LIST OF SYMPTOMS

Anyone who experiences a fever or new or worsening cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose/nasal congestion 

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Royal Bank of Canada beats expectations on record capital markets earnings – Financial Post

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The bank’s net income for the three-month period ended Jan. 31 was approximately $3.85 billion, an increase of 10 per cent from a year earlier

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The chief executive of Canada’s biggest bank said Wednesday that they anticipate weak supply, rock-bottom interest rates and stockpiles of savings to keep driving demand for residential real estate, which comes as policymakers are starting to see froth in the housing markets. 

Canadian housing activity “remains elevated,” according to Dave McKay, Royal Bank of Canada’s president and CEO.

“While rising permit issuance is building up the new construction pipeline, we expect a lack of supply, low interest rates, elevated savings rates, continuing work-from-home arrangements and the potential resumption of immigration to underpin continued demand,” McKay said during a conference call for analysts and investors.

The comments followed Toronto-based RBC reporting first-quarter earnings that were better than expected, helped by both loan growth and a drop in the amount of money it had to set aside for potential loan losses. The base-case economic outlook that the bank uses for calculating expected credit losses also foresees Canadian housing prices to rise by 4.9 per cent over the next 12 months. 

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Yet the same kind of factors that RBC sees driving demand in the housing market are the same ones that policymakers are beginning to eye warily. 

Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem on Tuesday said that they are seeing some signs of “excess exuberance” in the housing market, albeit not to the level that prompted past policy actions such as mortgage stress tests. The governor noted that the economy is still coping with the coronavirus pandemic and said that “we need the growth we can get.” 

Even so, Macklem said that even they were surprised by the strength of the housing market’s rebound, which has been driven by factors such as a COVID-19-related desire for more space, helping to drive up demand and prices for suburban real estate. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, home sales set another all-time record in January, with the actual national average sale price increasing by 22.8 per cent from a year earlier. 

Macklem told reporters on Tuesday that the central bank looks for signs of “extrapolative expectations,” which would involve people counting on “unsustainable” increases in home prices to continue. 

“If people start to … think that those are going to go on indefinitely, that becomes a concern,” the governor said. “We are acutely aware that in a world of very low interest rates, there is a risk that housing prices could get stretched, households could get stretched, and certainly that’s a risk we want to guard against.” 

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RBC, however, sees some debt-related risk abating, which helped the lender to beat earnings expectations. 

The bank’s net income for the three-month period ended Jan. 31 was approximately $3.85 billion, an increase of 10 per cent from a year earlier. When adjusted for certain items, Canada’s biggest bank said first-quarter earnings per share were $2.69, up 10 per cent year-over-year and better than the $2.28 consensus of analyst estimates.

Profit from RBC’s personal and commercial banking unit rose six per cent from a year ago, to nearly $1.8 billion, as it grew both Canadian deposits and loans during the quarter. An improved outlook for credit quality also allowed RBC to release $97 million in reserve funds, with the bank’s total provisions for credit losses for the quarter $110 million, down 74 per cent from a year earlier.

McKay pointed to the progress being made on vaccines as a reason for its improving outlook. 

“We’re growing in confidence in the trajectory of the vaccination of our population and the mitigation of risk,” he said in response to an analyst’s question. “We’re not there yet, so we’re still waiting to see the execution of this, but we’re getting more confident that the timing is starting to narrow around when this will happen.” 

RBC also said its most recent financial results were boosted by a flurry of stock trading earlier this year and in late 2020, as the lender managed to beat first-quarter earnings expectations.

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The bank’s capital-markets business reported net income of approximately $1.07 billion for the first quarter, up 21 per cent from a year ago.This, the bank said, was mostly because of higher revenue, “largely driven by higher equity trading primarily in the U.S. reflecting increased client activity, partially offset by lower, albeit strong M&A revenue, which was the second highest following the historical high in Q1 2020.”

Market conditions gave RBC’s insurance business a lift as well, with the unit’s net income increasing 11 per cent year-over-year, to $201 million. This was chiefly because of “improved claims experience and higher favourable investment-related experience,” the bank said in a press release.

Also reporting an earnings beat on Wednesday was Montreal-based National Bank of Canada, which said its adjusted EPS for the quarter ended Jan. 31 were $2.15, better than the $1.71 analysts had been anticipating. 

In keeping with what its rivals have been reporting this earnings season, National said that its loan-loss provisions had fallen in the quarter, decreasing nine per cent year-over-year to $81 million.

“While uncertainty remains on the exact path and timing of a full recovery, the economy is adapting to a new reality and creating an environment conducive to revenue growth,” said Louis Vachon, president and CEO of National, during his bank’s conference call on Wednesday. “With more people working from home, coupled with historically low interest rates, we continue to see significant pent-up demand in the housing market.”

• Email: gzochodne@postmedia.com | Twitter:

In-depth reporting on the innovation economy from The Logic, brought to you in partnership with the Financial Post.

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Inflation debate: Famous 'Big Short' investor signals risk as Fed's Powell downplays concerns – Kitco NEWS

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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) As the Federal Reserve once again downplays inflation concerns, some major market players, including “Big Short” investor Michael Burry, are signaling just the opposite.

Powell

During his two-day testimony before Congress, Powell reiterated that central banks have learned how to keep inflation under control and that high inflation is “not a problem for this time.”

Powell pointed out that even though inflation may be volatile over the next few months, the effects won’t be “large or persistent.”

He added that inflation has been low for the last 25 years, and that it was not about to change. “We don’t see how a burst of fiscal support changes those inflation dynamics,” Powell said.

Powell even said that central banks have to unlearn the relationship with the money supply, noting that the growth of M2 doesn’t have a relationship with economic growth anymore.

When asked to elaborate on some leading inflation indicators, Powell noted that inflation dynamics evolve over time and don’t change overnight.

“Inflation is something I remember well. We’ve been in a low inflationary mode. And we have guidance telling markets when tapering will begin or when we will start raising rates,” he said.

Powell added that supply chain issues matter for inflation only when they are permanently challenged. “If there is a shortage of cars, prices will go up, but that doesn’t cause inflation. Inflation is something that happens year on year,” Powell said on Wednesday.

‘Big Short’ investor Michael Burry

These comments are in contrast to the alarm being sounded on Wall Street. The latest heavyweight to join the conversation was Michael Burry — the investor who was profiled in Michael Lewis’ “The Big Short” book about the mortgage crisis and who now runs Scion Asset Management.

Burry sent out a warning into the Twitterverse, warning investors to brace for inflation, as he pointed to a boom in demand due to the fiscal stimulus being injected into the economy.

“The U.S. government is inviting inflation with its MMT-tinged policies. Brisk Debt/GDP, M2 increases while retail sales, PMI stage V recovery. Trillions more stimulus & re-opening to boost demand as employee and supply chain costs skyrocket,” Burry tweeted on Saturday.

Burry is known for spotting the mortgage crisis ahead of time and making a fortune against the U.S. housing bubble. He became famous after his portrayal in the book and movie “The Big Short.” In 2019, Burry has invested in GameStop, well before the retail frenzy took over the stock, making millions.

The Scion Asset Management chief also quoted the book by Jens O. Parsson titled “Dying of Money: Lessons of the Great German and American Inflations.”

“Germany [the US] started by not paying adequately for its war [on COVID and the GFC fallout] out of the sacrifices of its people – taxes – but covered its deficits with war loans [Treasuries] and issues of new paper Reichsmarks [dollars]. ‘#doomedtorepeat,” Burry tweeted.

“#History is not useless,” said another tweet. “This text explores the 1970s American #inflation, which is more relevant today than one might think.”

Burry went on to say that in an inflationary crisis, the government would try to crush assets like gold and bitcoin.

“Prepare for inflation. Re-opening & stimulus are on the way. Pre-Covid it took $3 debt to create $1 GDP, and it is worse now. In an inflationary crisis, governments will move to squash competitors in the currency arena. BTC. Gold.”

Burry is short bitcoin at the moment, tweeting that the “long-term future is tenuous for decentralized crypto in a world of legally violent, heartless centralized governments with lifeblood interests in monopolies on currencies.”

Since then, Burry, under the hashtag @michaeljburry, has deleted all of his tweets, emptying his account completely.

Before 2021 even started, many analysts were worried about the threat of inflation. Here’s what some major players have said recently.

JPMorgan

Signs of inflation are already here, JPMorgan said in a note last week, adding that higher prices will trigger a new commodity supercycle.

“The tide on yields and inflation is turning,” JPMorgan said. “We believe that the new commodity upswing, and in particular oil up cycle, has started.”

Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs noted that inflation fears are driving some parts of the market but warned that the likely inflationary surge this year will be due to the base effects when weaker inflationary months are phased out from annual measures.

“Many investors believe the spending boost will lead to higher inflation and interest rates, which would reduce the value of equity duration and increase the importance of near-term growth,” said Goldman Sachs strategists. “Historically, inflation has boosted nominal S&P 500 revenues, but weighed on profit margins as companies struggled to lift prices at the same pace as rising input costs.”

Citigroup

As the economy improves, inflation fears are growing, according to Citigroup.

“Lead indicators suggest that an inflation scare may be in the making,” Citigroup Inc.’s chief U.S. equity strategist Tobias Levkovich. “Companies with price flexibility should come out as winners.”

Blackstone

Inflation means that we don’t “have the wind at our back anymore.”

“We’ve had a long 35 to 40 years of rate decline that has been a big support behind fixed-income investing, a big support behind equity multiples expanding, and so for those of us that live and breathe investing, it’s been a wind at our back for a long time,” said Blackstoneglobal head of credit Dwight Scott. “I don’t think we have the wind at our back anymore, but we don’t have the wind in our face yet. This is what the conversation on inflation is really about.”

Vanguard

Inflation is a big risk to the markets, according to Vanguard.

“The big risk in the market really is inflation, whether it is transitory or whether it is something more deep rooted,” said Vanguard head of investment-grade credit Arvind Narayanan. “There’s just a tremendous amount of stimulus in the marketplace, both monetary and fiscal, that favor economic growth.”

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