David Friend, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, December 24, 2020 1:05PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 24, 2020 4:35PM EST
TORONTO – Drive-thru Christmas light festivals will be going dark in Ontario weeks earlier than organizers planned under Doug Ford’s stricter COVID-19 measures that go into effect on Saturday.
And some organizers said any hope they might change the Ford government’s mind over the holidays was quickly dimming.
Andrew Gidaro, who co-produces Holiday Nights of Lights in Vaughan, Ont., said Thursday that what started as a “meaningful dialogue” with leaders seeking a possible solution became less reassuring as Christmas drew nearer.
He now worries about the “chaos” that will play out after the holidays as people pull into his glimmering lights showcase only to find out they missed an email notifying them their tickets were cancelled.
Several other light festival operators described the confusion that played out leading up to Christmas as the drive-thru spectacles they created suddenly became outlawed.
Monica Gomez, who operated the Polar Drive near Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, had planned to run the event until January, before the Dec. 26 lockdown was announced.
“We went and took the risk,” she said.
“And in the prime weeks, we are being locked out, eating the financial losses.”
Her region had already been operating under stricter grey-zone lockdown measures that started on Nov. 23, but drive-thrus were still allowed up until the announcement earlier this week.
“It wasn’t all about the revenue,” she added.
“This was about doing something for families. In our mind, we’re like, why would you take that one thing away from people right now?”
Ontario is grappling with rising COVID-19 infection rates, including a new record high of 2,447 cases reported Thursday.
Residents are being told to stay home as much as possible and only go out for essential services, even before the month-long province-wide lockdown begins.
The latest changes impact an array of other businesses that relied on in-car experiences.
Drive-in movie theatres were told several days before the opening of “Wonder Woman 1984” on Dec. 25 they would no longer be allowed to operate, while the drive-in Immersive Van Gogh exhibit in Toronto has been forced to close as well.
Some drive-in Christmas light events already threw in the towel, including Canadian Tire’s Christmas Trail, which closed up on Dec. 23 and cancelled all future reservations.
Daryl Driegen, director of operations at Glow Gardens in Fort Erie, Ont., says the timing couldn’t be worse.
The week leading up to Christmas and the week after the holidays are key periods of activity for his 3-kilometre stretch of lights inside Safari Niagara. He was planning to stay open into mid-January.
“This order is forcing us to fire all of our staff on Christmas Eve,” he said.
Glow’s locations faced a similar hurdle in British Columbia where drive-thru Christmas light events ran against regulations until a case was made to allow them to open earlier this month, Driegen said.
Ticketed events, he argued, at least require families to stay in their cars. If they’re out spotting decorated houses in their neighbourhoods, he believes more people are likely to cross paths with other sightseers.
But without a solution to keep Ontario’s holiday drive-thrus open, Driegen only sees disappointment from thousands of customers he said purchased tickets for the coming weeks.
Driegen said his customer service department got overwhelmed with requests from visitors looking to move their tickets to before the lockdown.
“But I can’t handle more capacity, so the people just couldn’t go,” he said.
“Families (may have) planned this as their one Christmas activity but now that’s snatched away from them.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 24, 2020.
GameStop’s volatile rally smashes Wall St price targets – Aljazeera.com
The video game retailer’s stock surged as much as 145 percent to $159.18 on Monday, triggering at least nine trading halts.
To see how far GameStop Corp. has outrun anyone’s ability to render sensible analysis, consider what its current dizzying rally has done to Wall Street’s best guesses of its value.
Now perched close to $75 a share, hoisted by a short squeeze ignited and arguably organized in chat rooms, the game retailer’s stock is about $60 above the average forecast of equity handicappers tracked by Bloomberg. The ratio between the two is by far the biggest in the Russell 3000 and jumped for a third day, as crazed trading capped a stretch in which the 37-year-old company burned bears who had shorted 139% of its shares.
It’s happening in a stock that before 2020 had fallen six straight years as earnings shrunk, and which isn’t projected to turn a profit before fiscal 2023. While fundamentals may one day matter again, GameStop has now become the latest show of force by newbie day traders in a market that seems more like their plaything each day.
The stock surged as much as 145% to $159.18 on Monday, at one point triggering at least nine trading halts. It briefly turned negative before bouncing back to trade up 22% to $79.56 at 2 p.m. in New York. The shares have advanced more than 320% since the start of the year.
“It doesn’t make business sense,” said Doug Clinton, co-founder of Loup Ventures. “It makes sense from an investor psychology standpoint. I think there’s a tendency where there is heavy retail interest for those types of traders to think about stocks differently than institutional investors in terms of what they’re willing to pay.”
Right now, they’re willing to pay 471% more than what analysts consider reasonable, on average. While perhaps fairly priced relative to its annual sales of about $5.2 billion in the 12 months through October, those sales are down 40% in just two years. The company is expected to report a per-share loss in both fiscal 2021 and 2022. To get a price-earnings multiple it’s necessary to look two years into the future, where the P/E is around 58.
Bears have seen more than $6.1 billion mark-to-market losses this year, according to financial analytics firm S3 Partners.
While Wall Street may have no clue what GameStop shares are worth, it does have ideas on what the company should do with them: sell.
“GameStop can issue equity and should sell stock to pay down debt,” said Wedbush Securities Inc. analyst Michael Pachter, who had a price target of $16 for GameStop as of Jan. 11. Doing so would involve “minimal dilution at these levels” and provide protection against an economic downturn. “They should do as much as the market will absorb,” he said.
Separately, Telsey Advisory Group analyst Joseph Feldman double-downgraded the stock to underperform from outperform on Monday, removing GameStop’s only buy-or-equivalent recommendation.
Whatever the future holds, the recent past has been a bonanza for anyone who dared own the stock — or, even better, bullish options. Calls expiring Jan. 29 with a strike price of $115 were the most-traded GameStop contract early Monday. Other similar wagers had correspondingly heady gains as contracts once seen as long-shot upward bets suddenly were in the money.
At investment research firm Hedgeye, analysts advised clients to not go short the stock, despite removing it from their “best idea long list” to reanalyze fundamentals. “Wouldn’t dare do that given the positive catalysts we think will be coming down the pike as the year progresses” with a very bullish calendar on the horizon, Brian McGough and Jeremy McLean wrote.
GameStop “has become a cult stock because of Ryan Cohen’s success with Chewy,” Wedbush’s Pachter said, referring to the activist investor and co-founder of online pet retailer Chewy Inc., who joined GameStop’s board this month. “I cannot discount Mr. Cohen’s past successes and don’t know what he has in mind going forward, but I need to see their strategy before I give them credit for materially higher earnings power.”
Canadian provinces push back vaccination plans as Pfizer deliveries grind to a halt – Canada News – Castanet.net
Some Canadian health-care workers are being told they’ll have to wait longer to receive their first doses of COVID-19 vaccines as deliveries from a major manufacturer grind to a temporary halt.
Canada is not expected to receive any Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this week as the company revamps its operations, and deliveries are expected to be slow for the next few weeks.
Ontario announced today that it was pausing COVID-19 vaccinations of long-term care staff and essential caregivers so that it can focus on giving the shots to all nursing home residents.
Several provinces have used up nearly all their vaccine supply and have been forced to push back their vaccination schedules.
Saskatchewan announced Sunday that it had exhausted all the doses it has received so far, while Quebec has used up more than 90 per cent of its supply.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the delay is only temporary and that Canada is expected to receive 4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of March.
Merck Gives Up on Coronavirus Vaccines – The Motley Fool
Pharmaceutical giant Merck (NYSE:MRK) officially threw in the towel on its efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. The company said it’s discontinuing the development of two candidates, V590 and V591, after a review of results from phase 1 studies indicated that they were unlikely to provide adequate protection against the coronavirus. It will instead focus its COVID-19 research and production capabilities on two therapeutic drugs for the disease.
Merck had hinted at a conference last month that the efficacy rates of Moderna‘s mRNA vaccine and the one developed by collaboration partners Pfizer and BioNTech were better than it had expected, and set a high bar for its efforts. As it turned out, V590 and V591 produced immune responses that were inferior not only to those produced by other vaccines, but to those seen in patients who have recovered from COVID-19 infections.
Merck is the second-largest vaccine seller in the world, but had hesitated to develop one for COVID-19, falling months behind in the race. Eventually, it launched programs to develop single-dose vaccine candidates based on proven technology, one using the viral vector Merck uses in its approved Ebola vaccine, and one from a company it acquired last year in the hope of getting multiple shots on the COVID-19 goal. Instead, Merck will take a non-cash charge to its fourth-quarter earnings for the programs.
However, the pharma company still has high hopes for two COVID-19 treatment candidates. MK-7110 is an anti-inflammatory drug that appears to reduce the risk of death or respiratory failure in moderately to severely ill COVID-19 patients by as much as 50%. Phase 3 trial results for it are expected in the first quarter. Molnupiravir (MK-4482) is an oral antiviral being evaluated in trials that are expected to be complete in May. If successful, that drug could compete with Gilead‘s remdesivir, which faces some skepticism over its efficacy.
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