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Penny stock craze at boiling point with SEC eyeing social media – Financial Post

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Last week SEC suspended trading in firm that had surged 633 per cent in 2021 to just over two-tenths of a cent before the halt

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GameStop mania is off the front page, but the spirit that fed it still rules many corners of the market. Penny stocks are an area where sentiment remains boiling hot, earning the scrutiny of federal regulators.

Way-off-exchange venues where lightly regulated companies have repeatedly been drawn into social media-fuelled trading vortexes saw more than 1 trillion shares change hands in December for the first time in a decade. It happened again in January. This month, daily average volume is tracking 64 per cent above those levels, a pace that could push the monthly total toward 2 trillion.

The mayhem has caught the eye of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which last week suspended trading in SpectraScience Inc. — a firm that had surged 633 per cent in 2021 to just over two-tenths of a cent before the halt. The SEC’s order noted that while the company hadn’t filed reports in years and its phone number doesn’t work, “social media accounts may be engaged in a coordinated attempt to artificially influence” its share price.

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“Regulatory halts in some of these stocks that are traded over-the-counter, which is the case for a lot of these penny stocks, isn’t entirely unusual or unheard of,” said Shawn Cruz, senior market strategist at TD Ameritrade Inc. “The SEC is now looking at that because they’re questioning what’s driving some of the behaviour.”

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SpectraScience is just one penny stock that vaulted from obscurity to viral sensation this year. In 2021, on any given day, there have been a dozen or more similar stories. Oftentimes, chatter on social media sites like Stocktwits and Twitter and other online chatrooms presages takeoff. It’s happening as retail traders equipped with zero commissions at brokers have swelled to 23 per cent of stock trading volume, up from 20 per cent last year, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

So far this month, an average of 99 billion shares in companies that don’t trade on classic exchanges — often called “over-the-counter” securities —  have changed hands each day. Should that pace continue, February would see total penny stock trading volume of roughly 1.9 trillion, data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence show.

Sundial Capital Research called the pickup “a speculative surge like no other,” in a recent research report, noting that “over-the-counter activity has continued to rocket higher in recent weeks.”

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In the case of SpectraScience, volume surpassed 3.5 billion shares on a single day in late January as the stock surged 167 per cent. Over the last month, an average of more than 500 million shares changed hands each day, about 12 times what was normal in 2020. The SEC suspended trading on Feb. 10 due to “questions regarding the accuracy and adequacy of information about the company in the marketplace and potentially manipulative trading activity,” the suspension order says.

To some, it’s hard not to note the similarity to the penny-stock crazes of the past, when schemes like “pump-and-dump” were the rage.

“It is very markedly similar to what we saw in 1999 with these day traders and novice investors coming in and treating the market as a get-rich-quick type of scheme, and of course that didn’t end too well 20 years ago,” said Marc Odo, client portfolio manager at Swan Global Investments. “As long as people don’t lose too much, they can continue to be a force — it’s only when people start losing more than they can afford that they’re going to start exiting the market.”

Bloomberg.com

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Kenney downplays apparent UCP disharmony after government MLAs take to social media – CTV Edmonton

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EDMONTON —
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is downplaying apparent disharmony inside his governing United Conservative Party after multiple elected officials took to social media criticizing the province’s reopening plan. 

On Tuesday, at least five government members of legislative assembly posted similarly-worded statements to social media. All of them expressed frustration that more restrictions weren’t lifted Tuesday despite the province being below a number of previously-stated benchmarks.

“Many people have questions about some of the inconsistent rules and moving goalposts,” Barnes wrote. “I know this and other issues have shaken the trust of Albertans.” 

Barnes also noted he heard about the limited reopening plans on social media, “the same time and way as most Albertans did.” 

Other government MLAs Ron Orr, Michaela Glasgo, Angela Pitt and Todd Loewen all posted similar messages to their social media, calling for looser restrictions and a regional reopening plan.

“I will take the concerns of my constituents back to the government in hopes it will make a difference,” reads the end of the statements posted by Barnes.

On Wednesday, Kenney said there’s “an ongoing debate” within the government caucus about the best COVID-19 response. 

“I welcome input from MLA’s of both parties,” said Kenney. “I’m not at all surprised that Albertans have a range of opinions on the right response to COVID, that’s been the case fromday one.”

“There’s quite a diversity of views there at the end of the day, the government is responsible for taking the expert public health advice of the chief medical officer and her team closely, studying the data, and making difficult decisions.” 

He noted had avoided lockdown measures like curfews and shelter in place orders seen in the United States and Europe. 

“I would say Alberta’s done a good job of balancing the different and very serious issues here.”

In February, Kenney rejected the idea of a regional reopening plan. 

“Transmission can happen very fast and we have to look at the broader trends — yes, in the regions, but also the whole province,” Kenney said on Feb. 11.

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Kenney downplays apparent UCP disharmony after government MLAs take to social media – CTV Edmonton

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EDMONTON —
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is downplaying apparent disharmony inside his governing United Conservative Party after multiple elected officials took to social media criticizing the province’s reopening plan. 

On Tuesday, at least five government members of legislative assembly posted similarly-worded statements to social media. All of them expressed frustration that more restrictions weren’t lifted Tuesday despite the province being below a number of previously-stated benchmarks.

“Many people have questions about some of the inconsistent rules and moving goalposts,” Barnes wrote. “I know this and other issues have shaken the trust of Albertans.” 

Barnes also noted he heard about the limited reopening plans on social media, “the same time and way as most Albertans did.” 

Other government MLAs Ron Orr, Michaela Glasgo, Angela Pitt and Todd Loewen all posted similar messages to their social media, calling for looser restrictions and a regional reopening plan.

“I will take the concerns of my constituents back to the government in hopes it will make a difference,” reads the end of the statements posted by Barnes.

On Wednesday, Kenney said there’s “an ongoing debate” within the government caucus about the best COVID-19 response. 

“I welcome input from MLA’s of both parties,” said Kenney. “I’m not at all surprised that Albertans have a range of opinions on the right response to COVID, that’s been the case fromday one.”

“There’s quite a diversity of views there at the end of the day, the government is responsible for taking the expert public health advice of the chief medical officer and her team closely, studying the data, and making difficult decisions.” 

He noted had avoided lockdown measures like curfews and shelter in place orders seen in the United States and Europe. 

“I would say Alberta’s done a good job of balancing the different and very serious issues here.”

In February, Kenney rejected the idea of a regional reopening plan. 

“Transmission can happen very fast and we have to look at the broader trends — yes, in the regions, but also the whole province,” Kenney said on Feb. 11.

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Singapore police investigate lawmaker over sign supporting hawkers: media – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Police in Singapore are investigating whether a parliamentarian broke a strict public order law after he held up a placard that called for support for local food businesses, local media reported on Wednesday.

Lawmaker Louis Ng posted four pictures on Facebook last June of himself with hawkers at a Singapore food centre, holding a piece of paper that read “support them” followed by a smiley face.

Organising or taking part in a public assembly without a police permit in Singapore is illegal, even if a demonstration is by only one person. Breaking the law can lead to a fine of up to S$5,000 ($3,760).

“The police have been looking into a possible offence of public assembly without permit by Member of Parliament Mr Louis Ng,” police said in a statement. “We have already interviewed Mr. Ng. Police investigations are ongoing.”

The police did not give further details. However, Ng, a member of the ruling People’s Action Party, referred to the incident in a Facebook post on Wednesday and said he had provided a statement to police.

“I wanted to urge our residents to support our hawkers and held a sign indicating this and took photos together with the hawkers,” he said on Facebook.

Last year, Singapore charged activist Jolovan Wham for staging a one-man protest without a permit over an incident in which he held up a sign bearing a crudely drawn smiley face outside a police station.

($1 = 1.3298 Singapore dollars)

(Reporting by Chen Lin; Editing by Martin Petty and Ed Davies)

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