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Royal Bank of Canada warns of headwinds after better-than-expected profit – Financial Post



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“We expect mortgage growth to slow going forward as pent-up housing demand begins to cool,” Royal Bank Chief Executive Dave McKay said on the call.

Royal Bank joined rivals including Bank of Nova Scotia , Bank of Montreal and National Bank of Canada in reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter profits as it set aside less money than analysts had estimated to cover future bad loans.

That came after three straight quarters of adding to provisions for credit losses, including on performing loans, that have built up record reserve levels.

But should the pessimistic scenario materialize, allowances on performing loans would have to increase by about 18 per cent, Royal Bank Chief Risk Officer Graeme Hepworth said.

Amid short-term headwinds like the second coronavirus pandemic wave, and the end of loan deferrals and government support, “we do see a world where delinquencies and … impairments will start to increase through 2021,” Hepworth said.

That would come as trading and underwriting activity, which helped the bank’s capital markets unit generate near-record earnings of $2.8 billion this year, moderates, executives said.

Royal Bank reported fourth-quarter adjusted net income of $2.27 per share, up 5 cents from a year earlier, and better than estimates of $2.05.

National Bank, the smallest of Canada’s six largest lenders, which also reported results on Wednesday, took provisions of $110 million, versus the nearly $160 million that was expected. That helped it post adjusted profit of $1.69 a share, compared with expectations of $1.52.

Royal Bank shares slipped 0.3 per cent to $107.72 in morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, while National Bank’s stock dropped 1.1 per cent to $72.67. The TSE’s stock benchmark fell 0.1 per cent.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Retail trading frenzy sparks jitters for noted GameStop short-seller – The Globe and Mail



Short-seller Andrew Left does not usually smoke. But on Monday he had a cigarette to calm his nerves as shares of GameStop Corp, the stock he had shorted, continued to rocket higher.

Left, who has built a reputation by targeting companies he thinks are overvalued, is as convinced as ever that videogame retailer GameStop is a dying business whose stock price will fall sharply someday. He said on Tuesday he is still short the stock, which means he has bet that the price will fall, and more convinced than ever of his position.

“If I had never been involved in GameStop and came to this right now, would I still be short this stock? 100 percent,” Left, who runs Citron Research and a hedge fund, told Reuters on Tuesday. “This is an old school, failing mall-based video retailer and investors can’t change the perception of that.”

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GameStop did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Shares of GameStop jumped 22% on Tuesday after surging 144% a day earlier, as individual investors again piled into a number of niche stocks, prompting short sellers to scramble to cover losing bets.

Left shorted the company’s stock – selling borrowed shares in a bet that the price will fall and that the shares can be bought back at a lower level – when it traded around $40 a share and forecast publicly that it would tumble to $20 a share.

Since Left spoke out publicly about GameStop earlier this month, other investors have turned out en masse to take the other side of short-sellers’ bets, forcing the stock up some 308% this year to trade at $112.45, or up 47% on Tuesday.

Along the way, Left said he has been threatened – although he declined to specify how – and asked authorities to investigate.

“Everyone thinks this stock sucks and the only reason people are buying it and own it is that for them it is a game.”

He added, “I created this game, based on uncovering the truths … so I can’t get mad at people for taking the other side.”

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The market fury, however, is something that Left, who has been posting his research for two decades and has taken on prominent hedge fund managers like Bill Ackman at companies like Valeant, has not seen before.

Short selling is something every hedge fund is technically able to do but only a handful of firms – including Citron, Jim Chanos’ Kynikos Associates, Carson Block’s Muddy Waters Research, and Ben Axler’s Spruce Point Capital Management – specialize in.

Many hedge funds acknowledged over the last months that shorting had hurt their performance and Melvin Capital, a $13 billion hedge fund, on Monday received a financial lifeline from hedge funds Citadel and Point72 Asset Management after having been deeply hurt by short bets that went the other way.

The pain continues for short investors as some of the market’s most shorted stocks like retailers Bed Bath & Beyond and Dillard’s Inc have marched higher in the last days.

“I don’t smoke but yesterday I was outside smoking a cigarette,” Left acknowledged with a laugh, explaining his current stress. Last year his two-year-old fund returned 155%, after gaining 43% in 2019.

This year the Citron fund is off 2.5% since the beginning of January, Left said. “This kind of situation teaches you proper allocation,” he said.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday –



The latest:

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi will produce more than 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by its competitors Pfizer and BioNTech by the end of the year, CEO Paul Hudson told Le Figaro newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday.

As Sanofi and its British partner GlaxoSmithKline have delayed the launch of their shot to late 2021, the French company decided to approach Pfizer “in order to be helpful as of now,” Hudson said, adding that an agreement with the U.S. company had been reached.

The news about Sanofi comes as the European Union on Tuesday warned pharmaceutical giants that develop coronavirus vaccines to honour their contractual obligations after slow deliveries of shots from two companies hampered the bloc’s vaccine rollout in several countries.

The bloc already lashed out Monday at pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, accusing it of failing to guarantee the delivery of coronavirus vaccines without a valid explanation. It also had expressed displeasure over vaccine delivery delays from Pfizer-BioNTech last week.

“Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines. To create a truly global common good,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum’s virtual event in Switzerland. “And now, the companies must deliver. They must honour their obligations.”

The statement Tuesday highlighted the level of distrust that has grown between the 27-country bloc and pharmaceutical companies over the past week.

On Monday, the EU threatened to impose strict export controls on all coronavirus vaccines produced in the bloc to make sure that companies honour their commitments to the EU.

A doctor adjusts his personal protective gear before entering a patient’s room at a COVID-19 intensive care unit at Klinikum Rechts der Isar hospital in Munich, southern Germany on Monday. (Lennart Preiss/AFP/Getty Images)

The EU said it provided €2.7 billion (more than $4.1 billion Cdn) to speed up vaccine research and production capacity and was determined to get some value for that money with hundreds of millions of vaccine shots according to a schedule the companies had committed to.

“Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good, but it also means business,” von der Leyen said Tuesday via video link.

Germany was firmly behind von der Leyen’s view. 

“With a complex process such as vaccine production, I can understand if there are production problems — but then it must affect everyone fairly and equally,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn told ZDF television. “This is not about EU first, it’s about Europe’s fair share.”

The EU, which has 450 million citizens and the economic and political clout of the world’s biggest trading bloc, is lagging badly behind countries like Israel and Britain in rolling out coronavirus vaccine shots for its health-care workers and most vulnerable people. That’s despite having over 400,000 confirmed virus deaths since the pandemic began.

The United Kingdom on Tuesday became the first country in Europe to pass 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths. With more than two million dead worldwide, people the world over are mourning loved ones, but the U.K.’s toll weighs particularly heavily: it is the smallest nation to pass the milestone.

The EU has committed to buying 300 million AstraZeneca doses with an option on 100 million extra shots. Late last week, the company said it was planning to reduce a first contingent of 80 million to 31 million.

The shortfall of planned deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is expected to get medical approval by the bloc on Friday, combined with hiccups in the distribution of Pfizer-BioNTech shots is putting EU nations under heavy pressure. Pfizer says it was delaying deliveries to Europe and Canada while it upgrades its plant in Belgium to increase production capacity.

When asked Tuesday about potential European protectionism, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he had spoken to the CEO of Moderna earlier in the day — noting that the “recent musings” out of Europe came up in their conversation.

“It was very, very clear that the Canadian contracts that have been signed and the delivery schedule laid out will be respected,” he said.

The European Medicines Agency is scheduled to review the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine Friday and its approval is hotly anticipated. The AstraZeneca vaccine is already being used in Britain and has been approved for emergency use by half a dozen countries, including India, Pakistan, Argentina and Mexico.

The delays in getting vaccines will make it harder to meet early targets in the EU’s goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of its adults by late summer.

The EU has signed six vaccine contracts for more than two billion doses, but only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been approved for use so far.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 12:35 p.m. ET

What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Inside two Toronto ICUs one year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case:

A look inside two Toronto hospital ICUs one year after Canada’s first case of COVID-19, and at the doctors and nurses both exhausted and determined to keep fighting. 4:28

As Parliament resumed Monday, Trudeau faced a barrage of questions from MPs of all parties as they blasted the Liberal government for what they described as a botched approach to rolling out vaccines.

Both Trudeau and Procurement Minister Anita Anand repeated the government’s promise that by the end of September, all Canadians wishing to be vaccinated will have received their shots. The prime minister reiterated that message on Tuesday, as he faced more questions about procurement and vaccine rollouts amid growing concern about potential protectionism in the countries where the vaccines are made.

Trudeau has stressed that the delay that is currently hampering vaccination efforts is only temporary and that Canada is expected to receive four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of March. 

Earlier Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said there is “tremendous pressure” on the global supply chain for vaccines that the government has tried to mitigate.

“We are working on this every single day, because we know how important vaccines are to Canadians, to first and foremost the lives of Canadians and also to our economy,” she told a news conference in Ottawa by video.

The prime minister on Tuesday also told Canadians to expect new restrictions around travel, and once again urged people not to take non-essential trips abroad.

WATCH | More than 200 Ontario doctors demand end to ‘humanitarian crisis’ in long-term care:

Long-term care homes in Ontario are seeing the same devastation from COVID-19 in the second wave that was seen in the first wave, says Dr. Amit Arya, co-founder of Doctors for Justice in Long-Term Care. ‘We need action today,’ he said. 6:03

As of 11:20 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported 755,917 cases of COVID-19, with 61,055 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 19,357.

Despite the vaccine delay, some provinces continued to report encouraging drops in the number of new cases and hospitalizations.

Ontario reported 1,740 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 63 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 5,909.

According to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, more than 30,700 tests were completed. The health minister said in a tweet that of the cases announced on Tuesday, 677 were in Toronto, 320 were in Peel Region and 144 were in York Region.

Hospitalizations in Ontario stood at 1,466, with 383 COVID-19 patients in intensive care on Tuesday, according to a provincial dashboard.

Quebec, meanwhile, reported 1,166 new cases of COVID-19 and 57 additional deaths on Tuesday.  Hospitalizations in Quebec stood at 1,324, with 217 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units, according to a provincial update published on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Alberta on Monday, health officials reported the province’s first case of a COVID-19 variant first seen in the United Kingdom that can’t be directly traced to international travel. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said that while it is one case, the variant has the potential to spread faster than the original novel coronavirus and could quickly overwhelm hospitals if not checked.

“There’s no question that this kind of exponential growth would push our health-care system to the brink,” Shandro told a virtual news conference Monday.

Here’s a look at what’s happening across Canada:

From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 10:25 a.m. ET 

 What’s happening around the world

As of early Tuesday morning, more than 99.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 55.1 million of the cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.1 million.

In Europe, the U.K. is set to announce changes to its quarantine rules later Tuesday that could see anyone arriving in the country having to spend ten days in a hotel at their own expense. Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said there will be an “announcement on this issue later on today,” but would not be drawn on what the changes would entail.

The British government has been reviewing its quarantine policies amid concerns over new variants of the coronavirus. Whether the changes will be universal and apply to everyone arriving, including British citizens, or just to those arriving from high-risk coronavirus countries, is unclear. Zahawi told Sky News that “as we vaccinate more of the adult population, if there are new variants like the South African or the Brazilian variants, we need to be very careful.”

Pedestrians walk past a sign pointing toward a COVID-19 testing centre in Walthamstow over the weekend in London. (Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

The U.K. has seen more than 3.6 million reported cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 98,700 deaths.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, said Monday that Canada is considering additional international travel restrictions. Speaking on CBC’s Power & Politics, Freeland said she is, “very sympathetic to the view that, with the virus raging around the world, we need to be sure our borders are really, really secure.”

In Portugal, the health minister said authorities are considering asking other European Union countries for help amid a steep surge in COVID-19 cases. Portugal has had the world’s worst rate of new daily cases and deaths per 100,000 people for the past week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Health Minister Marta Temido said sending patients to other EU countries is not uncommon in the bloc. But, she said, Portugal has the disadvantage of being geographically remote and hospitals across the continent are under pressure from the pandemic. She said the country may instead be asking for medical workers to be sent.

Portuguese hospitals are under severe strain, Temido told public broadcaster RTP. “We have beds available,” she said. “What we’re struggling with is finding staff.”

That request may be difficult to fulfil, because all countries in the 27-nation bloc are dealing with their own pandemic strains, made more difficult now because of the emergence of virus variants.

In the Asia-Pacific region, health authorities in Taiwan are quarantining 5,000 people while looking for the source of two new coronavirus cases linked to a hospital.

Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began crossed one million on Tuesday and hospitals in some hard-hit areas were near capacity.

Medical workers visit COVID-19 patients at a general hospital in Indonesia on Monday. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced that new daily infections rose by 13,094 on Tuesday to bring the country’s total to 1,012,350, the most in Southeast Asia. The total number of deaths reached 28,468.

The milestone comes just weeks after Indonesia launched a massive campaign to inoculate two-thirds of the country’s 270 million people, with President Joko Widodo receiving the first shot of a Chinese-made vaccine. Health-care workers, military, police, teachers and other at-risk populations are being prioritized for the vaccine in the world’s fourth-most populous country.

Chinese airlines are offering refunded tickets as the coronavirus continues to spread in the country’s northeast. The offer Tuesday from the government’s aviation authority comes amid a push to prevent people travelling during the Lunar New Year holiday next month.

In the Americas, Mexico’s death toll passed 150,000 on Monday following a surge in infections in recent weeks.

The Current13:47In Brazil, hospitals fighting COVID-19 face oxygen shortage

Some hospitals fighting COVID-19 in Manaus, Brazil are facing an oxygen shortage, which could lead to dire consequences if they run out. We talk to Pierre Van Heddegem, head of the Doctors Without Borders mission in Brazil; and discuss the global extent of the problem with Leith Greenslade, a health activist and lead co-ordinator of the Every Breath Counts Coalition. 13:47

In Africa, Russia and China have approached Zimbabwe about supplying vaccines to tackle its escalating COVID-19 outbreak amid concern about Harare’s ability to afford the shots.

In the Middle East, Oman said earlier this week it will extend the closure of its land borders for another week until Feb. 1.

Have questions about the COVID-19 pandemic? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:10 a.m. ET

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Calgary company begins human clinical trials for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate – Business News –



Human clinical trials have begun in Toronto for a proposed COVID-19 vaccine made by a Canadian company.

Providence Therapeutics of Calgary says 60 subjects will be monitored for 13 months, with the first results expected next month.

The group of healthy volunteers aged 18 to 65 have been divided into four groups of 15. Three of the groups will get three different dose levels, while a fourth group gets a placebo.

Pending regulatory approval, the company’s CEO Brad Sorenson says a larger Phase 2 trial may start in May with seniors, younger subjects and pregnant people.

Providence uses messenger RNA technology for a product it calls PTX-COVID19-B.

Sorenson says if successful, the vaccine could be released by the end of the year.

“We are thrilled to begin human clinical trials of PTX-COVID19-B. Having a made-in-Canada solution to address the global COVID-19 pandemic will augment the reliability of vaccine supply for Canadians, contribute to the global vaccine supply and position a Canadian company on the global stage as a contributor to the solution,” Sorenson said Tuesday in a release.

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