Bank of America has a strong reputation for keeping finger on the pulse of the financial world – and one of its key tools is the Global Fund Manager Survey, conducted monthly and seeking opinions from more than 200 hedge fund, mutual fund, and pension fund managers who hold a combined $645 billion in AUM. It’s the largest regularly conducted survey of its kind. And BofA most recent findings show that Big Money is feeling confident. More than 90% of investors surveyed believe that 2021 will show a significant recovery from 2020, that asset allocations to stocks and commodities are at their highest in 10 years, and there’s a general belief that global growth is at an all-time high. So, there is a general consensus that now is the time to invest. The only remaining question is, invest in what? Wall Street pros argue there are early-stage companies that reflect promising opportunities, with the low share prices meaning you get significantly more bang for your buck. What’s more, even what seems like minor share price appreciation can result in massive percentage gains. The bottom line? Not all risk is created equal. To this end, the pros recommend doing some due diligence before making an investment decision. With this in mind, we used TipRanks’ database to find compelling penny stocks with bargain price tags. The platform steered us towards two tickers sporting share prices under $5 and “Strong Buy” consensus ratings from the analyst community. Not to mention substantial upside potential is on the table. ObsEva SA (OBSV) First up is a clinical-state biopharma company with a sharp focus on women’s health. ObsEva is working to develop and commercialize new therapeutics for women’s reproductive health issues – up to and including pregnancy. The company’s lead drug candidate, linzagolix (branded as Yselty), is an orally administered GnRH receptor antagonist that has completed two Phase 3 studies, PRIMROSE 1 in the US and PRIMROSE 2 in both the US and Europe. The clinical trials enrolled 574 and 535 patients, respectively, and used doses of 100mg or 200mg to treat heavy menstrual bleeding associated with uterine fibroids. The results from both studies were positive, supporting Linzagolix’s favorable safety and efficacy profile. In an update announced last month, ObsEva reported that, pursuant to Phase 3 results, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had validated for review the company’s Marketing Authorization Application (MAA) for Yselty (100mg and 200mg). Potential MAA approval is anticipated in Q4:21. The drug is also slated to be the subject of a New Drug Application (NDA) that is due to be submitted to the FDA in Q2. With shares changing hands for $3.80 apiece, Wedbush analyst Liana Moussatos sees an attractive entry point for investors. “In our view, Linzagolix has the potential to achieve best-in class oral GnRH receptor antagonist status based on a flexible dosing regimen either with or without the add-back hormone therapy (ABT)—a key differentiator from other GnRH receptor antagonists… Based on the positive PRIMROSE 1 and PRIMROSE 2 primary endpoint results for YSELTY®/UF and additional follow-up data, we project annual sales of more than $750 million in 2027 for Linzagolix/UF,” Moussatos opined. To this end, Moussatos rates OBSV a Buy along with a $28 price target. Should her thesis play out, a potential twelve-month gain of ~643% could be in the cards. (To watch Moussatos’ track record, click here.) Overall, ObsEva has impressed its observers, as shown by the unanimous Strong Buy consensus rating on the shares, based on 3 recent Buy reviews. With a return potential of 342%, the stock’s consensus price target stands at $16.67. (See OBSV stock analysis on TipRanks) BELLUS Health (BLU) The second stock we’re looking at, BELLUS Health, is also a clinical stage biopharma research company – but the focus here is on an issue that few of us ever think about. Hypersensitivity – the state of being highly, or even excessively, sensitive to environmental or foreign stimuli – can cause a range of conditions from a chronic cough to serious disorders. Sometimes, the less severe chronic symptoms can be the worst. Chronic cough and chronic pruritus (itchy skin) are mild to moderate symptoms that can triggered by a range of factors – but when the symptoms don’t go away, they can have a disproportionately negative impact on the quality of life. BELLUS’ lead drug candidate, BLU-5937, is undergoing studies of its efficacy in the treatment of these symptoms. BLU-5937 is a highly selective PsX3 antagonist, working on the P2X3 receptor in the cough reflex pathway. The current clinical trial is a Phase 2b study, the follow-up to the Phase 2 RELIEF trial. The RELIEF trial enrolled 68 patients in the US and UK, of whom 52 completed two test periods. The trial showed a statistically significant cough count reduction in patients with a higher baseline count. The Phase 2b studies, are now enrolling and dosing patients, with interim results expected by mid-year and top line results expected to be published in the fourth quarter. Singing the healthcare name’s praises is RBC Capital analyst Gregory Renza. “With a proven MOA from the clinically successful P2X3 antagonistgefaxipant (MRK), we believe the high selectivity of BLU-5937 could lead to minimal taste effects and drive higher patient compliance and preference than gefapixant, where, if successful, we estimate revenues as early as2024 with over $900M peak global sales potential in RCC with upside from potential label expansion into indications linked to P2X3 hypersensitivity,” Renza noted. ”Despite the PE miss of the ph.II trial in RCC, we believe the stats sig reduction in awake cough frequency in patients with high baseline demonstrated POC and viability of the asset.” It should come as no surprise, then, that Renza joined the bulls. Along with an Outperform rating, the analyst gives the stock an $8 price target. This target conveys his confidence in BLU’s ability to surge ~116% in the next twelve months. (To watch Renza’s track record, click here) Turning now to the rest of the Street, other analysts also like what they’re seeing. With 3 Buys and no Holds or Sells, the word on the Street is that BLU is a Strong Buy. At $8.67, the average price target indicates ~134% upside potential. (See BLU stock analysis on TipRanks) To find good ideas for penny stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
Canadian banks, insurance firms owe $1.2B in employee vacation pay, class actions allege – CBC.ca
When Leigh Cunningham of Winnipeg left her 26-year career as an investment adviser with RBC Dominion Securities, she did some math and realized that for decades she hadn’t been receiving six per cent vacation pay on her full income.
Cunningham has launched a proposed $800-million class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of advisers.
She alleges that RBC, which last week reported soaring profits, has systematically short-changed workers by failing to provide proper vacation pay to advisers whose compensation is based mostly on commissions and bonuses.
“It’s just wrong,” Cunningham told CBC News. “We are helping as employees to create that profit.”
Cunningham’s lawsuit was served to RBC in December but not made public until now.
It is one of five proposed class actions launched against banks and insurance companies since early 2019 seeking a total of $1.2 billion for vacation pay that’s allegedly owed current and former employees.
The allegations include that employers would calculate vacation pay based only on an employee’s base salary, without including commissions and bonuses that can make up a large portion of a worker’s compensation.
If successful, experts say these suits could open the floodgates on major employers that fail to pay salespeople and commissioned staff in accordance with various provincial and territorial employment standards laws across Canada.
‘I need my money. Plain and simple.’
RBC, named in three of the five proposed class actions, declined to discuss specifics, but did issue a statement to CBC News.
“RBC takes pride in ensuring that everyone who works at any RBC company is fairly compensated,” RBC Insurance communications director Greg Skinner wrote in an email.
“The policies that apply to the employees involved in the action state that their compensation includes vacation pay and statutory holiday pay.”
Maureen Barrett of Brampton, Ont., resigned her position as an insurance salesperson for RBC in 2017, after almost a decade with the company.
She, too, is now a lead plaintiff, but in a different proposed class-action lawsuit seeking $80 million from RBC Insurance on behalf of its salespeople.
“I need my money, plain and simple,” Barrett told CBC News. “There’s no bells and whistles around it, you owe me my money. I’ve worked for it.”
Barrett’s claim alleges she only ever received vacation pay on her base salary of $37,500 and that RBC Insurance systemically failed to include in the calculation the commissions and performance bonuses that routinely made up a large share of her compensation.
“We need to make sure that this is rectified for those who are taken advantage of,” she said. “That’s how I feel. When this happened, when I found out that this took place, I felt as if I was taken advantage of.”
Barrett says she moved to a new job as a salesperson with a smaller company, and was paid the proper amount of vacation pay from the start.
The Bank of Montreal is facing a similar class action launched by former BMO private wealth adviser Paul Cheetham in Vancouver.
BMO declined to comment on the suit.
Allstate Insurance is also facing a $160-million claim launched by home and auto insurance salesperson Sung Taek Lee in Toronto.
It said the claim is “completely without merit” and that it will defend its case “in due course.”
“Allstate compensates its employees in full compliance with all provincial employment legislation,” it said in a statement.
The class actions have yet to be certified by the courts, and so none of the allegations have been tested by a judge or jury.
A wake-up call for major employers, lawyer says
The class actions on behalf of large groups of employees have emerged following recent court decisions that upheld individual employees’ rights to outstanding vacation pay as part of severance packages.
Toronto investment banker David Bain sued his former employer, UBS Securities Canada Inc., after he lost his job in 2013 when the company shut down part of its Canadian operations.
In 2018, Ontario’s Court of Appeal upheld his right to $87,472 in vacation pay for his years of service, calculated as a percentage of his base salary as well as his bonuses.
These kinds of rulings have been a wake-up call for major employers, according to Toronto lawyer James Heeney, who specializes in employment law and is not involved in any of the class-action lawsuits.
“Many companies have caught up and changed the way that they pay people to be compliant, but many, many haven’t,” he told CBC News.
He says employment standards across Canada vary by province and by profession and need to be modernized.
He suspects the $1.2 billion worth of lawsuits and class actions over vacation pay could be just the beginning.
“If you look across the country, there’s at least hundreds of millions of dollars of liability, if not more, because there are just so many entities that have not caught up,” he said.
While the five proposed class actions have yet to be given a green light, lawyers for Leigh Cunningham of Winnipeg hope to be in court later this year to certify the action on behalf of RBC investment advisers.
She acknowledges advisers are usually well paid, but says she worked hard for her clients and is entitled to what is provided for under the law.
“If the law states that an investment adviser is entitled to receive a holiday and vacation pay, why should I be penalized?” she said.
“If you look at six per cent over 21 years … RBC Dominion Securities has really had the use of that six per cent of mine, my money.”
Provinces, territories can wait 4 months to administer 2nd COVID-19 shot, NACI says – Global News
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is recommending provinces and territories extend the time between first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses to four months amid vaccine shortages.
In new guidlines posted on the NACI website on Wednesday, the committee said “current evidence suggests high vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease and hospitalization for several weeks after the first dose, including among older populations.”
NACI said due to limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, “jurisdictions should maximize the number of individuals benefiting from the first dose of vaccine by extending the interval for the second dose of vaccine to four months.”
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“Extending the dose interval to four months allows NACI to create opportunities for protection of the entire adult population within a short timeframe,” the committee said. “This will not only achieve protection of the adult population, but will also contribute to health equity.”
According to NACI, approximately 80 per cent of the eligible population could be offered a dose of one of the approved mRNA vaccines by the end of June if jurisdictions implement a four-month interval between shots this month.
While the NACI releases recommendations, it is ultimately up to the provinces to determine how they will administer the COVID-19 vaccines.
A number of provinces including British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba have already decided they will be extending the interval between COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Speaking at a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is monitoring the vaccine rollout approaches across Canada.
“We’re paying for the vaccines, we’re bringing them in and then we’re working with, obviously, public health experts, the National Advisory Council on Immunization, (and) working with provinces and chief medical officers across the country in order to deliver those vaccines to Canadians in the most rapid and most effective way to keep people safe to get through this pandemic quickly,” he said.
Asked whether the timeline to get all Canadians vaccinated could change, Trudeau said we are “seeing some of the science shift,” adding that “some proposals put forward, which are very, very interesting, which could result in rapider timelines.”
“But every step of the way, we’re going to be informed by the experts, by science, by the recommendations on the best way to protect Canadians, particularly vulnerable Canadians, and the best way to get through this as quickly as possible,” he said.
In a previous interview with Global News, Colin Furness, an epidemiologist with the University of Toronto, said veering from the recommended timeframes could be “dangerous” and “risky.”
“When the vaccines were validated or tested, they were tested according to a certain schedule,” he said. “When you lengthen it, you go into uncharted territory.”
Furness said changing the timeline could impact the vaccine’s effectiveness.
“It could be the same, (or) the effectiveness could be lower — that is, your body might actually start to shut down its immune response and so it wouldn’t have the same combined effect,” he said. “Or it’s possible that waiting will actually make the vaccines even more effective, that could happen, too.”
According to Furness, all options are possible until the vaccine’s long-term effects can be properly studied.
Coronavirus: Canada to receive 945,000 vaccine doses this week, procurement minister says
Currently, all three vaccines approved for use in Canada require two doses to be administered.
Health Canada approved vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna in December, and a candidate from AstraZeneca-Oxford last week.
However, Canada has fallen considerably behind even its closest allies when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
By Wednesday evening 2,072,757 COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Canada, meaning approximately 2.78 per cent of the country’s population has been inoculated.
In comparison, the United States has fully vaccinated 7.9 per cent of its population, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
The federal government has maintained, though, that all Canadians who want a COVID-19 vaccine will have access to one by the end of September.
-With files from Global News’ Rachael D’Amore and Emerald Bensadoun
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
COVID-19: National panel agrees with Dr. Henry on four-month vaccine delay – Vancouver Sun
The vaccine experts say extending the dose interval to four months can protect the entire adult population within a short time despite limited supply.
Taking a cue from B.C.’s top doctor, a national panel of vaccine experts recommended that provinces extend the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 shot to up to four months when faced with a limited supply, in order to quickly immunize as many people as possible.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued updated guidance Wednesday for the administration of all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada.
Extending the dose interval to four months will create opportunities to protect the entire adult population against the virus within a short time frame, the panel said in releasing the recommendation.
As many as 80 per cent of Canadians over 16 could receive a single dose by the end of June simply with the expected supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the panel said.
The addition of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to the country’s supply could mean almost all Canadians would get their first shot in that time frame, but the federal government has not yet said how many doses of that vaccine will be delivered in the spring and how many in the summer.
“The vaccine effectiveness of the first dose will be monitored closely and the decision to delay the second dose will be continuously assessed based on surveillance and effectiveness data and post-implementation study designs,” the panel wrote.
“Effectiveness against variants of concern will also be monitored closely, and recommendations may need to be revised,” it said, adding there is currently no evidence that a longer interval will affect the emergence of the variants.
The committee’s recommendation came hours after Newfoundland and Labrador said it will extend the interval between the first and second doses to four months, and days after B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the province was doing so.
Manitoba also said Wednesday it will delay second doses in order to focus on giving the first shot to more people more quickly.
Ontario previously said it was weighing a similar move but would seek advice from the federal government.
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