MONTREAL – It’s still too soon to know whether the recent downward trend in new COVID-19 cases will continue, Canada’s chief public health officer said Sunday as several provinces grappled with outbreaks that threatened to derail their fragile progress.
Dr. Theresa Tam said there’s been an improvement in the COVID-19 numbers in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, but the disease is regaining steam elsewhere.
“While community-based measures may be starting to take effect in some areas, it is too soon to be sure that current measures are strong enough and broad enough to maintain a steady downward trend across the country,” she wrote in a statement.
Some long-standing virus hot spots have made headway in lowering the number of new cases in recent weeks, but are still fighting outbreaks and flare-ups as they race to vaccinate vulnerable communities.
The federal public safety minister announced Sunday that the Canadian Armed Forces will support vaccine efforts in a large swath of northern Ontario.
Bill Blair said on Twitter that armed forces personnel will support vaccine efforts in 32 communities of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a collection of 49 First Nations spanning about two thirds of the province.
The military has previously been asked to help with the vaccine rollout in First Nations communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba.
Health officials in Ontario were also investigating whether a long-term care home could become the second in the province to be linked to a U.K. variant of COVID-19, after a first home in Barrie, Ont., made headlines when it became infected with the more contagious strain.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said Sunday that an individual with the U.K. variant within the region had close contact with a person who is also part of an outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community, a long-term care home in Bradford West Gwillimbury, south of Barrie.
Ontario’s daily case count stood at 2,417 on Sunday, up slightly from the figure recorded a day earlier but significantly lower than levels seen earlier in the month when the province consistently logged more than 3,000 new diagnoses every 24 hours.
Quebec, meanwhile, reported a fifth straight day with a decline in the number of hospitalizations as the health minister urged citizens to keep following protective measures. But the province was still dealing with more than 1,350 active outbreaks, including one at a jail north of Montreal with over 60 cases.
Farther west, Police in Regina said they monitored a weekend anti-lockdown protest outside the home of Saskatchewan’s top doctor and are still determining if further action will be taken.
Premier Scott Moe condemned the protest targeting Dr. Saqib Shahab in a statement late Saturday, saying those who disagree with his government’s decisions should take their issues up with him or a local legislator rather than going after a “dedicated public servant and his family.”
He said Shahab should not be subjected to harassment from a “group of idiots” and that the government is looking into long-term security options to protect the chief medical officer of health and his relatives.
The Regina Police Service issued a release saying officers monitored the situation and conducted an investigation until the protesters departed after about an hour.
Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 case count rose by 260 on Sunday as the province announced it had exhausted its supply of vaccines.
Officials said they had delivered 101 per cent of available inoculations, accounting for the overage by saying they’d found “efficiencies” when drawing doses from vaccine vials.
Manitoba, meanwhile, logged 222 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and three more deaths.
Alberta also recorded a decline in case counts with 463 new diagnoses, news the province’s top public health official characterized as reassuring.
“We continue to see encouraging signs with the decline in active cases and hospitalizations,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in a tweet. “Let’s keep the momentum going and follow all public health guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
The news was less positive in Nunavut, where officials recorded a surge in new COVID-19 cases after weeks without infections. The territory reported 13 new diagnoses in Arviat, a community of about 2,800 which had been the centre of Nunavut’s largest COVID-19 outbreak and at one point had 222 cases.
While some provinces and territories reported flare-ups of new infections, other provinces had better news to report.
Newfoundland and Labrador did not record any new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, while Nova Scotia identified just one.
New Brunswick fared less well as it reported 20 new cases, just hours after the hard-hit Edmundston region entered lockdown.
In a statement, Tam said the prospect of vaccines has offered Canadians “hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight.”
But in the meantime, she stressed that all Canadians need to keep following health measures, even after they’re immunized.
She said following public health measures will also reduce the spread of new variants of COVID-19, including the ones identified in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan 24, 2021
With files from Victoria Ahearn in Toronto, Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton and Kevin Bissett in Fredericton
Canadian banks benefit from consumer spending rebound – The Globe and Mail
Rebounding consumer spending and business investment are boosting profits for three of Canada’s largest banks as customers travel and dine out more often, and bankers expect that growth to continue – perhaps at a more moderate pace – even amid mounting fears of an economic downturn.
Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto-Dominion Bank both reported profits for the fiscal second quarter ended April 30 that beat estimates, while Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s earnings fell short of expectations as its costs swelled. All three banks saw revenue and loan balances in their core Canadian retail and business banking operations post strong gains compared with a year earlier.
As consumers open their wallets, the surge is pushing businesses to borrow and invest to meet that demand, which has helped drive up fees and interest income collected by banks.
But a key question confronting banks Thursday was whether the trend will continue in the face of high inflation, rapidly rising interest rates and growing gloom about the prospects for an economic downturn. Investors and analysts are on edge about whether demand for loans could wane and defaults on existing loans might rise if economies swing toward a recession.
The banks say their clients are still upbeat and the fundamentals that underpin retail banking look strong enough to withstand some economic headwinds.
“It feels like there’s certainly some more caution out there,” said Hratch Panossian, CIBC’s chief financial officer, in an interview. “But at this point in time, on the ground with our clients, there’s still a relatively high level of confidence and relatively high level of activity as the economy has opened up, the services sectors are coming back.”
On Wednesday, Bank of Nova Scotia and Bank of Montreal both reported higher second-quarter profits and rising loan balances, and executives from both banks offered optimistic outlooks for the financial sector.
There are two key factors bolstering banks’ confidence: a tight labour market that has Canada’s unemployment rate at its lowest level in decades, and the financial buffer many customers built during the COVID-19 pandemic in the form of higher savings and lower debt.
As public health restrictions lifted, spending came roaring back. Credit and debit transactions by RBC customers were 30-per-cent higher in April than before the pandemic, and that momentum carried into May, said chief executive officer Dave McKay. TD’s credit card retail sales were up 22 per cent year over year, according to Mr. Tran. And at CIBC, purchase volumes on cards were up 30 per cent from a year earlier, excluding the bank’s newly acquired portfolio of Costco-branded credit cards.
“We have seen, I’m going to say, full recovery in the categories that are travel, hotel, entertainment,” said Laura Dottori-Attanasio, CIBC’s head of personal and small business banking, on a Thursday conference call.
That spending could come under pressure as inflation and rising interest rates push up prices and borrowing costs for customers. “It’s definitely going to eat into their discretionary income … and consumers then need to make choices,” said Kelvin Tran, TD’s chief financial officer, in an interview.
“But I think for the consumer, what is a very important factor is the unemployment rate,” Mr. Tran said. “If people are gainfully employed and we continue to see the [labour] market continues to be very tight, that increases confidence.”
Many customers also have more financial breathing room in the form of lower debts from personal loans, as well as higher savings. At CIBC, use rates on lines of credit are about 20-per-cent lower than in 2019, and the rate of revolving credit card balances is down between 7 and 10 per cent.
“We’re feeling really good about the health of the consumer,” Ms. Dottori-Attanasio said. “We’re seeing very prudent behaviour when it comes to how people are managing their debt and how they’re making payments on their credit cards.”
Though bankers are confident their customers are resilient, they are still struggling to predict how the economy will react to rapidly rising interest rates. Central bankers “have to hit demand really hard” to tamp down inflation, Mr. McKay said. “Do we land it with a slight recession? I think our message today is it could go either way, it’s 50-50. Having said that, … there are good shock absorbers to absorb that uncertainty.”
In the fiscal second quarter, RBC earned $4.25-billion, or $2.96 a share, compared with $4-billion, or $2.76 a share, a year earlier. On an adjusted basis, RBC said it earned $2.99 a share, beating an estimate of $2.71, according to Refinitiv.
TD reported net income of $3.8-billion, or $2.07 a share, helped by a one-time boost of $224-million stemming from a lawsuit settlement. TD’s adjusted earnings amounted to $2.02 a share, down slightly from the year prior but ahead of the consensus analysts’ prediction of $1.93 a share.
And CIBC earned $1.52-billion, or $1.62 a share, compared with $1.65-billion, or $3.55 a share, in the same quarter last year – before the bank completed a 2-for-1 share split. CIBC said it earned $1.77 a share on an adjusted basis, just below analyst estimates of $1.80 a share.
RBC raised its quarterly dividend by 8 cents a share to $1.28, and CIBC increased its dividend by 2.5 cents a share to 83 cents.
RBC and TD continued to unwind large loan loss reserves they stockpiled to guard against the possibility COVID-19 could cause losses to swell. RBC recovered $342-million in provisions for credit losses in the quarter. TD earmarked just $27-million in total new provisions, while releasing some other reserves as loans are being paid back.
Executives at both banks said their expectations for credit are more optimistic now that pandemic-related risks have receded. But each bank also plugged more pessimistic assumptions into models they use to predict future losses, acknowledging the odds of some sort of economic downturn are rising.
“Omicron didn’t have a big impact on [provisions] so that was a favourable factor in this quarter,” Mr. Tran said. “And then you added something that is less favourable, which is this uncertainty, this outlook.”
With a report from Tim Kiladze
Editor’s note: Hratch Panossian’s title has been corrected in the online version of this story.
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Twitter shareholders sue Musk, say he 'deflated' stock price – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, May 26, 2022 7:40PM EDT
Twitter shareholders have filed a lawsuit accusing Elon Musk of engaged in “unlawful conduct” aimed at sowing doubt about his bid to buy the social media company.
The lawsuit filed late Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California claims the billionaire Tesla CEO has sought to drive down Twitter’s stock price because he wants to walk away from the deal or negotiate a substantially lower purchase price.
San Francisco-based Twitter is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, which seeks class action status as well as compensation for damages.
A representative for Musk did not immediately respond to a message for comment on Thursday. Twitter declined to comment.
Musk last month offered to buy Twitter for $44 billion, but later said the deal can’t go forward until the company provides information about how many accounts on the platform are spam or bots.
The lawsuit notes, however, that Musk waived due diligence for his “take it or leave it” offer to buy Twitter. That means he waived his right to look at the company’s non-public finances.
In addition, the problem of bots and fake accounts on Twitter is nothing new. The company paid $809.5 million last year to settle claims it was overstating its growth rate and monthly user figures. Twitter has also disclosed its bot estimates to the Securities and Exchange Commission for years, while also cautioning that its estimate might be too low.
To fund some of the acquisition, Musk has been selling Tesla stock and shares in the electric carmaker have lost nearly a third of their value since the deal was announced on April 25.
In response to the plunging value of Tesla’s shares, the Twitter shareholders’ lawsuit claims Musk has been denigrating Twitter, violating both the non-disparagement and non-disclosure clauses of his contract with the company.
“In doing so, Musk hoped to drive down Twitter’s stock price and then use that as a pretext to attempt to re-negotiate the buyout,” according to the lawsuit.
Twitter’s shares closed Thursday at $39.54, 27% below Musk’s $54.20 offer price.
Before announcing his bid to buy Twitter, Musk disclosed in early April that he had bought a 9% stake in the company. But the lawsuit says Musk did not disclose the stake within the timeframe required by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
And the lawsuit says his eventual disclosure of the stake to the SEC was “false and misleading” because he used a form meant for “passive investors” – which Musk at the time was not, because he had been offered a position on Twitter’s board and was interested in buying the company.
Musk benefited by more than $156 million from his failure to disclose his increased stake on time, since Twitter’s stock price could have been higher had investors known Musk was increasing his holdings, the lawsuit claims.
“By delaying his disclosure of his stake in Twitter, Musk engaged in market manipulation and bought Twitter stock at an artificially low price,” the lawsuit says.
TD holds off on dividend hike; Beats Q2 profit estimates – BNN
The Toronto-Dominion Bank beat profit expectations in its latest quarter despite muted performances across its major divisions. It also became the only major bank thus far this earnings season to not raise its quarterly dividend.
TD said its net income in the fiscal second quarter, which ended April 30, rose three per cent year-over-year to $3.81 billion. On an adjusted basis, its profit fell to $2.02 per share from $2.04 a year earlier. Analysts, on average, expected $1.93 in adjusted earnings per share. Overall credit quality improved sequentially, as TD set aside $27 million for loans that could go bad, compared to $72 million in the prior quarter.
Revenue and expenses in TD’s Canadian retail banking unit both rose nine per cent year-over-year, while profit inched up two per cent to $2.24 billion. Lending activity ramped up in the quarter, with the total personal loan book hitting an average of $402.7 billion, compared to $373.3 billion a year earlier, while business loans jumped 16 per cent to almost $101 billion.
A number of one-time items affected profit in TD’s U.S. retail banking unit. On an adjusted basis, net income in that business fell 10 per cent year-over-year to $769 million. TD said the downturn was caused in part by a much more moderate release of funds from loan loss provisions (US$15 million, compared to US$173 million a year earlier).
TD is awaiting final regulatory approvals to proceed with its US$13.4-billion takeover of Memphis, Tenn.-based First Horizon Corp. That transaction was announced in February; at the time, TD said the deal would make it a top-six bank in the United States thanks to the addition of First Horizon’s 412 branches and more than 1 million customers. It also said it hoped to close the deal in the first quarter of fiscal 2023, which is a period that ends Jan. 31, 2023.
Meanwhile, similar to many of its peers that reported earlier this week, TD’s wholesale banking unit (which includes capital markets activity) suffered profit erosion as net income fell six per cent year-over-year to $359 million.
“As we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic we face new economic uncertainties and growing geopolitical tensions. TD has proven its ability to adapt to changing circumstances and deliver performance and progress,” said Bharat Masrani, TD’s president and chief executive officer, in a release.
TD most recently announced a dividend hike (to $0.89 per share) in December; before that, the last hike was announced in February 2020. Shortly thereafter, Canada’s banks were told by their regulator (the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions) to hold off on dividend hikes and share buybacks due to the pandemic. That guidance was lifted in November.
Prior to OSFI’s intervention, TD regularly raised its dividend on an annual basis. However, Masrani has indicated dividend hikes aren’t on a pre-set schedule.
“It’s not a bad assumption that we like to look at this on an annual basis, and then hopefully we get into that cycle. But it doesn’t mean that we will not periodically look at it on a different cycle based on circumstance and the environment we might be in,” he said during a conference call with analysts on Dec. 2.
“Generally, our cycle has been annual and that has worked out reasonably well for us, but it will depend on the environment going forward.”
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