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SPAC transactions come to a halt amid SEC crackdown, cooling retail investor interest

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Friday.

Spencer Platt / Staff | Getty Images

SPAC mania has come to a screeching halt.

Just last month, special purpose acquisition companies celebrated a head-turning milestone by breaking their 2020 issuance record in just three-month’s time. After more than 100 new deals in March alone, issuance is nearly at a standstill with just 10 SPACs in April, according to data from SPAC Research.

The drastic slowdown came after the Securities and Exchange Commission issued accounting guidance that would classify SPAC warrants as liabilities instead of equity instruments. If it becomes law, deals in the pipeline as well as existing SPACs would have to go back and recalculate their financials in 10-Ks and 10-Qs for the value of warrants each quarter.

“SPAC transactions have essentially come to a halt,” said Anthony DeCandido, partner at RSM LLP. “This is going to cost these companies a lot of money to evaluate and value those warrants each quarter rather than just at the start of the SPAC. Many of these groups lack the sophistication internally to do this themselves.”

SPACs raise capital in an initial public offering and use the cash to merge with a private company and take it public, usually within two years. Warrants are a deal sweetener that offers early investors more compensation for their cash.

This potential accounting rule change could be a huge blow to the SPAC market as it could take away the incentives for sponsors and operating companies to opt for this alternative IPO vehicle — low level of scrutiny and the ability to move quickly. Meanwhile, restating financials could further dent investor confidence in a market that’s already highly volatile and oftentimes viewed as speculative.

“In the accounting world, that is one of the biggest challenges you can face is if you have completed work and then you have to go back and do it because it just shows poorly to the outside and evokes the level of public trust you really want,” DeCandido said. “It just further scrutinizes what’s already been a very misunderstood exit plan in SPACs.”

To make matters worse, more than 90% of SPACs are audited by just two accounting firms over the past six years, Marcum and WithumSmith+Brow, according to SPAC Research. This could mean a significant backlog ahead as SPACs scramble to adhere to new accounting rules.

Many SPAC stocks are in a freefall amid the regulatory hit. The proprietary CNBC SPAC Post Deal Index, which is comprised of the largest SPACs that have announced a target or those that have already completed a SPAC merger within the last two years, has wiped out 2021 gains and fallen more than 20% year-to-date as of Tuesday’s close.

Signs emerged that retail investors might be having second thoughts about SPACs. Bank of America’s client flows showed that retail SPAC buying slowed down significantly from $120 million weekly net purchase at the beginning of the year to just single digits in April.

“Early data from April suggest that retail may be returning back to their ‘traditional’ roots, favoring more established companies over low-priced, speculative securities,” Bank of America analysts said in a note on Mondays.

Clover Health, which merged with Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. III in January dropped more than 10% on Tuesday, pushing its 2021 losses to nearly 50%.

SPAC dMY Tech, which is taking sports betting company Genius Sports public on Wednesday under symbol GENI, plunged more than 11% Tuesday.

— With assistance from CNBC’s Gina Francolla.

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Cases, fatalities rise as oxygen shortage persists

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A Covid-19 coronavirus patient breathes with the help of oxygen provided by a Gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, under a tent installed along the roadside in Ghaziabad on May 6, 2021.

Prakash Singh | AFP | Getty Images

India once again reported a record number of cases and fatalities on Thursday as it faces a devastating second wave of Covid-19 infections that has pushed its health-care system to the brink of collapse.

Health ministry data showed there were 412,262 new reported cases of infections over a 24-hour period, pushing the total tally to over 21 million — days after crossing the 20 million mark on Tuesday.

India also reported its highest daily death toll, with 3,980 fatalities. But media reports suggest that the death rate is being underreported.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is facing criticism for allowing large crowds to gather for election rallies and religious festivals earlier this year as well as for failing to anticipate or prepare for a second wave.

India’s oxygen crisis

“That means essentially the requirement for oxygen (is) also moving up,” he said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.

“Typically an ICU requires two-and-a-half to three times the amount of oxygen a ward or a patient in a bed requires. So, as criticality moves up, as mortality moves up, you are going to see the requirement of oxygen also move up,” he said.

Soi explained that Max Healthcare conducts about 4,000 RT-PCR tests in the Delhi area per day and about a week ago, those Covid-19 tests had a positivity rate of over 50%, which has since come down to about 31%.

“So what you are going to see right now is people who were infected about seven, eight days ago, coming into hospitals,” he said, adding these patients need a host of medicines and support, including oxygen.

Courts step in

On Wednesday, India’s Supreme Court ordered the central government to present a comprehensive plan by Thursday outlining steps it will take to meet medical oxygen requirements for hospitals in Delhi, including sources of supply and transport provisions. The country’s top court also stayed a contempt notice issued by the High Court of Delhi on May 4 to the central government for not complying with its orders to supply sufficient oxygen to hospitals in Delhi.

Delhi high court justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli noted on Tuesday that hospitals and nursing homes have had to reduce the number of beds offered because they are unable to service their existing capacities due to a shortage of medical oxygen.

The National Capital Territory of Delhi, which includes India’s capital New Delhi, is one of several areas that saw a rapid surge in cases, forcing the local government to step up restrictions to try and break the chain of transmission.

Logistics issue

India has sufficient oxygen available, but the main issue lies around logistics, according to Siddharth Jain, director of Inox Air Products, one of India’s prominent industrial and medical gases manufacturers.

Jain told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Wednesday that the country’s oxygen manufacturers have stepped up production by more than 30% in recent weeks. He said over 9,000 tons of oxygen is available in India per day while consumption of medical oxygen is slightly higher than 7,500 tons.

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Vaccinated people who had Covid may have more protection against variants

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House press briefing, at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 21, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong | Getty Images

People who have had Covid-19 and later got vaccinated may have more protection against highly contagious variants, White House chief medical officer Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

Fauci cited a study published in late April that found that after one dose of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine, people with prior coronavirus infections had better immune responses against B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, the variants first identified in the U.K. and South Africa, compared with those who hadn’t had Covid.

He cited an additional study, which was published online and not yet peer-reviewed, that found people with prior infections who were later boosted with two doses of an mRNA vaccine had “increased protection” protection against variants.

The studies provide more evidence on the benefits of getting vaccinated, Fauci said.

“Vaccines are highly efficacious,” Fauci said during a White House Covid briefing. “They are better than the response you get from natural infection.”

His comments come amid the Biden administration’s push to get 70% of U.S. adults partially vaccinated and 160 million adults fully vaccinated by the Fourth of July, a date the administration hopes will be a turning point in the pandemic.

In recent weeks, the pace of individuals receiving their first vaccine doses has fallen, though U.S. health officials say they are working to improve access to the shots as well as encourage more hesitant Americans to get vaccinated.

Earlier Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a new report that projected Covid-19 cases would surge through May before sharply declining by July as vaccinations drive down infections.

Highly contagious variants, namely the highly contagious B.1.1.7 first identified in the U.K., remain a wild card, U.S. health officials said, urging Americans to get vaccinated and practice pandemic safety measures.

“We are seeing that our current vaccines are protecting against the contaminant variants circulating in the country. Simply put, the sooner we get more and more people vaccinated, the sooner we will all get back to normal,”  CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during the press briefing.

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Copper is ‘the new oil’ and could hit $20,000 per ton, analysts say

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A worker labels copper products at Truong Phu cable factory in northern Hai Duong province, outside Hanoi, Vietnam August 11, 2017.

Kham | Reuters

The world risks “running out of copper” amid widening supply and demand deficits, according to Bank of America, and prices could hit $20,000 per metric ton by 2025.

In a note Tuesday, Bank of America commodity strategist Michael Widmer highlighted inventories measured in tons are now at levels seen 15 years ago, implying that stocks currently cover just over three weeks of demand. This comes as the global economy is beginning to open up and reflate.

“Linked to that, we forecast copper market deficits, and further inventory declines, this year and next,” Widmer said.

“With (London Metal Exchange) inventories close to the pinch-point at which time spreads can move violently, there is a risk backwardation, driven by a rally in nearby prices, may increase.”

Backwardation is when an underlying asset is trading at a higher price than the futures market for that asset.

Widmer also highlighted that a rise in volatility resulting from falling inventories was not without precedent, since nickel shortages in LME warehouses in 2006/7 drove nickel prices more than 300% higher.

Given the fundamental environment and the depleted inventories, Widmer suggested that copper may spike to $13,000/t in the coming years after notching $10,000 last week for the first time in a decade.

Copper prices stood at just under $4.54 per pound as of 5:30 a.m. London time on Thursday, up 30% for the session.

After deficits in 2021 and 2022, BofA expects the copper market to rebalance in 2023 and 2024 before fresh shortfalls and a further draw down on inventories kick in from 2025.

“In our view, scrap supply is critical and our analysis suggests that scrap usage at smelters/refiners could increase from around 4,200t in 2016 to 6,700t by 2025,” Widmer said.

“If our expectation of increased supply in secondary material, a non-transparent market, did not materialize, inventories could deplete within the next three years, giving rise to even more violent price swings that could take the red metal above $20,000/t ($9.07/lb).”

‘The new oil’

Along with the broader economic recovery, demand for copper is also being boosted by its vital role in a number of rapidly growing industrial sectors, such as electric vehicle batteries and semiconductor wiring.

David Neuhauser, founder and managing director of U.S. hedge fund Livermore Partners, told CNBC on Wednesday that metals were receiving a general tailwind from a weaker dollar and increasing moves toward green infrastructure.

Commodity prices rose 3% in April, taking the global index up 80% since April 2020, and HSBC commodity analysts highlighted in a note Wednesday that demand for copper is being supported by investment in electrification as emission reduction strategies are further bolstered by policymakers.

Copper remains Livermore’s favorite commodity at present, Neuhauser said.

“I think copper is the new oil and I think copper, for the next five to 10 years, is going to look tremendous with the potential for $20,000 per metric ton,” Neuhauser said.

“We think there are some very solid small cap companies that have massive production potential, and valuations are attractive, and Livermore could make great return on investment.”

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