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AMC CEO Looks To Refinance Debt Amid Dip In Stock Price

A skittish stock market and a struggling box office are complicating the theater chain’s attempts to turn around its debt situation.

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A skittish stock market and a struggling box office are complicating the theater chain’s attempts to turn around its debt situation.

Let’s give credit where it’s due. Most people don’t follow through with their New Year’s Resolutions, but at least AMC Entertainment (AMC) - Get AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Class A Report CEO Adam Aron is trying.

Following a Tweet earlier this month in which the head of the beleaguered movie theater chain announced plans to “refinance some of our debt to reduce our interest expense, push out some debt maturities by several years and loosen covenants,” he’s now making moves to try to get the job done. 

Aron has reportedly been “in advanced talks with multiple parties” about refinancing, according to The Wall Street Journal. But the ongoing volatility of the stock market, amongst other factors, is complicating matters.

Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Rough Years For AMC

To make it through the pandemic, AMC ended up having to take on a great deal of debt. It reportedly owed $5.5 billion as of last September and also owed $376 million worth of lease payments, which were deferred for a while during the pandemic. 

But as we’ve previously mentioned, the past few years have been tough for theater chains such as AMC. Even before the pandemic put a pause on theater-going in 2020, leading to an absolutely brutal total box office gross drop of 81.4%, general audiences were increasingly only heading out to movie theaters for blockbuster films and franchise installments, often from the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the “Fast & Furious.”

AMC had a reported net loss of $13.5 million in 2019, even as total revenue was up 2.4% to $1.44 billion from the year before. Things improved for the company last year once people felt safe returning to the theaters, as access to vaccines helped unlock some pent-up demand, and the box office rose by 112.5% to $4,468,850,254. 

A big chunk of that rebound is due to the jaw-dropping success of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which recently returned to the top of the box office, on its way to making $1.69 billion worldwide. (Will Peter Parker eventually conquer the blue aliens from “Avatar” to become the highest-grossing film of all time? Stay tuned.) 

But you can’t turn around a struggling industry based on the success of one film, and even Marvel and Disney  (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report can’t put out a general-audience pleasing blockbuster every week. 

Even with a new “Scream” film out, last weekend’s box office total barely totaled more than $43 million, a far cry from five years ago. “That's down from a pre-pandemic $105 million in 2020, $73 million in 2019, $102 million in 2018, and $111 million in 2017, according to data from Box Office Mojo.”

Memes Saved AMC (For A Little While)

Last year AMC received an unexpected lifeline when it became the subject of an internet-driven rush that turned it into a short-lived meme stock. 

After a Reddit-incubated army of internet investors, who dubbed themselves “apes,” began buying shares in AMC through trading applications such as Robinhood, shares of the company temporarily rose to a robust $62.55 a share. Prices would eventually return to earth, hitting $35 a share after the hype dropped down. But the boost allowed Aron to buy the company some time. 

AMC used the cash infusion to repurchase $35 million worth of debt that carried a minimum interest rate of 15%, according to Yahoo! Finance. The deal cost $41.3 million, but it is expected to reduce the overall annual interest on its debt by about $5.3 million.

This year Aron is stepping up his efforts to refinance AMC’s debt, but it’s rough out there at the moment. 

Amid Wall Street’s current market contraction, AMC’s stock has dropped by 41% this year, erasing the meme stock gains, and AMC’s $1.5 billion in secured 10% bonds “traded as low as 92 cents on the dollar, down from 99.5 cents at the start of the year,” according to The Wall Street Journal. 

AMC isn’t looking to refinance all of its debt. Instead, it is targeting some of the bonds with especially high interest, as a way to cut expenses even as bond prices continue to drop.

But it seems like the meme stock rush has turned out to be a double-edged sword. 

AMC was able to stay in business by “selling new shares, taking on new debt, and getting landlords to agree to delay collecting rent payments.” But meme investors have objected to Aron’s plans to allow more AMC shares to be sold, out of fear that it would dilute what they’ve already purchased. 

Aron and AMC have a skittish-at-best stock market and an industry that is struggling to get people into theaters for all but event films. On the other hand, it has a loyal group of investors that are nonetheless limiting the company’s options. 

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Six Commodities Investments to Buy as Putin Wages War on Ukraine

Six commodities investments to buy amid the sustained attack of Ukraine by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and rising inflation provide potential to…

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Six commodities investments to buy amid the sustained attack of Ukraine by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and rising inflation provide potential to profit even as the market has been pulling back so far in 2022.

The six commodities investments to buy include those involved in oil, gold and grain due to current supply shortages that are showing no signs of abating anytime soon. Putin’s order for Russian troops to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24 has disrupted the neighboring nation’s agricultural production, led to the theft of grain and imposed an ongoing blockade in the Black Sea to stop farmers from exporting their crops.

Crude oil inventories are down to a “dangerously low point” across Europe, North America and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Asia, just as spare production capacity from OPEC+ nations slid to the lowest levels since April 2020, according to BofA Global Research. Inventories of petroleum products also have fallen to “precarious levels” for middle distillates and even gasoline as the market heads into the peak of the U.S. summer driving season, the investment firm added.

As a result, refined petroleum cracks — the differences between crude oil and the prices of the wholesale petroleum products such as gasoline — recently have “spiked to record levels,” contributing to volatility, BofA wrote. In addition, strategic oil barrels held by OECD governments already are low and likely to decline steeply going forward, leaving consumers exposed to future negative supply shocks, BofA predicted.

Pension Fund Chairman Recommends Broad Commodity Funds

Bob Carlson, a pension fund chairman who also leads the Retirement Watch investment newsletter, recommended Cohen & Steers MLP & Energy Opportunity Fund (MLOAX) to all the portfolios in his June 2022 issue. 

Oil and natural gas should be good investments as Europe looks to reduce dependence on Russian exports, Carlson told me. Plus, energy producers in the United States are focused on increasing cash flow and earnings, not maximizing drilling expenses in the short run to increase output, he added.

Bob Carlson, who leads Retirement Watch, meets with Paul Dykewicz.

Good investment opportunities can be found with companies that provide the pipelines, storage facilities and other infrastructure needed to supply the world with oil, natural gas and other energy sources, Carlson continued. 

“One of the attractive qualities of these investments is that their revenues are independent of the prices of the commodities,” Carlson counseled. “The firms charge fees for their services, and the fees often are adjusted for inflation. Their revenues and earnings depend on the volume of commodities passing through their facilities, not the price of the commodity.”

Key energy service companies provide total returns, aided by current income and price appreciation, through investments in energy-related master limited partnerships (MLPs) and securities of industry companies, Carlson pointed out. Those businesses are expected to derive at least 50% of their revenues or operating income from exploration, production, gathering, transportation, processing, storage, refining, distribution or marketing of natural gas, crude oil and other energy resources.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

Cohen & Steers Fund Leads List of Six Commodities Investments to Buy

Cohen & Steers MLP & Energy Opportunity Fund recently held 53 positions and had 50% of its portfolio in the 10 largest positions. Top holdings of the fund included Enbridge (NYSE: ENB), Cheniere Energy (NYSEAMERICAN: LNG), Williams Companies (NYSE: WMB), TC Energy (NYSE: TRP) and Energy Transfer (NYSE: ET).

The fund has achieved strong returns since April 2020. Indeed, it has been on an upward trajectory since the second half of December 2021.

“Crucially, oil prices have held up well even in the face of a slowing Chinese economy and widespread lockdowns,” according to BofA. “Given that most China indicators point to a major decline in mobility across the country, any improvement in the COVID-19 situation in large Chinese cities could send oil prices much higher.”

Carlson’s Chooses DBA to Join Six Commodities Investments to Buy

Despite the evils of war, investors still can profit from the rise in grain prices and other commodities through the futures markets, even as many other equities slip. Instead of buying futures directly, investors can purchase diversified agriculture commodities through Invesco DB Agriculture Fund (DBA), Carlson said.

That ETF seeks to track changes in the DBIQ Diversified Agriculture Index Excess Return. The ETF also earns interest income from cash it invests primarily in treasury securities, while holding them as collateral for the futures contracts.

The major holdings in the index are soybeans, wheat, corn, coffee and live cattle. The index is reconstituted each November.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

Gold Funds Featured Among Six Commodities Investments to Buy

Carlson also is recommending gold through iShares Gold Trust (IAU). He described it as the “cheapest, most liquid way” to invest in the shiny yellow metal.

Gold has had its ups and downs in the face of rising global inflation, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s increasing military flyovers of nearby Asian nations and other geopolitical conflicts. At the same time, the U.S. dollar has been appreciating amid high inflation after the Fed recently raised interest rates by 0.5% and promised additional increases later in 2022.

However, there are many risks for the U.S. dollar, so continuing to hold gold remains a good hedge, Carlson counseled.

IAU has retreated since early March, so investors seeking to buy it now that it is rebounding still may do so. Those who believe inflation may stay through 2022 can try to capture gains before the trend no longer is a friend.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

Skousen Calls GLD One of the Six Commodities Investments to Buy

“Gold has done far better than stocks, which are down 15-25% this year,” said Mark Skousen, who is recommending SPDR Gold Shares (NYSE Arca: GLD) in his Forecasts & Strategies investment newsletter. 

Mark Skousen, head of Forecasts & Strategies, meets with Paul Dykewicz.

GLD has risen nearly 16% since Skousen recommended it about two years ago. Gold climbed 2021 in anticipation of rising inflation, but its performance has been flat so far this year. If gold truly is an indicator of inflation, the previous yellow metal’s stagnant price may be signaling that price inflation will wane heading into 2023.

The investment objective is for the GLD shares to reflect the performance of the price of gold bullion, after subtracting the trust’s expenses. The trust, formed on November 12, 2004, physically holds gold bars.

The trust’s shares are designed for investors who want a cost-effective and convenient way to invest in gold, according to the company’s prospectus. Skousen, who also leads the Five Star Trader, Home Run Trader, TNT Trader and Fast Money Alert services, recently was a featured speaker at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference and advised attendees that he recommended gold as a minor holding in every portfolio.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

EPD Is Another of the Six Commodities Investments to Buy

Oil has done much better as an inflation hedge than gold, Skousen said. One example is his recommendation of Enterprise Products Partners (EPD, $27, 7% yield), up 27% year to date.

EPD has been the “best performer” in the Forecasts & Strategies investment newsletter so far this year, Skousen said. Enterprise Products Partners is one of the largest publicly traded partnerships and a key North American provider of midstream energy services to producers and consumers of natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGLs), crude oil, refined products and petrochemicals. 

The company’s services include natural gas gathering, treating, processing, transportation and storage. In addition, Enterprise Products Partners provides NGL transportation, fractionation, storage and import and export terminals. It further offers crude oil gathering, transportation, storage and terminals, along with petrochemical and refined products transportation, storage and terminals, as well as a marine transportation business.

I personally have owned Enterprise Products Partners since shortly after the 2020 stock market crash when I bought the stock as it started to recover. The stock has been trending upward since the end of 2021.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

Money Manager Picks One of Six Commodities Investments to Buy

A seasoned investment professional told me that she likes farm machinery company Deere (NYSE: DE) to profit from agriculture. Michelle Connell, a former portfolio manager who now serves as president of Dallas-based Portia Capital Management, said she still likes Deere despite its 14% drop after it reported results last week.

Michelle Connell, CEO, Portia Capital Management

Deere’s key issues are supply-related, since demand for agricultural equipment remains strong, especially for the company’s machinery that is more environmentally friendly than its rivals, Connell continued.

Deere is also focused on providing the farming industry with autonomous equipment, Connell counseled. Wall Street analysts expect Deere to have a better story and performance in the second half of 2022 and in full-year 2023.

Connell cited the following to support her recommendation of Deere: 

-More than half its revenues come from large agriculture.

-If the war in Ukraine continues, U.S. farmers will benefit from higher prices for their crops.

-Increased agricultural profits mean that that farmers and farming corporations will be more likely to buy large, expensive farm equipment.  

Deere has fallen back since its recent high on April 20, so investors should be able to purchase shares at reduced prices, Connell continued.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

Supply Chains May Improve as China Starts to Lower COVID Curbs

China is easing its COVID-19 restrictions and it could allow goods produced there to start flowing normally again in the coming weeks. China’s lockdowns have affected an estimated 373 million people, including roughly 40% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Disrupted supply chains have affected products such as rice, oil and natural gas.

Shanghai, home to the world’s largest port and 25 million residents, has strained to unload cargo due to strict regulations that have caused shipping containers to stack up. Some Shanghai residents posted videos online to complain about needing food, even though government officials sought to block such public expressions of frustration.

Chinese authorities also drew public criticism for forcibly separating young children with COVID-19 from their parents to prioritize stopping the spread of a new, contagious subvariant of Omicron, BA.2. The variant also has been causing new infections in European nations such as Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

U.S. COVID Deaths Climb Past 1-Million Mark

U.S. COVID-19 deaths crossed the 1-million mark last week and have climbed further to 1,002,726 as of May 24, according to Johns Hopkins University. Cases in the United States, as of that date, hit 83,501,455. America retains the dubious distinction as the country with the highest numbers of COVID-19 deaths and cases.

COVID-19 deaths worldwide totaled 6,280,342 on May 24, according to Johns Hopkins. Cases across the globe have climbed to 526,664,642.

Roughly 77.8% of the U.S. population, or 258,562,059, have obtained at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as of May 24, the CDC reported. Fully vaccinated people total 221,001,614, or 66.6%, of America’s population, according to the CDC. The United States also has given at least one COVID-19 booster vaccine to 102.9 million people, up about 500,000 in the past week.

New data on so-called “long-haul” COVID patients released on May 24 reported that even though some symptoms improve others may persist, according to the Northwestern Medicine Neuro COVID-19 Clinic. Most of the 52 patients monitored in the Northwestern study reported “brain fog,” numbness or tingling, headache, dizziness, blurred vision and fatigue, even 15 months after initial diagnoses of COVID-19.

The six commodities investments to buy are intended to profit from rising energy, gold and grain prices. Despite the market’s volatility, the highest inflation in 40 years, the Fed’s plan for further interest rate hikes to curb price hikes and increasing federal deficits, investors are finding profitable opportunities in energy, gold and grains.

Paul Dykewicz, www.pauldykewicz.com, is an accomplished, award-winning journalist who has written for Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, the Journal of Commerce, Seeking Alpha, Guru Focus and other publications and websites. Paul, who can be followed on Twitter @PaulDykewicz, is the editor of StockInvestor.com and DividendInvestor.com, a writer for both websites and a columnist. He further is editorial director of Eagle Financial Publications in Washington, D.C., where he edits monthly investment newsletters, time-sensitive trading alerts, free e-letters and other investment reports. Paul previously served as business editor of Baltimore’s Daily Record newspaper. Paul also is the author of an inspirational book, “Holy Smokes! Golden Guidance from Notre Dame’s Championship Chaplain,” with a foreword by former national championship-winning football coach Lou Holtz. The book is great as a gift and is endorsed by Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Ara Parseghian, “Rocket” Ismail, Reggie Brooks, Dick Vitale and many others. Call 202-677-4457 for multiple-book pricing.

 

The post Six Commodities Investments to Buy as Putin Wages War on Ukraine appeared first on Stock Investor.

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At least 19 children killed in Texas elementary school – 3 essential reads on America’s relentless gun violence

A school shooting in a small Texas town was almost as deadly as the worst such event in US history. Such shootings have increased in frequency over the…

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Friends and families gather outside the civic center after the mass school shooting on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. Allison Dinner/AFP via Getty Images)

At least 19 children and one teacher were killed when a teenage gunman shot them at a Texas elementary school on May 24, 2022 – the latest mass shooting in a country in which such incidents have become common.

A lot remains unknown about the attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small, predominantly Latino town in South Texas. Police have not as yet revealed a possible motive behind the attack, in which the 18-year-old went classroom to classroom dressed in body armor and carrying two military-style rifles, according to reports.

As the graph below shows, the frequency of school shootings in the U.S. has increased dramatically over the last few years.

Here are three stories from The Conversation’s archives to help fill in the recent history of mass shootings in the U.S. - and explain why the government has failed to take action on gun control, despite the carnage.

1. School shootings are at a record high

The attack at Robb Elementary School was, according to the data, the 137th school shooting to take place in the U.S. so far this year. In 2021, there were 249 school shootings – by far the worst year on record.

James Densley, of Metropolitan State University, and Hamline University’s Jillian Peterson log such incidents in a database of U.S. mass shootings. It has helped them build a profile of the typical school shooting suspect – some of which appears to apply to the suspect in the latest massacre. School shooters overwhelmingly tend to be current or former students of the school they attack. And they are “almost always” in a crisis of some sort prior to the incident, as evidenced by changes in their behavior. Suspects are also often inspired by other school shooters, which could go some way in explaining the rapid growth in such attacks in recent years.

A crowd of people in uniforms and safety vests, standing near an ambulance and empty gurney.
Emergency personnel gather near Robb Elementary School following the shooting on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

Densley and Peterson write that the “overwhelming number of shootings and shooting threats” have left schools struggling to respond, resulting in a patchwork of different measures that have failed to slow the frequency of attacks across the states. The two scholars contrast this local response to school shooting in the U.S. to the national legislative action taken in countries such as the U.K., Finland and Germany, concluding: “School shootings are not inevitable. They’re preventable. But practitioners and policymakers must act quickly because each school shooting feeds the cycle for the next one, causing harm far beyond that which is measured in lives lost.”


Read more: School shootings are at a record high this year – but they can be prevented


A uniformed officer walks past a sign saying 'Welcome Robb Elementary School Bienvenidos'
An officer in uniform walks past a sign that says ‘Welcome Robb Elementary School Bienvenidos.’ Allison Dinner/AFP via Getty Images

2. More guns within reach of would-be school shooters

While some of the traits that make up a “typical” U.S. school shooter may appear in those living in other countries, too, there is one area in which the U.S. stands alone – access to guns.

The suspect in the Robb Elementary School reportedly bought his military-style rifles shortly after his 18th birthday. That he was able to do so apparently with ease is likely due to the lax gun control laws in place in Texas, where the alleged shooter lived, and in the U.S. That lack of substantive regulation has led to an ever-increasing number of firearms in the hands of U.S. residents – a trend that has only accelerated in recent years, as University of Michigan’s Patrick Carter and Marc A. Zimmerman and Rebeccah Sokol of Wayne State University note.

“Since the onset of the public health crisis, firearm sales have spiked. Many of these firearms have ended up in households with teenage children, increasing the risk of accidental or intentional injury or fatalities, or death by suicide,” they write. It also makes it easier for would-be school shooters to get their hands on firearms that left unsecured around the house.

“Most school shooters obtain the firearm from home. And the number of guns within reach of high school-age teenagers has increased during the pandemic,” they write.


Read more: Most school shooters get their guns from home – and during the pandemic, the number of firearms in households with teenagers went up


3. Why popular support for gun control isn’t enough

In response to the killings in Texas, calls for stronger gun control laws are already being made, including by President Joe Biden in his speech the night of the shooting. But as evidenced by the lack of meaningful political action after the Sandy Hook massacre, in which 20 children and six school staff members were killed, the chances of getting anything through Congress appear slim.

This is despite polling that shows that a majority of Americans actually support stronger gun laws such as a ban on assault weapons.

So why doesn’t the government do what the people want? Harry Wilson, a professor of public affairs at Roanoke College, has a three-part answer.

First, the United States is not a direct democracy and, as such, citizens do not make decisions themselves, Wilson writes. Instead, the power to make laws lies in the hands of their elected representatives in Congress. But “the composition and rules of Congress are also crucial, especially in the Senate,” he writes, “where each state has two votes. This allocation of senators disproportionately represents the interests of less populous states.”

Secondly, “polling and public opinion are not as straightforward as they seem. Focusing on only one or two poll questions can distort the public’s views regarding gun control,” says Wilson.

And finally, the influence of voters and interest groups acts as a counterbalance to popular opinion.

“Gun owners are more likely than non-owners to vote based on the issue of gun control, to have contacted an elected official about gun rights, and to have contributed money to an organization that takes a position on gun control,” writes Wilson.

Meanwhile lobbying groups representing huge membership, like the NRA, put further pressure on elected representatives. “Elected officials want votes. There is no doubt that money is essential for political campaigns, but votes, not money or polls, are what determine elections. If a group can supply votes, then it has power,” writes Wilson.


Read more: If polls say people want gun control, why doesn't Congress just pass it?


Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.

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Moderna CEO Laments ‘Throwing 30 Million Doses In The Garbage Because Nobody Wants Them’

Moderna CEO Laments ‘Throwing 30 Million Doses In The Garbage Because Nobody Wants Them’

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel is complaining about…

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Moderna CEO Laments 'Throwing 30 Million Doses In The Garbage Because Nobody Wants Them'

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel is complaining about having to 'throw away' 30 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine because 'nobody wants them.'

"It's sad to say, I'm in the process of throwing 30 million doses in the garbage because nobody wants them. We have a big demand problem," Bancel told an audience at the World Economic Forum, adding that attempts to contact various governments to see if anyone wants to pick up the slack was a total fail.

"We right now have governments - we tried to contact ... through the embassies in Washington. Every country, and nobody wants to take them."

"The issue in many countries is that people don't want vaccines."

Watch:

Bancel's comments come days after Bloomberg reported that EU health officials want to amend contracts with Pfizer and other vaccine makers in order to reduce supplies

During a virtual meeting organized by Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski, governments shared a joint letter to the EU Commission which reads: "We hope that the discussion with the commission and among member states will allow flexibility in the vaccine agreements," adding "We are also counting on vaccine producers to show understanding to the exceptional challenges that Poland is facing supporting Ukraine and giving shelter to millions of Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war."

Some countries are seeking to amend so-called advanced purchase agreements signed with producers, as demand for shots wanes and budgets come under strain from the fallout of the war in Ukraine and the costs of accommodating refugees.

Adjusting deals with suppliers could grant member states the right to “re-phase, suspend or cancel altogether vaccine deliveries with short shelf life,” Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania’s prime ministers wrote in a joint letter to Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen late last month.

Meanwhile, in a separate letter the health ministry of Bulgaria called for an "open dialog" with the commission and pharmaceutical companies, arguing that the current arrangement forces member states to "purchase quantities of vaccines they don’t need."

Tyler Durden Tue, 05/24/2022 - 21:45

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