SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavour seen docked with the International Space Station on July 1, 2020. NASA A pair of investors are joining the first fully-private flight to the International Space Station — not as financial backers, but as the passengers flying along. Houston-based start-up Axiom Space on Tuesday unveiled that real estate investor Larry Connor and Canadian investor Mark Pathy will fly on its upcoming AX-1 mission. The pair join former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who will be the commander of the flight, and former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe. Connor will be the mission's pilot, which will make him the first private spaceflight pilot. Axiom last year signed a deal with SpaceX for the mission. Elon Musk's company is scheduled to launch the all-private crew no earlier than January 2022, using a Crew Dragon capsule to carry them to the space station. The mission comes at a steep price — $55 million per person — but will net them an eight-day stay on the space station. "Never has an entire crew been non-professional astronauts," López-Alegría told CNBC. "This is really groundbreaking, and I think it's very important that the mission be successful and safe because we're really paving the way for lots of things to happen after us." López-Alegría flew to space four times for NASA as a professional astronaut but now works for Axiom. He will lead them through about 15 weeks of training starting in the fall, command the spacecraft and make sure the other three crew members "have a safe and productive time," he said. AX-1 was originally scheduled for October 2021, but slid to early 2022. Axiom wants to fly "a couple of these missions per year," López-Alegría added, so future missions are on deck. Speculation abounded that AX-1 would feature actor Tom Cruise, as last year NASA announced that it is working with Cruise to film a movie on the ISS. Connor has lead The Connor Group since 2003, building the Ohio-based real estate investment firm to more than $3 billion in assets. Pathy, who is set to become the 11th Canadian astronaut, is the CEO and chairman of family office fund MAVRIK Corp, as well as chairman of the board at publicly-traded Montreal-based music company Stingray Group. Stibbe would be the second Israeli astronaut — the first was Ilan Ramon, a payload specialist on board Space Shuttle Columbia, who was killed in February 2003 when Columbia broke apart during re-entry. Stibbe was a close friend of Ramon's. AX-1 is '100% not a vacation' While space tourism is an emerging sub-sector of the space industry, Axiom's private passengers do not put themselves in that category. "We absolutely do not believe that we're space tourists," Connor told CNBC. López-Alegría similarly emphasized that the 10-day mission "is 100% not a vacation for these guys." "They're really focused on having this be a mission to promote a benefit to society, so they each are working on flight programs," Lopez-Alegria said. "They're teaming up with various institutions, hospitals and other research entities, as well as to do outreach while they're up there." Each of three have research missions they will be conducting on behalf of other organizations. Connor is collaborating with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic. Meanwhile, Pathy is working with the Canadian Space Agency and the Montreal Children's Hospital. Finally, Stibbe is working on behalf of the Ramon Foundation and Israeli Space Agency. "I've volunteered myself to be a test subject," Connor said. "We're not going there to be spectators; we're going there to do research and hopefully add some value for people." Connor and Pathy together witnessed SpaceX's first astronaut launch, the Demo-2 mission in May, which was the first rocket launch either had seen in person. The private ride to space The Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft in the hangar ahead of the Crew-1 mission SpaceX SpaceX developed Crew Dragon through heavy NASA funding, with the spacecraft built to fly astronauts to-and-from the ISS in low Earth orbit. SpaceX has launched two astronaut crews for NASA so far, including the first operational mission called Crew-1 in November. Although NASA contributed to its development, Musk's company owns and operates the spacecraft and rocket — with Axiom managing the mission and preparing the astronauts to launch. The AX-1 crew has yet to begin its formal training, but Connor said they have stopped by SpaceX's headquarters in Los Angeles for a spacesuit fitting and to see the spacecraft. "The Crew Dragon capsule, in terms of quality and professionalism, is just outstanding," Connor said. "And you can tell that, [as a group SpaceX is] exceptionally talented and committed to the mission." Connor emphasized that "NASA and SpaceX have nothing short of a remarkable safety record," which he said he reviewed with his family when considering the risk of flying to space. "We got to the point where we're not only confident but comfortable that we can do both a valuable mission and a safe one," Connor said. NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 crew members seated in the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft during training. From left to right: NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Oliver and Mike Hopkins, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi. SpaceX AX-1 is expected to use SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft "Resilience" after it returns from its current Crew-1 mission. While the company regularly lands and reuses its Falcon 9 rocket boosters and its Cargo Dragon capsules, AX-1 would likely be the first time reuse is introduced to a Crew Dragon spacecraft. "I'm very comfortable with that," López-Alegría said. "Reusability is something that has been always made sense in human spaceflight." An expensive endeavor The uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft at the International Space Station with its nose cone open revealing its docking mechanism while approaching the station. NASA At $55 million a seat, it's unsurprising that the first private space crew includes high net worth individuals like Connor and Pathy. The former said that it's "a fair question and concern" that some might criticize private spaceflight as only for the ultra rich. "We have lots of domestic problems and challenges, as well as international, but does that mean we should forget about the future?" Connor asked. "And, if you really think about the future, my view is that space is the next great frontier, so shouldn't we be trying to explore and in some regards try to pioneer that?" López-Alegría characterized the mission as "the first crack in the door toward democratization of space," following closely on the heels of NASA's decision in 2019 to allow private missions to visit the ISS. NASA will charge each person $35,000 per day while on board, as compensation for the services needed such as food and data usage. "It's not a very democratic demographic right now because of the cost of the flights, but we fully anticipate that the costs will start coming down," López-Alegría said. "At some point we'll be able to offer these to the man-on-the-street. It's going to be a while but that's the goal, and you have to start somewhere." For Connor's part, he asked that critics of private spaceflight "think long term" to 25 or more years from now. "Will it be that uncommon for people to go into space? I think and I hope the answer is going to be no. So somebody has to start it, somebody has to do the exploration and set the standards and so hopefully people will will look at it in that way," Connor said. Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world.
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Jeffrey Epstein was a sexual predator who died in jail while awaiting trial on charges of serial offences against underage girls. But when Leon Black first met him in the 1990s, he saw a different side of the elusive businessman, according to a report this week, viewing him “as someone who was very intelligent and knowledgeable regarding . . . estate planning and taxation”. Mr Black is one of the most successful financiers of his generation, co-founder of Apollo Global Management, a group that ranks among the most powerful on Wall Street. Yet the billionaire attributes a sizeable part of his family wealth to Epstein, estimating that as much as $2bn in benefits can be traced back to the late paedophile’s financial acumen. By comparison, Forbes magazine estimated Mr Black was worth $7.7bn at the time of Epstein’s 2019 suicide. On Monday, lawyers for Apollo pointed to that professional relationship to explain why its founder had paid $158m to Epstein over a five-year period ending in 2017 during which the disgraced businessman served as Mr Black’s high-priced adviser on issues ranging from audits by the tax authorities, management of his yacht and private plane, and a dispute over the ownership of a sculpture by Pablo Picasso. Over two decades, Mr Black confided in Epstein regarding personal matters, leaned on him as an “architect” of, and “strict taskmaster” for, the private office that managed his investments. The men socialised or held meetings at Epstein’s Caribbean island and his other properties in New York, Paris, Florida and New Mexico. The public reckoning over Mr Black’s ties to a convicted sex offender marks a humiliating coda to a relationship that began to sour years before Epstein’s shocking death in federal custody. “There has been a virtual tsunami in the press on this subject,” Mr Black said in 2019. “It seems to be the gift that never stops giving . . . It’s salacious, it involves elements of politics, of Me Too, of rich and powerful people. And my guess is it will continue for a while.” Last October, after new revelations of Mr Black’s payments to Epstein prompted a number of top pension funds to freeze further investments with Apollo, Mr Black asked his company to commission an investigation from Dechert, the international law firm. “Let me be clear, there has never been an allegation by anyone that I engaged in any wrongdoing because I did not,” Mr Black said then. “Any suggestion of blackmail or any other connection to Epstein’s reprehensible conduct is categorically untrue.” The pair last spoke in 2018, after Epstein sent emails that made what Dechert called “unsubstantiated assertions” about the work he had performed and demanding more cash. Mr Black refused to pay anything more. As their relationship deteriorated, Epstein was not above invoking his friendship with Black in an attempt to extract more money. According to the report by Apollo’s lawyers, he did so “by referencing personal matters that Black had shared with Epstein in confidence”. Their report added: “There is no evidence that those matters had any relationship to any of Epstein’s criminal activity or to any of Black’s payments to Epstein.” Second chances The Apollo founder had known Epstein for roughly a decade when Epstein was convicted in 2008 of soliciting sex from a minor, in a plea bargain that resulted in a 13-month prison sentence. “Black viewed Epstein as a confirmed bachelor with eclectic tastes, who often employed attractive women,” according to the Dechert report, but he had “no recollection of ever seeing Epstein with an underage woman at any time”. Rather than severing the relationship after the conviction, the Apollo founder began to formally employ Epstein as an adviser in 2012. Mr Black has characterised himself as someone who “believes in . . . giving people second chances”, according to the Dechert report. That is in keeping, the lawyers added, with relationships Mr Black has maintained with his former mentor Michael Milken, who served time in prison for securities violations committed at the failed investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert, and Martha Stewart, who was convicted in 2004 of making false statements and obstruction of justice in relation to a stock trade. Moreover, Mr Black “believed that the severity of Epstein’s offences was limited to a single instance of soliciting a 17-year-old prostitute that Black believed Epstein had mistakenly understood was older,” the Dechert report said. Leon Black kept relationships with other convicted felons including Martha Stewart © Getty Images . . . and his early-career mentor at Drexel Burnham Lambert, Michael Milken © AP A matter of trusts Epstein’s first and “most valuable” assignment, people familiar with his work told Dechert, was to rectify defects in a trust structure that had been designed to allow Mr Black to transfer some assets to his heirs without paying estate or gift tax. The structure dated from 2006, and had been created by lawyers recommended by Epstein. But the way they had implemented it meant that, without further action, the trust “would carry a future risk of a large estate tax assessment”. Epstein had a “unique” solution to the problem, which “[he] asserted was proprietary”, and which another of Mr Black’s lawyers called “a ‘grand slam’ [that] met all of Black’s financial and estate planning goals”. Dechert’s witnesses put the tax savings from the plan at between $500m and $1bn. “Some of Epstein’s ideas were uniquely creative and useful,” people familiar with his work told the Dechert lawyers. In particular, he could “motivate Black to concentrate on certain family office issues in a way that others could not”. But some of his ideas “were unremarkable or not viable”, the report said, and he had a habit of taking credit for other people’s work. “Some witnesses described a toxic and destructive work environment under Epstein,” the Dechert lawyers wrote, although others “agreed that the pressure that Epstein exerted . . . did [improve] their performance”. Mr Black on Monday said the Dechert report confirmed “the key facts I have previously disclosed concerning my relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, including that I was completely unaware of Mr Epstein’s abhorrent misconduct that came to light in late 2018”. He added that he would step down as Apollo’s chief executive by July 31, as part of a package of reforms that will hand more power to Apollo’s public shareholders while allowing him to remain as chairman. In a letter sent to Apollo investors in 2019, Mr Black insisted that he had “never promoted” Epstein to his top colleagues at the company. That statement was “not false”, the Dechert report said, although Mr Black “did positively comment on the substantial value of Epstein’s services”. Despite that recommendation from Apollo’s billionaire founder, the lawyers added, “it is clear that no Apollo employee other than Black ever seriously considered hiring Epstein”.
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Larry Culp, General Electric’s chief executive, has defended a potential $46.5m bonus secured in a year when the company laid off thousands of its staff, saying that he had also made sacrifices because of the coronavirus crisis. Unions had attacked the board’s decision to extend Mr Culp’s contract on new terms, which would unlock the bonus in 2024 if GE’s stock traded above $10 for at least 30 days rather than the original $19 target. A rally in the stock as GE’s performance improved ensured he hit the new goal within a matter of months. Mr Culp defended his incentives on Tuesday, telling the Financial Times that agreeing to the board’s request to extend his contract in the midst of the pandemic last August “required a bit of soul-searching on my part, given what I’d agreed to initially”. Mr Culp could receive a bonus of up to $230m if GE’s shares trade above $16.68 for a sustained period, rather than the $31 target in his 2018 contract. They were $11.48 on Tuesday, after strong fourth-quarter results. “I didn’t take a salary last year once Covid hit. I think we all sacrificed,” he added. “[The board] did not extend to me a bonus for 2020. That contract extension was long term and performance-based. To characterise that as a big cheque I’m taking home at the end of 2020 is at odds with the facts.” GE has not released details of its executives’ 2020 compensation but in 2019 Mr Culp earned a base salary of $2.5m, a $5.6m annual bonus and a grant of performance share awards that were valued at the time at $15.5m. Shares in the US industrial conglomerate were up more than 4 per cent in lunchtime trading in New York, close to their level a year ago before GE began to feel the effects of a pandemic that took a particularly heavy toll on its aircraft engines business. It ended a tumultuous year of lay-offs, debt repayments and restructuring with far stronger cash flow than forecast, boosting investor confidence in Mr Culp’s turnround. Improving orders in GE’s power and renewable energy division drove industrial free cash flow to almost $4.4bn in the fourth quarter, compared with a target of at least $2.5bn, allowing the company to return to positive cash flow for the full year, 12 months ahead of schedule.  “I think we’ve done a tremendous amount to stabilise and de-risk,” Mr Culp told the FT, pointing to the fact the company had cut $16bn from its debt in 2020. “There’s more to do but that’s a lot of financial de-risking. Hopefully the speculation about our potential demise is fading.” GE’s adjusted earnings for the quarter were down 60 per cent at 8 cents per share, while its preferred measure of industrial organic revenues dropped 14 per cent. Its power, renewable energy and healthcare divisions all reported improved profit margins.  For 2021, the group forecast organic revenue growth “in the low-single-digit range”, an improvement in industrial profit margins of 250 basis points or more and adjusted earnings per share of 15 to 25 cents. Industrial free cash flow should reach $2.5bn to $4.5bn, it said, compared with market expectations of about $3bn. GE cut more than $2bn from its cost base in 2020 including thousands of job losses in the aviation business, which supplies Boeing and has been hit by the grounding of flights around the world during the pandemic.  Aviation orders were down 40 per cent year-on-year in the fourth quarter but GE said the division had come close to generating positive free cash flow in the period. Its healthcare division, which reported a surge in demand for ventilators and monitors for Covid-19 patients earlier in 2020, was experiencing the return of more normal demand patterns, Mr Culp said. He added GE had ended the year with an order backlog of $387bn, down 4 per cent year-on-year but heavily skewed towards services, where it makes its highest profit margins.
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PRESS RELEASE. Blockchain platform Dvision Network has revealed that digital asset custodian platform ‘’Coinbase Custody’’ will be providing a cold-storage solution for its native token DVI. Major development for Dvision Network Dvision Network stated that the development had been in the works in recent months with the blockchain cooperating closely with the Coinbase Custody team […]
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The rise of cryptocurrencies over the past few months, especially with the onset of 2021, has certainly catapulted the crypto niche into the mainstream. While traders buy and sell and try to calculate how much this or that currency has grown by and as large investment funds predict that Bitcoin (BTC) will soon reach $100,000 per coin, big things are also happening in the crypto mining space. Miners in the largest pool, F2Pool, reportedly contributed to the recent fall of BTC price and then to its subsequent recovery, while individual miners from the United States and France are even heating houses in winter with their machines. This indeed suggests that Bitcoin is one of the lifelines of the industry, especially with 2021 promising to be a year filled with new crypto mining products, especially video cards. AMD on the scene At the end of 2020, several new products were expected from the two largest GPU card manufacturers, Nvidia and AMD, and it didn’t take them long to deliver. During the annual CES technology conference at the beginning of January, the manufacturers did not present the final versions of their GPU cards but confirmed that they will arrive on shelves very soon. Users will be interested in the AMD Radeon RX 6700 and RX 6700 XT cards, which are intended to replace the Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT cards. This new series is interesting because according to some experts, the RX 6700 will be able to outperform its competitor and undisputed leader among miners, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti. The new card can support up to 12 GB of GDDR6 memory, a powerful cooling system — like the GeForce RTX 3070 has — a 192-bit memory bus and 96 MB of Infinity Cache memory. An important factor for the popularity of the card will be the price, and because it’s reportedly cheaper to produce than the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, the retail price is expected to be lower. Why then can the RX 6700 be a success? Before purchasing a GPU card, miners look at the profitability of the cards — but here, AMD has problems. Of the 10 most profitable cards, almost all positions are occupied by Nvidia products. Of course, there is the AMD Radeon VII, which is very good, but when talking about cards that occupy the middle price category of $400 to $500, AMD is not in a strong position. This is why the RX 6700 series can possibly become a contender for the top five video cards of 2021. A special product from Nvidia What about Nvidia? Unfortunately, the company has yet to unveil a launch plan for a new card, perhaps because the RTX 3000 series just came out and is breaking all demand records, leading to a shortage of cards. Even before the new year, the new RTX 3080, 3070, 3060 Ti and 3090 were hard to find, even at several times their retail prices. The company admitted that this problem will likely not be resolved until April or May. The RTX 3000 series is so popular because they are the most profitable cards for mining. According to some estimates, one GeForce RTX 3080 card can bring in $6 to $9 per day when mining Ether (ETH), and investments can be recouped in just two to six months — not bad for today’s network complexity. But the manufacturer can get out of the crisis in a fairly simple way: Make cards specifically for miners and thus reduce the demand for the RTX 3000 series and end the struggle between gamers and miners. Recently, the chief financial officer of Nvidia said that if demand from miners continues to grow, then the manufacturer may resume the production of the crypto-mining processor series. At the moment, the decision regarding their production has not yet been announced, which is understandable, as the previous generation of such cards in 2017 to 2018 was not widespread and the manufacturer fears another failure. But that time, Nvidia presented special equipment for mining rather late, when many were already mining on readily available cards. Additionally, the timing was bad, as the wave of interest in crypto began to subside and the market entered a prolonged bearish period. This time, if Nvidia does a quick job of it and manages to release the cards within the next six months, then these cards may still come out while there is an ongoing shortage for the RTX 3000 series. While Nvidia is cautious regarding announcing its own new mining cards, other manufacturers are starting to produce mining video cards based on the Nvidia architecture. MSI recently registered several products with the Eurasian Economic Commission — the main regulatory body of the Eurasian Economic Union, which consists of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan — including the MSI GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Miner 8G and 8G OC GPU cards, which are designed specifically for mining. Of course, this registration does not necessarily mean that the company will release these products, and it does not reveal a possible launch date, but this step clearly means that some manufacturers are interested in catering to the needs of miners and are determined to release very specific solutions. Gamers vs. miners The fact is that while there is no special, up-to-date equipment for mining, all users end up buying the same latest cards, which operate well in both scenarios. For gamers, the main indicator of the quality of a card is the frame rate per second it achieves when playing the newest game at the maximum video settings. The leader among gamers right now is the new Nvidia RTX 3090, which achieves 152.7 fps. A more popular card is the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 with 142.1 fps, which costs about $700 and works on the improved Ampere architecture. The only problem is that this card is as hard to find as a Sony Playstation 5. But gamers should not be discouraged because there are signs that manufacturers are generally moving toward dividing equipment into mining and gaming. Nvidia announced that in February, the GeForce RTX 3060 will be released for sale and come equipped with 12 GB of GDDR6 video memory. These cards will only be issued by Nvidia partner companies. Hong Kong-based Zotac has already presented two versions of the cards. The main thing that should please gamers is that they will not be powerful enough for mining and will only be suitable for games. There’s no consensus It seems that for the near future, unfortunately, miners should be looking out for any GPU available on the market and cease hoping to strike gold by buying the latest and greatest. Ilya Goldberg, managing partner of Ecos-M — which operates a cloud mining center — said that 2021 will likely go by without any major shocks for the mining industry: “As far as we know the main global hardware vendors have not purchased many chips for this year. Most likely, the new equipment will be released in the spring–summer of 2022. Therefore, we expect that this year the network hash rate will not grow much, and the profitability for miners will be good.” Anyways, there is no need to fall into despair, as hardware manufacturers are evidently taking steps to meet the demand of all consumers — miners and gamers — which means that slowly but surely they are recognizing the power and demand of mining and are looking to deliver products for the industry.
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UniCredit has chosen high-profile dealmaker Andrea Orcel as its new chief executive and could announce the move as soon as this week, according to two people familiar with the situation. Mr Orcel emerged as the leading contender for the job among a crowded field following the surprise resignation of Jean Pierre Mustier in November. The appointment has yet to be signed off by the Italian bank’s board. One of Europe’s best-known bankers, Mr Orcel has been involved in some of the continent’s biggest M&A deals over the past two decades. Most recently the 57-year-old Italian worked at UBS, but left in 2018 after being offered the job as chief executive of Spanish bank Santander. The offer was subsequently withdrawn over disagreements related to pay and profile. Mr Orcel launched a €112m lawsuit against Santander over the withdrawn offer. According to several people familiar with the matter, a settlement has not been signed between Mr Orcel and Santander. Santander and Mr Orcel did not immediately respond to a request for comment. UniCredit declined to comment. The Italian bank’s international shareholders favoured Mr Orcel for his global banking experience. He was also the preferred choice of some Italian backers, including the billionaire businessman Leonardo Del Vecchio, a top-10 shareholder at UniCredit and an influential voice among its other investors. Former Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam was heavily courted for the CEO role by incoming UniCredit chairman Pier Carlo Padoan. But the Ivorian has instead pursued the launch of a $250m special purpose acquisition vehicle arranged by JPMorgan Chase. UniCredit’s board is due to meet this week to sign off Mr Orcel’s appointment, which was first reported by Bloomberg, but the meeting could happen as early as Tuesday evening, according to people briefed on the plans. Mr Orcel has a close relationship with UniCredit, having orchestrated the €21bn merger between Credito Italiano and UniCredito in 1998 that formed the group. UniCredit also moved as a client to UBS with Mr Orcel when he switched from Merrill Lynch in 2012. If the board approves the appointment, one of the first decisions Mr Orcel will have to make is whether to acquire the government-owned bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena, a deal UniCredit’s shareholders bitterly oppose. While at Merrill Lynch in 2008, Mr Orcel advised MPS on the €9bn acquisition of Banca Antonveneta, a deal that overstretched MPS at the height of the financial crisis. According to people familiar with the matter, another factor that is still to be decided is the $50m in deferred pay Mr Orcel is due to receive from UBS but would lose in the event he joins a competitor. “[Mr] Orcel said he would work for free for UniCredit during the first year if he found a settlement with Santander and solved the UBS issue,” one of the people said. One person said Mr Orcel had agreed to a relatively low level of pay for the first year, which would double from 2022. Mr Mustier earned €1.2m in 2019 at UniCredit, far less than European peers such as recently departed UBS chief Sergio Ermotti, who was paid SFr13.8m (€13m), and Carlo Messina, chief of local rival Intesa Sanpaolo, who is paid €4.3m. This story has been amended to clarify that a settlement has not been signed between Mr Orcel and Santander
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Executives of Etsy applaud as they open the Nasdaq MarketSite ahead of Etsy's initial public offering in New York, April 16, 2015. Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images Shares of Etsy popped Tuesday morning after Tesla chief Elon Musk sent a simple tweet about the e-commerce company. "I kinda love Etsy," Musk tweeted at 6:25 a.m. ET, fueling an Ety's stock surge of as much as 8%. But by early afternoon, the price was lower on the day, down 1.5%. The e-commerce company stock wasn't moving at all in the premarket before Musk's callout. "Bought a hand knit wool Marvin the Martian helm for my dog," Musk tweeted, seemingly in reference to why he is a fan of Etsy. While Musk's opinion certainly holds a lot of weight with investors, the spike in the stock on his short message is another sign of wild, speculative trading in the market. Musk is no stranger to wild activity on Twitter, with a history of influencing stock prices, especially Tesla shares, with bold statements on the social media platform. Musk infamously tweeted last year that Tesla's stock was "too high," sending shares even higher a week later. Arrows pointing outwards Shares of Etsy are up more than 340% in the past 12 months as the shopping marketplace emerged as a major winner from the coronavirus pandemic. Etsy helped small businesses without an online presence reach consumers during the lockdown. The stock is up 25% this year alone. Also on Tuesday, Jefferies raised its 12-month price target on Etsy to a Street high of $245 per share. "We believe behavioral changes incited by the pandemic allow ETSY to tap a broader portion of its $1.7T addressable market, leading to higher frequency and spending," Jefferies analyst John Colantuoni told clients. "Our DCF-derived PT increases to $245 (from $205) as accelerating traffic and our deep dive into long-term GMS improves our confidence in ETSY's ability to continue growing faster than overall e-commerce," Colantuoni added. Correction: The headline was revised to correct that Musk was tweeting about the company in general. — with reporting from CNBC's Michael Bloom. Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world.
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In Daly City, California, authorities are investigating a crypto scam incident where a man lost $27,000 worth of bitcoin. A 48-year-old man claimed the scammers tricked him into giving them the keys to his wallet. Scammer Impersonated a Crypto Wallet Hardware Firm Ledger Representative Per KTVU FOX 2, the unnamed victim received a text message […]
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Greenspoon Marder LLP has named attorney Jeannette Bond of counsel as part of its public finance buildout. Bond, who works in New York, was previously special tax counsel for the public finance team at McCarter & English LLP until her recent retirement from that firm after more than 20 years as special counsel. Jeannette Bond has practiced in public finance since 1979. She has practiced in public finance since 1979, concentrating on the federal tax aspects of tax-exempt bonds. She was special tax counsel for bonds of state and local governments and authorities, including New Jersey advance refunding issues. “Jeannette has been a great help in crafting solutions to many of the difficult issues that arise in complex public financings. I am thrilled that she will continue to work with us in an of counsel role,” partner Denise Ganz said. Greenspoon Marder is a full-service business law firm with more than 200 attorneys and offices across the U.S. Bond has been an active member of the National Association of Bond Lawyers since 1983 and has been a member of its board and its treasurer. She was a member of the initial editorial board responsible for developing NABL’s multi-volume service, Federal Taxation of Municipal Bonds.
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Traders work on the floor of the NYSE. NYSE Short sellers on the ropes — or are they?  Short sellers clearly have picked the wrong names in January. The GameStop phenomenon — where buyers deliberately target heavily shorted stocks — is only the most recent development in a long series of failures from short sellers. But don't count them out. Most short sellers lose money The market's relentless rally has not been kind to short sellers for many years. For all the attention that is put on superstar short sellers, most of these managers lose money. Equity shorts lost $243 billion in 2020, a return of negative 26%, according to S3 Partners. This month, their performance is even worse. In January alone, they are down $91 billion, according to S3. And while traders often focus on stocks that have made money for short sellers due to being in sectors that were out of favor (ExxonMobil) or had accounting irregularities (Luckin Coffee and Wirecard), most shorts do not succeed. In 2020, 57% of all securities shorted lost money. Sixty-eight percent of every dollar bet lost money. "The biggest enemy of short sellers has not been Robinhood or Reddit chat rooms, it's been the Federal Reserve and stimulus, which have pushed most stocks higher. It's not a value market, it's a momentum market, and they [short sellers] are on the wrong side of the momentum," said Ihor Dusaniwsky of S3 Partners. Given the beating short sellers have been taking, it's not surprising that the dollar value of stocks shorted compared to the dollar value of the S&P 500 is at its lowest level in several years, according to Goldman Sachs. Shorts are not a big part of the market At any one time, short sellers typically have $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in short bets out on the market, according to Dusaniwsky. That is roughly 2% to 3% of the market capitalization of U.S. stocks. That may seem like a small amount of money, but short sellers play a very important role. They are instrumental in calling out companies that may have questionable accounting, as was the case with Luckin Coffee and Wirecard last year. They also provide hedges to long portfolios. Their most important function may be as liquidity providers. They provide liquidity for the equity market, and they provide liquidity for derivatives traders who take the other side of options trades.   That's where the GameStop story comes in. "Shorts provide liquidity on the back end of rallies. If you are a long seller at the top end of a rally, the shorts are the only ones buying your stock," Dusaniwsky said. "The shorts provide liquidity that many longs no longer provide." The end of shorts? Not by a long shot Shorts certainly seem to be in a difficult position. Academy Securities' Peter Tchir said shorts are getting hit with a "one-two punch":  First, the relentless rise in the market, but then "some traders are aggressively buying out-of-the-money calls options. That squeezes the shorts. For the moment it seems to be an effective strategy." What will happen to the shorts? "Shorts are going to have to be more comfortable with losses before getting stopped out," Tchir said. "And I would guess that the prices for call options will go up. Movements like [Monday] seem insane without a repricing of the options. It makes me nervous." If call option prices do indeed rise, Tchir warns, that could generate false signals to the market. "If call option prices go up, that could force the VIX up, and traders may mistakenly believe there is fear building up. It may not be the time to be bearish, but it certainly may be the time to avoid highly volatile stocks that are chatroom favorites." Despite all the difficulties, Dusaniwsky laughs when I ask if this is a killer blow for short sellers.  Not a chance, he said: "Even as the shorts are getting killed, new shorts are coming in, particularly in financials and even in the names that have had the biggest successes blowing out short sellers." Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world.
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The stock market's rally during spiking Covid cases, which could threaten the U.S. economy's recovery, may be justified by strong earnings from struggling American industrial companies, CNBC's Jim Cramer said Tuesday. "These are astounding numbers," Cramer said on "Squawk on the Street," referring to quarterly results from General Electric and Raytheon. "It makes you feel like, wait a second, the market went up lot; maybe it should have." "When I look at GE, I'm thinking 'Houdini,' miraculous, incredible," said Cramer, after GE before-the-bell delivered better-than-expected industrial free cash flow for the fourth quarter and a rosy outlook for this year. Shares were jumping about 6%. Revenue for Q4 of nearly $22 billion exceeded estimates, but per-share earnings of 8 cents missed forecasts by a penny. "When you look at Raytheon and when you look at General Electric, has it occurred to you that nobody is flying and yet they're crushing it when it comes to aviation," the "Mad Money" host said, while noting that GE and Raytheon have undergone massive cost-cutting measures including tens of thousands of job cuts. While orders in GE's beleaguered aviation unit fell 41% compared with a year ago, Cramer said he was encouraged that it was not down even more. "If you adjust the baseline it's surprising that they didn't have a dramatic fall off versus last year, which was an amazing quarter," he said. Shares of Raytheon rose about 6% after the company beat its 2020 cash flow guidance, beat estimates with adjusted fourth-quarter earnings of 74 cents per share and revenue of $16.42 billion. Raytheon's Pratt & Whitney unit, which makes and services aircraft engines, beat sales expectations. However, the aerospace manufacturer forecast a full-year revenue outlook that was below estimates. "The free cash flow of both these companies, Raytheon and GE, is surprising," Cramer said, while adding that GE's health care, wind, and hydrogen turbine businesses are also growing. While stronger Tuesday, GE shares are flat over the past 12 months. Raytheon shares are down more than 50% over the same period. Both stocks were once among the 30 components that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average. GE, which had been a continuous member since 1907, was replaced in the Dow by drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance in 2018. Raytheon was replaced by conglomerate Honeywell International last year.
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Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk Getty Images The two richest men on the planet are sparring in front of federal regulators over the massive satellite internet projects their companies are developing. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter on Tuesday, as his company works to convince officials of the Federal Communications Commission that it should allow SpaceX to move some of its Starlink satellites to lower altitudes than originally planned. Jeff Bezos' Amazon has been among companies that have disputed SpaceX's request, on the grounds that the modification would interfere with other satellites. "It does not serve the public to hamstring Starlink today for an Amazon satellite system that is at best several years away from operation," Musk said in a tweet. Starlink is SpaceX's plan to build an interconnected internet network with about 12,000 satellites, designed to deliver high-speed internet to anywhere on the planet. With more than 1,000 satellites so far in orbit, SpaceX began a public beta program in October. Initial service is priced at $99 a month, in addition to a $499 upfront cost to order the Starlink Kit, which includes a user terminal and Wi-Fi router to connect to the satellites. Meanwhile, Amazon has been working on its own satellite internet called Project Kuiper. The program represents Amazon's plan to launch 3,236 internet satellites into low Earth orbit — a system that would compete with Starlink. While Amazon in December passed a critical early hardware milestone for the antennas it needs to connect to the network, it has yet to begin producing or launching its satellites. The FCC in July authorized Amazon's proposal for Kuiper, which the company says it will invest more than $10 billion in to build. Musk's comment comes after SpaceX director David Goldman spoke with FCC officials late last week, to discuss the company's proposal to move some of the Starlink satellites to lower altitudes. In a presentation to the FCC, Goldman highlighted that Amazon representatives have had "30 meetings to oppose SpaceX" but "no meetings to authorize its own system," arguing that the technology giant is attempting "to stifle competition." Amazon did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment regarding Musk's tweet. SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk (R) gestures as he arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer Awards ceremony, in Berlin, on December 1, 2020. Britta Pedersen | AFP | Getty Images Both companies' satellite networks represent ambitious projects, with SpaceX, like Amazon, saying its network will cost about $10 billion or more to build. But SpaceX leadership estimates that Starlink could bring in as much as $30 billion a year, or more than 10 times the annual revenue of its rocket business. SpaceX earlier this month expanded its beta program to include customers in the United Kingdom and Canada. The company is looking to widely expand Starlink access internationally, with public records showing the company registered in Austria, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, France, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa and Spain. 60 Starlink satellites deploy into orbit after the company's 17th mission. SpaceX Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world.
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The world's largest asset manager is pushing companies to disclose how they will survive in a world of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. "Because better sustainability disclosures are in companies' as well as investors' own interests, I urge companies to move quickly to issue them rather than waiting for regulators to impose them," BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said Tuesday in his annual letter to CEOs. The corporate world is waking up to the fact that so-called ESG factors — environmental, social and governance metrics — pose financial risk, and companies that don't adapt will be left behind. Indeed, Fink said in his letter that as investors tilt their holdings toward companies focused on sustainability, "the tectonic shift we are seeing will accelerate further." "More and more people do understand that climate risk is investment risk. ...When finance really understands a problem, we take that future problem and bring it forward. That's what we saw in 2020, and what we're seeing now," Fink said Tuesday on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "The flows even in January into sustainability funds are growing, not shrinking, and this is going to continue in 2021," he said. ESG investing became widespread during the bull market boom, leading many to view it as simply a bull market phenomenon. But amid the sell-off in stocks as the coronavirus roiled markets in March, investors piled into sustainability-focused funds. Many of these wound up outperforming their peers. Last year, from January to November, investors in mutual funds and exchange-traded funds invested $288 billion globally in sustainable assets, a nearly 100% increase from the whole of 2019, according to BlackRock. "They [investors] are also increasingly focused on the significant economic opportunity that the transition will create, as well as how to execute it in a just and fair manner," Fink wrote in his letter. "No issue ranks higher than climate change on our clients' lists of priorities," he wrote. "They ask us about it nearly every day." Amid the jump in ESG fund flows, some have said it's reached bubble-like territory and that valuations are beginning to look stretched for some of the most popular pure-play names related to the energy transition. But Fink said that as in any new trend there will be some winners and some losers. He compared the sector to technology companies over the last 20 years, noting they ultimately grew into their earnings. This isn't the first time Fink has sounded the alarm on the corporate world's role in climate change. In his 2020 letter, he said a reshaping of finance was underway, and said the firm was overhauling its investing strategy in order to place sustainability at the center. His 2019 and 2018 letters also focused on the idea of stakeholder capitalism, or that companies should seek a greater purpose beyond lining their shareholders' pockets. Critics of ESG investing argue that it's difficult to score a company given the subjective nature of some of the metrics, as well as an overall lack of data disclosure. In a bid for greater transparency, BlackRock said it is asking companies to state how their business model will be compatible with a net-zero economy. In a separate letter to clients, BlackRock said it will help investors identify companies leading the charge by employing a "heightened scrutiny model" in its actively-managed portfolios. The firm will also create a "focus universe" of holdings that are particularly susceptible to climate-related risk. With $8.68 trillion in assets under management, BlackRock's words and actions carry weight, and some argue the company's push toward a greener future is too little, too late. Of course, its myriad offerings, including ETFs that track the S&P 500, mean it's difficult to unilaterally sell stocks of companies that engage in activities that might not align with a customer's values. "It's encouraging to see BlackRock finally willing to remove companies from active funds as a consequence of moving too slowly on climate," said Gaurav Madan, senior forests and lands campaigner at Friends of the Earth. The environmental group is one of the partners in BlackRock's Big Problem, a global network of NGOs and financial advocates pressuring asset managers for change. "This is a welcome shift in BlackRock's strategy," said Madan. "But that threat alone is not enough at this stage of the pending crisis."
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Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute explores New York MTA's structural deficits, a capital program on hold and federal rescue needs amid while ridership has cratered during the pandemic. Paul Burton and Andrew Coen host (21 minutes). Recorded Jan. 4.
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According to sources familiar with the matter, a number of Ivy League universities including the University of Michigan, Brown, Yale, and Harvard endowments have been discreetly purchasing cryptocurrencies. The prominent schools have been reportedly leveraging exchanges like Coinbase and other trading platforms. Prominent university endowments have been quietly purchasing digital currencies according to a report written by the financial columnist Ian Allison. The reporters detailed that “two sources” have explained that a number of well known colleges have been purchasing digital currencies from specific exchanges like Coinbase. The report notes that university endowments from schools such as Brown, the University of Michigan, Harvard, and Yale have been buying crypto-assets quietly. Allison details that his sources say that “there are quite a few” university endowment programs doing this and “a lot of endowments are allocating a little bit to crypto at the moment.” The sources also explained that some of the colleges have stored funds on exchanges for at least a year and a half. “It could be since mid-2019,” the source told Allison. “Most have been in at least a year. I would think they will probably discuss it publicly at some point this year. I suspect they would be sitting on some pretty nice chunks of return.” It has been known for quite some time that well known colleges have been purchasing bitcoin (BTC) and crypto funds for endowment purposes. Back in February 2019, news.Bitcoin.com reported on the financial endowment fund of the University of Michigan that invested in the crypto venture capital fund managed by Andreessen Horowitz. In May 2019, sources familiar with the matter explained that Ivy League school Yale had invested in the cryptocurrency fund Paradigm. Yale’s endowment is the second-largest in higher education today. Colleges all around the world have been into cryptocurrencies for a very long time and high net worth individuals have regularly donated bitcoin and other crypto assets to popular universities. Numerous universities accept digital currency donations or have crypto backers funding these schools. Other schools that accept crypto and offer elective courses that teach blockchain technology include the likes of Stanford, MIT, Cornell, Puget Sound, and Princeton. What do you think about university endowments like the University of Michigan, Brown, Yale, and Harvard purchasing crypto assets? Let us know what you think in the comments section below. Tags in this story Andreessen Horowitz, Bitcoin, Bitcoin (BTC), Brown, BTC, Buying bitcoin endowments, Coinbase, college, crypto assets, donations, Endowments, Exchanges, harvard, Ian Allison, Ivy League School, Paradigm, Schools, University of Michigan, Yale Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a direct offer or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell, or a recommendation or endorsement of any products, services, or companies. Bitcoin.com does not provide investment, tax, legal, or accounting advice. Neither the company nor the author is responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, goods or services mentioned in this article. Read disclaimer
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As a mother of two small girls with a demanding consulting career, the pandemic tested my ability to juggle playdates and video conferences with my banking clients. I am in good company: PwC’s latest Workforce Pulse Survey showed that women aged 35 to 44, including working mothers, are more affected than other groups by the strains of the pandemic. The majority said they feel stressed or anxious, with 70% of respondents feeling unable to ask for help in managing work-related stress. One profound result: millions of women departed the workforce due to competing circumstances as a result of COVID-19, not by choice due to reductions in staff, or personal choices to address caregiving and family obligations. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that the pandemic has forced women out of the workforce at disproportionately high rates — almost four times more than men. In the financial services industry, this is particularly alarming. In 2020, the Financial Services House Committee Hearings highlighted the lack of diversity as an industry-wide issue. Women are leaving. We need them back — particularly on Wall Street. With the rise of environmental, social and governance and public diversity reporting, as well as the overwhelming evidence pointing to companies with diverse boards outperform others, firms that move fastest to advance female talent will likely reap the benefits of their return. Efforts to attract, advance and retain women through the pandemic should be boundless. They should not stop when the pandemic subsides. Lack of female representation is a systemic issue in the financial services industry, made worse by COVID-19. We should use these pandemic lessons to balance scales that have been tilted for much too long, and not allow the pandemic disruption to add to the imbalance. There are signs of commitment. Since the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue faced down the Wall Street bull in 2017, we’ve seen an iconic female CEO appointment on Wall Street, and a pipeline of strong female successor candidates in major banks. One bank has refused to take non-diverse boards to initial public offering, while others have published diversity and pay gap data or tied diversity metrics to executive performance or compensation. There is hope. I have been encouraged by what major banks are doing to help keep women in the workplace — not just through the pandemic, but to support women in a post-COVID world. One global bank introduced flexible work programs that enable the purchase of additional vacation as well as a 12-week sabbatical for qualifying employees to focus on well-being. Other financial institutions have put in place timely benefits such as support in finding child care as well as virtual education assistance. Holistic well-being, inclusive of various dimensions (for example, physical, financial, mental, and emotional) has never been more urgent. I have observed in several firms an uptick in the provision of mental health-related wellness programs such as meditation resources, resilience training and counseling. In fact, PwC’s Workforce Pulse survey indicates that the majority of CHROs, across various industries, are planning to increase support to workers via new benefits, including those that offer childcare and mental health assistance, as well as hazard pay and upskilling programs in light of the country’s new administration. What else should the FS industry do? It will take time to improve gender representation on Wall Street and throughout the financial services industry. It requires commitment, resources and discipline. Here are key strategies: Integrate diversity and inclusion in business strategy. Consider whether there are aspects of the company’s strategy or business model that hinder the diversity agenda. For example, if the most attractive leads are consistently allocated to male over female advisors, or the most successful portfolios are routinely assigned to male over female investment managers, an underlying bias may exist with the ability to conceal the potential of female talent. Focus on pipeline. The loss of just a few lonely women at the top can cripple gender diversity in many financial services firms. To soften the impact, firms should focus on building their bench of female leaders via targeted recruitment, customized benefits, equitable pay, intentional succession planning and formal sponsorship. Measure progress, with gusto. Establish diversity and inclusion metrics within the key indicators of your company’s success, and measure progress against these goals with the same rigor that other business metrics are monitored. Share progress, both good and bad, and take it further to analyze why diverse talent is leaving. According to our recent D&I benchmarking survey, while 50% of financial services firms track employee demographics, only 20% monitor discrepancies in promotions which could be a main contributor to female attrition. But most of all, let us recognize that advancing gender diversity is not a women’s problem for women alone to solve. Instead, we need a coalition including male allies who commit to the mission, and inspire others to do the same. Let’s bring those millions of women back to the workforce.
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