Bank of America gained hundreds of millions of dollars in trading revenue when the Texas electric grid failed in a winter storm last month, highlighting the upside for Wall Street from mayhem that knocked out power and heat across the state, industry executives and traders said.  The bank’s Houston-based energy trading group had electricity contracts that soared in value when wholesale Texas power prices rose 10,000 per cent to a cap of $9,000 a megawatt-hour the third week of February.  The prices were ordered by the Texas utility regulator in an attempt to bring more generation into service. But almost half the state’s capacity fell offline as an arctic freeze blocked supplies of natural gas, froze coal piles and iced wind farms. Blackouts lasted days, leaving millions in the dark. BofA takes part in the Texas energy market by trading power and gas and selling products that enable generators and other asset owners to hedge against fluctuating prices. That activity left BofA with an inventory of power contracts that surged in value during the blackouts. “The volatility of the energy market has heightened the value of risk management,” the bank’s website says. Banks have said little about their trading activities during the longest spell of cold weather ever to test the Texas grid. One exception is Macquarie, the Australian bank with a Houston-based energy business, which reported an A$300m (US$234m) gain related to natural gas trading, lifting annual group profit by 5-10 per cent.  “So far we’re only hearing from the losers, and furthermore, we’re only hearing what the losers have chosen to tell us,” said Ross Baldick, an emeritus professor of engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.  BofA declined to comment on the amount of revenue its energy trading generated during the Texas blackouts, but it said: “Revenue related to this activity will be offset by losses and reduced revenues related to investments in wind and other alternate power suppliers in Texas and other affected markets.” Twice weekly newsletter Energy is the world’s indispensable business and Energy Source is its newsletter. Every Tuesday and Thursday, direct to your inbox, Energy Source brings you essential news, forward-thinking analysis and insider intelligence. Sign up here. The financial group was the lead bank on a $480m line of credit to Brazos Electric Power Co-operative, a generation and transmission company that filed for bankruptcy protection this week because it was unable to pay for power purchases racked up during the storm. The bank also had a $6.9m claim in the case related to power sales and derivatives, according to a court filing.  BofA expanded deeply into North American power and gas markets when it acquired the Merrill Lynch investment bank in 2009. The energy desk is part of its fixed income, currencies and commodities division that made revenues of $1.7bn in the fourth quarter.  Mark Egan, a senior Houston energy trader at the bank, serves as a board member of the Gulf Coast Power Association. According to the group, Egan has “structured and executed energy hedges for 7,000MW (megawatts) of natural gas fired generation and 2,500MW of wind capacity” for clients in the Texas power market, with relationships that “span the industry”. However, BofA has a smaller energy trading business than many peers. Citigroup was the fourth-largest seller of US wholesale power in the third quarter of 2020, while Morgan Stanley was 15th, according to government data compiled by S&P Global Platts. Bank of America was not in the top 20. The bank, which has dozens of retail branches across Texas, pledged $1.1m to charities to provide shelter, water, food and other essentials after the weather catastrophe.  “From the Rio Grande Valley to the panhandle, this winter storm affected the entire state, including our 19,000 employees in Texas, and for many, the recovery is just beginning,” Nikki Graham, the bank’s Austin market president, said in a statement last month.  BofA’s trading gains could be diminished as Texas officials ponder retroactively reducing prices for some of the $50bn in electricity sales executed during the blackouts.
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Chef Alessandro Pirozzi, from Alessa by Chef Pirozzi, brings a take-out food order to an outside table at the Promenade on Forest in Laguna Beach, CA on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. Paul Bersebach | Orange County Register via Getty Images February's surprisingly strong job growth signals that the economy could be at a pivot point and is about to enter a hiring boom. The economy added 379,000 jobs, well above the 210,000 expected, with most of them in leisure and hospitality, the sector hardest hit when the economy abruptly shut down a year ago. Economists say it would not be surprising to see multiple months now of job growth of at least 500,000. Stock futures surged on the report, and bond yields jumped. The 10-year Treasury yield, which moves opposite price, returned to a recent high of 1.61%, before falling back to about 1.57%. The 10-year started the year just above 0.9%. "It's very consistent with other economic data we're starting to see," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors. "The labor market had been lagging, and it's now starting to catch up," he said. "It was great to see all the leisure and hospitality gains, as the pandemic started to subside a little, and restrictions are being lifted." "The numbers are trending the right way," Arone added. "The labor market was the one holdout...Spring is upon us. You have that and you have the vaccine rollout." Green shoots in spring Strategists expect the economy to grow at about 6% this year, helped by the rollout of vaccines, re-openings and fiscal stimulus.  "I think we are going to see bigger job numbers as we go into the spring and summer," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. She expects stronger gains as the weather improves and people regain the ability to congregate more safely. "It's still a long ways to go, given what we lost but the good news is we should see some strong job gains," Swonk said. Economists are optimistic about the recovery, but remain concerned that variants of the virus could slow it down. The strength in jobs also gives fodder to both sides of the debate about the need for the $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed by the House and now being considered by the Senate. Stimulus package effects To Swonk, the February data shows that the stimulus package approved in December was necessary to drag the economy out of a trough. Job losses in December were revised down to 306,000 from 227,000. January's gains were revised higher, to 166,000 from 49,000. Individuals received $600 stimulus checks in the first days of January. Swonk said the economy is still down by 9.5 million jobs. Leisure and hospitality jobs grew by 355,000 in February, with 80% of those in restaurants and drinking establishments. Still, employment in that field is still down 3.5 million over the year. The health care industry added 46,000 jobs, but health care and social assistance is down 909,000 jobs over the year. "December was really a train wreck," said Swonk, noting not only were there huge job losses but consumer spending fell sharply as well. The February report, however, indicates a turn. "It's good news," said Swonk. "It underscores the key role stimulus played in derailing what could have been a more significant downward spiral, which is what we saw abroad in other countries." "We averted what could have been a double dip," she said. But Arone of State Street said the market is concerned about the next stimulus package, much bigger than December's $900 billion, overheating the economy and creating inflation. "The economic numbers in the last week or two have been really strong," he said. "I think it lends to the conversation, 'do you really need another $1.9 trillion?' Arone said. "We're going to pour more gas on the fire and with this $1.9 trillion that's what the market is concerned about." He expects the economy will continue to heal, and job growth will surge. "I think there's tremendous pent-up demand," said Arone. "I think that's what folks have been describing all year, with very easy monetary policy, very easy fiscal policy." "With the economy reopening, vaccine distributions progressing and the epidemic put behind us, I think you could have a real burst in terms of the economy, labor market and [corporate] earnings over the next nine months or so," he added.
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On Friday, the incorporated and publicly listed business intelligence (BI) firm, Microstrategy announced the company has acquired an additional $10 million in bitcoin. The company’s CEO Michael Saylor revealed the latest purchase on Twitter with a link to a Form 8-K Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing registered on March 5, 2021. Microstrategy’s Bitcoin Buying Spree Continues Microstrategy continues its bitcoin (BTC) buying spree announcing it bought an additional $10 million worth on Monday. The BI company’s CEO revealed the new acquisition on Friday, March 5, when he tweeted about the latest purchase on Twitter. “Microstrategy has purchased an additional ~205 bitcoins for ~$10.0 million in cash,” Saylor wrote. “At an average price of ~$48,888 per bitcoin,” he explained to his 598,000 Twitter followers. Saylor added: As of 3/5/2021, we hodl ~91,064 bitcoins acquired for ~$2.196 billion at an average price of ~$24,119 per bitcoin. In addition to the tweet, Saylor also left a Microstrategy link that leads to a press release or scanned picture of the Form 8-K SEC filing. Of course, the Bitcoin community looked at the purchase as a positive and many people replied to Saylor’s latest announcement. “Should someone tell him the meme is ‘Stacking sats’ and not ‘Stacking 200 bitcoins?’ the popular Twitter account dubbed ‘Documenting Bitcoin’ wrote. ‘Microstrategy Discovered Bitcoin’s Potential Ahead of the Sleeping Herd’ Other people wrote that Saylor and Microstrategy have already seen the potential Bitcoin has to offer, and they want “to monopolize the bitcoin market.” “He has discovered the potential ahead of the sleeping herd will reap the rewards more,” Yasir Shaikh tweeted in response to Saylor’s $10M in bitcoin purchase statements. “I Believe soon Microstrategy will have as big a market cap as FAANG,” Shaikh added. Microstrategy currently commands 0.4336% of the entire 21 million bitcoin supply cap and the firm is nearing the 100k BTC milestone. It is the fourth largest entity listed on the web portal bitcointreasuries.org behind Grayscale, Mt Gox, and Block.one respectively. After the latest Microstrategy purchase some even jokingly said that Saylor and Microstrategy were addicted to purchasing BTC. First, you start with sats, then you start stacking a full bitcoin and can’t stop,” an individual wrote in response to Saylor’s BTC purchase announcement on Friday morning. What do you think about Microstrategy’s recent $10 million purchase of bitcoin and the company’s current stash of 91,064 bitcoins? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below. Tags in this story $10 Million in BTC, $10 Million Purchase, Bitcoin (BTC), bitcoin balance sheet, Form 8-K, Michael J. Saylor, microstrategy bitcoin, microstrategy btc, SEC, Treasuries, US Regulators 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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Connecticut unveiled a reopening plan that will allow restaurants to operate at full capacity and loosen other coronavirus restrictions later this month. Ned Lamont, the Democratic governor of Connecticut, announced the decision after the north-east state registered a sustained decline in cases and hospitalisations from a winter surge, saying officials have a better understanding now of the measures that help keep the number of infections low. But he left open the possibility that rules could be tightened again to curb the spread of the virus. “Was it unanimous? No,” Lamont said of the decision to roll back restrictions. “[Some said], ‘Why not wait, why not wait, there are variants we don’t know exactly, we could wait.’ But I think there was general consensus that we know what works, we know we have capacity at our hospitals, we know we can turn and change if we have to.” Several states have eased or removed restrictions on businesses and social activity in the last few weeks following a slowdown in new Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions. Meanwhile, more Americans have been vaccinated against coronavirus, with 54m people getting at least one dose as of Thursday, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Biden administration has urged governors to move slowly on reopening, citing concerns over new variants of coronavirus. Connecticut’s updated rules allow restaurants, which are currently limited to 50 per cent of their occupancy, to operate with no capacity limits starting on March 19. Social distancing, mask-wearing and an 11pm dining curfew will remain in effect. Gyms, retail stores, offices and houses of worship are among the other businesses and gathering places that will move to 100 per cent capacity. In addition, Connecticut will remove penalties from an out-of-state travel advisory and loosen curbs on private gatherings, weddings and sports.
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Not since he was last seen jumping on Oprah Winfrey’s sofa has a video of Tom Cruise generated so many headlines. Except this time it was not Tom Cruise, but a set of sophisticated deepfakes so convincing that they quickly generated nearly 12m views when they appeared on TikTok last week under the account @deeptomcruise. Their incredible realism stoked new fears over the implications of the technology in the hands of those intent on spreading disinformation, but the man behind the videos, Belgian visual effects expert Chris Ume, wants people to know the sophistication of his videos is not so easily replicable. “It’s a fantasy that people can do this from their own computer,” said Ume, a former cameraman who entered the visual effects field around five years ago. “You can’t create art using a bicycle.” The hyperrealism achieved in these particular clips required months of preparation on top of Ume’s skills in traditional visual effects and deepfakes, high-end hardware, and the talents of Tom Cruise impersonator Miles Fisher. [embedded content] Ume spent two months training an artificial intelligence program with a huge number of images of Cruise in order to create a digital replica, with a few additional days to adjust it for each individual scene. The videos, which are less than a minute long, required 24 hours of post-production work each. The end results are startlingly realistic. In one of the videos, the synthetic Cruise shows off a coin trick, ending with the line: “It’s all the real thing”, followed by the actor’s signature laugh. In other videos, he can be seen golfing or tripping over a carpet, without breaking the illusion. Henry Ajder, an expert on synthetic media, noted that even some of the publicly available deepfake detectors had been fooled. “The fact that these examples evaded some tools shows there is a long way to go before we can have confidence deploying them in critical scenarios, at least in the case of videos,” he said. Deepfakes have been the subject of distrust over the potential for disinformation since they emerged in 2017. But Ajder pointed out that documented political deepfakes to date have been satirical or educational. Over-emphasising their prevalence, he said, risked giving politicians plausible deniability in genuine cases of wrongdoing. Several social media companies have taken steps to prohibit or limit deepfakes. In August, TikTok announced a ban on misleading “synthetic or manipulated content”. Facebook announced a specific ban on deepfakes in January with exceptions for parody and satire, while Twitter’s policy is to label tweets with manipulated or synthetic media, but only to remove them if they are likely to cause harm. © Kris Van Exel Ume said he supported laws to govern the misuse of the technology. “The technique might get better and in a few years, people with bad intentions might start to use it,” he said. “I strongly think there should be laws: There is always going to be misuse — every tech has to deal with these kind of things.” “I never want to use it in a malicious way, I just want to make people smile,” he added. “I’m glad I did this — it managed to create awareness and actually fulfilled its purpose.” Ume, who is among the vanguard of deepfake creators who turned their hobbies into professional-grade work, began dabbling in synthetic media in 2018, after watching a news bulletin about the subject. His earlier work on YouTube includes a video of Kit Harington, the actor who played Jon Snow, apologising for the controversial final season of Game of Thrones. “I really didn’t like Season 8”, he said. Synthetic media is increasingly ubiquitous. Last week, MyHeritage and computer vision company D-ID unveiled ‘deep nostalgia’, which can create short videos from uploaded photos The $100 bill as animated by the MyHeritage Deep Nostalgia site Ume is currently working on Sassy Justice, a synthetic media show from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, alongside British comic Peter Serafinowicz. Ume, who appears to be enjoying his recent notoriety, said he had achieved one of his dreams by working with Parker and Stone. The other is to be part of a new Lord of the Rings. “If Peter Jackson is reading this I’m here,” he said, pointing to an animation he made of Gollum singing along to Sinead O’Connor.
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Fans have begun returning to New York sporting events, though at limited capacity. Soon, arts and entertainment venues can do likewise. This bodes well for a city that has been reeling economically since COVID-19 took hold a year ago. It lost about 570,000 jobs in 2020. Reopenings in New York and elsewhere represent a push-pull over measures to emerge from a lingering pandemic. Five states, including Texas and Mississippi, have rolled back mask mandates, while Biden administration officials have struck cautious tones. Health officials have warned about new coronavirus variants, including one that federal officials trace to Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. People line up outside a COVID-19 vaccination hub inside Yankee Stadium in February. Eased state restrictions mean it's likely some fans will be there for baseball in April. Bloomberg News “Now is not the time to relax restrictions,” Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a recent White House briefing. In the Northeast, several states are reopening arenas and other venues to limited crowds. “The public health issue is a paramount one, but the economic issue and the impact on important sectors of our city are also very, very key,” New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in an online discussion. “I have missed Broadway. I have a personal love of the opera. I’ve certainly missed those opportunities for relaxation and cultural enrichment, and we all have our favorite activities that we’ve been missing out on.” A report by DiNapoli’s office painted a dark picture. NYC & Co., the city’s convention and visitors bureau, estimated that nearly 67 million tourists visited in 2019 and accounted for $70 billion in economic activity. In 2020, however, it expects that number to have plummeted to 23 million. "Until the sector is able to fully reopen, tourism will remain subdued," DiNapoli said. As of December, arts, entertainment and recreation employment in the city dropped by two-thirds from one year earlier, the largest decline among the city’s economic sectors. In 2019, by contrast, those sectors had employed 93,500 people in 6,250 establishments. These jobs had an average salary of $79,300 and generated $7.4 billion in total wages. Over the previous decade, and coming out of the prior recession, employment in the sector rose by 42%, faster than the 30% rate for total private sector employment. According to DiNapoli, establishments and total wages in the sector also rose more quickly than all establishments and wages citywide. "The numbers really are stark and devastating,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Blooomberg News “The numbers really are stark and devastating,” DiNapoli said. Psychology is also at play, said Lee Igel, a clinical professor at New York University’s Tisch Institute for Global Sport. “From a sports perspective, and you can extend that to entertainment and arts as well, they’re more essential than most people give them credit for on a regular basis,” he said. “Things like sports, people are eager to get back to it or to a certain extent, work.” New York fans returned to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island, under a state-imposed 10% maximum capacity. Barclays Center has been maxing at 300 fans to start, but intends to expand that after the National Basketball Association’s All-Star break. And baseball season is looming for the Yankees and Mets, both of which play in bond-financed stadiums. New Jersey limits for indoor and outdoor are 10% and 15%, respectively. On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that arts and entertainment venues, including Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall and Broadway theaters, may open at low capacity starting April 2. If all visitors present proof of a negative COVID test upon entry, capacity can increase up to 150 people indoors and up to 500 people outdoors, Cuomo said. Social distancing and face coverings will be necessary, as well as adherence to state Department of Health guidance. “Everybody wants all restrictions gone. Everybody does. Yes, but you also have to be smart about the reopening,” Cuomo said. “In my opinion, some states are going too far too fast and that is a danger because COVID is still a risk and you relax those restrictions too far, you will see the beast rise up again.” Entertainment benefited from the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program intended for independent contractors and self-employed workers. Federal Paycheck Protection Program loans supported 62% of firms and 70% of employment in the sector, according to DiNapoli. A new federal relief package would provide $15 billion nationally for shuttered live venues and $284 billion in funds for more PPP loans through March. “This package, the one in December and the new bill, will hopefully be helpful to New York in just about every way that we need help,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Brooklyn native. The hit to the arts industry extends well beyond the headlined Broadway theaters, he added. “In the arts, it wasn’t just Broadway, it’s these little arts, these independent venues, these independent theaters that were all going to close,” Schumer said on a webcast hosted by think tank Regional Plan Association. “We have the PPP program which is the small business program like the arts, like the restaurants, it just wasn’t enough.” President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion relief bill, which is before the U.S. Senate and under which the city would receive $5.6 billion, would set aside about $270 million in grants for arts and humanities organizations and museums, and another $23 billion is available through federal loans programs to help small businesses and not-for-profit organizations. “Many of our organizations are more than just theaters. Performing arts is not a monolithic industry,” said Sade Lythcott, chief executive of the National Black Theater in Harlem who also chairs the Coalition of Theaters of Color. “New Yorkers want and need dance and music and theater back in their lives.” Voza Rivers, an award-winning producer, chairman and co-founder of the Harlem Arts Alliance and executive producer of the New Heritage Theatre Group, likened efforts by arts groups to the post-Sept. 11 recovery. Their work, he said, extends beyond local production. “We are local but we’re global,” he said. “We’ve had a number of our presentations leave our small 100-seat theaters and go on to bigger theaters and to Broadway.” The fortunes of arts and entertainment also resonate in other aspects of state and city budgeting policy, such as affordable housing. Variables include vaccine-rollout efficiency, crime levels and confidence in the mass-transit system. “I’m always arguing with HPD that we need more affordable housing in the borough of Manhattan,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said, referencing the city’s Housing Preservation and Development unit. “Inwood has great artists, the Battery has great artists. The concern, even for the greatest artists, is that they’re going to other cities because it’s too expensive.” Unknown for now are how many people will go back to concerts, plays or sporting events after a full year of sitting at home and, whether people are willing to endure complexities such as required PCR testing within 48 hours of an event. This on top of post-9/11 security protocols. “There are new habits, new regimes,” NYU’s Igel said. “Some people might ask, ‘is it really worth it?' Going through layers of things, even though New Yorkers are used to them.” Igel envisions new marketing strategies: “Buy a season ticket and get free PCR testing.” In an attempt to fast-track the process, New York State has launched Excelsior Pass, a pilot technology program at MSG and Barclays that confirm a person’s vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. Akin to a mobile airline boarding pass, fans can print out their passes or store it on their smartphones using a “wallet app.” Levels of confidence in mass transit factor in as well. MTA Chairman Patrick Foye, whose agency has undertaken deep-disinfecting throughout the subway-and-bus system and is also facing a spike in crime, said the impact of COVID is pronounced. “It will have an impact on transit agencies across the world in the short, intermediate and long term. I think the disinfecting regimes are here to stay,” Foye told reporters after a board meeting. “I’m not an epidemiologist. I don’t know about variants. I don’t know about the next pandemic, but the experts talk about those risks, and what the country and the world ought to do to prepare for those. “We’ll have long-term plans about the next pandemic, the next variant. I think there will clearly be changes in ridership and ridership patterns. Even now, the timing of the morning rush and the evening rush has changed," he said. “There are going to be a number of financial and operating and social and transportation considerations that are being thought about and will be grappled for years and decades to come.”
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People wait to visit a house for sale in Floral Park, Nassau County, New York. Wang Ying | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images The spring housing market is shaping up to be the leanest and most competitive ever. A sharp drop in new listings partly due to severe weather, combined with already record-low supply, will make it increasingly difficult for buyers to find their dream home at the perfect price. There were nearly half as many homes for sale at the end of February, compared with a year earlier, according to a new calculation by realtor.com. Low supply was exacerbated by a drop in the number of new listings to come on the market. "Last month's record cold and snowstorms likely caused sellers to hit pause, even if only temporarily," said Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com. "However, in today's inventory-starved market, any setback is significant." A pullback by sellers resulted in roughly 207,000 fewer homes newly listed for sale in the first two months of 2021 compared with the average for the same period over the last four years. To catch up, new listings would have to grow by 25% annually in March and April, which is unlikely.  While the biggest drops in new supply were in Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Missouri, declines were widespread across the country. The only major cities seeing gains in inventory were San Jose, California, and San Francisco and Denver.  The increasingly tight supply of homes for sale continues to fuel the fire under home prices. In January, prices were up just over 10% year over year, according to CoreLogic. Rising mortgage rates are now hurting affordability but so far have not thrown any cold water on home prices. The tight supply has only made sellers more bullish on their potential gains. Asking prices of newly listed homes hit an all-time high of $347,475 in February, according to Redfin. Sellers have plenty of reason to feel confident. Redfin also found that just over half (55%) of homes that went under contract in February did so within their first two weeks on the market. That share was 44% a year ago. "Over the last few weeks winter storms have disrupted the housing market, and mortgage rates have risen sharply," said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin's chief economist. "Although pending sales and new listings have taken a small hit in the last couple of weeks, home price gains are showing no signs of slowing down." While the effects of the winter storms should be temporary, higher mortgage rates will cut further into affordability and could mean fewer bidding wars as the spring market progresses.
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US government bonds gyrated on Friday after figures showing American job growth running far ahead of forecasts strengthened expectations for a rapid rebound in the world’s biggest economy. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield, a vital benchmark for global debt markets, climbed as much as 0.06 percentage points to 1.624 per cent, the highest level in a year. It later receded to 1.58 per cent leaving the gauge 0.01 percentage points up on the day. The blue-chip S&P 500 index rose 0.5 per cent in early trading, while the technology-focused Nasdaq Composite gained 0.2 per cent. Both indices dropped on Thursday after Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell provided scant detail on how he would address recent bond market tumult. The US added 379,000 jobs in February according to data from the labour department, considerably more than the 200,000 economists polled by Bloomberg predicted. The fresh sign of a strong economic recovery reignited investor jitters that resurgent inflation would hit returns on their bond holdings. Bond prices have been sliding in the opening weeks of this year, in a move that has accelerated in the past two weeks. Some analysts and investors had expected Powell to use his slot at an event hosted by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday to lend some support to the market, perhaps even signalling a willingness to formally hold yields down. Instead, while he said the recent pick-up in yields — the flip side of falling prices — was “notable”, and that the US central bank would be “patient” in the face of a temporary rise in inflation, he gave no sense of immediate alarm. Some analysts expect bond prices to continue falling unless Powell intervenes. “With the Fed, crucially, not yet showing signs of being intimidated by the bond market, the sell-off in rates risks extending,” said Ralf Preusser, global head of rates research at Bank of America. Powell’s comments initially led to losses on Wall Street, which spread to Asian trading and early European trade on Friday. “It looks like words are not enough,” said Joost van Leenders, senior investment strategist at Kempen Capital Management. “There’s still a lot of unrest with rising yields . . . historically rising yields aren’t bad for equities, the reason why it’s different this time is a lot of equities have high valuations, which are justified by low yields.” In Europe, the region-wide Stoxx 600 index was flat by the afternoon, while London’s FTSE 100 benchmark climbed 0.6 per cent and Frankfurt’s Xetra Dax lost 0.2 per cent. In Asia, China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks dropped as much as 2 per cent during its session, before closing down 0.3 per cent after Beijing set a target of “above 6 per cent” for economic growth in 2021. Analysts pointed to the markedly lower growth target relative to recent years. “This makes me feel uneasy as I don’t know what exactly the government wants to tell us about the recovery path it expects,” said Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING, who estimated growth would be 7 per cent this year. Brent crude, the international benchmark, rose more than 3 per cent to $68.83 a barrel, a day after Opec and its allies decides against introducing large increases to their output. “The strong performance in commodities suggests that it is one asset class where investors have moved,” said van Leenders.
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When BarnBridge founder Tyler Ward decided to change his profile pic a few weeks ago, he inadvertently created a Pepe the Frog NFT meme craze embraced by celebrities and the DeFi community that was on track to reap more than $60 million in sales on the OpenSea auction platform. Then the wheels fell off rather spectacularly. Magazine chats with Ward on Monday, Feb. 22, after the first 20 of 1,069 Non-Fungible Pepes were sold at an average price of $62,671 each, and he can’t quite believe it.  “We sold like $1.3M worth of Pepes, like 20 of them,” he says. “One of them went for $200,000!” “All these celebrities have gotten involved — like Diplo, just signed up to be a part of the movement. Everyone in crypto is a part of it.” “All the Defi protocol founders, even Vitalik’s dad, got behind it. Dillon Francis, he’s a pretty famous musician in the US, he’s actually been going pretty hard on all of this stuff. I wasn’t expecting it. I mean, it’s truly blown up over the weekend.” 30 min left on a bunch of these @NonFungiblePepe GET IN THERE https://t.co/uQcWJhv355 pic.twitter.com/Tthj8rM5Mp — dillonfrancis (@DillonFrancis) February 20, 2021 Origins lost in the mists of time Way back on Feb. 12, Ward asked his in-house designer to knock up an image of sad-faced frog Pepe in the low-res style of CryptoPunks for use as his Twitter profile pic. Handed a few different examples, he sent them off to friends including Synthetix founder Kain Warwick and illustrator and art collector Tim Pang. “Everybody’s just like ‘You gotta do this, this is really fun,’” he says. Of course, while Pepe is a beloved crypto meme, it’s also widely associated by “normies” with racism and sexism and the alt-right edgelords from the badlands of 4chan. This pisses Ward off. “I mean we’re all pretty progressive. The Ethereum community is not alt right, but we very much have grown a fondness for this frog,” he says, adding: “The frog’s background was never alt right. We were using it in crypto way before the alt right was.” In its OpenSea listing, the project said it was explicitly about trying to help rehabilitate the melancholy frog’s Nazi image: “We are here to reclaim the humor of the meme through our shared love for NFTs and having some fun. If our Pepes are used for racism, bigotry, or anything terrible… we will shame you and Kek will have vengeance on your soul.” Ward says he was inspired by Tyler Winklevoss’ idea that Bitcoin is actually a social network, inspiring millions to spread the gospel of Bitcoin by enabling them to share in its value. “I thought: what is the best way you can get everybody to band around the idea that Pepe is not racist? If we mint a bunch of them and give them some degree of value, then people will want them for more than just a profile picture. It creates a digital scarcity and I think that as a result of that they’ll care about what they own and they’ll care about trying to clean up the image of what it represents. Let’s make the movement about taking Pepe back.” Despite having zero marketing budget and no time to even set up a website, the NFT Pepes meme took off across social media, with 2,000 members pouring into the hastily thrown-together Discord channel and almost 5,000 following the new Twitter account.  “I started this as a joke. I was trying to change my Twitter profile picture. But that anti racism message really resonated because I’m not the only person in crypto apparently, who thought Pepe was cool, and thought it was messed up that we couldn’t use them because of racist people.” There was just one slight problem: Ward was not aware that the meme frog even had a creator, or that artist Matt Furies’ life has been all but ruined by alt-right edgelords appropriating his frog, as outlined in the excellent new documentary Feels Good Man. This became clear when Galaxy Digital’s Mike Novogratz tweeted about the insane $210,000 (110 ETH) price that one of the NFPs (PepeIsLyfe #38) went for, and the documentary makers pointed out that the “knock-off” Pepe had brought in almost as much as the film’s entire budget. In case there was any doubt…not an official sanctioned Pepe. It’s a rather absurd moment in time that a knock off jpg can sell for the cost of making an entire documentary about the actual meme. https://t.co/rUFFDweN3D — Feels Good Man – the doco about that frog meme (@feelsgoodmandoc) February 22, 2021 The Non-Fungible Pepe Twitter account quickly posted it was halting all sales while the team frantically tried to get in touch with Furie to seek his blessing. That blessing was not forthcoming. “I asked him if he wanted to be involved and he said ‘no I don’t and I also don’t want you using Pepe,’” Ward explains via WhatsApp earlier this week. “So instead of seeing how I could maximize profit and be a jerk, I refunded sales to people who felt slighted and I did what Matt asked me to do.” Within a few days, they’d refunded 80% of the $1.8 million worth of WETH taken in the auctions. Ward believes that legally speaking, the project was on solid ground. “I don’t think Matt’s legal position is very sound but it came down to me respecting him as an artist and the hell Pepe has put him through and I don’t want to be a part of either ripping someone off even if it’s 2% their work what made this successful or 200%.” “At the end of the day, the more I learned since starting this, that frog has made his life a living hell and had I known that starting this I wouldn’t have done it,” he admits. The project has since been transformed into Non-Fungible Universe, with 69 original characters and its own currency called KEK. Pepe’s past Pepe the Frog began life innocently enough in Furies’ 2005 comic book series “Boy’s Club” as a laid back frog with the catchphrase “feels good man.” Sure, there was psychedelia and drugs and stuff, but Pepe was a good guy, and Furie would post the comics to his MySpace page.  Memes featuring Pepe then became widespread on MySpace, Tumblr and 4chan. Over the next nine years, the frog’s popularity grew to the point where influencers were doing Pepe makeup videos and mainstream pop stars like Katy Perry and Nicky Minaj were tweeting out the meme. According to The Daily Beast, in 2015, the anon army from one of 4chan’s more out there forums, /R9k/, decided to reclaim Pepe from the normies by pushing them away with a barrage of edgy Pepe memes featuring “ironic” racist, homophobic and antisemitic stuff. A member of the board tweeting as “JaredTSwift” told the news outlet: “We basically mixed Pepe in with Nazi propaganda, etc. We built that association.” The joke became less and less ironic as Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency and Pepe became the house mascot of MAGA and white nationalists. Remember that whole “punch a nazi” meme? That began when alt-right figurehead Richard Spencer was punched in the face on camera while trying to explain the meaning of his Pepe badge. That same year, the Anti-Defamation League listed Pepe as a hate symbol, even though it explicitly pointed out: “The majority of uses of Pepe the Frog have been, and continue to be, non-bigoted.” The ADL launched a #savepepe campaign with creator Matt Furie, who said: “As the creator of Pepe, I condemn the illegal and repulsive appropriations of the character by racist and fringe groups. The true nature of Pepe, as featured in my comic book, ‘Boys Club,’ celebrates peace, togetherness and fun. I aim to reclaim the rascally frog from the forces of hate.” Rare Pepes were the original NFTs 4chan also had a hand in how Rare Pepes, essentially the original NFTs, came about. They trace their origins to a 2015 inside joke about an autistic kid who would exchange Good Boy Points for chicken tendies. Then people started exchanging Rare Pepes for tendies, which led to the idea that Rare Pepes had value.  This inspired some people to create unique tokens on the Counterparty platform to represent ownership of Rare Pepe trading cards, which were traded for PepeCash. Interestingly, rules were brought in to ensure content was original and didn’t relate to alt-right, white supremacist or pro-Donald Trump content. Pepe trading enthusiast Django Bates told the Daily Dot at the time: “Most of the community don’t think Pepe is an alt-right thing. Some (like me) think that we should Make Pepe Great Again and free him of that connotation.” He adds further: “Also, you have to be aware that Pepe as a symbol of hate and racism by alt-rights is a merely North American thing. The rest of the world does not see Pepe in that context.” Rare Pepe Wallet was set up as a platform to trade the tokens, with the phenomenon culminating in a live auction in 2018 that saw a Homer Pepe sell for around $38,500 in Pepe Cash. In an interesting postscript, earlier this week on March 1, owner Peter Lamborghini resold it for 205 ETH, or almost $300,000. In art news: The reputed "rarest pepe" sold for 205 ETH (approximately $295k USD) according to its owner. https://t.co/pQOvTOw6ZI — Travis View (@travis_view) March 1, 2021 Chainlink frog army The association of Chainlink, the ninth-largest cryptocurrency project, with Pepe is thanks to 4chan’s slightly less awful /Biz/ forum, which features a deep vein of dank meme-powered crypto shilling. It was here that a Q-style prophet/insider named Assblaster dropped hints and clues about LINK in the early days, claiming both that he was under an NDA and also dropping large amounts of free alpha about the project into the forum. “When Chainlink started doing well it just became this cultish prophecy of 4chan, and 4chan really likes Pepe the frog so it was kind of this merger,” says Ward. “A lot of people that posted about Chainlink would post with Pepe the Frog and they kind of became intertwined.” LINK Marine Albert Nazarov, who spends around four hours per day reading and tweeting about Chainlink, discovered the currency via 4chan. “Things like racism and sexism etc are prevalent,” he concedes. “But ironically, 4chan is basically a crucible of raw thoughts, the best and balanced make it to the top. It’s almost anything goes there, and it trains the brain to decipher good info from bad stuff.” Nazarov says that for a while there, Pepe was “bad for our optics,” so the community tried to distance itself by dressing up as “LINK gentlemen in suits etc.” However, Pepe just cuts through better. “The main power of Pepe is relatability,” he says, pointing out that the character is humanoid enough to express emotion but cartoonish and abstract enough to make great memes. And great memes helped supercharge Chainlink. “It no longer bears alt right connotations in my opinion,” he concludes, while pointing out further: “Oracles and decentralised middleware is not sexy and it’s quite laborious to read about. Whilst a Pepe meme spreads the same message to a wider audience. It’s basically the distillation of knowledge into a relatable form. A five-year-old could understand LINK through a meme for example.” Synthetix founder Kain Warwick — currently sporting a Non-Fungible Pepe profile pic — says he doesn’t detect any trace of alt-right thought among the frog army. “They’re all Chainlink memes, they’re very Chainlink focused,” he says. “And I don’t think that there’s a particular sort of alt right bent to the Chainlink community. I just think that they’ve taken that meme as a funny meme.” But he adds there had been a long debate in the Synthetix Discord about the use of Pepe on social media — about whether the crypto community has been able to reclaim the frog. And they’d come to the conclusion it has. “I think there is a bit of co-option of those images and reusing them for crypto memes and personally I’m a fan of that. The Pepe meme was co-opted by the alt right so for it to be re co-opted by some other group and used in different contexts I think is a powerful way of undermining those sorts of things.”
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The U.S. Federal Reserve is in a predicament as fiscal deficits erode the American economy and the nation is seeing a spike in benchmark 10-year Treasury yields. Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell expressed zero worries about inflation during an interview at a Wall Street Journal Jobs Summit on Thursday. Powell didn’t explain when the easy-money policies would end and after his commentary, U.S. bonds and stocks saw a massive sell-off. The US Fed Juggles Shaky Treasury Yields and Easy-Money Policies On March 3, 2021, Reuters reported on how the benchmark 10-year U.S. note saw some steep declines for three days straight ahead of the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell interview at the summit. But then Treasury bond yields spiked, which gave market investors the impression that easy-money policies would be stifled. Moreover, Fed Governor Lael Brainard discussed the concerning bond yields before Powell’s summit interview as well. This was after the fact that Powell sat in front of the Senate Banking Committee and the Chairman dismissed Treasury yield concerns. Jerome Powell showed no signs of stopping the easy-money policies the Federal Reserve has put into place since well before the first Covid-19 outbreak in the United States. The following day, Powell exchanged dialogue with Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporters and again shrugged off the worry over Treasury yields. Stocks and Bonds sold off almost immediately in a market downturn, as Nasdaq was down -274, NYSE -239, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average -345. Powell’s lack of concern and his commentary in regard to the Treasury yields and inflation was highlighted in a WSJ report that followed the Fed Chairman’s statements. “We expect that as the economy reopens and hopefully picks up, we will see inflation move up through base effects,” Powell said during the conference. “That could create some upward pressure on prices. Today we’re still a long way from our goals of maximum employment and inflation averaging 2% over time. We’d want to see inflation sustainably above 2% and we’d want to be on track for inflation to run sustainably above 2%,” Powell added. Without the market getting reassurance from the Fed Chairman, participants sold treasuries and equities at a rapid rate. On Thursday gold spot prices and futures took a small percentage dip following the bond sell-off. Interestingly, Powell’s statement’s affecting the market negatively, also seemingly trickled into precious metals and cryptocurrency markets as well. Gold prices were down on March 4, to $1,693 per ounce and silver prices were also down to $25 an ounce. Bitcoin (BTC) also dropped close to 5% on Thursday afternoon (New York Time) to the $46k range by the evening trading sessions. BTC has regained some momentum on Friday morning as the price nears the $48k zone again. Billions of dollars in value were also shaved off the crypto-economy on Thursday as BTC dropped from $51k to above $48k during the early morning trading sessions, and then to $46.5k by the evening trading sessions (ET). 24-hour stats show bitcoin (BTC) lost around 9% since Powell’s statements. Despite the market sell-off, particularly in the precious metals (PMs) arena, the Crescat Capital portfolio manager Otavio (Tavi) Costa believes that PMs will see a “secular bull market.” Furthermore, Costa shows how the Fed’s irresponsible monetary habits leave the central bank in a “trapped” position. Crescat Capital portfolio manager Otavio (Tavi) Costa explains that the U.S. Federal Reserve is “trapped” and has no choice but to issue a massive amount of Treasuries in weeks to come. “The Fed is trapped,” Costa says. The year is just getting started and US fiscal deficits already reached another record. Now at its worst level in 70 years. The current fiscal spending path will lead to record Treasury issuance this year,” the Crescat executive insists. First off, Costa’s Twitter thread explains that U.S. fiscal deficits are at their worst level in 70 years. So horrible in fact, that Costa thinks this will spur a “record Treasury issuance this year.” He noted how the Fed alongside U.S. lawmakers already stacked up $2.2 trillion with the CARES Act bill. “Then, an additional $900 billion of stimulus in December,” Costa says. “With the decline in tax revenues and other discretionary and non-discretionary outlays, the government had to issue $4.4 trillion of net new debt in 2020 to fund these programs,” the portfolio manager adds. “To fund this operation, the Fed purchased $2.4 trillion of these Treasuries or 54% of the total issuance. Equating to an average of $197 billion per month.” Costa added: In 2021, if the Fed decides to stick with the $80 billion/month plan, it would be 60% less than what they did last year. The math does not add up. Fiscal spending is likely to be significantly higher. The Biden administration is now planning on a two-stage stimulus package: rescue and recovery. The ‘rescue’ will be close to $1.9T. Biden’s Recovery Package Needs to Pass Soon, U.S. Federal Net Receipts Roll Over With all the Fed’s cards on the table, Biden’s recovery package “needs to be passed in the coming weeks before unemployment benefit programs are exhausted of money. In other words: A tsunami of Treasury issuances is likely underway,” Costa said. He also highlighted that U.S. Federal net receipts are rolling over which is putting the Fed in another pickle. The Crescat executive believes that foreign investors and U.S. banks won’t be able to fund all this debt. “The ball is clearly on the Fed’s court,” Costa insisted. “The government cannot afford this ‘money party’ to stop,” Costa emphasizes. “This is not like the disinflationary times we had after the global financial crisis. It is quite the opposite. Today, we have inflationary pressures on both the demand and supply side of the economy. It’s about fiscal recklessness. Massive debt buildup. Monetary dilution to suppress interest rates. Lack of fundamentally cheap assets that yield more than inflation. A worsening current account deficit issue (…)” Because the American populace continues to allow financial irresponsibility, the current and the next generations of U.S. taxpayers will pay the toll for these debts. “In our analysis,” Costa writes. “The Fed will have no choice but to substantially increase its planned quantitative easing. After all, the central bank is the lender of last resort. But U.S. taxpayers will also be on the hook. Throughout history, an increase in income tax rates tends to follow a period of large government spending. It is only a matter of time until this becomes an even more discussed topic,” the Crescat analyst details. Even though Powell told the markets the lies he assumed everyone wanted to hear, the bond market vigilantes didn't believe him. His inflation denial is no longer credible. He may be forced to tell the truth. Admit inflation is a problem, but that the Fed will do nothing about it. — Peter Schiff (@PeterSchiff) March 4, 2021 Goldman Sachs’ executive Andrew Tilton told CNBC that markets predicted a Fed tightening prematurely. As 10-year notes spiked, people suspected that Chairman Jerome Powell may change his tune toward current fiscal policies. “The earliest the Fed will start talking about tapering [monetary easing policies] is late 2021, with any discussion of interest rate hikes only coming a year after that,” Tilton explained. Meanwhile, all of these factors have hardened the mindsets of BTC bulls and precious metals fans alike. Some PM fanatics like Peter Schiff believe only PMs like gold and silver will benefit from the unprecedented monetary stimulus. Nevertheless, there are plenty of crypto proponents that believe the Fed’s easing programs will bolster BTC and the digital asset economy. While others think that there’s room for both precious metals and cryptocurrencies in a world dominated by central planners who don’t take responsibility for their reckless spending. What do you think about the Fed’s predicament and central planners’ massive monetary irresponsibility? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below. Tags in this story Bitcoin, Bitcoin (BTC), Bond Markets, Crescat Capital, deflation, Easy Money, economics, Economy, exhausted money, Fed Printing, Federal Reserve, gold, inflation, jerome powell, Otavio (Tavi) Costa, Peter Schiff, QE, quantitative easing (QE), silver, stimulus, stocks, the fed, Treasury Bonds Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons, Crescat Capital, Twitter, Otavio (Tavi) Costa, Bitcoinwisdom.io, gold.org, 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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Jacqueline Dunn, Philadelphia's acting city treasurer since September, now holds the position permanently. “Jackie Dunn has distinguished herself in a number of crucial roles with the city’s Finance Department, including her tenure in the City Treasurer’s Office,” Mayor James Kenney said. "With the financial uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the functions of the Office of the City Treasurer are more important than ever. "Philadelphia is fortunate to have Jackie Dunn to lead these crucial operations.” Jacqueline Dunn As treasurer, Dunn oversees the issuance of notes and bonds on behalf of the city’s general and enterprise funds, the city’s $9 billion outstanding debt portfolio, cash management and investments, and related policy issues. In the interim role, Dunn led negotiated pricings for the airport and Philadelphia Gas Works revenue and revenue refunding bonds. The refundings generated more than $90 million in net present value savings, city officials said. "The city has taken significant actions over time to strengthen reserves and address our unfunded pension liability, improving our resiliency heading into the downturn," Dunn said. "I’m proud to have been a part of that and will continue working to ensure that the city has access to low-cost capital for critical investments.” Dunn began with the department as an assistant finance director in 2014. Two years later, she was appointed chief of staff to the finance director, whose office oversees the city's financial, accounting and budgetary functions. Dunn also serves as the finance director’s alternate on the Philadelphia Board of Pensions and Retirement. Before joining the city, she worked for Public Financial Management and the Annenberg Public Policy Center. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.
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The US economy is expected to post a modest improvement in job gains for the month of February, highlighting how the labour market continued to struggle even as coronavirus cases are rapidly declining. According to economists’ forecasts published by Refinitiv for non-farm payrolls data due on Friday morning, US employment is expected to have grown by 182,000 positions last month. That would compare to job creation of 49,000 in January and a decline in December. The unemployment rate is expected to have remained at 6.3 per cent. The figures from the US labour department will offer critical guidance to economists and policymakers about the trajectory of the US recovery at a moment of high sensitivity in the markets, with both equities and long-term US Treasuries hit by a sell-off on Thursday. Many economists have recently upgraded their outlook for growth in 2021 on expectations of a swift vaccination rollout and the implementation of president Joe Biden’s $1.9tn stimulus plan. But Jay Powell, the Fed chairman, sparked the market losses on Thursday after he said that the US central bank was unlikely to act in response to any temporary jump in inflation or rise in debt yields caused by the economic improvement. The labour market is one of the weakest spots of the US recovery, with nearly 10m fewer Americans employed compared to the start of the pandemic, mainly in service-sector jobs most affected by the crisis. After the dramatic hit suffered in March and April of last year, Americans went back to work in large numbers over the summer, but that progress stalled worryingly over the winter months. Economists fear that even as jobs growth accelerates this year as the pandemic recedes and more fiscal support is added, many Americans will fail to return to their old jobs and could even be left out of the workforce.
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Virgin Galactic leaders in front of the New York Stock Exchange, from left: CEO George Whitesides, founder Richard Branson and Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya. Virgin Galactic Billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya, the chairman of Virgin Galactic who took the company public through a SPAC deal in 2019, sold his remaining personal stake this week, a securities filing disclosed. Palihapitiya sold about 6.2 million Virgin Galactic shares on Tuesday and Wednesday, worth about $213 million at the average selling prices. He still indirectly owns about 15.8 million shares through Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings — the special purpose acquisition company that he formed with investor Ian Osborne. Virgin Galactic and Palihapitiya did not immediately respond to CNBC's requests for comment. Shares of Virgin Galactic slid about 6.3% in Friday's premarket trading from its previous close of $30.30 a share. The company's stock has lost more than half its value since hitting an all time high of $62.80 in early February, although it remains up more than 28% this year. The shares are down more than 18% this week alone. Virgin Galactic's carrier jet and spacecraft prepare to takeoff from Spaceport America in New Mexico on Dec. 12, 2020. Virgin Galactic Palihapitiya in December sold about 3.8 million shares of his stake in Virgin Galactic. At the time, Palihapitiya said he sold the shares "to help manage my liquidity as I fund several new projects starting in 2021." "I remain committed and excited for the future of SPCE. Just wanted to be transparent," Palihapitiya said in a tweet. His latest sales come a week after Virgin Galactic revealed further delays to its spacecraft testing program, saying it now does not expect commercial flights to begin until early 2022. When Palihapitiya's SPAC merged with Sir Richard Branson's company, Virgin Galactic said it expected commercial spaceflights to begin by the summer of 2020. Additionally, former Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides is stepping down as chief space officer, a spokesperson told CNBC on Wednesday. Whitesides, who last year stepped aside as CEO for former Disney executive Michael Colglazier, plans to explore opportunities in public service, the company said. Whitesides will remain as chair of Virgin Galactic's Space Advisory Board, and he and his wife hold spaceflight tickets bought in 2005. Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world.
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Take a look at some of the biggest movers in the premarket: IMAX (IMAX) – IMAX lost 21 cents per share, one cent a share more than analysts had anticipated. The movie theater operator's revenue came in above Wall Street estimates. Sales were helped by stronger performances in Asian markets, and the company is anticipating improved results as consumers return to theaters this year. IMAX shares lost 3.7% in premarket trading. CoreLogic (CLGX) – CoStar Group (CSGP) dropped its bid to buy CoreLogic, with the commercial property data provider saying rising interest rates will hurt CoreLogic's value. CoStar's latest bid had been worth $6.6 billion or $90 per share, compared to a prior higher bid of $6.9 billion or $95.76 per share. CoreLogic — a provider of real estate data that competes with Zillow (Z) — had accepted a buyout bid last month from private-equity firms Stone Capital and Insight Partners for $6 billion or $80 per share. CoStar jumped 5.5% in premarket trading, while CoreLogic fell 3.4%. Big Lots (BIG) – The discount retailer reported quarterly profit of $2.59 per share, 9 cents a share above estimates. Revenue matched forecasts, however, and a comparable sales increase of 7.9% was shy of the consensus FactSet estimate of 8.4%. Big Lots said it expected its results this year to be significantly affected by the pandemic. Shares rose 1.3% in premarket trading. Costco (COST) – Costco reported quarterly earnings of $2.14 per share, falling short of the $2.45 per share consensus estimate. The warehouse retailer's revenue came in above forecasts. Costco's comparable sales rose 13%, while its digital sales surged 76%. The company also experienced supply chain issues resulting in higher costs. Costco shares fell 1.9% in premarket trading. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – The cruise line operator's shares tumbled 7% in premarket trading after it announced a public stock offering of 47.58 million shares. Norwegian plans to use the proceeds to retire exchangeable debt held by private-equity firm L Catterton. Gap (GPS) – The parent of Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic is predicting an apparel sales rebound this year, as the Covid-19 pandemic recedes and people return to offices and schools. Sales in its most recent quarter came in below Wall Street forecasts, though an online sales surge help offset a pandemic-related decline in-store traffic. Shares jumped 3.2% in premarket action. Broadcom (AVGO) – The chipmaker beat estimates by 6 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of $6.61 per share. The company's revenue came in slightly above estimates. Shares fell 1% in the premarket, however, as semiconductor sales were below analysts' forecasts. The company and its peers continue to be impacted by a shortage of materials used to make chips. Virgin Galactic (SPCE) – The space company's chairman, Chamath Palihapitya, sold his personal holdings of 6.2 million shares for about $213 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. He still owns 15.8 million shares with investment partner Ian Osborne. Its shares fell 3.1% in the premarket. The Trade Desk (TTD) – The Trade Desk is on watch once again after losing 20% in value over the past two days. The provider of programmatic advertising technology was hit after Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google said it would not use ad tracking technology to follow people individually across the internet. The stock lost another 1.4% in the premarket. Western Digital (WDC) – Western Digital shares rose 2.5% in premarket action after the disk drive and memory chip maker was upgraded to "buy" from "neutral" at Goldman Sachs. Goldman cited an improved outlook for memory chip prices, among other factors. Boeing (BA) – The jet maker has approached a group of banks seeking a new $4 billion credit facility, according to reports from Bloomberg and Reuters. Boeing had told analysts in January that the company had sufficient liquidity, but was open to raising more debt as it considers options to strengthen its balance sheet. Van Eck Vectors Social Sentiment ETF (BUZZ) – The new exchange-traded fund is on watch again today after falling 3.6% in its Wall Street debut Thursday. The ETF is designed to focus on stocks receiving attention from investors on Reddit, Twitter (TWTR) and other social media platforms. Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB) – The bank was added to the "Conviction Buy" list at Goldman Sachs, which foresees a significant improvement in net interest income for Fifth Third based on current trends in both long and short term rates. Fifth Third rose 1.2% in premarket action.
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A Model X is on display at a Tesla showroom on February 13, 2021 in Beijing, China. VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images What's behind the drop in tech stocks? A model Wall Street uses to value stocks is flashing caution. Tech stocks are in a correction. The Nasdaq 100, the largest 100 non-financial stocks in the Nasdaq, is 10% off the historic high it hit just three weeks ago, but many big names are down close to 20%. Tech in correction (% from 52-week high) Xilinx 23% Paypal 22% AMD 21% NVIDIA 19% Apple 17% What's going on? The market is worried interest rates will be shooting up and the Federal Reserve may not be able to control it. Why would a rise in interest rates hurt stocks, particularly high-flying technology stocks? It has to do with the way Wall Street values stocks. The market is a discounting mechanism: It is a way of trying to figure out what a future stream of cash flow (or earnings) is worth today. This model, known as the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model, is at the heart of the problem for technology stocks. How DCF works Stocks compete with other investments like bonds and cash. If you have $100 now, is it better to invest in stocks, bonds, cash, or something else? Investors look at the time value of money. The sooner you own money, the sooner you can invest it. If I have $100 right now, and I can invest it and receive 2% today in a bond, that means I will have $102 next year. $100 a year from now doesn't help me, because I can't invest it. What does this tell us? It tells us that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar in the future, because that $100 dollars has become $102, if I invest in a bond. What is a dollar invested today worth in a stock that you might want to hold for, say, five years? Most stocks are valued based on how much cash they can generate in the future. Discounted cash flow uses a formula to figure out the present value of an expected stream of future cash flows. That's not an easy thing to figure out. The first thing you need to do is figure out how much cash flow the company might generate, say one year from now. The problem is, no one knows exactly how much cash a company is going to generate a year from now. It depends on many factors, including the economy, management, competition, and the nature of the business. The farther out you go, the harder it gets. It's much harder to estimate cash flow five years out then one year out. Second, you have to make a guess on the discount rate. Simply put, what is the opportunity cost of owning alternative investments? That would be the minimum required rate of return you would accept. Usually, it is the prevailing interest rate. Finally, you discount those expected cash flows back to the present day. Discounted cash flow: An example Here's a greatly simplified example. Suppose you have XYZ company that is generating $1 million in cash this year, and is expect to generate the same $1 million in cash flow growth every year for the next five years: XYZ: Cash flow projections Year 1: $1,000,000 Year 2: $1,000,000 Year 3: $1,000,000 Year 4: $1,000,000 Year 5: $1,000,000 Total cash flow over 5 years: $5,000,000 You have $5 million in cash flows. But wait: that is $5 million over 5 years. Is it really worth $5 million today? It is not, because inflation erodes the value of money. $1 million in five years is not worth as much as it is today, or even one year from now. So we need to discount what that future $1 million will be in present dollars. To do that, we need to make a guess about interest rates. Let's say the interest rates is 2%. Using a complex formula, the discounted cash flow of that $5 million would be considerably less, say $4.71 million. In other words, when assuming interest rates of 2 percent, the value of that $5 million cash flow — the present value — is $4.71 million. Here's the problem with rising rates and stocks: As interest rates go up, the present value of that $5 million goes down.— Let's say rates go from 2% to 4%, or even 6%. The discounted cash flow — the present value — of that $5 million would go down: $5 million cash flow, 5 years (present value) 2% interest: $4.71 m. 4% interest: $4.45 m. 6% interest: $4.21 m. The higher rates go, the lower the present value of that future stream of earnings. It gets even worse when you are dealing with high-growth stocks like many technology stocks. That's because many tech stocks have rapid growth assumptions built into them. Instead of cash flows that would always be $1 million a year, for example, many would have expectations of growing 10%, 20%, 30% or more. In this case, a rise in rates would eat into the present value of the investment even more. Let's say that company is growing cash flow 10% a year for five years. Assuming a 2% interest rate, the present value after 5 years would be about $6.30 million, but change the interest rate to 4% or 6% and the numbers go down: $5 million cash flow, 5 years (present value, 10% growth) 2% interest: $6.30 m. 4% interest: $5.93 m. 6% interest: $5.59 m. This is an even bigger decline, on a dollar and percentage basis, than when there was no growth in cash flow. Stocks compete with bonds Peter Tchir of Academy Securities told me this was the heart of the problem: higher rates lower the present value of the expected cash flow, and that means investors will be looking to pay less for a stock. "Companies relying on future cash flow growth experience much greater risk as rates rise, and that has been the part of the market that has really driven returns in the stock market," he told me. "That is why some parts of the market, like the Nasdaq 100, which is heavy in technology stocks, is getting hit much more than the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has less companies expecting outsized growth." The bottom line, Tchir says, is that bonds are competing with stocks as an investment, and bonds are starting to become more attractive: "If interest rates keep going up, I can make more investing in 10 year Treasuries than I could a week ago, and that makes other investments look less attractive."
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Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin Founder and CEO of Rentec Direct, property management software for real estate professionals. getty While most of us were more than ready to bid adieu to 2020, there’s still a fair amount of uncertainty as we dive into 2021. While we can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, there are still many unknowns. One thing is for certain: We have more challenges ahead, especially in certain areas.  The rental real estate space continues to see turmoil as our research finds that renters across the country are still struggling to pay rent. It’s no secret that landlords have in turn felt the impact of the decrease in rent payments received. When investing in rental properties, there’s always a risk that you may not get your rental payments, but historically landlords have been able to take action, such as eviction, if the rent was not paid. Today, this isn’t the case.  What are my landlord rights when the CARES Act expires? The CARES Act was an emergency response intended to protect Americans from the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. One way it supports renters is by imposing a moratorium on rent-related evictions for qualifying tenants. Some tenants are eligible for rental relief or rental assistance that will actually help cover rent costs incurred during the pandemic.  When the CARES Act does expire, landlords with delinquent tenants will have several options: • Collect the entire back rent amount and begin collecting regular monthly rent payments moving forward. • Disregard unpaid back rent and begin collecting rent from tenants moving forward. • Allow tenants to pay back rent over time while resuming regular rent payments. • Evict non-paying tenants. The CARES Act is designed to assist renters who are facing income loss as a result of nationwide business shutdowns and widespread layoffs. Its expiration will mean not only that eviction moratoriums will be lifted, but that unemployment benefits and federal student loan payment relief are also likely to end. This will result in a loss of supplemental income and debt assistance for many of those trying to pay rent and avoid eviction. How will this affect me as a landlord? It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on the news right now, especially when it comes to the ins and outs of any new proposed stimulus packages, such as the federal American Rescue Plan. An estimated 14 million Americans have fallen behind on rent and are at risk of eviction. The government, both at federal and state levels, is seeking ways to facilitate economic recovery through elements like stimulus payments, extended unemployment compensation and rent, utility and food assistance.  When it comes to the extension of eviction and foreclosure moratoriums, pay careful attention. If no additional relief measures are put in place, extensions are likely to increase the burden on already overextended private landlords — in particular, those whose rental properties are their sole income source. How should I proceed? Landlords should anticipate facing some tough decisions in the months to come, and we’re likely to see a flood of evictions hit the market all at once. The decision to evict is an important one and will depend on your own financial means, the strength of your local market, the employment status of your tenants as well as your history and relationship with each tenant. If you had issues with your tenant prior to the pandemic and the rental market in your area is healthy (therefore simpler to find new tenants), then pursuing an eviction might be the best option for you. Many landlords underestimate the cost of the eviction process, which can often be more than $5,000 when all is said and done. If you have respectful and responsible tenants who have previously paid their rent on time, you might consider coming to an alternative agreement like a payment schedule. The coming of the new year didn’t magically wrap up all the turmoil we experienced in 2020. When it comes to the intricacies of the rental housing market situation, landlords should closely monitor new regulations and relief packages and fully understand their rights. Carefully consider all of your options and move forward with what makes the most sense for your unique situation.  Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?
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Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin The Gramercy, built in 1883, is one of the finest residential buildings in Manhattan. Yale Wagner for Sotheby’s International Realty Combining four different apartments on three floors created this 4,950 square foot home in one of Manhattan’s legendary buildings. Home to Jimmy Fallon and his wife Nancy Juvonen, it has just gone on the market for $15 million.  The Gramercy, at 34 Gramercy Park East, is New York City's oldest extant co-op and one of its most exclusive. An 1883 masterpiece by architect George W. DaCunha, the Gramercy predates the famous Dakota Apartments by a year and is praised by the American Institute of Architects as “one of the city’s most spectacular” apartment houses. Merging elements of Queen Anne, Richardsonian Romanesque and British Arts & Crafts, the Gramercy preserves a splendid original lobby replete with stained glass, tile floors and a magnificent fireplace. Apartments are limited to three per floor, insuring privacy and quiet; many retain original details, including wainscoting, mantels and high ceilings. Residence at the Gramercy includes a key to Gramercy Park, the only private park in Manhattan. Preserved as a tranquil formal garden, Gramercy Park is one of the most completely intact examples of an urban park of its era. Jimmy Fallon and wife Nancy Juvonen restored all the original windows, restored the hardwood floors throughout and added the highest quality fixtures and finishes. Nancy Juvonen designed an interior décor that delights with lighthearted references to the past, the use of vintage 1940s wallpaper, antique toys and jolts of joyous color. A joyous, lighthearted interior is composed of vintage and custom elements. ©2020 Evan Joseph Images There are six bedrooms and five full bathrooms. The west-facing eat-in kitchen, which has wonderful views of Gramercy Park, is equipped with state of the art home appliances, and custom cabinetry with E.R. Butler hardware. The room offers comfortable dining for six, and bar seating for eight beside a gas fireplace, its original mantel set with vintage tiles. Adjacent to the kitchen is a show-stopping walk-in pantry which once functioned as a working sound studio (and is still fully sound proofed). Along with the living room and kitchen, two spacious bedrooms with two full baths, a home office and laundry room complete the seventh floor. The kitchen is a large, comfortable room perfect for family gatherings ©2020 Evan Joseph Images A custom designed and crafted staircase unites the home’s three floors; it is adorned by a whimsical mural. Below the staircase is a children’s dream: a hidden playroom equipped with monkey bars, secret hatch doors, a chalkboard wall, and a “jailhouse intercom” to the upstairs playroom. The Saloon Room is the pride of the eighth floor. ©2020 Evan Joseph Images The “piece de resistance,” of the home’s eighth floor is the west-facing “Saloon Room.” This spectacular entertaining space features a vintage barback with custom inlaid stained glass and is complimented by a custom-designed fully equipped wet bar, and a gas fireplace with stone hearth. Also on the eighth floor are two additional bedrooms, one currently used as a home gym, and a full bath. The ninth floor is home to the primary suite, with its gas fireplace, wet bar with refrigerator, custom built-in massage bed and cozy seating area. The ninth floor also features two more spacious bedrooms, another full bath, a second playroom and a second laundry room.
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Reno, the closest major city to the famous art festival Burning Man, is developing its own decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO, and a token in partnership with Tezos. Mayor Hillary Schieve announced the city’s plans to create the Reno DAO in a Thursday Tez Talks podcast hosted by the Tezos Commons Foundation. The city will build its Reno DAO and Reno Coin on top of the Tezos blockchain network in order to monetize art objects and pieces as well as further explore the potential benefits of blockchain and crypto to solve some of its biggest pain points, Schieve said. As part of the plan, the city also plans to digitize Burning Man artwork in the form of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. According to Schieve, the city of Reno will create its first NFT for Burning Man’s Space Whale sculpture, a major festival artwork located in Reno. The mayor said that turning the artwork into an NFT would help the city monetize and support local art and serve as a starting point for the mainstream adoption of crypto: “It’s gonna take a long time to adopt, we know that […] But eventually, this will end up being mainstream, where citizens will get it, and I think you also have to walk before you can run. There are really easy ways to get my community to start using cryptocurrency to pay for things like sewer payments.” Theodore Clapp, a local undergrad researcher involved in the initial design of the Reno DAO, chose the Tezos ecosystem for building the project. Clapp explained that he found Tezos the best fit for the DAO in terms of its resources and frameworks. “So I eventually decided on Tezos,” the researcher said, elaborating: “I’m not biased, I’m not like a Tezos maximalist or anything. I just went to CoinMarketCap and went down the list investigating the different blockchains and the technologies that were available, to actually develop a DAO, because I was trying to find the best platform for scalability, fees, long-term sustainability.”
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University of California, Berkeley and Parity Technologies are joining forces on several blockchain fronts, including educational development and awareness, by leveraging Parity’s expert team and the Substrate framework as knowledge-building resources. UC Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator Partners with Parity to Promote Blockchain Adoption To bring more resources to the University of California, Berkeley community and Blockchain Xcelerator, Parity Technologies and the academic institution are expanding existing ties by forming a resource-rich educational framework for the 2020-2021 academic year. This deepening cooperation follows Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator’s existing familiarity with Parity and Polkadot ecosystem startups through its program, which has already accelerated 45 high-value blockchain projects since its inception in 2019. These growing ties will see the Parity development team help expose the University’s students to innovation through a multi-pronged approach, starting with efforts centering on a blockchain curriculum. Parity’s Substrate blockchain-building framework and Polkadot’s second-generation protocol will play a significant role in this educational effort given their usefulness as tools and utilities in the ever-expanding ecosystem. Additionally, Parity’s involvement will cover the advancement of new project ideas and exploration of other valuable educational angles to improve the community’s overall blockchain-engagement. Taking a Hands-On Approach to Blockchain Guidance One of the noteworthy developments in this new partnership will be a lecture delivered by Dr. Gavin Wood. Wood, a co-founder of Parity Technologies and the Polkadot network, is well-known within blockchain circles. In his previous role as Ethereum’s CTO and co-founder, he was responsible for designing the Solidity language alongside the Ethereum Virtual Machine. Dr. Wood will be taking part in the A. Richard Newton Distinguished Innovator Lecture Series in March of 2021, granting the Berkeley community a unique opportunity to tap into his breadth of experience. According to Dr. Wood, Blockchain innovation moves fast, and as we advance this industry beyond legacy networks into next-generation, production-grade blockchains like Polkadot, it is critical that the next generation of coders, engineers, and entrepreneurs are up to speed on what it takes to make it in this competitive space. If we are to achieve the Web 3.0 vision I outlined in 2015, students like Berkeley’s must-see an alternative to the traditional Silicon Valley Web 2.0 world they are used to diving into straight out of school. Besides exposing community members, faculty, and students to next-generation technologies via educational programming and the lecture, Parity intends to deepen its support for the Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator. This advisory effort will include consultations on Polkdaot development and the growing Web3 ecosystem. To date, Xcelerator has already nurtured several projects designed for the Polkadot network. These include decentralized finance (defi) ecosystem Acala and Stake Technologies, which delivers smart contract capabilities. How far do we think we are from a full-blown blockchain degree? Let us know in the comments section below. Tags in this story Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons, Epicenter Podcast 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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press release PRESS RELEASE. IOST has announced it is now at the final development stage for building a cross-chain transfer bridge to the Polkadot Ecosystem. The move is part of IOST’s plans to promote its cross-chain interoperability, bringing tremendous value for IOST users & developers and drive bigger adoption scenarios for its blockchain, according to a blog post on 5 March 2021. IOST Joins Forces with Polkadot In a bid to make its decentralized solutions available across multiple blockchains, promote trust and data sovereignty for users, IOST, the Proof-of-Believability smart contract leader is joining forces with Polkadot, a new generation blockchain that focuses on promoting interoperability across different distributed ledgers. As stated in a blog post by the IOST team, the new alliance will enable the transfer of the information, transactions, and asset values and make it available across all blockchains supported by Polkadot. The IOST cross-chain transfer bridge has entered the final development stage, with most of its functions successfully tested in the Polkadot testnet environment. This solution includes three parts: IOST cross-chain asset contracts, The relay gateway as well as The Polkadot parachain. Importantly, the successful creation of the IOST-DOT bridge will effectively take IOST a step higher in expanding its cross-chain DeFi capabilities. Towards this end, IOST has struck partnerships with multiple strategic projects in the same space. Some of the latest highlights include its integration of Huobi HUSD stablecoin and the airdrop of Donnie tokens for IOST holders across over 10 leading exchanges. IOST Making a Splash Following a successful 2020 and the increasing traction of decentralized finance, especially in Ethereum, the IOST Foundation changed its roadmap to prioritize and create a vibrant DeFi ecosystem in the low fee and high throughput platform. The move of building a cross-chain solution with Polkadot syncs with the network’s plans to further bolster decentralized finance activity, a development that was ramped up in the second half of 2020. In terms of prices, IOST has been one of the most impressive performers with the token gaining more than seven-folds making the altcoin one of the best performances so far in 2021. Beyond prices, IOST is emerging as a leader in smart contracting in which IOST outperforms Ethereum, EOS, and any other smart contracting platforms evaluated in the latest China’s CCID Ranking. This shows the quality and the ability of the development team to roll out a product that’s better, innovative, and reflective of their true desire to be the best in the sphere, which makes IOST a force to be reckoned with. This is a press release. Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the promoted company or any of its affiliates or services. Bitcoin.com is not 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 the press release. Tags in this story Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons
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The Kentucky House Budget Committee approved a bill in a 19-2 vote to eliminate the sales tax on electricity for use in cryptocurrency mining operations. The bill, designed to attract more miners to the state, is now in the Kentucky Senate for review. Lawmakers Urge Greater Crypto Appeal Despite Purported Costs Motivated by the explosive growth in blockchain technology and the increased spotlight at cryptocurrencies, Kentucky lawmakers are busy crafting legislation designed to appeal to mining operations. House Bill 230, which the House Budget Committee approved on Tuesday, is designed to encourage miners to move to the state by removing the sales tax from these operations’ electricity. The bill now moves to the state senate, where it will be reviewed alongside Senate Bill 255, which similarly calls for miner tax breaks. More Costs Than Benefits According to a fiscal note within the bill, this proposed legislation would cost the state’s General Fund at least $1 million in estimated annual receipts. Given the energy-intensive nature of cryptocurrency mining, that figure could rise considerably if the bills attract a mass migration of operations to the state. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Steven Rudy, recognizes the state’s cost but believes that the projected price will eventually benefit the state by attracting a “highly sophisticated, highly technical” industry. The bill, however, is not without its detractors, as some lawmakers question whether the costs outweigh the benefit given the energy-intensive nature of cryptocurrency mining. Rudy has responded to these critiques by emphasizing that Kentucky would prefer to attract industries to the state instead of turning away business. Still, Kentucky has shown no signs of slowing its momentum in its bid to make the state attractive for the cryptocurrency industry. Underscoring this point, economic officials have already approved Blockware Solutions incentives as the company plans to invest $28 million in a local mining operation, broadening the state’s appeal for the mining industry at large. Do you think more U.S. states and other countries around the world will enact tax-breaks for crypto mining to attract businesses? Let us know in the comments section below. Tags in this story Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons, WYMT 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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Blockchain infrastructure firm BisonTrails has launched support for the Cosmos ecosystem, allowing its clients to stake and run nodes for blockchain ecosystem Cosmos. BIson Trails offers services to simplify the process of participating in blockchains, such as staking and running full nodes. The firm’s customers include custodians, exchanges, and funds, with Bison also helping Web 3.0 applications connect to blockchain data. The firm partnered with Coinbase in January to offer services under the U.S. exchange's umbrella. Bison’s customers can now use the firm’s infrastructure to stake and delegate their tokens using “participation clusters,” earning transaction fees and rewards while securing the Cosmos network. Bison’s participation clusters feature two components to enhance security — validator nodes that are hosted in a private network, and “sentry nodes” that interface between said validator nodes and the public blockchain network. The clusters are deployed using remote hardware security modules to ensure validators’ private keys do not interact with the public internet. The announcement said: “The participation clusters themselves are architected to withstand attacks. The sentry nodes act as a layer of defense to the validator nodes, enabling them to stay hidden and private from the public internet, and mitigating the risk of DDoS and remote access attacks.” Bison Trails will also offer several node services, including full QT nodes, archival nodes, and light client support. Cosmos comprises a decentralized ecosystem of parallel blockchains based on Cosmos’ open-source Tendermint protocol, facilitating intercommunication between the parallel chains. Last month, Cosmos launched its Inter-Blockchain Communication protocol, or IBC, Stargate, to facilitate interoperability between the blockchains built using Cosmos’ Software’ Development and other blockchain networks. As anticipation for the Stargate release built heading into February, Cosmos’ ATOM token surged into new all-time highs above $10, before rallying to $26 when the protocol went live on Feb. 18. ATOM has since retraced nearly 30% to currently trade for $18.50.
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The rising popularity of decentralized finance (DeFi) has brought fresh attention and optimism to the cryptocurrency sector with the total value locked on all protocols increasing from $1 billion to $59 billion in less than a year and the top 5 platforms accounting for $24.33 billion of the total value. Rising gas fees have been one of the most noticeable results of the increasing interaction with DeFi protocols and currently, the Ethereum (ETH) network hosts the majority of the top DeFi projects. Gas fees have been steadily rising since November 2020 and reached a peak on Feb. 23 when the average transaction cost reached 373 Gwei which is approximately $11.72 at the current Ether price.   Average Ethereum gas price. Source: Etherscan Since Feb. 23, fees have declined by 65% with the average cost dropping to 131 Gwei on March 3 and data shows that certain times of the day offer fees below 70 Gwei. DeFi transactions decreased as the market corrected One possible source for the declining gas fees seen over the past couple of days can be found by looking at the daily decentralized exchange (DEX) volume. Daily DEX volume. Source: Dune Analytics Data from Dune Analytics shows that trading volume on DEXs has been on the decline since peaking at $4.35 billion on Feb. 23 and the DEX daily 24-hour growth metric was down by 50% on March 3. According to Connor Higgins, a data scientist at Flipside Crypto, fees have decreased over the past few days, but rather than attributing it to one specific cause, Higgins said that the high fees seen on Feb. 23 were an outlier when compared against the overall average on a longer time span. Higgins said: "On average fees did fall, but it looks more like they are normalizing after a day of unusually high fees.” Ethereum fees by the hour. Source: Flipside Crypto As seen on the chart above, gas fees were significantly higher than the average between Feb. 22 and Feb. 23 when network congestion increased due to a market-wide sell-off that saw BTC price fall by 23.6% and altcoin prices also corrected sharply. After the market stabalized, gas fees returned to their normal average.  Rising NFT transactions clo the Ethereum network Those using the Ethereum network might have expected to see a more meaningful decline in gas fees as DeFi transactions decreased but this has not been the case. One reason rates remain high could be the recent increase in activity in the Non-Fungible Token (NFT) sector. NFT project history chart. Source: NonFungible As more and more NFT projects launch and hold auctions, high transaction costs and network congestion are likely to continue on the Ethereum network until a widely integrated scaling solution is implemented. Layer 2 solutions and protocols with cross-chain bridges to Ethereum, such as Polygon and the Binance Smart Chain, have emerged over the past two months and many projects are migrating to these platforms as the best short-term solution to high fees. Projects like Aavegotchi and SushiSwap have shown how effective these networks can be following their recent integrations with Polygon, and it’s likely that other NFT and DeFi projects will follow suit as the transaction costs and speeds are superior to Ethereum.  The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.
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Sohrab Sharma, the co-founder of the notorious celebrity-spruiked initial coin offering of 2017, Centra Tech, has been sentenced to eight years in prison for his leading role in the fraudulent scheme that duped investors out of more than $25 million. Shama had previously pled guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, and mail fraud for material misrepresentations made by him and his co-conspirators to solicit investors to participate in the scheme. United States attorney, Ilan Graff, described Sharma as having “led a scheme to deceive investors by falsely claiming that the start-up he co-founded had developed fully functioning, cutting-edge cryptocurrency-related financial products.” “In reality, Sharma’s most notable inventions were the fake executives, fake business partnerships, and fake licenses that he and his co-conspirators touted to trick victims into handing over tens of millions of dollars.” The court found that Sharma and co-defendants Robert Farkas and Raymond Trapani founded Centra around July 2017, claiming that the firm offered a crypto debit card and other digital asset-related products. The group conducted an ICO from July 2017 until October 2017, distributing unlicensed securities in the form of CTR tokens. To promote the offering, the group issued materials falsely claiming the team had partnerships with Visa, Mastercard, and Bancorp, money transmitter licensing in 38 U.S. states, along with an entirely fictional CEO boasting more than 20 years experience in the banking sector and a master’s degree from Harvard University. While the team raised $25 million at the completion of the ICO, authorities found those crypto assets were worth more than $60 million at certain times during 2018. The U.S. Marshals Service seized 100,000 Ether from Centra which it sold for roughly $33.4 million earlier this year. The proceeds will be made available to potential use in a remission program to compensate victims of the fraud. Sharma was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit more than $36 million. In December, Centra co-founder Robert Farkas was sentenced to one year in prison for his role in the scheme. Trapani has also pleaded guilty. Celebrities DJ Khaled and Floyd Mayweather, who promoted the offering on social media in 2017, agreed to six-figure settlements without admitting to wrongdoing in 2019 after Centra’s investors filed a lawsuit against the pair.
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