Bitcoin (BTC) price sliced through the $50,000 resistance level during the early trading hours on March 3 as bulls found their momentum and the majority of altcoins joined in on the rally as the day progressed.  Data from Cointelegraph Markets and TradingView shows that the price of Bitcoin was trading at $48,500 in the early hours on March 3 before surging 8.6% to an intraday high of $52,631. Currently, BTC price trades slightly below $51,000, and while $50,000 may have become a soft support, a daily close above the 23.6% Fibonacci retracement ($52,000) is needed to confirm that a bullish reversal has taken place. BTC/USDT 4-hour chart. Source: TradingView On-chain analysis from CryptoQuant indicates that Bitcoin whales have been consistently buying the dips below $50,000 and according to CryptoQuant CEO Ki Young Ju, institutional buying is taking place at the $48,000 support, as seen by the highlighted orange line on the chart above. Bitcoin's mainstream adoption continues to take place in Canada as Ninepoint Partners announced that it plans to change its Bitcoin trust offering to an exchange-traded fund on the Toronto Stock Exchange in an effort to increase trading liquidity and provide a better trading price.  Rising yields put pressure on traditional markets Bitcoin’s surge above $50,000 and increasing integration into mainstream financial markets has prompted some analysts to speculate on when a new all-time high will occur. For the time being, bearish macroeconomic factors are weighing on global markets and this could dampen growth in the short-term. The S&P 500, Dow and NASDAQ faced selling pressure throughout the trading day and closed down 1.31%, 0.39% and 2.7% after a spike in the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield renewed concerns about the health of the U.S. and global markets. According to Chad Steinglass, Head of Trading at CrossTower, Wednesday’s action in the market is a “revisit of the rates-based selloff” from Feb. 25, with tech equities and ARK funds facing increased pressure. Steinglass said that headwinds being faced by BTC at the U.S. market open were the result of “being dragged down by GBTC as the GBTC discount has crept back up to about 4.5%.” Despite these challenges, Steinglass sees the recent favorable Bitcoin comments by Citigroup and Fidelity as strong support for the narrative of increasing institutional adoption. Steinglass said: The fact that Bitcoin continues to show strength even with GBTC acting like a resistance band holding it back is very encouraging and shows to me that the overall story, that of accelerating adoption, is still intact.” Small and large-cap altcoins move higher Bitcoin’s pop above $50,000 also helped ignite a rally in altcoins as the majority of the top 100 coins moved higher on Wednesday. Daily cryptocurrency market performance. Source: Coin360 Ether (ETH) gained 8% to set an intraday high at $1,610, while Cosmos (ATOM) rallied 15.7% to a daily high at $21.18. Enjin Coin (ENJ) was the breakout star of the day as it surged more than 50% to make a new all-time high at $1.32. The sharp double-digit rally appears to be the result of the growing popularity of NFTs and Enjin’s transition into the growing NFT marketplace. BTC/USD daily chart. Source: Coin360 The overall cryptocurrency market cap now stands at $1.55 trillion and Bitcoin’s dominance rate is 61%.
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The first bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) in North America now holds over 11,000 bitcoins. Purpose Bitcoin ETF saw strong interest at launch. An ETF researcher explained that the surge in interest was evidence of some combination of pent-up demand, the price of bitcoin, and investors switching from other means of getting cryptocurrency exposure. First North American Bitcoin ETF Holding More Than 11K Bitcoins The first approved bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) in North America, Purpose Bitcoin ETF, is holding 11,141.2363 bitcoins as of March 2. According to Purpose Investments, which manages the fund, the bitcoin ETF currently has CA$669 million ($530 million) in assets under management. Purpose Bitcoin ETF gained widespread attention when it launched on Feb. 18 on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). The fund saw more than $165 million in trading volume on the first day. The ETF trades under the symbols BTCC.B (Canadian dollar-denominated ETF non-currency hedged units) and BTCC.U (U.S. dollar-denominated ETF non-currency hedged units). Purpose Bitcoin ETF’s bitcoin holdings. Source: Glassnode However, trading has slowed significantly since its launch. The volume stood at $17 million on Tuesday. Ben Johnson, Morningstar’s global director of ETF research, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying: “The initial surge in interest was evidence of some combination of pent-up demand, investors switching from other means of getting bitcoin exposure, and the fact that bitcoin’s price was notching new highs as the Purpose ETF began trading. Longer term, I expect volumes will be correlated with bitcoin’s price.” Canada’s securities regulator has approved another bitcoin ETF. Evolve Bitcoin ETF started trading on the TSX one day after Purpose Bitcoin ETF. It trades under the symbol EBIT (which offers exposure to the daily price movement of bitcoin in Canadian dollars) and EBIT.U (which offers exposure to the daily price movements of bitcoin in U.S. dollars). Evolve Bitcoin ETF’s volume at launch was about $15 million. Its volume dwindled to about $3.2 million shares on Tuesday. The ETF lowered its management fee from 1% to 0.75% on Feb. 24, making it cheaper than the fees charged by Purpose Bitcoin ETF. On March 2, Evolve filed to list and trade an ether ETF designed to provide investors with exposure to ETH. Meanwhile, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has not approved any cryptocurrency ETF. President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the SEC, Gary Gensler, has yet to be confirmed as the SEC chairman. This week, the Chicago Board Options Exchange (Cboe) filed with the SEC to list and trade a bitcoin ETF. Would you invest in a bitcoin ETF? Let us know in the comments section below. Tags in this story 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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The US Capitol Police is bracing for a fresh assault on Congress on Thursday after receiving an intelligence warning of a “possible” plot by a militia group just two months after supporters of Donald Trump stormed the complex.  The warning came as leaders in the House of Representatives cancelled plans for a session on Thursday, moving all previously scheduled votes to Wednesday evening and clearing the floor of official business for the rest of the week. The law enforcement agency — which has come under scrutiny for its failure to protect the US Capitol on January 6 — said it was “aware of and prepared for” threats towards members of Congress and the building on March 4. “We have already made significant security upgrades to include establishing a physical structure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers,” the police force said in a statement, adding that it was working with state, local and federal partners.  Tim Ryan, a Democratic congressman from Ohio who chairs the subcommittee overseeing the US Capitol Police, said he had been briefed on the potential security threat. Ryan said the intelligence indicated “additional interest in the Capitol . . . by a militia group” on March 4 to 6, surrounding what some conspiracy theorists believe to be the “true inauguration day”. “It is heartbreaking that the United States Capitol continues to be a target — not by foreign adversaries — but by our fellow Americans,” he added. The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment on whether it was aware of credible threats to the Capitol. The FBI, which wrote a memo in January warning of the threat to the Capitol building, said that it did not comment on specific intelligence threats but that it was “constantly gathering and sharing intelligence” with law enforcement partners. Hundreds of Trump supporters overwhelmed US Capitol Police officers to storm the Capitol building and disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory in January. A series of Congressional hearings into the security failures that preceded the January 6 attack — which left many lawmakers fearing for their lives — suggest that crucial intelligence did not make it up the chain of command at either the Capitol police or the Washington DC’s metropolitan police. The FBI and DHS have recently warned of a rising tide of domestic extremism. In January, the DHS issued a report on terrorist threats in which it said there was a heightened risk of attacks by “ideologically-motivated violent extremists” on US soil in the wake of Biden’s inauguration. Testifying before Congress on Tuesday, Christopher Wray, FBI director, said the number of domestic extremist cases being pursued by the bureau had risen “significantly” over the past year. Wray confirmed to senators that some of the rioters involved in the January 6 siege were categorised as “militia”, and in some instances, “racially motivated violent extremists who advocate for the superiority of the white race”. Meanwhile, the commanding general of the DC National Guard on Wednesday said that the Pentagon had placed restrictions on him in the run-up to the January riot that prevented him from quickly sending forces in to tackle the violence.
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A former tabloid reporter married to a fugitive, poker-playing billionaire is among those backing the world’s most indebted property group’s bid to become a leader in electric cars, despite it not having sold a single vehicle. Evergrande New Energy Vehicle’s Hong Kong-listed shares have risen 81 per cent this year, catapulting the Chinese group’s market capitalisation to more than $63bn — above that of traditional rivals such as Ford — even as it struggles to get its debut car to market. But Evergrande NEV is not just another example of the mania for electric vehicles that has swept across global markets. The rally is tied to signs that influential backers will continue to stand by parent China Evergrande and its web of subsidiaries, even as it faces pressure from Beijing to bring its more than $120bn in borrowings under control. “If this is not a bubble, I don’t know what is,” said David Blennerhassett, an analyst at Quiddity Advisors, of Evergrande NEV’s stock. In late January, Evergrande NEV announced that a handful of individuals with connections to its parent and its chairman had bought $3.4bn of shares, pushing the stock price up by over 50 per cent in a single session. Hui Ka Yan, who is also Evergrande’s majority owner, was previously China’s richest man. His personal connections extend to poker games with Hong Kong property tycoons such as Chinese Estates’ Joseph Lau, who in 2014 was convicted of bribery and money laundering in Macau. In January 2020, Lau invested in Evergrande’s issuance of dollar bonds, according to Hong Kong media. Former Chinese Estates chairman and chief executive Joseph Lau leaves a restaurant with Chan Hoi-wan in Hong Kong in March 2014 © Reuters For the January 2021 fundraising Evergrande NEV tapped Lau’s wife Chan Hoi-wan for $400m, according to a bourse statement. Chan is a former entertainment reporter at Apple Daily, a Hong Kong tabloid known for its pro-democracy stance. She also owns 2.4 per cent of Evergrande itself as of the end of June and was an investor in the group’s property services prior to its November stock market listing. Other investors in the property business include a company linked to Cheung Chung-kiu, another of Hui’s poker opponents, who last year bought London’s most expensive home and who stepped in to buy Evergrande bonds when prices fell last September. Representatives for Lau, Chan and Cheung did not respond to a request for comment. Maggie Hu, an expert in finance and property at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Hong Kong tycoons “have formed strategic partnerships [with Evergrande] over the years and their business interests are closely linked and tightly knit together”. Evergrande NEV represents the parent’s attempt to diversify as the Chinese property market slows, experts say. “The problem with the Chinese property market is that prices have been too high, which has created a tremendous amount of risk for the economy . . . so they are looking for an additional growth driver,” said Liu Jing, a professor of accounting and finance at Hong Kong’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business. The electric vehicle subsidiary, part of a sprawling network of businesses that includes China’s largest football club, was known as Evergrande Health before being rebranded in August. But Evergrande NEV is primarily focused on property development, believes Nigel Stevenson, an analyst at research firm GMT Research. He cites cash flow statements of the electric vehicle subsidiary that demonstrate high levels of continuing investment in property, only part of which is for factories. Lines of credit flowing from the parent to its electric vehicle subsidiary have raised questions among analysts over what money the latter raises will be used for, at a time when Evergrande has been selling assets to raise cash. The parent’s stock and bonds sold off in September following reports it had sought support from the provincial government in China’s Guangdong, where Evergrande is based. The company has denied the reports. A share placement by Evergrande in October raised just $555m, versus a target of over $1bn, while its access to bank funding is limited by rules unveiled at the end of December.  “Under this tough external financing environment, it is harder for Evergrande to obtain debt financing from banks in China,” said CUHK’s Hu. “To raise more funds and to alleviate its current leverage situation, funds could be raised by Evergrande from its subsidiaries.” Evergrande NEV has said the money raised in January would be used to help realise its goal of becoming “the world’s largest and most powerful new energy vehicle group” but added that it would also help to “repay indebtedness”. In a separate statement, the company said “most” of the proceeds would be used for research and development, as well as base construction. Financial statements show that Evergrande NEV owed Rmb34bn ($5.3bn) to Evergrande as of June. A further Rmb31bn of borrowing is guaranteed by its parent, meaning that debt reduction at the subsidiary level would improve the group’s balance sheet. A proposed listing of Evergrande NEV shares in mainland China could raise further capital to alleviate the parent’s debt. Some investors appear to be holding out hope that Evergrande NEV can realise its electric vehicle ambitions. A rally in the shares in February was triggered by the release of online videos showing its pre-production models being test driven. But others maintain the business’s prospects have more to do with its parent than any technological breakthrough. “As it currently stands, Evergrande NEV essentially looks like a funding vehicle to upstream the proceeds to the parent,” said Blennerhassett. But the money raised by Evergrande NEV “is just a drop in the ocean for how much Evergrande Group is exposed to”. Additional reporting by Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong 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.
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Jorge Paulo Lemann, the founding partner of 3G Capital, will step down from the board of Kraft Heinz as part of the 81-year-old billionaire’s plan to reduce his travel commitments, the company says. 3G, the US-Brazilian investment group, has a 20 per cent stake in Kraft Heinz, having reduced it by 2 percentage points in 2019 when the company was hit with multibillion-dollar writedowns and falling sales. It said it planned to remain a long-term investor in the company despite Lemann’s exit from the board. “Lemann’s decision not to stand for re-election is not the result of any disagreement with management or the board related to the company’s operations, policies, or practices,” Kraft Heinz said in a statement on Wednesday. The move comes at a time of relative strength for the company behind Heinz Ketchup and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese: the pandemic has boosted sales as consumers returned to iconic processed food brands that they previously shunned in favour of healthier alternatives. 3G is best known for making big, bold acquisitions and for imposing aggressive cost cuts at the companies it operates, but over the past 18 months it has shifted its strategy from buying new assets to focus more on growing businesses organically. Kraft Heinz — which was formed in 2015 with the financial backing of 3G and Lemann’s investing partner Warren Buffett — has recently sold several brands that are subject to commodity price fluctuations and dominated by private-label brands. In February, it sold peanuts and snacks business Planters to Hormel Foods for $3.35bn and last year it disposed of parts of its cheese business to the French group Lactalis for $3.2bn in an effort to shore up its cash position, reduce its debt load and reinvest in new areas.  The turnround strategy has been led by Miguel Patricio, Kraft Heinz’s chief executive, who was selected by 3G after a $15bn writedown and the decision to cut its dividend by one-third. Patricio was previously chief marketing officer at the brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is also backed by 3G.  3G, meanwhile, has been seeking to hold on to its investors’ money for longer as coronavirus uncertainty and sky-high valuations have made it hard for the veteran dealmakers to strike a transaction.
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Data collection, aggregation and analysis have become some of the largest profit generators for companies like Facebook and Google who have designed an array of algorithms purposed with harnessing user data in order to better optimize the user interfaces of their applications and their online marketplaces.  While collecting the data is the ultimate objective, the events of the past few years have also shown that securing it and ensuring that the privacy of customers and users is protected is imperative. Combining data collection with the ability to securely store it on a distributed ledger seems like a natural fit, and Ocean Protocol (OCEAN) is one blockchain project that is looking to capitalize on the monetization of data. Data from Cointelegraph Markets and TradingView shows that the price of OCEAN has increased 240% year-to-date as it rose from $0.31 on Jan. 1 to $1.38 on Feb. 12. Bitcoin's recent sell-off from its $58,300 all-time high, caused OCEAN to correct sharply but as the market recovered, the altcoin was able to secure a swing high at $1.19 on March 3.  OCEAN/USDT 4-hour chart. Source: TradingView Three reasons for the continued strong performance for OCEAN include new listings at major exchanges, the integration of governance features with OceanDAO, and the growth of its data sets marketplace where token holders can earn a yield. Major exchange announces support for OCEAN On March 2 OCEAN announced that the token would be listed on Kraken which is the fourth-largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world. Following the announcement, OCEAN price spiked 30% from $0.89 to a high at $1.16 and its 24-hour trading volume saw a 246% increase to $90 million. VORTECS™ data from Cointelegraph Markets Pro began to detect a bullish outlook for OCEAN on Feb. 28, prior to the recent price rise. The VORTECS™ score, exclusive to Cointelegraph, is an algorithmic comparison of historic and current market conditions derived from a combination of data points including market sentiment, trading volume, recent price movements and Twitter activity. VORTECS™ Score (green) vs. OCEAN price. Source: Cointelegraph Markets Pro As seen in the chart above, the VORTECS™ score reached a high of 74 on Feb. 28, roughly 46 hours before the price spiked on March 2. New governance features encourage community involvement New features on OceanDAO appear to be the motivating factor for OCEAN's bullish price action as token holders have an increased say in the key decisions that guide the project. OceanDAO was announced on Nov. 30, 2020, as a way for community members to get involved in the development of the protocol. It is a community-led funding project that allows token holders to vote on which projects should receive a DAO grant to help them build a new feature, conduct outreach marketing, or unlock data. For voting purposes, each OCEAN token equals one vote, and those wishing to participate must do so from a wallet they control. The third round of voting on OceanDAO began on March 2, which also coincides with the increase in the altcoin's price and trading volume. Oceans adds data set yield farming The third force helping to drive OCEAN price higher is its expanding data sets marketplace that allows users to deposit tokens aearn a yield. Originally launched as part of Ocean v3 in September 2020, Ocean Markets is an open-source community marketplace where users can publish, price, curate, discover, buy and consume data. As the marketplace evolved so has its functionality. Currently, token holders are able to earn a yield on their tokens by staking them in a particular data set to earn liquidity provider fees. Users looking for deeper involvement can also publish and sell data on the marketplace or build and launch their own market as a way to increase their earning capabilities. The need for sourcing, distributing, and securing data is guaranteed to grow over the coming years and  Ocean protocol appears well-positioned to take advantage of this growing market. The inclusion of governance features and opportunities to earn a yield only make the project more attractive to investors looking to make strategic investments in the decentralized finance sector. 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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President Joe Biden criticised the governors of Texas and Mississippi after they moved to end mask mandates and other coronavirus restrictions in their states. Several states have loosened or rescinded curbs on businesses and social activity in recent days, encouraged by the decline in Covid-19 hospitalisations and the increasing number of people vaccinated against the virus. Texas and Mississippi on Tuesday announced they would no longer mandate mask-wearing and end capacity limits on businesses, drawing criticism from some lawmakers who said the rollbacks went too far. “I think it’s a big mistake,” Biden, a Democrat, said on Wednesday when asked about the decisions. He added: “Look, I hope everybody’s realised by now, we’ve managed to make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we were able to get vaccines in people’s arms. “The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything is fine, take off your masks, forget it. It still matters.” Tate Reeves, Mississippi’s governor, fired back in a tweet. “Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them,” he said. Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, called for his state to be “100 per cent” open, saying it can continue to contain the spread of coronavirus as more residents, particularly seniors, get vaccinated. Reeves, also a Republican, on Tuesday said “the risk of overwhelming our hospitals with severe Covid cases is coming to a close”. The two states maintained recommendations that residents wear face coverings when social distancing was not possible. In Texas, businesses may limit capacity or require additional safety measures on their own, the governor’s office said.
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American Eagle clothing and accessories retailer American Eagle store seen in Tokyo. Budrul Chukrut | SOPA Images | Light Rocket | Getty Images Check out the companies making headlines after the bell on Wednesday: American Eagle Outfitters – The clothing company's stock jumped 4.2% on the back of better-than-expected results for the fourth quarter. American Eagle logged earnings of 39 cents per share on revenue of $1.29 billion. Analysts polled by Refinitiv expected earnings per share of 36 cents on revenue of $1.28 billion. The retailer also said overall comparable sales declined just 1% as strong online sales mitigated mall closures. Snowflake – Snowflake stock pulled back 4% after the company issued lackluster full-year revenue guidance. The company expects revenue for its fiscal 2022 to range between $1 billion and $1.02 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet expected revenue guidance of around $1.01 billion. That forecast represents full-year revenue growth of more than 80%, which is a slower expansion rate than the company experienced in its fiscal fourth quarter. Okta – Shares of the cloud software company fell 12% on the news that Okta is spending $6.5 billion to acquire rival Auth0. The deal is expected to close by July. News of the deal overshadowed Okta reporting better-than-expected earnings and revenue for the previous quarter. Vroom – Shares of the used-card retailer plunged 15% after the company released its latest quarterly figures. Vroom reported revenue of $406 million, while analysts polled by Refinitiv expected revenue of $401 million. The company also posted a loss of 46 cents per share, but it was not clear whether that's comparable to Refinitiv's earnings per share forecast.
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Nine out of 10 deaths from coronavirus have occurred in countries with high obesity levels, according to World Health Organization-backed research that sets out the stark correlation between excessive weight and lives lost to the disease. The study from the World Obesity Federation (WOF), which represents scientists, medical professionals and researchers from more than 50 regional and national obesity associations, showed mortality rates were 10 times higher where at least 50 per cent of the population was overweight. It offers fresh insight into why people in some countries die at far greater rates after catching the virus than in others. Age has been seen as the biggest predictor for severe outcomes, which has led to priority being given to older people in most countries’ Covid-19 vaccine rollouts. But the WOF said its report “shows for the first time that overweight populations come a close second”. It is now calling for this group to be prioritised for immunisation. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said the report “must act as a wake-up call to governments globally” to tackle obesity. Analysis of both the latest mortality data from Johns Hopkins University, and the WHO Global Health Observatory data on obesity, demonstrated that 2.2m of the 2.5m global deaths were in countries with high levels of obesity. Scientists have sought to understand the difference in death rates between Asian and western countries, as well as low income and high-income countries. The WOF suggests the discovery of the “common denominator” of obesity is an important part of the explanation. Tim Lobstein, senior policy adviser to the WOF and the report’s author, said death rates were 10 times higher in countries where more than 50 per cent of the population were overweight. The increase in national death rates where countries exceeded the threshold of 50 per cent of population overweight was “dramatic”. The report, released ahead of world obesity day on Thursday, did not find a single example of a country where less than 40 per cent of the population was overweight having high death rates. On the other hand, no country with high death rates — at least 100 per 100,000 — had less than 50 per cent of its population overweight.  Vietnam, for example, has the lowest recorded death rate in the world and the second lowest level of overweight people: just 0.04 per 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 and 18.3 per cent of adults overweight, according to WHO data. In contrast, the UK has the third highest death rate in the world and the fourth highest obesity rate, at 184 deaths per 100,000 and 63.7 per cent of adults overweight. It is followed by the US with about 152 deaths per 100,000 and almost 68 per cent obese. Tedros said: “The correlation between obesity and mortality rates from Covid-19 is clear and compelling.” Investment in public health and co-ordinated, international action was needed to tackle the root causes of obesity, he added, as “one of the best ways for countries to build resilience in health systems post-pandemic”. Lobstein, visiting professor at the University of Sydney and a former WHO adviser, said governments had failed to tackle obesity over many years despite UN targets. Yet Covid-19 was only the latest infection exacerbated by weight issues: “We have seen it in the past with Mers, H1N1 and other respiratory diseases,” he added. The report also made an economic argument for action to control obesity, saying the costs of locking down societies to prevent health services being overrun “could have been significantly mitigated if governments had tackled population weight issues before the pandemic”. Of the $28tn projected by the IMF as the global cost in lost economic output worldwide up to 2025, “at least $6tn will be directly attributable to the issue of populations living with excess weight”, it argued.
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New issues repriced to lower yields Wednesday while secondary trading showed firmer trades leading triple-A benchmarks to strengthen on the short end even as U.S. Treasuries saw more losses and equities improved. Primary pricings showed investors comfortable moving in at higher yields with competitive deals from gilt-edged Baltimore County, Maryland, at or through triple-A benchmarks. The University of Chicago came to market with $351 million of corporate CUSIP bonds, scaling back from a planned $600 million deal. The Investment Company Institute reported $831 million of inflows into municipal bond mutual funds but $398 million of outflows from exchange-traded funds for the week ending Feb. 24. Flows from Refinitiv Lipper to be reported Thursday may be more telling of how the full sell-off has affected the funds, as ICI reports with a lag and Wednesday's figures do not include last week's market moves. Ratios fell slightly with the diversion of muni to UST yields Wednesday. The 10-year muni/UST was reported at 78% and the 30-year at 80%, according to Refinitiv MMD. ICE Data Services showed ratios at 75% in 10 years and 81% in 30. For Wednesday, though, investors were engaged in both the primary and secondary. “The market has been rich to Treasuries for a while now and the weakness we have seen [last week] was due, but I believe that there is strong support for municipals going forward,” Roberto Roffo, managing director and portfolio manager at SWBC Investment Company, said Wednesday. The bellwether deal this week — the $1 billion New York City general obligation offering — exemplified the existing and continued strong buy side demand and was priced attractively. The deal received over $800 million in retail orders after the two day order period. “Based on the retail order period for the New York City deal I believe that the back up in yields has strengthened the demand for municipal bonds from retail investors and left professional money managers looking for a spot to start buying bonds,” Roffo said. BofA Securities priced for institutions the $1.25 billion New York City (Aa2/AA/AA-/) general obligation offering. The $900 million Fiscal 2021 Series F and Subseries F-1 saw bonds in 2023 with a 3% coupon yield 0.29%, nine basis points lower than Monday's retail scale. 5s of 2026 at 0.87%, (-2 bps), 3s of 2035 at 2.22%, (-6) 5s of 2036 at 2.00% (-5), 3s of 2041 at 2.60% (-2), 4s of 2047 at 2.53% (-10) and 3s of 2051 at 2.83% (2). The $240 million Fiscal 2021 Series 1 reoffering had 5s of 2028 at 1.20% (-1), 5s of 2031 at 1.63% (-2) and 5s of 2035 at 1.96% (-4). The $113 million Fiscal 2008 Series L Subseries L-5 reoffering had 5s of 2032 at 1.72% (-2) and 5s of 2035 at 1.96% (-4). New York City sold $107 million of taxable GOs to Barclays Capital. Bonds in 2028 priced at par at 1.71%, 2029 at 1.94%, 2030 at 2.04% and 2031 at 2.14%. Also in the competitive market, Baltimore County, Maryland, (/AAA//) sold $145 million of tax-exempt unlimited tax GOs to BofA Securities. Bonds in 2022 with a 5% coupon yielded 0.12%, 5s of 2026 at 0.56%, 5s of 2031 at 1.15%, 5s of 2036 at 1.40% and 3s of 2041 at 1.90%. The issuer also sold $205 million of exempt UT GOs to Morgan Stanley & Co. Bonds in 2023 with a 5% coupon yielded 0.20%, 5s of 2026 at 0.58%, 5s of 2031 at 1.20%, 5s of 2036 at 1.47%, 4s of 2041 at 1.85%, 4s of 2046 at 2.00% and 3s of 2051 at 2.25%. Cambridge, Massachusetts, (/AAA//) sold $106 million of GOs to Morgan Stanley & Co. Bonds in 2022 with a 5% coupon yield 0.10%, 5s of 2026 at 0.54%, 5s of 2031 at 1.12%, 2s of 2036 at 1.70% and 2s of 2041 at 1.92%. The University of Chicago (Aa2/AA-/AA+/) priced $351 million of taxable corporate CUSIP fixed-rate bonds, serials 2044-2052, in a Citigroup-priced negotiated deal. Bonds were priced at par, maturing in 2052 at 3.00%. The Illinois Finance Authority (Aa2/AA-/AA+/) priced $218.3 million of exempt revenue bonds for the University of Chicago. Bonds in 2023 with a 5% coupon yielded 0.55%, 5s of 2031 at 1.70%, 5s of 2036 at 2.15% and 5s of 2038 at 2.28%. Ohio priced $564.2 million of GOs in two series — new money and refunding portions — through BofA Securities. The new-money series includes $233 million of Series SCH-A bonds. Bonds in 2028 with a 5% coupon yielded 0.99%, 5s of 2031 at 1.33%, 5s of 2032 at 1.43%. $111 million of Series SCH-B bonds saw 5s of 2025 at 0.55%, 5s of 2026 at 0.67%, 5s of 2031 at 1.31%, 4s of 2036 at 1.75% and 4s of 2041 at 1.95%. “With cash flows still positive from retail investors, cash has been building on the sidelines and looking for an attractive entry point,” Roffo noted. Cash, he said, should put a ceiling on how high municipal rates can go. The current market technicals, fueled by future government aid, should keep the market strong in the near term — despite some challenges. “Investors still understand that the new administration has promised to raise taxes, the supply of new bonds will be lower this year, and the economic effects of COVID-19 are still lingering,” Roffo explained. But, the new relief package from Congress will also help states and municipalities strengthen their financial positions and “relieve some the fear present in the municipal market,” he said. ICI reports $831 million inflows, ETF outflowsLong-term municipal bond funds and exchange-traded funds saw combined inflows of $433 million in the week ended Feb. 24, ICI reported Wednesday. In the previous week, muni funds saw a revised inflow of $2.921 billion, ICI said. Long-term muni funds alone had an inflow of $831 million in the latest reporting week after an inflow of $2.517 billion in the prior week. ETF muni funds alone saw an outflow of $398 million after an inflow of $404 million in the prior week. Taxable bond funds saw combined inflows of $11.940 billion in the latest reporting week after an inflow of $14.643 billion in the prior week. Secondary marketHigh-grade municipals were stronger on the short end, according to final readings on Refinitiv MMD’s AAA benchmark scale. Short yields fell to 0.10% in 2022 and 0.17% in 2023. The 10-year sat at 1.15% and the 30-year at 1.81%. The ICE AAA municipal yield curve showed short maturities fell two basis points to 0.11% in 2022 and 0.17% in 2023. The 10-year stayed at 1.11% while the 30-year yield remained at 1.82%. The IHS Markit municipal analytics AAA curve showed yields at 0.12% in 2022 and at 0.17% in 2023 while the 10-year stayed at 1.10% and the 30-year at 1.78%. The Bloomberg BVAL AAA curve showed yields at 0.11% in 2022 and at 0.19% in 2023, while the 10-year stayed at 1.11%, and the 30-year yield at 1.82%. The three-month Treasury note was yielding 0.09%, the 10-year Treasury 1.44% and the 30-year Treasury was yielding 2.25% near the close. Improving economy, but Fed will stay quietAlthough Wednesday’s indicators missed to the downside, a report of economic activity showed improvement, and economists see inflation rising, but not at a troubling rate, which will allow rates to remain near zero for a couple of years, in contrast to market fears. Modest expansion of economic activity occurred in the six weeks from January through mid-February in most Federal Reserve districts, according to the Beige Book, released Wednesday by the Fed. Businesses reported optimism for the next six to 12 months, as more people will be vaccinated. Leisure and hospitality remained “restrained,” although “a few” areas saw slight improvement. Consumer spending and auto sales varied. Manufacturing improved “moderately” despite supply chain disruptions, which led to moderate cost increases. “On balance, commercial real estate conditions in the hotel, retail, and office sectors deteriorated somewhat, while activity in the multifamily sector remained steady and the industrial segment continued to strengthen,” according to the report. Sarah House, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, expects the Fed to “be on hold” at least through the end of next year. She expects inflation in that period to slightly exceed the Fed’s 2% target, perhaps by 25 basis points, which “might not be enough to make the Fed move immediately.” Fed members could raise their inflation expectations when the next Summary of Economic Projections is released after its April 27-28 meeting, House said during a webinar. The labor market weakness, if it persists, could “keep the Fed on the sidelines” if inflation expectations don’t surge, she said. While signs suggest inflation will be higher, the question, she said, if how high and for how long. “consumers have the means to spend and will be eager to, setting up demand inflation” when the pandemic ends. Scott Colbert, executive vice president and chief economist at Commerce Trust Co., said, “With interest rates as low as they are today, bond fund investors are rightfully worried about what could happen if (or when) interest rates begin to rise.” However, he said, while rising interest rates result in lower bond prices, “the reinvestment of all maturities and coupons compounds at those higher rates, over time offsetting the decline in bond prices.” Gradual rate hikes, he said, would push projected cumulative returns for investors in intermediate bond portfolios from about 6.1% over the next decade to 8.4%. “And amazingly, if rates spike up immediately, the return increases to almost 20.4% as higher coupons offset the initial negative return by the third year,” Colbert said. “Ironically, bond investors should be rooting and cheering for higher rates rather than fearing them. This is why we do not encourage investors to abandon the bond market or to move materially short in maturity with their investment allocation.” A higher interest rate environment is expected. As the Fed cuts its asset purchases and starts raising rates, which Colbert sees in about two years, this could “over a two-year period push cash yields to something approaching 2% once again. But that’s probably four years from now.” Inflation could go as high as 3.5% on an annual basis for about six month, he said, before “a slow and steady decline” begins, with rates “hopefully … north of 2% for a period of time.” Meanwhile, private employment grew by 117,000 in February, ADP estimates, after an upwardly revised 195,000 gain in January, first reported as a 174,000 increase. Economists polled by IFR Markets expected 170,000 jobs to be added. “The labor market continues to post a sluggish recovery across the board,” said ADP Chief Economist Nela Richardson. “We’re seeing large-sized companies increasingly feeling the effects of COVID-19, while job growth in the goods producing sector pauses. With the pandemic still in the driver’s seat, the service sector remains well below its pre-pandemic levels; however, this sector is one that will likely benefit the most over time with reopenings and increased consumer confidence.” The report was “disappointing given the growing optimism for a quickening economic recovery,” said Marvin Loh, senior global macro strategist at State Street. Despite a 26,000 increase, leisure and hospitality posted its second-to-worst showing since April, he said. While restrictions and lockdowns have helped curb the number of new infections, they “are certainly at play in these figure,” Loh added. ”Some of what is encouraging is that the education and healthcare sectors showed some of the stronger gains at a sector level, as schools start to reopen and the pace of vaccinations quicken.” While the labor market continues to improve, he said, “slowing pace of gains in the ADP report pushes against a view that we have seen a quickening recovery at the start of the year.” While the employment report “has not matched the results from ADP well since the start of the pandemic,” Loh added, “expectations of a February rebound in the official employment data to be released this Friday is unlikely to change.” Separately, the Institute for Supply Management services index fell to 55.3 in February from 58.7 in January. Economists expected a 58.7 read. The business activity/production index fell to 55.5 from 59.9. “There was a pullback in the rate of growth in the services sector in February,” said Anthony Nieves, chair of the ISM services business survey committee. “Respondents are mostly optimistic about business recovery and the economy.” The downturn “is jarring after a run of better-than-expected economic indicators in recent weeks,” said Wells Fargo Senior Economist Tim Quinlan. “There is no one-off factor here that cushions the blow.” Spending on services should soon surge, he suggests, as the number of new COVID cases has dropped, but apparently there were no signs of this growth in February. The prices paid index, at 71.8, is at its highest level since the fall of 2008. “This reading need not imply runaway inflation; what it does say is that prices are rising across the service sector,” Quinlan said. “To that point, 16 out of 17 industries surveyed reported higher prices.” Weather probably played an issue in the slide in the index, said Roiana Reid, U.S. economist at Berenberg Capital Markets. But, the index still suggests expansion in February. “We expect sentiment to jump in the coming months as vaccines become widely distributed, states lift restrictions, and persons gain enough confidence to resume certain activities,” she said. “Employment growth in the service sector is set to re-accelerate.” Christine Albano contributed to this report.
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The creator of the notorious stock-to-flow model (S2F), Plan B has recently detailed that the price of bitcoin has surpassed the S2F model price by 26%. The strong momentum has a number of crypto enthusiasts thinking that bitcoin prices reaching the $100k to $288k range by the year’s end is possible. Price of Bitcoin 26% Higher Than S2F Trajectory Plan B’s stock-to-flow model otherwise known as (S2F or S2FX) is a popular chart that measures the existing number of BTC in circulation (stock) and pairs it against the number of issued coins minted during mining (flow). To many crypto enthusiasts, the S2F model so far has been fairly consistent and following along the mapped trajectory Plan B and others have estimated. In November 2020, the S2F creator doubled down and told the public that there was “no doubt whatsoever” in his mind that his S2F model was “correct.” Plan B shared a chart on Wednesday that shows his S2F model has been “spot on” since he created the S2F model back in March 2019. At the time, Plan B said that he predicts the price of BTC will “tap $100K-288K before [December] 2021. In fact, I have new data that confirms the supply shortage is real,” he added. On March 1, 2021, Plan B revealed that the S2F model was still working and the price of BTC was actually 26% above the model’s predicted trajectory. “New orange dot,” Plan B tweeted. “Feb close $45,240 (Jan was $33,141 and current price is $46,500)… like clockwork.” Two days later, Plan B wrote that ever since he drafted the model back in 2019 the prediction has been on point. He said: Bitcoin S2F model was published in March 2019. The model’s out-of-sample performance (on new data after Feb 2019) has been spot on. In another tweet on Wednesday, Plan B criticized the S&P 500. “My most hated chart about bitcoin,” he said, sharing a correlation technical analysis chart. “S&P 500 correlation… S&P $4K and BTC $100K soon?” Plan B asked. Plan B’s Poll With 53,000+ Votes Shows 37.3% Believe $100k Bitcoin Prices Are Coming, 33.1% Think That $288k Prices Are Possible On February 26, the S2F author also held a poll on Twitter and the survey received 53,860 votes. Plan B’s Twitter survey poll asked: “Do you think bitcoin will reach $500K, $288K (S2FX model) or $100K (S2Fv2 model) before December 2021 .. or will BTC stay below $100K?” The poll had shown that 37.3% or the majority of participants think BTC will reach $100k. A touch less 33.1% thinks that $288k BTC prices are actually possible. 18.9% of the votes say that BTC will remain under the $100k handle and 10.7% voted BTC could reach $500k per unit. During the last week, a number of bitcoiners have also been congratulating Plan B for his S2F predictions seemingly coming to fruition. “Stock to flow, quite incredible to see it play out,” one trader said and called Plan B a legend. Although, there’s plenty of S2F naysayers who have criticized Plan B’s stock-to-flow model in the past, but in more recent days S2F haters have been quieter. Despite the critics, Plan B still seems extremely confident about his prediction and the S2F model as he noted on February 20, 2021, that the price of BTC reached the $55k target that he predicted in March 2019. “$55k feels very natural and even low now, but back in early 2019 people laughed at [CNBC’s Joe Kernen] for just mentioning the possibility of $55k BTC,” Plan B tweeted that day. The S2F model’s creator also mentioned that the Wall Street Journal also noted that Plan B’s S2F model was on track as it completed the $55k zone last month. News.Bitcoin.com readers who are interested in tracking the live version of the S2F model can follow the trajectory here. What do you think about Plan B’s S2F chart and the possibility of $100k to 288k prices in 2021? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below. Tags in this story $100K, $288k, Bitcoin, BTC, BTC Prices, Critics, Cryptocurrency, Demand, Fiat, gold, Market Update, model, Modeling Bitcoin’s Value, Plan B, Price Model, report, S2F, S2F model, Scarcity, stock-to-flow, stock-to-flow ratio, Traders Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons, Plan B Twitter, Stock-to-Flow, Twitter, 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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On Feb. 20, Ether (ETH) price rallied to a new high at $2,015 and this caused multiple indicators to display signs of excessive optimism. While the excitement could be easily justified by Ether's  year-to-date 176% gain, these warning signs should not be ignored. On of the primary driving factors of the current bullish sentiment is the launch of CME ETH futures and Grayscale Investments ETH Trust reaching $6.3 billion assets under management. The DeFi phenomenon also continues as there is currently more than $21 billion worth of Ether locked in DeFi. Crypto Fear & Greed Index. Source: alternative.me Currently, the Crypto Fear & Greed Index is at 93, indicating "Extreme Greed" according to its methodology. Many traders use the metric as a counter trading signal, meaning, the extreme fear level can be a sign that investors are bullish and a buying opportunity is present. In contrast, when investors are getting too greedy, it could be a sign that the market is due for a correction. Unlike the excessively leveraged retail traders, the more experienced market makers and whales hs been skeptical of the never-ending rally in Ether. Regardless of the rationale for the price peak, the 36% price correction that followed was accelerated by large liquidations. Ether futures contracts aggregate liquidations. Source: Bybt.com The liquidation of $2 billion in long futures contracts from Feb. 19 to Feb. 23 represented 28% of the total open interest. Thus, one should expect significant deterioration in market sentiment, as depicted on the previous Fear & Greed indicator. Surprisingly, none of that happened on the Ether derivatives markets, as both futures contracts premium (contango) and the options skew remained bullish. The futures premium held very healthy levels By measuring the expense gap between futures and the regular spot market, a trader can gauge the level of bullishness in the market. The 3-month futures should usually trade with a 10% or higher premium versus regular spot exchanges. Whenever this indicator fades or turns negative, this is an alarming red flag. This situation is known as backwardation and indicates that the market is turning bearish. OKEx 3-month ETH futures basis. Source: Skew.com The above chart shows that the indicator peaked at 39% on Feb. 20 as Ether touched its all-time high. Nevertheless, it has kept above 16% during the entire correction down to $1,300. This data shows that professional traders remained confident in Ether's price potential. The options skew remained neutral-to-bullish When analyzing options, the 25% delta skew is the single-most relevant gauge. This indicator compares similar call (buy) and put (sell) options side-by-side. It will turn negative when the put options premium is higher than similar-risk call options. A negative skew translates to a higher cost of downside protection and indicating bullishness. The opposite holds when market makers are bearish, causing the 25% delta skew indicator to gain positive ground. ETH options 25% delta skew. Source: laevitas.ch Over the past month, there hasn't been a single incident of a sustainable positive delta skew. Therefore, there is no evidence that option traders demanded more significant premiums for downside protection. This data is very encouraging, considering that Ethereum faced a heavy sell-off but the futures and options metrics discussed above held bullish levels during the downturn. As Ether managed to recover quickly from its recent $1,300 dip, investors gained further confidence that the uptrend had not been broken. The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.
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Ballard Spahr LLP is bulking up its Minneapolis office as well as its finance department with the hiring of Robert Borhart as it seeks to expand its corporate trust business. Borhart, a veteran financial services attorney in the corporate trust arena, joined the firm’s finance department in an of counsel role this month. The finance department represents clients across public and private markets on debt and equity transactions. “Bob’s addition to our 110-attorney force will help us broaden the array of skills we already provide and deepen the relationships we have with clients,” said Dominic De Simone, co-chair of the finance department. "Bob’s addition to our 110-attorney force will help us broaden the array of skills we already provide and deepen the relationships we have with clients,” said Dominic De Simone, co-chair of the finance department at Ballard Spahr. Borhart’s work has focused “on matters involving corporate trust structures” covering a spectrum of products including residential mortgage-backed securities, commercial mortgage-backed securities, asset-backed products, municipal bonds, and corporate bonds and involving regulatory, compliance, litigation, and transaction review. Borhart spent nine years at Wells Fargo where he most recently held the title of senior vice president and managing counsel of the legal team in the firm’s global commercial and securities division of the legal department. Before Wells Fargo, Borhart was a founding partner of the firm Bonner & Borhart LLP, served as a special assistant to former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson, and early in his legal career was an associate at Dorsey & Whitney LLP. “With its attorneys who handle a wide range of debt and equity, structured finance, and municipal bond matters, Ballard Spahr is a perfect place for me to expand my practice,” Borhart said in the company’s statement announcing his hiring. The Philadelphia-based firm has a national business with about 650 lawyers, including 50 public finance attorneys in 12 of its 15 offices. The firm’s Minneapolis presence was established after its merger with Lindquist & Vennum LLP which was announced in 2017 and closed in early 2018. The merger extended Ballard's physical presence to Minneapolis and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and expanded its Denver office. The firm lacked an on-the-ground Minneapolis public finance presence until its hiring in 2019 of Benjamin Johnson, a partner.
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Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin The Midtown Manhattan skyline creates a backdrop for historic buildings along 59th Street. getty The number of new listings for residential properties in Manhattan saw its first year-over-year increase for 2021 in February, while the number of contracts signed fell slightly but remained well above the figures from the same period last year. From February 12-18, there were 338 new residential listings in Manhattan, an increase of 3.4% year-over-year, according to a new report from UrbanDigs. The year-over-year increase marks Manhattan’s first since late 2020. The number of contracts signed (272) continued to trend upward, showing its 14th-straight week of year-over-year improvement with a 46.2% increase compared with the previous year. Week-over-week, the number of contracts signed dipped slightly from 297 to 272, an exception likely due to the President’s Day holiday, according to the report. Manhattan properties on the market for more than 120 days are selling for about 87.1% of the ... [+] original asking price in 2021. UrbanDigs | Datawrapper While new rental listings (666) have outpaced new listings (338) by a nearly two-to-one ratio, the number of properties leased (495) fell 2.8% year-over-year. Alternatively, the number of rentals taken off the market remained elevated with a 215.7% increase year-over-year. UrbanDigs attributes the number of listings removed to landlords opting to “warehouse” or hold available inventory for later in the year when market conditions might be more favorable. But not everyone is hedging their bets, so-to-speak. The number of new rentals coupled with a fairly average number of leases signed suggests that some landlords are looking to make the most of the current market “by diversifying their leasing timelines,” according to the report. Manhattan real estate has enjoyed a resurgence in recent months, creating competition at almost every level of the housing market. But competition hasn’t exactly made it a sellers’ market. This Hudson Square loft, a former stable that was imagined by interior designer Nick Dine and ... [+] executed by THINK Construction, received 100 inquiries and seven offers after hitting the market in early February. Warburg Realty Many of Manhattan’s aspirational sellers — those pricing above market levels in the hopes of negotiating down — are seeing their properties linger on the market and require multiple price cuts to entice a buyer. According to UrbanDigs, sellers who list closer to prevailing market prices saw a 96% median return on the asking price. Alternatively, for units sold after 120 days on the market, sellers saw a median of roughly 87% of the asking price. Warburg Realty brokers Rachel Ostow Lustbader and Bill Kowalczuk share the listing for a Hudson Square apartment that hit the market in early February and received 100 inquiries, 14 showings and 7 offers. Within 48 hours of listing, the two-bedroom apartment went under contract for 20% above the $1.595 million asking price. "Appropriately-priced homes, apartments and townhouses are selling very quickly, often with more than one bid," Ostow Lustbader said. The quick sale of the Hudson Square loft at 104 Charlton Street demonstrates how proper pricing can ... [+] result in a quick sale in Manhattan's reinvigorated housing market. Warburg Realty In his latest column for Forbes, Warburg Realty founder Frederick Peters explained that deal flow often hinges on the seller’s expectations, even in the hottest of markets. “As soon as prices stray outside the narrow band in which buyers feel comfortable making offers, the property stagnates,” he said. Peters opined that an increase in sales volume in recent weeks points to New York’s real estate scene having a busy spring, but cautioned that quality inventory remains the biggest hurdle. “The accelerating pace of sales means that, as more properties go into contract, inventory levels go down,” he said. “Popular locations already display a lack of good product which leaves many buyers frustrated. As more and more people enter the market, this lack of property could increase, tilting New York back towards market equilibrium.” Warburg Realty is an exclusive member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.
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Oklahoma’s gross receipts were down slightly in February year-over-year as sales tax collections rose amid federal stimulus funding, State Treasurer Randy McDaniel said. “The Oklahoma economy is performing better than many other states,” he said. “While gross receipts indicate the pandemic is constraining business and personal activity, the state is responding to the significant financial and social challenges relatively well.” Gross receipts to the Treasury were down by less than 1% compared to collections from February 2020. But sales tax receipts are up by almost 8%, McDaniel said. Collections from all sources in February totaled $950.8 million, down by $6 million, or 0.6%, from February 2020. Since March of last year, monthly gross receipts have been below prior year collections every month except one, and that was due to the delayed income tax filings in July. February sales tax collections exceeded those of the prior February by $28.2 million, or 7.9%. That marks only the second time in the past year that sales tax receipts have exceeded those of the same month of the prior year. Both instances are likely due to expenditure of the two rounds of federal stimulus payments, McDaniel said. Individual income tax collections were up by 2.2% and corporate receipts dropped by 56.4%. Gross production collections are down by 45.9% and motor vehicle receipts were off by 9%. The largest percentage of revenue growth for the month and past year was from the medical marijuana tax. This tax produced $5.5 million in February, a 64.7% increase over the year. For the past 12 months, the marijuana tax has produced $60.3 million, a jump of more than 100% from the trailing period. Combined gross receipts from the past 12 months of $13.11 billion are below collections from the previous 12 months by $601.6 million, or 4.4%, McDaniel said. All major revenue sources show contraction during the period ranging from gross production taxes at 43.6% to combined income taxes at 0.8%. McDaniel said the Oklahoma Business Conditions Index in February remained above growth neutral for a third month. The February index was set at 67.1, compared to 65.4 in January, 55.9 in December and 49.4 in November. Numbers above 50 indicate economic expansion is expected during the next three to six months.
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One of the biggest debates taking place on a global scale relates to energy production and the integration of renewable energy sources into an electrical grid dominated by carbon-based fuels and nuclear power.  Energy Web Token (EWT) is one project that is growing in popularity as it aims to integrate blockchain technology into the energy sector. The project also plans to help with application development and it is creating a decentralized energy exchange. Data from Cointelegraph Markets and TradingView shows that the price of EWT increased 65% from a low of $11.38 on Feb. 28 to a new all-time high of $18.78 on March 3 with a record $8.66 million in 24-hour trading volume. EWT/USDT 4-hour chart. Source: TradingView The main development helping drive the price of EWT higher was its March 1 listing on Kraken exchange. Kraken is currently the fourth-largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume and has provided EWT with its largest trading market to date. Trading volume for EWT increased by 265% following its listing on Kraken and today the price continues to move higher as community members speculate on which exchange will list EWT next. EWT announces staking and utility nodes Another source of optimism for EWT came from the Feb. 25 announcement that staking would soon be enabled for token holders in the form of escrow-based decentralized service-level agreements (SLA), which will be used to create utility nodes that will offer services on the network with the stake acting as an incentive to provide quality services. According to Energy Web’s Chief Commercial Officer Jesse Morris, the staking mechanism created for EWT is a “new kind of crypto model.” Morris said: “It's key to unlocking tens of thousands of utility nodes (run by the ecosystem) offering cheap, reliable IT services to grid operators. No more vendor lock-in or RFPs required to standup an enterprise app.” VORTECS™ data from Cointelegraph Markets Pro began to detect a bullish outlook for EWT on Feb. 27, prior to the recent price rise. The VORTECS™ score, exclusive to Cointelegraph, is an algorithmic comparison of historic and current market conditions derived from a combination of data points including market sentiment, trading volume, recent price movements and Twitter activity. VORTECS™ Score (green) vs. EWT price. Source: Cointelegraph Markets Pro As seen in the chart above, the VORTECS™ score for EWT reached a high of 67 on Feb. 27, roughly 60 hours before the price began to break out from $12.91 to its current price of $17.91. At the time of writing EWT's VORTECS™ score stands at 80. The debate surrounding renewable energy and its integration into the global economy is likely just getting started, and Energy Web Chain could have the first-mover advantage in the decentralization of the energy industry. Increasing incentives for token holders, along with new exchange listings has EWT well-positioned to become a leader in the blockchain-based energy marketplace and this is bound to draw in new investors. 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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A 4% increase in the par amount of municipal securities traded in 2020 came as a surprise following a volatile year and record year in municipal bond issuance. This past year the municipal market had about $3.1 trillion dollars in total par amount traded compared to approximately $3 trillion dollars in 2019, according to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s 2020 Fact Book released on Wednesday. Issuers took advantage of a low-interest environment, said Marcelo Vieira, MSRB director of research. “The total dollar volume of secondary market transactions rose relative to 2019, but I was expecting a bigger increase,” said Michael Decker, vice president of policy and research at the Bond Dealers of America. “I thought with all of the volatility last March and April and all of the fallout of the pandemic, we might have seen a bigger spike in trading volume.” 2020 was a record year in municipal bond issuance with a volume of $474 billion and over 12,000 deals. “We had a record year for issuance,” Decker added. “It was a strong year for trading volume, but I would have thought with the volatility in March and a very strong year for new issues, we would have seen a bigger spike in trading volume.” The MSRB also found in its 2020 report that disclosures provided to the municipal market on an ongoing basis increased by 4.2% over the past year, buoyed by event-based disclosures such as changes in ratings and bankruptcy. Continuing disclosures increased to 156,847 in 2020, up 4.2% from 2019, the MSRB said. Event-based disclosures increased 15.2% in 2020, mainly driving that overall increase. The MSRB also found that the total number of transactions and par amount trades in taxable municipal bonds increased significantly compared to 2019 levels which can be attributed to a spike in taxable issuance in 2020. This past year had a 9.8% increase in taxable security trades to 676,248 trades and accounted for about 8% of all municipal securities traded in 2020. The par amount of taxable securities traded increased 52.9% to $441.9 billion, accounting for 14.1% of total par amount traded. “The increase in taxable trades and par amount traded accompanied a spike in taxable issuance in 2020,” said Marcelo Vieira, MSRB director of research. “As noted in our review of the municipal bond market in 2020, taxable issuance in 2020 was more than double that in 2019, driven in part by issuers taking advantage of the low-interest rate environment to refund outstanding tax-exempt debt with taxable debt.” This past year had a decrease in trades of $100,000 or less, typically associated with retail investors, down 3.9% in 2020 compared to 2019. Institutional trades — trades of over $1 million — increased 5.3%. That trend is in line with years-long shift away from the traditional household purchases of munis. Last week the MSRB published a report finding that customer purchases of fixed-rate, tax-exempt municipal securities of $100,000 or less decreased by 46%. Meanwhile, institutional-sized purchases of over $1 million increased 46% in the same time period. Increased regulation in how firms treat their retail clients has encouraged firms to move client money from transactional accounts to discretionary accounts. Clients have then been moved to discretionary platforms like separately managed accounts, sources said.
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Municipal bond issuers in the Southeast sold $76.91 billion of bonds in 1,152 issues in 2020, putting volume slightly ahead of 2019, according to Refinitiv data. The 1.6% volume boost in the 11-state region trailed the national increase of 14.3%, which set an all-time record of $483.64 billion in 13,273 deals in a year indelibly marked by the coronavirus pandemic. Expect fundamental shifts in the region to drive issuance higher in the long run, according to John Mousseau, president, CEO and director of fixed income at Cumberland Advisors. “The Southeast — Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, they will continue to see migration of Northeast citizens — [because of] retirement and taxes,” Mousseau said. “On top of that, the red states are turning more blue, which probably means more spending down the road and hence more issuance.” North Carolina, for example, in November re-elected a Democratic governor, while Georgia voted for Joe Biden in November and sent two Democrats to the Senate in January. In 2020, issuers from Florida made it the fourth largest source of municipal bonds nationally and the largest in the Southeast. In September, it recorded the region's largest deal of 2020, when BofA Securities priced the Florida State Board of Administration Finance Corp.’s $3.5 billion of taxable revenue bonds. Investor demand for muni supply allowed the deal to be upsized by $1 billion. The single deal made the State Board of Administration Finance Corp. the region's largest issuer in 2020. Proceeds went to bolster the state’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. "It is quite clear that issuers in the region have taken advantage of the low-rate environment," said John Hallacy, founder of John Hallacy Consulting LLC. "The Cat Fund is in the market on a regular basis and is very careful about trying to tap the market when the best rate is available." The Southeast will continue to see migration from the Northeast, said John Mousseau of Cumberland Advisors, which is likely to drive municipal bond issuance higher. Bloomberg News Ben Watkins, a member of the corporation's board and director of Florida's Division of Bond Finance, told The Bond Buyer Tuesday that a variety of factors drove the deal's success. “Our strategy on this deal was a little bit different. Some of the previous transactions we had executed for Cat Fund had been tax-exempt in the 2005-06 era when we blew out the fund from six hurricanes in two years and we have done pre-event deals which we do on a taxable basis, which was what this was, for liquidity purposes.” Prior to this deal, Watkins said the reception from the investor community had been mixed. He attributed this to “a misunderstanding regarding what a Cat Fund is and what it is not. This is fundamentally a muni credit secured by taxes on insurance policies." Watkins said the underwriter did a good job in lining up nearly 40 one-on-one calls with investors ahead of the sale and that they had over 100 accounts participate in the transaction. “So we really were looking to broaden the investor base, so that in the future when there may come a time when we need access to credit, we want everyone to understand this credit and what better way to understand this credit than to own it,” he said. “As a consequence the Cat Fund is going to be very well-positioned on a go-forward basis with an educated investor and analyst community for any future borrowings,” Watkins added. "The Cat Fund is going to be very well-positioned on a go-forward basis with an educated investor and analyst community for any future borrowings,” said Ben Watkins, director of Florida's Division of Bond Finance. Bloomberg News The issuer coming in second place was also from the Sunshine State: Miami-Dade County. The county sold $2.97 billion of debt in 15 issues in 2020. The single biggest deal from Miami-Dade was a $513 million competitive sale of taxable transit system sales surtax revenue refunding bonds which was won by Morgan Stanley in August. According to Michael Rinaldi, Fitch senior director and head of U.S. local governments, the Florida economy and its employment picture has been improving. He told The Bond Buyer that the state was doing favorably when compared to the U.S. average in recovering jobs lost to the pandemic, increasing job gains at a slightly better pace through December. He said a lot of that had to do with policy at the state and local level. “Florida has opened up its economy at a more rapid pace than may other states, particularly those in the Northeast,” Rinaldi said. “And so there’s a decent amount of economic activity taking place.” In his State of the State Address on Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also stressed that because Florida’s economy is open, revenue is coming in at levels higher than the most recent revised estimates. “For the last three months — December to February — preliminary estimates peg the increase in revenue at more than $800 million over and above the December revenue estimation,” he said. “Florida is below the national average in unemployment and much lower than our peer states of Texas, New York and California. We also anticipate downward revisions of December’s unemployment numbers to reflect even stronger jobs numbers.” Rounding out the five largest issuers in the region for the year were the Virginia Housing Development Authority ($1.59 billion in 14 issues), the Alabama Public School and College Authority ($1.48 billion in two issues), and the state of Louisiana ($1.43 billion in four issues). "One item that was missing in the region was deficit financing," Hallacy said. "I do not think issuers in this region perceived the need. Instead they trimmed their budgets within reason." Eric Kim, a Fitch director, said that for the most part the agency hadn't seen credit trends bifurcated among the states. He said that most state revenues were performing better than was anticipated. “Relative to pre-pandemic expectations, most states are still trailing, but not all," Kim said. “So things are better than had been expected at the start of the pandemic.”
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Citigroup says bitcoin is at a tipping point and the cryptocurrency could become “the currency of choice for international trade.” The firm wrote in a report that “we could be at the start of massive transformation of cryptocurrency into the mainstream.” Bitcoin Is at the Tipping Point, Citi Says Citigroup’s Global Perspectives & Solutions (GPS) team released a 108-page report Monday entitled “Bitcoin At the Tipping Point.” The Citi GPS report explains that “the biggest change with bitcoin is the shift from it being primarily a retail-focused endeavor to something that looks attractive for institutional investors.” The firm attributes the change to “Specific enhancements to exchanges, trading, data, and custody services” that are “increasing and being revamped to accommodate the requirements of institutional investors.” Highlighting “the advantage of bitcoin in global payments, including its decentralized design, lack of foreign exchange exposure, fast (and potentially cheaper) money movements, secure payment channels, and traceability,” the report details: These attributes combined with bitcoin’s global reach and neutrality could spur it to become the currency of choice for international trade. The report also explains that bitcoin has seen three different stages of focus so far: technological oddity, censorship-resistant money, and digital gold. It further predicts that we will soon see a fourth stage of focus as bitcoin transitions to becoming an international trade currency. “This would take advantage of bitcoin’s decentralized and borderless design, its lack of foreign exchange exposure, its speed and cost advantage in moving money, the security of its payments, and its traceability,” the Citi report describes. While pointing out a number of remarkable developments in bitcoin over the past seven years, the report outlines a few obstacles in the cryptocurrency’s way to becoming a globally-used “trade currency.” Among them are marketplace security — including tether’s role to bitcoin — the environmental impact of mining, and institutional concerns, such as capital lock-up, insurance, and custody limitations. The report adds: There are a host of risks and obstacles that stand in the way of bitcoin progress. But weighing these potential hurdles against the opportunities leads to the conclusion that bitcoin is at a tipping point and we could be at the start of massive transformation of cryptocurrency into the mainstream. “Bitcoin’s future is thus still uncertain,” the report additionally asserts, reiterating that “developments in the near term are likely to prove decisive as the currency balances at the tipping point of mainstream acceptance or a speculative implosion.” Meanwhile, the report notes that “Large institutional investors and organizations are choosing to participate in and support bitcoin” while “Regulators are beginning to lay the groundwork for the asset to potentially enter the mainstream.” It further emphasizes that this progression occurring “in just over a decade makes bitcoin remarkable regardless of its future,” concluding: Bitcoin is at the tipping point of its existence and the path forward from here may have broad and widening repercussions. What do you think about Citi’s view on bitcoin? Let us know in the comments section below. Tags in this story 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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CNBC's Jim Cramer said Wednesday he anticipates a ferocious travel recovery from the Covid pandemic, a development that would have significant implications for companies with exposure to the industry and for the U.S. economy overall. "It's going to be a boom here in this country, and I don't think people are ready for it," Cramer said on "Squawk on the Street." "When I speak to the pharmaceutical companies, they think it's going to be a boom. Transportation companies think it's going to be a boom. .. This may be a sky's-the-limit situation." The hospitality and travel industries have been among the most challenged during the coronavirus crisis, as various business restrictions and health concerns kept people at home — or, instead, had them ditching flights and opting for alternative vacations like an RV trip. But optimism is beginning to increase as Covid vaccinations are becoming more widely available. On Tuesday, for example, President Joe Biden said the U.S. was now on track to have enough doses for every American adult by the end of May. That's about two months sooner than the administration had been predicting. As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported about 78.6 million vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S., with about 26.1 million of those being second doses of Pfizer and Moderna's shot. The Food and Drug Administration recently granted emergency clearance to a single-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson as well. Shares of hard-hit travel companies, like cruise operator Royal Caribbean and the airlines, have been rallying in recent months in hopes that vaccinations would kick start demand. The airline-tracking U.S. Global Jets ETF is up over 50% since Oct. 1. Cramer said the monthslong rally in beaten-up travel stocks reflects strong investor belief in big recovery, suggesting the interest in the stocks might be coming from more than just retail traders. According to the chief executive of Royal Caribbean, which has seen its stock rise about 45% since Oct. 1, there is reason to be bullish on a travel recovery. The cruise operator is seeing really encouraging early booking data, CEO Richard Fain told CNBC last week. "Some of the things we thought [were] going to happen aren't happening. They're better than we thought," Fain said, specifically pointing to the age of people booking trips. "We really thought older people would be more cautious. Turns out they want to get out of the house, too." While staying closer to home with road trips was popular during the pandemic, Cramer said he expects people to want to travel "everywhere" once they feel comfortable post-vaccination. "I think they're going to go in a different way," such as choosing to use home-rental company Airbnb for lodging, Cramer said. That could be positive for the stock. "This is one where they can have a lot of hosts that are ready and a lot of guests. It's going to be a good match," the "Mad Money" host said. "Have you ever seen the leverage in that model? It doesn't cost Airbnb to have anymore hosts but they still get the vig. I want to be in that business."
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Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin Mortgage rates notched their biggest increase in almost a year this week. Will they keep rising? getty Mortgage rates made a notable jump this week, hitting their highest point since last July.  According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the average rate on 30-year mortgage loans is now 3.23%—up from 3.08% the week prior and the biggest week-over-week jump in nearly a full year. For borrowers who failed to lock their rates last week, the bump could be costly. On a $250,000 loan, the difference in monthly payments is only about $21. Over the life of the mortgage, though, the discrepancy is upwards of $7,000.   Why the rise? This isn’t the first bump in rates since 2021 began—though it is the biggest. Rates have been increasing for weeks now, rising from 2.86% at the start of the year and hovering just below 3% for most of February. Rates reached their lowest point on record last December.  According to Michael Blake, president of capital markets at Fairway Independent Mortgage, there’s a lot behind the recent increases in rates. But largely, it’s positive data surrounding retail sales, manufacturing and other important market indicators. “All of these point to a strong economic recovery at some point and are inflationary,” Blake said. Another factor at work? That’d be recent vaccines news—as well as what it means for the economy. “As more people get the vaccine, it means that we move closer to getting back to business,” said Melissa Cohn, executive mortgage banker at William Raveis Mortgage. “Combined with the new stimulus package, it signals inflation, and inflation equals higher rates.” Will rates keep rising? Rates may continue climbing as the economy recovers from the pandemic. Just how much (or when) is uncertain, but Blake expects the rise to be “gradual.” “I can’t say when that’s going to happen,” Blake said. “But we can expect rates to gradually increase as the economy becomes stronger.” For buyers on the fence—or homeowners mulling a potential refinance—it might be smart to lock rates now. Locks typically last 30 to 90 days and can protect you from rate increases while you wait to close on your loan. “If you like the rate you are quoted, you should lock it in now,” Cohn said. “The more good economic news we get, the higher rates will go.” Just make sure you have your application ready and your lender is prepared to close before the lock expires.
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Shoppers enter a Michaels store in Miami, Florida. Scott McIntyre | Bloomberg | Getty Images Check out the companies making headlines in midday trading.  Rocket Companies – The online mortgage provider's stock dropped close to 20% after a surprise rally in the previous session as analysts urged caution in the heightened speculative trading in the shares. The stock soared more than 70% Tuesday for its best day ever on no apparent news. Rocket is one of the most heavily shorted names by hedge funds, which may have made it attractive to the Reddit trading crowd. Lyft – The ride-sharing company's shares climbed more than 8% after the company said the last week of February was its best week in terms of volume since pandemic lockdowns began. Lyft revised its adjusted EBITDA loss forecast for the first quarter due to an increase in rider volume last month. JPMorgan also reiterated its call on the stock as a top pick, noting it was bullish on the company as coronavirus lockdowns ease. Michaels – The arts and crafts retailer saw its shares soaring 22% after it said Wednesday it agreed to be taken private in a $3.3 billion deal with Apollo Global Management. Apollo will acquire all outstanding Michaels stock for $22 per share in a tender offer. That represents a 47% premium to the closing price on Friday, the day before speculation of the deal was publicized in the media. The companies value the transaction at $5 billion. Norwegian Cruise Line, American Airlines – A number of classic reopening plays were on the rise after President Joe Biden said the U.S. will have a large enough supply of coronavirus vaccines to inoculate every adult in the nation by the end of May. American Airlines popped more than 3%, while Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line jumped 6% and more than 7%, respectively. Ambarella – The semiconductor company's stock jumped more than 6% following Ambarella's fourth quarter earnings. The company reported revenue of $62.1 million during the period, which topped the expected $58.1 million, according to estimates from FactSet. Ambarella said demand for its products accelerated over the last year, with more than 175 unique customers purchasing engineering parts or development systems. Wendy's – The restaurant stock slid more than 5% after Wendy's missed estimates on the top and bottom lines for the fourth quarter. The company reported 17 cents in earnings per share on $474 million of revenue. Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv had penciled in 18 cents per share and $476 million of revenue. Nordstrom – Shares of the retailer fell about 4% despite beating Wall Street estimates on the top and bottom lines for its fourth quarter. The company ended the quarter with higher-than-typical inventory, however, leading some analysts to raise concerns about margins in the near term. FuboTV — Shares of the streaming service sank about 13% after reporting a big loss last quarter. FuboTV lost $2.47 per share, and it is unclear if that was comparable to analysts' estimates. Revenue, however, came in at $105.1 million, higher than the forecast $95.1 million, according to Refinitiv. Dollar Tree – Shares of the discount retailer advanced more than 4% after Dollar Tree beat earnings estimates for the fourth quarter. The company earned $2.13 per share, compared to the Street consensus for $2.11. Revenue, however, missed expectations. The company reported sales of $6.77 billion, slightly short of the $6.79 billion analysts surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting. DraftKings — Shares of the sports betting company rose less than 1% after announcing a partnership with DISH Network to integrate DraftKings' sportsbook and daily fantasy experiences into the Hopper TV platform, with potential future expansion to Sling TV and Boost Mobile. Shares of DISH Networks also rose more than 2%. Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world.
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tupungato | iStock | Getty Images Between the federal stimulus package passed in December and the one making its way through Congress, there could soon be more than $45 billion in financial assistance available to those who've fallen behind on their rent. All states have already been allocated funds from a $25 billion pot of federal money included in the earlier relief bill, and the $1.9 trillion stimulus package in the works and expected to pass this month sets aside another $20 billion. Advocates say the assistance could help millions of Americans stay in their homes during the pandemic. However, they also worry some people will run into issues trying to access the funds. More from Personal Finance:Covid is making it harder to get into a top collegeHere's how delaying college may impact your future earningsCollege can cost as much as $70,000 a year That's because the process of applying for the money varies state by state, and the rollout of the programs hasn't been quick. While the first round of $25 billion in rental assistance was passed more than two months ago, just 15 states have begun giving the money out, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. "But new programs are opening regularly," said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The best way to increase your odds of getting the assistance is to stay informed about the rules, experts say. Here's what you need to know. Am I eligible? To qualify for the assistance, at least one member in your household has to be eligible for unemployment benefits or attest in writing that they've lost income or incurred significant expenses due to the pandemic. You will also need to demonstrate a risk of homelessness, which may include a past due rent or utility notice. In addition, your income level for 2020 can't exceed 80% of your area's median income, though states have been directed to prioritize applicants who fall at 50% or lower, as well as those who've been out of work for 90 days or more. Are the funds available now? Not all states have set up there rental assistance program yet, but all states should eventually have one. "If individuals are in a state where the program has not opened, they should check to see if their locality is offering a rental assistance program," Yentel said. How do I apply? "Where or how to apply will vary city by city," said Emily Benfer, a visiting law professor at Wake Forest University. Many areas already had existing rental assistance funds, and it will be through one of these that you apply for the new aid. In other cases, new programs will be created to disburse the money, Benfer said. "Renters should contact local housing groups, their representatives or the local 211/311 lines to identify programs and learn how to apply," she added. Many programs established under the Treasury's $25 billion do not have funding caps. Diane Yentel president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition The National Low Income Housing Coalition has a database of rental assistance programs, too. Your landlord can also apply for you but must get your signature and provide you with a copy of the application if they do so. How much could I get? "Many programs established under the Treasury's $25 billion do not have funding caps," Yentel said. "Rather, tenants are restricted based on how many months of assistance they can receive." Some programs allow 12 months, others 15. The pot of money in President Joe Biden's stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, would allow people to access payments for up to 18 months of rent. In some cases, you can get funds to cover future rent payments, but only if there's a plan to address any debts first. The funds are paid to your landlord. If your landlord refuses to accept the funds, you may be able to get them directly. I'm worried about eviction. What should I do? Apply for the funds immediately. Also, understand your rights. Most renters should be allowed to stay in their homes at least through the end of March, thanks to the president's extension of an order announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September that made evictions for nonpayment illegal.  To evoke that protection, you'll need to attest on a declaration form that you meet a few requirements, such as expecting to earn less than $99,000 in the 2020-2021 calendar year. "If a tenant cannot pay the rent, they should provide the declaration to their property owner as soon as possible," Benfer said. In addition to the CDC ban, some states have issued their own eviction protections. Get informed about any of those protections that apply to you. Last, if your landlord ignores any of these rules, as some are doing, get a lawyer. You can find low-cost or free legal help with an eviction in your state at Lawhelp.org. One study in New Orleans found that more than 65% of tenants with no legal representation were evicted, compared with fewer than 15% of those who did have a lawyer in court. Have you recently applied for rental assistance? If you're willing to discuss you experience for a story, please email me at annie.nova@nbcuni.com Also watch: The Social Security tax cap kicks in at this salary figure in 2021
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Gary Gensler, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), has revealed his policies on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies if confirmed as the SEC chairman. Gensler is a professor at MIT who teaches cryptocurrencies. He previously served as the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). SEC Chair Nominee Gary Gensler Talks About Bitcoin Regulation Professor Gary Gensler has spoken about what his focus will be regarding bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies if he is confirmed as chairman of the SEC. His statements were made during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday. Gensler is a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he is also co-director of Fintech@CSAIL and senior advisor to the MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative. He teaches blockchain technology, digital currencies, financial technology, and public policy. Gensler is also a former Goldman Sachs partner who served as the chairman of the CFTC during the Obama administration. At his confirmation hearing, he was asked what Congress and the SEC can do to create a more forward-thinking regulatory environment for innovators in the crypto space. “As I teach at MIT on these subjects, these innovations have been a catalyst for change,” Gensler began, adding: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have brought new thinking to payments and financial inclusion but they’ve also raised new issues of investor protection that we still need to attend to. “So I think, if confirmed at the SEC, I’d work with fellow commissioners to promote new innovation but also, at the core, ensure investor protection,” he continued. Gensler clarified: “To the extent that somebody is offering an investment contract or security that’s under the SEC’s remit, and they have exchanges that operate there, then we have to make sure there’s investor protection.” On the other hand, “If it’s not that, and it’s a commodity, as bitcoin has been deemed to be, then it’s either a question for Congress … or it’s possibly a question for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission,” he described. Furthermore, the professor also said that the SEC must ensure that crypto markets “are free of fraud and manipulation,” elaborating: I think that’s the greater challenge, frankly, because some markets, usually operating overseas, have been rife with fraud. What do you think about the incoming SEC chairman’s policies on bitcoin? Let us know in the comments section below. Tags in this story 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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Dan Gilbert, chairman, Quicken Loans Anjali Sundaram | CNBC Tuesday's dramatic and abnormal spike in the stock of Rocket Companies created a major windfall for founder Dan Gilbert, at least on paper. Shares of Rocket, where Gilbert is the majority shareholder, jumped more than 70% on Tuesday, adding $17.30 per share. According to InsiderScore.com and securities filings, Gilbert owns roughly 1.9 billion shares of Rocket, putting his paper gain on the stock at more than $32 billion. The move pushed Gilbert into the top-20 of Bloomberg's Billionaire Index, with roughly $64 billion. However, some of those paper gains were quickly reversing on Wednesday. Shares of Rocket fell more than 7%. And analysts Wednesday were quick to point out how irrational the move was, saying the shares could pull back significantly from here. JPMorgan sees the stock getting cut in half. The stock was one of the most heavily shorted names in the U.S. prior to its spike, which meant that its rapid rise could be a temporary jump caused by a short squeeze. The company has also been the focus of chatter among traders on Reddit, similar to stocks like GameStop and AMC Entertainment that saw dramatic jumps and declines earlier this year. Rocket, the parent company of Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage, went public last August. Gilbert is also the owner of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.
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Las Vegas Sands is selling Las Vegas. The price tag: $6.25 billion. Vici Properties said it will pay $4 billion for the real estate — comprising the Venetian, Palazzo and the Sands Expo Convention Center. Apollo Global Management will buy the operations for $2.25 billion, roughly half financed by Sands. The sale comes as Las Vegas Sands is doubling down on its investments in Asia. Before the pandemic, Sands' properties in Asia accounted for roughly 90% of its revenue with significant investments planned to expand in both Macao and Singapore. "This company is focused on growth, and we see meaningful opportunities on a variety of fronts. Asia remains the backbone of this company and our developments in Macao and Singapore are the center of our attention," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Goldstein in a statement. In Las Vegas, its bottom line was fueled by conventions, which have been decimated by coronavirus closures and the precipitous drop in business travel and group business. In a recent earnings call, Goldstein said there's no way for Sands to return to $500 million in EBITDA without a full return to conferences. The late chairman and CEO, founder Sheldon Adelson was involved in talks about a prospective sale before his death in January. The last of the Las Vegas casino moguls made it clear on earnings calls and to company executives, his focus and hopes for company growth centered on Asia. Still, the sale of the Las Vegas properties marks the end of an era but perhaps not the end of Sands' operations in the United States. While it will keep its corporate headquarters in Nevada, the company is turning its attention to the so-called super states for gaming: New York and Texas. Sands is fiercely lobbying for a downstate casino license to build an integrated resort in New York City. Expanded gaming in the metropolitan area is a market estimated at $6 billion to $10 billion in gaming revenue alone. In Texas, legalization is still in very early stages, but the market is extremely appealing because of its population and lack of competition. Sands is also turning away from Adelson's long and notable opposition to online gaming, and beginning to explore opportunities in sports betting and other digital gambling opportunities. At this stage, the plan is for the management team at the Venetian to continue operating the properties in Las Vegas, once the deal with Apollo is complete. Signage is displayed outside the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. Roger Kisby | Bloomberg | Getty Images
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“We felt like we were doing God’s work,” explains cryptocurrency payments pioneer Erik Voorhees as he recalls trying to convert the unbelievers in the early days of Bitcoin. The man whose gambling platform SatoshiDice was once responsible for half of all Bitcoin transactions, is now an elder statesman of crypto and the CEO of the ShapeShift exchange. He remembers Bitcoin being written off as a joke at the Money 2020 conference in Las Vegas back in 2012. At the time he was working for BitInstant, one of the first Bitcoin exchanges, and they had a booth right next door to PayPal. “I remember the PayPal people nearby kind of snickering at us. A couple of them had maybe heard of Bitcoin. If they’d even heard about it, it was a total joke — a stupid scam on the internet, or something. It was a totally unproductive conference.” History has not been kind to the snickerers and scam-sayers, many of whom have since been converted. In 2020, eight years after the conference, Paypal finally joined the fray, enabling users to buy and sell crypto, and it will soon add it as a method of payment at 29 million merchants. Voorhees spread the gospel of Satoshi at the conference alongside Charlie Shrem and Roger Ver. Shrem was the founder of BitInstant, viewed by some as a martyr to the cause after serving two years in prison on a case related to an exchange user reselling Bitcoin on the darknet marketplace Silk Road. Ver was perhaps the biggest believer of all, earning the nickname ‘Bitcoin Jesus’ for his charismatic promotion of the currency. “In terms of proselytizing, Roger was the absolute best. He was a total maniac about it” Voorhees recounts with a chuckle. “Even for Charlie and I, who were very much supportive of the general sentiment, It was pretty overwhelming and just incessant.” “Everyone that works at a startup feels a little bit like they’re changing the world, that they have this huge mission, and certainly every company tries to amplify that,” he says, being a CEO himself. But for Bitcoiners, Voorhees clarifies, “it is really a ‘change the world’ kind of thing, and to change the world on a fundamental level. It’s to change the institution of money itself — that is a profoundly tall order.” Vorhees explains that he sees Bitcoin as nothing less than revolutionary: “It’s not just a better user-interface for the money that people had before. It’s a different type of money that changes government, changes culture, changes social and economic relationships on a very very deep deep level. That’s why it’s taken so long to to catch on, to get recognized, because it is trying to move into such an entrenched institution.” It's 2012. @ErikVoorhees @rogerkver and I decided to pool our money together for the first #Money2020 event. We told them we wanted the best booth we could afford, but we needed to be next to the @PayPal booth so we can show the world OUR financial system! Welcome, Paypal! pic.twitter.com/5BzvQDfvFb — Charlie Shrem (@CharlieShrem) October 21, 2020 Libertarian roots Now 35, Voorhees spent his early ‘90’s childhood in the mountains of Colorado before moving to the University of Puget Sound near Seattle in 2003. He studied international economics and business but doesn’t really feel like he learnt either. “In the entire major of economics, though I had courses in the history of economic thought, I never learned about the Austrians,” he says, referring to the Austrian School of economics. Often ignored by mainstream Keynesian economists, Austrians are obsessed with things like hard money and decry unbacked fiat currencies so they have been embraced by gold-bugs and the Bitcoin community, which is after all, often called ‘digital gold’. A freshly minted graduate in 2008, Voorhees left to pursue adventure in Dubai where “anyone with a college degree could immediately get a job, because they were growing so fast.” Working as a marketer for a real estate agency, he watched from a distance as the world he thought he knew began to buckle under the weight of the unfolding Global Financial Crisis. Dubai did not feel its effects until half a year later, he recounts, describing the intervening time as “this very weird period where Dubai was going through this massive economic boom, and the rest of the Western world was falling apart.” From this desert oasis spared from the global drought, the business and economics graduate “started really understanding money on what I felt was a very fundamental level.” For Voorhees, the story of money is a simple one: “money emerges as the good that is bartered for most frequently.” That used to be gold and is currently fiat money, but it could just as well be something else, if a more useful and efficient money was embraced. Upon this realization, Voorhees took on a “very strong aversion to fiat currency and to government control of money” because as a believer in a market economy, he felt that no government should control the price or distribution of any goods. “Money was actually the most important good of all, and thus most important to not be centrally planned. And yet it was even in, you know, allegedly capitalist economies,” he says. “A capitalist economy that has a government-managed money system seemed completely antithetical, but I didn’t have any answers or solutions to that other than some kind of return to the gold standard, which seemed somewhat anachronistic.” Voorhees returned to Colorado after two years abroad, soon moving to New Hampshire to join The Free State Project, an organized political migration which he describes as “a multi-decade initiative to move 20,000 radical libertarians to one small jurisdiction [New Hampshire] to hopefully have an outsized influence on the political structure.” It was there, in the company of fellow radical libertarian political activists, that Voorhees encountered Bitcoin in 2011. “At that point I got completely hooked, and a year later ended up leaving New Hampshire and moving to New York to join Charlie Shrem at BitInstant.” There, he took the reins of marketing as employee number three. It was around that time that Charlie Shrem, Roger Ver, and Erik Voorhees — each of whom would go on to become crypto-luminaries in their own right — pooled their money together to set up a Bitcoin booth at the Money 2020 conference in Las Vegas. “We needed to be next to the PayPal booth so we can show the world OUR financial system,” Shrem recounted. Vorhees says they failed to convert anyone to Bitcoin at the conference despite their best efforts. Belief in false profits Vorhees admits he used to be a Bitcoin Maximalist, a believer in the one true coin who rejected all false currencies. “I used to be a maximalist. Obviously when I got into Bitcoin, it was kind of the only coin,” he says. “As other coins came out I dismissed them, scoffed at them, and generally didn’t like them because I felt like they were a distraction from the important project.” Though he tried to focus on Satoshi’s vision, the new projects started gnawing at him and he realized that many of them “were doing things that Bitcoin wouldn’t do or couldn’t do.” By mid 2014, his conversion was in full swing. “My whole mindset began changing. One of the most important things about Bitcoin is that it is decentralised. And it seemed to me antithetical to have a decentralized digital economy where there is only one chain — you know, one code base, one chain, one set of economic rules. It seemed very appropriate that you would get multiple different digital assets, and that was actually part of the decentralization, part of the virtue of Bitcoin was that Bitcoin isn’t the only thing there.” He tempers this by adding the usual provisos — most tokens are garbage, many are scams, a majority will fail. “It’s only a minority of them that are interesting, but a minority is a lot more than one.” ETH Folks… try not to become to Binancechain what the Bitcoin Maxis are to Ethereum 🙏 — Erik Voorhees (@ErikVoorhees) February 19, 2021 He still has empathy for his “shortsighted” maximalist peers, who he sees as victims of human nature’s tendency toward tribalism, which expresses itself in lots of ways, “Certainly it expresses itself in religion. And it has expressed itself in crypto, and some portion of people- their mind twists itself into complete advocacy of one flag and complete derision of all others.” “[It’s] a group psychological phenomena and I don’t know how that stops, but I do think it is really harmful for the growth of decentralized digital finance generally.” Gambling with Satoshi’s dice Only a year after learning about Bitcoin, Voorhees launched Bitcoin-based gambling site SatoshiDice in 2012, which took the young crypto community by storm. “On Reddit, this guy posted that he had created this casino-like mechanism where there’d be this dice roll, and based on the dice roll, a user would either get their coins sent back or lose them. I tried it, and there was magic in it immediately […] So I started working with him.” This was groundbreaking because “it allowed any person in the world to place a bet by sending a Bitcoin transaction” no matter where they were from or how their local laws governed online gambling. What’s more, the player did not need to trust SatoshiDice, because “it was provably fair,” meaning that it worked like a transparent machine where all odds and inner workings were open for anyone to inspect. Governments around the world have various commissions to regulate and audit gambling operations, but SatoshiDice’s function potentially made such organizations obsolete, powerless, or both. “SatoshiDice showed you what the odds were. It was transparent with the odds, and you could prove that the rules were fair.” The simple, trusted, and permissionless nature of SatoshiDice brought huge success to the platform. Within months of launch, the game was responsible for as much as half of all Bitcoin transactions. SatoshiDice had an unofficial IPO on the MPEx exchange, a sort of Bitcoin stock market where unregistered Bitcoin companies offered shares and paid dividends denominated in BTC. These were the forerunner of the ICO boom several years later, and attracted similar attention from authorities for breaking securities laws. Though the casino was “making a tonne of money,” it was also overwhelming as Voorhees felt his job of “running the world’s biggest Bitcoin casino” was distracting him from his greater calling of preaching the good word of Satoshi. Despite ongoing growth, he reluctantly sold the business in 2013 for 126,315 BTC which was then worth $12 million. That would be a cool $6.25 billion today. Fighting the system Voorhees did not enjoy calm for long, as the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) soon came after him for making a public offering of unregistered securities. Voorhees considered this unfair, seeing that his investors had made exponential returns. He ended up settling for $50,000. “That was nine months of total misery, dealing with them. If I didn’t despise the government before, I certainly did it after that. It was such bullshit.” A core value of his is that people should be free to transact with each other voluntarily, and that no government agency has the right to come in between them. In his worldview, “institutions and government exist purely to curtail people’s power over money,” whereas “crypto gives people total economic power to make transactions in any way they wish, and no one can stop it.” As Voorhees sees it, these two forces will inevitably clash. Voorhees’ company Shapeshift allows users to trade cryptocurrencies without identity verification. Things were not always that way — in 2018 Voorhees says his company fell under the same rules as traditional banks and therefore had to implement Know Your Customer, or KYC, identity verification procedures, making anonymous transactions impossible. “That was absolutely miserable. Our customers hated it. I hated it.” But by 2020, decentralized exchanges (DEX’s) which allow users to trade without depositing their funds with a third party were gaining ground and made it possible for Shapeshift to reorient its business and re-align with its libertarian values. All KYC was abandoned, and the platform became a gateway for users to trade on various DEX’s. “I had learned with Satoshi Dice that an economic relationship didn’t need anything other than a public key to send in a transaction, and anything else could be based around that,” he says. Voorhees says that his opposition to KYC is not down to ideology but his desire to protect users against things like identity theft. “Identity theft in the US alone is something like a $30B to $40 billion a year problem. It is more costly than all forms of property theft combined. It’s this massive thing, and crypto comes along and solves that problem.”But how committed is he to this principle? Would he class it as theft if a government accessed user data to tax a client’s unreported financial transactions. “Yeah, exactly. Taxation is absolutely theft,” he responds with blunt matter-of-factness. The WSJ investigates ShapeShift’s ethos has proven controversial among adherents to the rules and regulations around traditional finance. An investigation by the Wall Street Journal alleged Shapeshift users had laundered $9 million via the platform. However a third-party analysis by blockchain intelligence firm CipherBlade suggested the investigation was flawed in assuming that funds were illicit even after passing through four different hands, causing the $9 million figure to be inflated by a factor of four. It is clear that Voorhees, who is normally calm and composed, was deeply affected by this. “Here’s The Wall Street Journal coming after us, calling us the money launderer, when their own inflated number would put us as far better [at combating money laundering] than any of the major banks that they write about all the time.” There’s a noticeable quaver in his voice. The battle is personal. We spend the last minutes comparing attitudes toward money in different societies. In the Nordic countries for example, all taxes are a matter of public record. Voorhees finds this disturbing, adding that “a lot of people with money feel guilty about it” whereas creating wealth in an ethical way he believes is a good thing for society. “I would like to see people who become very wealthy, first of all be proud of that, so long as they did it in an ethical way, and to use those resources in whatever way they think is best. I think that’s how that’s how economies grow and I think there’s nothing wrong with that.”
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