May 7, 2021

Bitcoin could easily skyrocket to $1 MILLION per token one day – CoinDesk

“Bitcoin is going to $1 million a coin. I actually believe that it will, at some stage, with just the scarcity aspect alone, it makes it an incredibly exciting asset to hold… Bitcoin is uncontested,” the journalist, who focuses on cryptocurrencies, told Yahoo Finance.

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According to Leech, a massive price surge will occur shortly after the next bitcoin halving that is expected to take place in 2024. Halving is a key technical event when the entire number of existing bitcoins awarded to miners is cut in half.

“The year after halving always seems to create a huge rise. The last halving for bitcoin was in 2020, and, so far, this year we have seen prices explode. I don’t know when [bitcoin will cross $1 million] but it will likely be after 2025,” he said.

The market capitalization of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency currently stands at more than $1 trillion, after nearly doubling since the beginning of the year and leaving corporate giants like Facebook, Tesla and Alibaba far behind.

Also on If you can’t beat them, join them? JP Morgan to create BITCOIN FUND after caving to clients’ crypto-lusts

Bitcoin’s latest surge received a general tailwind from a massive inflow of big investors. Tesla purchased $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin, while banking giants Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are reportedly planning to offer clients exposure to the cryptocurrency. After years of harsh criticism of bitcoin, JPMorgan has reportedly cooperated with NYDIG, a technology and financial services firm dedicated to bitcoin, to develop banking products.

The sphere of traditional payments has become wide open for cryptocurrencies with Mastercard, PayPal and Visa increasing crypto exposure over the past several months.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

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Russia slashes dollar & euro from reserves in favor of gold & yuan

Thus, the share of the euro in Russia’s forex reserves decreased over the past year by 1.6 percentage points to 29.2% as of January 1. The share of the greenback dropped 3.3 percentage points, to 21.2%. The British pound’s share was also slightly down – by 0.2 percentage points, to 6.3%.

At the same time, Russia’s gold reserves surged to 23.3% from 19.5% a year earlier. The Chinese currency also saw a boost, with yuan holdings growing to 12.8%. The share of other foreign currencies increased by 0.8 percentage points to 7.2%, the regulator said.

Also on Russia’s foreign exchange reserves continue to rise despite sanctions pandemic

According to the CBR, the Japanese yen accounted for 3.9% of Russia’s foreign holdings, Canadian dollars for 2.5% and Australian dollars for 0.8%.

In 2020, the value of the central bank’s assets in foreign currencies and gold increased to $588 billion.

Russia has been steadily diversifying national reserves since Washington began imposing sanctions in 2014, in order to cut its economy’s reliance on the US dollar. In 2019, the share of bullion holdings in Russia’s reserves surpassed US dollar holdings for the first time.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

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Red metal running out? Copper may hit $20,000 amid global shortage – Bank of America

Copper inventories measured in tons are currently standing at levels seen 15 years ago, able to cover just three weeks of demand, Michael Widmer, a commodity strategist at the US’ second biggest bank, said in a note seen by CNBC.

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

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

Also on Supply deficit sends palladium price to HISTORIC HIGH

A rise in volatility resulting from falling inventories was not without precedent, according to Widmer, who said that nickel shortages in London Metal Exchange warehouses in 2006-07 triggered a surge of more than 300% in nickel prices.

BoA expects prices for copper to spike to $13,000 per ton in the upcoming years after hitting $10,000 last week for the first time in nearly 10 years.

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

Also on Silver spike could mean bubbles in metals other commodities, warns Commerzbank

High prices for copper were additionally boosted by a weaker dollar and increasing moves toward green infrastructure, according to David Neuhauser, founder and managing director of US hedge fund Livermore Partners.

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

The strategist added that there are some very solid small cap companies that have massive production potential, and valuations are attractive and could make a great return on investment.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

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Covid and Travel: Why an Estimated 100,000 Americans Abroad Face Passport Problems

“It’s a real mess,” said Jennifer Minear, an immigration attorney and the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “It’s a giant, multilayered onion of a problem and the reduction of staff as a result of Covid at the consular posts has really thrown the State Department for a loop.”

Michael Wildes, the managing partner of the law firm Wildes Weinberg, P.C., which specializes in immigration law, estimates that the number of stranded Americans abroad is in the hundreds of thousands.

“Our offices have been inundated,” he said. “We’ve been getting at least 1,200 calls a week on this, which is about 50 percent more than last year. The problem is more robust than people realize, and this isn’t how a 21st-century society should work.”

In Israel alone, the U.S. Embassy has a passport backlog of 15,000 applications, according to The Jerusalem Post. American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy organization for U.S. expats, sent an official request to the State Department in October 2020 to prioritize Americans’ access to consular services abroad, “but people are still experiencing delays,” said the organization’s executive director, Marylouise Serrato.

In Mexico, which is believed to have more American expats than any other country, a recent search on the appointment database for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City showed zero available appointments for passport services, even with emergency circumstances (appointments from July onward have not yet been released).

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High global demand sends Russian Urals crude oil price soaring

According to the ministry, in the first four months of the year the average price for the Russian export oil brand was $60.47 per barrel, compared with the average price of $41.04 per barrel during the same period of 2020.

Experts say that the price rise was primarily due to the recovery of global demand for fuel and the fulfillment of the terms of the OPEC+ deal. 

Also on Oil prices rally towards $70 as demand outlook improves

The current rise in the price of Russian oil is also due to the peculiarities of its composition, says Viktor Parno, Argus’ vice president for business development in Russia, CIS and Baltic States. He explained to RT Russia that Urals crude is characterized by a high sulfur content, while Brent and American WTI are considered lighter grades.

“From time to time, the market situation develops in such a way that medium-heavy varieties become more popular than light ones. In terms of supply volumes, Urals is now the most demanded oil grade in Europe,” Parno said, adding that the main importers in the region are Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and a number of other EU countries.

According to him, China and Japan are also among the major buyers of Russian oil.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

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Restaurants and Bars Rush to Apply for New Federal Aid Program

“They’re woven into the fabric of our communities,” the president added.

He described the battered industry as one of the best paths for many people to achieve the American dream. “One in three Americans, a restaurant provided their first job,” Mr. Biden said. “More than half of all Americans have worked in a restaurant at some point in their lives.”

But for now, the relief the administration is offering falls far short of what is necessary to stabilize the decimated industry.

A group of owners of small food businesses who lobbied for the funds have contended that $120 billion is needed to stabilize independent restaurants. And Mr. Biden said on Wednesday that he expected the current fund to be able to help about 100,000 restaurants and other eligible businesses — fewer than those that already applied in the first 48 hours of the website being operational.

“We know that the $28.6 billion is not enough to meet the demand,” Isabella Casillas Guzman, the small business administrator, said last week. “However, we need to demonstrate that demand, and we need to encourage everyone to apply and access this fund as much as possible and demonstrate what remaining need is out there.”

For the first 21 days, the Small Business Administration will approve claims only from businesses that are majority-owned by women, veterans or people who qualify as both socially and economically disadvantaged.

Mr. Biden said 97,600 of the applications received in the program’s first two days had come from businesses owned by people who fell into those categories. High demand for the funds, however, was not necessarily a good thing for a program that has limited funding and will have to turn many needy businesses away.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the administration would be open to seeking more funding from Congress, but she offered no specifics. Mr. Biden said the high demand should prove to skeptics that the program was a necessity.

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Fed Officials Tamp Down Overheating Concerns

“My view is that this acceleration in the rate of price increases is likely to prove temporary,” Eric Rosengren, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said in a speech Wednesday. “Toilet paper and Clorox were in short supply at the outset of the pandemic, but manufacturers eventually increased supply, and those items are no longer scarce.”

Still, Mr. Rosengren counseled vigilance, saying the Fed should pay attention to make sure the economy has not changed in ways that will make wages and prices more responsive to a tightening labor market.

Michelle Bowman, one of the Fed’s six Washington-based governors, said that it was unclear how long it would take supply bottlenecks to clear up, creating a source of uncertainty about inflation — but that it seemed most likely that price gains would stay contained.

“At this point, the risk that inflation remains persistently above our long-run target of 2 percent still appears small,” she said, according to prepared remarks released Wednesday morning. “I am encouraged by the recent pace of the economic recovery, and I remain optimistic that this strength will continue in the coming months.”

If prices take off, the Fed could dial back its buying or lift rates. Either move would make borrowing more expensive, likely slowing the economy and denting the stock market.

“Our baseline view is that we don’t overheat,” Mr. Clarida said. “If there are unforeseen, persistent upward pressures on prices,” then “we would use our tools to bring it down.”

Historically, abrupt Fed policy changes have at times set off recessions. That’s why some economists are worried. If the Fed is forced to act to choke off pesky price pressures, it entails real risks for the economy that could hurt the most vulnerable, who tend to lose jobs first in downturns.

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Nick Clegg Steers Facebook’s Trump Decision

Facebook wanted Mr. Clegg to help repair its relationships with regulators, political leaders and the media after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when data improperly pulled from Facebook was used to create voter profiles. Mr. Clegg’s international experience and comfort in five languages — English, Spanish, French, German and Dutch — appealed to the American-centric company.

Friends said Mr. Clegg had initially been reluctant to join Facebook, one of the world’s most polarizing corporations. But he wanted to be back at the center of important political and policy debates. In a memo outlining how he envisioned the role, he argued that it was unsustainable for a private company like Facebook, rather than democratically elected governments, to have so much power, especially on speech-related issues.

“My advice was strongly to go for it,” said Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, whom Mr. Clegg spoke with before taking the job, “because you’re going to be part of one of the most powerful companies in the world at a moment of enormous change in the world, and when technology is at the heart of that change.”

Inside Facebook, where Mr. Zuckerberg leans on a group of friends and early employees for counsel, Mr. Clegg earned the trust of his new boss. At the company’s headquarters, where proximity to Mr. Zuckerberg is power, Mr. Clegg’s desk was placed nearby. He orchestrated a trip through Europe with Mr. Zuckerberg, meeting with European Union leaders in Brussels and President Emmanuel Macron of France in Paris.

Since Mr. Clegg’s arrival, Facebook has shifted some of its policy positions. It now appears more accepting of regulation and higher taxes. He overcame reluctance from Mr. Zuckerberg and others in the company to ban political ads in the weeks before Election Day last year. And he was the main internal supporter for recently announced product changes that give users more control over what posts they see in their Facebook feeds.

“He has a track record of knowing what it’s like to work inside a cabinet that needs to make decisions quickly and move at the speed of a country, or in this case a platform,” said Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer, who worked with Mr. Clegg on the user-control changes.

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Trump Ban From Facebook Upheld by Oversight Board

“Facebook has been clearly abused by influential users,” said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a co-chair of the Oversight Board.

Facebook does not have to adopt these recommendations but said it “will carefully review” them.

For Mr. Trump, Facebook was long a place to rally his digital base and support other Republicans. More than 32 million people followed him on Facebook, though that was far fewer than the more than 88 million followers he had on Twitter.

Over the years, Mr. Trump and Mr. Zuckerberg also shared a testy relationship. Mr. Trump regularly assailed Silicon Valley executives for what he perceived to be their suppression of conservative speech. He also threatened to revoke Section 230, a legal shield that protects companies like Facebook from liability for what users post.

Mr. Zuckerberg occasionally criticized some of Mr. Trump’s policies, including the handling of the pandemic and immigration. But as calls from lawmakers, civil rights leaders and even Facebook’s own employees grew to rein in Mr. Trump on social media, Mr. Zuckerberg declined to act. He said speech by political leaders — even if they spread lies — was newsworthy and in the public interest.

The two men also appeared cordial during occasional meetings in Washington. Mr. Zuckerberg visited the White House more than once, dining privately with Mr. Trump.

The politeness ended on Jan. 6. Hours before his supporters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Trump used Facebook and other social media to try to cast doubt on the results of the presidential election, which he had lost to Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Trump wrote on Facebook, “Our Country has had enough, they won’t take it anymore!”

Less than 24 hours later, Mr. Trump was barred from the platform indefinitely. While his Facebook page has remained up, it has been dormant. His last Facebook post, on Jan. 6, read, “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence!”

Cecilia Kang contributed reporting from Washington.

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Vaccinated Travelers Face Chaos and Confusion

Governments, tourism boards, airlines, hotel companies, travel agencies and cruise operators, along with tour bus drivers, housekeepers, local guides, pilots, restaurateurs, museum operators, bed-and-breakfast hosts, entertainers, caterers, fishermen, shopkeepers and bar owners — in short, all the people standing to profit from tourism dollars — are facing extreme economic pressure not to lose out on another tourism season. The past year without travel, when international arrivals dropped from 1.5 billion to 381 million, was devastating. For many, another similar year would be unthinkable.

And so an already stressed system has been forced to confront an existential quandary: Do countries opt for continuing international lockdowns, or do they increase the risk of disease and court much-needed tourism revenue? New Zealand, which, through a combination of stringent lockdowns, border closures and strict quarantines, has all but eliminated the coronavirus from its shores, has staked its claim at one end of the spectrum. Greece appears to be claiming the other.

There are no easy answers, no universal solutions. In many cases, the onus will fall on individual tourists — the fortunate and vaccinated few, plied with incentives and feverish for travel — to thoughtfully navigate the ethical considerations.

Of all the variables, only one thing seems inevitable: The choices we make, whether to venture out or huddle close to home, are unlikely to bode well for the individual workers — the unfortunate and unvaccinated many — who, by dint of circumstance, are vulnerable to both the virus and the teetering fortunes of a hard-hit industry.

“I do think we’ve learned important lessons over the course of the year about how to engage more safely in public spaces,” said Dr. Fortune, who emphasized that it’s important for vaccinated travelers to continue testing, wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“I think the real danger,” she added, “is that the most vulnerable people are the ones who have the least ability to mitigate risk.”

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