Germany, Europe’s most robust economy, said Thursday that its unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent in November, the lowest figure since West and East Germany were unified in 1990.
Even as Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Berlin politicians struggle to form a coalition government, the German economy remains strong, with a months-long dip in the country’s jobless rate and solid demand for German products from other countries.
The German report came as Eurostat, the statistics agency for the European Union, said the jobless rate for the 19-nation eurozone bloc that uses the euro currency dropped to 8.8 percent in October. It was the lowest figure since January 2009, when Europe and countries across the world were in the midst of a steep recession.
The German and European jobless rates trail those in the United States, the world’s largest economy, where unemployment has dropped to 4.1 percent, a 17-year low. But the U.S. and European numbers point to steady improvement that had been slow to emerge after the devastating job losses and high unemployment seven to nine years ago.
Eurostat said more than 14 million people remained out of work, but that was 1.5 million fewer than a year ago. In Spain, the jobless rate has been cut from about 25 percent to 16.7 percent.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said that while wages still are not increasing much, they could rise in the coming months as the continent’s economy continues to rebound.
Patrick Chovanex, chief strategist at New York-based Silvercrest Asset Management, told VOA the U.S. is in the eighth year of its recovery.
“It’s a recovery that has kind of waxed and waned,” he said. “One of the things that has been happening over the past couple years is that different parts of the economy were waxing and waning out of sequence with one another. So housing would be strong while manufacturing would be weak, and then vice versa. Every so often they happen to coincide.
“Right now we’re seeing a pattern of several elements of the economy being strong at once. Hopefully, that will continue.”
OPEC agreed on Thursday to extend oil output cuts until the end of 2018 as it tries to finish clearing a global glut of crude while signalling it could exit the deal earlier if the market overheats.
Non-OPEC Russia, which this year reduced production significantly with OPEC for the first time, has been pushing for a clear message on how to exit the cuts so the market doesn’t flip into a deficit too soon, prices don’t rally too fast and rival U.S. shale firms don’t boost output further.
The producers’ current deal, under which they are cutting supply by about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in an effort to boost oil prices, expires in March.
Two OPEC delegates told Reuters the group had agreed to extend the cuts by nine months until the end of 2018, as largely anticipated by the market.
OPEC also decided to cap the output of Nigeria at around 1.8 million bpd but had yet to agree a cap for Libya. Both countries have been previously exempt from cuts due to unrest and lower-than-normal production.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has yet to meet with non-OPEC producers led by Russia, with the meeting scheduled to begin after 1500 GMT.
Before the earlier, OPEC-only meeting started at the group’s headquarters in Vienna on Thursday, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said it was premature to talk about exiting the cuts at least for a couple of quarters and added that the group would examine progress at its next meeting in June.
“When we get to an exit, we are going to do it very gradually… to make sure we don’t shock the market,” he said.
The Iraqi, Iranian and Angolan oil ministers also said a review of the deal was possible in June in case the market became too tight.
International benchmark Brent crude rose more than 1 percent on Thursday to trade near $64 per barrel.
Capping Nigeria, Libya
With oil prices rising above $60, Russia has expressed concerns that such an extension could prompt a spike in crude production in the United States, which is not participating in the deal.
Russia needs much lower oil prices to balance its budget than OPEC’s leader Saudi Arabia, which is preparing a stock market listing for national energy champion Aramco next year and would hence benefit from pricier crude.
“Prices will be well supported in December with a large global stock draw. The market could surprise to the upside with even $70 per barrel for Brent not out of the question if there is an unexpected interruption in supply,” said Gary Ross, a veteran OPEC watcher and founder of Pira consultancy.
The production cuts have been in place since the start of 2017 and helped halve an excess of global oil stocks although those remain at 140 million barrels above the five-year average, according to OPEC.
Russia has signaled it wants to understand better how producers will exit from the cuts as it needs to provide guidance to its private and state energy companies.
“It is important… to work out a strategy which we will follow from April 2018,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Wednesday.
The International Labor Organization says a majority of the world’s population, four billion people, have no social protection, leaving them mired in an endless cycle of poverty.
The report says 45 percent of the global population is covered by at least one social benefit. But that leaves 55 percent without any social protection, a situation ILO Director General Guy Ryder calls unacceptable.
“That means that they do not receive any child benefit, any maternity benefit, any unemployment protection, any disability benefit, any old age pension and that they do not actively contribute to social security systems,” Ryder said.
The consequences are severe and tangible. The report finds the lack of social protection leaves people vulnerable to illness, poverty, inequality and social exclusion. The ILO regards the situation as a significant obstacle to economic growth and social development.
Ryder tells VOA governments would benefit from considering social protection as an investment in their populations.
“Social protection is a human right and we should be pursuing it because it is a human right,” Ryder said. “But, also, I think there is a great deal of evidence to demonstrate that when social protection systems are in place and where they function well and one can think of the whole cycle of protection from kids right through to old age, then you reap economic benefits from it.”
The report says the lack of social protection is most acute in Africa, Asia, and the Arab States. It recommends those regions increase their public expenditure to at least guarantee basic social security coverage to all their people.
The buoyant economic recovery across the 19-country eurozone has pushed unemployment down to its lowest level in nearly nine years but has yet to translate to a sustained pick-up in wages and prices, official figures indicated Thursday.
Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency, said the jobless rate fell to 8.8 percent in October, from 8.9 percent the previous month. That’s the lowest since January 2009, when the region, like the world economy, was reeling from the global financial crisis and the ensuing deep recession.
Across the region, there were 14.34 million people out of work, down 1.5 million in the past year. That’s clear evidence that the economic recovery, which has gathered momentum during 2017, has invigorated the jobs market, especially in some of those countries that saw the biggest spikes in unemployment after the financial crisis. That’s especially true in Spain, which for much of the past few years lumbered under the weight of an unemployment rate of around 25 percent. Now, following strong growth, unemployment has fallen to 16.7 percent.
Though the eurozone is growing strongly, inflation is still a way short of the European Central Bank’s goal of just below 2 percent, a level it considers healthiest for the economy.
Eurostat said its headline measure of consumer price inflation rose to 1.5 percent in November, largely because of higher energy prices. While up from October’s 1.4 percent, it was below expectations in markets for a rise to 1.6 percent and indicates that underlying inflation pressures largely related to wages remain modest despite falling unemployment. The core rate of inflation, which strips out volatile items like food, energy, alcohol and tobacco, was stuck at 0.9 percent in November – again below expectations of a rise to 1 percent.
ECB President Mario Draghi has said there are a number of reasons why wages are not rising strongly, including the possibility that after years of low interest rates and weak inflation, wage negotiators may have been focused more on keeping jobs than on securing higher pay. He said these kinds of factors are likely to be “transitory” and that the recent “remarkable” increases in employment should start to show in a rise in nominal wages. With spare capacity in the economy diminishing, the hope is that a pick-up in wages that can support consumer demand and give inflation a boost.
Over the past few years, the ECB has enacted a series of stimulus measures, including cutting its main interest rate to zero, in the hope of getting inflation back up to target. Recently it eased up on its bond-buying stimulus program, which aims to keep market interest rates low, amid mounting evidence of economic growth.
Economists are not predicting any further changes soon, with Thursday’s figures adding to that perception.
“Today’s figures are unlikely to prompt the bank to accelerate the process of monetary normalization,” said Pablo Shah, an economist at the Center for Economics and Business Research.
Національний банк пояснює зниження курсу гривні сезонним чинником.
«Головний сезонний чинник – закупівля енергоносіїв. Хоча «Нафтогаз» зараз валюту не закуповує, а більше є її продавцем…Але є учасники ринку, які валюту закуповують. Є закупівля сезонних товарів під Новий рік», – сказав заступник голови НБУ Олег Чурій.
Заступник голови НБУ зазначає, що в цілому ситуація є сприятливою, тому що зростають експорт.
Він зауважив, що минулого тижня було відшкодування ПДВ на 9 мільярдів гривень.
«Ви бачили, курс відразу відреагував, коли більші обсяги гривні виходять на ринок», – пояснив Чурій.
Курс гривні 29 листопада вперше від початку квітня цього року опустився нижче рівня 27 гривень за долар.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen appeared on Capitol Hill Wednesday for what may be the last time she speaks before U.S. lawmakers. Yellen, whose term expires in February, will likely be succeeded by President Donald Trump’s pick, Federal Reserve governor Jerome Powell. This week, members of the U.S. Congress got a chance to speak to both. Mil Arcega has more.
Регулятори не визнають криптовалюту платіжними засобами в Україні і попереджають про ризики – НБУ
By : ProdusE -
Національний банк, Національна комісія з цінних паперів і фондового ринку й Національна комісія з регулювання ринків фінансових послуг не визнають криптовалюту платіжними засобами.
«Складна правова природа криптовалют не дає нам визнати криптовалюту ні коштами, ні валютою, ні платіжними засобами іншої країни, ні валютною цінністю, коштами, цінними паперами, грошовим сурогатом», – сказав заступник голови НБУ Олег Чурій.
За його словами, криптовалюти не підпадають під режим регулювання обігу коштів.
Він попередив, що будь-які операції з криптовалютами, включаючи їх купівлю, продаж, обмін і конвертацію, пов’язані з великою кількістю ризиків, які мають усвідомлювати фізичні та юридичні особи до проведення таких операцій.
За його словами, на сьогодні створена робоча група в складі трьох зазначених регуляторів фінансового ринку, а також Міністерства фінансів і Державної служби фінансового моніторингу, яка продовжує роботу над визначенням правового статусу криптовалют в Україні.
Криптовалюта – це цифрова (віртуальна) валюта. Наразі криптовалюта, зокрема найпоширеніша, біткойн, не має визначеного правового статусу в Україні. У 2014 році в Україні була оприлюднена позиція Нацбанку, в якій йшлося про те, що біткойн не рекомендується для використання, адже це високоризиковий фінансовий інструмент. Останнім часом підвищилася увага до біткойнів через стрімке зростання їх ціни. У серпні в Нацбанку заявили про намір врегулювати правовий статус біткойнів.your ad here
Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Wednesday that Trump administration demands for a U.S.-specific automotive content requirement in NAFTA were “not viable,” and he declined to specify when Mexico would formally respond.
At a news conference following a series of meetings with senior U.S. trade officials and lawmakers in Washington, Guajardo said that Mexico was still trying to understand the U.S. proposals that would require 50 percent of vehicles’ value content to be produced in the United States as part of updated North American Free Trade Agreement rules.
“I was clear that the domestic content [requirement] is something that is not viable at this point,” Guajardo said.
He added that Mexico would eventually make a counterproposal on automotive rules of origin, but declined to specify the timing of that response.
His visit was partly aimed at bolstering support in Congress for NAFTA at a time when tax legislation is consuming lawmakers’ attention and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is growing frustrated with the slow pace of NAFTA talks.
U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to scrap the trade agreement if it cannot be renegotiated to shrink U.S. trade deficits and return manufacturing jobs to the United States.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said after meeting with Guajardo earlier Wednesday that congressional Republicans “are determined” to strengthen trade ties with Mexico.
“I expect the administration will continue to work with us to modernize NAFTA and bolster our robust relationship with such an important ally,” Ryan said in a statement.
US waiting on counterproposals
After the last NAFTA negotiating round ended last week, Lighthizer complained that Mexico and Canada had not offered counterproposals to its demands on autos and other major areas aimed at “rebalancing” the trade pact.
The United States also is seeking to lift the regional value content requirement for NAFTA-produced cars and trucks to 85 percent from 62.5 percent. Guajardo said that once Mexico has a firm understanding of the U.S. autos proposal, it can work with its own stakeholders to see what adjustments could be made to regional content for autos.
But he said that the U.S. demand to move to 85 percent regional content within three years was “entirely unrealistic.”
Guajardo said he discussed with Lighthizer on Tuesday how to move the talks toward consideration of potential “rebalancing” outcomes. But first, he said, Mexico needed to be clear with its American and Canadian counterparts about unacceptable proposals and its priorities for keeping the pact beneficial to all parties.
“We have to start a process of looking at what’s next after we complete the modernization effort,” he added.
On dispute settlement, Guajardo said that Mexico would be willing to consider some adjustments to the investor-state dispute settlement system, after the United States proposed making the use of such arbitration panels optional.
“We can explore the opt-in, as long as we can define our own opt-in,” Guajardo said of the dispute settlement proposal, adding that otherwise, Mexico is “not interested.”
At a more limited round of NAFTA talks in mid-December in Washington, Guajardo said it would be important to agree on key issues in order to close some NAFTA chapters, such as those on food safety, telecommunications, regulatory practices and digital commerce.
Opposition has grown among Americans to a Republican tax plan before the U.S. Congress, with 49 percent of people who were aware of the measure saying they opposed it, up from 41 percent in October, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.
Congressional Republicans are trying to rush their tax legislation to a vote on the Senate floor before the end of the week. President Donald Trump strongly backs the bill and wants to sign it into law before the end of the year.
In addition to the 49 percent who said they opposed the Republican tax bill, 29 percent said they supported it and 22 percent said they “don’t know,” according to the Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll of 1,257 adults conducted from Thursday to Monday.
When asked “who stands to benefit most” from the plan, more than half of all American adults surveyed selected either the wealthy or large U.S. corporations. Fourteen percent chose “all Americans,” 6 percent picked the middle class and 2 percent chose lower-income Americans.
The tax bill being crafted in the Senate would slash the corporate tax rate, eliminate some taxes paid only by rich Americans and offer a mixed bag or temporary tax cuts for other individuals and families.
As congressional discussion on the bill has unfolded, public opposition to it has risen, on average, following Trump’s unveiling of a nine-page “framework” on September 27 that started the debate in earnest, Reuters/Ipsos polling showed.
On October 24, for example, among adults who said they had heard of the “tax reform plan recently proposed by congressional Republicans,” 41 percent said they opposed it, while 31 percent said they “don’t know” and just 28 percent said they supported it.
Trump and his fellow Republicans are determined to make a tax code overhaul their first major legislative win since taking control of the White House and Congress in January.
The House of Representatives on November 16 approved its own tax bill. The Senate is expected to decide on Wednesday whether to begin debating its proposal, as the measure moves toward a decisive floor vote later this week.
The two chambers would need to reconcile differences between their plans before legislation could be sent to the White House for Trump’s signature.
In the November 23-27 poll, 59 percent of Republicans supported the tax bill, 26 percent said they did not know and 15 percent opposed it. Among Democrats, 82 percent opposed it, 11 percent said they did not know and 8 percent supported it.your ad here
Colombia’s palm oil industry and big businesses have pledged to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains as the country battles to reverse the growing destruction of its tropical rainforests.
The commitment signed this week makes Colombia the first country in the world to launch its own chapter of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a global effort by governments, companies and nongovernmental organizations.
The TFA 2020 Colombia Alliance aims to help businesses shift to deforestation-free supply chains by sharing best practices, monitoring forest clearance and training small farmers in sustainable agricultural methods.
It also aims to promote development of certified sustainable products from beef to palm oil for consumers to buy in local supermarkets.
Rainforests in Colombia, Latin America’s largest palm oil producer, are coming under increasing pressure, and deforestation is rampant.
Deforestation in the country’s Amazon region rose 23 percent and across the country rose by 44 percent from 2015 to 2016, said Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s environment minister.
Norway is one of four main donor countries, along with the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands, backing the TFA 2020, an initiative hosted by the World Economic Forum.
“These numbers have been higher than what we expected and that’s why it is important to intensify efforts,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Getting the private sector to commit to deforestation-free supply chains is a “critical part of the puzzle” to protect forests, he said.
First such cooperation
“This is the first time in Colombia we see the government and the private sector joining forces like this,” he said.
“My hope and belief is that this partnership will find ways of ensuring that it is not only an agreement on paper but something that will happen in practical terms.”
Protecting forests helps cut carbon emissions, a key driver of climate change. When forests are degraded or destroyed, the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere.
Colombia is home to a swath of rainforest roughly the size of Germany and England combined and has declared a goal of zero net deforestation by 2020 and halting the loss of all natural forest by 2030.
Its rainforests have been increasingly threatened since a 2016 peace deal to end its decades-long civil war opened up former conflict areas to business, agriculture and development, Helgesen said.
Trees also are being cleared for cattle ranching, illegal mining and growing coca — the raw ingredient for cocaine.
Signing up with the Alliance are about 25 palm oil producers and buyers, Colombia’s Federation of Oil Palm Growers and Alqueria S.A., its third-largest dairy company. Also signing up are retail giant Grupo Exito and international companies operating in Colombia such as consumer goods company Unilever.
“The launch of the TFA 2020 Colombia Alliance is important as a strengthening mechanism for joint action in Colombia to reach our deforestation goals,” said Mariana Villamizar, a spokeswoman for Grupo Exito.
Producers and buyers from the beef, dairy and timber sectors are expected to join the partnership soon.
Each company will set targets to achieve zero deforestation across their often complex supply chains, and the government and NGOs will help monitor deforestation.
The number of international visitors to the United States through June fell sharply from last year, according to government data released Wednesday.
And the number of business travelers fell by much more than the drop in tourists, according to the monthly report from the Commerce Departments National Travel and Tourism Office.
Total foreign visitors fell four percent compared to the first six months of last year, with travelers from Mexico down more than nine percent and from Britain down six percent, but visits from Canada up nearly five percent.
Excluding Canada and Mexico, overseas visitors fell nearly six percent, but business travel dropped nearly nine percent compared to a 5.6 percent decline in tourists.
President Donald Trump in his first year in office repeatedly promised to build a wall on the border with Mexico, and has ordered bans on visitors from several Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Visits from the Middle East plunged 30 percent in the first half of the year, and from Africa dropped 27 percent. There also were double-digit declines in visitors from South and Central America, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe.
Among the top 20 countries with the most visitors, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil and India saw travelers fall well over 10 percent.
In contrast, arrivals from South Korea jumped 18 percent, while Ireland saw a 4.7 percent increase, Italy was up 4.2 percent, Spain 3.5 percent and France 1.5 percent, according to the monthly data.
Turkey’s deteriorating finances are hurting the country’s banks whose reliance on dollar funding makes them vulnerable to the worst-case scenario: a sudden halt or reversal of foreign investment flows.
International investors are growing nervous about Turkey for a variety of reasons. But U.S. legal action against a number of Turkish individuals over alleged Iran sanctions busting – and the risk that some of the country’s banks might be sucked into the case – lies at the heart of the latest concerns.
Since Turkey’s financial crisis in 2000, its banks have earned a reputation as being among the best-run in emerging markets, holding capital reserves far above those required by global rules.
They are still borrowing funds on international markets for lending on to domestic clients, and executives say they do not expect any significant future difficulties.
Nevertheless, borrowing costs are rising for the banks, which have accumulated dollar debt piles equal to a third of Turkey’s total foreign debt. Bank shares are down 20 percent since mid-August, outstripping a 5 percent fall on the broader Istanbul index in this period.
The lira has fallen more than 10 percent against the dollar and euro in the past three months alone, clocking losses of over 50 percent since the end of 2012 .
Several factors are at work, including fears that Turkey’s credit rating might be downgraded, government resistance to higher interest rates despite double-digit inflation, and tensions between Ankara and NATO ally Washington.
Now a Turkish-Iranian gold trader on trial in New York has pleaded guilty to conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran and will testify against a Turkish bank official charged with arranging illegal transactions involving American lenders.
Any possibility that Turkish banks themselves might become involved, landing the kind of huge fines slapped on others for sanctions-busting, would have severe consequences for the lenders and the wider economy.
“If [fines] do materialize, I would assume that all lending would stop until it becomes clear if institutions around the world can lend to Turkish banks or not,” said Alaa Bushehri, an emerging debt portfolio manager at BNP Paribas Asset Management.
Turkey’s bank regulator and government officials have denied reports in Haberturk newspaper that six unnamed Turkish banks could face fines worth billions of dollars.
But Turkish banks’ dollar bonds generally reflect investors’ nervousness, Bushehri said. On average, yields are 100 basis points above sovereign debt, whereas most big Turkish non-bank firms have lower funding costs than the government, she noted.
Turkish banks also trade with higher yields than similarly-or worse-rated banks in Russia, an emerging market peer which is directly subject to Western sanctions.
U.S. prosecutors have charged nine people in the case, including the deputy general manager of Turkey’s Halkbank, who is also on trial in New York. He denies all charges.
A former Turkish economy minister is among the defendants, although he is not currently on trial and likewise denies all charges. Ankara says the case is politically motivated, while Halkbank has said all of its transactions have fully complied with national and international regulations.
“If the trial were to end with fines on Turkish lenders, economic implications for Turkey could be highly adverse,” TD Securities said in a note to clients.
Inflation hit a 9-year high of 11.9 percent in October, while Turkish bond yields have reached record levels above 13 percent. Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said on Wednesday an insufficient response by the central bank would be an immediate concern for Turkey’s sovereign debt rating.
Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek has promised the government will do whatever is necessary if its banks are hit by the U.S. trial but Mehmet Emin Ozcan, CEO of state-owned Vakifbank, expects no negative impact.
“We didn’t face any problem with borrowing from international markets and I don’t think we’ll have a problem in the future,” he said this week.
Still, investors’ fears persist. While international sanctions on Iran were eased last year, U.S. measures remain and penalties for any infringements can be devastating – as a $9 billion fine on French bank BNP Paribas last year attests.
The potential damage of any fines on Turkish bank reserves has exaggerated the lira’s weakness, compounding the problems of the banks which have about $172 billion in external debt, according to Fitch ratings agency. Of this, $96 billion is due within the next year, the data showed at the end of September.
Health and growth
The issue is central to Turkey’s economic health and growth.
As in other countries with low domestic savings, it relies on foreign borrowing, with banks acting as the conduit for a major part of the flows. Any stop in the financing could wreak havoc.
Turkish banks have average capital ratios that are double the 8 percent minimum stipulated by Basel 3 global banking rules. Also, the lira’s depreciation should not compromise their ability to repay dollar debt as the regulator does not permit lenders to hold open, or unhedged, hard currency liabilities.
Fitch reckons banks can, if needed, access up to $90 billion over 12 months by tapping reserves they hold at the central bank and by unwinding currency derivatives positions. But a prolonged funding crunch will be a different story.
That would risk “pressures on foreign currency reserves, the exchange rate, interest rates and economic growth”, Fitch warns.
That’s because the lenders’ capital buffers held with the central bank – totaling just over $60 billion – are a major part of authorities’ $117 billion reserve war chest, and any depletion of this would leave the lira dangerously exposed.
“Usable” reserves – excluding gold and bank reserves – are around $35 billion, analysts estimate. That means the central bank will have no option but to raise interest rates sharply to counter any lira selloff, with damaging consequences for economic growth.
So far, the banks have avoided refinancing stress; Turkish lending is lucrative for European banks which may be unwilling to risk those long-standing ties.
Indeed, external debt rose around $9 billion in the first half of 2017, Fitch data showed, while Garanti Bank last week announced a $1.35 billion syndicated loan, with 38 banks participating.
But costs are rising – Garanti paid 1.25 percent above LIBOR on a one-year loan, while in 2016 and 2015 it paid 1.10 percent and 0.75 percent above LIBOR respectively.
Huseyin Aydin, chairman of the Banks Association of Turkey, told Reuters he had not observed any low appetite for taking Turkish risk. However, he added: “Foreign borrowing interest rates increased around 50-60 basis points in a tough year like 2017. It is possible that a limited increase will continue in
rates in 2018.”
Paul McNamara, investment director at GAM, has been among those who have warned for some time of trouble. He said he has sold all his Turkish debt because of the banks’ vulnerability.
“Local banks have borrowed an immense amount – north of $100 billion – abroad and lent that money on locally,” he said. “Any stress on Turkish bank syndications and this goes bad very fast.”your ad here
Bitcoin blasted past $11,000 to hit a record high for the sixth day in a row on Wednesday after gaining more than $1,000 in just 12 hours, stoking concerns that a rapidly swelling bubble could be set to burst in spectacular
Here are some facts that you might not know about the largest and best-known cryptocurrency.
HOW MANY ARE THERE?
Bitcoin’s supply is limited to 21 million — a number that is expected to be reached around the year 2140. So far, around 16.7 million bitcoins have been released into the system, with 12.5 new ones released roughly every 10 minutes via a process called “mining,” in which a global network of computers competes to solve complex algorithms in reward for the new bitcoins.
These mining computers require a vast amount of energy to run. A recent estimate by tech news site Motherboard put the energy cost of a single bitcoin transaction at 215 kilowatt-hours, assuming that there are around 300,000 bitcoin transactions per day. That’s almost enough energy as the average American household consumes in a whole week.
BITS OF BITCOIN
Bitcoin’s smallest unit is a Satoshi, named after the elusive creator of the cryptocurrency, Satoshi Nakamoto. One Satoshi is one hundred-millionth of a bitcoin, making it worth around $0.0001 at current exchange rates.
Bitcoin has performed better than every central-bank-issued currency in every year since 2011 except for 2014, when it performed worse than any traditional currency. So far in 2017, it is up around 1000 percent. If you had bought $1,000 of bitcoin at the start of 2013 and had never sold any of it, you
would now be sitting on $80 million. Many people consider bitcoin to be more of a speculative instrument than a currency, because of its volatility, increasingly high transaction fees, and the fact that relatively few merchants accept it.
More than 980,000 bitcoins have been stolen from exchanges, either by hackers or insiders. That’s a total of more than $10 billion at current exchange rates. Few have been recovered.
Despite many attempts to find the creator of bitcoin, and a number of claims, we still do not know who Satoshi Nakamoto is, or was. Australian computer scientist and entrepreneur Craig Wright convinced some prominent members of the bitcoin community that he was Nakamoto in May 2016, but he then refused to provide the evidence that most of the community said was necessary. It is not clear whether Satoshi Nakamoto, assumed to be a pseudonym, was a name used by a group of developers or by one individual. Nor is it clear that Nakamoto is still alive — the late computer scientist Hal Finney’s name is sometimes put forward. Developer Nick Szabo has denied claims that he is Nakamoto, as has tech entrepreneur Elon Musk more recently.
INFLATED CHINESE TRADING
Until earlier this year, it was thought that Chinese exchanges accounted for around 90 percent of trading volume. But it has become clear that some exchanges inflated their volumes through so-called wash trades, repeatedly trading nominal amounts of bitcoin back and forth between accounts. Since the Chinese authorities imposed transaction fees, Chinese trading volumes have fallen sharply, and now represent less than 20 percent, according to data from website Bitcoinity.
The total value of all bitcoins released into the system so far has now reached as high as $190 billion. That makes its total value — sometimes dubbed its “market cap” — greater than that of Disney, and bigger than the market cap of BlackRock and Goldman Sachs combined.
Bitcoin is far from the only cryptocurrency. There are now well over 1,000 rivals, according to trade website Coinmarketcap.
It is already possible to short bitcoin on a number of retail platforms and exchanges, via contracts for difference (CFDs), leveraged-up margin trading or by borrowing bitcoin from exchanges without leverage. But a number of big financial institutions — including CME Group, CBOE and Nasdaq — have
recently announced that they will offer bitcoin futures, which will open up the possibility of shorting the cryptocurrency to the mainstream professional investment universe.
Reporting by Jemima Kelly.
U.S. ethanol producers, looking to relieve a growing domestic glut, are hunting for new international fuel markets to replace China and Brazil after trade disputes slashed exports to those top buyers.
Without new markets, U.S. producers may have to pare output after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on biofuel production plants in recent years. Currently, the most promising potential destinations for U.S. fuel exports appear to be Mexico and India, industry executives said.
China and Brazil accounted for 41 percent of the 1.17 billion gallons the United States exported last year. Shipments to the two shriveled in September, making U.S. exports for that month the smallest in more than a year.
“There are only so many times you can replace your top market,” said Tom Sleight, president of the U.S. Grains Council, which officials said has been calling on potential buyers in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria.
China’s demand plummeted by more than 100 million gallons this year after it removed a preferential tariff rate. Brazil’s imports tumbled after it put a quota on imports in September to protect its domestic producers.
To drum up new customers, Illinois-based ethanol producer Marquis Energy has sent executives to India, China, Thailand and the Philippines, promoting the corn-based fuel additive as a smog- and oil-import fighter.
“I’ve had a lot of people over there almost nonstop over the last three months,” the company’s chief executive, Mark Marquis, said of the hunt for buyers in Asia. Archer Daniels Midland Co and Flint Hills Resources also have stepped up efforts to sell into Mexico, traders said.
U.S. ethanol prices have slid to nearly a two-year low as daily domestic production last week hit a record 45.1 million gallons, making the search for new export markets more urgent.
Output this year could reach about 16 billion gallons, nearly triple that of 2007.
U.S. exports fell since hitting 2.5 million gallons per day in the first eight months this year. Shipments to Brazil sank to 19 million gallons in September, the smallest monthly volume in more than a year. Exports to China through September were just 60,880 gallons, a precipitous drop from 198 million gallons a year earlier, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
The marketing effort could pay off in Mexico, whose energy regulatory commission (CRE) is to vote soon to ease the flow of fuel imports through state-run Pemex facilities to several Mexican states bordering the United States.
If approved, significant new volumes of gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol could begin flowing in 2018 into Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states, CRE Commissioner Luis Guillermo Pineda told Reuters.
“The largest supplier is logically the United States, but it can be from anywhere,” Pineda said of the ethanol blend.
Ray Young, ADM’s finance chief, last month told analysts Mexico could be importing 200 million gallons annually by 2019.
U.S. ethanol exports to Mexico last year totaled about 30 million gallons.
U.S. inventories reached 920 million gallons in the week ended November 17, up 16 percent from a year earlier, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said. Ethanol futures have fallen to $1.36 per gallon on the Chicago Board of Trade, down 20 percent from their 2017 high in April.
U.S. producers are pitching China and India on ethanol’s smog-fighting potential. This month, United Airlines canceled flights to India’s capital, New Delhi, citing heavy smog as a public health emergency. China ordered Beijing and more than two dozen other cities to start meeting limits on airborne pollution starting this month.
Ted McKinney, a USDA official interviewed during a biofuel-promotion trip to India, expressed optimism that country could import much more U.S. ethanol for cars and trucks. But others were not so sure.
India’s government wants to promote biofuel production using its own agricultural waste, said Jai Asundi, research coordinator at a Bengaluru-based think tank, the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy.
“There is a potential for producing ethanol from locally available sources without depending on imports,” Asundi said.
Eni US could begin work on oil exploration in federal waters off Alaska as soon as next month after the Trump administration on Tuesday approved permits for leases the company has held for a decade, the Interior Department said.
The department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, issued Eni US, a unit of Italy’s Eni, a permit to explore for oil from an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea. Eni is the first company allowed to explore for oil in federal waters off Alaska since 2015.
The approval is part of the Trump administration’s policy to maximize output of fossil fuels for domestic use and for exporting.
Scott Angelle, the BSEE director, said developing Arctic resources responsibly is a “critical component to achieving American energy dominance.”
Environmentalists say exploring for oil in the Arctic is dangerous.
“The Trump administration is risking a major oil spill by letting this foreign corporation drill in the unforgiving waters off Alaska,” said Kristen Monsell, the legal director for oceans at the Center for Biological Diversity nonprofit group.
Eni wants to drill into the Beaufort from the island using extended wells more than 6 miles (10 km) long. Eni US did not immediately respond to a request for comment about when it would start drilling.
In April President Donald Trump signed a so-called America-First Offshore Energy Strategy executive order to extend offshore drilling to areas in the Arctic and other places that have been off limits.
Eni’s leases, which were set to expire by the end of the year, were outside of an area protected by former President Barack Obama weeks before he left office. The company’s plan to move ahead with risky and expensive drilling in the Arctic comes despite years of low oil prices and plentiful sources of crude in the continental United States.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc quit its exploration quest offshore of Alaska in 2015 after a ship it had leased suffered a gash in mostly uncharted waters and environmentalists discovered an existing law that limited the company’s ability to drill.
Republicans are eager to drill elsewhere in Alaska. A tax bill passed by the Senate budget committee Tuesday contained a provision to open drilling in a portion of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Conservationists say the refuge is one of the planet’s last paradises.
The bill, which Republicans hope to pass in the full Senate this week, faces an uncertain future.