US SEC says bitcoin funds raise ‘investor protection issues’

The US securities regulator asked whether investors could understand the risks and how to address concerns that bitcoin markets could be manipulated. (Reuters)
Updated 19 January 2018
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US SEC says bitcoin funds raise ‘investor protection issues’

The US securities regulator on Thursday raised alarm about the safety of bitcoin-themed investments, telling the fund industry they want answers to their concerns before endorsing more than a dozen proposed products based on cryptocurrencies.
A top division chief at the US Securities and Exchange Commission detailed the agency’s concerns about the wild-trading investment in a letter to two trade groups representing fund managers who unleashed a range of proposals for funds holding bitcoin or related assets.
The SEC’s division of investment management demanded answers to at least 31 detailed questions about how mutual funds or exchange-traded funds based on bitcoin would store, safeguard, and price that asset.
They also asked whether investors could understand the risks and how to address concerns that bitcoin markets could be manipulated.
“There are a number of significant investor protection issues that need to be examined before sponsors begin offering these funds to investors,” said the letter signed by Dalia Blass, the SEC’s director of the division of investment management.
Bitcoin’s 1,500 percent surge last year stoked investor demand for any product with exposure to the red-hot asset. A host of companies are jostling to launch exchange-traded funds which would open up the cryptocurrency to a broad retail market.
The SEC in March denied a request to list an ETF from investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, owners of the Gemini bitcoin exchange.
The Winklevoss fund is seeking to invest in bitcoin directly. Other fund firms staked their hopes on recently launched US-listed bitcoin futures contracts, which promised a more stable base for ETFs than the largely unregulated virtual currency spot market. Many of those proposals were withdrawn last week at the request of the SEC.
Bitcoin was last down a fraction of a percent for the day at $11,228 on the Bitstamp exchange, but it has tumbled more than 40 percent from its peak in December.
Jeremy Senderowicz, a lawyer who represented one proposal for a cryptocurrency product before the SEC, said the SEC statement is a “really big deal” by making public concerns that fund managers would have had to address on a case-by-case basis, behind the scenes.
“It shows that they’re going to have to take some time to consider the industry’s responses before they change their minds on it,” said Senderowicz, a partner at Dechert LLP.
“It gives a template for how to get to a yes.”


Iraq’s southern oil exports hold near record in January

Updated 21 January 2019
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Iraq’s southern oil exports hold near record in January

  • Southern exports so far in 2019 close to 3.6 mbpd — tracker
  • OPEC-led oil supply cut deal started in January

LONDON: Oil exports from southern Iraq are holding close to a record high so far in 2019, according to shipping data and an industry source, which could raise questions over whether OPEC’s second-largest producer is following through on a deal to cut output.
Southern Iraqi exports in the first 21 days of January averaged close to 3.6 million barrels per day, according to tanker data on Refinitiv Eikon and separate tracking by an industry source. That’s close to December’s 3.63 million bpd — a monthly record.
The figures suggest there is little sign yet of lower supplies from Iraq, despite a deal by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies to reduce output by 1.2 million bpd as of Jan. 1 to support the market.
“So far, no cuts,” the industry source said on Monday of Iraq’s export rate.
The south is the main outlet for Iraq’s crude. An Iraqi official, the director of Iraq’s Basra Oil Company, on Jan. 11 gave similar figures for January exports to those suggested by the tanker data and source.
Iraq, which has been expanding its oil export capacity, was reluctant to join a previous OPEC-led supply cut effort which began in 2017 and was at times OPEC’s least compliant member with the initiative.
To be sure, the OPEC-led deal applies to production, not exports. It is possible that Iraq could have cut production and maintained exports from crude held in storage, or reduced supply to domestic refineries.
Nonetheless, oil traders and analysts will be looking at exports to gauge whether the deal is lowering supply to the global market. So far, Iraq’s shipments abroad from the north haven’t declined significantly either.
Iraq’s northern exports appear to have held steady in January at about 400,000 bpd, according to tanker data compiled by Reuters and the industry source. That is still far below levels of more than 500,000 bpd in some months of 2017.
Baghdad says it will stick to the accord. Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said on Jan. 4 Iraq would keep production at the level of its OPEC target in the first half of 2019.
Under the deal, Iraq agreed to cut production by 141,000 bpd to 4.512 million bpd as of Jan. 1.