Crypto Moves – Bitcoin and Ethereum fall; Voyager Digital gets approval to return customers $270m

Crypto Moves – Bitcoin and Ethereum fall; Voyager Digital gets approval to return customers $270m
Voyager Digital gets approval to return customers $270 million. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 07 August 2022

Crypto Moves – Bitcoin and Ethereum fall; Voyager Digital gets approval to return customers $270m

Crypto Moves – Bitcoin and Ethereum fall; Voyager Digital gets approval to return customers $270m

RIYADH: Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency internationally, traded lower on Sunday, falling by 1.08 percent to $22,975.50 as of 8:10 a.m. Riyadh time.

Ethereum, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $1,681.23, falling by 3.07 percent, according to data from Coindesk.

Voyager Digital gets approval to return customers $270 million

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Voyager Digital Holdings Inc. was approved to return $270 million in customer funds to its creditors, according to Reuters.

Judge Michael Wiles, who oversees Voyager’s bankruptcy, said the company presented a “sufficient basis” to support its claim that Metropolitan Commercial Bank customers should be allowed access to their custodial accounts.

Several crypto firms have filed for bankruptcy in the wake of recent market turmoil, including Voyager.

Voyager estimated it had more than 100,000 creditors, assets worth $1 billion to $10 billion, and liabilities worth the same amount.

The Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. ordered the company to stop making misleading claims about how its customers’ funds were protected.

In addition, Metropolitan Commercial Bank provided the company with a deposit account, but its customers were not backed by the FDIC.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, crypto lenders like Voyager grew rapidly, drawing depositors with high-interest rates. Crypto markets, however, have been negatively affected by the recent collapse of two major tokens in May.

India freeze Binance assets

As part of an investigation into suspected compliance issues related to foreign exchange regulations, India’s financial crime-fighting agency froze the assets of WazirX, an exchange linked to Binance, Reuters reported.

A total of 646.70 million rupees ($8.1 million) worth of assets have been frozen by the federal Enforcement Directorate.

A spokesperson for WazirX, which is among the largest virtual currency exchanges in India, said: “We have been fully cooperating with the Enforcement Directorate for several days and have responded to all their queries fully and transparently.”

“We do not agree with the allegations in the ED press release. We are evaluating our further plan of action.”

Crypto exchanges are suspected to be involved in helping instant loan apps launder proceeds of crime by converting them into cryptocurrencies through their platforms, according to the ED.

As a result of violating central bank norms and engaging in predatory lending practices, the ED is investigating several shadow banks and their fintech companies for money laundering.

For suspected violations of foreign exchange regulations, the ED began investigating WazirX last year.

According to Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, it does not own Zanmai Labs shares. 

He tweeted: “On 21 Nov 2019, Binance published a blog post that it had ‘acquired’ WazirX. This transaction was never completed. Binance has never — at any point — owned any shares of Zanmai Labs.” 

He said Binance only provides wallet services for WazirX as a tech solution.

Chinese-owned illegal online betting applications were investigated by the ED in 2021.

According to the ED, the laundered proceeds of crime worth about 570 million rupees were converted into cryptocurrencies using the Binance platform during the investigation.

(With inputs from Reuters)

Oil could slow declines as supply risks return to fore: Reuters poll

Oil could slow declines as supply risks return to fore: Reuters poll
Updated 18 sec ago

Oil could slow declines as supply risks return to fore: Reuters poll

Oil could slow declines as supply risks return to fore: Reuters poll

BENGALURU: A recent oil price decline could slow in the last quarter of the year and into 2023 as focus shifts from concerns over a recessionary hit to demand to tightening global supply, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.

A survey of 42 economists and analysts forecast benchmark Brent crude would average $100.45 a barrel this year, and $93.70 in 2023, down from estimates of $103.93 and $96.67 respectively in August, but well above current levels.

Brent is currently trading around $90, far short of the $120-$130 range reached earlier this year following Western sanctions on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, pulled down in part by the dollar’s ascent and expectations of an economic slowdown.

UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo said recession fears may impact prices only in the very short term, with the focus shifting to supply issues thereafter.

“The EU ban on Russian waterborne crude and refined products is likely to result in supply disruptions in Russia and the end of the SPR (Strategic Petroleum Reserve) sales will remove further supply from the market,” Staunovo added.

The Ukraine crisis will continue to be decisive, especially following the EU's near-total ban on Russian crude from December, analysts said.

“We think that supply side issues will be worse than demand side issues unless there’s a severe global recession like the global financial crisis in 2008/09,” SEB analyst Ole Hvalbye said.

Also likely compounding supply risks, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, or OPEC+, could announce an output cut on Oct. 5.

Analysts estimated global oil demand would reach about 101-102 million barrels per day in 2023, after averaging 98.5-101.5 million bpd this year, with the market also closely monitoring China’s COVID restrictions.

“Global oil demand forecasts should be written in pencil as the global economy has too many variables that no one has a handle on,” said Edward Moya, senior analyst with OANDA.

The poll forecast US crude to average $95.73 a barrel in 2022 and $88.70 next year, versus the $99.91 and $92.48 consensus last month, but well above current price levels around $80.

EU to cut power use, levy energy companies

EU to cut power use, levy energy companies
Updated 33 min ago

EU to cut power use, levy energy companies

EU to cut power use, levy energy companies

BRUSSELS: EU ministers on Friday agreed cuts to peak-hour power consumption and windfall levies on energy companies in an urgent effort to bring down sky-high energy prices, according to AFP.

The decision, announced by the Czech Republic in its role holding the EU presidency, aims to mitigate energy costs sent soaring by Russia’s war in Ukraine and as the northern hemisphere winter looms.

European households and businesses are already staggering under surging energy bills, fueling record inflation that in the eurozone has hit 10 percent.

Extra drama has been injected with several unexplained leaks this week of Russia-Germany undersea gas pipelines, Nord Stream 1 and 2, that were widely seen as “sabotage.”

The EU ministers’ agreement came a day after Germany — the bloc’s export powerhouse that had long been dependent on Russian gas — announced a €200 billion  ($195 billion) energy aid package to shield its consumers.

Other EU countries have deployed smaller-scale national measures with the same aim, but several demanded European-level concertation, in part to clamp down on energy-buying competition between EU peers.

The two measures adopted were proposed by the European Commission.

The EU executive believes it can raise €140 billion from the levies on non-gas electricity producers and on energy majors that are raking in outsized profits from the global energy demand.

Its plan to cut power usage foresees a reduction of “at least five percent” during peak hours, according to a commission document seen by AFP.

Missing from the announced measures, however, was an idea espoused by 15 EU countries — among them France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta and Poland — for a price cap on imported gas.

The energy crisis, which had been brewing even before the war in Ukraine, took on greater magnitude when Russia severely curtailed natural gas supplies to Europe in retaliation for Western sanctions over its invasion.

Energy prices in the EU are calculated on the basis of the most expensive source, in this case gas, which has gone up around fivefold over the past year.

Several EU ministers went into the meeting wanting a gas price cap to be discussed.

“There is big disappointment that in the proposal that is on the table there is nothing about gas prices,” Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa said.

“This maximum price for gas would be supported by the majority of European countries” and “cannot be ignored,” she said.

But Germany resisted, fearing that a price cap would simply see liquefied natural gas shipments avoid Europe and sent to more lucrative markets, worsening the supply crunch for the EU.

The European Commission shares those concerns, although EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said there needed to be a way to target just Russian gas — which arrives in the EU by pipeline, not in LNG form.

“We have to remove the incentives that are there for Russia to manipulate these volumes, and the answer is clear: We have to offer a price cap for all Russian gas.”

She and other participants, including Irish Climate Minister Eamon Ryan, said that, for a gas price cap to be effective other major buyers such as Japan and South Korea needed to cooperate with the EU.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that, while Berlin was open to the idea of a price cap on Russian gas “as a sanction,” the broader application being called for was “treacherous.”

He insisted that “we need to bring down consumption” as a priority, and “we must not allow insufficient gas to reach Europe.”

While the measures agreed Friday were steps in the right direction, the Bruegel think tank in Brussels had warned in an analysis they were “not sufficient.”

“A more comprehensive plan needs to ensure that all countries bring forward every available supply-side flexibility, make real efforts to reduce gas and electricity demand, keep their energy markets open and pool demand to get a better deal from external gas suppliers,” it said.

Further EU measures were likely to be discussed at an informal summit in Prague next week, and another EU energy ministers’ meeting on Oct. 11 and 12.

“We need to go further on these issues and come to a rapid conclusion,” French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said.

Global stocks mixed after Eurozone inflation rises

Global stocks mixed after Eurozone inflation rises
Updated 30 September 2022

Global stocks mixed after Eurozone inflation rises

Global stocks mixed after Eurozone inflation rises

BEIJING: Global stocks were mixed Friday after inflation in 19 countries that use Europe’s euro currency spiked to a record and Chinese factory activity weakened.

London and Frankfurt opened higher, while Shanghai and Tokyo declined while Hong Kong advanced.

Wall Street futures rebounded after the benchmark S&P 500 index fell Thursday to its lowest level in almost two years. Oil prices edged higher.

Inflation in Germany, France and other euro zone countries accelerated to 10 percent in September from the previous month’s 9.1 percent, the statistics agency Eurostat reported. That was the highest since record keeping for the euro began in 1997.

Investors increasingly worry the global economy might tip into recession following aggressive interest rate hikes this year by the US Fed and central banks in Europe and Asia to cool inflation that is at multi-decade highs.

Markets slid this week after British Prime Minister Liz Truss announced plans for tax cuts that investors worry will push inflation higher. Meanwhile, global export demand is weakening and Russia’s attack on Ukraine has disrupted oil and gas markets.

“We’d be inclined to argue that we haven’t yet seen the bottom,” ING economists said in a report.

On Thursday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the world’s fourth-biggest economy faces a “double whammy” from inflation and surging energy prices.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London rose 0.7 percent to 6,929.43 and Frankfurt’s DAX advanced 0.7 percent to 12,064.73. The CAC 40 in Paris added 0.6 percent to 5,708.42.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 future was 0.6 percent higher. That for the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.4 percent.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 fell 2.1 percent to its lowest level in almost two years after strong US jobs data reinforced expectations the Federal Reserve will stick to plans for more interest rate hikes.

The Dow slid 1.5 percent and the Nasdaq composite lost 2.8 percent.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.6 percent to 3,024.39 after surveys of manufacturers showed factory production, new export orders and manufacturing employment declined in September.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell 1.8 percent to 25,937.21 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.5 percent to 17,257.08. The Kospi in Seoul lost 0.7 percent to 2,155.49.

Sydney’s S&P ASX 200 sank 1.2 percent to 6,474.20 while India’s Sensex advanced 1.8 percent to 57,421.45. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets declined.

Stock markets and the value of the British pound rebounded Wednesday after the Bank of England said it would buy government bonds to support their price. But markets resumed their slide Thursday after Truss shrugged off criticism and defended her tax-cut plan despite a plea from the International Monetary Fund to reverse course.

The S&P 500 is on track to end September with an 8 percent loss for the month. It is down more than 20 percent for the year as investors wait for a break in inflation that has prompted the Fed to raise interest rates five times.

The yield on a two-year US Treasury, or the difference between its market price and the payout at maturity, widened to 4.2 percent on Thursday from Wednesday’s 4.14 percent.

Stronger-than-expected US employment data Thursday reinforced expectations the Fed will feel comfortable sticking to plans to raise interest rates further and keep them elevated through next year.

In China, surveys of manufacturers by business news magazine Caixin and an official industry group found production and new export orders declined. That was in line with expectations that a Chinese manufacturing boom would fade due to weak global demand.

“The downturn in external demand looks set to deepen,” Zichun Huang of Capital Economics said in a report.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude lost 49 cents to $81.72 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 92 cents Thursday to $81.23. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 58 cents to $87.76 per barrel in London. It lost 83 cents the previous session to $88.49.

The dollar edged down to 144.40 yen from Thursday’s 144.43 yen. The euro rose to 98.16 cents from 97.90 cents.

European shares rise; set to end painful Sept quarter lower

European shares rise; set to end painful Sept quarter lower
Updated 30 September 2022

European shares rise; set to end painful Sept quarter lower

European shares rise; set to end painful Sept quarter lower

BENGALURU: European stock indexes climbed on Friday, the last trading session of a painful quarter, hit by worries about the impact of aggressive policy tightening measures by central banks on economic growth and corporate earnings, according to Reuters.

The region-wide STOXX 600 index was up 1 percent by 0810 GMT, led by bargain hunting in beaten-down shares of retailers, oil and gas companies, and banks, rising between 1.8 percent and 2 percent.

The index was down 5 percent for the July-September period and set to notch its third straight quarterly decline in what will be its longest such losing streak since 2011. For the month, it shed 6.8 percent.

The market has been under pressure since the Russia-Ukraine war earlier this year jolted the region and sent gas prices soaring, leading to rampant inflation, which sparked concerns about a recession due to central banks delivering hefty rate hikes.

“We have got a huge reevaluation of asset prices and the markets down at year lows, that is just pushing investors to take a look at some of these new levels on offer,” said John Woolfitt, director-trading, Atlantic Capital Markets.

“There’s a tug of war going on in the market at the moment. One side is bargain hunters looking at prices not seen for a while and the other side is just rebalancing portfolios to ensure that in this new sort of era, certain assets aren’t still being held.”

Data earlier in the day showed the Netherlands’ inflation jumped to 17 percent in September, its highest in decades on skyrocketing energy prices.

All eyes are on September eurozone inflation data due at 0900 GMT that will likely strengthen the case for another 75 basis point rate increase by the European Central Bank in October.

German inflation accelerated to 10.9 percent this month, exceeding market expectations.

EU countries on Friday will likely approve emergency levies on energy firms’ windfall profits and launch talks on their next move to tackle Europe’s energy crunch.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to host a Kremlin ceremony on Friday annexing four regions of Ukraine, after what Kyiv and Western countries said were sham votes staged at gunpoint.

Italy’s Webuild rose 1.9 percent after the builder said it expected its commercial results for the year to “significantly exceed” guidance.

Shares of German sportswear makers Puma and Adidas slid 5.1 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively, after US rival Nike Inc. cautioned that gross margins would remain under pressure through the year due to ramped up discounts and a rapidly strengthening dollar.

India hikes rates to tame stubbornly high inflation, analysts see more tightening

India hikes rates to tame stubbornly high inflation, analysts see more tightening
Updated 30 September 2022

India hikes rates to tame stubbornly high inflation, analysts see more tightening

India hikes rates to tame stubbornly high inflation, analysts see more tightening

MUMBAI: The Reserve Bank of India raised its benchmark repo rate by 50 basis points on Friday, the fourth straight increase, as policymakers extended their battle to tame stubbornly high inflation and analysts said further tightening is on the cards, according to Reuters.

The monetary policy committee, comprising of three members from the RBI and three external members, raised the key lending rate or the repo rate to 5.90 percent with five out of the six voting in favor of the hike.

The RBI has now raised rates by a total 190 basis points since its first unscheduled mid-meeting hike in May but inflation continues to remain stubbornly high — a phenomenon that is affecting much of the global economy.

“The inflation trajectory remains clouded with uncertainties arising from continuing geopolitical tensions and nervous global financial market sentiments,” Governor Shaktikanta Das said in his address accompanying the MPC’s decision.

“In this backdrop, MPC was of the view that persistence of high inflation, necessitates further calibrated withdrawal of monetary accommodation to restrain broadening of price pressures, anchor inflation expectations and contain the second round effects,” he said.

The MPC also was of the view the current policy rate, adjusted for inflation, was still below 2019 levels.

Most economists expect further tightening, and several predicted the terminal rate at 6.5 percent, suggesting another 60 bps of rate hikes.

That is well above this month’s median Reuters poll forecast at 6.00 percent in each quarter through end-2023.

“The market was positioned for peak policy rate near 6 percent, today’s 50 bps hike will raise expectations that the peak policy rate is higher than earlier believed. We see peak policy rate at 6.5 percent now,” said Prithviraj Srinivas, chief economist at Axis Capital.

Fed angst

The US Federal Reserve’s relentless and aggressive rate hikes over recent months to curb inflation have battered the rupee, and most other emerging and developed market currencies.

“Clearly, the fast-evolving world order and consistent repricing of Fed’s out-sized hikes are strong-arming the emerging markets,” said Madhavi Arora, lead economist at Emkay Global Financial Services.

Policymakers around the world are grappling with a sweeping shift away from their respective currencies and into the safe-haven dollar, raising worries of capital outflows and further damage to their economies.

Economists say the RBI too would need to focus on ensuring the interest rate differential is not too low.

The standing deposit facility rate and the marginal standing facility rate were also increased by the same quantum to 5.65 percent and 6.15 percent, respectively

The MPC lowered its GDP growth projection for financial year 2023 to 7 percent from 7.2 percent earlier, while its retail inflation forecast was held steady at 6.7 percent.

India’s annual retail inflation rate accelerated to 7 percent in August, driven by a surge in food prices, and has stayed above the RBI’s mandated 2-6 percent target band for eight consecutive months.

The benchmark 10-year bond yield eased marginally after the RBI’s decision to 7.3535 percent at 07335 GMT while the partially convertible rupee weakened briefly before bouncing to 81.58 per dollar versus 81.86 on Thursday.

The broader NSE Nifty 50 index recovered sharply after a brief fall to trade up 1.65 percent.