Facebook to unveil new cryptocurrency

Facebook will outline the details of the cryptocurrency on Tuesday. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 June 2019

Facebook to unveil new cryptocurrency

  • Companies and venture capitalists will invest around $10m each in the new cryptocurrency
  • Facebook faced a series issues regarding privacy abuses and fake news

LONDON: Facebook is set Tuesday to unveil a bid to bring cryptocurrency payments into the mainstream, reportedly with the endorsement of governments and financial giants.
The world’s biggest social network is expected to outline details of a virtual currency launching next year that it hopes will avoid the rollercoaster volatility of “blockchain” technologies such as bitcoin.
Facebook is setting up a consortium called “Libra” which, according to the Wall Street Journal, has been joined by more than a dozen companies including Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and Uber.
The companies along with venture capitalists and telecommunications firms will reportedly invest around $10 million each into the consortium.
Facebook has been trying to ward off hostile regulatory scrutiny after a series of privacy abuses and the spread of fake news.
The consortium will be managed externally and will seek to build trust among consumers by pegging the virtual coin to a basket of currencies including the dollar and euro, the Journal said.
Facebook has already sought blessings from the US Treasury and the Bank of England, the BBC reported last month.
Regulators have been reticent about cryptocurrencies, not only due to potential abuse by criminals but the wild swings in their value harming consumers.
With more than two billion users across its platforms, which include WhatsApp and Instagram, Facebook could have the clout to bring cryptocurrency out of the fringes and emulate the likes of WeChat in China, where the US site is banned.
WeChat allows its users to chat, shop and play games without leaving its platform, generating more revenue by offering a one-stop portal.
Buffeted by the privacy storms, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has promised a new direction for Facebook built around smaller groups, private messaging and payments.
But it will need to overcome questions of trust and privacy, not least over how financial data will be stored. Some analysts are betting that the heavyweight Libra consortium will help to do that.
Facebook’s crypto initiative could facilitate shopping, applications and gaming, and would leverage its broad user base in Asia, RBC analyst Mark Mahaney said in a research note last week.
It “may prove to be one of the most important initiatives in the history of the company to unlock new engagement and revenue streams,” he wrote.


Oil prices fall but losses limited by Brexit deal hopes

Updated 18 October 2019

Oil prices fall but losses limited by Brexit deal hopes

  • US retail sales in September fell for the first time in seven months adding to economy fears

LONDON: Oil prices fell on Thursday as industry data showed a larger than expected increase in US inventories but losses were limited after Britain and the EU announced they had reached a deal on Brexit.

Global benchmark Brent crude was down 37 cents at $59.05 in afternoon London trade while US WTI crude was also down 37 cents, at $52.99.

US crude inventories soared by 10.5 million barrels to 432.5 million barrels in the week to Oct. 11, the American Petroleum Institute’s weekly report showed, ahead of official government stocks data.

Analysts had estimated US crude inventories rose by 2.8 million barrels last week.

“US sanctions imposed on Chinese shipping company COSCO are seriously denting demand for imported crude ... This has a profound impact on US crude oil inventories as reflected in last night’s API report,” said Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates.

“US refinery maintenance is not helping to reverse the current trend and further builds in US crude oil inventories can be expected in the next few weeks.”

The US imposed sanctions on COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) and subsidiary COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Seaman & Ship Management for allegedly carrying Iranian oil.

Adding to concerns about the global economy — and therefore oil demand — data from the US showed retail sales in September fell for the first time in seven months. Earlier data showed a moderation in job growth and services sector activity.

Nevertheless, Brexit developments helped limit oil’s decline. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain and the EU had agreed a “great” new deal and urged lawmakers to approve it when they meet for a special session at the weekend.

Analysts have said any agreement that avoids a no-deal Brexit should boost economic growth and oil demand.

However, the Northern Irish party whose support Johnson needs to help ratify any agreement, has said that it refused to support the pact.

Hopes of a potential US-China trade deal also supported oil. The commerce ministry in Beijing said China hoped to reach a phased agreement with Washington as early as possible.

But the German government has lowered its 2020 forecast for economic growth to 1 percent from 1.5 percent, the economy ministry said. It said Germany, Europe’s largest economy, was not facing a crisis.