Swiss watchdog ‘in contact’ with Facebook cryptocurrency backers

The Libra coin plan, launched this week by Facebook and some two dozen partners, is being overseen by a Geneva-based nonprofit called the Libra Association. (Reuters)
Updated 20 June 2019

Swiss watchdog ‘in contact’ with Facebook cryptocurrency backers

  • Switzerland is trying to establish itself as a global cryptocurrencies hub
  • The Libra coin plan, launched this week by Facebook, is being overseen by a Geneva-based nonprofit called the Libra Association

GENEVA: Switzerland’s market watchdog confirmed Thursday that it is contact with the “initiators” of Facebook’s new cryptocurrency, as questions mount over how the money will be regulated.
Switzerland has tried to establish itself as a global cryptocurrencies hub, but the entry into the market of a behemoth like Facebook will increase scrutiny over the rules Switzerland has in place.
“We can confirm that we are in contact with the initiators of the project,” a spokesman for the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA), Tobias Lux, told AFP in an email.
The Libra coin plan, launched this week by Facebook and some two dozen partners, is being overseen by a Geneva-based nonprofit called the Libra Association.
Lux declined to comment on the details of FINMA’s exchanges with the Libra Association but said the watchdog’s role was to determine “whether the planned services require approval under Swiss supervisory law and, if so, which.”
The Libra Association has said it registered in Switzerland because the wealthy Alpine nation has “a history of global neutrality and openness to blockchain technology.”
But given Facebook’s international reach, global regulators are unlikely to leave supervision of Libra entirely to the Swiss.
The US Senate committee on banking, housing and urban affairs announced on Wednesday that it would hold hearings next month on “Facebook’s proposed digital currency and data privacy concerns.”
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has said the Facebook project required scrutiny while French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned Libra cannot be allowed to replace sovereign currencies.
Switzerland, a long-standing global banking hub, has made a series of moves to attract nascent cryptocurrency businesses, including tax breaks and logistical support.
The northern town of Zug has been dubbed “Crypto Valley” because of the influx of virtual currency firms.


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.