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Bitcoin climbs above $50K US for 1st time – CBC.ca

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The seemingly unstoppable rise of bitcoin continued Tuesday with the cost of a single unit of the digital currency rising above $50,000 US for the first time.

The same bitcoin just one year ago would have cost you $10,000 US. The price is up almost 200 per cent in the last three months alone.

Bitcoin is rallying as more companies signal the volatile digital currency could eventually gain widespread acceptance as a means of payment. The vast majority of those who have acquired bitcoin have treated it as a commodity, like gold, with few places accepting it in exchange for goods or services.

Companies have been leery because of bitcoin’s volatility and its use by parties who want to avoid the traditional banking system for a myriad of reasons.

Last Monday, however, the electric car company Tesla sent a tremor through the digital currency markets, saying that it was buying $1.5 billion US in bitcoin as part of a new investment strategy, and that it would soon be accepting bitcoin in exchange for its cars.

Then Blue Ridge Bank of Charlottesville, Va., said that it would become the first commercial bank to provide access to bitcoin at its branches. The regional bank said Wednesday that cardholders can purchase and redeem bitcoin at 19 of its ATMs. BNY Mellon, the oldest bank in the U.S., followed a day later, saying it would include digital currencies in the services it provides to clients. 

‘Not going to happen overnight’

While most expect a slow evolution toward widespread usage of bitcoins as currency, Richard Lyons, a finance professor at the University of California at Berkeley, says it’s inevitable. Lyons predicts bitcoin and other digital currencies “will become transactional currencies increasingly over the next five years. It’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.

Lee Reiners, who teaches fintech and cryptocurrency courses at Duke University School of Law, said BNY Mellon’s move makes sense because “there are now numerous high-net-worth individuals and investment funds embracing crypto as an asset class to be added to their portfolio.”

But Reiners believes companies will remain hesitant to accept bitcoin for payment because of its volatility.

“If you were a merchant, why would you accept payment in an asset that could be worth 20 per cent less a day after you receive it?” Reiners said in an email.

Investors will have to grapple with that volatility as well. The price of bitcoin has soared and dipped since its debut on the futures market in 2017. Those fluctuations, analysts warn, could wreak havoc on a company’s bottom line and deter investors.

Tesla warns of volatility

Assuming Tesla bought bitcoin at the volume weighted average price of $34,445 US in January, the company is sitting on a gain of about 38 per cent with its investment. But in the regulatory announcement unveiling the investment, Tesla warned about the volatility of bitcoin, its reliance on technology for use and lack of a centralized issuer, such as a government.

“While we intend to take all reasonable measures to secure any digital assets, if such threats are realized or the measures or controls we create or implement to secure our digital assets fail, it could result in a partial or total misappropriation or loss of our digital assets, and our financial condition and operating results may be harmed,” Tesla said in the filing.

“Tesla is going to have to be very careful and comprehensive in accounting for its bitcoin investment on its books,” said Anthony Michael Sabino, a professor of law, at St. John’s University. “Like any other financial asset other than actual cash, it might fluctuate.”

Canadian ETF market

Bitcoin-based exchange traded funds are getting the go-ahead from Canadian regulators, creating a path for a fund structure that investment managers say is unique in the industry.

Toronto-based Purpose Investments says its bitcoin ETF will likely start trading this week under the symbol “BTCC,” after the fund worked with regulators to make sure it could create something that follows the rules for both the ETF market and the digital asset industry.

An Ontario Securities Commission spokesperson says the regulator finished reviewing Purpose Investments’ final plan to offer securities last Thursday and gave the fund a receipt that makes it a reporting issuer in Ontario.

After Purpose Investments announced the milestone, another Canadian fund, 3iQ, said it also received preliminary receipts for a bitcoin ETF in all of the Canadian provinces and territories except for Quebec.

Both funds claim to be “physical” bitcoin ETFs, setting them apart from some of the other cryptocurrency investments out there, such as the bitcoin futures that trade on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

‘Physical,’ not derivative

Purpose Investments Chief Investment Officer Greg Taylor says the fund is different from a derivative or futures contract, as Purpose Investments will buy bitcoin every time someone puts money into the ETF.

Taylor says Purpose Investments will also store the bitcoin codes themselves — not on the internet — using a process called “cold storage.” OSC has described cold storage as “a computer with no access to a network” that is less vulnerable to hacking.

Purpose Investments says the end result of these bitcoin ETFs is that investors will hold actual bitcoin in their portfolios but can buy and sell it similarly to buying or selling a stock.

“The risk is for traditional investors that you have to open up a trading account to buy bitcoin and you’re in self-custody — meaning you’re going to get the code and password for that coin. And you’re responsible for doing that,” said Taylor. “With the ETF structure, it’s going to be easier as we’ll do that with our custodian.”

CIBC Mellon is working as a fund administrator for Purpose Investments’ bitcoin ETF, as the firm looks for ways to meet rising demand for cryptocurrencies.

Ronald Landry, who runs Canadian ETF services for CIBC Mellon, says it is working on getting more cryptocurrency services up and running in Canada.

3iQ chief executive Fred Pye says a physical bitcoin ETF is the natural progression from its other investment vehicles, which include a publicly listed bitcoin investment fund and a fund based on the cryptocurrency Ether.

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Trudeau 'very optimistic' vaccine rollout can be accelerated and move closer to U.S. goals – National Post

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Trudeau held to his September target, but said with vaccine deliveries being moved up and new candidates being approved, the timeline could be moved up

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OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday morning he was hopeful Canada’s vaccine timelines could be moved up, but offered no assurance the vaccine rollout here won’t be completed months after the United States.

But late on Wednesday afternoon, a national panel of vaccine experts recommended extending the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 shot when faced with a limited supply.

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s updated guidance is for the administration of all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada. It says extending the dose interval to four months will create opportunities to protect the entire adult population against the virus within a shorter timeframe.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Tuesday evening America would have enough vaccines delivered to cover the entire population by late May. The rollout of those vaccines into arms will follow, but America is still likely to be able to vaccinate its entire population months ahead of Canada.

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Trudeau’s long-held timeline is to have all Canadians vaccinated by the end of September. He held to that target at his Wednesday morning press conference, but said with vaccine deliveries being moved up and new candidates being approved, it is possible the timeline could be moved up.

“We’re very optimistic that we’re going to be able to accelerate some of these timelines,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do everything we can to allow our population to get through this challenge as quickly as possible,” he said.

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Trudeau said COVID has had a much more devastating impact on the U.S. and that will have a significant impact on the recovery.

“Obviously, the pandemic has had a very different course in the United States with far greater death tolls and case counts and that has had its own impact on the American economy,” he said.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, the party’s health critic, said the government should be providing a clearer, more detailed explanation of its vaccine plan, to help businesses have confidence about what comes next.

“We don’t have any of that data. We don’t actually know what the realistic time horizon is for delivery of vaccines,” she said.

With Canada set to be months behind the U.S., United Kingdom and potentially other countries in the rollout, Rempel Garner said the government should be offering information about what else it will do to ease the pandemic in the meantime.

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“I think we’ll have a problem on compliance and certainty for business reopening, so this is why we’re saying look, be honest with Canadians, and then let’s work together to come up with a plan B,” she said. “COVID fatigue is a real thing. There’s a lot of frustration.”

Trudeau announced that both the government’s rent subsidy for small business and the wage subsidy will be extended into June as the pandemic continues. The extension of the rent subsidy is forecasted to cost an additional $2.1 billion and the wage subsidy will cost the government an additional $13.9 billion.

Finance Minister Chyrstia Freeland said the government would continue to support businesses with the goal of keeping the economy moving so it can resurge quickly when restrictions are lifted.

“Our government will continue to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to help Canadians through this bleak time, to prevent economic scarring and invest in a way that allows us all to come roaring back,” she said.

Biden moved up his timeline to May, from what had been the end of July, after announcing the U.S. government had approved a third vaccine candidate from Johnson and Johnson. Canada is expected to approve that vaccine soon.

Canada received 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first shipment in a total of two million doses expected before mid-May, on top of a further 20 million doses expected between April and September.

Despite all the recent vaccine announcements, Trudeau said it was too early to formally move up the deadline, because there could still be issues with manufacturing or deliveries.

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“These are new processes for new vaccines that are being manufactured in the millions and even billions in order to cover everyone on Earth,” he said. “We’ll be facing continued challenges, which is one of the reasons why we made such a deliberate effort to sign more deals with more different companies than many of our fellow countries.”

While the Biden administration has said it won’t ship vaccines from the U.S. to other countries until all Americans are vaccinated, Trudeau said Biden knows the challenge is global.

“It was very clear that they understand, like us, we know that you don’t get through this pandemic, anywhere, not fully, until you get through it everywhere.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

• Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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Nova Scotia to accept shipment of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine – HalifaxToday.ca

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Nova Scotia has decided to receive its first shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Next week, the province will get 13,000 doses of the third COVID-19 vaccine approved for use by Health Canada.

They don’t have a long shelf life and must be used by April 2.

Because of that, even though it is a two dose vaccine, the province announced today it plans to administer all of the supply as first doses. They will be going into the arms of Nova Scotians between the ages of 50 and 64 at 26 locations throughout the province on a first-come, first-served basis.

Earlier this week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended the Oxford-AstraZeneca only be used for people between the ages of 18 and 64.

“AstraZeneca is different than the two vaccines we’re using now,” explained the province’s chief medical officer of health at Tuesday’s briefing. “The Pfizer-BioNtech and the Moderna are mRNA vaccines, which have been shown to be 94 to 95 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 illness.”

“The AstraZeneca is slightly different. It’s called a viral-vector vaccine and it’s been shown to be about 62 per cent effective against preventing symptomatic illness.”

Because of that, Dr. Robert Strang said it won’t be used for any group considered to be a high risk for severe disease and/or exposure.

Unlike the mRNA vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine does contain a virus, however the province says it isn’t the one that causes COVID-19. It’s a “different, harmless virus that triggers an immune response.”

The vaccine also doesn’t need the cold or ultra-low cold storage that the other two require. It can be stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, which is similar to the standard flu vaccine.

Doctors Nova Scotia and the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia will be handling the launch.

“This vaccine provides another tool in our fight against COVID-19 and builds on the roll-out that is already underway in our province as we work to vaccinate all Nova Scotians,” said Premier Iain Rankin in a news release. “We have to move fast as we are mindful of the fact that we have a short window to use it given that they will expire in a month.”

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Redacted Novavax COVID-19 vaccine contract for Canada released in U.S. regulatory filings – National Post

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All of Canada’s seven vaccine contracts have been kept confidential since they were signed last year and the government has fought against their disclosure

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OTTAWA – Canada’s agreement with COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer Novavax has been released in regulatory filings, showing the drug maker has set delivery schedules, but also has broad leeway to miss them for a variety of reasons.

Novavax was the fifth vaccine maker to submit their COVID-19 vaccine to Health Canada for regulatory approval and could be given the green light as early as April. The company has a deal to provide at least 52 million doses and as many as 76 million doses of its two-dose vaccine to Canada.

All of Canada’s seven vaccine contracts have been kept confidential since they were signed last year and the government has fought moves in parliament to force the disclosure of the contracts. The released contract is still heavily redacted, with all the details on price, deliveries and penalties for missed timelines for Novavax blacked out.

The contract, filed with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, does specifically acknowledge there are many problems that could prevent the company from making its deliveries on time.

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“Customer acknowledges that the delivery schedule may change due to several variables. Including but not limited to speed of clinical trial enrolment and accrual of events, manufacturing delays and/or timing of regulatory approval,” reads the contract. It also specifies the delivery schedule is an “estimate only.”

Under the deal, Novavax is set to deliver vaccines monthly to Canada and like other vaccine manufacturers has quarterly targets, though the specifics of those targets are redacted from the deal. The government agreed to pay up front for the vaccines, in part because the company agreed to manufacture doses ahead of regulatory approval so they can be moved out quickly after the vaccine is approved.

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The company’s CEO has said they could produce as many as 150 million doses per month starting in May. They have also signed deals with the United Kingdom, United States and several other countries, but Canada is one of the biggest orders.

If Novavax misses targets it has the opportunity to catch up and if they continue to fail Canada has the ability to cancel the agreement. Canada paid an upfront payment, but it is unclear how much Canada would be out if it cancelled the contract.

The deal does specify the company has to make “commercially reasonable efforts” to deliver on the contract, a phrase, which also exists in the company’s contracts with U.K. and Australia, though its specific definition is redacted.

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On deliveries, the U.K. and Australia’s contract includes similar language, but the U.K deal includes lots of specifics on the company’s commitment to attempt to manufacture the vaccine in British facilities.

Medical lab scientists work on samples collected in the Novavax phase 3 COVID-19 clinical vaccine trial at Harborview Medical Center on February 12, 2021 in Seattle, Washington.
Medical lab scientists work on samples collected in the Novavax phase 3 COVID-19 clinical vaccine trial at Harborview Medical Center on February 12, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images

The company has also signed a deal to produce its vaccine on Canadian soil, at the National Research Council’s under construction facility in Montreal, but that was not part of the original agreement.

The Montreal facility is expected to take until late December to actually produce doses, and Canada’s first shipments are expected to come from other countries.

The regulatory documents include the detail that the company is committed to go further and will expand its presence in Canada

“The MOU also includes a broader intention for the Government of Canada and us to work together to increase our Canadian presence,” reads the filling. “We will explore a range of partnership opportunities for us to expand vaccine production in Canada, including partnerships with Canadian contract manufacture.”

• Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

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