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Digital Dollar Project to launch five U.S. central bank digital currency pilots

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By Michelle Price

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. nonprofit Digital Dollar Project said on Monday it will launch five pilot programs over the next 12 months to test the potential uses of a U.S. central bank digital currency, the first effort of its kind in the United States.

The private-sector pilots initially will be funded by Accenture Plc and involve financial firms, retailers and NGOs, among others. The aim is to generate data that could help U.S. policymakers develop a digital dollar.

A partnership between Accenture and the Digital Dollar Foundation, the Digital Dollar Project was created last year to promote research into a U.S. central bank digital currency (CBDC).

“There are conferences and papers coming out every week around the world on CBDCs based on data from other countries,” said Christopher Giancarlo, former chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and co-founder of the Digital Dollar Foundation.

“What there is not, is any real data and testing from the United States to inform that debate. We’re seeking to generate that real-world data,” Giancarlo added.

CBDCs are the digital equivalent of banknotes and coins, giving holders a direct digital claim on the central bank and allowing them to make instant electronic payments.

While debit cards or payment apps are a form of digital cash, those transactions are created by commercial banks based on money central banks credit to those banks’ accounts. They are not fully government-backed, can take days to settle, and often incur fees. Cryptocurrencies, meanwhile, are controlled by private actors.

Central banks around the world, including in China and Europe, are revving up CBDC projects to fend off threats from cryptocurrencies and improve payment systems.

As guardian of the world’s most widely used currency, the U.S. Federal Reserve is moving more cautiously. It is working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to build a technology platform for a hypothetical digital dollar, but chair Jerome Powell said last week that it is “far more important” to get a digital dollar right than it is to be fast.

Giancarlo said Powell was correct to be cautious but that as China pushes ahead, the United States must drive a discussion on incorporating U.S. values such as privacy and freedom of commerce and speech into the development of CBDCs.

“It’s vital that the U.S. asserts leadership as it has in previous technological innovations,” Giancarlo added.

A digital dollar could also boost financial inclusion in the United States, where transaction fees impede the access of many Americans to mainstream financial services, Giancarlo said.

The pilot programs, three of which will launch in the next two months, will complement the Fed’s MIT project by generating data on the functional, sociological, business uses, benefits and other facets, of a digital dollar. The data is due to be released publicly.

Accenture has worked on a number of CBDC projects including in Canada, Singapore and France.

David Treat, a senior managing director at Accenture, said CBDCs would exist alongside other forms of physical and electronic money, rather than replace them.

“It’s not a panacea for all money,” Treat said. “We will be using physical cash and coin for some time.”

 

(Reporting by Michelle Price; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Toronto Stock Exchange rises 0.64% to 19,310.74

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tsx

* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX rises 0.64 percent to 19,310.74

* Leading the index were Ero Copper Corp <ERO.TO​>, up 13.6%, Nexgen Energy Ltd​, up 12.6%, and Denison Mines Corp​, higher by 10.5%.

* Lagging shares were Kinaxis Inc​​, down 5.2%, Ballard Power Systems Inc​, down 3.9%, and Cominar REIT​, lower by 3.5%.

* On the TSX 132 issues rose and 93 fell as a 1.4-to-1 ratio favored advancers. There were 30 new highs and 1 new low, with total volume of 246.0 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Enbridge Inc, Suncor Energy Inc and Manulife Financial Corp.

* The TSX’s energy group rose 3.28 points, or 2.7%, while the financials sector climbed 2.69 points, or 0.8%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 0.58%, or $0.38, to $65.31 a barrel. Brent crude  fell 0.29%, or $0.2, to $68.68.

* The TSX is up 10.8% for the year.

This summary was machine generated May 5 at 21:03 GMT.

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Merkel wants Europe, United States to aim for new trade deal

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BERLIN (Reuters) – A trade agreement between the United States and the European Union would “make a lot of sense”, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech in which she welcomed the United States’ return to the multilateral fold under President Joe Biden.

German enthusiasm for a trade deal and stronger transatlantic ties may have to contend with a more cautious approach in France, where President Emmanuel Macron has made a priority of reducing European reliance on rival superpowers.

Merkel said that while Germany had no interest in a world divided into camps as it was in the Cold War, it was good that the United States, Europe’s “most important ally”, stood alongside Europe in rivalries with China and Russia.

“I have always supported a trade agreement between the United States of America and the European Union,” she told a Berlin conference on the future of transatlantic ties.

“We have trade agreements with so many of the world’s regions. It would make a lot of sense to develop such a trade agreement here, similar to what we have done with Canada,” she added.

Merkel’s transatlantic coordinator Peter Beyer told Reuters in February that Germany and the new U.S. administration should “think big” and aim for an ambitious agenda including a trade deal to abolish industrial tariffs and a WTO reform to increase pressure on China.

The European Union has put reform of the World Trade Organization at the heart of its trade strategy for the next decade, saying global rules on commerce must be greener, take more account of state subsidies and be enforced.

The EU itself feels bruised by trade wars, Brexit and what it sees as unfair competition from China, which it perceives as a “systemic rival”, and is taking more assertive measures to enforce global trade rules and ensure a level playing field.

Merkel said that despite issues with its ratification in the EU, the bloc’s planned investment agreement with China, the comprehensive agreement on investment (CAI), is a “very important undertaking, because it gives us more reciprocity in market access”.

At the same time, it was necessary to address “the whole range of issues” with China, including its human rights record, she added.

The EU executive has hailed the CAI, struck at the very end of 2020, as a means to secure better access for European companies to Chinese markets and redress unbalanced economic ties.

But concerns over China’s human and labour rights record and scepticism from the United States had already cast doubt on the deal’s approval process even before Chinese blacklisting of five members of the European Parliament in tit-for-tat sanctions.

 

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt, Paul Carrel and Michael Nienaber; EDiting by Giles Elgood)

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Canadian dollar posts three-year high as risk appetite climbs

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By Fergal Smith

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian dollar strengthened to its highest level in more than three years against its U.S. counterpart on Wednesday, supported by improved investor sentiment and the Bank of Canada‘s recent shift to more hawkish guidance.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a record high as the market recovered from a steep tech sell-off, after investors were encouraged by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s new comments on interest rates and a positive private jobs report.

“Risk-on conditions” and the recent move higher in commodity prices bolstered the Canadian dollar,” Ronald Simpson, managing director, global currency analysis at Action Economics, said in a note. “In addition, the BoC’s tapering of its QE program appears to have shifted USD-CAD’s trading range down a notch.”

Last month, the Bank of Canada cut the pace of its bond purchases and signaled it could hike interest rates in late 2022.

Further clues to the central bank’s policy outlook could come from Canada‘s April employment report, due for release on Friday.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.2% higher at 1.2280 to the greenback, or 81.43 U.S. cents, having touched its strongest intraday level since February 2018 at 1.2252.

U.S. crude oil futures settled 0.1% lower at $65.63 a barrel as traders used weekly inventory figures as an excuse to pull back from the recent rally. Oil is one of Canada‘s major exports.

Home sales in Toronto, Canada‘s most populous city, fell nearly 13% in April from March. That bucked the regular spring trend, as demand began to ease after months of blistering growth.

Canadian government bond yields were mixed across the curve, with the 10-year little changed at 1.521%.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Nick Zieminski)

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