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Ethereum breaks past $3,000 to quadruple in value in 2021

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) –Cryptocurrency ether broke past $3,000 on Monday to set a new record high in a dazzling rally that has outshone the bigger bitcoin, as investors bet that ether will be of ever greater use in a decentralised future financial system.

Ether, the token transacted on the ethereum blockchain, rose 3% on the Bitstamp exchange to $3,051.99 by lunchtime in Asia. It is up more than 300% for the year so far, easily outpacing a 95% rise in the more popular bitcoin.

In part, the big rally is a catch-up to late 2020 gains in bitcoin, said James Quinn, managing director at Q9 Capital, a Hong Kong cryptocurrency private wealth manager.

It also reflects improvements to the ethereum blockchain, he said, and a growing shift towards “DeFi”, or decentralised finance, which refers to transactions outside traditional banking for which the ethereum blockchain is a crucial platform.

“At first, the rally was really led by bitcoin because as a lot of the institutional investors came into the space, that would be their natural first port of call,” Quinn said.

“But as the rally has matured over the last six months, you have DeFi and a lot of DeFi is built on ethereum.”

The launch of ether exchange-traded funds in Canada and surging demand for ether wallets to transact non-fungible tokens such as digital art have also pushed up the price.

The ether/bitcoin cross rate has soared more than 100% this year and hit a 2.5-year high on Sunday, pointing to a degree of rotation into the second-biggest cryptocurrency as investors diversify their exposure.

“Surging DeFi volumes continue to push ethereum prices higher as investors gain confidence in crypto and see ethereum as a safe second-place asset,” said Jehan Chu, managing partner at Hong Kong blockchain venture capital firm Kenetic Capital.

Illustrating the momentum for such new transactions, Bloomberg reported last week that the European Investment Bank plans on issuing a digital bond over the Ethereum blockchain, while JP Morgan plans a managed bitcoin fund.

Bitcoin, the world’s biggest crypto asset with more than $1 trillion in market capitalisation, regained the $50,000 mark last week and hovered around $58,000 on Monday, up about 3% but well below its record high at $64,895.22.

The U.S. dollar was broadly steady. [FRX/]

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Vidya Ranganathan; Editing by Himani Sarkar & Shri Navaratnam)

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Dogecoin dropped after Elon Musk calls it a ‘hustle’ on ‘SNL’ show

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By Alden Bentley and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The value of dogecoin dropped sharply in early U.S. hours on Sunday, after Tesla chief and cryptocurrency supporter Elon Musk called it a ‘hustle’ during his guest-host spot on the “Saturday Night Live” comedy sketch TV show.

Dogecoin was quoted as low as $0.47 on crypto exchange Binance, down 28% from levels around $0.65 before the show.

The billionaire Tesla Inc chief executive hosted the show at 11:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday (0330 GMT on Sunday).

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts had for days been eager to see what he would say, after his tweets this year turned the once-obscure digital currency into a speculator’s dream.

Asked ‘what is dogecoin’, Musk replied, “It’s the future of currency. It’s an unstoppable financial vehicle that’s going to take over the world.”

When a show cast member Michael Che countered, “So, it’s a hustle?”, Musk replied, “Yeah, it’s a hustle.” And laughed.

Musk is the rare business mogul to have been asked to host the venerable comedy TV show. The timing puts Musk back in the spotlight just as Tesla’s stock is losing steam following last year’s monster rally.

The unconventional CEO has posted numerous comments about cryptocurrencies on Twitter and criticized regular old cash for having negative real interest rates.

“Only a fool wouldn’t look elsewhere,” he said in February.

His cryptic tweets “Doge” and “Dogecoin is the people’s crypto” that month kicked off a rally in dogecoin – created as a parody on the more mainstream bitcoin and ethereum.

On Thursday, Musk tweeted: “Cryptocurrency is promising, but please invest with caution!” with a video clip attached in which he said, “it should be considered speculation at this point. And so, you know, don’t don’t go too far in the crypto speculation …”

But he also said, in the video, that cryptocurrency has a “good chance” of becoming what he called “the future currency of the Earth.”

On crypto data tracker CoinGecko.com, dogecoin has jumped more than 800% over the last month and is now the fourth-largest digital currency, with a market capitalization of $73 billion. It hit a record high Thursday above $0.73.

It has overtaken more widely used cryptocurrencies such as litecoin and tether.

Tesla said in February it bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin and would soon accept it as a form of payment for its electric cars, a large stride toward mainstream acceptance that sent bitcoin soaring to a record high of nearly $62,000.

Tesla shares closed 1.3% higher at $672.37 on Friday.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Alden Bentley in New York, and Noel Randewich and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco Additional reporting by Joe White and Vidya RanganathanEditing by Matthew Lewis & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Wealthsimple hits $4 billion valuation on funding from Ryan Reynolds, Drake

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Wealthsimple

(Reuters) -Wealthsimple said on Monday it has raised C$750 million ($610.40 million) in its latest funding round, which more than doubled the Canadian fintech company‘s valuation to C$5 billion.

The latest funding round included participation from celebrities Drake, Michael Fox and Ryan Reynolds, according to the company.

The Toronto-based company that has helped make stock trading, peer-to-peer money transfers and tax filing easily accessible, said it will use the amount raised to further expand its market position, product suite and team.

The latest funding round, led by venture capital firms Meritech and Greylock, also includes investments from iNovia, Sagard, TSV and Redpoint.

The funding consists of C$250 million primary fundraising by Wealthsimple and a C$500 million secondary offering by holding company Power Corp of Canada, its largest shareholder.

Wealthsimple said it has seen rapid growth in the past 14 months as Canadians took an interest in stock trading during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, the company said it plans to grow revenue by adding premium features for its clients.

($1 = 1.2288 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Eva Mathews and Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Shounak Dasgupta)

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Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway

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By John McCrank and Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Some Berkshire Hathaway shareholders are grappling with how Warren Buffett’s conglomerate will handle a thicket of post-pandemic challenges, including looming inflation, a dearth of acquisitions and demands for more environmental and social disclosures.

Making money at Berkshire used to be like “shooting fish in a barrel, but that’s gotten harder,” Buffett’s long-time business partner Charlie Munger said at the conglomerate’s annual meeting on Saturday.

Investors have long been happy to bet on Buffett outperforming markets, and many remain confident Berkshire’s growth will pick up if the U.S. economy continues roaring back from its pandemic-induced slump. Still, some worry the last year may have exacerbated Berkshire’s difficulties delivering faster growth.

“We have been reducing our position in Berkshire for a number of years because it appears that we can make more money than he can,” said Bill Smead, whose firm, Seattle-based Smead Capital Management has reduced its Berkshire holdings to about 2.2% of its $2.5 billion portfolio, from 5% a decade ago.

With unprecedented government stimulus and rock bottom interest rates threatening to lift inflation, Berkshire may be too big to pivot heavily to companies that could benefit from rising consumer prices, Smead said.

Several Berkshire shareholders expressed frustration that Buffett did not snap up more shares of companies at the beginning of the pandemic, a missed opportunity given the S&P 500’s nearly 90% surge from last year’s low.

Steve Haberstroh, a partner at Berkshire shareholder CastleKeep Investment Advisors, said it was “frustrating” Berkshire didn’t swoop in to buy distressed companies sooner.

Yet, he was gratified when the company announced share buybacks and new stakes in Verizon Communications Inc and Chevron Corp .

Another issue hampering Berkshire’s ability to generate money is historically low interest rates, which the Federal Reserve has pledged to leave at near-zero for years.

Berkshire now earns about $20 million annually on its more than $100 billion in Treasury bills, compared with about $1.5 billion before the pandemic, Buffett said.

“Imagine your wage is going from $15 an hour to $0.20 an hour,” Buffett said.

Still, Berkshire has outperformed the S&P 500 year to date, gaining 18.6% versus the index’s 11.84% gain. But it has trailed over the past decade, returning nearly 236% compared with just over 277% for the index.

As the economy improves, Berkshire is poised to benefit, said James Shanahan, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co.

“If it has a challenge, it relates to capital deployment,” he said. Berkshire’s $145.4 billion cash hoard could swell by $25 billion by year end, he said.

Buffett said he would like to put $70 billion to $80 billion to work through acquisitions.

But the growth of special purpose acquisintion companies, which take private companies public, has made buying whole companies pricey for Berkshire, Buffett said.

EYE ON SUCCESSION

As in previous years, investors have also been focused on Berkshire’s guidance regarding succession.

Among the biggest reasons for Berkshire’s success is the relationship between Buffett, 90, and Munger, 97, and the business culture they cultivate.

Both expressed confidence in Berkshire’s ability to stay on course once they’re gone, and had possible Buffett successors, Vice Chairmen Greg Abel and Ajit Jain, join them on stage at the annual meeting.

“This decentralization won’t work unless you have the right kind of culture accompanying it,” Buffett said about Berkshire.

“Greg will keep the culture,” Munger said of Abel.

Robert Miles, a shareholder who teaches a class on Buffett and Berkshire at The University of Nebraska, called Abel and Jain’s presence “a real value-add,” in that they fielded several questions and were more visible than in most prior years.

Jain said he and Abel talk every quarter about businesses they oversee.

Abel addressed Berkshire’s efforts around environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues topics that were on the meeting’s agenda, with two shareholder proposals asking the company’s board to publish annual reports on how each of its units addressed them.

Berkshire opposed the proposals, citing its decentralized business model.

Both proposals were rejected, but received support from around one quarter of the votes cast, suggesting greater discontent than Berkshire shareholders historically have demonstrated.

“These are complex topics that warrant ongoing dialogue,” said Caitlin McSherry, Director of Investment Stewardship at Neuberger Berman, a Berkshire shareholder that backed the proposals.

Smead, of Smead Capital Management, looks forward to when Berkshire will again become a frequent buyer of choice for companies looking to sell.

“We would (add) where they are back to shooting fish in a barrel,” he said.

 

(Reporting by John McCrank and Jonathan Stempel; additional reporting by Megan Davies; Editing by Ira Iosebashvili and Diane Craft)

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