Bitcoin hits record high of $62,575

LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin hit a record of $62,575 on Tuesday, extending its 2021 rally to new heights.

The world’s biggest cryptocurrency has more than doubled in price this year amid growing mainstream acceptance as an investment and a means of payment, and as investors seek high-yielding assets amid low interest rates.

Major firms including BNY Mellon, Mastercard Inc and Tesla Inc are among those to have embraced or invested in cryptocurrencies.

Reporting by Thyagaraju Adinarayan and Tom Wilson, Editing by Iain Withers

Goldman Sachs to open office in Birmingham in UK

LONDON (Reuters) – Goldman Sachs said on Tuesday it would open a new office in the English city of Birmingham, expanding its office footprint in Britain at a time when many rivals are reducing space due to the pandemic.

The bank said the first staff would begin working in the new office in the third quarter of this year, with headcount growing to several hundred over time.

Goldman said its engineering division would be the first to base staff in Birmingham through a mix of hiring and transfers.

The U.S. banking giant’s CEO David Solomon has been among the most vocal company executives wanting to get staff back to the office as soon as local virus restrictions allow, calling remote working an “aberration” in February.

But other banks – including HSBC – have been quick to target deep office cuts particularly in retail banking and even move some staff to permanent home working.

“We see tremendous opportunity to enhance our UK presence and continue delivering for our global clients,” said Richard Gnodde, chief executive officer for Goldman Sachs International.

Reporting by Iain Withers, Editing by Tommy Wilkes

Intel to produce chips for automakers within six to nine months: CEO

(Reuters) – The chief executive of Intel Corp told Reuters on Monday the company is in talks to start producing chips for car makers to alleviate a shortage that has hobbled factories.

Chief Executive Officer Pat Gelsinger said the company is talking to companies that design chips for automakers about manufacturing those chips inside Intel’s factory network, with the goal of producing chips within six to nine months. Gelsinger earlier on Monday met with White House officials to discuss the semiconductor supply chain.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Chris Reese

U.S. budget deficit hits record high for March as aid payments swell outlays

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government posted a March budget deficit of $660 billion, a record high for the month, as direct payments to Americans under President Joe Biden’s stimulus package were distributed, the Treasury Department said on Monday.

The deficit for the first six months of the 2021 fiscal year ballooned to a record $1.706 trillion, compared to a $743 billion deficit for the comparable year-earlier period. The first six months of fiscal 2020 largely did not include emergency pandemic spending to counter the coronavirus-related lockdowns that started in March 2020.

The March deficit, which compared to a year-earlier deficit of $119 billion, included receipts of $268 billion and outlays of $927 billion – both record highs for that month.

A Treasury official said the March outlays were further increased by $339 billion in direct payments of $1,400 that were sent to many individuals under Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act that was enacted last month.

More funding from the $1.9 trillion stimulus package will roll out in coming months, the official said, likely keeping outlays elevated.

For the first six months of fiscal 2021, outlays were a record $3.410 trillion, while receipts were $1.704 trillion, the Treasury said. Total direct payments in the six-month period came to $487 billion, including those from a year-end stimulus package passed under former President Donald Trump, the Treasury official said.

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Paul Simao

HSBC bans customers from buying bitcoin-backer MicroStrategy shares

LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC has banned customers of its online share-trading platform from buying or moving into their accounts MicroStrategy Inc stock, a message seen by Reuters showed, calling it a “virtual currency product”.

The bank will not facilitate the buying or exchange of products related to or referencing the performance of virtual currencies, the message to an HSBC InvestDirect client said. Bitcoin is the largest and best-known virtual currency.

MicroStrategy declined to comment. The U.S. business software firm is led by bitcoin proponent Michael Saylor and owns bitcoin worth billions of dollars.

While HSBC will allow the holding, sale and outgoing transfer of MicroStrategy shares, it will forbid new purchases or incoming transfers, said the message dated March 29.

“HSBC has no appetite for direct exposure to virtual currencies and limited appetite to facilitate products or securities that derive their value from VCs (virtual currencies),” HSBC said in a statement.

HSBC InvestDirect is available to customers in countries including Canada and Britain.

The bank said its policy towards cryptocurrencies had been in place since 2018 and is kept under review. It could not immediately say which countries the ban applied to.

The move comes amid a growing embrace of cryptocurrencies by large financial firms, companies and investors seeking yield in a world of ultra-low interest rates.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc said last month it would offer investments in bitcoin and other digital assets to its wealth management clients. Morgan Stanley has also started offering clients investments to the emerging asset class.

MicroStrategy has along with Tesla Inc and payments firm Square Inc become one of several publicly listed U.S. companies to buy large amounts of bitcoin for its treasury.

MicroStrategy said last week it owns around 91,579 bitcoins. Its holdings, worth around $5.5 billion according to a Reuters calculation, are equal to around 80% of its $6.8 billion market capitalisation.

Reporting by Tom Wilson; Editing by David Holmes

Exclusive: GameStop initiates search for new CEO-Sources

(Reuters) – GameStop Corp is looking for a new chief executive to replace George Sherman as it pivots from being a brick-and-mortar video game retailer to an e-commerce firm, three people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

It would be the biggest shakeup at GameStop since Ryan Cohen, the co-founder and former chief executive of online pet food company Chewy Inc, joined its board in January.

GameStop’s board is working with an executive headhunter on the CEO search, the sources said, requesting anonymity because the matter is confidential.

A GameStop spokesman declined to comment.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Dan Grebler

FBI arrest man over alleged Amazon centre bomb plot

US authorities have arrested a man who allegedly plotted to bomb an Amazon data centre, which he believed would “kill off about 70% of the internet”. 

Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, was arrested after receiving a dud explosive device from an undercover FBI agent, and was charged with a malicious attempt to destroy a building with an explosive,

He came to the FBI’s attention after somebody reported his online posts. 

If convicted, Mr Pendley could face up to 20 years in prison.

According to investigators, Mr Pendley’s main goal was to damage Amazon’s web server network. 

He believed that there were 24 buildings that “run 70% of the internet”, including services used by the CIA and FBI, according to a conversation detailed in the criminal complaint against him.

Damaging them would frustrate the “oligarchy” – or small group of elites – in power in the United States, he believed.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) does play a hugely important role in the modern internet, hosting and processing the information behind many popular online services and websites. 

Outages caused by a problem at one centre tend to knock services offline for several hours at most, and often for a limited number of people or for specific sites.

For example, in 2017, a major fault at one US AWS centre knocked sites such as Quora and Trello offline for several hours. And even the total loss by fire of a European data centre earlier this year – which disrupted an estimated 3.6 million websites including government portals across Europe – went unnoticed by many internet users.

From Capitol Riot to C-4

Mr Pendley attended the Capitol Riots of 6 January, investigators found, having driven from Texas to Washington DC. Investigators said he told friends he had brought an assault rifle with him, but left it in his car – and also that although he reached the windows of the Capitol building, he did not enter it.

Two days after that event, a “concerned citizen” reported Mr Pendley’s posts on a militia website – where he went by the name of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine – to the FBI.

“We are indebted to the concerned citizen who came forward to report the defendant’s alarming online rhetoric. In flagging his posts to the FBI, this individual may have saved the lives of a number of tech workers,” acting US attorney Prerak Shah said in a statement.h

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

The posts from “Dionysus” that sparked concern spoke of his desire to “conduct a little experiment,” which he said would be dangerous and “draw a lot of heat” and could be “dangerous”. Asked by another user what the result would be, he responded, “death”, according to the court documents.

The FBI managed to uncover Dionysus’s email address, and link that to his Facebook account and real-world identity.

In late January, Mr Pendley began using the encrypted messaging app Signal to detail his plans to bomb an AWS facility – but the recipient of those messages was a confidential FBI informant, investigators said. 

Over the course of February, Mr Pendley shared his plans, including the type of explosive he sought, potential targets, and maps. 

On 31 March, the confidant introduced Pendley to a supposed explosives supplier – who was actually an undercover member of the FBI. His plan at this point, according to a recorded conversation, was to attack three Amazon buildings clustered close together.

On 8 April, at the handover of the supposed explosives, the undercover FBI employee showed Mr Pendley boxes he claimed were C-4 weapons-grade explosives, and showed him how to arm and detonate them. After Mr Pendley took the devices and placed them in his car, he was arrested by the FBI.

Mr Pendley made an initial court appearance on Friday, and remains in custody.

Source: BBC

EU proposes six-month tariff freeze with United States – Der Spiegel

BERLIN (Reuters) – The European Union has suggested that it and the United States suspend tariffs imposed on billions of dollars of imports for six months, EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis was quoted as telling Germany’s Der Spiegel on Saturday.

That would go beyond a four-month suspension agreed last month, and send a signal that Brussels is seeking compromise in a 16-year-old dispute over aircraft subsidies.

“We have proposed suspending all mutual tariffs for six months in order to reach a negotiated solution,” Dombrovskis told the news magazine.

“This would create a necessary breathing space for industries and workers on both sides of the Atlantic,” he added.

In March, the two sides agreed on a four-month suspension covering all U.S. tariffs on $7.5 billion of EU imports and all EU duties on $4 billion of U.S. products, which resulted from long-running World Trade Organization cases over subsidies for planemakers Airbus and Boeing.

Dombrovskis also said the EU would closely monitor U.S. President Joe Biden’s “Buy American” laws which provide for U.S. public contracts to be awarded exclusively to American firms.

“Our goal is to push for procurement markets that are as open as possible all over the world,” he told Der Spiegel.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by William Maclean and Helen Popper

BHP, Vale Samarco JV files for Brazil bankruptcy protection

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Samarco Mineracao SA, a joint venture between Brazilian miner Vale SA and BHP Group Ltd, has filed for bankruptcy protection to prevent creditors’ claims from affecting its operations, Vale said in a Friday securities filing.

The collapse of a dam at the Samarco mine complex in 2015 killed 19 people and severely polluted the Doce River with mining waste, one of Brazil’s worst environmental disasters. The facility, which resumed production in December, is the focus of significant litigation from bondholders holding nearly $5 billion in debt.

“The (judicial reorganization) filing is necessary to prevent legal actions already underway … from affecting Samarco’s ability to produce, ship, receive for its exportations and to fund the normal course of its activities,” the company said.

Vale said the bankruptcy protection filing would not impact Samarco’s ability to pay reparations to those affected by the 2015 dam burst. It said out-of-court negotiations with creditors had slowly broken down over time.

The in-court reorganization request, filed in the state of Minas Gerais, is roughly analogous to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in the United States.

Samarco has $4.7 billion of financial debt from non-related parties, Vale said. In the years following the Samarco disaster, Samarco had negotiated with creditors to reach a restructuring agreement. However, those talks slowed in 2019 after changes in dam regulations in Brazil, which materially affected operations at Samarco, Vale said.

In 2019, another dam burst at a Vale mine in Brazil, killing some 270 people and prompting a tightening of the rules governing mining damns.

A significant portion of the debt is now held by “investors active in the distressed assets market,” rather than the original bondholders at the time of the disaster, Vale said.

Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Christian Plumb and Will Dunham