Asian stocks follow Wall St lower as inflation worries mount
BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks have fallen for a second day, following Wall Street lower as worries about inflation mount.
Market benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia retreated. On Wednesday, Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index recorded its biggest one-day drop in three months after a jump in U.S. inflation. The price rises reflect growing economic activity and pent-up consumer demand after last year’s global shutdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Facebook-backed digital currency project Diem shifts to US
UNDATED (AP) — A once-ambitious Facebook-backed digital currency project — formerly known as Libra, now called Diem — is shifting operations from Switzerland to the U.S. and announced it plans to launch a cryptocurrency tied to the U.S. dollar.
The Diem Association, which includes Facebook and 25 other companies, has entered a partnership with Silvergate Capital Corp. to issue a “stablecoin” backed by the U.S. dollar.
A stablecoin is a digital currency tied to a real-world currency such as the U.S. dollar or other assets. Diem said it is also withdrawing its application for a payment system license from the Swiss Financial Markets Authority.
As the name implies, stablecoins are designed to not fluctuate wildly in value. That’s in sharp contrast to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, whose value is not tied to a real-world currency and whose price has ranged between roughly $9,000 and $63,000 over the past year.
Tesla to stop accepting Bitcoin for car payments
PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) — Electric car maker Tesla will stop accepting Bitcoin as a payment. That’s according to a tweet Wednesday from CEO Elon Musk, who cited environmental concerns surrounding the cryptocurrency.
He pointed to Tesla’s concerns about the increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions. He added that cryptocurrency is a “good idea on many levels” but its promise cannot come at a “great cost to the environment.”
The price of bitcoin fell about 5% to $51,847 after Musk’s comments on Twitter.
Biden signs order to beef up federal cyber defenses
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — President Joe Biden has signed an executive order meant to strengthen U.S. cybersecurity defenses in response to a series of headline-grabbing hacking incidents that highlight how vulnerable the country’s public and private sectors are to high-tech spies and criminals operating from half a world away.
Biden’s executive order was announced shortly after the nation’s largest fuel pipeline restarted operations Wednesday, days after it was forced to shut down by a gang of hackers. The disruption of Colonial Pipeline caused long lines at gas stations in the Southeast.
The order will require all federal agencies to use basic cybersecurity defenses, like multi-factor authentication, and require new security standards for software makers that contract with the federal government.
Officials are hoping to leverage the federal government’s massive spending power to improve software security in the private sector.
Company defies Michigan governor’s order to close pipeline
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The company that operates an Upper Midwestern oil pipeline is rejecting Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s demand to close it. Whitmer had set a Wednesday deadline to shut down Line 5, contending it risks a major oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac linking Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.
But Enbridge says only the federal government has authority to order a shutdown.
The Canadian company and its supporters say doing so would risk the same fuel disruptions experienced on the East Coast following a cyberattack against a pipeline there.
Opponents say the two situations are different and accuse Enbridge of flouting the law.
Australia signs deal for 25 million Moderna COVID-19 doses
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia has reached a supply agreement for 25 million doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Moderna says Thursday the deal includes 10 million doses of the vaccine against the ancestral strain to be delivered in 2021 and 15 million doses of an updated variant booster to be delivered in 2022.
The vaccines have yet to be approved by the Australian regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Pfizer and AstraZeneca are the only other coronavirus vaccines approved for use in Australia. All three vaccines require two doses.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he expected the first Moderna vaccines to arrive in Australia in the last three months of 2021.
Australian telco fined $39M for exploiting Indigenous folk
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s largest telecommunications company Telstra has been fined 50 million Australian dollars ($39 million) for unconscionable conduct in selling remote Indigenous customers mobile phone contracts that they did not understand and could not afford.
The fine ordered by a Federal Court judge is the second largest ever imposed under Australian consumer law. Telstra admitted the offenses in signing up 108 Indigenous customers to post-paid mobile products.
The customers owed on average AU$7,400 ($5,700) and one owed AU$19,000 (nearly $14,700). Telstra has waived the debts and refunded money. Telstra chief executive Andy Penn said his company is working to resolve the problem.