Crypto Moves — Bitcoin, Ether down; Gucci begins accepting crypto payments; US adds crypto mixer Blender to sanctions list; SEC charges Nvidia – Arab News

RIYADH: Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency internationally, traded lower on Sunday, down 3.52 percent to $34,548 at 09.25 a.m. Riyadh time.
Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $2,545, down 4.32 percent, according to data from Coindesk.
Gucci begins accepting crypto payments in some US stores
Italian luxury fashion house Gucci will accept cryptocurrency payments in the US from this month, Bloomberg reported. 
Customers in some stores in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta and Las Vegas will be able to pay using digital tokens from the end of May, Gucci said in a statement.
It will also adopt this payment option in all of its North American stores this summer.
Gucci will initially accept 10 cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, Dogecoin and Shiba Inu.
Google creating web3 team within cloud unit
Google’s cloud unit is preparing a team to build services for developers who are composing their own Web3 software and running blockchain applications, CNBC reported. 
“While the world is still early in its embrace of Web3, it is a market that is already demonstrating tremendous potential with many customers asking us to increase our support for Web3 and crypto related technologies,” Amit Zavery, a vice president and head of the Google Cloud said. 
Zavery added: “We’re not trying to be part of that cryptocurrency wave directly … We’re providing technologies for companies to use and take advantage of the distributed nature of Web3 in their current businesses and enterprises.”
Web3 is an idea for a new iteration of the World Wide Web based on blockchain technology, which incorporates concepts such as decentralization and token-based economics.
Bitcoin used to purchase apartment
An apartment in the Portuguese city of Braga was bought with cryptocurrency without any conversion to fiat money, and local media reports describing the deal as the first in the history of the country’s real estate market, according to  
The new owner paid 3 bitcoins worth about 110,000 euros ($115.94) at the time of purchase.
The purchase was made with the help of real estate agency Zome, the law firm Antas da Cunha Ecija, and partners from Switzerland’s Crypto Valley. The Chairman of the Portuguese chamber of notaries also participated.
Buying property directly using cryptocurrency is now possible in Portugal thanks to a new provision recently adopted by the Order of Notaries, the body which regulates notary activities together with the Ministry of Justice.
US adds Blender to the sanctions list 
The US on Friday imposed sanctions on virtual currency mixer Blender, accusing it of being involved in one of the largest cryptocurrency heists on record and being used by North Korea, the US Treasury Department said.
The Treasury also identified new virtual currency addresses it said were used by North Korean hacking group Lazarus to launder illicit proceeds, accusing it of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency tied to the popular online game Axie Infinity.
“We are taking action against illicit financial activity by the DPRK,” Brian Nelson, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in the statement.
The Treasury said it was the first time the US imposed sanctions on a virtual currency mixer — a software tool that pools and scrambles cryptocurrencies from thousands of addresses — and said it would continue to investigate the use of mixers for illicit purposes.
North Korea has stepped up efforts to launder stolen cryptocurrency, significantly increasing its use of mixers, blockchain analytics and cybersecurity firm Chainalysis said.
The Treasury said Blender was used in the laundering process for North Korea’s Axie Infinity heist, accusing it of processing over $20 million in illicit proceeds.
The Treasury said Blender also facilitated money-laundering for Russian-linked malign ransomware groups, among others.
US SEC charges Nvidia
The US Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday it had settled charges against technology company Nvidia Corporation for what it called “inadequate disclosures” concerning the impact of cryptomining on the company’s gaming business.
“The SEC’s order finds that, during consecutive quarters in NVIDIA’s fiscal year 2018, the company failed to disclose that cryptomining was a significant element of its material revenue growth from the sale of its graphics processing units designed and marketed for gaming,” the SEC said in a statement.
Cryptomining is the process of obtaining crypto rewards in exchange for verifying crypto transactions on distributed ledgers, according to the SEC website.
(With input from Reuters) 
RIYADH:  Foreign investments in Tunisia rose by 73 percent in the first three months of 2022 compared to the same period a year earlier, the Foreign Investment Promotion Agency reported, according to Tunisia’s state news agency.
The EU said in March it planned to lend €450 million ($475 million) to support Tunisia’s budget and said it would invest 4 billion euros in coming years.
The North African country has been seeking international help to support its strained public finances.
Mexican inflation 
Mexican inflation is expected to have continued its upward climb in April, reaching heights not seen since January 2001, a Reuters poll showed, reinforcing forecasts that the central bank will again hike its key interest rate next week.
The median forecast of 11 analysts surveyed was for consumer price inflation to rise 7.72 percent in the year through April, far above the Bank of Mexico’s target of 3 percent, plus or minus 1 percentage point.
Annual core inflation, which strips out some volatile food and energy items, was seen at 7.17 percent in April, also a 21-year high.
By comparison, headline inflation rose 7.45 percent in the year through March, while core inflation increased 6.78 percent. 
UK income hit from high inflation
People and businesses in Britain need to realize they are unlikely to recover the income lost to high inflation any time soon, the Bank of England’s chief economist said on Friday in the latest warning from the central bank of tough times ahead.
A day after the BoE forecast inflation would surpass 10 percent later this year, causing a sharp economic slowdown — and possibly a recession — Huw Pill said the central bank was unable to cushion people from surging energy and goods prices.
“What we are buying is becoming more expensive relative to what we are selling,” Pill told an online briefing for businesses hosted by the BoE.
“That does imply some sort of squeeze … on the real spending power of domestic residents in the UK. How that is distributed across firms, across wage-earners, across pensioners and so forth, monetary policy does not have much to say about that.”
Austria’s account deficit
Austria’s current account balance swung to a deficit in 2021 for the first time in 20 years as coronavirus-related travel restrictions hurt tourism badly and Austrian investments abroad grew, the Austrian National Bank said on Friday.
The country recorded a current account deficit of €2.1 billion ($2.2 billion), or 0.5 percent of gross domestic product, a sharp swing from a surplus of €7.2 billion in 2020, the year the pandemic and restrictions aimed at slowing it began in Europe.
The pandemic’s impact on the global economy “severely affected” Austrian trade in 2021, ONB Vice Gov. Gottfried Haber said in a statement, adding that many problems remain.
“Disrupted supply chains, rising energy prices and volatile markets will continue to affect Austria’s economy in the immediate future as well, as will the unforeseeable consequences of the war in Ukraine,” he said.
World food prices ease 
World food prices eased slightly in April after hitting a record high in March, pushed lower by vegetable oils and cereals, the UN food agency said on Friday.
The Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index, which tracks the most globally traded food commodities, averaged 158.5 points last month versus an upwardly revised 159.7 for March.
The March figure was previously put at 159.3.
“The small decrease in the index is a welcome relief, particularly for low-income food-deficit countries, but still food prices remain close to their recent highs, reflecting persistent market tightness and posing a challenge to global food security for the most vulnerable,” said FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero Cullen.
Although it declined month-on-month, the April index was 29.8 percent higher than a year earlier, pushed up in part by concerns over the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
(With input from Reuters) 
The Group of Seven leaders said in a joint statement on Sunday that they will reinforce Russia’s economic isolation and “elevate” a campaign against Russian elites who support President Vladimir Putin.
After meeting virtually with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the leaders said they would cut off key services on which Russia depends, reinforcing the isolation of Russia “across all sectors of its economy.”
They also committed to phasing out dependency on Russian energy, including by banning imports of Russian oil.
“(W)e will continue and elevate our campaign against the financial elites and family members, who support President Putin in his war effort and squander the resources of the Russian people,” the statement added.
The United States on Sunday unveiled sanctions against three Russian television stations, banned Americans from providing accounting and consulting services to Russians, and sanctioned executives from Gazprombank to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
Putin calls the invasion a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and its allies say Russia launched an unprovoked war.
RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian mining sector achieved record revenues in 2021 amounting to SR727 million ($194 million) and succeeded in attracting more than SR30 billion investments, and working on stimulating additional investments worth SR120 billion.
Saudi Arabia has been working to amend the mining sector regulations and legislation to provide a clear environment for investors in this sector. 
It is also seeking to increase the sector’s contribution to growth, economic diversification, job creation, and the transition to clean energy.
The Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources will attend the “Indaba” conference in South Africa, Minister Bandar Al-Khorayef will deliver a speech on the opening day of the conference, May 9.
RIYADH: Saudi Zamil Industrial Investment Co. appointed Mohammed Al-Sahib as CEO following the resignation of Abdulla Al-Zamil.
The appointment came as Al-Zamil stepped down from his position to take charge as the chairman of the board of directors, according to a bourse filing.
Al-Sahib has an Executive MBA and a BA in business statistics and operations management. He has over 22 years of experience in the construction and management sectors, as well as in business development strategies.
Incorporated in 1998, Zamil Industrial is one of the leading players in the development of innovative engineering solutions for construction projects.
RIYADH: Although there are no signs yet that officials in the Gulf countries are seeking to increase output quicker than currently envisaged to offset the possible loss of Russian crude output due to EU sanctions, analysts at Capital Economics believe that “policymakers in the Gulf eventually shift tack, not least to bolster their strategic interests in the oil market.”
Capital Economic expects Russia’s crude oil exports to fall by around 1 to 1.5mn barrels per day over the course of the year as the EU will phase out crude oil imports from Russia within six months, and petroleum products by the end of the year.
“There is a strong chance that the Gulf countries will eventually step in to raise output more quickly, providing a fillip to economic recoveries,” analysts wrote in a recent report.
One consequence is that the oil sector will make a major contribution to gross domestic product growth across the Gulf economies in the next few years, it said.
Stronger oil production, coming alongside the likelihood of looser fiscal policy, supports the firm’s forecast for the Saudi economic growth to be as high as 10 percent this year, the report said. This compares to the consensus expectation of 6.3 percent.
Although a further 250-bp hike by the Fed — expected through the end of 2023 — will create a headwind for the recovery in non-oil sectors across the Gulf as it is to “dis-incentivize borrowing and make it more attractive to save,” the impact of oil prices over $80 — as a driver for credit growth — tend to outweigh the negative effect from interest rates hikes, the report added.
According to findings by analysts of Capital Economics, during such periods — of the high price of oil — private sector credit growth in the Gulf economies strengthened as it usually ensured a looser fiscal policy and greater domestic economic confidence that drove demand for borrowing up.


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