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Russian Olympics team in shock over Games doping scandal

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A Russian Olympic medallist has left the Pyeongchang Winter Games on suspicion of doping, a team official said on Monday, in a scandal that has shocked his teammates and could imperil Russia’s efforts to regain full Olympic status.

Alexander Krushelnitsky, who competes in curling, one of the Games’ least physically taxing sports, is suspected of testing positive for meldonium, a banned substance that increases blood flow and improves exercise capacity.

Asked for an update on the case, Russian delegation spokesman Konstantin Vybornov told Reuters the athlete had surrendered his Games accreditation and left the Olympic village while awaiting the result of a second sample later on Monday.

He later denied having referred to any individual by name. But Russian women’s curling coach Sergei Belanov replied to reporters’ questions about Krushelnitsky, dismissing the idea that a “young, clever man” would use drugs in a sport where they would produce “no benefits”.

“It’s stupid, but Alexander is not stupid, so I don’t believe it,” Belanov said.

Krushelnitsky won bronze with his wife Anastasia Bryzgalova in mixed-doubles curling in Pyeongchang. He has not responded to a request for comment.

Suspicions of a doping violation have rocked the Russian team, which have been trying to draw a line under years of drug-cheating scandals, and shocked the sport of curling, where steady hands and sharp eyes outweigh physical fitness.

“We were all shocked when we found out yesterday. Of course we very much hope it was some kind of mistake,” Russian curler Viktoria Moiseeva told reporters, adding that the team believed Krushelnitsky was innocent.

“With us it’s not faster, higher, stronger; it’s about being more accurate. I can’t imagine what kind of drugs you could use in curling … so it’s very hard to believe.”

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Tesla (TSLA) earnings Q2 2021

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SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk visits the construction site of Tesla’s gigafactory in Gruenheide, near Berlin, Germany, May 17, 2021.

Michele Tantussi | Reuters

Tesla reports second-quarter results after the bell on Monday.

Here’s what analysts are expecting, according to estimates compiled by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings: 98 cents per share, adjusted, expected
  • Revenue: $11.30 billion expected

Tesla has already reported deliveries (its closest approximation to sales) of 201,250 electric vehicles, and production of 206,421 total vehicles, during the quarter ending June 30, 2021.

During the quarter, among other challenges, Tesla faced a backlash from consumers in China, recalls in China and the US, and delayed deliveries of the high-performance version of its flagship sedan, the Model S Plaid.

Institutional investors are now looking for updates on two new factories Tesla is building in Austin and near Berlin, when the company plans to start commercial production of its Cybertruck and custom battery cells, and how Tesla will weather ongoing parts shortages and the rising cost of raw materials that CEO Elon Musk previously complained about.

While Tesla does not disclose how many energy storage units it sells each quarter, in recent weeks Musk said, in court, that Tesla’s demand for its Powerwall backup batteries for homes stood around 80,000. He added that the company would only be able to produce 30,000 to 35,000 at best during the current quarter, blaming the lag on chip shortages.

For the first quarter, Tesla reported net income of $438 million on $10.39 billion in revenue. It also recorded a $101 million positive impact from sales of bitcoin during the quarter, and said that $518 million in revenue came from sales of regulatory credits.

Investors will be watching for the impact of bitcoin holdings and sales, if any, on Tesla’s bottom line once again, along with revenue from regulatory credits.

As more automakers produce and sell their own battery electric vehicles the world over, Tesla faces competition on these two fronts.

As CNBC has previously reported, in more than a dozen states, automakers who want to sell their cars there have to sell a certain amount of electric, hybrid electric or other zero emission vehicles (also known as ZEVs). Environmental regulatory credits aren’t limited to the states, either.

Companies that are not selling ZEVs yet, or not selling them in significant volumes, will often buy credits from automakers who are in order to remain compliant. Because Tesla sells ZEVs only, it doesn’t have to keep credits that it earns and can sell them before they expire. Pricing and sales data in the regulatory credits market is generally opaque.

Credits have generally enabled Tesla to report profits. During the second quarter of 2020, amid the burgeoning covid pandemic, Tesla reported net income of $104 million, notching the company its first full year of GAAP profits on revenue of $6.04 billion during the quarter. Around $428 million of that came from regulatory credits.

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DOJ reportedly probes crypto company Tether for possible bank fraud

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A smartphone displays the Tether market value on the via The Crypto App.

Guillaume Payen | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

The Justice Department is investigating possible bank fraud by executives of Tether Ltd. stemming from actions during the early days of its stablecoin cryptocurrency, according to Bloomberg News.

The probe has implications for the cryptomarket. Tether’s stablecoin is the third largest digital asset by market cap, at $62.3 billion, according to CoinGecko, and traders often use it instead of dollars or other fiat money to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Tether gives users a way to move funds between exchanges quickly and offers some level of protection from other cryptocurrencies’ price volatility.

The DOJ’s investigation is focused on activity from Tether’s early days, probing whether the company misled banks by hiding the fact that transactions were linked to cryptocurrency, Bloomberg reported Monday, citing three people with direct knowledge of the matter who asked not to be named because the probe is confidential. Federal prosecutors have sent letters in recent months to individuals alerting them that they are targets of the investigation and that a decision on the probe could be made soon, according to the news agency.

The Justice Department declined a CNBC request for comment.

Tether dismissed the report in an emailed statement, saying it’s “business as usual” at the company and that it’s determined “to remain leaders in the community.”

It also said: “Tether routinely has open dialogue with law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, as part of our commitment to cooperation, transparency, and accountability. We are proud of our role as industry leaders in promoting cooperation between industry and government authorities in the U.S. and around the world. We remain committed to our customers and the industry-leading technology and transparency that has led to our growth.”

Depending on the outcome of the investigation, it could lead to stricter oversight of stablecoins by regulators and more transparency in how digital assets are backed, transacted, and traded, according to Jesse Proudman, co-founder of crypto robo-advisor Makara Digital.

Tether was created in 2014 in response to one of the biggest challenges for crypto start-ups at the time: bank de-risking. Most businesses handling cryptocurrencies had difficulty obtaining bank relationships because the highly regulated financial institutions feared doing business with companies that could potentially be tied to illicit activities.

Tether has long been controversial, largely because of concerns it doesn’t always have enough reserves to justify its peg to the U.S. dollar.

Stablecoins, digital currencies designed to be more stable than cryptocurrencies because the peg their market value to an outside asset like the U.S. dollar, are in the regulatory hot seat as they grow in popularity. Last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets discussed stablecoins’ potential role in the financial system.

In February, Tether also agreed to pay an $18.5 million fine to end a New York probe over allegations that the company moved hundreds of millions of dollars to cover up $850 million in losses.

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International buyers dropped out of U.S. housing during pandemic, China rushes back

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U.S. homebuyers went on a buying spree during much of the coronavirus pandemic‘s first year. International buyers did just the opposite, though.

Even with virtual options in place for property tours, sales of U.S. homes to foreign buyers fell by 31% from April 2020 to March 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors.

International buyers purchased 107,000 properties, marking the lowest unit volume and lowest dollar volume since 2011.

“The big decline in foreign purchases of homes in the U.S. in the past year is no surprise, given the pandemic-induced lockdowns and international travel restrictions,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a release. “Yet, even with the absence of foreign buyers, the U.S. housing market strengthened solidly.”

China, Canada, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom were the top five countries in sales dollar volume for U.S. residential properties. That dollar volume, however, was down at least 50% for buyers from China, Canada and Mexico. The U.K. was the only country among those five to see an increase from the year before.

Chinese buyers are particularly important to watch, as China had taken over as the lead demand for U.S. housing in the early part of the last decade but then fell back slightly during the Trump administration. Now Chinese buyers are apparently surging back in.

“There has been quite a positive impact on the demand from the Biden boost, as the U.S. is being perceived as much more predictable now, and visas are also much easier to be obtained,” said Georg Chmiel, executive chairman of Juwai IQI, a home listing site in China much like Zillow in the U.S. “On the other side, and now that we are over a year dealing with the Covid pandemic, it has lessened the impact on the buying decisions because flights to the U.S. are possible.”

Home prices are now about 15% higher than they were pre-pandemic, but that may actually be an incentive for international buyers.

“Rising prices creates demand because people start to fear they’re missing out,” said Chmiel.

International buyers still believe the U.S. is a good investment because by global comparison homes are still quite affordable. Looking at properties by square foot, U.S. homes are much less expensive than homes in Hong Kong or London, for example.  

International buyers, as well as everyone else, are also far more comfortable now with virtual homebuying.

The number of virtual tours has increased dramatically across all real estate platforms, both in the U.S. and abroad. Juwai reports having 5,000 virtual tours available and being used right now.

“So if that’s an indication of the comfort, then certainly this has increased, because people are now used to do far more things online shopping, education, also working from home online, and that also had an impact on the property market,” said Chmiel.

The top destinations for international buyers have not changed much, despite the pandemic. For the 13th straight year, Florida was in the lead, with 21% of all international purchases. California ranked second (16%), followed by Texas (9%) and Arizona (5%), with New Jersey and New York tied at 4%.

International buyers continue to be driven by high potential returns on investments as well as seeing the U.S. as a safe haven for cash. More recently, Chinese buyers especially have purchased homes for their children, hoping to take advantage of higher education opportunities in the U.S.

“As travel restrictions loosen and foreign students return to U.S. colleges in the upcoming year, there is likely to be some growth in foreign buying of U.S. real estate,” Yun said. “High home prices and the ongoing lack of inventory could, however, pose a challenge for buyers.”

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