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World’s largest asset manager says get ready to ‘stomach complete losses’ in cryptocurrencies

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Investors should only consider cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin if they are prepared to lose everything, BlackRock Investment Institute said in its weekly report Monday.

“We see cryptocurrencies potentially becoming more widely used in the future as the markets mature. Yet for now we believe they should only be considered by those who can stomach potentially complete losses,” Richard Turnill, BlackRock’s global chief investment strategist, said in the note.

Turnill noted cryptocurrencies’ high volatility, fragmented markets and lack of regulation. “We don’t see them becoming part of mainstream investment portfolios soon,” he said, adding that their volatility makes U.S. stock market turbulence during the financial crisis “almost look placid.”

Sources: BlackRock Investment Institute, with data from Thomson Reuters, February 2018.

Cryptocurrencies also haven’t been able to protect investors from sharp drops in stocks. That’s despite arguments for investing in the digital assets given their low correlations to traditional assets.

The digital currencies had “no ability to mitigate portfolio drawdown during periods of acute market stress like equity flash crashes of August 2015 and February 2018,” J.P. Morgan Securities’ John Normand said in a Feb. 9 report.

Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, leaped 2,000 percent to above $19,000 in the 12 months through mid-December. The surge of interest spurred the world’s largest futures exchange, CME, and its competitor, Cboe, to launch bitcoin futures in December as well.

Enthusiasts expected the derivatives products would pave the way for more institutional investor participation and even the launch of bitcoin exchange-traded funds later this year.

However, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has asked companies to withdraw their applications for bitcoin ETFs. Trading volume in the CME and Cboe bitcoin futures also remains relatively low compared with other, more widely traded products.

Bitcoin has lost about half its value in just about two months and was trading near $10,000 Monday.

BlackRock’s Turnill expects cryptocurrencies will need to overcome significant challenges in order to gain wider appeal.

He noted the blockchain technology underlying cryptocurrencies would require a “massive shift” in software development for broad adoption. Regulators would likely need to play a major role in such a shift, Turnill said. He does expect a global regulatory framework on cryptocurrencies to emerge, potentially from a G-20 meeting set for March.

BlackRock had $6.28 trillion in assets under management at the end of December as the world’s largest asset manager.

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Jeff Bezos tours Relativity Space headquarters with Tim Ellis

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The row of two-story tall 3D printer bays at the company’s headquarters.

Relativity Space

The founders of two private rocket-building companies met today – one, the richest person on Earth; the other, leader of a venture pushing the boundaries of manufacturing.

Jeff Bezos stopped by the gleaming new “factory of the future” of Relativity Space on Friday, a person familiar with the visit told CNBC, for a tour of the Long Beach, California facility with CEO Tim Ellis. Relativity moved into the new facility last summer from its prior headquarters in Inglewood.

The nature of the visit to Relativity’s headquarters was unclear.

Ellis previously worked at Bezos’ space company Blue Origin as a propulsion engineer – and was credited for bringing the process of 3D printing metal rocket parts in-house. Ellis then left Blue Origin in 2015 to found Relativity with Jordan Noone, a college classmate and former SpaceX propulsion engineer.

Relativity declined CNBC’s request for comment on Bezos’ visit, while Blue Origin did not respond to requests for comment.

The factory floor of Relativity’s new headquarters in Long Beach, California.

Relativity Space

Relativity has gone all in on the 3D-printing approach, using enormous printers and metallurgy developed in-house to build 95% of the parts of its rockets. Ellis emphasizes that 3D-printing drastically cuts down on the complexity of its rockets, but also makes them faster to build and modify. Eventually, Relativity says its simpler process will be able to turn raw materials into a rocket on the launchpad in under 60 days.

The company’s first rocket, Terran 1, is expected to launch for the first time later this year. Terran 1 is priced at $12 million per launch and is designed to carry about 1,250 kilograms to low Earth orbit. That puts Terran 1 in the “medium lift” section of the U.S. launch market, between Rocket Lab’s Electron and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in both price and capability.

Relativity is also working on a second, larger rocket called Terran R – aiming to compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in both launch capability and reusability. Terran R is the first of several new initiatives that Ellis expects Relativity to unveil in the year ahead, with the company having raised more than $680 million since its founding five years ago.

Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Amazon, speaks in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 19, 2019.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

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Build a cash position for the next stock sell-off

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CNBC’s Jim Cramer said the jobs report from the Labor Department Friday satisfied markets, at least for the interim.

The U.S. economy added 379,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate inched down, with stocks managing to bounce from their lows of the day and snap a tough three-day trading stretch to end the week on a high note.

Economists had forecast the job market to grow by 210,000 in February.

“An employment number that’s strong, but not too strong, was just what this crazy market needed today, although it took half the day for Wall Street to figure that out,” Cramer said after the close on “Mad Money.”

The major stock indexes all swung nearly 2% higher at the close after trading in the red during the morning. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 572 points, or 1.85%, to close at 31,496.30, finishing up 1.82% after a volatile week. The S&P 500 advanced 1.95% Friday to 3,841.94, also finishing the week in positive territory.

After closing down in the red Thursday, the Nasdaq Composite bounced 1.55% to 12,920.15 on Friday. The tech-heavy index ended the week down 2.06% as growth stocks sold off.

As the U.S. continues its recovery from last year’s coronavirus-induced business lockdowns and restrictions, the February labor report likely did not do enough to push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to tamp down inflation as the economy grows, Cramer said.

“It was a hidden-Goldilocks report: A lot more people are getting hired, thanks to the vaccine rollout and the reopening, but not so many that the Fed will feel compelled to raise interest rates, and some are really being left behind,” he said.

Wall Street is on standby to see if the uptrend will continue or the downtrend in stocks will resume. The bond market is still in control, however, as investors continue to rotate from high-growth stocks to value and cyclical names until rising Treasury yields stabilize, Cramer added.

Longer-term Treasuries are a bellwether for lending rates. Higher rates make cyclical stocks more attractive, leading investors to reduce their appetite for riskier assets.

“I’m betting the bond bullies will be back, so get ready by using rallies like this one to lighten up, as we did for my charitable trust at the end of the day, and certainly lighten up on the high-flying dreamer stocks and the SPACs,” he said. “That way you’ll have some cash to deploy for the real companies the next time we get hammered like we did yesterday afternoon.”

Cramer gave his game plan for the week ahead. Earnings-per-share projections are based on FactSet estimates:

Monday: Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix

  • Q2 2021 earnings release: after market; conference call: 5 p.m.
  • Projected losses per share: 22 cents
  • Projected revenue: $512 million

“A great quarter won’t produce the kind of explosive reaction we got last time,” Cramer said. “Still, I’m betting the numbers are better than expected because this is a great business.”

Tuesday: Dick’s Sporting Goods

Dick’s Sporting Goods

  • Q4 2020 earnings release: before market; conference call: 10 a.m.
  • Projected EPS: $2.30
  • Projected revenue: $3.07 billion

“I expect Dick’s to deliver a very strong number, one that could send the stock flying,” he said.

Wednesday: Campbell Soup, Oracle

Campbell Soup

  • Q2 2021 earnings release: before market; conference call: 8:00 a.m.
  • Projected EPS: 83 cents
  • Projected revenue: $2.3 billion

“So far, these pantry stocks they’ve failed to impress,” Cramer said. “I can’t go against the prevailing wisdom here, although I think this company’s won over enough of the stay-at-homers with its snack offerings that you won’t be that disappointed, and you get that 3.2% yield.”

Oracle

  • Q3 2021 earnings release: after market; conference call: 5 p.m.
  • Projected EPS: $1.11
  • Projected revenue: $10.05 billion

“This is exactly the kind of lower-risk tech stock that people suddenly like … [as opposed to] the high-flyers,” he said. “Those are still getting torn to pieces, so I was ready to recommend Oracle [tonight], but I got beat to the punch. A big brokerage house pushed it today, sent the stock up 6%, stole my thunder.”

Thursday: JD.com, Ulta Beauty

JD.com

  • Q4 earnings release: before market; conference call: 7 a.m.

Cramer said JD.com is “one of the few Chinese stocks I like because it’s another ‘Amazon of China’ thing. It’s like Alibaba, which you know I like, but it’s got faster growth, though.”

Ulta Beauty

  • Q4 earnings release: after market; conference call: 5 p.m.
  • Projected EPS: $2.32
  • Projected revenue: $2.07 billion

“It’s about to experience a sales explosion when the country reopens. Ulta pivoted to e-commerce when the pandemic hit … but now that we’re getting vaccinated, their brick and mortar business can make a comeback,” he said. “Plus, they’re rolling out a new Target collection. I’d be a buyer ahead of that quarter.”

Disclosure: Cramer’s charitable rust owns shares of Amazon.

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Relief bill stalls over impasse over unemployment aid

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 10, 2021.

Al Drago | Reuters

Senate Democrats have agreed to cut the weekly unemployment insurance supplement in their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill but extend it for a longer period of time.

However, reports indicated Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was reluctant to back the policy, which threw the chamber into chaos Friday and delayed his party’s efforts to pass the legislation. The first in a long series of votes — a failed effort by independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to include a $15 per hour minimum wage — was still ongoing after six hours as senators decided how to proceed.

Manchin was reportedly considering supporting a plan from Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. The GOP lawmaker’s amendment would set a $300 per week unemployment supplement through July 18 — a shorter duration than Democrats seek.

Democrats aim to make their change to unemployment programs Friday during a marathon of votes on amendments known as a vote-a-rama. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., was set to propose the plan.

The amendment would maintain the federal jobless benefit supplement at the current $300 per week level, rather than increase it to $400 as a House-passed bill did. The change would keep the policy in place through September, rather than end it on Aug. 29 as the House plan did.

The proposal would also make the first $10,200 in unemployment insurance untaxed. The provision aims to prevent surprise tax bills for beneficiaries.

The change to unemployment aid appeared to be an attempt to appease disparate members of the Democratic caucus. The party cannot lose a vote and still win a simple majority, the baseline needed under budget reconciliation in the chamber split evenly by party.

Cutting the unemployment benefit by $100 per week appeared to be a concession to the most conservative Democrats. Party leaders already agreed to limit the number of people who would get $1,400 direct payments because Manchin and others had concerns about how the checks were targeted.

The extension of extra jobless benefits was also expected to appeal to senators led by Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, who worried about millions of Americans suddenly losing financial support when the jobless benefit programs expired in August. Provisions providing a boost to unemployment benefits and extending eligibility for them lapsed once last summer. Congress did not renew them until December.

Wyden has called to tie the jobless aid to economic conditions so that it does not expire before the economy recovers. In opposing the relief bill, some Republicans have contended a $400 per week unemployment boost would discourage people from returning to work. They made the same argument when lawmakers approved a $600 per week supplement last year, but some research suggests the policy would not have a major effect on people deciding to seek jobs.

Democrats aim to approve their latest rescue package before March 14, the day when the current $300 per week unemployment benefit expires. However, the delays Friday threatened its quick passage as the deadline approaches.

Senate Democrats hope to pass the bill by this weekend. Republicans can drag out the process, as they face no limit on the number of amendments they can offer to the plan.

The House aims to approve the Senate version of the plan by next week and send it to President Joe Biden to sign into law.

— CNBC’s Ylan Mui contributed to this report

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