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Italy’s Renzi quits as center-left leader after election defeat

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Former Prime Minister and leader of the Democratic Party (PD), Matteo Renzi, gives a press conference a day after Italy's general elections on March 5, 2018 at the PD headquarters in Rome. Renzi, leader of the ruling centre-left Democratic Party, said he was resigning after the party suffered a crushing defeat in Sunday's general elections.

Alberto Pizzoli | AFP | Getty Images

Former Prime Minister and leader of the Democratic Party (PD), Matteo Renzi, gives a press conference a day after Italy’s general elections on March 5, 2018 at the PD headquarters in Rome. Renzi, leader of the ruling centre-left Democratic Party, said he was resigning after the party suffered a crushing defeat in Sunday’s general elections.

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi resigned on Monday as leader of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) after a bruising defeat in a national election.

The PD took just under 20 percent of the vote in Sunday’s ballot, its worst result since its creation in 2007, despite presiding over a modest recovery in the euro zone’s third-largest economy.

Beaten by the anti-system 5-Star Movement and a center-right coalition dominated by the eurosceptic League, Renzi acknowledged the defeat at PD headquarters in Rome.

“It is obvious that I will leave the helm of the PD,” said Renzi, who quit as prime minister when Italians voted against him in a 2016 referendum on constitutional reform.

Despite his decision to stand aside, he said he expected his party to shun any coalition talks.

“The Italian people have asked us to be in opposition and that is where we will go,” he said.” We will never form a government with anti-system forces,” he added, referring to the 5-Star and the League.

No one party or coalition came close to a working majority, but 5-Star and the League said they must be in government, as investors dumped Italian government bonds.

Party rivals complained Renzi had moved too far to the right and led with a domineering, autocratic hand, eventually leading to a small left-wing group splitting off last year.

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Australia stocks set for lower start; bitcoin price rebounds

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SINGAPORE — Shares in Australia looked set to to slip at the Thursday open, with markets in Japan closed for a holiday.

Futures pointed to a lower open for Australian stocks. The SPI futures contract was at 7,290 as compared with the S&P/ASX 200’s last close at 7,308.70.

Concerns over the coronavirus situation in Asia-Pacific may continue to weigh on regional sentiment on Thursday. Australia’s two largest states on Wednesday reported sharp increases in new Covid infections, while Indonesia saw record high deaths from the virus, according to Reuters.

Markets in Japan are closed on Thursday for a holiday.

Meanwhile, the price of bitcoin rebounded after recently falling below the $30,000 mark. It traded at $32,086.50 as of 7:33 p.m. ET Wednesday, according to Coin Metrics.

Stock picks and investing trends from CNBC Pro:

Overnight stateside, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 286.01 points to 34,798 while the S&P 500 rose 0.82% to 4,358.69. The Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.92% to 14,631.95.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 92.754 after a recent fall from above 93.

The Japanese yen traded at 110.26 per dollar, weaker than levels below 109.5 seen against the greenback earlier this week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7355, above levels below $0.732 seen yesterday.

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Fauci says vaccinated people ‘might want to consider’ wearing masks indoors

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White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said fully vaccinated people might want to consider wearing masks indoors as a precaution against the rapidly spreading delta variant in the U.S.

“If you want to go the extra mile of safety even though you’re vaccinated when you’re indoors, particularly in crowded places, you might want to consider wearing a mask,” Fauci said in an interview Wednesday with CNBC.

Some areas of the U.S. are reimplementing mask mandates due to spikes in cases. The more transmissible delta variant now makes up roughly 83% of sequenced Covid-19 cases in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s suggested that you wear a mask when you are indoors in a situation where you have a level of dynamics of virus in the community that’s high,” Fauci said.

He also said U.S. officials are concerned that they are seeing more breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people in the U.S., even if they are more mild cases.

“That’s something we obviously don’t want to see,” he said, noting that the delta variant was highly transmissible. “This virus is clearly different than the viruses and the variants that we’ve had experience with before. It has an extraordinary capability of transmitting from person to person.”

Variants have increased in transmissibility from the original strain and some are proving to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.

“Viruses don’t mutate unless you allow them to replicate and spread in the community, you give them ample time and ample opportunity to mutate and you got a new variant,” Fauci said. “The easiest and best and most effective way that we can prevent the emergence of a new variant and crush the already existing delta variant is to get everyone vaccinated.”

In the U.S., 99.5% of Covid deaths are now among unvaccinated people. “That is a statistic that speaks for itself,” Fauci said.

Despite the surge in new cases, Fauci said he doesn’t believe U.S. officials will renew calls for a nationwide mask mandate “because there will be a lot of pushback on that.”

Local counties and private businesses may choose to enforce mask mandates as the delta variant continues to spread in unvaccinated pockets of the country. Currently, almost two-thirds of counties in the U.S. have vaccinated less than 40% of their residents.

Colleges and universities have also taken the question of mandated vaccinations to court. Indiana University recently got the green light from a federal judge to require vaccines for students attending the fall semester.

Fauci said he doesn’t see lockdowns making a comeback anytime soon.

“I don’t see that on the horizon right now,” Fauci said. “What I do see is increased testing and increased local mandates and a big push to get people vaccinated.”

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Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey speak about cryptocurrency at B-Word conference

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A still from The B Word showing Elon Musk.

Source: The B Word

The price of ethereum rose Wednesday afternoon after Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he owns the cryptocurrency at The B-Word conference, an event hosted by the Crypto Council for Innovation.

Ethereum, which was already rallying on the day, touched its high of the session after Musk’s mention. It was last up more than 12% and near the highs of the day.

Musk also repeated his support for cryptocurrency in general, despite potential environmental risks, saying, “One thing you do need to watch out for with crypto, especially bitcoin, using proof of work, using energy that’s a bit too much and not necessarily good for the environment.”

As bitcoin mining is increasingly powered by renewable energy, Musk said, Tesla will likely move to accept bitcoin for transactions once again.

Musk also said that at this time, the only publicly traded stock he owns is Tesla’s, and that he personally owns some bitcoin, dogecoin and ethereum. “The only significant thing I own outside of Tesla is SpaceX,” he noted, having helped create both companies.

He also said he has been holding his bitcoin long-term.

“If the price of bitcoin goes down I lose money. I might pump but I don’t dump,” Musk said. “I definitely do not believe in getting the price high and selling or anything like that. I would like to see bitcoin succeed.”

Musk also confirmed that both Tesla and SpaceX own bitcoin, and no other cryptocurrency at this time.

The B-Word conference was established to “demystify,” “de-stigmatize” and “correct the mainstream narrative” around the cryptocurrency bitcoin and promote its institutional acceptance and use.

Musk is speaking on a panel alongside Jack Dorsey, CEO of payment company Square and Musk’s favorite social media platform Twitter, along with ARK Invest CEO and founder Cathie Wood, who are answering questions from moderator and Square Crypto lead Steve Lee.

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