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Riga wary Russia could be to blame for ‘hybrid warfare’

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The banking crisis rocking a small Baltic nation in Europe has turned into a potential diplomatic incident, as Latvia has signaled Russia might be trying to damage the country’s reputation ahead of a general election.

Earlier this week, Latvia’s defense ministry said the corruption allegations that led to the detention of the country’s central bank governor could be part of a “massive information operation” from an outside source.

The ministry claimed similar incidents, aimed at influencing presidential votes, had been seen in France, Germany and the U.S.

While Latvia does not name Russia as a perpetrator specifically, the ministry cited recent events as evidence of an attempt to taint Riga’s image and erode public trust in the state ahead of its vote for a new premier in October.

The evidence for allegations made by Latvia’s defense ministry was unclear.

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Biden administration sanctions Russia for cyber attacks, election interference

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President Joe Biden (L) and President Vladimir Putin.

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The Biden administration imposed a raft of new sanctions against Moscow on Thursday over alleged election interference and cyberattacks.

“Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took sweeping action against 16 entities and 16 individuals who attempted to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election at the direction of the leadership of the Russian Government,” the Treasury said in a statement.

The sanctions come following President Joe Biden’s phone call this week with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and as Russian force amass near the Ukraine border.

The dollar was up 1.69% against the rouble at 3 p.m. local time, with the Russian currency trading at 77.0718 to the greenback. Its close on Wednesday against the dollar was 75.7928. 

This is breaking news. Check back for updates.

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Coinbase (COIN) climbs in premarket after Nasdaq debut

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Coinbase employees spray champagne during the company’s initial public offering (IPO) outside the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Coinbase shares surged in premarket trading on Thursday, a day after the cryptocurrency exchange went public in a blockbuster direct listing.

The firm’s stock price climbed almost 8% to around $353.27 at 7 a.m. ET. Coinbase was briefly valued at as much as $100 billion in its Nasdaq debut Wednesday, a landmark event for the cryptocurrency industry. The stock closed at $328.28 per share, valuing Coinbase at $85.8 billion on a fully diluted basis.

Investors are reacting to news that Ark Invest founder and CEO Cathie Wood loaded up on about $245.9 million worth of Coinbase shares on the firm’s first day of trading. Wood is a longtime bitcoin bull, believing bitcoin and other digital tokens could eventually become part of the recommended portfolio for everyday investors.

Coinbase’s debut was hailed as a “watershed” moment for crypto, after years of skepticism from Wall Street giants and global regulators. But there are concerns that volatility in digital assets and regulatory uncertainty may weigh on the company’s share price long-term — as well as fierce competition from other players such as Binance, Kraken and Gemini.

“The risk management from a regulatory and the operational perspective is much better on Coinbase” compared to its competitors, Carol Alexander, a professor at University of Sussex Business School, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Thursday.

“They’ve got this solid revenue stream from the fees and the custodial services as well. There’s no real competitor to them on the centralized exchanges because Kraken, Gemini — I don’t think they’re the next ones to go.”

Coinbase made estimated revenues of $1.8 billion in the first quarter of 2021, a ninefold increase from the same period a year earlier, while profits surged from $32 million to between $730 million and $800 million. The number of Coinbase’s monthly transacting users rose to 6.1 million from 2.8 million three months earlier.

Analysts at BTIG on Thursday gave Coinbase a “buy” rating and a price target of $500 — 50% higher than the company’s closing price on Wednesday.

“We believe COIN, the most popular consumer-facing cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S., is positioned to be a primary beneficiary of the increased adoption of Bitcoin and other digital assets as it continues to scale in the U.S. and internationally,” the brokerage firm wrote in a note to clients.

Coinbase held 11.3% of the world’s crypto assets as of March 31, and BTIG’s analysts said this market share was “core” to their bull case for the company. If the market value of all cryptocurrencies — which currently stands at $2.2 billion — were to continue growing, “then the company’s upside could be immense,” they said.

Bitcoin bulls are banking on more mainstream investors warming to the crypto space. Tesla made a $1.5 billion bet on bitcoin earlier this year, while major U.S. banks like Morgan Stanley and BNY Mellon are launching crypto services for their clients.

The most popular digital currency hit a record high of more than $64,000 ahead of Coinbase’s debut Wednesday, but has since pared gains somewhat to trade around $62,473. Still, it’s managed to more than double in price since the start of the year. But while proponents of bitcoin see it as a store of value akin to gold, detractors argue it could be one of the biggest market bubbles in history.

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Oil could plummet to $10 by 2050 if Paris climate goals are achieved

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A derek pumps in an oil field in Kuwait near the Saudi Arabian border.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

LONDON — The price of oil could plunge to as little as $10 a barrel by 2050 if the world succeeds in electrifying the energy market and meeting Paris Agreement goals, a consultancy said on Thursday. 

Energy research and consultancy Wood Mackenzie said in a report that if world leaders took decisive action to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, as set out in the landmark Paris climate accord, oil demand would drop “significantly.” 

Wood Mackenzie said under its accelerated energy transition scenario, the energy market would be increasingly electrified through to 2050, squeezing out the most polluting hydrocarbons, like oil. 

Under this scenario, oil demand could fall 70% by 2050 from current levels, the report said.

Wood Mackenzie forecast demand for oil would start to fall from 2023 under this scenario and this decline would quickly accelerate thereafter, with year-on-year falls of around 2 million barrels a day. 

The report said oil prices could go into “terminal decline,” with international benchmark Brent crude falling to between $37 and $42 a barrel by 2030.

Brent crude futures traded at $66.29 a barrel during morning deals in London, down around 0.4%. 

Wood Mackenzie said oil prices could slide to between $28 and $32 a barrel by 2040, before slipping to between $10 and $18 a barrel in 2050.

Big Oil ‘cannot afford to be complacent’

Almost 200 countries ratified the Paris climate accord in 2015, agreeing to pursue efforts to limit the planet’s temperature increase to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to cap the temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius. It remains a key focus ahead of COP26, although some climate scientists now believe that hitting the latter target is already “virtually impossible.” 

To be sure, a United Nations analysis published on Feb. 26 found that pledges made by countries around the world to curb greenhouse gas emissions were “very far” from the profound measures required to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate breakdown.

Ann-Louise Hittle, vice president for macro oils at Wood Mackenzie, stressed that the consultancy’s report was a scenario rather than a “base-case forecast.” 

“Even so, the oil and gas industry cannot afford to be complacent,” she added. “The risks associated with robust climate-change policy and rapidly changing technology are too great.” 

— CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report.

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