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Ripple invests $25 million worth of XRP in Blockchain Capital fund

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Blockchain firm Ripple, whose digital currency has seen huge volatility in recent months, is investing in a $150 million blockchain-focused fund.

Ripple, which owns about 60 billion of the 100 billion ripple, or XRP, tokens created, said Wednesday that it would invest $25 million into the fund, created by Blockchain Capital, a venture capital firm dedicated to blockchain tech.

Blockchain is the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies. It records a continuously growing list of transactions across a distributed network. The original blockchain was used as the foundation for bitcoin.

Ripple said its investment would allow it to develop inroads with entrepreneurs and other companies in the blockchain space.

“This is the first fund that we’ve contributed to, and it won’t be the last,” Patrick Griffin, senior vice president of strategic growth at Ripple, said in a statement Wednesday.

“We plan to be major players in shaping the future generation of blockchain or crypto companies.”

Ripple seems to have shown increasing interest in investing in other companies as of late. CEO Brad Garlinghouse told TechCrunch in March that the firm wanted to invest in more start-ups that want to use its cryptocurrency.

Ripple has struck several partnerships with banks and other financial firms, with the intention of enabling faster payments. Those partnerships have rarely included the use of its digital asset, but earlier this year the company announced deals with both Western Union and MoneyGram.

Its cryptocurrency, which hit a record high of $3 in January, has pulled back significantly to around 50 cents. It rose shortly after the announcement, and was up almost 0.9 percent, according to CoinDesk data. CoinDesk’s price indexes track prices from several cryptocurrency exchanges.

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‘I will take the devil I know,’ don’t know what Biden will do

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Robert Johnson

Olivia Michael | CNBC

Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson told CNBC on Wednesday he’s viewing the election between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden through the lens of being a businessman. 

“Where I come out as a businessman, I will take the devil I know over the devil I don’t know anytime of the week,” Johnson said on “Squawk Box.” 

Johnson, when pressed, refused to outright endorse Trump, instead saying as a longtime corporate executive he knows how the president will react to important issues of the day such as coronavirus and he does not have a handle on Biden would run the country.

“I know what President Trump has done and what he’s said he will do. I don’t know what Vice President Biden has said he will do other than masks, listen to the scientists,” the 74-year-old Johnson said. He suggested the coronavirus response should weigh the tradeoffs of “pandemic safety” versus “economy growth.” 

By contrast, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has previously said “the path of the U.S. economic recovery will depend in large part on our success in containing the virus.” 

Johnson has been a big Democratic donor over the years but also has spoken positively about Trump’s economic policy. In 2016, he said he declined a position in Trump’s Cabinet, saying it was not due to politics but because he could not deal with government red tape

Johnson said the American people were the big losers in Tuesday night’s first presidential debate, saying the free-for-all was a waste of 90 minutes. He repeatedly suggested he didn’t learn enough about Biden in the debate. 

“What I had hoped he would do would be a reasonable, relaxed balance, if you will, in a debate where he would talk about specific policies, particularly as it impacts Black Americans,” said Johnson, founder and chairman of investment firm The RLJ Cos.

From a business standpoint only, not from a racial injustice standpoint, Johnson reiterated that it’s better for corporate executives to know what they’re getting in a president rather trying to guess.

“I would rather know who I’m going to deal with in the White House. I’m going to know what regulatory decisions they’re going to make. What fiscal policy decisions, what monetary policies they’re going to make than to be taking a chance, particularly when you have the turbulence of a pandemic,” Johnson said. 

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Mnuchin is hopeful about aid deal with Pelosi

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Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin speaking at the 2020 Delivering Alpha Conference on Sept. 30th, 2020.

CNBC

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he will talk to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about coronavirus stimulus again Wednesday and is “hopeful” about the prospects of a deal.

“I say we’re going to give it one more serious try to get this done and I think we’re hopeful that we can get something done,” he said during the Delivering Alpha conference presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor. “I think there is a reasonable compromise here.”

The Treasury secretary added that he aims to find an “understanding” with Pelosi on a broad relief package by Thursday. Mnuchin said an offer he expects to bring to the speaker — a counter to the $2.2 trillion aid bill the House could vote on this week — will resemble the roughly $1.5 trillion bipartisan House Problem Solvers caucus proposal put forward earlier this month. 

Pelosi previously rejected that plan. The legislation included $450 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits during an eight-week transition period, another round of $1,200 direct payments and more Paycheck Protection Program small business loan funding, among other provisions.

The Trump administration and Democratic leaders have failed to forge a consensus on what to include in a fifth coronavirus relief package as the outbreak ravages American lives and livelihoods. Before Mnuchin and Pelosi renewed talks in recent days, doubts had grown about Congress’ ability to pass new aid before the Nov. 3 election. 

Both the Treasury secretary and House speaker sounded more optimistic about progress Wednesday than they have in recent weeks. In an MSNBC interview, Pelosi also said she is “hopeful” about the potential for an agreement. 

“We’ll just see what they come back with today and how our negotiations go next,” she said. 

Of course, any agreement the White House and Democrats reach will also have to get through the Republican-held Senate. As GOP lawmakers grow weary of spending trillions to bolster the federal response to the pandemic, the Senate tried to pass a roughly $500 billion relief plan earlier this month. Democrats blocked it and called it inadequate.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates. 

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Futures fall after debate as stocks head for first down month since March, Disney declines

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U.S. stock futures declined early Wednesday as a contentious U.S. presidential debate raised more uncertainty around the election. The market headed for its first negative month since March.

Disney added to the negative sentiment after saying it would lay off 28,000 people in its theme parks division. The shares lost more than 2% in premarket trading.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures lost 200 points, or 0.7%. The move indicated a drop of about 130 points at the open. S&P 500 futures fell 0.6%. Nasdaq 100 futures lost about 0.7%. Futures were off their worst levels of the session.

The S&P 500 is down 4.7% in September, on pace for its first monthly losses since March. The Nasdaq Composite is down 5.9% in September, while the Dow is off by 3.4%.

Traders were hoping that the start of the debate process will lead to a clear winner on Election Day and not a drawn-out electoral process that could hit the market. The vicious first debate did little to ease those concerns.

“It was a long night and there’s a lot that needs to be sorted out,” said Daniel Deming, managing director at KKM Financial. “It became pretty apparent that this thing is not going to be over on Nov. 3 and I think the market is probably not too crazy about that.”

“The short-term volatility pressures probably won’t abate anytime soon after this debate. In a sense, it’s creating even more uncertainty,” Deming said. 

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden sparred on a number of issues, including their qualifications to manage the U.S. economy, the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court as well as the U.S.’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden came into the debate with an average lead of 6.1 percentage points in recent polls, according to RealClearPolitics. The former vice president was also the favorite to win the election in betting markets heading into the debate.

“Most people come away from it thinking it was an ugly experience,” said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex. “I don’t think it changed peoples’ minds really.”

Many market strategists have cited uncertainty around the election as a key headwind for the market before year-end with each outcome bringing its own risks and benefits. Some investors have raised concerns about a potential Biden win as they fear it could lead to higher corporate taxes and tighter regulations. But at the same time, it could ease concerns about the trade war and lack of stimulus to bolster the economy in the wake of the coronavirus.

Investors are also worried about the potential the Nov. 3 result is too close to call and neither candidate concedes. That uncertainty could particularly weigh on the market.

Trump frequently claims that mail-in balloting leads to voter fraud even though experts have repeatedly said there’s no proof of that ever having been a problem in the United States. Last week the director of the FBI told a Senate committee that there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States “whether it’s by mail or otherwise.”

Regardless, on Tuesday night Trump said, “As far as the ballots are concerned, it’s a disaster. This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen.”

“I think we’re going to do well because people are really happy with the job we’ve done. But we might not know for months because these ballots are going to be all over” the place,” he added. 

“Questions on election fraud were raised, which will add to concerns about a volatile post-election period if there is a close or uncertain electoral outcome,” wrote Ed Mills of Raymond James in a note entitled “Dumpster Fire Debate.”

Still, positive data regarding a potential coronavirus treatment from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals kept some of the market’s losses in check.  

Regeneron said after the close Tuesday its REGN-COV2 drug reduced viral levels and improved symptoms in non-hospitalized coronavirus patients.

“The greatest treatment benefit was in patients who had not mounted their own effective immune response, suggesting that REGN-COV2 could provide a therapeutic substitute for the naturally-occurring immune response,” Regeneron Chief Scientific Officer George D. Yancopoulos said in a statement.

Regeneron shares rose 4% in early trading.

The major averages snapped a three-day winning streak on Tuesday, with the Dow falling more than 100 points, or 0.5%. Those losses came amid concerns over a virus resurgence. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said the city’s daily positive rate of coronavirus tests is back above 3% for the first time in months.

“Coronavirus infection rates are rising in Europe and the United States as children return to school,” Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, wrote in a note. “We expect the United States to continue its modest pace of economic improvement, though virus growth and a softer labor market are threats.”

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