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Dogecoin surges 30% to a record above 50 cents as speculative crypto trading continues



Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency based off a viral dog meme from nearly a decade ago, surged 30% on Tuesday to set a new record high at more than 50 cents per coin.

The cryptocurrency was trading at about 54 cents, according to data from Coin Metrics. Dogecoin rose to roughly 40 cents per coin last month before falling sharply for several days after the calendar turned to April 20, a date widely celebrated as a marijuana-themed holiday.

Dogecoin was started as a joke in 2013 amid a boom in early cryptocurrencies. It was based on a popular internet meme at the time that featured a Shiba Inu dog and cartoon-style text over the image. Its rise in recent months has been highlighted by many as a sign of froth and speculation in the financial markets, particularly among younger investors who started trading during the pandemic.

The coin has been boosted in recent weeks by billionaires Elon Musk and Mark Cuban, who have both mentioned Dogecoin on Twitter multiple times. Cuban has said the increased interest and use in Dogecoin has made it more than a joke.

“Meme coins like Doge only work if they gain utility and users use them for that utility. As long as you can spend Doge, because we know it’s annual inflation rate is set at 5b coins, it can gain SOME value as the utility grows. It becomes like any other currency,” Cuban said Sunday on Twitter.

“As long as more companies take doge for products/services, then Doge can be a usable currency because it MAY hold its purchasing value better than a $ in your bank. If interest rates skyrocket or the amount spent falls or stagnates, so will Doge. Yes, a joke is now legit,” he added.

Another crypto asset that set a new high on Tuesday was Ether, the currency linked to the Etherum blockchain. Bitcoin, however, slipped more than 6%.

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WHO says it accounts for 50% of reported cases last week



A Covid-19 coronavirus patient rests inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid care centre in New Delhi on May 10, 2021.

Arun Sankar | AFP | Getty Images

India’s daily Covid-19 death toll hit another record high on Wednesday, as the World Health Organization said the country accounted for half the total reported cases in the world last week.

Health ministry data showed that at least 4,205 people died over a 24-hour period — the largest single-day increase in fatalities reported by the South Asian country since the pandemic began. However, reports have suggested that the death toll in India is being undercounted.

Total reported cases in India topped 23 million and more than 254,000 people have died.

The World Health Organization said that India accounted for half of all cases reported globally last week as well as 30% of global deaths.

India has reported more than 300,000 daily cases for 21 consecutive days. On Tuesday, however, the health ministry said its data showed a net decline in the total active cases over a 24-hour period for the first time in 61 days.

The second wave began around February and accelerated through March and April after large crowds were allowed to gather, mostly without masks, for religious festivals and election rallies in various parts of the country.

India’s health-care system is under tremendous pressure due to the spike in cases despite an inflow of international aid, including oxygen concentrators, cylinders, and generation plants as well as anti-viral drug Remdesivir.

To alleviate some pressure on health-care workers, India is recruiting 400 ex-medical officers from the armed forces, the defense ministry announced on Sunday.

WHO’s update on India, South Asia

In its latest weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic, the U.N. health agency said it was observing “worrying trends” in India’s neighboring countries, where cases are also rising.

For example, in Nepal, almost 50% of all individuals tested for Covid-19 are reportedly infected as the landlocked country struggles with a second wave. It is said to have run out of vaccines as India suspended its exports in light of the situation at home.

WHO recently classified the Covid variant B.1.617 that was first detected in India as a variant of concern, indicating that it’s become a global threat. The variant has three sub-lineages “which differ by few but potentially relevant mutations in the spike protein as well as prevalence of detection globally,” WHO said in the report.

India’s dramatic surge in cases has raised questions on the role played by Covid variants like the B.1.617 as well as the B.1.1.7 that was first detected in the United Kingdom.

The international health body said it conducted a recent risk assessment of the situation in India and found that the resurgence and acceleration of Covid-19 transmission in the country had several likely contributing factors: That includes the presence of Covid variants that have potentially increased transmissibility as well as mass gatherings and reduced adherence to public health and social measures.

“The exact contributions of these each of these factors on increased transmission in India are not well understood,” WHO said.

Elsewhere, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not attend a G-7 Summit in person in the U.K. next month due to the Covid-19 situation at home, the Indian foreign ministry said. Modi was invited by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to attend the event as a special invitee, according to the ministry.

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UK economy contracted by 1.5% in the first quarter



Commuters walk along the Thames Path in view of Tower Bridge in London, U.K., on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020.

Hollie Adams | Bloomberg via Getty Images

LONDON — The U.K. economy contracted by 1.5% in the first quarter of 2021 as nationwide lockdown measures continued to weigh on activity, preliminary estimates revealed on Wednesday.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected GDP to shrink by 1.7%, with stringent restrictions having been in place throughout the first three months of the year as the country tried to contain spiraling Covid-19 cases.

However, with lockdown measures now being phased out and the economy reopening, the country is expected to see a sharp rebound for the remainder of the year.

The International Monetary Fund expects U.K. GDP to grow 5.3% in 2021, partially recovering from last year when the economy saw its largest annual contraction since the Great Frost of 1709.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday that the next stage of lockdown easing will go ahead as planned on May 17, with international travel permitted in most circumstances and hospitality venues allowed to welcome customers indoors, a lifeline for the country’s dominant services industry.

The economy grew 2.1% month-on-month in March, slightly exceeding expectations, and the level of GDP now sits 8.7% below its pre-pandemic level at the end of 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics. On a year-on-year basis, GDP shrank by 6.1% in the first quarter.

Both services and production output contracted over the first quarter, but construction output grew.

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Lebanon is on a ‘train to hell’: Former government advisor



An anti-government demonstrator waves the national flag as they block the street, with burning garbage dumpsters, in front of Lebanon’s central bank in the capital Beirut on March 16, 2021, during a protest against the deteriorating economic situation.

JOSEPH EID | AFP | Getty Images

The current mismanagement of Lebanon has put it on “train to hell” which is “about to reach the last station,” Henri Chaoul, a former advisor to the country’s finance ministry, told CNBC.

Chaoul, who had advised the government in its talks with the International Monetary Fund, resigned in June last year after Lebanon failed to make the reforms necessary to qualify for IMF assistance. 

“This is not the government that will be good for the future of Lebanon,” Chaoul said. 

“It is clear that the old business model, the old model of governance in Lebanon has completely failed on many levels,” Chaoul added. “We need to be able to rebuild.”

And Beirut is a city desperate to rebuild, with it still reeling from a port explosion that killed over 200 people and injured more than 6,000 last August. The investigation into the blast remains inconclusive nine months later.

Government deadlock

The temporary government of Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hasan Diab is hoping to implement a cash card program to help citizens make ends meet. 

A source close to the cabinet told CNBC Tuesday that “the position of the prime minister is that it is essential the card program be instituted before any subsidies are removed.” 

The source added that the “mechanism of instituting a card program is complex to design and implement, and the funding of the card program has to come from the Banque Du Liban.”

Without a proper government in place, Lebanon cannot move forward and make the reforms necessary to unlock the aid it desperately needs. 

The small Mediterranean country of nearly 7 million is on its third prime minister designate in a year after Diab resigned in the wake of the Beirut explosion. His successor, Mustapha Adib, resigned a month later. Diab’s caretaker government will likely remain in place until three-time premier Saad Hariri can form a new legislative, with talks currently still in deadlock over its composition. Hariri declined to comment on this article when contacted by CNBC.

For many across the country, there is no hope for change. 

“We need to see a silver lining in this crisis and build a new social contract so that the young of Lebanon decide to stay in Lebanon and build their future,” Chaoul told CNBC. “There is no hope in Lebanon today.”

France steps back in

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian threatened to sanction politicians responsible for the deadlock in a visit to Beirut last week, and warned against “collective suicide” if the country continues to fail to form a government. 

Paris has put measures in place to restrict entry to France for Lebanese officials hindering the country’s political progress.

Riad Salameh, the country’s central bank governor, also faces corruption allegations in France over foreign investments, and is being investigated by Swiss prosecutors over suspected embezzlement and money laundering tied to the Banque du Liban.

Salameh maintains his wealth was acquired prior to taking his position as central bank governor in 1993, and his lawyer, Pierre-Olivier Sur, told CNBC that his client had been scapegoated.



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