The incoming SEC chairman Gary Gensler clearly stated that both Ethereum and XRP were non-compliant securities

In a recent seminar with Court Judge Sarah Netburn, Dugan Bliss, a senior adjudicator at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, argued that the agency has not yet made a formal position on the regulatory status of Bitcoin and Ethereum. Bitcoin looks more certain, however, the status of ETH is being disputed as is the case with XRP.

Ethereum could still be classified as a security

Bliss stated:

“So I want to make clear that this is my understanding of the current situation and I don’t want to be overly technical, but the SEC, itself, my understanding, it has not taken an official position. There is no action that it took to say Bitcoin is not a security, Ether is not a security.”

While former SEC chairman Jay Clayton has repeatedly stated that Bitcoin is not a security, there is less regulatory certainty over Ethereum.

Bill Hinman, former head of the SEC’s Corporate Finance Division, issued a statement of approval on the sale of Ether and non-securities offers just months before the end of his term in 2018.

Bliss stated that Hinman’s speech does not necessarily reflect the regulator’s stance on Ethereum:

“Now, there was a speech by a high-ranking person who said that to him that’s what it looked like but there has been no action letter, no enforcement action, none of the official ways in which the SEC takes a position on that matter that has occurred.”

However, the upcoming SEC chairman Gary Gensler has made it clear that both Ether and XRP are non-compliant securities in an interview with the New York Times:

“There is a strong case for both of them — but particularly Ripple — that they are non-compliant securities.”

Notably, Gensler confirmed that he sees Bitcoin as a commodity during his recent congressional hearing:

“So I think at the SEC it’s really to the extent somebody is offering an investment contract and security that’s under the SEC’s remit and exchanges that operate there. […] If not, it’s a commodity as Bitcoin has been deemed.”

Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum pre-mined a significant portion of the money prior to holding the initial coin offering (ICO).

Tech has dominated the economy – but the real world is about to strike back

Even money itself has gone digital. Only about 3% of money globally is now in physical form. Bitcoin is now (measured by market cap, at least), the 13th largest currency in the world. It didn’t exist 15 years ago.

The key to this rapid growth is scalability. A digital product can be endlessly and instantly copied. I can design a fantastic app once, upload it to the app store once, and it can be downloaded a million or a billion times. If Google can get some new groovy feature in its search engine, then once implemented it’s almost infinitely scalable.

But let’s say I design a fantastic washing machine. It takes much longer to get this washing machine to the world – the fabrication and distribution are all tricky, but perhaps most difficult is the burden of regulation in the physical economy, particularly as it attempts to cross the national borders.

By contrast, the economy of the internet is (almost) borderless. The digital space, or certainly the areas where the innovation is, is largely unregulated – how do you regulate something that hasn’t been invented? So digital escapes the ties of regulation that curb the growth of the tangible.

Then, because of the extraordinary speed of growth in digital, there is the potential for investors to make far quicker returns on their investment. And so the digital economy attracts the most capital, the most talent and so on.

With this in mind, let us turn our attention to metals.

The physical world is treacherous and time-consuming

You don’t get much more tangible than metal. Mining is in many ways the most analogue industry there is; it is the very opposite of the dynamic digital world. A geologist is studying rock formations that took thousands of years to take shape, and will take decades to mine.

Deliveroo’s IPO flop shows which way the market is going

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What will Joe Biden’s “build back better” plan mean for markets?

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BP looks set to return more money to shareholders as it beats expectations

Oil major BP has said that it expects to start buying back its own shares again, after hitting its targets for reducing its debt load earlier than anticipated.

“We are pleased to announce that we now expect to have reached our $35bn net debt target during the first quarter 2021,” said BP’s chief executive, Bernard Looney. “This is a result of earlier than anticipated delivery of disposal proceeds combined with very strong business performance.”

Net debt at the end of 2020 was $38.9bn, meaning that BP has sliced nearly $4bn off its debt pile in the past three months.

The group will update with more detail when it reports on its first quarter results at the end of this month (27 April). For now, BP noted that it is committed to “returning at least 60% of surplus cash flow to shareholders by way of share buybacks, subject to maintaining a strong investment grade credit rating.”

So why has net debt declined so rapidly? BP made more money from selling assets than it had expected. Deals included the sale of a petrochemicals business to global chemical giant Ineos, the sale of a stake in software group Palantir, and the raising of more than $2.4bn from the sale of an Omani gas development. As a result, the group now expects sales proceeds to hit the upper range of its earlier $4bn to$6bn estimate.

The group also benefited from the strong rebound in the oil price earlier this year.

What does this mean for your portfolio?

BP’s share price cheered the unexpectedly positive announcement, gaining around 3% to trade at around 300p a share.

As Mark Nelson of Killik notes, the shares still look reasonably priced “on a price to December 2021 earnings ratio of 11.3 times” plus “a prospective dividend yield of 5.3%”. Meanwhile AJ Bell analyst Danni Hewson reckons that the share buybacks raise the “prospect of more generous returns to shareholders”.

Long story short, if you hold BP already – and we’ve been pretty positive on oil stocks so a lot of you probably do – this is another reason to hang on. And even if BP isn’t your preferred play, we’d suggest having some exposure to the sector – fossil fuels will be around for a while longer and the market still doesn’t look to have priced in all of the rebound potential from the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Inflationary pressure is building across the globe. But is it here to stay?

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Beyond operating the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange, Binance spans an entire ecosystem. Their vision is to increase the freedom of money globally. They believe that by spreading this freedom, they can significantly improve lives around the world

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