Treasury Sanctions Ethereum-Based Tornado Cash For Allegedly Helping To Launder More Than $7 Billion

The Treasury Department on Monday sanctioned a cryptocurrency firm with ties to a North Korea state-sponsored hacking group for allegedly facilitating malicious laundering—marking the latest retaliatory measures against so-called virtual currency mixing services, which effectively obfuscate cryptocurrency transactions to make them more difficult to track.

In a statement Monday morning, the Treasury announced it was sanctioning Ethereum-based Tornado Cash for allegedly helping to launder more than $7 billion worth of cryptocurrency since its creation in 2019, effectively freezing U.S. assets on the platform and barring Americans from using the service.

Laundered funds included over $455 million stolen by North Korea hacking ring the Lazarus Group in the largest known virtual currency heist to date—when North Korean cyberattackers stole some $620 million from an Ethereum-linked platform for NFT-based video game Axie Infinity in March—the Treasury said.

On its website, Tornado Cash says it has helped nearly 40,000 users obfuscate transactions through more than 150,000 deposits that help “achieve privacy” by using smart contracts to route funds to an address with no ether balance and then send it to a new public address that has no link to the original sender.

In a Monday statement, the Treasury’s Brian Nelson said Tornado Cash repeatedly failed to impose effective controls and “basic measures” designed to stop it from laundering funds for malicious cyber actors and pledged to continue to “aggressively” pursue actions against mixers that launder cryptocurrency for criminals.

The move follows the Treasury’s first-ever sanctions on a virtual currency mixer in May, when it designated Blender.io for allegedly also helping to carry out the Lazarus-backed crypto heist in March—to the tune of more than $20.5 million worth of illicit proceeds.

In addition to the heist in March, Tornado Cash was also used to launder more than $96 million of funds derived from a June hack of blockchain bridge Harmony and at least $7.8 million from an attack on Nomad, which lost about $190 million in a security exploit just last week, according to the Treasury.

Treasury officials this year have unleashed a wave of sanctions to protect against the potential use of cryptocurrency for sanctions evasion and money laundering. Shortly before the first mixer sanctions, the Treasury in April designated a cryptocurrency mining firm for the first time—targeting Switzerland-based Bitriver AG for operating in the Russian technology sector. Also that month, the Treasury designated Moscow-based exchange Garantex for “willfully disregarding” anti-money-laundering obligations and “allowing [its] systems to be abused by illicit actors.”

In a post on its website, crypto policy think tank Coin Center criticized the Treasury’s Monday decision for “sanctioning a tool that is not an alias of any person meriting sanction,” and said the move effectively limits “any American who wishes to use her own money and a freely available software tool to maintain her own privacy—including for otherwise entirely legal and personal reasons.” According to Coin Center, the sanctions also have uncertain legal ramifications because they potentially put Americans who are sent money through a Tornado address at risk of violating the Treasury’s rules—even though they can’t reject the transaction due to the nature of blockchain.

I’m a senior reporter at Forbes focusing on markets and finance. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I double-majored in business

Source: Treasury Sanctions Ethereum-Based Tornado Cash For Allegedly Helping To Launder More Than $7 Billion

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How The Yield Curve Forecasts Recession Risks

The yield curve predicts U.S. recessions remarkably well. In March, the yield curve hinted at a U.S. recession. Today, the inversion is broadening as the Fed hikes rates. A U.S. recession may coming. Here’s how the yield curve works and why it matters to financial markets.

Economists aren’t prized for their forecasting skills. The yield curve, on the other hand, has a strong track record in calling recessions. The term structure of interest rates, which is the difference between short and long-bond yields, forecasts recessions relatively accurately. The yield curve has got a recession forecast wrong just once in the past 40 years according to Nicholas Burgess of Oxford University. That’s impressive.

The yield curve is also a leading indicator of recessions since it calls recessions up to 18 months before they occur. So, the yield curve is historically among the best tools for forecasting a recession. When the yield curve inverts, you should worry. Unfortunately, now’s the time to worry. Worse, if the Fed stays on course, that inversion will increase in depth and breadth.

The yield curve does provide a mass of information, changing minute by minute. That can be confusing, so the New York Fed researched how best to interpret it in this paper. They found that the spread between three-month and ten-year yields was most predictive of recessions, though it’s a pretty close call.

Ideally, in the researchers’ view, the spread should have a negative monthly average to predict a recession rather than just a temporary dip. It also appears that deeper inversion may make the signal more powerful. Not everyone agrees with that view entirely, but most take the view that short rates rising above long rates does not bode well for the U.S. economy and deeper and longer inversion can make the signal more robust.

 Recent research from the U.S. Treasury finds that foreign yield curves have forecasting power too for U.S. recessions, so if other yield curves are inverted that can reinforce the signal from the U.S. yield curve being inverted.

Currently, the Canadian yield curve shows some inversion, but yield curves in Japan and Europe are generally not inverted. However, many central banks are expected to raise rates. That would raise the short end of the curve, creating inversion given the term structure of interest rates is quite flat globally. So the international picture may worsen.

Like any good forecast there’s also two clear reasons why the yield curve works. Knowing this is helpful. It means the forecast is less likely to be the result of accidental number crunching.

First when short term yields rise above longer term yields, that’s a big signal to banks. With an inverted yield curve, banks can make more profits from short-term lending, than from longer-term lending. That’s unusual. It can mean pulling back on financing bigger, longer term projects such as new factories and other big investment projects. That sort of pull-back in investments that help economic growth is exactly what we see in many recessions.

Secondly, the Fed raising rates is generally what pushes up shorter term interest rates. They often do this late in the economic cycle, when the economy may be starting to overheat. If we’re late in the economic cycle, that too can mean a recession is not far off. That’s exactly what’s happening now. High inflation and very low unemployment may be signs the U.S. economy is stretched currently.

Of course, we’re currently seeing one of the most aggressive patterns of rate hikes from the Fed in decades. Interestingly, the Fed knows about the yield curve’s forecasting power too. There’s a chance they ease off on hikes precisely because of the yield curve’s inversion. They don’t want a recession either. However, for the time being rampant inflation appears the more pressing concern for the Fed. It’s not an easy call, but the Fed may tolerate a recession to tame inflation.

You can see the latest U.S. Treasury yield curve data here. Currently it’s inverted from six-month out to ten-year maturities. That’s relatively broad inversion, and a bad sign for growth. In terms of the positives, the yield curve is fairly flat right now, not deeply inverted. Plus that all-important metric of 10-year less 3-month maturities is not inverted at the time of writing.

However, we can be reasonably confident inversion at the short end is coming soon if the Fed continues to hike short term rates as planned. Markets currently see the Fed raising rates around 2% over the rest of 2022, that’s almost certainly going create inversion of the yield curve when comparing three month to ten year yields. Of course, this assumes the long-end of rates doesn’t move up much, but unless long-term inflation fears really take hold, that seems unlikely.

That the yield curve is signaling recession is unsurprising. Other metrics agree. There’s a long list including: the current bear market in stocks; increasing talk about recessions; concerns about corporate earnings; early signs of weakness in housing; a softening jobs markets; together with the observation that U.S. economic growth was negative Q1. All signaling a pending recession. A recession may even already be here.

However, as an investor, it is important to remember that much of this may be priced in to markets. The very reason for weak stock returns over 2022 so far, may be the markets starting to adjust to a coming recession, or at least a reasonably mild one.

The severity of any future recession is important. Recession conjures up memories of the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-8 and the pandemic recession of 2020. As the two most recent recessions, that’s understandable. Remember though, those were both unusually severe recessions. So even if a recession is on the horizon, it may not be quite so disruptive as the two most recent ones.

Lastly, as of right now, the key metric of three-month yields hasn’t inverted below the 10-year yield. Many suspect that is the most robust recession flag. There’s still some hope we could dodge the bullet. However, if the Fed remain on their current aggressive rate trajectory, we may see that invert in later this year.

Simon is the author of Digital Wealth and Strategic Project Portfolio Management. He has previously served as Chief Investment Officer at Moola

Source: How The Yield Curve Forecasts Recession Risks

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Where Do Millionaires Keep Their Money?

Where do millionaires keep their money? High net worth individuals put money into different classifications of financial and real assets, including stocks, mutual funds, retirement accounts and real estate. Most of the 20.27 million millionaires in the U.S. did not inherit their money; only about 20% inherited their money. More than two-thirds of all millionaires are entrepreneurs. Here are some of the places the genuinely rich keep their money.

Cash and Cash Equivalents

Many, and perhaps most, millionaires are frugal. If they spent their money, they would not have any to increase wealth. They spend on necessities and some luxuries, but they save and expect their entire families to do the same. Many millionaires keep a lot of their money in cash or highly liquid cash equivalents.

They establish an emergency account before ever starting to invest. Millionaires bank differently than the rest of us. Any bank accounts they have are handled by a private banker who probably also manages their wealth. There is no standing in line at the teller’s window.

Studies indicate that millionaires may have, on average, as much as 25% of their money in cash. This is to offset any market downturns and to have cash available as insurance for their portfolio. Cash equivalents, financial instruments that are almost as liquid as cash. are popular investments for millionaires. Examples of cash equivalents are money market mutual funds, certificates of deposit, commercial paper and Treasury bills.

Some millionaires keep their cash in Treasury bills that they keep rolling over and reinvesting. They liquidate them when they need the cash. Treasury bills are short-term notes issued by the U.S government to raise money. Treasury bills are usually purchased at a discount. When you sell them, the difference between the face value and selling price is your profit. Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has a portfolio full of money market accounts and Treasury bills.

Millionaires also have zero-balance accounts with private banks. They leave their money in cash and cash equivalents and they write checks on their zero-balance account. At the end of the business day, the private bank, as custodian of their various accounts, sells off enough liquid assets to settle up for that day. Millionaires don’t worry about FDIC insurance. Their money is held in their name and not the name of the custodial private bank.

Other millionaires have safe deposit boxes full of cash denominated in many different currencies. These safe deposit boxes are located all over the world and each currency is held in a country where transactions are conducted using that currency.

Real Estate

For more than 200 years, investing in real estate has been the most popular investment for millionaires to keep their money. During all these years, real estate investments have been the primary way millionaires have had of making and keeping their wealth. The trend started with buying a primary home and then other residences, usually for tenants. After buying some personal real estate, then they have started buying commercial real estate like office buildings, hotels, stadiums, bridges and more.

Millionaires often have large real estate portfolios. Once they have established themselves as a buyer in the real estate market, real estate agents start bringing them deals and they find it easy to obtain financing. Large investors have many millions tied up in real estate. Real estate is not an investment to depend on for cash, but it is a lucrative investment in the long run and a tried and true investment for millionaires because they like passive income and find that real estate provides it.

Stocks and Stock Funds

Some millionaires are all about simplicity. They invest in index funds and dividend-paying stocks. They like the passive income from equity securities just like they like the passive rental income that real estate provides. They simply don’t want to use their time managing investments.

Ultra-rich investors may hold a controlling interest in one or more major companies. But, many millionaires hold a portfolio of only a few equity securities. Many may hold index funds since they earn decent returns and you don’t have to spend time managing them. They also have low management fees and excellent diversification.

Millionaires also like dividend-paying stocks for the passive income they provide. Of course, they are also interested in capital appreciation but, for some, that’s less of a concern than generating current income.

Private Equity and Hedge Funds

Unless you are a multimillionaire, you may not participate in a hedge fund or buy into a private equity fund. Public equity is well known since its shares trade on stock exchanges. One of its advantages is its liquidity. You can readily liquidate your public equity or shares of stock. Private equity funds, on the other hand, generally gets their investments from large organizations like universities or pension funds.

Investors of private equity funds have to be accredited investors with a certain net worth, usually at least $250,000. Accredited investors can be individuals as well as organizations, but they are defined by regulations. In other areas, private equity funds do not have to conform to as many regulations as public equity does. Some of the ultra-rich, if they are accredited investors, do invest in private equity.

Hedge funds are not the same as private equity. Hedge funds use pooled funds and pursue several strategies to earn outsized returns for their investors. Hedge funds invest in whatever fund managers think will earn the highest short-term profits possible.

Commodities

Commodities, like gold, silver, mineral rights or cattle, to name a few, are also stores of value for millionaires. But they require storage and have a level of complexity that many millionaires simply don’t want to deal with.

Alternative Investments

Some millionaires, along with the ultra-rich, keep a portion of their money in other alternative investments like such tangible assets as fine art, expensive musical instruments or rare books. Also, there are millionaires and the ultra-rich that have investments in intellectual property rights such as the rights to songs or movies. These can be very lucrative investments.

Cryptocurrency

It is estimated that there are around 100,000 cryptocurrency millionaires out there with the majority holding Bitcoin. To try to make your fortune in cryptocurrency, you have to be willing to take on some risk and many millionaires don’t have an appetite for risk.

You can take a small portion of a millionaire’s wealth and invest in one of the different cryptocurrencies. Plenty of people have become millionaires this way. Some have lost their money. More and more, cryptocurrency is becoming accepted as a legitimate investment that deserves a look when trying to accumulate wealth.

The Bottom Line

Millionaires have many different investment philosophies, so it’s difficult to generalize concerning where they keep their money. However, all of the above are legitimate investments for millionaires. They have a desire for a reduction of their risk, so many prefer diversified investment portfolios. More than one of these investments can be combined to try to enhance wealth.

Tips on Investing

Would you like to investigate how your investments are growing? Check out SmartAsset’s free investment calculator.

Do you have questions about how to start investing? It’s wise to begin by consulting a financial advisor. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals

By:

Source: Where Do Millionaires Keep Their Money?

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Why The Dow Plunged More Than 1,000 Points? Should I Wait For Stocks To Sink Lower

What a difference a day makes. Fresh off the best percentage gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.30% since Nov. 9, 2020, the blue-chip index got clobbered, along with the rest of the stock market, including the S&P 500 SPX, -0.57% and the Nasdaq Composite COMP, -1.40%.

Not even U.S. Treasurys were safe, with the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, 3.127% climbing above 3% as prices fall.

Some experts attributed Wednesday’s rally to a statement by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that a 75-basis-point increase wasn’t being actively considered by policy makers at the central bank at coming meetings.

The remark came after the Fed on Wednesday delivered the first half-percentage-point interest-rate hike, as had been widely expected, since 2000, in the final months of President Bill Clinton’s second term.

The Fed has been hiking rates to combat a surge in inflation that materialized in the aftermath of the COVID-19 shutdowns and dislocations, and which has been exacerbated by bloody conflict in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in late February.

Some industry watchers peg Thursday’s selloff partly to fears that inflation will continue to dog the economy in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.

Data on Thursday showed that the productivity of American workers and businesses sank at an 7.5% annual pace in the first quarter, marking the biggest drop since 1947, amid supply shortages and production bottlenecks.

“It was a setback for our Roaring 2020s scenario of a technology-led productivity growth boom offsetting the chronic shortage of labor,” according to Yardeni Research, a provider of global investment strategy founded by Ed Yardeni, a MarketWatch contributor.

Meanwhile, Greg Bassuk, CEO at AXS Investments in New York, said the day’s action reflects “a continuation of 2022’s market roller coaster of high volatility, with this session’s strong spiral downward erasing yesterday’s gains.”

Bassuk told MarketWatch that “investors are selling today on renewed concerns regarding the plethora of continued uncertainties.”

The AXS CEO pointed to tensions with China, Russia’s siege in Ukraine, as well as a mixed bag of corporate earnings and nagging concerns about COVID-19 hamstringing a more powerful recovery in parts of the world.

Recession fears and inflation worries have been the centerpiece of the current bout of bearishness on Wall Street. “There’s no doubt that inflation, rising rates and volatility will continue to characterize the market environment in [the second quarter] and beyond,” Bassuk said.

“What is really interesting about these markets is that there are these every-other-day changes in either direction where investors are outrageously bullish, or outrageously bearish the next day,” said Sylvia Jablonski, chief executive and chief investment officer at Defiance ETFs in New York.

Indeed, MarketWatch’s Bill Watts wrote that, with the exception of 2020, the S&P 500 has already topped or is on track to exceed annual totals of 2%-or-greater moves for every year stretching back to 2011.

“Inflation may have peaked, growth may be slowing, but it is still positive. The consumer is still spending, [and] employment is at all-time highs,” she said, going on to point to the up to $2 trillion in excess savings said to have been amassed during the pandemic.

Market Extra (July 2021):

The volatile state of the market is stoking confusion about the outlook. Is this time to jump into stocks, or should investors wait for a better entry point? Or should we heed billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones’s advice and stay clear of traditional markets altogether?

History suggests that you can’t time the market and that, over a long period, the market wins. The big question is what’s your time frame what’s your tolerance for pain?

The slump in bonds, with yields rising as prices fall, is complicating matters for some investors. Treasurys, notably the benchmark 10-year U.S. government bond TMUBMUSD10Y, 3.127%, traditionally are seen as a refuge in times of uncertainty, but they also have been undone given the Fed’s current rate-hike plan, which has led to selling in bonds in the hope of richer yields to come.

Source: Why the Dow plunged more than 1,000 points? Should I wait for stocks to sink lower? Here’s what some pros think. – MarketWatch

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US Treasury To Allow Russia Bond Payment To Go Through In Dollars

Russia says it made a $117 million bond payment — a move to avoid defaulting on its debt — and the US Treasury Department said it would allow the installment.

Russia’s finance minister told state-run media Thursday that the country fulfilled a debt obligation, and noted that it’s up to the US as to whether the payment would be allowed. The Treasury said it would let the payment go through.

Reuters reported Thursday that correspondent bank JPMorgan received the payment and made a credit to the paying agent Citigroup, which is responsible for distributing the money to investors.

Representatives from Citigroup and JPMorgan declined to comment on the matter. A report from Bloomberg said Russia’s finance ministry ordered the interest payment on Monday, ahead of its Wednesday due date.

US sanctions on doing business with Russia’s central bank and other institutions won’t block Moscow from making payments to Americans on dollar-denominated debt until just after midnight on May 25, a Treasury spokesperson told Bloomberg.

Russia earlier said if its dollar payments weren’t allowed, it would repay its foreign debt in rubles. Credit ratings agency Fitch said that could amount to a default as investors expected to be paid in dollars.

So far, the bondholders haven’t received the bond payments yet, sources told Reuters.

Russia has been teetering on its first foreign-currency bond default since 1918, during the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution. The $117 million interest payment on two dollar bonds was a key test for a country whose credit rating was recently slashed to junk from investment-grade.

Putin’s forces launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine last month, unleashing a wave of sanctions from the West that have largely cut off Russia from global financial markets and blocked it from accessing about half of its $640 billion in foreign currency reserves.

By:

Source: US Treasury to Allow Russia Bond Payment to Go Through in Dollars

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Critics:

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told Russia state-run media outlet Russia Today that the country fulfilled its obligations to foreign creditors, though he added that the payments may not go through since they’re at risk of being blocked by the US.

A spokesperson for the US Treasury Department told The Post that Washington would allow the payments to go through.

Siluanov claimed the “possibility or impossibility of fulfilling our obligations in foreign currency does not depend on us.” Siluanov said the US and EU sanctions have frozen some $315 billion worth of foreign reserves.

If the US blocks the payment, Russia could try to pay in rubles, but the currency has been so devalued that the country would have no choice but to default on its debt, according to credit ratings agency Fitch.

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the Kremlin, said any default would be “entirely artificial” since Russia had the money to fulfill its debt obligations.

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