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What happens to climate talks in the face of rising oil prices?

The OPEC+ decision to open the taps in a controlled manner and let the markets surge comes just before the UN Climate Change Conference Rapid moves with long-term ramifications are being made on the global energy chessboard. Early last week, the Organizat

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The OPEC+ decision to open the taps in a controlled manner and let the markets surge comes just before the UN Climate Change Conference

Rapid moves with long-term ramifications are being made on the global energy chessboard.

Early last week, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies in OPEC+ opted to stick to their original plan and gradually open the crude oil taps.

After their Oct. 4 ministerial meeting, OPEC+ said it had “reconfirmed the production adjustment plan.” This referred to its earlier decision to add 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) to the market for November.

The decision was taken despite calls on OPEC+ to increase supplies and cool the markets.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration previously called on OPEC and its allies to boost oil output to tackle soaring gasoline prices. The impact of surging prices was being felt all over, from China to Europe and India to Pakistan.

The possibility of crude oil consumption soon returning to pre-pandemic levels meant further gains on the crude markets.

The OPEC+ decision to stick to the original plan added fuel to the fire. Gas prices kept surging. On Friday, U.S. crude futures topped US$80 a barrel for the first time since November 2014, rising by as much as 2.3 per cent that day. This was a seventh straight weekly gain, the longest stretch of advances since December.

The US$100-a-barrel hurdle is now definitely in sight. There’s even talk about oil touching the US$200-a-barrel mark.

“We believe the evolution of (current) coal prices might reflect supply, demand, cost of capital and energy transitioning issues for all fossil fuels, and it would certainly be possible that oil prices will follow the same pattern (inflation-adjusted for oil, that would be in a US$150-to-US$200-a-bbl range),” wrote a team of JPMorgan Chase & Co. strategists.

The possibility of crude touching or exceeding US$100 a barrel has put the U.S. Department of Energy in an awkward position. It needed to take action, some observers said. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm even floated the prospect of using the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). However, the administration backed off on Thursday.

Instead, the Department of Energy “will work with our agency partners to determine if and when actions are needed, but there are no plans (to release from the SPR) at this time,” a spokesperson said. Oil rebounded after the department declared it had no plans, for now, to tap into the reserves.

The OPEC+ decision to open the taps in a controlled manner and let the markets surge comes almost a month before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. For the first time since the Paris climate conference in 2015, all signatories to that agreement are expected to commit to enhanced ambitions.

The world will be watching and demanding that national leaders rise to the moment, given the mounting climate crisis and far-reaching consequences for a livable future. Climate activists and scientists involved in the green campaign strongly believe we have reached a “code red” for our world.

The top priorities at COP26 include fresh commitments by the global leaders to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5C. That will require rapid and bold emissions cuts, net-zero commitments and increased finance to adapt to a new green world energy order.

It will also require meeting the existing commitment to provide $100 billion in international climate finance each year so developing countries can invest in green technologies and protect lives and livelihoods against worsening climate impacts.

With COP26 just around the corner, has OPEC+ made the right decision by opting not to open its crude oil taps more rapidly?

With the U.S. under Biden back in the climate agreement, won’t the OPEC+ decision propel world leaders to strive to move more rapidly away from fossil fuels?

Rising crude prices give world leaders another justification to move rapidly in that direction.

So OPEC+ members should have thought a little harder about their options.

By Rashid Husain Syed
Columnist
Troy Media

Toronto-based Rashid Husain Syed is a respected energy and political analyst. The Middle East is his area of focus. As well as writing for major local and global newspapers, Rashid is also a regular speaker at major international conferences. He has been asked to provide his perspective on global energy issues by both the Department of Energy in Washington and the International Energy Agency in Paris.

Courtesy of Troy Media

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Government

Bond Market Crash Will Surprise Only The Uninformed

Bond Market Crash Will Surprise Only The Uninformed

By Bloomberg macro commentator and analyst Tommi Utoslahti

A global bond market meltdown is only a matter of time. One fine morning, traders will wake up to find all benchmark yields sharpl

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Bond Market Crash Will Surprise Only The Uninformed

By Bloomberg macro commentator and analyst Tommi Utoslahti

A global bond market meltdown is only a matter of time. One fine morning, traders will wake up to find all benchmark yields sharply higher, 10 to 20 basis points or more, and no buyers around.

Bond price indicators are flashing deep red right now, from decade-high inflation expectations to waning auction demand and whispers of depressed liquidity. Last week, the U.S. 5-year breakeven rate briefly topped 3% for the first time since the maturity was restarted in 2004
Bloomberg’s U.S. Treasury index is on track for its worst annual loss since 2009, and that’s only the beginning. Expect the Treasury 10-year yield to top 2%, Bunds to end their two-year trek in the sub-zero wilderness and Gilts to continue pushing higher toward levels last seen in 2018.

It’s not a taper tantrum. The time for that passed months ago, and the Fed’s well-telegraphed intention to start slowing its $120 billion monthly bond purchases at next week’s meeting is all baked in.

Bonds will collapse on investors’ delayed realization that inflation is here to stay, and won’t be tamed without serious policy tightening.

Equally serious concern stems from the fact that a big part of the recent inflation spike is supply-shock driven. Conventional policy tightening would do little to resolve supply-chain problems, leaving policy makers unable to directly influence rising prices.

If all that sounds unrealistic, or just a mere tail risk scenario, consider this: wagers for Bank of England rate hikes over the next year have been ramped up to more than 100 basis points in only a few weeks. A Hundred basis points! Saying that aloud would have been seen as a joke as recently as early September.

Perma-bulls often point out that yields fell following the 2013 taper tantrum. That is correct, but it only happened after the Treasury 10-year yield had surged about 140 basis points in four months and took well over a year to return to where it was before the selloff. A similar move now from August lows would take Treasuries above 2.5%.

The biggest difference is in the macro backdrop. In 2013, the headline U.S. inflation rate was well below 2% -- it’s been over 5% for five months now. The ISM index of prices paid for inputs is hitting levels not seen for a decade and the inflation expectations of the University of Michigan consumer survey are the highest since 2008.

Everyday consumer items are only about to get more expensive amid stubborn supply-chain disruptions. There’s an energy crunch brewing in many of the developed economies and crude oil appears more likely to hit $100 than fall back toward $50.

Fed Chair Powell on Friday said that “risks are clearly now to longer and more persistent bottlenecks”. Other Fed officials have earlier acknowledged that “transitory” has become a dirty word. And the global financial commentariat is now more often talking about “policy error.”

Treasury yields are now almost exactly where they were just before the 2013 taper tantrum or the 2016 reflation trade following Trump’s election victory. In both cases, yields eventually topped 3%.

Portfolio holders suddenly find themselves bracing for potentially massive losses. Duration hedging will only work to drive bond prices lower. The dollar should benefit from the dual tailwind of higher U.S. yields and haven demand.

Risk assets won’t be able to ignore severe bond market carnage. Earlier this year, when 10-year Treasuries were testing 1.70%, the S&P 500 index retreated about 5% before resuming its rally. Investors shouldn’t count on such a benign reaction this time. Wall Street near records and the VIX at its lowest since the pandemic started show that stocks are hopelessly unprepared for tighter funding conditions.

It’s not all gloom. Previous cycles have shown that the world economy can handle higher borrowing costs. Equities may even see firmer yields as a sign of a strong economy. But there’s no denying recalibration to higher yields after years of ultra-low rates will be a painful exercise for those not ready for it.

Tyler Durden Tue, 10/26/2021 - 09:50

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Spread & Containment

Carbon nanotube-based sensor can detect SARS-CoV-2 proteins

CAMBRIDGE, MA — Using specialized carbon nanotubes, MIT engineers have designed a novel sensor that can detect SARS-CoV-2 without any antibodies, giving a result within minutes. Their new sensor is based on technology that can quickly generate rapid…

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CAMBRIDGE, MA — Using specialized carbon nanotubes, MIT engineers have designed a novel sensor that can detect SARS-CoV-2 without any antibodies, giving a result within minutes. Their new sensor is based on technology that can quickly generate rapid and accurate diagnostics, not just for Covid-19 but for future pandemics, the researchers say.

Credit: MIT

CAMBRIDGE, MA — Using specialized carbon nanotubes, MIT engineers have designed a novel sensor that can detect SARS-CoV-2 without any antibodies, giving a result within minutes. Their new sensor is based on technology that can quickly generate rapid and accurate diagnostics, not just for Covid-19 but for future pandemics, the researchers say.

“A rapid test means that you can open up travel much earlier in a future pandemic. You can screen people getting off of an airplane and determine whether they should quarantine or not. You could similarly screen people entering their workplace and so forth,” says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and the senior author of the study. “We do not yet have technology that can develop and deploy such sensors fast enough to prevent economic loss.”

The diagnostic is based on carbon nanotube sensor technology that Strano’s lab has previously developed. Once the researchers began working on a Covid-19 sensor, it took them just 10 days to identify a modified carbon nanotube capable of selectively detecting the viral proteins they were looking for, and then test it and incorporate it into a working prototype. This approach also eliminates the need for antibodies or other reagents that are time-consuming to generate, purify, and make widely available.

MIT postdoc Sooyeon Cho and graduate student Xiaojia Jin are the lead authors of the paper, which appears today in Analytical Chemistry. Other authors include MIT graduate students Sungyun Yang and Jianqiao Cui, and postdoc Xun Gong.

Molecular recognition

Several years ago, Strano’s lab developed a novel approach to designing sensors for a variety of molecules. Their technique relies on carbon nanotubes — hollow, nanometer-thick cylinders made of carbon that naturally fluoresce when exposed to laser light. They have shown that by wrapping such tubes in different polymers, they can create sensors that respond to specific target molecules by chemically recognizing them.

Their approach, known as Corona Phase Molecular Recognition (CoPhMoRe), takes advantage of a phenomenon that occurs when certain types of polymers bind to a nanoparticle. Known as amphiphilic polymers, these molecules have hydrophobic regions that latch onto the tubes like anchors and hydrophilic regions that form a series of loops extending away from the tubes.

Those loops form a layer called a corona surrounding the nanotube. Depending on the arrangement of the loops, different types of target molecules can wedge into the spaces between the loops, and this binding of the target alters the intensity or peak wavelength of fluorescence produced by the carbon nanotube.

Earlier this year, Strano and InnoTech Precision Medicine, a Boston-based diagnostics developer, received a National Institutes of Health grant to create a CoPhMoRe sensor for SARS-CoV-2 proteins. Researchers in Strano’s lab had already developed strategies that allow them to predict which amphiphilic polymers will interact best with a particular target molecule, so they were able to quickly generate a set of 11 strong candidates for SARS-CoV-2.

Within about 10 days of starting the project, the researchers had identified accurate sensors for both the nucleocapsid and the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. During that time, they also were able to incorporate the sensors into a prototype device with a fiber optic tip that can detect fluorescence changes of the biofluid sample in real time. This eliminates the need to send the sample to a lab, which is required for the gold-standard PCR diagnostic test for Covid-19.

This device produces a result within about five minutes, and can detect concentrations as low as 2.4 picograms of viral protein per milliliter of sample. In more recent experiments done after this paper was submitted, the researchers have achieved a limit of detection lower than the rapid tests that are now commercially available.

The researchers also showed that the device could detect the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein (but not the spike protein) when it was dissolved in saliva. Detecting viral proteins in saliva is usually difficult because saliva contains sticky carbohydrate and digestive enzyme molecules that interfere with protein detection, which is why most Covid-19 diagnostics require nasal swabs.

“This sensor shows the highest range of limit of detection, response time, and saliva compatibility even without any antibody and receptor design,” Cho says. “It is a unique feature of this type of molecular recognition scheme that rapid design and testing is possible, unhindered by the development time and supply chain requirements of a conventional antibody or enzymatic receptor.”

Quick response

The speed with which the researchers were able to develop a working prototype suggests that this approach could prove useful for developing diagnostics more quickly during future pandemics, Strano says.

“We’re able to go from someone handing us viral markers to a working fiber optic sensor in an extremely short amount of time,” he says.

Sensors that rely on antibodies to detect viral proteins, which form the basis of many of the rapid Covid-19 tests now available, take much longer to develop because the process of designing the right protein antibody is so time-consuming.

The researchers have filed for a patent on the technology in hopes that it could be commercialized for use as a Covid-19 diagnostic. Strano also hopes to further develop the technology so that it could be deployed quickly in response to future pandemics.

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The research was funded by a National Institutes of Health Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) grant.


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Commodities

Culture converges with blockchain as luxury fashion brands launch NFT collections

Luxury fashion brands are launching NFT collections, but will the concept resonate with the fashion industry at large?
It’s no surprise that nonfungible tokens (NFT) have been dominating the crypto market this year. The booming digital

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Luxury fashion brands are launching NFT collections, but will the concept resonate with the fashion industry at large?

It’s no surprise that nonfungible tokens (NFT) have been dominating the crypto market this year. The booming digital asset class generated over $2.5 billion in sales within the first six months of 2021, demonstrating unheard-of financial gains for artists, brands and content creators across the globe. 

The rise of metaverses has also impacted the adoption of NFTs, as the world is moving closer toward visions of a future defined by augmented reality. As such, NFTs are further demonstrating the convergence of culture with technology, which in turn is having an impact on a number of mainstream industries.

Showcasing culture and community

Specifically speaking, the million-dollar luxury fashion sector has started taking note of NFTs. High-end fashion brands, such as Dolce & Gabbana and Jimmy Choo, have recently launched their own NFT collections, while designer Rebecca Minkoff became the first American female designer to create and showcase an NFT collection during New York Fashion Week 2021.

Megan Kaspar, managing director at Magnetic Capital and member of Red DAO — a fashion-focused decentralized autonomous organization — told Cointelegraph that she believes fashion is one of the most interesting NFT categories:

“The fashion industry, one of the largest industries in the world, generated $2.5 trillion in global annual revenues prior to the pandemic. Red DAO’s thesis around digital NFT fashion includes the potential of global revenues at least doubling over the next two decades due to the digitization of fashion and new capabilities offered.”

While NFTs for the fashion industry is still a very early concept, Kaspar explained that physical fashion today has limitations. For instance, she pointed out that luxury fashion items will always have a secondary retail market value, but as a product is diminished over time, the items lose their worth.

Yet digital fashion pieces will always remain intact, with the added potential to increase in value if they are highly sought after. Kaspar commented that digital NFT fashion pieces can also be worn virtually, as she recently demonstrated during a video interview where she sported virtual NFT earnings and other accessories.

Kaspar further noted that unlike tangible fashion pieces, digital items can be used as collateral for client retention and community engagement. Kaspar mentioned that high-end designers currently have limited engagement with consumers: “NFTs can be used to redeem physical items or to unlock upcoming fashion drops. They can also provide access to private events.” She added, “Designers will also be able to communicate with customers through digital wallets, almost like email.”

While Kaspar realizes that these use cases are still very early, she believes that more brands will eventually start to create NFTs to achieve such benefits. For now, however, it’s notable that a few innovative luxury and haute couture fashion brands have already started to demonstrate the potential of NFTs.

Source: UNXD and Dolce & Gabbana

Shashi Menon, the Dubai-based publisher of Vogue Arabia and founder and CEO of UNXD — a creator and curator platform that designed all of the digital assets for Dolce & Gabbana’s nine-piece NFT collection — told Cointelegraph that his team directly approached Dolce & Gabbana in April this year with the idea of launching an NFT collection.

Menon shared that the opportunity was contextualized from a place of understanding both the luxury fashion sector and the crypto world. “We’ve been involved in both for years and think we have a unique perspective to offer,” he said. Menon believes that the story around NFTs and fashion is not one of technology but rather about culture, remarking that both fashion and NFTs are “ultimately forms of cultural expression.”

While culture may be the most important element from a brand’s perspective, blockchain technology plays a critical role in ensuring the unique benefits achieved by NFTs, such as immutability and provenance. For instance, Menon explained that Dolce & Gabbana’s NFT collection — known as “Collezione Genesi” — was historic for a number of reasons:

“There is deep provenance — here we had one of the world’s iconic luxury brands creating its debut NFT collection, and it was personally designed by the founders/namesake designers. There is also extreme rarity, as the collection only featured nine items. These pieces were made once and will never be made again.”

Menon added that the craftsmanship and materials used in the physical creations were exquisite, which in turn meant that a great deal of time was spent on the digital artwork. “We obsessed over the smallest details of texturing, fabrics, lighting, shadows, reflections and physics to achieve an intensely photorealistic result. The dresses and suit featured Murano glass and Swarovski crystals, while the crowns were made of silver, plated in gold and palladium, and featured beautiful rubies, sapphires and diamonds,” he commented.

The Gold Glass Dress NFT designed by Dolce & Gabbana. Source: UNXD and Dolce & Gabbana

One of the major benefits of digital fashion pieces is the experience they can bring to the virtual world. Menon elaborated:

“The benefits for Genesis holders bridge the digital and the physical worlds in a way not previously done before. We’re providing digital utility through metaverse wearables, physical utility with the products, and exclusive access/experiences to create a truly special result.”

Although the concept remains futuristic, sales were impressive. Dolce & Gabbana announced on Sept. 30 that it had sold the nine-piece NFT collection, alongside some physical couture pieces, for a total of 1,885.719 Ether (ETH), equivalent to nearly $5.7 million at the time.

Kaspar mentioned Red DAO won the auction for “The Doge Crown,” which also came with a physical version. Red DAO paid 423.5 ETH or $1.27 million at the time of sale. The organization also won the two purely digital “Impossible” jackets, bringing its total spending to nearly $1.9 million.

“The Doge Crown” designed by Dolce & Gabbana. Source: UNXD and Dolce & Gabbana

Kaspar explained that winning “The Doge Crown” was an exciting moment for Red DAO, given the fact that the rank of “Doge” (as in an elected head of state) has its roots in Italy, along with the Dogecoin (DOGE) crossover. “We’ve already had a number of celebrities who promote Dogecoin reach out to us asking to wear the crown at upcoming events,” said Kaspar.

In addition to Dolce & Gabbana’s Genesis collection, luxury fashion accessories brand Jimmy Choo has recently launched an NFT initiative in collaboration with New York artist Eric Haze. The collection features 8,888 “mystery boxes” for purchase, underpinning the theme of collectability.

Jimmy Choo x Eric Haze Mystery Box. Source: Ucollex

In addition, a digital version of the sneaker produced for the collection was recently made available for bidding on the Binance platform. All profits from the auction will be donated to The Jimmy Choo Foundation in support of “Women for Women International,” an organization helping female war survivors.

Robert Tran, CEO of Ucollex — the NFT platform behind the launch of the Jimmy Choo collection — told Cointelegraph that the sneaker NFT rotating against a canvas of Haze’s signature script only exists digitally. However, the auction’s highest bidder will also receive a limited-edition hand-painted sneaker.

Remaining true to the theme of culture, Tran added that this collaboration blends fashion with art, along with the evolution of street culture in an experimental meeting of creative minds from different worlds:

“The notion of collectability is a strong theme in the collaboration, as seen with the limited edition ‘Be@rbrick,’ which sold out the morning it launched. So, the timing felt right for the brand to enter the NFT conversation, amplifying New York artist Eric Haze’s creativity and Jimmy Choo’s designs as digital collectibles talking to a new audience. The fusing of digital and physical will only continue to grow in influence.”

Is the mainstream ready for fashion NFTs?

While there certainly are a number of benefits associated with digital fashion today, the concept is still in early development. As social media platforms such as Facebook and TikTok continue to invest in metaverse capabilities, industry experts predict that fashion NFTs will become increasingly common.

For instance, Tran pointed out that metaverses have already been introduced to the mainstream through remote work meetings. In turn, he believes that mass NFT adoption is not far off: “There should be no argument, the industry will only continue to explode. There will come a day when fashion shows are done digitally and the rights of those elements on display are bid on and sold, purely for digital use.”

Jimmy Choo x Eric Haze, Chasing Stars Auction. Source: Ucollex

Menon added that while these concepts may not be universally applicable today, they will become the norm in the future. He pointed out that fashion brands and other businesses interested in continuity will want to create NFTs for their audiences moving forward. In terms of community engagement, Menon said that Dolce & Gabbana plans to launch its own NFT community known as “DGFamily,” which will be rolled out in the near future.

Education is still required

Although it may be safe to assume that more brands will want to create NFTs to stay current, Kaspar pointed out that we are also witnessing a trend where fashion brands and designers are jumping in on the NFT hype just to capture their share of the market. With this in mind, she believes that most brands still do not fully understand the power of wearable digital fashion and the full range of features that NFTs can provide.

For instance, Kaspar shared that a less-discussed disruptive feature of digitizing luxury fashion is the ability to use these items as collateral in decentralized finance smart contracts: “These will all be NFTs on the blockchain that will be tied to smart contracts. That’s what this technology provides.”

Given the early nature of fashion NFTs, Kaspar mentioned that this opportunity also comes with an educational component: “I have fashion brands calling me to figure out how to get involved. I think what Dolce & Gabbana has done is progressive and will lead the way for other brands.”

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