Hong Kong Approves Bitcoin and Ethereum ETFs

This month, Hong Kong regulators gave the green light for the launch of spot Bitcoin and Ethereum exchange-traded funds (ETFs), following similar initiatives in the U.S. earlier this year. According to asset managers, three ETF providers received approval from Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC).

ChinaAMC announced it had secured regulatory approval to offer “virtual asset management services” and is in the process of developing a spot Bitcoin and Ethereum ETF. OSL Digital Securities has been designated as the custodian for ChinaAMC.

Additionally, Harvest Global and Bosera International have also obtained SFC approval for their Bitcoin and Ethereum ETFs.

While approval has been granted, these ETFs have not yet been launched. Crypto trading remains largely prohibited in mainland China following a significant crackdown in 2021. Despite this, Hong Kong is gradually positioning itself as a regulated cryptocurrency hub, aiming to compete with locations like Dubai and Singapore. It remains to be seen whether mainland Chinese investors will be permitted to invest in cryptocurrencies through these ETFs.

This development follows the U.S. securities regulators’ recent approval of spot bitcoin ETFs, which have attracted billions of dollars in inflows. A Bitcoin ETF provides investors exposure to the asset’s price movements without the necessity of owning the underlying cryptocurrency, potentially allowing more traditional investors to participate in the crypto market.

Hong Kong is poised to be among the first jurisdictions globally to approve an Ethereum ETF, a step not yet taken by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Key to Affordable Housing?

Sierra Romas watched as a gantry-mounted nozzle meticulously deposited concrete in 166 layers, each less than an inch thick, to erect the walls of her new three-bedroom residence.

“It was amazing, very surreal to see a machine doing everything,” Romas said, after experiencing the construction of her home in Newport News, Virginia, using a 3D printer. This innovative method of building represents a promising solution to the escalating crisis of affordable housing, a situation that, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, necessitates over 7 million new homes.

The process took roughly 40 hours to complete the walls of Romas’ 1,300-square-foot home. This method not only speeds up construction but also proves to be more cost-effective than traditional wood-frame methods, which have seen little innovation over the past century.

This home is the third constructed by the Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg chapter, with CEO Janet Green noting a decrease in costs with each project. Romas’ home cost Habitat approximately $215,000—$25,000 less than their first project on a plot donated by the city’s housing authority. Green anticipates future 3D-printed homes could cost between $180,000 and $190,000, significantly lower than the current average home price in Romas’ neighborhood, which exceeds $260,000.

The advantages of 3D-printed homes extend beyond speed and cost. They produce less waste, are more energy-efficient due to concrete’s superior insulation properties, and offer increased durability against fire and storms, potentially lowering insurance premiums. Additionally, the automation of the printing process demands fewer workers, an important factor given the current shortage of construction labor.

The growth of 3D-printed housing offers a novel avenue to homeownership for individuals like Romas, an Army National Guard veteran with two sons. Alquist 3D, responsible for printing the three Habitat homes, has recently relocated its headquarters to Greeley, Colorado, attracted by $4 million in city and state incentives. There, Alquist 3D plans to construct 100 homes as part of a larger 300-home Habitat for Humanity initiative and is collaborating with Aims Community College to develop a 3D-printing curriculum, preparing a workforce for the expansion of this burgeoning technology.

$1 Billion in Federal Tax Refunds Unclaimed

If you failed to submit a tax return during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and think you might qualify for a refund, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) thinks you should reach out.

The agency recently announced that it holds over $1 billion in unclaimed refunds from the 2020 tax year, which eligible taxpayers can still claim.

During the pandemic, the deadline for filing returns to claim refunds for the 2020 tax year was extended to May 17, 2024, beyond the standard three-year period.

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel emphasized the urgency for those who haven’t filed their 2020 returns to do so before the upcoming deadline. With an estimated median refund of $932 for 2020, many may not realize they are entitled to a refund. The pandemic created unique circumstances that led to some individuals, including students and part-time workers, potentially overlooking their refunds.

Additionally, individuals, particularly those with lower to moderate incomes, might qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), potentially worth up to $6,660 for the 2020 tax year for those with eligible children.

The IRS also pointed out that refunds for 2020 might be withheld if tax returns for 2021 and 2022 have not been filed. Taxpayers are encouraged to review their records and prepare their filings to avoid missing out on any potential refunds.

If you think you might be one of those people, it might be worth looking into further.

First Major Bank Cuts Interest Rates

Recently, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) unexpectedly cut its main policy rate by 0.25 percentage points to 1.5%, citing projections that national inflation will likely remain under 2% in the coming years.

Contrary to expectations from economists surveyed by Reuters, who anticipated the bank would maintain rates at 1.75%, the SNB’s decision came as a surprise. The bank explained, “Inflation has been below 2% for some months now, aligning with what the SNB considers price stability. Our new forecast suggests inflation will continue to stay within this range for the foreseeable future.” In February, Swiss inflation further declined to 1.2%.

Additionally, the SNB has revised its inflation forecasts downwards. It now expects inflation to average 1.4% in 2024, a decrease from the previously estimated 1.9% in December, and to adjust the 2025 forecast to 1.2% from 1.6%. For 2026, the bank’s initial prediction is an average inflation rate of 1.1%.

Following this announcement, Capital Economics analysts predict that the SNB will implement two additional rate cuts this year, noting the bank’s dovish stance and the likelihood of inflation falling short of its forecasts. “We anticipate inflation to settle even below the SNB’s revised projections, maintaining around the current rate of 1.2% before dropping below 1.0% next year. Consequently, we expect rate cuts in the September and December meetings, bringing the policy rate down to 1%, where it is likely to stay through 2025 and 2026,” according to a note from Capital Economics.

The upcoming September meeting is expected to be the final one overseen by SNB Chairman Thomas Jordan, who will retire at the end of the month after a 12-year tenure.

The SNB also provided an outlook on the Swiss economy, predicting “modest” growth in the upcoming quarters and anticipating a GDP increase of about 1% this year.

At the global level, the bank anticipates “moderate” economic growth in the next quarters, with inflation likely to decrease due in part to tight monetary policies.

US Sportsbooks Join Forces To Combat Problem Gambling

Seven leading gaming corporations in the nation are uniting to establish a trade organization aimed at advocating for responsible gambling practices. This initiative, a first of its kind, will involve sharing data on problem gambling.

The Responsible Online Gaming Association, abbreviated as ROGA, was introduced by companies including Fanatics Betting & Gaming, Hard Rock Digital, and bet365 on March 27th.

These companies, representing over 85% of the U.S. legal online betting market, have collectively committed over $20 million to support ROGA’s initiatives.

Jennifer Shatley, the executive director of ROGA, expressed enthusiasm about advancing the association’s mission to enhance research, develop evidence-based practices, and equip players with valuable information.

ROGA’s members are dedicated to collaborating on various fronts, such as educational efforts, establishing responsible gaming protocols, and ensuring ethical advertising and marketing throughout the sector.

Moreover, ROGA plans to set up a novel independent platform for exchanging crucial consumer protection information, although the specifics of this system remain to be detailed.

The organization also intends to launch a certification scheme to evaluate and promote the responsible gaming measures of its members, encouraging wider industry engagement.

The formation of this consortium is timely, as sports betting has expanded rapidly in the U.S. since 2018. Currently, thirty-eight states and Washington, D.C. offer legal sports betting.

Notably, this year’s Super Bowl saw a record-breaking number of bets placed, with online transactions reaching nearly 15,000 per second, a figure that doubles last year’s peak, as reported by GeoComply.

Caesars, a significant player not participating in ROGA’s formation, shared with CNBC its confidence in its own Responsible Gaming practices, built upon 35 years of experience in the field. The company praised the efforts towards responsible online gaming but reaffirmed its commitment to its approach.

It is fantastic to see companies taking steps to combat gambling addictions and encouraging responsible gaming!