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Global stocks hit record highs and WTI oil tops $60 as ‘reflation trade’ powers ahead

WTI oil, the US benchmark, crossed $60 a barrel Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images European stocks jumped and US futures rose, although US markets are…



GettyImages 1027266724WTI oil, the US benchmark, crossed $60 a barrel

Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images

European stocks jumped in early trading on Monday, US futures rose and Asian equities climbed overnight as investors doubled down on bets that coronavirus vaccines and government stimulus will power a rapid rebound this year.

Meanwhile, West Texas Intermediate oil rose past the $60 for the first time in over a year as tensions in the Middle East and a cold snap in parts of the US.

Europe’s Stoxx 600 index was up 0.8% in morning trading, while the UK’s FTSE 100 was 1.39% higher.

Futures for the US’s S&P 500 were up 0.29%, although trading will be closed on Monday for Presidents’ Day.

Markets in China and Hong Kong were shut for the Lunar New Year. But Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 1.91%.

The MSCI All World index ended at a record high on Friday in a sign of investors’ confidence that economies will heal quickly in 2021.

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“As the virus count falls in major countries and the vaccine roll-out proceeds with fits and starts, the mood in markets is improving,” said Marshall Gittler, head of investment research at trading platform BDSwiss.

“It helps too that financial conditions are extremely loose, meaning there’s a lot of money floating around looking for a home,” Gittler added. “As a result, stock markets are moving further into record territory.”

Expectations of a strong rebound in demand as economies recover have pushed oil prices to one-year highs.

Crude prices extended their rally overnight after a Saudi-led coalition said it had intercepted a drone fired by the Houthi group, which is aligned to Iran, according to state TV.

The possibility of higher tensions in the Middle East combined with a possibly disruptive cold snap in Texas to send WTI crude to a high of close to $60.80 a barrel. It was last up 1.87% to $60.57, trading at levels not seen since January 2020. Brent crude was up 1.33% to $63.26 a barrel.

Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, said: “Hopes of increased demand in the coming months along with controlled supply has been positive for an oil price, which has risen by 22% in the year to date.”

The bitcoin price slipped back from a record high of above $49,700 touched on Sunday. It was 3.29% lower on Monday morning at $47,528 on the Bitstamp exchange, having fallen to $45,900 overnight.

The dollar index fell 0.19% to 90.31 as investors moved out of the greenback into equities. Its fall helped push the British pound up 0.39% to $1.3898, its highest level since the spring of 2018.

Read More: Bank of America shares 9 stocks to buy as the pandemic prompts consumers to shift their spending habits towards ‘solitary leisure’ activities like golf and biking

  • Bitcoin fell from a record high of close to $50,000 after surging the previous week.
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    Business insider

    Ergatta’s CEO reveals how the connected-fitness startup generated $2.5 million in monthly revenues within a year of launching

    Ergatta Ergatta found a gap in the market by targeting fitness-minded people who don’t like exercise classes. It conducted months of research…





    • Ergatta found a gap in the market by targeting fitness-minded people who don’t like exercise classes.
    • It conducted months of research before launching the product, and raised $5 million in funding.
    • Sales have boomed during the pandemic, but its CEO says the at-home fitness trend is here to stay.
    • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

    Ergatta only launched sales in March 2020, but the home-fitness startup has already reached $2.5 million in monthly revenues, it says.

    Business has been so good that the company has already sold out of its luxury rowers multiple times during the pandemic.

    The waves of lockdowns and gym closures made 2020 the ideal time for Ergatta to launch sales, but the stay-at-home fitness trend is here to stay, Tom Aulet, the brand’s CEO and co-founder, told Insider.

    Ergatta was founded back in 2018, long before anyone knew that a pandemic would shake up the fitness industry. Two of the founders were marketers, Aulet told Insider, and they were outsiders to the fitness industry. This could have been pivotal to its success, Aulet said.

    Because of their backgrounds in marketing, from the start, they focused on understanding the influences and resources that people consult when purchasing fitness equipment. Because rowing machines are such a major investment – Ergatta’s model costs $2,200 – customers undertake a lot of research before deciding whether to buy one, Aulet explained.

    As a result, Ergatta decided to focus on searchable channels that impact lower-funnel consideration, such as YouTube reviews, blog, and press coverage, rather than paid-for adverts, Aulet said.

    “This is an expensive product, those people have never heard of it before, it’s going in your home, likely in your living room or bedroom,” he said. “You’re not going to buy it after seeing an Instagram ad.”

    The company got $5 million in funding from two rounds. Its biggest backers are New York-based venture capital Greycroft, but it got pre-seed capital from angel investors including Mark Pincus, Scott Dorsey, and Rhode Island-based WaterRower, which it struck up a partnership with. WaterRower now manufactures Ergatta’s machines.

    Ergatta is just one player in a booming business. The fitness-equipment industry was valued at $11.5 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $15.2 billion by 2027.

    Peloton, which makes bikes and treadmills, has largely dominated the connected-fitness space during the pandemic. It doesn’t yet make a rower, but other companies including Hydrow, CityRow, Nautilus, and NordicTrack all do.

    Michael Farello, a managing partner at L Catterton, told Insider in July that rowing was “the fastest-growing modality in fitness.”

    Ergatta found a gap in the market. Around half of people don’t enjoy fitness classes, its research found, and so the company decided to make a competitive, gamified alternative to target this currently under-served market. As well as pitting you against the machine for its goal-based plans and interval workouts, the rower while allows you to compete against other Ergatta users in simulated races.

    Because of this, Ergatta’s customer base isn’t centered around a specific demographic. The product instead attracts a certain personality type, Aulet said. Most consumers tend to be competitive and introverted, and it skews male. Its users include a lot of engineers, teachers, doctors, fire-fighters, lawyers, and finance people, he said.

    WaterRower produces Ergatta’s rowing machines in Rhode Island from sustainably harvested cherry wood. Aulet said the company is the only major connected fitness brand that manufactures in the US. This is a huge competitive advantage in the current environment, he said: Most other fitness companies make their hardware in China, and logistics have been under strain during the pandemic.

    And, as well as performance, design is an important part of Ergatta’s rowers.

    “It’s really easy to sell when a thing is beautiful,” Aulet said.

    The machine can fit into the space of a barstool when not in use, Ergatta says, and can be easily wheeled to a new room. The rowers come with a five-year warranty – but they’re built to outlast this, the company says.



    Customers who already own a WaterRower can pay to upgrade their existing rowing machine with Ergatta technology. For $550, Ergatta sells its hardware add-ons for WaterRower S4 owners to turn their machine into a connected-fitness device.

    Though customers need the hardware to use Ergatta, the startup describes itself as a software company at its core. It sells its software through a subscription model where customers pay $29 each month. The company releases new software every one to two weeks, with the input of customer feedback, meaning that users’ experiences constantly improve and evolve.

    And this approach seems to be working. Ergatta’s users work out on average 12 times a month, and 99.5% of users stick with Ergatta each month, Aulet told Insider.

    The company could have sold more rowers it hadn’t occasionally sold out, he added.

    Ergatta is scaling up production to meet rising demand and is building up its workforce, too. It directly employs 18 full-time employees at the moment, and it has seven open roles, too.

    The home-fitness boom is here to stay, Aulet said.

    Two-thirds of Americans prefer working out at home, and 59% don’t expect to go back to the gym after the pandemic, he said.

    “If you can deliver substantially the same or better experience much more conveniently, that will always win out.”

  • Sales have boomed during the pandemic, but its CEO says the at-home fitness trend is here to stay.
  • Source:


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    Business insider

    Microsoft allies with European publishers to push for ‘Australian-style’ laws on news content, pitting itself against Facebook and Google

    Microsoft president Brad Smith. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson Microsoft has allied with four publisher lobbying groups in Europe to push for new legi…



    microsoft brad smithMicrosoft president Brad Smith.

    REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

    • Microsoft has allied with four publisher lobbying groups in Europe to push for new legislation targeting tech giants.
    • The Alliance wants to ensure Big Tech pays news publishers to host news content.
    • It comes as Australia prepares to force tech giants to pay publishers for hosting their content.
    • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

    As Facebook and Google brace themselves to start paying news publishers in Australia, rival Microsoft is pressing its advantage internationally.

    Microsoft announced Monday it had struck an alliance with four major European publishers’ lobbying groups to push for an “Australian-style arbitration mechanism” that would force it to pay news publishers for hosting their content.

    “Europe’s press publishers and Microsoft today agreed to work together on a solution to ensure that Europe’s press publishers get paid for the use of their content by gatekeepers that have dominant market power,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

    Specifically, Microsoft says it will be pushing for arbitration provisions in law, meaning lawmakers could decide what they think a digital giant, such as Google or Facebook, should be paying publishers.

    Australia is getting ready to pass its new News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, a law that would force digital media platforms to pay news publishers for hosting their content, and mandate that they give publishers forewarning about any changes to their algorithms.

    In preparation for the law, Google struck deals with major publishers including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Facebook reacted by temporarily booting all news content off its Australian site, a move which resulted in a significant drop in traffic to news sites. Facebook reversed its decision on Monday following amendments to the proposed law.

    The EU has already shown some appetite for adopting a similar law to Australia’s, and could potentially weave one into its recently proposed and wide-ranging Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act.

    Microsoft operates Bing, a rival search engine to Google’s, and has already been vocal in its support for the Australian law.

    “I’m hopeful that the Biden administration will support and embrace this kind of policy to redress the imbalance between something like a search service by Google and the position of the news publishers,” Microsoft President Brad Smith told Insider last week.

    Canada’s government has also said it will introduce a bill to make tech companies pay publishers for news content.



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    Business insider

    Now on ‘Mars time,’ NASA’s Perseverance team has to shift their work hours 40 minutes later every day

    The Perseverance surface-operations team celebrates the rover's landing from their mission-control room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laborat…



    perseverance rover landing mars nasa mission control celebratesThe Perseverance surface-operations team celebrates the rover’s landing from their mission-control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, February 18, 2021.


    NASA just landed a new rover on Mars, the culmination of a 300-million-mile journey that sent the robot into ancient lake bed.

    But the landing is just the beginning of the Perseverance rover’s mission. It’s set to explore Mars’ Jezero Crater for the next two years. It will search for signs of ancient microbial life that could have gotten trapped in sediment from the river that flowed into the lake. Perseverance aims to collect about 40 samples of Martian rock and soil, which it will save so that a future NASA mission can bring them back to Earth.

    At NASA, the team of scientists and engineers behind the Perseverance surface operations have to work around the robot’s schedule. That means about 350 people will be keeping “Mars time” for the next three months – shifting their workdays 40 minutes later every day.

    “The team is going to get used to getting up later and then working a little bit into the night. That’s not bad, to be on a different shift, but the problem with Mars time is that the Mars days are 40 minutes longer than the Earth days,” Jennifer Trosper, who has worked on all five of NASA’s Mars rovers and serves as deputy project manager for this one, said in a briefing before the landing.

    The team usually starts work during the Martian afternoon, because that’s when the rover’s data dump reaches Earth. They work for 12 to 14 hours to prepare an upload to send back to the rover. The first shift in this cycle began at around 2 p.m., Trosper said, then it is shifting 40 minutes later every day. After 37 days – a full “cycle” – the shifts are back where they started.

    mars rover perseverance helicoper ingenuityAn artist’s illustration shows NASA’s Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter on Mars.


    “The reason we do Mars time is because it is the most efficient way to have the rover make progress on a day-to-day basis. And that’s really important early in the mission to get it kind of unbuckled and ready to go,” Trosper said.

    The first tasks the team will do with the rover on this strange schedule involve checking all its systems, science instruments, and hardware. Then it has to drive to a field and release the tiny helicopter it carried to Mars. The drone will conduct some test flights, and after that, Perseverance can begin its sample-collecting work.

    But the constantly changing work hours are not easy for humans, so NASA only asks people to do that for three months.

    “The first cycle everybody’s excited: ‘This is cool. I’m on Mars time,'” Trosper said. “By the next cycle, people start to get a little bit tired. And by the third, by the time we finish Mars time, they are well ready to be finished with Mars time. It’s hard on your body. It’s like being jet lagged.”

    jennifer trosper nasa perseverance rover marsJennifer Trosper during a NASA Perseverance landing update on February 17, 2021.

    NASA/Bill Ingalls

    Ahead of Perseverance’s landing, she added, she finally bought an eye mask to help her sleep through sunlight hours.

    “It took me five missions to figure this out,” Trosper said. “So I’m ready. I have my earplugs, and we’ll be on Mars time.”

    The wonky schedule is especially complicated this year, since the pandemic means so many team members are working home. Taking 4 a.m. conference calls might be disruptive to sleeping family members or roommates.

    So NASA has set up some socially distanced on-site places for team members to come in if they want to.

    Trosper said “a couple dozen people” plan to take advantage of this option during the next three months. That way, she said, “they can not interfere with their family’s life, which is not on Mars time.”



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