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Apple, Microsoft and other tech stocks roar as the Presidential election narrows to several states

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On the back of sizable gains posted yesterday, tech stocks are once again rising sharply in pre-market trading today. Futures concerning the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index are indicating a 3.4% gain this morning, far above a 1.7% gain that the broader S&P 500 index is currently anticipating.

The market capitalization of some of the world’s most valuable companies have added tens of billions of dollars in value this morning, with Apple rising 3.9% in pre-market trading, and Microsoft gaining an even-richer 4.4%.

Smaller key players in the tech market are also rising, with Salesforce gaining 2.9% ahead of the bell, and Twilio adding 3.3% to its own value.

The price of heavily-traded assets have whipsawed during the last 24 hours, with yield on American government debt falling last night — indicating that investors were bullish on the economy as a whole — before rising again when it became clear that no so-called Blue Wave was forming. The prospect of a divided Congress could stifle future economic stimulus, the possibility of which has been a key narrative driver for market trading in recent months.

Precisely why tech stocks are racing higher this morning is not entirely clear. One obvious possibility is that investors are returning to their summer trade, when they bid shares of software-heavy companies higher in hopes of parking their wealth in the firms with the best chance of posting regular growth during a period of intense economic uncertainty.

If a divided Congress means a drag on more stimulus, why not return to the play that worked before?

For tech, and tech-enabled companies hoping to go public before the year ends, or in early 2021, the rally is welcome news. But, as with everything in this election, things could still change.

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Does Tor provide more benefit or harm? New paper says it depends

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Does Tor provide more benefit or harm? New paper says it depends

Enlarge (credit: Westend61 / Getty Images)

The Tor anonymity network has generated controversy almost constantly since its inception almost two decades ago. Supporters say it’s a vital service for protecting online privacy and circumventing censorship, particularly in countries with poor human rights records. Critics, meanwhile, argue that Tor shields criminals distributing child-abuse images, trafficking in illegal drugs, and engaging in other illicit activities.

Researchers on Monday unveiled new estimates that attempt to measure the potential harms and benefits of Tor. They found that, worldwide, almost 7 percent of Tor users connect to hidden services, which the researchers contend are disproportionately more likely to offer illicit services or content compared with normal Internet sites. Connections to hidden services were significantly higher in countries rated as more politically “free” relative to those that are “partially free” or “not free.”

Licit versus illicit

Specifically, the fraction of Tor users globally accessing hidden sites is 6.7, a relatively small proportion. Those users, however, aren’t evenly distributed geographically. In countries with regimes rated “not free” by this scoring from an organization called Freedom House, access to hidden services was just 4.8 percent. In “free” countries, the proportion jumped to 7.8 percent.

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EV bus and truck maker The Lion Electric to take SPAC route to public markets

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Canadian electric truck and bus manufacturer The Lion Electric Company said Monday it plans to become a publicly traded company via a merger with special-purpose acquisition company Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp.

The combined company, which will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, will have a valuation of $1.9 billion. The companies raised $200 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE, and hold about $320 million in cash proceeds.

The deal is the latest example of an electric automaker opting to go public via a SPAc merger in an aim to access the level of capital needed to become a high-volume vehicle manufacturer. Arrival, Canoo, Fisker, Lordstown Motors and Nikola Corp., have all announced SPAC mergers in 2020.

In Lion’s case, the combined net cash will be used to fund the company’s growth, notably the planned construction of a U.S.-based factory and to further develop its advanced battery systems. Lion is evaluating more than 10 potential brownfield plant sites in nine states, including California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin. The company told TechCrunch it plans to to pick a site and complete its industrialization plan by the end of the year. Production at this yet-to-be named factory is expected to start in the beginning of 2023.

Lion is already producing all-electric medium and heavy-duty urban trucks and buses at a 2,500-vehicle-per-year manufacturing facility. Some 300 vehicles are on the road today and the company has plans to to deliver 650 trucks and buses in 2021. It even landed a contract with Amazon to supply the e-commerce giant with 10 electric trucks for its ‘middle mile’ operations.

Completion of the proposed transaction is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2021. Lion is expected to be listed on the NYSE under the new ticker symbol “LEV.” Lion’s CEO and founder Marc Bedard will continue in his role. The combined company will have a board of directors consisting of nine directors, including Bedard, Pierre Larochelle from Power Sustainable as Chairman, and five other existing Lion board members, as well as Ian Robertson and Chris Jarratt, who are co-founders of Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp.

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Daily Crunch: Facebook acquires Kustomer for $1B

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Facebook makes a billion-dollar acquisition, we learn more about Twitter’s Clubhouse-style feature and Moderna applies for emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine. This is your Daily Crunch for November 30, 2020.

The big story: Facebook acquires Kustomer for $1B

Kustomer says it can give customer service teams better data and a more unified view of the people they’re interacting with. So with this acquisition, Facebook can improve its offerings for businesses that have a presence (in some cases, their primary digital presence) on the social network.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but TechCrunch has confirmed that the deal price was around $1 billion.

Facebook isn’t the only social media company making acquisitions to improve its customer service features. Earlier this month, Snap bought Voca.ai, a startup creating AI-based voice agents for call centers.

The tech giants

Alphabet’s DeepMind achieves historic new milestone in AI-based protein structure prediction — The advance in DeepMind’s AlphaFold capabilities could lead to a significant leap forward in areas like our understanding of disease, as well as future drug discovery and development.

Twitter’s Audio Spaces test includes transcriptions, speaker controls and reporting features — Earlier this month, Twitter announced it would soon begin testing its own Clubhouse rival, called Audio Spaces.

With an eye for what’s next, longtime operator and VC Josh Elman gets pulled into Apple — Elman said he will be focused on the company’s App Store and helping “customers discover the best apps for them.”

Startups, funding and venture capital

HungryPanda raises $70M for a food delivery app aimed at overseas Chinese consumers — HungryPanda makes a Mandarin-language app specifically targeting Chinese consumers outside of China.

Materialize scores $40M investment for SQL streaming database — CEO Arjun Narayan told us that every company needs to be a real-time company, and it will take a streaming database to make that happen.

Curio Wellness launches $30M fund to help women and minorities own a cannabis dispensary — The new fund, started by the Maryland-based medical cannabis company Curio Wellness, aims to help underserved entrepreneurs entering the cannabis market.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

DoorDash aims to add $11B to its valuation during public offering — The delivery platform gave a range of $75 to $85 per share.

Strike first, strike hard, no mercy: How emerging managers can win — Investors at Fika Ventures argue that “Cobra Kai” offers valuable lessons for VC.

The road to smart city infrastructure starts with research — The right technology can upgrade any city, but we need to understand its impacts.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. And until November 30 — that’s today! — you can get 25% off an annual membership.)

Everything else

Moderna claims 94% efficacy for COVID-19 vaccine, will ask FDA for emergency use authorization today — If granted the authorization, Moderna will be able to provide it to high-risk individuals such as front-line healthcare workers.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will step down to make way for the Biden administration — Pai’s tenure has been a controversial one.

Original Content podcast: Just don’t watch Netflix’s ‘Holidate’ with your parents — But if you avoid parental awkwardness, it’s a perfectly adequate holiday-themed romantic comedy.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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