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Bitcoin Volatility Tightens After Prices Surge to 1-Month High

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin prices entered rangebound trading today, after climbing roughly 3% to hit their highest price in more than one month.

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Georgia Expands Project to Secure Land Titles on the Bitcoin Blockchain

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Republicans now want to repeal and replace Obamacare 'by the end of the year' — here's how that could happen

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Pasted image at 2017_02_07 12_54 PM

What's happening now

Tuesday, February 17: The road to Trumpcare looks like it's about to head down the long and winding road. (More on that below.) After a week of slowly pivoting their repeal of Obamacare to a "repair" both House Speaker Paul Ryan and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tell reporters that Republicans hope to have the "legislation" of healthcare and Obamacare repeal and replace down "by the end of the year."

This is slower than previous projections of replacement being done in President Donald Trump's first 100 days.

Spicer, however, did not clarify exactly what Trump wants to see in a replacement plan when asked during his daily press briefing.

Read the full story here»

Tuesday, January 17: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says in a new report that repealing major parts of Obamacare without a replacement plan could lead to an additional 20-25% hike in premiums above existing projections. And it says 18 million Americans would lose their healthcare outright.  

Democratic lawmakers pointed to the report as another reason why repeal would be harmful to Americans. GOP lawmakers criticized the report since it does not include an analysis of a Republican replacement.

Read the full story here»

Friday, January 13: Congress has taken the first steps toward partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare.

Republicans in both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed a resolution that begins the process of repealing President Obama's signature healthcare law.

The resolution directs members of relevant committees to draft a repeal bill through the budget-reconciliation process.

With dissent among Republicans over whether or not to complete the repeal process before a replacement plan is finalized and strident Democratic resistance to any repeal of the ACA, it appears that there is a significant fight ahead over the future of American healthcare, which could lead the process down the long, winding road to Trumpcare.

Road to Trumpcare

BI Graphics_The road to Trumpcare_Martha car piece

President-elect Donald Trump, along with Republican leaders in Congress, says he's committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare with something "terrific." Republicans have put forth a variety of different replacement plans, but it's unclear what the final version will look like. And the path to get to the implementation of a replacement could take many forms.

Imagine it's like a board game where there are a number of ways to get to a replacement. One is fast and efficient, another winding and full of obstacles. We call it "The Road to Trumpcare," and we'll be updating the game as Congress and the new administration make their moves.

The player in our game is a hypothetical Obamacare participant. We'll call her Martha. She's a 29-year-old from Tennessee and self-employed. Martha used the federal Healthcare.gov platform to sign up for her insurance two years ago and has been reenrolling every year; she receives some tax credits for her premiums since she makes roughly $45,000 a year.

While an overwhelming majority of Americans get their health insurance from employers or a government-based program like Medicare or Medicaid, Martha is one of more than 11.5 million people who signed up for an exchange-based plan for 2017. Over 80% of these people, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, also receive subsidies for their coverage.

Martha is a bit frustrated that there are fewer choices on the platform this year, and her premiums are increasing, but she is glad to have coverage because she has Crohn's disease, which could have excluded her from coverage before ACA.

To get a better understanding of what a repeal-and-replace could mean to someone such as Martha, here are the four major scenarios for how lawmakers can address or not address the future of Obamacare.

The Replacement Superhighway

BI Graphics_The road to Trumpcare_Replacement superhighwayThe fastest and least disruptive path for Republicans to follow would be to repeal Obamacare and advance a replacement bill at the same time.

The GOP could use a procedure called budget reconciliation in the Senate to strip away most of the provisions of Obamacare, specifically those that cost the government money, without the need for a single Democrat vote. Then, simultaneously, Republicans would need to go through typical lawmaking to pass a replacement bill and create some sort of new exchanges.

House Speaker Ryan and Trump both seemed to favor this option. In fact, Ryan told CNN that some of the repeal and replace measures could be "in the same bill."

According to Cynthia Cox, associate director for the Program for the Study of Health Reform and Private Insurance at the nonpartisan health think tank Kaiser Family Foundation, this would be the ideal option for patients in the event of a repeal.

"This would provide both insurers and patients a clear picture of what's going to happen fairly quickly, which would prevent disruptions to the market," said Cox. "Though, a lot of this depends on the replacement bill that the Republicans come up with."

What does this mean for Martha?

This would likely be the least disruptive for Martha's coverage since it would ensure that there would be no period in which the exchanges that she uses are not funded or have no federal support. For one thing, as long as Martha reenrolls in her plan during the current Obamacare-enrollment period, she will have insurance through 2017.

A quick replacement could be in place for the 2018 plan year, and depending on what the replacement is, Martha may not notice any effect on her coverage at all.

What could go wrong?

A lot of this hinges on the details of the Republicans' plan. Since Martha receives subsidies to help cover the costs of her plan, a number of the replacement proposals floated by the GOP could affect how much she receives. Additionally, a number of plans would institute high-risk pools, which are separate markets reserved just for people with preexisting conditions. These existed before the ACA and generally had astronomically high costs and limited utilization.

The other issue is that any change to the law may be rejected by Democrats. If Republicans want to make any larger changes outside the budget process they would need Democrats on board. If the GOP advances a bill that changes coverage in some way or rolls back parts of the ACA that do not deal with the federal budget, Democrats may block a replacement using the filibuster. Additionally, if even a few Republicans in the Senate don't like the replacement, that could sidetrack the process. If the GOP moves ahead with the repeal while Democrats object to changes to the law, it could make the road that Martha is on even more winding.

The long and winding road

BI Graphics_The road to Trumpcare_Winding roadsOne of the first scenarios floated by Republicans was a partial repeal of the law under what is called budget reconciliation — delaying until a later date so that Republicans can craft a full replacement bill. This would pass a law that says the ACA will be repealed in the future, somewhere between two and four years, effectively delaying the end of the ACA.

In theory, this allows GOP lawmakers to advance the political goal of repeal while giving enough time to develop a comprehensive plan for replacement. The exchanges set up by Obamacare could be intact, meaning that the more than 20 million people with ACA-based plans would still be covered, while Republicans devise a plan that would replace the ACA and keep these people covered, as numerous GOP lawmakers have promised.

Since the delay aspect could stretch the replacement process out up to four years, this would allow the GOP time to build a consensus on a replacement. It would also be politically beneficial since it would push the repeal out past the 2018 midterms or 2020 presidential election.

Republicans could avoid political fallout if the replacement plan falls short of expectations, and they could build a larger majority in the Senate to pass the bill without worrying about a filibuster.

According to Cox, while the plan sounds good, there are a few problems that could arise with this strategy.

"Depending on the parts of the law that are repealed through the reconciliation process, you could see destabilization in the individual insurance market," Cox told Business Insider.

According to Cox, without an individual mandate for people to sign up for insurance, there would be significant numbers of younger people leaving the individual market, which would lead to a pool of even older and sicker people in the exchanges.

In a worst-case scenario, this would lead to a breakdown of the individual insurance market. Businesses hate uncertainty, so it is likely that with the exchanges' futures in doubt, insurance companies would simply pull out completely. Healthy policyholders could see the writing on the wall and not renew their policies, leaving only the sickest patients in the marketplace causing, as Cox called it, "a real death spiral," repeating the turn of phrase used by Republicans to describe Obamacare's growing issues.

Also, by leaving just the sickest Americans in these exchanges, premiums for those who remain behind would be much higher than the current increases.

"If the individual mandate were to be repealed without countermeasures, it would cause very large increases in the cost of premiums," Cox said. "These increases would make what we've seen in the market so far look small."

There are, of course, ways to mitigate this. For one, Republicans could extend and enhance certain measures, called reinsurance and risk corridors, which help to provide money for insurers that take on a higher percentage of sick patients. This would help decrease the large losses some insurers are reporting and possibly inspire more companies to offer plans on the exchanges.

Many GOP lawmakers, however, have referred to these provisions as "bailouts," so that may be politically untenable.

What does this mean for Martha?

This plan takes her down our game's long and winding road, full of stops and starts and pitfalls along with way. As debates over the repeal continue, Martha could be stuck in a car she has no control over, stalled out and awaiting updates about her coverage. The process could take years.

Republicans, through reconciliation, would have options to pull funding for the law in a few different ways while crafting a replacement. They could simply roll back the taxes associated with the law, they could also repeal the individual mandate that all people have to buy insurance, or they could pull all funding including subsidies people like Martha get or eliminate Medicaid expansion. All these would create a different level of disruption to the market.

In the best-case scenario for Martha, the individual mandate is maintained to ensure stability of the individual market until some other plan is proposed. While Martha doesn't see her premiums or deductibles shrink, nothing goes too awry. Also, lawmakers provide enough assurances to insurers that they stay in the market, preventing a monopoly-like situation in Martha's market and higher costs.

In the worst-case scenario, these four factors go the opposite way. Insurers, facing the uncertainty of the next two to four years, decide to exit the markets leaving Martha with just one or even no choices for coverage. With only a small penalty, people healthier than Martha leave the exchanges, which leads to an even sicker group of people being covered by the exchanges and higher prices for Martha. The "death spiral" predicted by GOP lawmakers for Obamacare truly does set in and prices shoot to astronomical levels, well above projections made before the passing of the law. Concerned that allowing a lapse in her coverage could cause her to be denied coverage in a replacement because of her preexisting condition, Martha sticks with the ever more expensive coverage

The leave-as-is loop

BI Graphics_The road to Trumpcare_Leave as is loopA third option for ACA changes would be to simply pass a few bills that make minor but needed adjustments to the law without a full-on repeal.

Democrats may be more amenable to this option. They have long pushed for reforms to the ACA, recognizing the increasing premium costs. Some ideas floated by Democrats have been to expand premium subsidies, strengthen the penalty for not enrolling, and provide more assistance to insurers that take on a larger number of sick patients.

This would leave a majority of the framework of the law — Medicaid expansion, the exchanges, and the statutory aspect — while providing tweaks to encourage younger, healthier people to sign up and balance the market.

Politically this may be tough for Republicans since they've made ACA repeal a talking point in elections for the better part of a decade, but if there were enough face-saving concession it could placate this worry.

What does this mean for Martha?

Essentially, Martha would see few changes in her healthcare. The exchanges would still be intact and all the provisions protecting her care would also be in place. There may be some positive changes, new provisions could bring down various costs, or another insurer may be available in her area, but not much else.

The repeal-without-replacement cliff

BI Graphics_The road to Trumpcare_Repeal without replacement cliffA final, though perhaps least likely option, would be for Republicans to simply repeal the bill and not worry about replacement.

After running against the bill for so long, the GOP could just repeal it and label it a disaster, making small changes along the way but not introducing a full-scale replacement.

This seems the least likely of the options, however, since Republicans have repeatedly said that they want to ensure continuing coverage and uphold the popular parts of Obamacare. Also, the political blowback from those losing coverage would be significant.

What does this mean for Martha?

Martha would likely lose any type of coverage come 2018 and be back to the pre-ACA world. She could try to access health insurance through the individual health insurance market, but with a preexisting condition there is no guarantee she could get access to coverage.

She could hope that her state implements a high-risk pool, where higher risk patients can get catastrophic insurance that covers the worst-case scenarios, but these plans are incredibly expensive and few people chose to access the pools when they did exist pre-ACA.

This, in many ways, would be the worst-case scenario for Martha.

Democratic response

In terms of direct action, there are few choices for Democrats to block moves on the law made by Republicans.

Obviously, unless there is a change to the rules, Senate Democrats could filibuster any statutory changes to the ACA. Outside of that, it appears that they simply have to influence the Republican agenda.

Perhaps most potent for Democrats would be to use Republicans' repeal against them. Some of the highest rates of utilization for ACA plans come from heavily Republican areas, and waging a public-relations campaign to get the conservative base to push back on any changes to the bill, the Democrats may have a way to get at least some of what they want.

Politico reported that many Democrats, while vehemently opposing a repeal of the ACA, would be willing to work with Republicans to find some way to keep various part of the law in a replacement bill.

"If it makes sense, I think there'll be a lot of Democrats who would be for it," Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill told Politico.

Whether Democrats go along with a replacement may come down to the amount of influence they can exert over the law.

An uncertain future

For now Martha, in our game, is hurtling down the road in her car. She doesn't like the increasing costs but wants to keep her coverage.

What turns The Road to Trumpcare takes are, for now, unknown, but more than 20 million real Americans are waiting anxiously to find out.

SEE ALSO: One-third of Americans don't appear to know Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing

Join the conversation about this story »

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Disney beat on earnings despite massive miss from its cable networks

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

ESPN sportscenter

Disney, the media giant, reported slightly higher than expected earnings for their fiscal first quarter on Tuesday.

Earnings per share came in better than expected at $1.55 per share against analysts estimates of $1.49 per share. Additionally, revenue came in lower than expected at $14.8 billion, lower than analysts' expectations of $15.4 billion.

Perhaps bigger than that, the profit from Disney's cable networks — including ESPN — missed estimates by a wide margin. Profit for the sector came in at just $864 million for the quarter, much lower than $1.08 billion that was estimated.

Cable network income was down 4% from the same quarter a year ago.

Other segments were also weaker than last year for Disney, with Studio Entertainment profit down 17% from the same quarter a year ago and Consumer Products & Interactive Media profit down 25% from year-over-year.

"We’re very pleased with our financial performance in the first quarter. Our Parks and Resorts delivered excellent results and, coming off a record year, our Studio had three global hits including our first billion-dollar film of fiscal 2017, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," said CEO Bob Iger in a press release.

Following the news, shares of the entertainment giant slid by 1.7% in post-market trading.

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Buffalo Wild Wings tumbles after missing big across the board (BWLD)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

buffalo wild wings

Shares of Buffalo Wild Wings are down by about 6% after its fourth-quarter report missed by a wide margin on both the top and bottom lines. The company's full-year 2017 earnings outlook was also well below expectations. Here's a look at the key numbers:

  • EPS $0.87 ($1.26 expected)
  • Revenue $494.2 million ($513.7 million expected)
  • Comp sales at company-owned restaurants -4.0% (-1.7% expected)
  • Full-year 2017 EPS Guidance $5.60 to $6 ($6.47 expected)

 

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STOCKS SNOOZE: Here's what you need to know

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

elephant seal

Stocks snoozed on another quiet day.

All three major indices ultimately finished in the green.

First up, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 20,090.29, +37.87, (+0.19%)
  • S&P 500: 2,293.08, +0.52, (+0.02%)
  • Nasdaq: 5,674.22, +10.67, (+0.19%)
  • US 10-year yield: 2.391%, -0.022
  • WTI Crude oil: $52.19, -0.82, (-1.55%)

1. The GOP is changing its tune on the repeal of ObamacareRecently, there seems to have been a tonal shift in the way GOP lawmakers are addressing their approach to the law. Instead of leaning on the "repeal and replace" terminology, Republicans have begun to say they are "repairing" the ACA, a softening of their rhetoric.

2. The dollar picked up speed after a Fed official said March is "on the table." The US dollar index was up by as much as 0.8% in early morning trade, but finished the day up about 0.4% at 100.28. The index's appreciation followed Monday evening comments from Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker, who told reporters that the Federal Reserve's meeting in March is a live option for a rate hike.

3. The Minneapolis Fed's Neel Kashkari took to Medium to discuss his reasoning for keeping rates on holdHis argument was fairly straight forward: Why tighten monetary conditions when inflation remains below the Fed’s target, inflation expectations are subdued, and the job market is probably still not operating at its full potential despite the low jobless rate? 

4. Job openings ticked down slightly. Job openings totaled 5.501 million in December, according to the latest JOLTS report, slightly below the prior month's reading of 5.505 million, and below economists' estimates of 5.580 million.

5. GM sank despite a fourth-quarter earnings beat. General Motors was down by about 4.6% after the automaker said fourth-quarter net income fell to $1.19 a share, factoring out one-time items, in part because of $500 million in foreign-exchange losses, and the company forecast that 2017 profits would be flat to slightly up from 2016.

6. Twitter rallied after announcing a crackdown on abusive content. Twitter climbed by over 2.6% after announcing initiatives including hiding abusive tweets, preventing banned users from creating new accounts, and introducing a new "safe search" function.

7. Bitcoin keeps zooming higherWhile the catalyst for Tuesday's gain is difficult to decipher, the advance comes after data released by the People's Bank of China showed China's foreign currency reserves in January fell below $3 trillion for the first time in nearly six years.

ADDITIONALLY:

Trump's push to roll back financial regulation is a "big mistake" that threatens a new financial crisis.

Deutsche Bank thinks Trump could name China a "currency manipulator" in the coming weeks.

Trump said people "can't borrow money" because of Dodd-Frank — here's why he's wrong.

One-third of Americans don't appear to know that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing.

A secretive hedge fund firm that has legendary status on Wall Street is attracting new money.

SEE ALSO: What 25 major world leaders and dictators looked like when they were young

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Here's how to use one of the many apps to buy and trade bitcoin

STOCKS SNOOZE: Here's what you need to know

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

elephant seal

Stocks snoozed on another quiet day.

The Dow and the Nasdaq closed in the green, while the S&P trickled into the red at the end of the day.

First up, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 20,083.58, +31.16, (+0.16%)
  • S&P 500: 2,292.43, -0.25, (-0.01%)
  • Nasdaq: 5,672.71, +9.14, (+0.16%)
  • US 10-year yield: 2.391%, -0.022
  • WTI Crude oil: $52.19, -0.82, (-1.55%)

1. The GOP is changing its tune on the repeal of ObamacareRecently, there seems to have been a tonal shift in the way GOP lawmakers are addressing their approach to the law. Instead of leaning on the "repeal and replace" terminology, Republicans have begun to say they are "repairing" the ACA, a softening of their rhetoric.

2. The dollar picked up speed after a Fed official said March is "on the table." The US dollar index was up by as much as 0.8% in early morning trade, but finished the day up about 0.4% at 100.28. The index's appreciation followed Monday evening comments from Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker, who told reporters that the Federal Reserve's meeting in March is a live option for a rate hike.

3. The Minneapolis Fed's Neel Kashkari took to Medium to discuss his reasoning for keeping rates on holdHis argument was fairly straight forward: Why tighten monetary conditions when inflation remains below the Fed’s target, inflation expectations are subdued, and the job market is probably still not operating at its full potential despite the low jobless rate? 

4. Job openings ticked down slightly. Job openings totaled 5.501 million in December, according to the latest JOLTS report, slightly below the prior month's reading of 5.505 million, and below economists' estimates of 5.580 million.

5. GM sank despite a fourth-quarter earnings beat. General Motors was down by about 4.6% after the automaker said fourth-quarter net income fell to $1.19 a share, factoring out one-time items, in part because of $500 million in foreign-exchange losses, and the company forecast that 2017 profits would be flat to slightly up from 2016.

6. Twitter rallied after announcing a crackdown on abusive content. Twitter climbed by over 2.6% after announcing initiatives including hiding abusive tweets, preventing banned users from creating new accounts, and introducing a new "safe search" function.

7. Bitcoin keeps zooming higherWhile the catalyst for Tuesday's gain is difficult to decipher, the advance comes after data released by the People's Bank of China showed China's foreign currency reserves in January fell below $3 trillion for the first time in nearly six years.

ADDITIONALLY:

Trump's push to roll back financial regulation is a "big mistake" that threatens a new financial crisis.

Deutsche Bank thinks Trump could name China a "currency manipulator" in the coming weeks.

Trump said people "can't borrow money" because of Dodd-Frank — here's why he's wrong.

One-third of Americans don't appear to know that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing.

A secretive hedge fund firm that has legendary status on Wall Street is attracting new money.

SEE ALSO: What 25 major world leaders and dictators looked like when they were young

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Here's how to use one of the many apps to buy and trade bitcoin

'What the president says I have money riding on': The ripple effects of Trump's import-tax plan

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Fiat 124 Spider Elaborazione Abarth

When Jerry Phillips bought his business in 2009, the imports that sustained his sales mostly came from Europe.

As a dealer in parts for vintage Alfa Romeo and Fiat automobiles, most of the parts sold by Phillips' company in Fort Worth, Texas, were going into cars from Italy.

Phillips found, however, the parts didn't necessarily have the same origins as the cars they were paired with.

"I discovered when I purchased the business that all the parts that we were buying from Europe, lo and behold, they were sourcing from overseas themselves, from Asia, so we began to source from Asia as well," Phillips told Business Insider.

"We import parts from around the world, and we ship parts out every day around the world," he said. "We buy from the EU. We buy from Turkey. We buy from South America. We buy from China. We buy from a couple of other Asian nations. We buy from around the world."

Phillips' company, which employs only five people, is one of many American small businesses — that is, wholesale or retail trade firms with 250 or fewer employees — that relies heavily on imports. More than 95% of US importers are firms of that size, according to Census data cited by The Wall Street Journal.

The Trump administration has floated a 20% tax on imports as one possible way to pay for the wall the president wants to build on the US-Mexico border, estimated to cost $12 billion to $15 billion. (Trump's embrace of the border adjustment tax would appear to be a reversal of his stance on it from earlier in January.)

trump business council

While Trump's team first mentioned the 20% tax in relation to Mexican imports, Republican leadership has said it aligned with their boarder tax-reform plans, specifically the implementation of a border adjustment tax that would apply to all countries.

Such a tax would only apply to goods imported to and sold in the US, and companies would only be able to deduct their local costs. Revenue generated by the new tax scheme would supposedly fund a reduction in the corporate tax rate, from 35% to 20%.

Such a tax would have pronounced effects on Texas, which has a trade surplus with Mexico and through which flows 33% of Mexico's imports to the US.

"Texas' number one trading partner by far is Mexico, and imposing a 20% tax on Mexican imports to fund a border wall would hurt the Texas economy," Texas Association of Business President Chris Wallace said at the end of January. "This proposal could mean a loss of jobs and a hit to state tax revenues."

"Mexico doesn't pay for the wall," Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told Bloomberg in late January. "American consumers who shop at places that import, like Wal-mart and Target, pay for the wall ..."

cars mexico border

"I can easily see that businesses like ours would need to raise prices anywhere from 20% to 30% to cover these changes in the rules," Phillips told Business Insider, saying his company had a major presence in what he admitted was a "teeny, tiny market."

"And my customers are very price conscious," he added. "It would be very difficult for us to continue to sell at the volume we are with a 20% to 30% price increase." With customers less willing to buy his goods, Phillips said, businesses down the line, like repair shops, would in turn see less business and employ fewer people.

Concerns about barriers to imports are not limited to Texas businesses or to imports from Mexico.

While large retailers like Walmart have more leverage to negotiate deals or to shop around for suppliers, smaller US companies would be hamstrung, unable to maintain current prices while selling higher-priced imports and unable to afford domestically manufactured goods.

trump carrier factory

Richard Woldenberg, chief executive of Learning Resources, a Illinois-based company with about 150 workers selling plastic educational toys sourced mostly from China, told The Journal that even with a lower corporate tax rate, the border adjustment tax would drive his tax bill up by four or five times, which would require him to hike prices and then see sales shrink.

Jennifer Arenson, whose business, Global Sourcing Connection, employs 26 people and supplies uniforms and promotional items to Fortune 1000 companies, told The Journal that for a company the size of hers, running its own manufacturing operation "absolutely is not a realistic option."

Arguments in favor of the tax are that it would benefit firms that are exporters or those that don't import goods. Some small businesses may in fact become more competitive in this scenario. The conservative Tax Foundation estimates that it would generate $1.1 trillion in revenue over 10 years, and, among other things, it would disincentivize offshoring of profits and jobs.

Other advocates have said the dollar would rise in value, offsetting the impact of the tax on US businesses. If that adjustment doesn't come to fruition, companies big and small would be hit with higher prices for imports.

"We keep our pricing stable, even when we, say, have to pay a little more for a product because of a fluctuation in the exchange rate that's not in our favor," Phillips said. "But, if we go to an import tax, that's going to be seen as a permanent change, not a fluctuation."

"If it's permanent, we're going to move prices upward," he added. "There's just no question."

Shoppers waiting in line to pay

More broadly, the negative impact of a tax on imports may outstrip the benefits reaped.

"From a macro perspective, from a broad tax perspective, the amount of revenue you're going to get is very low, the amount of distortions you're going to create is very high, the amount of trouble you're going to create for the US and the world economy is very large, and the distributional effects are not trivial," Adam Posen, a former policymaker at the Bank of England and the president of Peterson Institute for International Economics, said at a conference this month.

The cost would be "actually very harmful," Posen added.

Texas El Paso Mexico Ciudad Juarez shopping shoppers mall

The possible broader international blowback from such an import policy — disturbed relations with major trading partners like China and Mexico, potential action against US exporters by the World Trade Organization, and retaliatory tariffs — would redound on the US economy as well.

Moreover, Phillips told Business Insider, with a global supply chain, good business relations are about more than just economics.

"There are some parts I'll be buying from Turkey in the next couple of weeks, and it's a pretty big purchase for my small company," he said.

"Turkey is a Muslim country, and we've instituted these travel restrictions ... on a number of Muslim countries, and the folks in Turkey may not be too happy about that."

"I need to have a good rapport with my Turkish supplier. They need to trust me, and I need to trust them," Phillips added, chuckling. "What the president says I have money riding on."

SEE ALSO: 'I am expecting disaster': Concern about Trump's import tax is spreading beyond the border region

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A $100 billion fund manager tells us what keeps her up at night

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

putinBusiness Insider asked the Chief Investment Officer of $100 billion manager Bessemer Trust on what she thinks are the biggest risks to the global economy.

"I’m always worried about what I’m missing," said Rebecca Patterson in an interview with Business Insider. "I’m always worried most about the thing I’m not catching."

According to Patterson, the three risk factors she worries most about are bond market volatility surrounding Federal Reserve appointments, the French election, and Russia's involvement in Europe.

Patterson cites August 2015 when fears mounted over who was going to replace Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. As speculation swirled, bond market volatility surpassed equity market volatility. There are two vacant seats President Trump can fill now that he has taken office and there could be four or five more in the next two years. Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen's term officially ends in January 2018. 

"People are pricing in the risk of trade problems, the risk of equities, pricing in a lot of good news," Patterson said. "I don’t think the market is adequately focused yet on the possible bond volatility we could get later this year. "

A second source of worry for Patterson is the French election and the possible electoral victory of Marine Le Pen of the right-wing populist National Front party in France. Many believe that a populist victory in France could spell the start of the unraveling of the European Union and the Euro. 

"Everyone is aware of it, everyone knows it coming, that’s not going to be a shock," said Patterson. "But if it actually plays out that Le Pen wins, I’m not sure if investors are adequately aware of the negative and broad implications that could have."

Finally, Patterson looks towards Russia and the impact that Putin's involvement could have in Europe. "I worry about Russia in that Putin has proven for several years now that he is good at seizing opportunities."

According to Patterson, another rush of migrants into Europe this spring or any other potentially destabilizing events that could create more question marks around the strength of the European Union or the European currency bloc "definitely works to Russia’s advantage."

"A weaker Europe is good for Russia," said Patterson. "Not weaker economically but weaker politically. And so that is definitely something that I think about a lot in terms of risks that we have to watch out for this year."

SEE ALSO: One of the most powerful women on Wall Street on dollar strength, bond volatility and how investors can protect themselves

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A $100 billion fund manager tells us what keeps her up at night

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

putinBusiness Insider asked the Chief Investment Officer of $100 billion manager Bessemer Trust on what she thinks are the biggest risks to the global economy.

"I’m always worried about what I’m missing," said Rebecca Patterson in an interview with Business Insider. "I’m always worried most about the thing I’m not catching."

According to Patterson, the three risk factors she worries most about are bond market volatility surrounding Federal Reserve appointments, the French election, and Russia's involvement in Europe.

Patterson cites August 2015 when fears mounted over who was going to replace Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. As speculation swirled, bond market volatility surpassed equity market volatility. There are two vacant seats President Trump can fill now that he has taken office and there could be four or five more in the next two years. Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen's term officially ends in January 2018. 

"People are pricing in the risk of trade problems, the risk of equities, pricing in a lot of good news," Patterson said. "I don’t think the market is adequately focused yet on the possible bond volatility we could get later this year. "

A second source of worry for Patterson is the French election and the possible electoral victory of Marine Le Pen of the right-wing populist National Front party in France. Many believe that a populist victory in France could spell the start of the unraveling of the European Union and the Euro. 

"Everyone is aware of it, everyone knows it coming, that’s not going to be a shock," said Patterson. "But if it actually plays out that Le Pen wins, I’m not sure if investors are adequately aware of the negative and broad implications that could have."

Finally, Patterson looks towards Russia and the impact that Putin's involvement could have in Europe. "I worry about Russia in that Putin has proven for several years now that he is good at seizing opportunities."

According to Patterson, another rush of migrants into Europe this spring or any other potentially destabilizing events that could create more question marks around the strength of the European Union or the European currency bloc "definitely works to Russia’s advantage."

"A weaker Europe is good for Russia," said Patterson. "Not weaker economically but weaker politically. And so that is definitely something that I think about a lot in terms of risks that we have to watch out for this year."

SEE ALSO: One of the most powerful women on Wall Street on dollar strength, bond volatility and how investors can protect themselves

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A $100 billion fund manager tells us what keeps her up at night

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

putinBusiness Insider asked the Chief Investment Officer of $100 billion manager Bessemer Trust on what she thinks are the biggest risks to the global economy.

"I’m always worried about what I’m missing," said Rebecca Patterson in an interview with Business Insider. "I’m always worried most about the thing I’m not catching."

According to Patterson, the three risk factors she worries most about are bond market volatility surrounding Federal Reserve appointments, the French election, and Russia's involvement in Europe.

Patterson cites August 2015 when fears mounted over who was going to replace Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. As speculation swirled, bond market volatility surpassed equity market volatility. There are two vacant seats President Trump can fill now that he has taken office and there could be four or five more in the next two years. Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen's term officially ends in January 2018. 

"People are pricing in the risk of trade problems, the risk of equities, pricing in a lot of good news," Patterson said. "I don’t think the market is adequately focused yet on the possible bond volatility we could get later this year. "

A second source of worry for Patterson is the French election and the possible electoral victory of Marine Le Pen of the right-wing populist National Front party in France. Many believe that a populist victory in France could spell the start of the unraveling of the European Union and the Euro. 

"Everyone is aware of it, everyone knows it coming, that’s not going to be a shock," said Patterson. "But if it actually plays out that Le Pen wins, I’m not sure if investors are adequately aware of the negative and broad implications that could have."

Finally, Patterson looks towards Russia and the impact that Putin's involvement could have in Europe. "I worry about Russia in that Putin has proven for several years now that he is good at seizing opportunities."

According to Patterson, another rush of migrants into Europe this spring or any other potentially destabilizing events that could create more question marks around the strength of the European Union or the European currency bloc "definitely works to Russia’s advantage."

"A weaker Europe is good for Russia," said Patterson. "Not weaker economically but weaker politically. And so that is definitely something that I think about a lot in terms of risks that we have to watch out for this year."

SEE ALSO: One of the most powerful women on Wall Street on dollar strength, bond volatility and how investors can protect themselves

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Venezuela Seems to Be Cracking Down on Bitcoin

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Book Review: Reinventing Remittances with Bitcoin

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Will the SEC Approve a Bitcoin ETF?

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

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FED'S KASHKARI: There are a few simple reasons why I voted to keep rates on hold

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

neel kashkari

In keeping with his image of a youthful, media-savvy Federal Reserve bank president, the Minneapolis Fed’s Neel Kashkari took to Medium Tuesday to discuss his reasoning for keeping interest rates on hold, as the central bank unanimously chose to do last week

His argument was fairly straight forward: Why tighten monetary conditions when inflation remains below the Fed’s target, inflation expectations are subdued, and the job market is probably still not operating at its full potential despite the low jobless rate? 

“The following chart shows both headline and core inflation for the past 10 years. You can see that both have been below our 2% target for several years,” Kashkari writes. Core inflation excludes volatile food and energy costs. 

“Twelve-month core inflation is at 1.7%, and while it seems to be moving up somewhat, it is doing so slowly, if at all. It is still below target, and, importantly, even if it met or exceeded our target, 2.3% should not be any more concerning than the current reading of 1.7%, because our target is symmetric.”

Screen Shot 2017 02 07 at 1.01.14 PMAnother source of concern for Kashkari: “Survey measures of long-term inflation expectations are flat or trending down.”

Screen Shot 2017 02 07 at 12.53.02 PMIn Screen Shot 2017 02 07 at 12.54.09 PM

In addition, while the official unemployment rate is at a historically low 4.8%, low participation and high long-term unemployment are still problematic. "The U-6 measure suggests that there may still be additional workers who might re-enter the labor force if the job market remains healthy,” wrote Kashkari, referring to a broader jobless rate that includes discouraged workers and those working part-time but want a full-time job.

Screen Shot 2017 02 07 at 12.54.24 PM

Add to that the uncertainty generated by some of the recent political chaos in Washington, and the case for a near-term Fed rate hike becomes much less compelling. 

 

SEE ALSO: The Fed already has a problem with its 2017 forecast

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Trump said people 'can't borrow money' because of Dodd-Frank — here's why he's wrong

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Trump Jamie Dimon

On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the US Treasury department to revise and update the Dodd-Frank regulation that oversees the county's financial institutions such as banks, passed in the wake of the 2007-8 financial crisis.

In explaining his choice to roll back the regulation, Trump said in a meeting with business leaders on Friday that there are "so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses, and they can't borrow money."

Essentially, Trump is arguing that Dodd-Frank, rather than achieving its intended goal to make the banks safer, has instead dampened growth by restricting their ability to give out loans to businesses and consumers.

Looking at the actual lending data, however, it is clear that debt accumulation and lending for businesses has been strong since the end of the financial crisis.

According to the Federal Reserve's weekly H.8 report on bank lending, commercial and industrial loans given out by banks — the main avenue for business-related loans — have grown from the prior year every month since April 2011. Additionally, the total amount of C&I loans on bank balance sheets crossed its pre-recession record in February of 2014.

commercial and industrial loans

Small businesses have also seen a steady, albeit slower, rate of loan growth. The US Small Business Administration found in its most recent update on small business lending that lending from traditional banking institutions to small businesses has steadily increased since 2013.

"The growth rates for both small loans and other business lending (large domestic business loans exceeding $ 1 million and loans to non-U.S. addresses) have been uneven since 2010," said the most recent report from the SBA. "Other business loans recovered much earlier than small business loans and continued to stay positive. The recovery for small business lending has been relatively slow but steady, and moved into positive territory in the last quarter of 2013."

Additionally, the Fed's Senior Loan Officer Survey has indicated that loan standards, while tightening in recent months, have been exceptionally loose overall for the last five years.

Lotfi Karoui, credit strategist at Goldman Sachs, looked at these standards to compare them with previous cycles in a note to clients on Tuesday, and found that for the most part lending standards and loan growth are in their normal ranges.

"Many investors worry that easy monetary policy has fueled looser lending standards in this cycle vs. previous ones," said Karoui. "To what extent has this been the case, what areas of the credit complex have seen lending standards ease the most post-crisis, and how much of a threat do these areas pose to the broader economy?"

In fact, Karoui's note pushes back on the biggest fear of bearish strategists: There has been too much lending and debt build up at businesses rather than too little.

"First, current lending standards for corporations and households do not appear to be unusually aggressive, at least in aggregate," said the note.

To be fair, certain classes of loans still have tighter standards, particularly residential mortgage lending. This, however, may be due to a combination of factors — regulation being one element — but is unsurprising given the contribution of mortgage lending to the prior crisis.

Additionally, on the other end, looser lending standards for things like cars, student loans, and commercial real estate have allowed for a credit boom in non-mortgage loans according to Goldman.

"For consumer credit, including credit card debt, auto loans, student loans and personal loans, there has been a 29% increase since the second quarter of 2009, a faster pace relative to the 2000s (14%) but slower than the 1990s and the 1980s experience," wrote Karoui.

Karoui also noted that the growth in corporate debt has been faster than during the pre-recession business cycle and on par with the debt build up of the 1990s. Thus, loans for consumers and businesses have been growing at a typical pace.

This isn't to say that there haven't been higher regulatory burdens for banks and lenders — Dodd-Frank does force banks to retain higher levels of capital — but to repeal the law on the pretense that it has unduly restricted lending does not take a full measure of the facts.

SEE ALSO: TRUMP TO BUSINESS TITANS: There are 'exciting times ahead'

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Bitcoin Acceptance by Merchants & Retailers Crucial for Mainstream Adoption

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A double whammy from Trump and Amazon has short sellers piling into AutoZone (AZO, AMZN)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

rusted car broken junkyard

2017 hasn't been too kind to Autozone owners.

The stock has slumped about 9% to $719 per share as traders begin to price in a double whammy from President Trump and Amazon. 

The stock started to lose favor among investors as Trump began to increase his rhetoric surrounding trade with Mexico.

The Trump administration has floated the possibility of levying a 20% border tax on imports from Mexico, something that would be particularly worrying for the auto industry, which imports nearly $80 billion worth of cars and parts from Mexico each year.  

But that's not all that investors are worried about. On January 23, Amazon announced it is entering the auto parts space. The decision is a severe blow to brick and mortar retailers in the space as not only will Amazon provide pricing competition, but will also provide same-day delivery.

And short sellers have begun taking note. Short interest in Autozone has exploded by 17%, or $298 million, over the past week to a record high $2.08 billion, according to data provided by S3 partners. According to the research firm, "short interest has averaged $1.88 billion in 2017 and short sellers have recouped their 2016 losses with $157.8 million in net of financing mark to market profits so far this year for a net return of 8.37%."

That's far better than the short sellers' performance in the stock during 2016. They lost $126.0 million, or -6.59%, betting against the stock. 

Autozone

 

SEE ALSO: Where are they now? The 12 members of the 1896 Dow Jones industrial average

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Something that 'usually only happens in recessions' is popping up in the US economy

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The Federal Reserve’s latest quarterly survey of lending conditions showed a tightening of standards in some sectors that suggests banks are already retrenching, even as the central bank considers additional interest rate increases.

Banks also reported weaker demand for most types of mortgage loans over the fourth quarter, the Fed said, perhaps reflecting higher borrowing costs in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory. 

The most worrisome sign, however, was a pattern seen among large and medium companies.

"Although modest over the past couple of quarters, it is still worth noting that this is now the sixth quarter in  succession that standards have tightened for large and medium sized firms," wrote Deutsche Bank economists Matthew Luzzetti and Aditya Bhave in a research note to clients.

"This usually only happens in recessions."  

Lending

Domestic banks that tightened standards or terms on commercial and industrial loans cited "a less favorable or more uncertain economic outlook."

"The most notable tightening in standards though was in consumer loans," the Fed said. "During the quarter, banks reported an 8.3% net tightening in credit standards for credit cards and 11.6% net tightening for auto loans." 

US consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity and is thus a key driver of growth in the world's largest economy. 

Concerns about the expansion's sustainability are already denting market confidence in the prospect that the Fed will be able to deliver the three interest rate increases that many officials, including Fed Chair Janet Yellen, have been talking about for this year.

Another notable aspect of the Fed's Senior Loan Officer Survey was a cooling of demand for commercial and real estate loans. Some Fed officials like Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren have previously expressed concern about a potential bubble in that sector. 

UBS strategists Stephen Caprio and Matthew Mish dug up another note of caution in the survey, this one from a special question on delinquencies. "Rising post-election optimism was balanced out by households stating they were more likely to default on a loan over the next 12 months," they said."

"Bottom line, there is clear potential for winners and losers post-election, rather than all winners."

SEE ALSO: Trump's push to roll back financial regulation is a 'big mistake' that threatens a new financial crisis

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Silicon Valley's immigrant tech workers are scared of buying homes after Trump's travel ban

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

painted ladies home tour4; san francisco housing crisis affordability

A pair of married software engineers hooked up with real estate agent Tim Gullicksen about six months ago in pursuit of their dream home.

After taking time to peruse the market, the couple found a multimillion-dollar single-family home in San Francisco that they loved. In January, they wrote an offer letter to the seller, complete with an attached photo of the young family, and squared away their finances.

In early February, the couple told Gullicksen they would no longer place a bid. They planned to take a three-week vacation in their native country of India, and decided they couldn't risk buying a house if President Donald Trump's administration wouldn't let them back into the US. (While no such restriction exists, they worry the new administration might change its mind.) They declined to speak with Business Insider directly for fear of retribution from the government.

San Francisco is one of the most competitive housing markets in the US, with a median listing price that tops $1.1 million. But foreign-born tech workers, who often commute to Silicon Valley, are starting to back out of buying property, because they worry about an escalating crackdown on immigration under Trump, according to some real estate agents.

san francisco airport protest immigration travel ban

More than 100,000 visas have been revoked since an executive order issued on January 27 temporarily banned citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US. Real estate agents in the Bay Area tell Business Insider they started to hear rumblings among prospective buyers in late January, after Trump signed off on the immigration ban. The topic came up in company meetings, private emails, and closed groups for realtors on Facebook.

Nina Hatvany, a luxury realtor with Pacific Union International, sold more houses in terms of sales volume — $216 million — than any other agent in San Francisco last year. Hatvany tells Business Insider she frequently takes on clients who originated outside the US.

"I often have conversations, 'Is this a good place to put my money?' Absent earthquakes, it is," Hatvany says. "[The San Francisco Bay Area] has certainly shown tremendous appreciation, and it's a wonderful place to live. ... If people start to worry about whether they're going to be able to get into the country when they come home from vacation, that could change."

Dylan Hunter, a real estate agent with Pacific Union International, said he hasn't had a client "pull the red cord" yet, but he knows immigration reform is a concern for some. He's working with a couple based in San Francisco — one is an investment banker, the other works at Google — who are in the market for a $2 million single-family home. Their relatives in India are worried the couple will never be able to visit, and vice versa.

Google's CEO Sundar Pichai issued a company-wide memo last month urging staff traveling overseas to return immediately. He said 100 employees are affected by the executive order.

One ripple effect of the Trump administration's policies might be a downturn in the Bay Area's housing market. Karen Yang, a real estate agent with Fling Yang & Associates, says that if H-1B visa holders (a type of visa that allows US companies to bring in foreign professionals with specialized skills) disappear from the marketplace, a sudden lack of competition could drive down the price of a single-family home in the city.

Most real estate agents we spoke with, however, said their clients should not be directly impacted by the travel ban.

Jackie Cuneo, a senior loan officer at mortgage lender Summit Funding, tells Business Insider that so long as H-1B visa holders have a Social Security number, a US address, more than one year left on their visa, and a financial footprint established in the US, they're treated like citizens. It's unclear how Trump's travel ban could affect these standards, and if the rules vary for H-1B carriers who originated from one of the seven countries named in the executive order.

In the hypothetical situation that an immigrant worker gets their H-1B visa revoked shortly after buying a house, they would have to pay between 6% and 7% of the home value in closing costs and transfer tax, a one-time fee imposed on the owner when a property changes hands.

san francisco real estate housing market tour

Trump's immigration ban sent shockwaves throughout the Bay Area, where technology companies rely on an international talent pool. At Facebook, more than 15% of US employees in 2016 worked for the social giant under a temporary work visa.

Gullicksen, the real estate agent whose clients backpedaled because they have a vacation coming up, said the "What if?" question is ultimately what cost him the sale.

"We were just about to submit an offer that was due ... today, actually," Gullicksen said. "A couple days ago, they said, 'We loved that house but we're really nervous about spending that much money and maybe not staying here."'

It appears Trump will go after the H-1B visa in an attempt to open up more jobs for American workers. A leaked draft of a new executive order hinted that the administration might tighten restrictions to ensure only the "best and brightest" are let in.

On February 5th, 97 tech firms, including Google, Apple, and Facebook, filed a legal brief opposing the travel ban, in Silicon Valley's first united front attack on the new administration. The brief argues that the policy "inflicts significant harm on American business."

Real estate agents will be keeping a close eye on what happens next.

SEE ALSO: It would be incredibly difficult for California to pull off a 'Calexit' and secede from the US

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$100 BILLION FUND: There's more to investing in the US than betting on Trump

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

donald trump

US stocks on the whole have been rallying since President Trump got elected.

Two weeks ago, the Dow hit the landmark number of 20,000 and last Friday financials rallied on the back of Trump's executive order to review both the Dodd-Frank and the fidiciary rule. 

Analysts on the whole expect Trump's stimulative policies to be good for US equities, as deregulation, fiscal stimulus, corporate tax cuts, and a Republican, pro-business attitude are generally good for the markets.

But, it turns out, having a lot in the US isn't just a huge bet on the new administration.

That's according to Rebecca Patterson, the chief investment officer of multifamily office Besser Trust, which overseas more than $100 billion in assets. "It's also defensive," she said in an interview with Business Insider. 

According to Patterson, if Trump delivers on the stimulative promises that he campaigned on and the US economy does improve and the Fed raises rates, "all else equal we think that probably benefits the dollar and benefits cyclically oriented US companies."  So that’s good news for the US stock market. 

But if something risky happens, like a trade war with China or increased protectionist measures, Patterson believes that US equities would fall, but still fare better than foreign markets.

American's home bias when it comes to investing and the likely capital flow into US money markets and cash for safety would all push up the dollar, which is still good for US equities.

"Usually in risky events, even if the risk event is US caused, like our debt downgrade in 2011, US markets tend to do better than overseas," said Patterson. " They're more liquid and the dollar tends to benefit in risk-off environments. So it helps your total return in dollars versus in overseas currencies."

SEE ALSO: One of the most powerful women on Wall Street on dollar strength, bond volatility and how investors can protect themselves

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Chicago Suburb To Sell $10,000 in Bitcoins Seized From Criminals

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

[…]

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GM is sinking despite a fourth-quarter earnings beat (GM)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

General Motors is down 4.59% at $35.14 after the company reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2016 earnings on Tuesday. 

The automaker said fourth-quarter net income fell to $1.19 a share, factoring out one-time items, in part because of $500 million in foreign-exchange losses, and the company forecast that 2017 profits would be flat to slightly up from 2016.

The adjusted result beat analyst expectations of $1.17 a share.

GM forecast adjusted earnings per share for all of 2017 would range between $6.00 and $6.50 a share, compared with $6.12 a share for all of 2016.

A strong theme in GM's business for several years has been capital efficiency and the return of capital to shareholders — a theme that defined 2016.

The strong results for 2016 came on the back of strong sales, due in part to cheap gas and an improving economy. 

"GM sold a record 10 million vehicles around the world, up 1.2% from 2015," the company said in a statement. 

General Motors

 

 

SEE ALSO: GM beats on 4th-quarter earnings and books record 2016 global sales

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Twitter is rallying after announcing a crackdown on abusive content (TWTR)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Twitter is up 2.62% at $18.40 a share after announcing it is launching a new set of features to combat hateful and abusive content.

Initiatives include hiding abusive tweets, preventing banned users from creating new accounts, and introducing a new "safe search" function, according to Twitter's engineering chief Ed Ho in a blog post on Tuesday. The decision comes after years of criticism that the social media company hasn't done nearly enough to combat rampant abuse. 

Several prominent people have been banned, including Milo Yiannopoulos, the controversial British writer at the conservative website Breitbart News. Known as @nero on the site, Yiannopoulos was excluded for leading harassment of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones. Martin Shkreli, the brash former pharmaceutical executive, was suspended earlier this year after he harassed a female reporter online.

Twitter is set to announce its fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday, February 9, 2017.


Screen Shot 2017 02 07 at 10.18.07 AM

 

SEE ALSO: Twitter Reveals New Measures Against Bullying

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Hawaii to Consider Bitcoin-Friendly Blockchain Bill to Boost Tourism

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

[…]

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Fitbit is having a rough start to the year (FIT)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Fitbit Charge 2_breakfast_0108_CMYK

Wearable activity tracker Fitbit is being accused by its rival Jawbone of stealing trade secrets, Bloomberg reports.

The two companies have been caught up in legal battles since May 2015, when Jawbone sued Fitbit for stealing employees and critical proprietary information. 

The Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security have been conducting a grand jury probe of Fitbit for more than five months, according to Jawbone’s Feb. 1 filing in San Francisco state court.

"The evidence developed to date in this litigation confirms a conspiracy by Fitbit and the individual defendants to steal Jawbone’s coveted trade secrets and to use them to enhance Fitbit’s position in the marketplace, in clear violation of California law," Jawbone said in last week’s filing as reported by Bloomberg. 

Fitbit is trying to get the suit dismissed, claiming that there is no evidence that the files Jawbone says were taken by its ex-employees were ever downloaded to or accessed on Fitbit’s systems. There is another hearing set for Feb. 15.

Shares of Fitbit had a rough 2016, tumbling by 75% amid an increasingly competitive market for wearable devices. In November, the company slashed its earnings-per-share guidance for the holiday quarter to just a quarter of what analysts had been expecting.

The company has also suffered a tough start to this year, after reporting fourth-quarter results on January 30 that were well below previous estimates, in addition to slashing its guidance for the vital holiday quarter. FitBit said it sold 6.5 million devices in the fourth quarter, and that revenue would come in at $572 million to $580 million, well below its previous guidance range of $725 million to $750 million.

Fitbit is down 18% year-to-date, but up 0.8% at $6 on Tuesday morning. 

Screen Shot 2017 02 07 at 9.47.45 AM

 

 

SEE ALSO: Short sellers are cleaning up in Fitbit

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The First Government To Secure Land Titles On The Bitcoin Blockchain Expands Project

Forbes, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The first time that a national government has used the bitcoin blockchain to secure and validate official actions went well.

The Philippines Just Released New Rules for Bitcoin Exchanges

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The central bank of the Philippines has released new guidelines for bitcoin exchanges operating in the country.

Source

Here come JOLTS...

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

now hiring

The latest reading on jobs openings in the US will be out at 10 a.m. ET via the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS.

Economists forecast that openings totaled 5.580 million, according to the Bloomberg consensus.

The prior month saw openings totaling 5.522 million, rising from a downwardly revised tally of 5.451 million.

The JOLTS report touches on how many opportunities are available as well as the pace of layoffs and resignations in the US labor market.

Additionally, the JOLTS report also includes the quits rate, which is one of the labor-market indicators favored by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. The previous report saw the quits rate hold at 2.1% for the sixth straight month, near the highest level since the recession.

Notably, although the word "quit" often comes with a slew of negative connotations, a higher quits rate actually sends a message about rising worker confidence in the labor market.

The thinking here is that during good economic times, people feel comfortable quitting a job because they believe they can find another quickly or because they have already found another one. On the flip side, when there are layoffs during economic downturns, few are bold enough to risk jumping ship. 

Taking that idea one step further, some economists have pointed out that the quits rate tends as a leading indicator of wage growth.

In any case, refresh this page for updates at 10 a.m. ET.

SEE ALSO: What 25 major world leaders and dictators looked like when they were young

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The GOP is changing their tune on the repeal of Obamacare

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

mike pence donald trump paul ryan

For years, Republicans have promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the law better known as Obamacare.

After the election of Donald Trump, Republicans finally have the chance to do just that. Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and a boatload of Republican lawmakers all pledged that a repeal and replacement of Obamacare was on the horizon.

Recently, however, there seems to have been a tonal shift in the way GOP lawmakers are addressing their approach to the law. Instead of leaning on the "repeal and replace" terminology, Republicans have begun to say they are "repairing" the ACA, a softening in their harsh rhetoric.

Repair, not repeal

"I think it is more accurate to say repair Obamacare because, for example, in the reconciliation procedure that we have in the Senate, we can't repeal all of Obamacare," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, head of the Senate Health committee last week.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, head of the Senate Finance Committee, told CNN that the GOP wants to "try and repair the law."

Additionally, an increasing number of House Republicans have shifted to the "repair" terminology when referring to the Obamacare issue.

Here may also be a source for the change. Bloomberg reported that conservative pollster Frank Luntz told Republicans at a summit in Philadelphia that the "repair" language was more amenable to Americans and to use it instead of "repeal and replace."

Ryan told Fox News, however, that repair does mean repeal and replace.

"To repair [the] American health care system, you have to repeal and replace this law, and that’s what we’re doing," said in an interview with Fox & Friends. 

Despite the protests of Ryan and whether or not the end result is different, it does appear that there has been a shift in rhetoric from GOP lawmakers.

A changing timeline

Not only have Republicans changed the way they talk about the law, but the timeline for the repeal or repair is slowly sliding further into the future as well.

Initially, indications from the GOP were that the repeal would come swiftly. Ryan and McConnell both wanted to get the repeal done within the first 100 days and a replacement soon after.

This timeline began to be extended, with Ryan and McConnell shifting the goal posts back to 200 days and seeming to leave the door open for the possibility of a repeal happening even later.

Trump, for his part, was adamant about swift action. During the transition, Trump said he wanted an Obamacare replacement done within weeks and derided a plan to pass a bill that would delay the repeal for a few years while the replacement was crafted.

In an interview on Sunday with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, however, Trump said that the Obamacare replacement was "in the process and maybe it’ll take till sometime into next year."

There hasn't been a consistent timeline set out by Republicans lawmakers, with the leadership still touting a quick process but other lower-level GOP members doubting the ability to make such a large change so swiftly.

Currently, the repeal process is ongoing, but the coherent and cohesive replacement plan has not been agreed upon by Republicans.

Paul Ryan Mitch McConnellThe reason behind the shift

There may be a number of reasons for the shift in tone and timing from Republicans.

One aspect is that many parts of Obamacare are still incredibly popular. Provisions such as the ability for children to stay on their parents until they turn 26 and the inability of insurers to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions are popular with an overwhelming majority of Americans.

The broader law itself is also gaining in popularity with three recent polls showing more Americans in favor of the ACA than against it and record high approval in some polls.

Additionally, Democrats have frequently been touting the over 20 million people that have gained access to health coverage through the law. Concern over the possibility of large losses in coverage has hounded Republicans in recent weeks to the point Trump promised in an interview with ABC that the new plan would cover "everyone."

Thus, the Republicans may be attempting to pivot the messaging away from a blatant repeal to a softer tone. While the plan has always been to replace the law, co-opting the popular parts into their message and pointing out the deficiencies at the same time seems to be a new part of their strategy.

The shift may also be an attempt to appease insurers, who are increasingly getting concerned about the viability of the individual health insurance markets. A large number of insurers said they may roll back their exposure to the individual market given the rhetoric from Republicans.

In the meantime, it appears that the Trump administration has done all it can to undercut the existing structure of the law. Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Friday showed that enrollment for the federal exchanges through Healthcare.gov declined by 400,000 from the year before.

The drop came after a sharp fall-off in enrollment following Trump's inauguration as the administration significantly decreased the amount of advertising and promotion of the exchanges. Prior to Trump's inauguration, 800,000 Americans were enrolling per week, but that dropped to 200,000 per week post-inauguration.

SEE ALSO: The Trump administration has already dealt a blow to Obamacare

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Bitcoin Price Rally Breaches $1,050

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

[…]

The post Bitcoin Price Rally Breaches $1,050 appeared first on CryptoCoinsNews.

Inside MAST: The Little-Known Plan to Advance Bitcoin Smart Contracts

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin could soon be endowed with a range of new technical improvements including greater smart-contract functionality.

Source

Bitcoin's Price is Back Within $100 of its 2017 High

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The price of bitcoin continued recent gains in an early morning session today, rising nearly 3% on warming sentiment.

Source

Trump's push to roll back financial regulation is a 'big mistake' that threatens a new financial crisis

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

trump

President Donald Trump has set off yet another international spat — this time in the normally moribund arena of financial regulation.

The problem, as with many of Trump’s policies, is that his aggressive “America First” approach tends to irk other countries, even longtime allies like Australia.

Yet Trump has managed to tick off the European Central Bank before he has a direct go at the US Federal Reserve, which has long been the target of Republican critiques. 

Importantly, ECB President Mario Draghi, a former Goldman Sachs banker, took issue with the Trump administration’s declared intention of repealing post-crisis financial regulations on large US banks, whose destabilization can and have caused global problems.

"The last thing we need at this point in time is the relaxation of regulation," Draghi told the European Parliament's committee on economic affairs in Brussels. "The idea of repeating the conditions that were in place before the crisis is something that is very worrisome." 

While Germany’s Bundesbank is often at odds with the ECB on monetary policy, the two put up a united front on the issue of financial regulation. 

Andreas Dombret, a Bundesbank board member, said any attempt to roll back new rules would be a "big mistake" that threatens a new financial crisis. 

Also taking a hit at Trump was the chairman of the European Parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee, Roberto Gualtieri. 

"Some first concrete confirmations of a new more unilateral policy stance by the new U.S. administration, including on sensitive financial markets regulatory issues, raise concerns and require both thorough reflection and action from the EU side," he told the committee.

The war of words was not confined to regulation as Draghi also pushed back on the accusation by Trump advisor Peter Navarro that Germany is “exploiting” the United States by keeping its currency artificially low.

"We are not currency manipulators," Draghi said. "Our monetary policies reflect the diverse state of the (economic) cycle of the euro zone and the United States."

Roberto Gualtieri, chairman of the European Parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee, also took issue with the Trump team’s characterization. 

"Some first concrete confirmations of a new more unilateral policy stance by the new U.S. administration, including on sensitive financial markets regulatory issues, raise concerns and require both thorough reflection and action from the EU side," he said. 

The Trump-ECB melee is a head-fake for those looking for fireworks between Fed Chair Janet Yellen and Trump, who during the presidential campaign accused her of keeping rates low to support President Barack Obama — an outlandish claim.

Don’t worry, he’ll turn to the Fed in due time, including monetary policy. What to expect then is anyone’s guess. But it would be surprising if Trump actually wanted a reversal of the Fed’s pro-growth low-rates policy now that he is president — and has promised a growth rate of 4% for the US economy that economists of all political stripes see as highly improbable. 

Trump is also likely to face resistance on regulatory changes from the Fed as well since most officials championed the extensive new regulations and are still in the process of implementing many of the rules involved. 

SEE ALSO: The Fed already has a problem with its 2017 forecast

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The dollar is climbing

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Screen Shot 2017 02 07 at 7.51.51 AM

The dollar is climbing.

The US dollar index is up by 0.7% at 100.57 per dollar at around 7:51 a.m. ET after being up by as much as 0.8% around 5:15 a.m. ET.

The index's appreciation follows Monday evening comments from Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker, who told reporters that the Federal Reserve's meeting in March is a live option for an rate hike.

"March is on the table," he said. "I would never take a meeting off the table, it depends on how the data evolve."

Separately, there's a bit of economic data out on Tuesday. Trade balance will be out at 8:30 a.m. ET, Jolts Job Openings at 10 a.m. ET, and consumer credit at 3 p.m. ET.

As for the rest of the world, here's the scoreboard as of 8:03 a.m. ET:

  • The euro is down by 0.7% at 1.0676 against the dollar
  • The British pound is down by 0.8% at 1.2372 against the dollar
  • The Japanese yen is down by 0.5% at 112.30 per dollar
  • The Russian ruble is down by 0.9% at 59.4126 per dollar
  • The Mexican peso is down by 0.5% at 20.6376 per dollar.

SEE ALSO: What 25 major world leaders and dictators looked like when they were young

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With Deadline Looming, Will The SEC Approve A Bitcoin ETF?

Forbes, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The SEC will make a decision on a proposed bitcoin ETF by March 11. Will it approve? An optimist and pessimist weigh in.

Michael Kors is tumbling after whiffing on sales and guidance (KORS)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Michael Kors

Michael Kors released fiscal third-quarter earnings just above expectations, but a miss on sales and guidance has sent the stock lower.

The high-end apparel maker reported third-quarter earnings of $1.64 per share, just a hair above the $1.63 estimated by analysts.

Sales, however, came in weaker. Same-store sales for the quarter fell by 6.4% ex-currency changes, worse than the 5.4% fall that was expected by analysts.

Additionally, forward guidance from the company was worse than expected. Michael Kors projected full year fiscal 2017 earnings per share of $4.15 to $4.19, well short of the $4.38 expectation. Additionally, annual revenue guidance was pegged at $4.48 billion, below projections of $4.56 billion.

"Overall, we were disappointed with our North American and European comparable store sales performance during the quarter," said Michael Kors CEO John Idol in a press release.

"We believe that headwinds in these markets will continue throughout the Spring season as we face reduced traffic trends in shopping malls, currency fluctuation, uncertainty surrounding certain political changes in European countries and the implementation of our reduced promotional cadence in North America."

Following the news, shares of the company were sliding in pre-market trading by roughly 7.3% as of 7:38 a.m. ET.

Screen Shot 2017 02 07 at 7.38.29 AM

SEE ALSO: Macy's has reportedly been approached about a takeover by Canadian retailer Hudson's Bay

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Bitcoin is zooming higher

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin is zooming higher on Tuesday, up 1.6% at $1,055 per coin as 7:03 a.m. ET. Tuesday's bid has the cryptocurrency higher for a ninth straight day and at its best level since January 5, when it put in a multi-year high of $1161.88.  

While the catalyst for Tuesday's gain is difficult to decipher, the advance comes after data released by the People's Bank of China showed China's foreign currency reserves in January fell below $3 trillion for the first time in nearly six years. China's hunger for bitcoin has been well documented with nearly 100% of bitcoin's volume coming from the country.

Bitcoin has had a wild start to 2017 after gaining 120% in 2016. The cryptocurrency rallied more than 20% in the opening week of the year before tumbling 35% amid concerns China was going to crackdown on trading. Bitcoin has recently shrugged off an announcement made by China's three largest bitcoin exchanges that they were going to begin charging a flat fee of 0.2% per transaction.

Bitcoin

  

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DEUTSCHE BANK: Trump could name China a 'currency manipulator' in the coming weeks

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

zhou xiaochuan people's bank of china

Although US President Donald Trump did not label China a "currency manipulator" on his first day in office as he said he would, a team at Deutsche Bank is not ruling out the possibility of him doing so going forward.

"Some time in the next couple of weeks, we think it is likely that President Trump will declare China a currency manipulator and propose penalties if it does not enter into negotiations to lower its trade surplus with the US," the team led by Michael Spencer, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, wrote in a note to clients last week.

"This has been a consistent campaign promise and he has demonstrated since taking office his determination to deliver on his promises, however controversial," they continued. "Existing US law and its application by the Treasury in recent years are unlikely to satisfy the President's desire for strong penalties for unfair trade, so we anticipate that the proposed measures could go far beyond what has thought possible even a few weeks ago."

China has been trying to control the rate of its currency's depreciation since 2014, and it has had a harder time keeping it stable in trade-weighted terms since mid-2016. 

Policymakers have reversed previous trends of capital account openness and currency internationalization in an attempt to slow the pace of the yuan's depreciation. Additionally, foreign exchange reserves have depreciated as they attempt to support the currency.

As the Deutsche Bank team noted regarding this: "While this intervention policy can indeed be described as 'one sided' as proscribed by US law, it is intervention in the direction that would normally be viewed as in the US' interest – to prevent even faster depreciation of the Chinese currency."

usdcny

Notably, there are three criteria that must be met for a country to be labeled a currency manipulator by the Treasury Department:

  1. The country must have a significant bilateral trade surplus with the US.
  2. The country has a "material" currency account surplus.
  3. The country is engaged in persistent one-sided intervention in the foreign exchange market.

In their semi-annual April report, the Treasury created a "Monitoring List" of major trading partners that "merit attention based on an analysis of the three criteria." Once a country is added to the list, it is kept on there for at least two consecutive reports. 

trade deficit USChina was among those added to the list. However, the Treasury noted that while it met two out of the three criteria in the April report (a large bilateral trade surplus and a current account surplus above 3%), it met only one of the three criteria in the October report (the large bilateral trade surplus.)

As an aside, Deutsche Bank strategist Robin Winkler argued that, actually, the country that is the closest to meeting the Treasury Department's three criteria is Switzerland.

In any case, going forward, if Trump does label China a "currency manipulator," the follow-up question becomes: how will China respond? Again, here is what the Deutsche Bank team thinks (emphasis added):

"In the trade policy realm, the authorities have signaled that they'll respond with tariffs in proportion to the US move. So a sector-by-sector application of anti-dumping tariffs, for example, will likely be met by a similar response from China. An across-the-board tariff on all imports from China would likely be met by a similar response on the Chinese side.

But we think China's currency policy is unlikely to change materially in the event it is labeled a currency manipulator. We do not expect them to refrain from intervening and move to free float — which would likely lead to a large depreciation — nor would we expect a one-off devaluation. The authorities have had three years to allow a large sudden depreciation and even the modest 3% devaluation in August 2015 seems to have been too much volatility for them. At most, a controlled depreciation such as we observed in the first half of 2016 would be possible, in our view."

For what it's worth, the last time the US designated China a currency manipulator was from 1992 to 1994.

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