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New Hampshire Governor Signs Bitcoin MSB Exemption Into Law

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

The governor of New Hampshire has signed a bill into law that exempts digital currency traders from the state's money transmission regulations.


CONSULTING FIRM TO WALL STREET: Don't worry about blockchain's cost — just start working with it

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

Screen Shot 2017 06 07 at 2.30.26 PM

Everyone on Wall Street seems to agree that blockchain is going to be a game-changer.  

The technology is thought to have the potential to improve productivity across Wall Street in areas such as as banking, payments, and the capital markets. But the degree to which blockchain will revolutionize financial services is really anyone's guess. 

Blockchain became a ubiquitous Street buzzword thanks to the rise in popularity of the cryptocurrency bitcoin, which is powered by the technology. 

Cognizant, a US-based digital consulting firm, recently surveyed over 1,500 executives from over 570 financial services firms on their respective strategies for integrating the technology into their infrastructure. The overwhelming majority (91% to be exact) of firms surveyed said they recognize the importance of blockchain to the future of the industry. However, only a few are actively integrating blockchain into their infrastructure. Most are dilly-dallying in the experimental phase, according to the Cognizant. 

"While some early adopters are pushing ahead rapidly, most firms remain content with learning about the technology and testing proofs of concept internally until the future direction comes into focus," the report said. 

Those firms, according to Cognizant, don't have a "viable" path forward. 

To be sure, it makes sense that firms would want to take time to figure out how blockchain could work for their company. The technology is barely a decade-old, extremely complex, and development costs money.

Nevertheless, Cognizant is advising firms to get a move on. In the report they outline a number of points for financial firms to consider when developing their blockchain strategies. 

Here are a few:

  • Don't waste time worrying about costs. "Learning will be iterative, and costs and benefits may only become defined more clearly as the project pro-gresses. In addition, many reasons to move forward are strategic in nature and cannot be quantified at the outset."
  • Don't just give all the work to IT.  "Rather than emanating from IT, blockchain projects should be designed to address specific business problems or opportunities, and business stakeholders should be involved from the outset."
  • Keep calm and carry on. "Recognize that blockchain is still in the early stages of development; innovation will continue, and the infrastructure will evolve.

SEE ALSO: Wall Street firms are betting that the technology behind bitcoin could help them cut jobs

SEE ALSO: A 'paradigm shift' is taking place in financial technology

SEE ALSO: Deloitte's COO explains his view of the economy, fintech, and why we shouldn't be afraid of robots

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Nike and Adidas are making huge investments that should terrify Under Armour (NIKE, UAA)

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


The future will be owned by those who get there first.

Nike and Adidas, the two biggest global sportswear companies in the world, have a new focus on speed. The two companies have been throwing their weight behind initiatives to speed up the supply line and react more quickly to changes in style and fashion, according to a new research report by Morgan Stanley Research.

The researchers note that online shopping has created an environment where people want to buy things and wear them as soon as possible, and that new fashions are being cycled through at a faster pace than before because of social media.

Adidas has reacted to this strongly, with 80% of Adidas' sales in 2016 from products that were less than a year old. Adidas's products are very on-trend, which is contributing to a staggering run of growth, especially in the US where it is growing much faster than a sluggish Nike and an even slower Under Armour.

In order to better react to chasing trends, Adidas is looking to create a "flexible" supply chain, Adidas's North American head Mark King told Business Insider.

The two keys to sustaining interest for Adidas is staying "very connected to the consumer" and acting "with speed to bring products to the market place that are really relevant in the moment," King said.

Both Nike and Adidas have increased capital spending, and Morgan Stanley estimates Nike spent "~$2.5 billion on research and development in the last five years."

Under Armour has lagged behind Nike and Adidas in innovation. Shares have declined 45% in the past year, compared with Nike staying flat and Adidas gaining 30%. 

nike sneakers shoes

The bank estimates that in these automation and digitization  can shorten the lead times from "12-18 months to 4-6 months."

"Innovations will align inventory management with actual demand," the note says.

Because of this speed up pipeline, Morgan Stanley is predicting faster growth, more sales, and higher stock prices for Nike and Adidas, which can out-muscle other, smaller players in the market such as Under Armour.

This will track an increase in worldwide athletic wear sales that is predicted to continue, and as the the supply chain gets faster and more flexible, this will allow for more full-price selling with higher margins.

It's not all bad news for Under Armour however. Though CEO Kevin Plank has emphasized that Under Armour will need to focus on speed, they are behind "first movers" Nike and Adidas in their initiatives.

SEE ALSO: The white sneakers that fueled Adidas' crazy US growth seem to be fading

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How a company could disrupt billion-dollar drug markets with a single pill (PTGX)

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


  • Many of the powerful drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases have to be injected. 
  • Protagonist Therapeutics wants to change that, instead of using the same approach but in a pill. 
  • The potentially game-changing approach could disrupt billion-dollar markets. 

Protagonist Therapeutics, a biotech company based in the Bay Area, is trying to develop pill versions of injected drugs. If it succeeds, it could one day disrupt billion-dollar drug markets.

Protagonist is working on treatments for inflammatory bowel disease, debilitating conditions that involve inflammation in the digestive system. Right now, the handful of powerful treatments available to patients are given as injections, and Protagonist wants to essentially make the same drugs but in the form of a pill.

The approach uses drugs called "oral peptides," a field that has seen its fair share of setbacks and challenges

But in May, the company got a big vote of confidence when Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical unit committed to giving Protagonist $50 million in a deal that could potentially pay out $990 million as one of Protagonist's drugs makes it through clinical trials. 

While the treatments are still in early days, if the data reads out, it could have big implications for how auto-immune diseases like IBD are treated. 

The elusiveness of oral peptides

Generally, peptides are structures made of amino acids that are smaller than proteins. They're found all over in the human body. Insulin, which is critical to managing blood sugar levels in the body, is a peptide. As such, our bodies are really good at digesting them, so it's hard to make a pill made out of them. 

"Oral peptides are like the holy grail in the field of peptides," Protagonist CEO Dinesh Patel said. 

DineshHeadshotProtagonistSo first, the company had to figure out how to get through the digestive system without getting broken down on its way to treat IBD. To do that, they'd have to come up with a way to make the drug stable as it went through the gut.

That meant navigating the acidic environment, the gut microbiome, avoiding enzymes that want to break down peptides. Protagonist would subject the drugs to those challenges, and if the compound could stay stable without becoming less effective, it could be a viable candidate. 

"In some instances, we had to take a step back to take two steps forward," Patel said.

So far, the team has been able to do that with a few different drugs, one of which is now in clinical trials.

Protagonist isn't the only company that's developing oral peptides. There are a few are already on the market like Linzess and Trulance, drugs that treat irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation respectively.

What's different about Protagonist is that they're going after the same targets as drugs that are currently only available as biologic drugs that need to be injected. The first and farthest along is PTG-100, an alpha-4 beta-7 antagonist, which is the same target as Takeda's vedolizumab, a drug that made more than $1 billion in global sales 2016. The second, PTG-200, goes after the same target as J&J's blockbuster drug Stelara

A long way to go

To be sure, these drugs aren't ready for prime time yet. It likely will be years until they're far enough in development to be ready for approval. 

That's especially true for Protagonist's almost-$1 billion partnership with J&J for PTG-200, the one that's still in pre-clinical development that goes after the same target as J&J's Stelara. As part of the deal, J&J will pay out up to $990 million as Protagonist hits certain milestones in PTG-200's development.  "The impressive point here is how early JNJ swooped in to lock in the drug," Ronny Gal an analyst at Bernstein said in a note after the deal was announced.  

But if the data reads out, it could drastically change the way we use drugs to treat autoimmune diseases. Logistically, taking a pill is much easier and far less painful than an injection. Plus, while oral peptides are more expensive to make than your average pill, the drugs will likely still come in at a much lower cost than the biologic drugs available today.

From a treatment perspective, Patel said it might be possible to combine drugs with different targets to better treat the condition. Plus, by making the drugs simple pills, people might be able to start using them earlier, rather than trying other treatments first until the disease progresses. 

And if this oral peptide platform pans out, they could go against really general drugs as well, like Humira. But for now, focusing closely on IBD targets. 

SEE ALSO: RANKED: These are the most and least reputable drug companies in the world

SEE ALSO: A small Boston biotech is at the heart of a groundbreaking approach to tackling cancer

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Startup working on a real estate-backed cryptocurrency

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


This story was delivered to BI Intelligence "Fintech Briefing" subscribers. To learn more and subscribe, please click here.

Fintechs and incumbent financial services players have increasingly been investigating how to boost their clients' access to cryptocurrencies.

On Tuesday, European fintech BrickCoin announced it will be rolling out brickcoins, a new proprietary cryptocurrency underpinned by blockchain, and backed by real estate held by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).

REITs invest in real estate markets through property, and are traded on exchanges like stocks. The company itself is not yet active, but it's been registered in the UK, US, and EU. It's as yet unclear which markets BrickCoin will draw on, but its Twitter account suggests it will leverage US real estate. BrickCoin says it wants to help individuals protect their money against unfavorable market conditions like rising inflation via a strictly regulated, stable, yet liquid asset — brickcoin.

The company says brickcoins will offer both high liquidity and regulatory safeguards. Each brickcoin, which can be bought with either fiat or crypto currencies, will represent an investment in a piece of mortgage-free real estate held as part of a REIT, a highly regulated investment vehicle. Brickcoin transactions will be managed, authenticated, and tracked using blockchain technology. BrickCoin says that by backing its cryptocurrency with a mainstream, stable asset class like commercial real estate, it can guard clients against the risks entailed in buying cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, which are unsecured by any mainstream assets.

In addition, brickcoins will offer higher liquidity than savings and fixed income accounts, which usually do not allow for quick payouts; and hedge funds, which are often prohibitively expensive for most consumers. Brickcoin buyers will be able to exchange their tokens back into fiat currency instantly whenever they want, gaining back their original investment plus any appreciation it earns.

BrickCoins' approach seems to tackle several remaining obstacles for cryptocurrencies. As more financial services institutions give their clients access to cryptocurrency investments, a major risk is that most digital assets do not fall neatly into any mainstream asset categories, resulting in weak consumer understanding. In addition, they are not clearly in the remit of any regulators, leaving investors potentially unprotected against unscrupulous players. Moreover, as bitcoin and Ethereum prices rise rapidly, there is the risk of a bubble and subsequent crash.

By backing its cryptocurrency up with an asset that's already heavily regulated in virtually all jurisdictions, and which has clear benchmarks to regulate its value, BrickCoin stands a good chance both of reducing risks for its clients, providing clarity for its regulators, and thus attracting more users. We may see more cryptocurrency developers reinforcing their tokens in the same way.

Nearly every global bank is experimenting with blockchain technology as they try to unleash the cost savings and operational efficiencies it promises to deliver. 

Banks are exploring the technology in a number of ways, including through partnerships with fintechs, membership in global consortia, and via the building of their own in-house solutions. 

Sarah Kocianski, senior research analyst for BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on blockchain in banking that outlines why and in what ways banks are exploring blockchain technology, provides details on three major banks' blockchain efforts based on in-depth interviews, and highlights other notable blockchain-based experiments underway by global banks. It also discusses the likely trends that will emerge in the technology over the next several years, and the factors that will be critical to the success of banks implementing blockchain-based solutions.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Most banks are exploring the use of blockchain technology in order to streamline processes and cut costs. However, they are also looking to leverage additional advantages, including increased competitiveness with fintechs, and the ability to use the technology to create new business models. 
  • Banks are starting to narrow their focus, and are increasingly honing in on tangible use cases for blockchain technology that solve real problems faced by their businesses. 
  • Regulators are taking an increased interest in blockchain technology, and they're working alongside major banks to develop regulatory frameworks. 
  • Blockchain-based solutions will start to emerge in different areas of financial services. The most successful solutions will solve specific problems for banks and attract a large enough network to create widespread benefits. 

 In full, the report:

  • Outlines banks' experiments with blockchain technology. 
  • Details blockchain projects at three major banks — UBS, Credit Suisse, and Banco Santander — based on in-depth interviews. 
  • Discusses the likely trends that will emerge in the technology over the next several years.
  • Highlights the factors that will be critical to the success of banks implementing blockchain-based solutions.

Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> START A MEMBERSHIP
  2. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >> BUY THE REPORT

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Morgan Stanley is hosting a huge talent competition for tech startups (MS)

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

americas got talent judges season 10

  • It's an invitation-only event in Palo Alto with around 80 Wall Streeters and 85 tech startups hoping to win their business. 
  • They'll have back-to-back meetings with 10 to 12 specialists in a row, and one or two startups selected from each group. 

Morgan Stanley is hosting its own version of a talent contest— the 17th CTO Innovation Summit — in Silicon Valley this week. It's the biggest yet, with around 65 existing vendors, and 85 startups invited to attend.

The startups are nominated by venture capitalists, and compete in one of Morgan Stanley eight innovation areas, which range from virtual reality to machine learning, cybersecurity to quantum computing. The aim: to find companies to partner with that can help Morgan Stanley meet its own tech objectives. 

The Wall Street bank stresses collaboration throughout, said Shawn Melamed, who leads Morgan Stanley's strategic technology partnerships.

“There is no one technology or trend that’s going to disrupt the industry, it’s the combination and collaboration of a host of technologies and services,” he said. 

As part of this partnership model, the bank recognizes a single firm each year with a CTO Innovation Award. This year, the bank handed the award to Zscaler, a cloud-based information security provider that helps protect the mobile and wireless needs of Morgan Stanley's financial advisers.

Previous winners of the award include Cloudera, which is now a key part of the firm's new wealth management digital platform. 

“Our first meetings at the CTO Summit were truly transformational for our business," Tom Reilly, CEO of Cloudera, said. 

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NOW WATCH: HENRY BLODGET: Bitcoin could go to $1 million (or fall to $0)

Montana Boosts Local Bitcoin Miner With $416k Grant

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

In a US first, Montana's state government is providing public funds to support a local bitcoin mining firm as part of an effort to fuel job creation.


US Congressional Group Calls on IRS to Clarify Bitcoin Tax Guidance

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

A US congressional caucus is calling for more guidance from the Internal Revenue Service on the tax requirements for digital currencies like bitcoin.


One of the world's most prominent forecasters predicts Britain will crash out of the EU without a trade deal

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

Theresa May

LONDON — UK economic growth will slow sharply next year before Britain leaves the EU in 2019 without a trade deal, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Paris-based policy group predicts in its latest UK forecast that GDP growth will weaken slightly to 1.6% in 2017 then slow dramatically to 1% in 2018.

The gloomy forecast is driven by the OECD's assumption that Britain will leave the EU without a trade deal and fall back onto restrictive World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs, classified as a "most-favoured nation."

Economists have warned that a "cliff-edge" Brexit scenario whereby the UK fails to secure a deal would be economically destructive.

The OECD said: "This projection assumes that the United Kingdom's external trade will operate on a 'most favoured nation' basis from April 2019.

"The uncertainty, and the assumed outcome, is projected to undermine spending, in particular investment. Policies have supported private confidence and consumption, but household spending is projected to ease as the combination of a weakening labour market and higher inflation reduces real wage growth."

Many other G7 countries saw their 2018 growth prospects upgraded in the OECD's latest round of forecasts.

The group now predicts that only Italy from the G7 group of rich countries will perform worse than the UK next year.

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10 things you need to know before the opening bell (SPY, SPX, QQQ, DIA, GS, HSC)

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


Here is what you need to know.

The pound drifts little changed ahead of the UK election. The British pound holds steady near 1.2915 as traders await Thursday's general election. The polls suggest Theresa May's Conservative Party holds a lead of around six points over Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, although outliers say that could be as big as 12 points, or as small as one.

Australia ties the Netherlands' record for consecutive quarters without a recession. Australia's economy grew at a 0.3% clip in the first quarter, making for the 103rd straight quarter without a recession. However, the 0.3% growth was the slowest pace since the global finacial crisis.

The Reserve Bank of India holds. India's central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 6.25% and said it's paying close attention to the recent drop in inflation.

Cash-rich companies are king in the stock market right now. Companies with strong balance sheets are up 11% so far in 2017, outpacing those with weaker balance sheets by 3.5 percentage points, data compiled by Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg show.

Mark Cuban says bitcoin is a 'bubble.' "I think it's in a bubble. I just don't know when or how much it corrects. When everyone is bragging about how easy they are making $=bubble," The outspoken billionarie tweeted on Tuesday.

Santander bought rival Banco Popular for 1 euro. Santander will ask investors for about 7 billion euros ($7.9 billion) to help strengthen its balance sheet following the acquisition, Reuters says.

HSBC could face a fresh lawsuit over alleged forex manipulation. The bank's traders allegedly manipulated markets to boost their own profits at the expense of clients, the Financial Times reports.

Goldman Sachs is boosting the rate it offers customers on deposits. Goldman is now offering a 1.2% rate on desposits, up from its previous 1.05% rate, Reuters says. The national average is 0.06%.

Stock markets around the world are higher. China's Shanghai Composite (+1.2%) outperformed in Asia and France's CAC (+0.6%) leads the gains in Europe. The S&P 500 is set to open up 0.1% near 2,434.

US economic data is light. Consumer credit will cross the wires at 3 p.m. ET. The US 10-year yield is up 1 basis point at 2.15%.

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10 things you need to know before the opening bell (SPY, SPX, QQQ, DIA, GS, HSC)

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


Here is what you need to know.

The pound drifts little changed ahead of the UK election. The British pound holds steady near 1.2915 as traders await Thursday's general election. The polls suggest Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party holds a lead of about 6 points over Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, though outliers say that could be as big as 12 points or as small as 1.

Australia ties the Netherlands' record for consecutive quarters without a recession. Australia's economy grew at a 0.3% clip in the first quarter, making for the 103rd straight quarter without a recession. That level of growth, however, was the slowest pace since the global financial crisis.

The Reserve Bank of India holds. India's central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 6.25% and said it was paying close attention to the recent drop in inflation.

Cash-rich companies are king in the stock market. Companies with strong balance sheets are up 11% this year, outpacing those with weaker balance sheets by 3.5 percentage points, according to data compiled by Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg.

Mark Cuban says bitcoin is in a bubble. The outspoken billionaire tweeted on Tuesday: "I think it's in a bubble. I just don't know when or how much it corrects. When everyone is bragging about how easy they are making $=bubble."

Santander bought its rival Banco Popular for 1 euro. Santander will ask investors for about 7 billion euros ($7.9 billion) to help strengthen its balance sheet following the acquisition, Reuters says.

HSBC could face a fresh lawsuit over alleged forex manipulation. The bank's traders are accused of manipulating markets to boost their own profits at the expense of clients, the Financial Times reports.

Goldman Sachs is boosting the rate it offers customers on deposits. Goldman is offering a 1.2% rate on deposits, up from its previous 1.05% rate, Reuters says. The national average is 0.06%.

Stock markets around the world are higher. China's Shanghai Composite (+1.2%) outperformed in Asia, and France's CAC (+0.6%) leads the gains in Europe. The S&P 500 is set to open up 0.1% near 2,434.

US economic data is light. Consumer credit will cross the wires at 3 p.m. ET. The US 10-year yield is up by 1 basis point at 2.15%.

Join the conversation about this story »

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Qatar is falling into a rapid socio-economic death spiral and the UAE made it illegal to feel sorry for it

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


  • Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic relations with Qatar over its alleged support for Islamist groups and Iran.
  • It has also led to a severance of transport links making it difficult for the country to import and export goods.
  • Citizens are worried about food shortages because of inability to import and export with ease like before.
  • Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world and can protect its banks — but there are reports deals are being put on hold and investors are looking to pull out money from the financial system altogether.
  • The socio-economic impact is already hitting some sectors hard and it has only been three days since the announcement.

Qatar's unprecedented crash course into a potential socio-economic death spiral started almost immediately after Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic relations with the country over its alleged support for Islamist groups and Iran.

While Qatar denies the accusations, relations are now so strained between the powerful Arab states that it is not just diplomatic relations that are suffering, key transport links are already being severed, and the economy is starting to feel the squeeze.

The UAE essentially just made it illegal for citizens to feel sorry for what is happening to Qatar. The UAE-based newspaper Gulf News and pan-Arab channel Al-Arabiya reported that the UAE has banned people from publishing expressions of sympathy towards Qatar.

The punishment? — imprisonment for 15 years and a minimum fine of at least 500,000 dirhams (£105,446; $136,115). Here is what Reuters reported what UAE Attorney-General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi said to Gulf News.:

"Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form."

Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world — but that doesn't matter 

Qatar is one of the richest nations on the planet due to its GDP per capita and is considered the 18th most competitive country in the world, according to the World Economic Forum's benchmark Global Competitiveness Report.

Since it has a small nation of just 2.4 million people, most of whom are expat workers, the GDP per capita is very high.


It is also considered to have such a stable and health macroeconomic environment that only Norway beats it in the WEF's rankings:


The fact that Qatar is so rich and powerful may make it seem as though it would be very difficult to rupture the country's economy. After all, Qatar's biggest liquefied natural gas buyers are not Arab states and the diplomatic and transportation tie severance would not impact this sector. Moreover, Qatar is a huge contributor to the world's supply of LNG.

Qatar LNG


But there is already tangible proof that the country is being badly impacted by the cutting of ties — both on the social and economic level.

The immediate social and economic impact on Qatar

qataruae1The sudden severance of ties between Qatar and powerful Arab states was not just a huge shock to foreign relations, it was also a terrifying blow for those living and working there.

Over the last few days, we have seen panic spread across several sectors and economic costs mount up in a clutch of areas:

1. Shipping 

2. Food

3. Airlines

4. Banking

5. Stocks

Qatar is a huge import country, especially for perishable goods (mainly food). Qatar mainly imports from the US and Germany, but it also does import from Saudi Arabia. 


And here is the monthly data in US dollar, millions showing the trade balance of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and UAE, with Qatar:


But immediately when the four Arab states — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt — severed ties with Qatar, people started panicking that the country could run out of food. Qatari authorities had to stop people freaking out and raiding supermarkets, which were all replenished on Tuesday. 

Why? — because Qatar normally imports food through its land link with Saudi Arabia. So while Qatar can still buy perishables from the US, it cannot get the goods to the country. 

Dubai, part of the UAE, is also massively important for the import and export of goods due to its huge port Jebel Ali.

qatartradebalance1The world's largest container shipping line, Maersk, said in a statement to Reuters on Tuesday: "We have confirmation that we will not be able to move Qatar cargo in and out of Jebel Ali."

It added that it is currently looking for alternative routes. These changes will naturally delay shipments and potentially carry a greater cost burden — one that has not been officially calculated yet.

But it is not just the land and sea links that are being immediately impacted — air routes are potentially being affected

As my colleague Benjamin Zhang pointed out "Qatar actually has very little airspace relative to the size of the country." He cited the CAPA Center for Aviation report which said "Losing Saudi, Bahrain, and UAE airspace would effectively ground Qatar Airways.

"It is largely surrounded by Bahrain airspace (the Bahrain FIR), a slither on the south is managed by Saudi Arabia while the UAE is on the eastern border."

A map here shows that how devastating it could be if there is a lack of access to Bahraini, Emirati, and Saudi airspace. Countries are free to refuse landing rights, but it is unclear whether Bahrain and the UAE can legally bar Qatar Airways from their airspace, Zhang reported.

Financials are suffering and wider economic impact could be terrible

A man wearing traditional Qatari clothing walks along a beachfront opposite new highrise buildings under construction on the man-made peninsula called The Pearl on October 30, 2010 in Doha, Qatar.Qatar has the world’s third largest reserves of natural gas. But as Euromonitor Insights pointed out in a report sent to Business Insider, it "borrowed heavily to fund export facilities that would chill the gas into liquids which allow the country to export to previously unreachable markets in Asia, Europe and the USA."

Now with the four powerful Arab states cutting transport ties too, this could make LNG shipments more expensive and therefore less economically competitive, because it will have to find new ports outside its usual Gulf zones to refuel.

The economic impact could potentially hit jobs if it continues in the coming days. "The country’s oil and gas industries employ the greater part of the active workforce, accounting for well over 90% of export revenues and 50% of GDP," Euromonitor Insights' report says.

The financial system is also feeling the heat.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that "some banks from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain delayed letters of credit and other deals with Qatari banks after their governments cut diplomatic ties and transport links with Doha on Monday." 

The Financial Times also said "Saudi banks are already looking to sell off their loan exposure to Qatari lenders."

This is making markets volatile. The Qatari riyal, which fell on Tuesday to its lowest level since June 2016 against the US dollar— although it has since recouped losses and is near its official peg of 3.64 to the dollar.

The FTSE Nasdaq Qatar 10, which tracks the biggest companies in the country, has dropped 8.2% since the announcement.

qatar stock exchange1

It is hard to believe all that has gone on has been spread over just three days. Qatar is already seeing an economic cost, a societal impact, and the way things are going makes its outlook very uneasy.

Yes, Qatar is one of the richest nations in the world and it has incredible financial fire power to protect its banks if investors do pull out and citizens attempt a bank run — after all, it earns billions of dollars a month in gas exports and has $335 billion of assets in its sovereign wealth fund.

But, after just those three days, there is already tangible, detrimental impact onto its economy. The curbs on transportation freedom it enjoyed with its neighbours is a huge deal, and the foreign relations fallout has only just begun. 

Qatar is an economic goliath, but even giants can be felled.

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HSBC could face a fresh lawsuit over alleged forex manipulation

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

FILE PHOTO: The logo on the building of HSBC's London headquarters appears through the early morning mist in London's Canary Wharf financial district, Britain March 28, 2017.    REUTERS/Russell Boyce/File Photo

LONDON — Europe's largest lender by assets, HSBC, faces a new legal challenge over alleged historical manipulation of the foreign exchange markets, according to a report from the Financial Times on Wednesday.

The FT says that the bank could face legal proceedings over allegations that some of its traders manipulated markets to help their own profits, doing so at the expense of clients. Those allegations are made by ECU Group, a currency investment firm and client of the bank.

ECU has "filed an application to London’s commercial court asking for HSBC to be required to hand over records relating to three large foreign exchange orders it executed in 2006," the FT's report says.

Those records would include "HSBC’s interbank dealing tickets, deal log entries and any relevant Bloomberg instant messages," relating to three trades made in 2006. The trades were all worth over $100 million each and were so-called "stop loss" trades. Stop loss trades are designed to limit losses by selling an asset — in this case, a currency — at a certain price and buying another.

ECU had previously believed that it was being "ripped off" by HSBC traders, and complained about the issue to HSBC, which then promised a full internal inquiry. That inquiry found no wrongdoing, after which time ECU dropped its complaints against HSBC.

It has now decided to revisit the issue following charges brought against two of HSBC’s top forex traders by the US Department of Justice last year.

Both ECU and HSBC declined to comment when contacted by Business Insider.

You can read the FT's full story here.

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RBS finally reached a £200 million settlement with shareholders

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

RBS former Chairman Tom McKillop (L) and ex-CEO Fred Goodwin arrive for the RBS shareholders meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland November 20, 2008.

LONDON — RBS has reached a £200 million settlement with shareholders who invested in the bank for its £12 billion 2008 rights issue and lost most of their money.

The RBS Shareholders Action Group voted to accept an 82p a share offer, which is significantly less than the 200 to 230p that the investors paid in 2008.

"The directors met last night to consider the legal advice and took the decision that this matter will not now go to court," said a spokesman for the RBS Shareholder Action Group said in a statement on its website.

The trial had been due to start on May 22 but was adjourned three times to give the bank time to arrange a settlement offer for investors and shareholders.

The move means that Fred Goodwin, the disgraced former RBS chief executive, will not appear in court.

Shares were up nearly 2% in early morning trading, with the payout already having been priced in by shareholders.

Here is the chart at 8.39 a.m. BST (3.39 a.m. ET):

Screen Shot 2017 06 07 at 08.37.56

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The pound is treading water as Britain enters the final day of election campaigning

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

LONDON — The pound is little moved during morning trade on Wednesday as Britain enters the final day of campaigning ahead of Thursday's general election.

Polls suggest that Theresa May's Conservative Party hold a lead of around six points over Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, although outliers suggest that lead could be as big as 12 points, or as small as one point.

While a big move in the price of sterling is expected once results start to come out on Thursday evening, investors in Britain's currency are clearly in wait and see mode ahead of the actual vote.

By 8.10 a.m. BST (3.10 a.m. ET), sterling has moved just 0.03% against the dollar to trade at $1.2909, as the chart below illustrates:

Screen Shot 2017 06 07 at 08.12.25

Markets are generally priced for a big Conservative victory, Samuel Tombs of Pantheon Macroeconomics wrote on Wednesday, even though some forecasting models predict a hung parliament.

"A comfortable Conservative win probably would boost sterling to only $1.30, given that it is the main scenario priced-in currently, and some hard Brexit risk will linger regardless of the size of the Tories' win. By contrast, we think sterling could fall back to around $1.26, if the Conservatives fail to win more than a handful of extra seats," Tombs wrote.

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Irish money messaging startup cofounded by a Facebook veteran raises €25 million just 6 months after launch

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

Plynk cofounders Charles Dowd, left, and Clive Foley.

Dublin-based Money messaging app Plynk has raised €25 million (£21.7 million) from a Swiss investment trust, in what it claims is the biggest ever "Series A" investment for an Irish startup.

Plynk says in a release that it is building an app which links to people's Facebook accounts and then lets them send money to friends through messages with no fees. It was founded in 2015 by former Facebook manager Charles Dowd and former Wonga engineer Clive Foley. (You can read more about Wonga's influence over fintech here.)

Dowd says in a release: "With Plynk, users send money to a name, not an account number. This turns a normally formal and uncomfortable task into a transparent, instant, social interaction. This is the change we are looking to make.”

The big "Series A" investment — the first round of institutional investment, rather than early stage funding to build a prototype — is unusual for such a young company. Plynk is currently only available in Ireland and its app launched in January of this year. It has just 6,000 users and only 8 employees.

The business first raised money in October of last year, when it raised just €750,000. Clearly, this investment is a big step up.

Dowd, Plynk's CEO, says in a release announcing the funding: "Today marks a significant milestone for Plynk. From the beginning, it has been our aim to remove the complexities and awkwardness of person-to-person payments. This funding brings us closer to fulfilling this goal; first across Europe and soon worldwide."

The €25 million investment round has been led by Swiss Privee, a private investment trust. This is also relatively unusual. Funding for high-risk startups tends to come from venture capital investors rather than more traditional money managers.

Plynk's appA spokesperson for Plynk declined to give any more information on Swiss Privee when asked by Business Insider and the release simply names the trust.

Dowd says: "Over 2017, we will use this secured funding to expand into new markets as well as add GBP to our platform. Hiring will also be a priority, adding more team members to continue development on our core product and to build more features unique to the social payments industry."

Plynk says it is eyeing Spain and Portugal for expansion, along with the UK.

While Plynk may have big ambitions, it faces competition. Bitcoin-based Circle, which is backed by Goldman Sachs, offers a social money app across the US and Europe, while startup banks like Monzo have built in social payments featuring messages and emojis to their apps.

Google and Facebook also have long-held ambitions to successfully crack social payment features. More recently fintech companies such as TransferWise and Azimo have integrated with Facebook Messenger to allow people to send money through chatbot. In the US, PayPal has had huge success in the US with its social payments app Venmo.

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WorldRemit is considering opening a Dublin office due to Brexit

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

Ismail Ahmed CEO 3 worldremit

MADRID, SPAIN — UK fintech company WorldRemit is considering opening a new office in the European Union to cope with Brexit and Dublin is a frontrunner.

CEO and founder Ismail Ahmed told Business Insider on the sidelines of MoneyConf on Tuesday that the company is currently looking at locations for a possible new office, following last year's vote for the UK to leave the European Union.

WorldRemit lets people send money overseas via their smartphone and caters for the so-called remittance market — migrants and emigres sending small, regular amounts of money to family and friends in developing markets.

Ahmed said the company doesn't want to be caught short if Britain falls out of the EU in 2019 under a so-called "hard Brexit," with no deal reached at the end of negotiations. This would leave all companies that trade with the EU trapped in a legal limbo, with no official guidelines for trade.

To make sure WorldRemit's EU customers won't be left unable to send money, Ahmed said the business is looking at opening a subsidiary in an EU country that could handle the business.

Dublin has emerged as a likely candidate, given the Irish regulator's similar interpretation of EU anti-money laundering regulation. WorldRemit does much of its identity checks through its app rather than face to face and would want any new EU office to be regulated by a watchdog that accepts this kind of due diligence.

Azimo, a rival UK mobile remittance company, announced plans to open a Dublin office in April over Brexit concerns. Other financial services firms are also eyeing Dublin — JPMorgan purchased an office building with space for 1,000 people in the Irish city and Goldman Sachs is also said to be considering relocating jobs there.

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10 things you need to know before European markets open

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


Good morning! Here's what you need to know on Wednesday.

Britain braces for the final day of general election campaigning on Wednesday, after a turbulent few weeks which have shifted the political ground and been marred by terror attacks. "Give me your backing to lead Britain, give me the authority to speak for Britain, strengthen my hand as I fight for Britain," Prime Minister Theresa May urged voters on Tuesday in Stoke-on-Trent, the city that registered the highest vote for leaving the European Union.

President Donald Trump's statements backing the diplomatic isolation of Qatar by several Gulf nations seem to depart from his own State Department's stance on the issue. In a series of tweets, Trump appeared to take credit for the Saudi-led move. He visited Saudi Arabia last month and met with some Gulf leaders. "During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology," Trump tweeted. "Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!"

In a meeting Tuesday with Republican leaders, Trump reportedly suggested putting solar panels on the proposed US-Mexico border wall, and letting the generated electricity from the panels cover some of the costs. Citing three people with direct knowledge of the talks on Tuesday, Axios reported Trump wanted the wall to be 40 to 50 feet tall, and covered with solar panels.

Gold edged lower on Wednesday, although still holding near its highest in seven months, supported by a weaker dollar ahead of key political and economic events that are expected to stoke bullion's safe-haven appeal. A national election in the UK, a European Central Bank policy meeting and former U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey's Senate testimony are all occurring on Thursday.

While the upcoming political risk events are helping gold, global equities are subdued in anticipation. On Wednesday, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged 0.2% lower, retreating further from a two-year high hit on Monday. The Nikkei also dropped 0.2%, falling to 19,931.43 points by midmorning in Asian trade..

South Africa slumped into its first recession since 2009. The economy shrank by an annualized 0.7% in the first quarter after contracting by 0.3% in the prior.  That was below economists' expectations of 1.0% quarter-over-quarter annualized growth, according to the Bloomberg estimate. Perhaps most notably, these figures predate the sacking of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. In other words, the data released Tuesday doesn't include any potentially negative economic effects from the domestic political drama.

HSBC could be set to face a new lawsuit over claims its traders manipulated foreign exchange markets for their own profit at the expense of their clients. According to a report in the Financial Times on Wednesday, UK based currency investment firm ECU "filed an application to London’s commercial court asking for HSBC to be required to hand over records relating to three large foreign exchange orders it executed in 2006."

Goldman Sachs boost rates for savers in bid to attract deposits. Goldman Sachs Bank USA, the Wall Street bank's consumer arm, plans on Wednesday to raise the rate it offers customers on deposits to 1.2 percent, slightly higher than rivals Synchrony Bank, CIT Bank and New York Community Bank's My Banking Direct.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled last week that the 2011 Russian parliamentary elections were "unfair" and "compromised," World Affairs Journal reported. "The seven-judge panel (that included a judge from Russia) unanimously ruled that there has been a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to free elections," World Affairs said.

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to praise the infrastructure of China and suggest the US is falling behind in its maintenance of roads, bridges, and airports. "Arrived in China, as always impressed by condition of airport, roads, cell service, etc. US needs to invest in infrastructure to keep up!" Blankfein tweeted.

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