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Op Ed: The SEC Is Watching Cryptocurrencies, So Beware — But Don't Overreact

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

Op Ed: The SEC Is Watching Cryptocurrencies, So Beware — But Don't Overreact

A startling trend has recently emerged in the cryptocurrency industry. Since July 2017, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has regularly begun asserting itself in this space. It has taken various actions against several companies relating to their Initial Coin Offerings, or “ICOs,” or other cryptocurrency activities. It investigated The DAO, an online corporation, and declared that its ICO involved securities subject to regulation under federal securities laws. It also suspended trading in the stock of four other companies due to concerns over the accuracy of public information relating to their cryptocurrency activities. What does this trend mean for the industry? Looking more closely at the SEC’s actions, the answer is: to be vigilant but not paranoid.

The DAO Legacy

Federal securities laws generally require that instruments constituting “securities” are registered with the SEC in order to protect investors by ensuring public access to key information needed for making an informed investment decision. On July 25, 2017, the SEC issued a Report of Investigation on The DAO, concluding that DAO Tokens sold in its ICO were “investment contracts” and therefore securities that should have been registered.

The DAO (short for Decentralized Autonomous Organization) sold over one billion DAO Tokens in exchange for ether. The proceeds were to be used to fund various “projects” once they were vetted and approved by Curators, who were selected by The DAO’s founders. DAO Token holders could vote on which projects to fund, and profits from those projects would be distributed among Token holders.

Applying the Howey test (named for the Supreme Court case that announced it), which says that something is an investment contract if it involves (1) an investment of money (2) in a common enterprise (3) with a reasonable expectation of profits derived from the managerial efforts of others, the SEC found that DAO Tokens were securities because:

  1. Purchasing DAO Tokens in exchange for ether constituted an “investment of money”;

  2. A “common enterprise” existed because the ether was pooled and used to fund projects aimed at making profits, which would be distributed to DAO Token holders; and

  3. DAO Token holders expected these profits from the efforts of The DAO founders and Curators, who, among other things, created and monitored The DAO and vetted potential projects. While Token holders could vote on which projects to fund, they were still essentially relying on others, because they could vote only after projects had been curated.

Although these findings applied only to The DAO, the SEC noted that it wanted “to stress that the U.S. federal securities law may apply to various activities, including distributed ledger technology, depending on the particular facts and circumstances, without regard to the form of the organization or technology used to effectuate a particular offer or sale.” This declaration undoubtedly foreshadows continued investigations and enforcement actions relating to ICOs.

Trading Suspensions

Federal law authorizes the SEC to suspend trading in a company’s stock summarily for up to 10 business days when needed to protect investors or in the public interest. In a recent Investor Alert, the SEC explained that such suspensions may result from a “lack of current, accurate, or adequate information about the company”; “questions about the accuracy of publicly available information” concerning the company’s “operational status and financial condition”; or “questions about trading in the stock.” In the cryptocurrency context, the SEC is especially concerned about scams in which companies “publicly announc[e] ICO or coin/token related events to affect the price of the company’s common stock.” It warned specifically about two red flags signaling possible “ICO-related fraud”: companies whose stock is trading that (1) claim without explanation that their ICO is “SEC-compliant” or (2) “purport[] to raise capital through an ICO or take on ICO-related business described in vague or nonsensical terms or using undefined technical or legal jargon.”

In August 2017, the SEC issued 10-day suspension orders in shares of four companies due to concerns relating to public statements about their cryptocurrency activities and ICOs. First, on August 3, the SEC suspended trading in shares of Strategic Global Investments, Inc., over questions regarding the accuracy of statements in certain press releases relating to “the activities of the company with respect to [ICOs].” Each of the cited press releases touted generally that the company planned to sponsor “SEC compliant ICOs.”

Next, on August 9, the SEC issued a temporary trading ban in shares of CIAO Group (recently renamed as NuMelo Technology) due to questions regarding the accuracy of various public statements relating to certain business plans and a planned ICO. The cited press releases, including those from March 16, June 15 and July 6, contained vague statements that CIAO planned to invest in telecommunications projects in emerging markets and to facilitate the provision of financial services to developing nations through blockchain technology, including through an ICO.

On August 23, the SEC suspended trading in shares of First Bitcoin Capital Corp., a company involved in developing digital currencies and other blockchain technology, due to “concerns regarding the accuracy and adequacy of publicly available information about the company including, among other things, the value of [its] assets and its capital structure.”

Finally, on August 24, the SEC issued a suspension order against American Security Resources Corp. (renamed to Bitcoin Crypto Currency Exchange Corp.) due to statements in press releases “concerning, among other things, the company’s business transition to the cryptocurrency markets and early adoption of blockchain technology.” These press releases from August 1 and August 8 announced vaguely that the company was “enter[ing] the booming Crypto currency markets,” developing a mobile cryptocurrency trading application and acquiring a company that had created “a smartphone-based payment and money transfer system.”

The SEC’s suspension orders did not specify the language or facts triggering its action, but each of these companies appears to have strayed into the red-flag territory the SEC has identified. Its oversight in this area will thus likely continue and be directed at preventing fraud and improving disclosures to investors on new or not-well-understood technologies.

Implications for the Cryptocurrency Industry

This recent flurry of SEC activity should be taken seriously by the cryptocurrency industry because it is only the start. The SEC will continue to monitor businesses involved with cryptocurrencies. Companies considering engaging in ICOs should therefore carefully consider and seek legal advice regarding whether their tokens possess characteristics that might make them resemble securities. They should also consult counsel when preparing public statements relating to their cryptocurrency activities or assets.

Anyone predicting the beginning-of-the-end for the industry based on these events, however, is overreacting. As more businesses become engaged in cryptocurrency-related activities, more people will buy tokens or invest in companies innovating within the cryptocurrency space, which ignites regulators’ investor-protection instincts. While the SEC has bared its teeth where it perceived a threat to investors, it has not demonstrated aggression toward the industry as a whole. Indeed, the SEC was careful not to say that ICOs categorically involve securities; it cautioned only that whether a token is a security depends on the “facts and circumstances” of each case. That the SEC is watching the cryptocurrency industry is thus a symptom of the industry’s success, not a sign of its demise.

This is a guest post by Jeffrey Alberts and Yvonne Saadi of  Pryor Cashman’s Financial Institutions Group. Opinions expressed are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Media or Bitcoin Magazine.

https://www.pryorcashman.com/Financial Institutions Group

The post Op Ed: The SEC Is Watching Cryptocurrencies, So Beware — But Don't Overreact appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

SeaWorld spikes on reports that another theme park company wants to buy it

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

seaworld killer whale

SeaWorld Entertainment, the owner of the SeaWorld amusement parks, was reportedly approached by a UK-based theme park operator about a deal and the stock is jumping in after hours trading.

According to Bloomberg, Merlin Entertainment approached SeaWorld about a possible acquisition. Merlin operates the Legoland theme parks.

SeaWorld is already working with bankers on a possible sale and Merlin is not the only possible buyer to approach the company, Bloomberg said.

The firm and its parks, which combine rides with live animal entertainment, have faced a stretch of difficult years after the documentary "Blackfish" showed the possibly harmful impact of captivity on SeaWorld's signature orcas.

The backlash to the film contributed to declining attendance and profits. In order to combat this, SeaWorld announced it would no longer breed its orcas and would phase out shows featuring the whales.

In response to the news, shares of SeaWorld spiked at much as 14% in post-market trading. As of 4:36 pm ET, the stock was up just a bit over 4%.

Screen Shot 2017 10 04 at 4.37.39 PM

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Bloomberg is fighting back against the startup that wants to steal its lucrative Wall Street business

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

bloomberg terminal

Bloomberg, the financial data giant, is offering customers of its signature terminal a deal to use its chat function as a stand-alone feature for just $10 a month. 

The offering, first reported by the Financial Times, undercuts Symphony, a chat and data startup once touted as a "Bloomberg killer" because of its low-cost offering and backing from Wall Street's biggest firms.

Offering customers a standalone chat feature is a change of tactic for Bloomberg, which typically offers its news, data and trading functions in one bundle — for more than $20,000 a year. 

Bloomberg's chat function, though, is ubiquitous on Wall Street as a tool that allows traders to exchange information. Unbundling it from the rest of the terminal is a way to keep business from employees who don't need the full package, and could be particularly appealing for folks away from the trading floor in support functions in the middle and back office.

"This is a standalone product that services the internal communications needs of our clients," a Bloomberg spokesperson told Business Insider. 

That new feature presents a direct threat to Symphony, which charges $20 per month for its services, according to Spencer Mindlin of Aite Group, a research company. 

"It is a competitive threat because it offers a lot of the value proposition that Symphony offers," Mindlin said.

Many of Symphony's backers, including Goldman Sachs, got behind the company to put pressure on the monopoly of Bloomberg. Hence, the nickname "Bloomberg killer." 

The company's CEO, however, has tried to present the company as a tool for any business — comparing it to Slack, and Microsoft's O365, chat apps. 

Symphony has partnered with a whole host of data and news providers, including Dow Jones, IHS Markit and Thomson Reuters. Deutsche Bank on Wednesday said it would "put over 150,000 lines of code from its award-winning electronic platform Autobahn into the public domain," and integrate the code into Symphony. 

In May, Symphony said it raised $63 million funds, which brought the total amount the company has raised to $234 million. It counts Google, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, and a number of other Wall Street firms as its backers.  The company is valued at more than $1 billion. 

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STOCKS GO NOWHERE: Here's what you need to know

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

ice climbing

Stocks keep creeping ever-so-slightly upwards to new record highs.

The S&P 500 closed up by 0.12%, the Dow closed up by 0.09%, and the Nasdaq closed up by 0.04%. 

First up, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 22,661.64, +19.97, (+0.09%)
  • S&P 500: 2,537.74, +3.16 (+0.12%)
  • Nasdaq: 6,534.63, 2.91, (+0.04%)
  • US dollar index: 93.44 (-0.13%)
  • US 10-year yield: 2.328, -0.004

1. The benchmark Puerto Rico bond fell to record lows after President Donald Trump said the US territory's debt would have to be written off"I can't think of any time when a president has opined on a muni bankruptcy case," Greg Clark, the head of municipal research at Debtwire, said. "We're in — I guess it's fair to say — uncharted waters with the president's comments," he told Business Insider.

2. Amazon shrugged off an order to pay $294 million in back taxes to the EU. Shares were up by 0.7% in the afternoon. The order stems from Amazon's business organization in Europe, which funneled most of the company's European profits through a holding company in Luxembourg that had more favorable tax laws.

3. Google stayed down after its Pixel 2 and hardware event. The company is trading 0.35% lower to $971.00 after announcing several new hardware products at its annual Made By Google event. Alphabet was trading lower on the day before the event started, and didn't move much during or after the event.

4. GoPro slipped by as much as 5% as Google announced its tiny Clips camera. Using facial recognition for people and pets, the Google Clips camera takes photos and videos without sound of moments that its owners miss or are unable to capture.

5. The FDA approved a "complex generic drug" — which sent one stock soaring and another crashing. Shares of Teva Pharmaceuticals, which makes the branded version of Copaxone, fell by 11% on Wednesday, while Mylan, which makes the new generic version, was up as much as 18%. 

6. Catalonia will take steps on Monday towards declaring independence from Spain, a regional government source told Reuters. Pro-independence parties which control the regional parliament have asked for a debate and vote on Monday on declaring independence, the source said. A declaration should follow this vote, although it is unclear when.

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A $6.8 billion hedge fund run by an industry titan keeps losing money

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

London

NEW YORK – Brevan Howard's flagship fund, run by billionaire Alan Howard, is down for the year as the firm continues to lose money.

The Brevan Howard master fund fell 4.61% this year through September, according to a client update seen by Business Insider.

The fund managed $6.8 billion at the end of August, according to a person familiar with the situation – a far drop from years earlier.

Once a titan in the industry, Brevan Howard managed about $40 billion firmwide in 2013. As of August, it managed about $11.1 billion firmwide, almost a quarter of previous assets.

The Europe-based firm invests on macroeconomic themes, and has struggled for several years, losing assets amid underperformance. 

The flagship fund gained 3% last year, but lost about 2% in 2015 and 0.8% in 2014, according to data from HSBC.

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Former Bundesbank Chief: Bitcoin Doesn't Meet Full Definition of a Currency

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

UBS chairman Axel Weber offered a strong rebuke of cryptocurrencies during an event in Zürich earlier today.

A fund at $9 billion Carlson has lost nearly 20% this year

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

japan punch

Carlson Capital's Black Diamond Thematic fund has added to its losses this year, and is down 19% after fees this year through September 30, according to a client update seen by Business Insider.

The long-short equity fund had previously lost 14.2% net this year through July 31, according to a client update previously reported by Business Insider. The fund managed $1.1 billion at the end of August, according to an investor. A spokesman for Carlson declined to comment.

It's unclear what caused the further decline. However, in a June letter, the fund partially blamed bitcoin mania for the drop in performance. The portfolio managers, Richard Maraviglia and Matthew Barkoff, said their fund remained short the stock market, notably in the semiconductor space.

But the surge in interest in bitcoin and ethereum has pushed shares of semiconductor makers higher. Their chips are used in the computers that solve complex equations to mine for cryptocurrencies.

The firm has seven funds in total. Here's Carlson's scorecard for the firm's five other funds, this year through September 30:

  • Double Black Diamond, LP: +2.9%
  • Black Diamond Partners, LP: -4.6%
  • Black Diamond Relative Value Partners, LP:  -1.76%
  • Black Diamond Arbitrage Partners, LP:  +6.95%
  • Black Diamond Mortgage Opportunity, II:  +6.97%
  • Black Diamond Energy, LP: -8.54%

Carlson managed $9.9 billion at the start of the year, according to the HFI Billion Dollar Club ranking.

SEE ALSO: There's a big question hanging over the most anticipated hedge fund launch in history

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NOW WATCH: The head of a $55 billion fund at First Eagle points out the risks everyone else on Wall Street is missing

Google slips after its Pixel 2 and hardware event (GOOGL, GOOG)

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

Google Pixel event

Google's parent company, Alphabet's, stock price is slightly down after the company's big hardware event on Wednesday.

The company is trading 0.35% lower to $971.00 after announcing several new hardware products at its annual Made By Google event. Alphabet was trading lower on the day before the event started, and didn't move much during or after the event.

The company started its event by highlighting its focus on artificial intelligence, and almost every product revealed had some element of AI built in. Google also emphasized that designing hardware and software under its single roof allows the company to do really unique things with its products, an advantage Apple has touted for years.

Here's a roundup of the products Google announced...

  • Pixel 2 phones: The new phone comes in two sizes, and has the best camera on a smartphone, according to the company. The phones offer an almost edge-to-edge display, in line with the rest of the high-end smartphone market, and an emphasis on the company's smart assistant.
  • Pixelbook laptop: The company's Chrome Book platform gets a new family member. The laptop has a touchscreen that folds around to convert the laptop into a sort of tablet. The company also announced a pen with the new laptop that will allow the user to draw on the laptop screen.
  • Google Home Mini and Max: The two new speakers are additions to Google's previous Home product. The two new speakers let a user interact with the speaker by speaking to it, similar to an Amazon Echo speaker. The mini is about the size of a donut, and the Max offers better sound quality in a larger package.
  • Clips: The company announced a small new camera that automatically will take stills and videos from a scene. Google said it would be great for users with kids and pets. After the camera's announcement, shares of GoPro fell by more than 5%.
  • Pixel Buds: Google announced a new set of wireless earbuds at the event. The earbuds operate much in the same way that Apple's AirPods do, but are tethered together with a wire. The company demonstrated the headphones' ability to translate a conversation in real time.

Google is up 20.03% this year.

Click here to watch Alphabet's stock trade in real time...

Google stock price

SEE ALSO: This is the new Google Pixel 2

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GoPro slides as Google announces its tiny Clips camera (GPRO)

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

Screen Shot 2017 10 04 at 1.59.25 PM

GoPro shares fell by as much as 5% in trading Wednesday as Google unveiled a tiny camera that could rival its lineup.

Using facial recognition for people and pets, the Google Clips camera takes photos and videos without sound of moments that its owners miss or are unable to capture.

The onstage demo showed that it was targeted towards parents with pets. Like many GoPro cameras, it can be attached to a moving object or handheld. It will retail for $249.

Google unveiled its camera along with a slate of other products including a high-end laptop called Pixelbook and the Pixel 2.

GoPro's stock has fallen about 37% over the past year as investors remained concerned about competition, and after the Karma drone was recalled and relaunched. Last week, the company launched its Hero6, a pocketable camera that can record 4K video at 60 frames per second.  

Screen Shot 2017 10 04 at 1.41.26 PM

SEE ALSO: This is the new Google Pixel 2

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Starbucks is the clear winner as high-end coffee heats up (SBUX)

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

starbucks reserve barista

Big-name investors might be warming up to high-end coffee shops, but they still aren't a threat to Starbucks, thanks to the coffee chains sheer scale. 

"High profile private investments in specialty coffee's 'Third Wave' are making headlines," Morgan Stanley analyst John Glass said in a note out Wednesday, "but that may overstate their competitive relevance, at least for now." 

Blue Bottle, for instance, was acquired by Nestle at a $700 million valuation despite having just 40 stores. Luxembourg-Based JAB Holdings, which already owned some mass-market coffee brands like Krispy Kreme and Peet's, recently snapped up high-end brands Stumptown and Intelligentsia

Still, Morgan Stanley says these specialty chains are barely a blip on the radar when compared to Starbucks' more than 24,000 locations worldwide. 

"Our informal tally suggests there are less than 20 of these high profile 'Third Wave' chains with more than a small handful of units, with a total of under 400 units in operation," Glass said. "Many of them happen to have a presence in New York and California, making them appear to investors perhaps more common than they actually are." 

The bank estimates there are between 25,000 and 32,000 specialty coffee shops in the US, with Starbucks making up about 8,500 of those and being thirty times larger than Caribou Coffee, it's biggest competitor.

To be sure, specialty coffee chains with more than 10 units are starting to eat into Starbucks' footprint, but the chain is still steadily growing.

Specialty coffee growth US morgan stanley

"The artisan segment of specialty coffee remains a very small portion of overall specialty," Glass said.

"However, given the investment flows into the category, we'd assume that growth in artisanal, Third Wave coffee will continue. It also validates Starbucks' own investments in Siren Retail, its upstart division that is working to develop Roasteries (large format stores) and Reserve stores, which in many ways resemble their smaller, startup brethren."

Morgan Stanley has a $62 price target for Starbucks shares — just under Wall Street's consensus of $63.71, according to Bloomberg. 

Shares of the coffee chain have fallen 2.6% this year. 

Starbucks stock price chart

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What you need to know on Wall Street today

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

People stand next to windows above an exterior sign at the Lehman Brothers headquarters in New York in this September 16, 2008 file photo. September 14, 2009 marks the one year anniversary of the bankruptcy filing of Lehman Brothers. Picture taken September 16, 2008.  REUTERS/Chip East/Files  (UNITED STATES BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT ANNIVERSARY) - RTR27S6ZWelcome to Finance Insider, Business Insider's summary of the top stories of the past 24 hours. Sign up here to get the best of Business Insider delivered direct to your inbox.

JPMorgan has already coined a nickname for the next financial meltdown.

And while the firm isn't sure exactly when the so-called Great Liquidity Crisis will strike, it figures that tensions will start to ratchet up in 2018, once the Federal Reserve starts to unwind its massive balance sheet. Here's what Marko Kolanovic, JPMorgan's global head of quantitative and derivatives strategy, had to say about the GLC

In Wall Street news, JPMorgan Chase has taken the No.1 spot in a critical ranking for the first time in nearly 25 years. Deutsche Bank is pulling a Silicon Valley move and unleashing its code onto Wall StreetAnd a brutal table spells bad news for Wall Street banks.

Steve Cohen, the hedge fund billionaire banned from managing outsiders' money, has been prepping a fund via an external firm. The big question is how much Cohen's new fund will raise. BI's Rachael Levy has the latest.

A former star investor at Cohen's SAC Capital is having a killer yearThe Rockefeller family is joining forces with a former Morgan Stanley rainmaker and one of the world's largest hedge funds to form a new investment firm. And we talked to a $1 trillion investment chief about the biggest opportunities in markets right now

President Trump is reportedly down to a final five in his search for the next Fed chair. Wall Street says a major fear about Trump's tax plan is overblown. And Puerto Rico's bonds collapsed after Trump said its debt needs to be wiped out.

Short seller Andrew Left says he's found a "business dirtier than Herbalife." And someone dressed up as the Monopoly man is trolling the ex-Equifax CEO's hearing in Congress. Elsewhere in markets news:

In tech news, Uber will IPO by 2019 and let Softbank buy a huge stake, following a big board meeting.

Lastly, BI's Bob Bryan  ate like Warren Buffett for a week — and it was miserable.

Join the conversation about this story »

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Deutsche Bank is pulling a Silicon Valley move and unleashing its code onto Wall Street

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

John Cryan Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank is pulling a Silicon Valley move. 

The German bank, which is one of the last big financial firms based in the historic heart of New York finance near Wall Street, announced on Wednesday it will open a large swath of computer code for one of its platforms to the public. 

"The bank will put over 150,000 lines of code from its award-winning electronic platform Autobahn into the public domain so that trading applications from different providers can use it as a shared foundation and work seamlessly with each other," the bank said in a press release on the news. 

Deutsche Bank's Autobahn platform provides users access to a slew of tools to help execute trades across asset classes. The code, according to the bank, will also be integrated into Symphony, the self-described "email killer." 

Symphony is like Slack for banks. It allows traders and other people working in highly regulated environments to benefit from enterprise encryption and security while they chat online, either through text or voice.

Many of its backers, including Deutsche Bank, got behind the company to put pressure on the monopoly of Bloomberg, which charges its users more than $20,000 per year for a subscription to its signature terminal. In a way, the partnership with Deutsche Bank provides Symphony with another tool in its tool bag to rival Bloomberg. 

Making applications and platforms open to the public for use or modification - commonly referred to as open-sourced - is common among Silicon Valley firms, but rare on Wall Street, where firms are much more protective of their proprietary information and technology. As such, the move by Deutsche Bank indicates a broader trend of Wall Street firms trying to become more like tech companies. 

Deutsche Bank itself has taken a number of steps to up the ante on tech.

In March, the bank appointed a new group chief information officer, Pascal Boillat. Around the same time, it said it would "align certain parts of its technology and other overhead functions to its business divisions to increase accountability and reduce costs."

In March, the bank also rolled out the red carpet for fintech startups to innovate within its ecosystem with a new innovation lab in New York City. 

The new lab was firm's fourth innovation lab and facilitates exploration into "new technologies focused on several areas including artificial intelligence, cloud technology and cyber security," according to a news release.

Deutsche Bank isn't the only bank heading in this direction. Goldman Sachs is gunning to be the Google of Wall Street, making some of its software open-source, and is hiring heavily in technology

SEE ALSO: The CEO of 'email killer' Symphony tells employees to 'buckle up' and apologizes for driving colleagues 'crazy'

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There's a big question hanging over the most anticipated hedge fund launch in history

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

  • Steve CohenSteve Cohen, the hedge fund billionaire banned from managing outsiders' money, has been prepping a fund via an external firm.
  • A big question is how much Cohen's new fund will raise.
  • Reports about how much fresh money the new fund will target have varied – up to $10 billion on the high end.
  • That has frustrated Cohen and the people who work for him.
  • The target is closer to $2 billion.

Unless your name is Steve Cohen, the only thing you can say for sure about the billionaire investor's return to the hedge fund world is that it's going to be highly watched. 

Cohen, via an external marketing firm, has been laying plans to manage other people's money for the first time since shutting three years ago, and right now people have more questions than answers about what it'll look like. 

Reports of the fundraising target have varied wildly. The Wall Street Journal reported in May that Cohen was seeking to raise about $9 billion, which, combined with his roughly $11 billion family office would lead to a $20 billion fund. Bloomberg News reported last month that investors have been told the fundraising target is between $2 billion to $10 billion.

A person with direct knowledge of the plans tells Business Insider that Cohen's Stamford Harbor fund is likely to aim closer to $2 billion in fresh funds.

Several people familiar with the matter say that the fund was never expected to be as large as $10 billion. Cohen and the people working for him have been frustrated about the large numbers floating around. They create expectations that he may not be able to meet — making it seem like he missed his own goal, some of the people say. At $10 billion, the launch would be the largest ever for a new fund. 

A spokesperson for Cohen and Stamford Harbor declined to comment.

To be sure, even $2 billion is large by the standards of new hedge funds and it's not uncommon for hedge-fund managers to keep things vague so they don't wind up having to defend a smaller-than-expected capital raise. 

Of course, Cohen isn't quite in line with other new fund managers — he comes with both a record for astonishing returns and the legacy of an ugly insider trading investigation that got his fund, SAC Capital, shut down. 

It's clear that there's been some movement toward the fund launch. Some potential investors have received documents outlining the potential fund, but non-disclosure agreements are keeping them from revealing much of the detail, people close to the situation said. Everyone who spoke with Business Insider asked not to be named discussing private matters.  

The documents indicate investors will need to put in $100 million to gain access to the new fund and pay more than 2.5% in management fees, Business Insider earlier reported. Those terms are steep by hedge fund standards, but not entirely unexpected for a manager with Cohen's reputation.

Doug Blagdon, who previously headed marketing at SAC Capital Advisors, is leading the marketing effort at an external firm, ShoreBridge Partners. The effort has been relatively small scale and led separately from Cohen. 

Cohen is mostly known for long-short equity investing. He has been running a family office called Point72 Asset Management, with some $11 billion of his personal fortune and that of some staffers, since 2014 after he agreed not to manage other people's money and return outside investors' capital. The agreement came after a years-long insider trading investigation at SAC that ended with a conviction for one of Cohen's subordinates but not him. His failure, according to the SEC, was to supervise those traders as head of SAC Capital. SAC also pleaded guilty and paid a record fine, $1.2 billion, to settle insider-trading claims.

SEE ALSO: Steve Cohen just took a big step forward in his comeback with a massive new hedge fund

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Someone dressed up as the Monopoly man is trolling the ex-Equifax CEO's hearing in Congress

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

monopoly man troll

Richard Smith, the beleaguered ex-CEO of Equifax, spent the past 24 hours getting battered by lawmakers in testimony about the consumer data giant's massive security breach.

Wednesday marked his second day of testimony in front of Congress, and life's not getting any easier. 

During the testimony, one enterprising attendee of the Senate hearing is trolling Smith, sitting behind him in the gallery wearing a top hat, bushy white mustache, and a monocle. 

He's a dead ringer, of course, for the mascot from the board game Monopoly — a game that, if your experiences at all resemble mine, you'll recall celebrates unfettered capitalistic greed and results in all participants growing increasingly hostile over the course of the five hours it takes to complete the game. 

The monocle is a very nice touch.  

 You can watch the hearing live here

Last week, Smith stepped down from Equifax, which suffered from a hack that exposed the personal data of nearly  half the US population. 

Smith — who averaged $15 million in awarded executive compensation the past three years, according to Bloomberg data — is leaving with a golden parachute that could be worth more than $18 million, Bloomberg reported. 

Like the troll in the gallery, Smith's millions haven't been lost on Congress.

"I worry that your job today is about damage control: to put a happy face on your firm’s disgraceful actions and then depart with a golden parachute,” said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, on Tuesday before Smith’s opening remarks.

“Unfortunately, if fraudsters destroy my constituents’ savings and financial futures, there’s no golden parachute awaiting them,” he added.

In September, Equifax reported the massive data breach, saying hackers may have accessed the personal details, including names and Social Security numbers, of more than 143 million consumers from mid-May to July.

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BARCLAYS: Nvidia and AMD are safe for now, but a 'bomb' is coming (NVDA, AMD)

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

nvidia jen-hsun huang ceo

Cryptocurrencies have had a crazy year. As an example, ethereum has rocketed about 2,073.24% higher over the last year. The meteoric rise has been a big boost for graphics card makers like AMD and Nvidia, but the end is in sight.

Ethereum's rise has been good for AMD and Nvidia because the companies' graphics processing units are used to "mine" ethereum.

With ethereum's price dramatically increasing, it became economical to buy a GPU and use it to mine ethereum. Both AMD and Nvidia have profited from miners buying their GPUs, to the point that the cards from both companies were hard to find on shelves.

The question is, how long will ethereum miners continue to buy AMD and Nvidia's cards? According to one analyst at Barclays, the companies can breathe a sigh of relief for now, although a change in mining algorithms is coming and could be a problem.

"Artificial difficulty bombs are delayed until (estimated) 4Q18 as Proof-of-Stake is not ready yet," Blayne Curtis, an analyst at Barclays, said in a note to clients. "This means difficulty increases much more slowly, improving the trajectory of expected profits (holding all else equal) and likely sustains GPU sales for mining."

The proof-of-stake system Curtis called a "difficulty bomb" is a new way of verifying payments on the ethereum network. Instead of asking miners to solve complicated math problems that are well-suited to being calculated on GPUs, it operates under a sort of voting system where users vote on which payments are correct. The ethereum network is expected to eventually shift to this sort of verification, but it's not ready yet.

If and when ethereum does move to proof-of-stake verification, GPUs wouldn't give miners as much of an edge on the network, meaning the cards would fall out of vogue as a way of grabbing a larger piece of the verification payments. Luckily for Nvidia and AMD, this move was pushed back, and isn't expected until the end of 2018.

Because of this, Curtis raised his price targets for Nvidia and AMD. Essentially, both companies get to ride the cryptocurrency wave that increased demand for their chips for another year. Curtis raised his target for AMD from $9 to $10, and his price target for Nvidia from $140 to $200.

Curtis favors Nvidia because of its dominance in AI and he predicts that Nvidia's cards will continue to perform at higher levels than AMD's for the foreseeable future.

"The Crypto tailwind is hard to quantify but likely 2x the $170-180 million AMD/Nvidia identified in June with some gaming card manufacturers seeing 50-70% of current demand from mining as gaming demand is actually declining this year," Curtis said.

AMD is up 17.37% this year, while Nvidia is up 77.55%.

Click here to watch Nvidia's stock price rise in real time...

nvidia stock price

SEE ALSO: AMD is popping after releasing its newest low-power chip

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UBS: Netflix will remain the 'clear global leader' in video streaming (NFLX)

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

stranger things netflix

Shares of Netflix are up 81% over the last 12 months, and the streak doesn't show signs of stopping, UBS says.

The Swiss bank on Wednesday raised its price target for Netflix's stock to $225 from $190 — well above Wall Street's consensus target of $190, according to Bloomberg.

"We see upside to 3Q guidance based on our analysis suggesting subscriber growth momentum has sustained into 3Q with broad-based year-over-year improvements across almost all markets, similar to the dynamics our analysis showed in 2Q," analyst Doug Mitchelson said in a note.

"This despite what appears to be a weaker original content slate vs. 3Q16, suggesting growth is being driven more by the overall breadth of content on Netflix, streaming hitting critical mass in many international markets and strong markets and tech executions."

To be sure, this won't be an easy quarter for Netflix. The company is planning to spend $6 billion on original content, according to JPMorgan. Many of those shows and movies — including a second season of the wildly popular 80s horror homage "Stranger Things" — won't be airing new episodes this quarter.

International growth has far outpaced additions in the US in recent reports. In July, Netflix's second quarter earnings showed an uptick of 4.14 million subscriptions abroad, versus 1.07 million at home. Both areas were still ahead of Wall Street expectations.

The company is expected to add 3.65 million subscribers abroad and 0.75 million at home when it reports Q3 earnings on October 16.

"We believe Netflix's core competencies in both content and technology will drive a virtuous circle of greater subs and increased viewing time, enabling higher average-revenue-per-user and revenue, which will fuel content spending to attract even more subscribers, and so on," the bank said. "Positioning Netflix to sustain its position as the clear global leader in the emerging online video subscription business."

Shares of Netflix were up 3.2% Wednesday morning. 

Netflix stock price chart

SEE ALSO: Netflix has an enormous content budget

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Ripple Price Consolidates, But Could It 'Swell' Toward New Highs?

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

Price action and historical analysis suggests brighter days ahead for the XRP/USD exchange rate.

Amazon is shrugging off an order to pay $294 million in back taxes to the EU (AMZN)

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

Jeff Bezos

Amazon's stock seems to be shrugging off an order to pay a €250 million ($294 million) back tax payment. Shares of Amazon are up 0.58% at $962.80 after the news.

The order stems from Amazon's business organization in Europe which funneled most of the company's European profits through a holding company in Luxembourg that had more favorable tax laws.

Amazon's practice is not necessarily illegal in the EU. The company used a practice called "transfer pricing" which allows separate units of a single company to charge each other for goods or services. The problem lies in the rate at which the separate units of Amazon were taxed, which was found to be illegal, and led to the favorable tax arrangement Amazon had been operating under since 2003. Amazon moved most of its profits into a business unit that was not taxed as heavily as other areas of the company.

The European Commission has not been shy about taking on the biggest of the US's tech giants. Google was recently served with a $2.7 billion fine for its shopping search practices, which were found to be unfairly favoring Google's own services. Apple, like Amazon, was also ordered to pay back taxes last year, to the tune of $14.5 billion.

Amazon has said it is considering an appeal. Intel, which was served an anticompetition fine similar to Google, recently won its appeal and its case is to be retried.

Amazon shares are up 27.87% this year.

Click here to watch Amazon's stock price move in real time...

amazon stock price

SEE ALSO: Amazon has been ordered to pay Europe €250 million over unpaid back taxes

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Particl Matures With Feature Push and New Wallet App Release

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

Particl Thumb 2

While governments and mainstream media still equate privacy with only “bad things” as demonstrated by Europol’s recent report, the Particl Project has over delivered on its roadmap and quietly made big leaps in building apps for its decentralized privacy platform.
 
Particl’s most recent advancements include the release of a new multi-signature wallet, user interface updates and security upgrade with the latest Bitcoin protocol.

GUI Enhancements

From a usability perspective, Particl is evolving quickly. Particl developers are in the midst of building a series of new Graphical User Interface (GUI) features for the platform. Built on Electron, Particl has added GUI functionality for tasks such as importing wallets, configuring daemons and managing transactions, among others. The Particl team is also close to releasing GUI tools for managing API services via widget panels.

Aptly named “Particl Wallet,” this application is the straightforward, central interface for users to work with all parts of the Particl Platform — from wallet management, to transaction processing, to configuring the Particl software for any device on which a user chooses to run it. Future updates will include apps such as the Marketplace and End-to-End Encrypted Messaging.
Particl Core Updates

The Marketplace, the component of the Particl Platform where users can buy and sell goods and services in total anonymity among peers while using the cryptocurrency of their choice, is also undergoing rapid advancement. As part of Particl’s commitment to transparency, the project regularly publishes updates about project status and feature releases to a dedicated Status Report page on its website.
 
Last week, Particl rolled out integration with Bitcoin 0.15.0.1, the current “main release” of the protocol. The update makes the latest mainline Bitcoin features — such as multi-wallet support and performance enhancements — available to Particl users. Particl becomes one of the first Bitcoin projects to be protected by the 0.15 security fixes.
 
While being in step with the Bitcoin Core development team, Particl Core has also been enhanced with yet another privacy feature, complementing Confidential Transactions (CT) and RingCT. The team has developed what it terms “Cold Staking,” which allows stakers to operate joint wallets on different devices and assign one as a stake-only node and the other as a flexible spending account. This is a major security upgrade of all other Proof-of-Stake (PoS) projects that only offer an option to unlock their encrypted wallet for staking only. Typically, these staking machines are dedicated nodes not tied to a mobile app like Particl Copay, which gives freedom to use PART anywhere it is accepted.

New Wallet App

Alongside the expansion of codebase for the Particl platform and Marketplace, the project recently issued a major app release with the debut of Particl Copay.

Particl Copay is an HD wallet that supports multi-signature addresses for greater privacy and allows for shared wallets and multiple wallets. Particl’s PART token is paired with about 150 other fiat currencies.

The wallet is currently compatible with Android, Windows, macOS and Linux. Particl expects to add iOS and Chrome support in the near future. Particl Copay is an open source app that is derived from the codebase for Copay, a popular Bitcoin wallet from BitPay. 

The post Particl Matures With Feature Push and New Wallet App Release appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

China State News Calls for 'Iron Fist' Regulation of Bitcoin Exchanges

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

China's Xinhua News Agency has defended regulators' recent decision to outlaw token sales and the exchange closures that followed.

Goldman Sachs ponders Bitcoin trading

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

Price of Bitcoin

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Investment banking behemoth Goldman Sachs is considering introducing a new trading operation for Bitcoin and other major cryptocurrencies, according to anonymous sources cited by The Wall Street Journal.

Goldman's currency trading and strategic investment divisions are said to be involved in the venture, but the project is still at a very early stage and isn't guaranteed to go through, the sources added.

The bank is figuring out how to respond to growing client interest in cryptocurrencies.A Goldman spokesperson told the WSJ that the bank is investigating how to best meet intensifying "client interest in digital currencies." Goldman is still predominantly an investment bank, and most of its clients are corporations, financial institutions, governments, and individuals. As such, it is likely exploring how to both facilitate these groups' exposure to Bitcoin et al., as well as determine whether it wants to move into areas like market making, or even offer trading and clearing services for cryptocurrencies.

Goldman Sachs will likely be an early provider of cryptocurrency services among investment banks. The firm already has a track record of enthusiasm toward Bitcoin, as illustrated by moves including the establishment of an elaborate educational webpage on blockchain (the technology underpinning Bitcoin), and several analyst reports on the predicted rise of Bitcoin prices. That suggests whatever shape Goldman's final move in this area ends up taking, it will happen relatively soon. In turn, that will likely put pressure on other Wall Street players to move into the space, possibly pushing even those vocally opposed to Bitcoin, like JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon, to address the market.

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 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.

To get the full report, 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. >> Learn More Now

You can also purchase and download the full report from our research store.

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The FDA just approved a 'complex generic drug' and it's sending one stock soaring and another crashing (MYL, TEVA)

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

heather bresch

The FDA on Tuesday approved a generic version of Copaxone, a drug that treats multiple sclerosis that generates about $4.2 billion in revenue.

Shares of Teva Pharmaceuticals, which makes the branded version of Copaxone, fell by 11% on Wednesdsay, while Mylan, which makes the new generic version, was up as much as 18%. 

"Mylan has invested tens of millions of dollars over many years to bring this important medicine to market," Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said in a statement.
"Providing patients, healthcare providers and caregivers with treatment options is very important when it comes to selecting the right therapy for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis."

MS is a disease of the central nervous system that damages the material that surrounds your nerve cells, which are cells responsible for transmitting signals around the body. Cutting off those signals can lead to symptoms like muscle weakness, trouble with coordination, and problems with memory.

Copaxone is an injected drug, which makes it a bit more complicated to make than a standard generic pill. It's considered a "complex generic drug" by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. On Tuesday, the FDA came out with new guidance for these complex generic drugs to introduce more competition and help drive prices down. 

"In some cases, costly, branded drugs that are complex drugs have lost their exclusivity, but are subject to no generic competition," Gottlieb said in a blog post. "The new policies we’re announcing today are aimed at ensuring that we provide as much scientific and regulatory clarity as possible with respect to complex generic drugs."

This is the first time Copaxone will face generic competition. 

Screen Shot 2017 10 04 at 9.40.14 AM

SEE ALSO: A congressman just hit out at Trump, tweeting 'companies are charging $87k/yr for a drug YOU own'

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Hedge funds are turning their backs on tech stocks

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

new york stock exchange trader computer charts

My how the tide has turned for tech stocks.

Until recently, the industry was viewed as the indispensable driver of the equity market. Companies like the so-called FANG group — which includes Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google — received loads of credit for pushing stock indexes to new records.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, with hedge funds and other large speculators the most bearish in 16 months on the tech sector, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show.

What's more, investors have pulled roughly $900 million from exchange-traded funds tracking tech stocks in the past week alone, the biggest outflow for any industry, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Hedge Funds

And in a shocking twist for the Wall Street doomsayers who warned of a painful reckoning in the event of tech weakness, US indexes have continued to hit new all-time highs, even amid the shift in sentiment.

This surprising development is best explained by the ongoing rotation occurring in the stock market. As tech has faltered, energy and financial stocks have stepped up to fill the void. They've been boosted by a surged in crude oil prices and the prospect of higher interest rates, respectively, and it's proven to keep the 8 1/2-year bull market chugging along.

The truth is in the returns. Tech was up more than 25% in the first eight months of of the year, then fell in September. Meanwhile, the energy sector surged 9.8% in September after a 17% year-to-date decline through August.

With the benefit of hindsight, it's clear that this rotation has played out multiple times this year, with money pulled from tech simply being reallocated elsewhere in the stock market.

And now that the dynamic is attracting a little more attention, equity enthusiasts have yet another bullish argument to add to their tool belt.

SEE ALSO: JPMORGAN: Here's what could cause the next financial crisis

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Puerto Rico bonds collapse after Trump says its debt needs to be wiped out

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

trump melania puerto rico

Puerto Rico bonds fell to record lows Wednesday after President Donald Trump suggested that the US territory's debt may have to be written off. 

"You know they owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street," Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday. "We’re gonna have to wipe that out ... you can say goodbye to that. I don’t know if it’s Goldman Sachs but whoever it is, you can wave goodbye to that."

A benchmark general-obligation bond due in 2035 fell to a record low price of 34 cents from 44 cents on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg. The bond's price had already been falling since Hurricane Maria ravaged the island and destroyed much of its infrastructure. 

Puerto Rico's recovery is complicated by the fact that before the hurricane, it had about $70 billion in debt that it said it could not repay. 

"I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack," Trump said while visiting on Tuesday. 

Early Wednesday, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said that "we are not going to bail them out," Bloomberg reported, contrasting what Trump said. 

"Addressing the island’s debt burden should absolutely be part of the broader recovery discussion, but threats to wipe out bondholders appear more bombastic than actionable," Compass Point's Isaac Boltansky said in a note. He added that the legality of such a move is still in question. 

"Our sense is that President Trump’s comments were meant to empathize and possibly catalyze, but we do not believe his statements represent an actual threat to extrajudicially wipe out bondholders."

SEE ALSO: Puerto Rico needs federal relief and financial support, not lectures from ‘king of debt’ Trump

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Here's a super-quick guide to what traders are talking about right now

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

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, NY, U.S. May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Dave Lutz, head of ETFs at JonesTrading, has an overview of today's markets.

Here's Lutz:

Good Morning!  US Futures under some pressure, led by Smallcaps as the Greenback weakens and the FANG Lower as AMZN hit on EU Tax Headers.  A big sea of Red across Europe in very good volumes, as Catalan Angst ramping right now – IBEX hit for 2% to 7month lows, and Spain’s yields out almost 10bp against Bunds as the King’s speech was viewed as a “disaster” - Catalan President Puigdemont giving a speech at 3pmET.  The DAX is falling small, as Tech and Fins break lower, offset by a rally in Healthcare.  Italy’s market breaking lower by 1.5% as banks holding Spanish debt get hit.  FTSE down 10bp as Miners rally, but Oil majors weigh in London and Tesco’s initial bad was smacked hard.   Volumes more moderate in Asia, as China, Taiwan and South Korea remain closed – The TOPIX was up small, reversing early gains on negative Nissan headers - Hang Seng adds 70bp to yesterday’s rip higher as Chinese banks keep flying, and Aussie down 80bp as Retail and Banks got whacked 

Fed Funds resting at 77% for a December Hike ahead of Yellen this afternoon, but that Greenback is under good pressure as doves, including Kashkari, circle around the FOMC chair.   The Euro is shrugging off Catalonia, as PMIs come in better, while Sterling higher on UK Services PMI.   The Yen is nearing week’s highs on risk-aversion, and we are seeing a sharp bid in Bunds and Gold as Spain headers spark haven flows, driving the US10YY southside of the 200d.   The better PMIs have Nickel and Silver jumping this AM, while Copper is off small.   Oil doesn’t care about the huge API draw, as another huge build in Gasoline stocks weighs.  Beans are showing some life, while the grains look under pressure early.

SEE ALSO: 10 things you need to know before the opening bell

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The dollar is sliding

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

us dollar index

The dollar is sliding.

The US dollar index was down by 0.4% at 93.28 at 8:27 a.m. ET.

It has lost about 9% since President Donald Trump's inauguration.

"The US dollar has a softer tone today, and it was that way even for the European PMI," said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, in commentary.

"The greenback eased further after the upside momentum faded yesterday," he continued. "The heavier tone in Asia seemed spurred by a hedge fund manager's call that Minneapolis Fed President, and among the most dovish members of the FOMC, Kashkari would be the next Fed chair."

DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach told Bethany McLean at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit on Tuesday that Kashkari, currently the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, should be the next Fed chair because "he’s the most easy money guy at the Fed right now." He added, "I think I’m the only guy on God’s green earth that thinks it will be Neel Kashkari."

Meanwhile, Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs and Saleha Mohsin reported Tuesday that Trump's senior advisors have produced a short list of candidates for the position: Janet Yellen, current Fed chair; Gary Cohn, National Economic Council chair and former Goldman Sachs chief operating officer; Kevin Warsh, former Fed board governor; Jerome Powell, current Fed governor; John Taylor, economist at Stanford.

In economic data news, ADP nonfarm employment came in at 135,000 for September, in line with the Bloomberg consensus.

Market watchers pay attention to the ADP reading because it sometimes foreshadows what the jobs number will be the following Friday.

As for the rest of the world, here was the scoreboard at 8:32 a.m. ET:

  • The euro was up by 0.2% at 1.1770 against the dollar. German services PMI came in at 55.6 in September, in line with expectations and unchanged from the prior month.
  • The British pound was higher by 0.3% at 1.3267 against the dollar. British services PMI surprised on the upside, coming in at 53.6, above expectations of 53.2.
  • The Indian rupee was up by 0.6% at 65.090 per dollar. India's central bank held rates at 6.00%, as most were expecting.
  • The Russian ruble was stronger by 0.5% at 57.6195 per dollar, while Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, was down by 0.2% at $55.88 per barrel. Market services PMI came in at 55.2 in September, up from the prior month's 54.2.
  • The Japanese yen was up by 0.3% at 112.49 per dollar.

SEE ALSO: Oil could be hit hard by 3 major geopolitical risks that may be 'coming to a head in October'

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Energy shares plunge as Theresa May announces price cap plans

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

Theresa May conference

LONDON — Shares in UK energy companies plunged to multi-year lows on Wednesday after Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to cap prices in the near future.

Delivering a speech marred by controversies at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, May said she plans to write a law that will prevent energy companies hiking prices aggressively, saying current rules punish loyal customers.

"We will always take on monopolies and vested interests when they are holding people back," May told the conference.

"One of the greatest examples in Britain today is the broken energy market, because the energy market punishes loyalty with higher prices. The most loyal customers are often those with lower incomes, the elderly, people with lower qualifications, and people who rent their homes.

"That's why next week this government will publish a draft bill to put a price cap on energy bills, meeting our manifesto promise, and bringing an end to rip-off energy prices once and for all."

Shares in Centrica — the parent company of both British and Scottish Gas — and SSE plunged to multi-year lows following the announcement, reflecting fears that the cap will impact profits going forward.

Here's how both stocks look as of just after 1.00 p.m. BST — note the big drops just after 12.30 p.m. BST, as May delivered her speech:CentricaSSE

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Meet the Rising Stars on Wall Street shaking up investing, trading and dealmaking

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

Introducing the Rising Stars on Wall Street age 35 and under.

We scoured our contacts for ideas on who we should include, receiving recommendations from bosses, colleagues, recruiters and others working in the finance industry. The editors made final decisions.

We've included people with a variety of roles and experiences, from companies including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, New York Stock Exchange, BlackRock and Bridgewater.

We came across many talented people, and this list is by no means comprehensive. To be eligible, we asked that nominees be based in or around the New York area, age 35 or under, and distinguished in some way from the pack.

Here's Business Insider's list of the top young Wall Streeters.

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Spanish markets are taking a hammering as tensions in Catalonia boil over

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

Catalonia vote protester

LONDON — Spain's stock market is taking a pounding on Wednesday as tensions in Catalonia boil over, and the region's leaders draw closer to declaring independence from the rest of the country.

Spain's benchmark index, the IBEX 35, has fallen more than 2% and dropped below 10,000 points for the first time since mid-2015.

It follows Catalonia's leader Carles Puigdemont saying that the region will declare independence from Spain within days.

"We're going to declare independence 48 hours after all the official results are counted," he said, according to a BBC translation.

"This will probably finish when we have the votes in from abroad at the end of the week, and therefore we will act over the weekend or early next week."

Puigdemont's comments came as Spain's king made a rare intervention in the country's politics. King Felipe VI gave a televised address to the nation on Tuesday evening, saying that Catalan authorities "have placed themselves outside the law and democracy, they have tried to break the unity of Spain and national sovereignty.

It is the "responsibility of the legitimate powers of the state to ensure the constitutional order," he added.

Catalonia on Sunday held an independence referendum, with about 90% of voters backing a split from the rest of the country. Turnout was 43%.

Spain's central government does not recognise the vote as legitimate and it has been condemned as illegal by the European Commission.

Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group said in an email: "Spanish politics is acting as a drag on the positive read-across from the record highs on Wall Street. The resolve of regional officials in Catalonia to announce independence from Spain has caught markets off-guard." 

"Given their turbulent history and strong ties to the economy, short-sellers will target Spanish banks during any political instability involving Catalonia," he added. The IBEX's biggest fallers include Caixabank (down 6.8%), Banco Sabadell (down 6.3%), Bankia (down 4.2%), and BBVA (down 3.63%.)

Here's the IBEX-wide chart soon after 12.30 p.m. BST (7.30 a.m. ET):

IBEX oct 4

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

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

Catalonia protests

Here is what you need to know.

Trump has a short list of Fed candidates. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen; the National Economic Council director, Gary Cohn; the former Fed board governor Kevin Warsh; and the current governor Jerome Powell are on Trump's short list to become Fed chair when Yellen's term expires next year, according to Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs and Saleha Mohsin, citing two senior administration officials.

Spain's king weighs in on Catalonia's independence referendum. King Felipe VI criticized Catalan authorities Tuesday in a rare TV appearance, saying they "have placed themselves outside the law and democracy, they have tried to break the unity of Spain and national sovereignty," according to a translation of the speech by the Financial Times.

Lloyd Blankfein isn't sure what to think about bitcoin. On Tuesday, Blankfein became the latest Wall Street CEO to chime in about the cryptocurrency, tweeting: "Still thinking about #Bitcoin. No conclusion — not endorsing/rejecting. Know that folks also were skeptical when paper money displaced gold."

JPMorgan is the largest US bank by assets and market cap. The bank's deposits grew by $96 billion, or 7.9%, over the past year to $1.31 trillion as of June 30, according to data released this week by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The European Union hits Amazon with a huge fine. The European Commission has ordered Amazon to pay 250 million euros (about $295 million) of unpaid back taxes after discovering an illegal "sweetheart" tax deal in Luxembourg.

Every Yahoo account was compromised by hackers. All 3 billion user accounts that were active in 2013 were affected by the security breach, the company, which Verizon acquired in June, said on Tuesday. The company had previously estimated that 1 billion accounts were hacked.

Softbank is taking a big stake in Uber. The Japanese conglomerate will take a stake of up to 17% in Uber, a person familiar with the matter told Business Insider. Uber plans to go public by 2019.

Stock markets around the world are mixed. Hong Kong's Hang Seng (+0.73%) led the gains in Asia, and France's CAC (-0.37%) trails in Europe. The S&P 500 is set to open unchanged near 2,534.

Earnings reporting is light. Monsanto and Pepsi release their quarterly results ahead of the opening bell.

US economic data flows. ADP Employment Change will be released at 8:15 a.m. ET before Markit PMI and ISM nonmanufacturing are announced 9:45 a.m. ET and 10 a.m. ET, respectively. The US 10-year yield is down 1 basis point at 2.31%.

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

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

Catalonia protests

Here is what you need to know. 

Trump has a short list of Fed candidatesFed Chair Janet Yellen, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, former Fed board governor Kevin Warsh and current governor Jerome Powell are on Trump's short list, according to Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs and Saleha Moshin, citing two senior administration officials. 

Spain's king weighs in on Catalonia's independence referendumKing Felipe VI criticized Catalan authorities in a rare TV appearance on Tuesday, saying they "have placed themselves outside the law and democracy, they have tried to break the unity of Spain and national sovereignty," according to a translation of the speech by the Financial Times. 

Lloyd Blankfein isn't sure what to think about bitcoin. On Tuesday, Blankfein became the latest Wall Street CEO to chime in about the cryptocurrency, tweeting, "Still thinking about #Bitcoin. No conclusion - not endorsing/rejecting. Know that folks also were skeptical when paper money displaced gold."

JPMorgan is the largest US bank by assets and market capThe bank's deposits grew by $96 billion, or 7.9%, over the past year to $1.31 trillion as of June 30, according to data released this week by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The European Union hits Amazon with a huge fineThe European Commission has ordered Amazon to pay €250 million (about $295 million) of unpaid back taxes after discovering an illegal "sweetheart" tax deal in Luxembourg.  

Every single Yahoo account was compromised by hackersAll 3 billion user accounts that were active in  2013 were impacted by the security breach, the company, which Verizon acquired in June, said on Tuesday. The company had previously estimated that 1 billion accounts were hacked.

Softbank is taking a big stake in UberThe Japanese conglomerate will take a stake of up to 17% in Uber, which will IPO by 2019, a person familiar with the matter told Business Insider. 

Stock markets around the world are mixedHong Kong's Hang Seng (+0.73%) led the gains in Asia and France's CAC (-0.37%) trails in Europe. The S&P 500 is set to open unchanged near 2,534.

Earnings reporting is lightMonsanto and Pepsi release their quarterly results ahead of the opening bell. 

US economic data flowsADP Employment Change will be released at 8:15 a.m. ET before Markit PMI and ISM non-manufacturing are announced 9:45 a.m. ET and 10 a.m. ET, respectively. The US 10-year yield is down 1 basis point at 2.31%. 

Join the conversation about this story »

Greek Court Backs Extradition of Alleged Bitcoin Exchange Operator to US

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

A Greek court has backed a request that the alleged former operator of bitcoin exchange BTC-e should be extradited to the U.S. for trial.

A British insurtech startup has raised £27 million in its mission to become the 'Uber of premium finance'

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

Lloyds Building

LONDON — PremFina, a British insurtech startup that aims to make insurance more accessible, has raised £27 million ($36 million) in a funding round led by Rakuten Capital, the investment arm of Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten.

PremFina, which wants to "promote financial inclusion" by removing lump sum payments from insurance premiums, secured investments from Rakuten, as well as Draper Esprit, Thomvest Ventures, Emery Capital, Rubicon Venture Capital, and Talis Capital. The company's founder, Bundeep Singh Rangar also invested.

The funding round, which included both debt and equity, saw the equity portion oversubscribed by three times, the company said in a press release.

"The participation of outstanding investors from Toronto to Tokyo in our oversubscribed round highlights the vast opportunity ahead for PremFina," Rangar said.

"Premium financing is an industry that’s been crying out for innovation. The incumbents have remained largely unchallenged due to age-old barriers to entry, such as the lack of funding for insurance start-ups, costs and time of regulatory compliance and significant investment in technological capability needed to meaningfully enter the market."

PremFina's product effectively provides a means for insurance brokers to communicate with their customers, while also enabling brokers to offer finance to their clients, eliminating the need for a lump sum payment on insurance policies.

Rangar believes that the product is similar to Uber in the way it connects the two parties, and according to Bloomberg, has dubbed PremFina the "Uber of premium finance."

Unheard of a few years ago, insurtech has become one of the hottest areas of investment for venture capitalists over the past 18 months. Inspired by the success of fintech startups, investors and entrepreneurs are keen to take on the paper-heavy world of insurance and bring it into the digital and mobile age.

In September, a report from Accenture showed that more than £200 million has been invested into UK insurtech so far this year amid a flood of interest from investors.

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Insurance giant Legal & General leads £40 million investment into lending startup SalaryFinance

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

Dan Cobley

  • Legal & General leads £40 million investment into two-year-old startup SalaryFinance as part of new insurance fintech operation.
  • Business lets employees borrow money against future pay cheques. Also provides financial education through its platform.
  • Funding will go towards US expansion, CEO says.

LONDON — FTSE 100 financial services giant Legal & General has led a £40 million investment into a fintech — financial technology — startup cofounded by Google's former UK MD that lets staff borrow money secured against future pay cheques.

SalaryFinance, founded in 2015, partners with employers to let their staff apply for loans of up to 20% of their salary at interest rates from 3.9% APR. The startup also lets people set up savings based on their salaries and works with the likes of Metro Bank, recruiter Hays, and Hackney Council.

The company describes itself as a "financial wellbeing" business and aims to help staff manage their finances through educational tools as well as loans.

The business was spun out of London-based business builder Blenheim Chalcot, which also invested in the round, and was cofounded by Dan Cobley, Blenheim Chalcot's head of fintech investment and the former managing director of Google in the UK.

Legal & General Insurance Fintech

Bernie Hickman, CEO of Legal & General Insurance, said in a release announcing the deal: "Financial wellbeing lies at the heart of Legal & General’s business. We provide workplace pensions for 2.4 million customers, Group Protection benefits for 2 million UK employees and protection cover for over 5 million individuals.

"We want to help our customers and our employees manage and improve their financial health, using technology to make it easy to access a range of great value products and services. I am excited by the opportunity to work in partnership with SalaryFinance to broaden out and scale up this already successful and socially useful business, improving the financial wellbeing of many more people."

Hickman said the investment is part of the newly created Legal & General Insurance Fintech business that "brings together the many benefits and strategic advantages that Legal & General enjoys with the fast pace, technology first, customer-centric approaches of successful digital startups, such as SalaryFinance."

Legal & General is one of a number of financial services companies looking to tap into the current boom in fintech businesses. Most banks have set up either business accelerators or venture capital arms dedicated to fintech, while fellow insurer Aviva has also set up a fintech investment arm and vowed to become a fintech business itself.

SalaryFinance say the £40 million investment will be used to fund expansion to the US. CEO Asesh Sarkar said in a statement: "This investment now gives us the ability to take our growth to the next level, allowing us to launch into new and exciting product areas, such as savings. Our market leading Financial Wellbeing Hub is just the first step."

SalaryFinance's funding round follows a £100 million investment led by Goldman Sachs last month into rival Neyber, which also provides loans secured against pay cheques and paints itself as a financial wellbeing business.

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NOW WATCH: THE BOTTOM LINE: A lot of talk of a bitcoin bubble and a few good reasons to believe tech isn't one

'The whistle is about to blow': Secret report exposed Tesco's £250 million accounting scandal, court hears

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

  • Three former Tesco executives on trial for fraud over £250 million accounting black hole in 2014. They deny the charges.
  • A court heard that a senior accountant secretly prepared a document allegedly uncovering the inflated profits.
  • The document was eventually handed to Tesco CEO Dave Lewis, who was said to be shocked by its contents.
  • The trial is expected to last between 10 and 12 weeks.

Tesco Group Chief Executive, Dave Lewis speaks at an analyst presentation in London, Britain, April 12, 2017.LONDON — A document prepared secretly by a senior Tesco accountant in 2014 exposed a £250 million profit overstatement that wiped billions from the retailer's value when its contents were made public, a court heard on Tuesday.

Opening the case for the prosecution for a third day, Sasha Wass QC told a jury at Southwark Crown Court that Amit Soni, a senior accountant at Tesco, secretly prepared a report on payments from suppliers that Tesco had "pulled forward" from future accounting periods in order to cover up an accounting black hole.

An email Soni wrote colleagues on September 3, 2014 — weeks before Tesco released the trading update that wiped billions from its stock market value — was read out in court and contained the line: "The whistle is about to blow."

"It has consumed my life in the last four to five weeks," Soni's email read. "Collecting information in secret, getting my team to understand what I want, and doing it in a subtle way, and only on my desktop [computer]."

"The fight starts now. It's the fight I have to have if Tesco has to become better."

Three former Tesco executives are standing trial for fraud by false accounting and fraud by abuse of position. They were charged last year after Tesco was found to have inflated its profits by nearly £250 million ($331 million) in 2014.

She recognised a hand grenade when she saw one

The jury was told that Soni's report was sent to the defendants in the hope that they would raise the issue with the newly-appointed CEO Dave Lewis.

When they did not, the jury heard that Soni sent the paper to Kay Majid, a member of Tesco's legal team.

Wass told the court: "She recognised a hand grenade when she saw one, because she forwarded the paper to the [rest of the] legal team."

The secret paper was later sent to Lewis, to whom Wass said the contents were "a complete shock." He commissioned internal and external auditors, and issued a trading update which made Tesco's true financial position clear, Wass said.

Former Tesco UK managing director Christopher Bush, former UK finance director Carl Rogberg, and former food commercial director John Scouler are each standing trial for fraud by false accounting and of fraud by abuse of position.

The trio were formally charged by the Senior Fraud Office last year. Lawyers acting for the trio have already pleaded not guilty. Bush, Rogberg, and Scouler were part of the so-called "Cheshunt Eight," a group of senior Tesco employees who all left the company following the 2014 scandal.

The trial continues.

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Tesco's profit bounces back and dividend returns as turnaround plan pays off

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

Tesco supermarket shopping bags are pictured on October 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. Tesco, one of Britain's biggest supermarkets, has announced a 91.9% plunge in pre-tax profits to £112 million for the first half of the year. (Photo by )

LONDON — Tesco reinstated its dividend on Wednesday as half-year results showed the second phase of CEO Dave Lewis' turnaround plan is paying off.

Tesco's results for the first sixth months of the year show:

  • Sales up 3.3%, or 0.7% without currency effects, to £25.2 billion;
  • Operating profit up 27.3% to £759 million;
  • Pre-tax profit up 691.5% to £562 million;
  • Dividend reinstated at 1p per share.

Tesco shares rose 2% at the open in London on the back of the numbers.

CEO Dave Lewis' said in Wednesday's statement: "We are continuing to make strong progress. Sales are up, profits are up, cash generation continues to strengthen and net debt levels are less than half what they were when we started our turnaround three years ago."

Lewis was parachuted in as CEO of Tesco in late 2014 while the supermarket was in the midst of a £250 million accounting scandal (which is currently playing out in London's courts). Lewis, a former Unilever executive, instituted a turnaround plan in 2015 and announced the "second phase" of that plan, aimed at margin recovery, last October.

Wednesday's results show operating margin up to 2.7%, from 2.2% last year, and Tesco says it is "on track for 3.5-4.0% ambition by 2019/20."

Lewis said: "Today's announcement that we are resuming our dividend reflects our confidence that we can build on our strong performance to date and in doing so, create long-term, sustainable value for all of our stakeholders."

UK sales were up 2.2% in the first half, boosted by rising petrol prices at the start of the year, and profit was boosted by the sale of properties.

Tesco says in its results: "Market conditions have been challenging with inflationary pressure being felt throughout the half but we have worked hard with our supplier partners to minimise price increases for customers. Our overall sales inflation in the half was around 1% less than that of the rest of the market, helping us become even more competitive."

Neil Wilson, an analyst at ETX Capital, said it looks like Tesco is "flexing its muscles with suppliers – something to consider if and when the Booker deal goes through."

Tesco is currently pursuing a multibillion-pound merger with wholesale food retailer Booker. Tesco says it expects the Competition and Markets Authority's verdict on the deal by the end of the month, with its full report due by the end of the year.

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10 things you need to know in markets today

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

Jeff Bezos, Chairman and founder of Amazon.com and owner of The Washington Post, addresses the Economic Club of New York, at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, October 27, 2016 in New York City. Bezos discussed the future of Amazon, space travel, and his ownership of The Washington Post. (Photo by)

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

1. Amazon is the latest tech giant about to be slapped with a massive fine. The European Commission is preparing to bill the company for back taxes in Luxembourg, where Amazon has set up a complex structure to pay minimal tax on its European operations, The Financial Times first reported. The bill could total several hundred million euros and will reportedly be announced on Wednesday around 11.00 a.m. BST (6.00 a.m. ET).

2. Spain's King Felipe VI made a rare televised address to the country, criticizing the Catalan government after the region held an independence referendum on Sunday. Catalan authorities "have placed themselves outside the law and democracy, they have tried to break the unity of Spain and national sovereignty," he said. It was the "responsibility of the legitimate powers of the state to ensure the constitutional order," he added.

3. Yahoo's infamous hack — already one of the worst in history — is even worse than previously thought. All 3 billion user accounts it had in 2013 were affected by the security breach, the company, which Verizon acquired in June, said on Tuesday. Yahoo had previously estimated the hack affected 1 billion accounts.

4. The European Parliament has voted to say that Brexit talks should not move on to the next stage as there has been no "sufficient progress." MEPs on Tuesday backed a motion by 557 votes to 92 that said negotiations should not be allowed to progress to the future relationship between the UK and the European Union unless there is a "major breakthrough."

5. UBS is cutting earnings estimates for Wall Street firms, saying the industry is unprepared for impending European regulatory changes. The sweeping market regulatory reforms in Europe known as MiFID II (Markets in Financial Instruments Directive) are set to go live at the start of 2018, and uncertainty is lingering across the financial world regarding the extent of the impact. 

6. Wall Street's top oil watcher says there are three geopolitical headwinds that might be "coming to a head in October" — and they could have implications for oil markets. The three risks come from uncertainty surrounding Iraq's Kurdish region, the nuclear deal with Iran, and the ongoing crisis in Venezuela, according to RBC Capital Markets' Helima Croft.

7. For the first time in 23 years, JPMorgan leads US banks in total deposits, according to data released this week by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The firm's deposits grew by $96 billion, or 7.9%, in the past year to reach $1.31 trillion as of June 30, 2017, according to the FDIC. That was enough to edge out Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which finished with $1.29 trillion.

8. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein says he's still studying bitcoin, adding that people were also "skeptical when paper money displaced gold." The billionaire banker tweeted on Tuesday that he wasn't completely sure about his stance on the red-hot cryptocurrency. Blankfein said he's "still thinking about bitcoin" and that he was not flat out endorsing or denouncing the digital currency.

9. The toxic environment at the top of Tesco during 2014's accounting scandal led to "compromised" staff, nervous breakdowns, and resignations, a court heard on Tuesday. Opening the prosecution's case for a third day, Sasha Wass QC told a jury at Southwark Crown Court that two staff in Tesco's commercial finance team "felt so compromised by the misrecording of profits that they did resign rather than engage in what they considered to be practices that were unlawful."

10. The Bank of England continues to warn about possible post-Brexit risks to the stability of the UK's economy. The bank published the record of its latest Financial Policy Committee meeting on Tuesday and both clearing and Brexit were high on the agenda. The FPC — which is tasked with ensuring financial stability in the UK — said that there are "significant risks from disruption to cross-border clearing activity between the UK and EU."

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$9 billion startup Stripe has a new plan to make shopping online less frustrating

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

Stripe cofounders Patrick and John Collison

Shopping online kind of stinks. Or at least, checking out once you've decided you want something does. 

For instance: According to a survey commissioned by $9 billion startup Stripe, almost half of the top 100 online shopping sites don't have autofill working, so your web browser can't just automatically scribble in your name and shipping address. 20 of the top sites don't give you a numeric keypad for entering credit card numbers. And so on.

Conveniently, then, Stripe today launched Elements, a new service designed to make it super-simple for developers to build checkout forms on their apps and sites that actually work. It's free for Stripe customers.

Like Stripe's other products, Elements is designed for developers to build into their apps. The flagship Stripe technology allows businesses to accept payments through their apps or websites. Companies like Salesforce, Lyft, and even Amazon rely on Stripe to process some or all of their online payments, invisibly to the user.

"You should never know it's a Stripe product," Lachy Groom, head of payments products at Stripe, tells Business Insider.

In a more cosmic sense, Groom says that this plays straight into Stripe's self-given mission: Making it easier for anybody, anywhere to do business. Better checkout pages mean more money. Wish, an early customer, used Elements to build a checkout page that resulted in a 7% higher conversion rate for mobile shoppers, says Groom.

stripe elements

A checkout form powered by Stripe Elements carries some benefits, beyond just autofill working, says Groom. If you suddenly decided to start accepting Apple Pay, Alibaba's AliPay, or even bitcoin, it just takes a few clicks to add that option to your checkout page. 

There are security benefits, too. Payment information that's entered into an Elements-powered checkout page is transmitted straight to Stripe, not the businesses' own servers. That's a prerequisite for PCI certification, a major security standard. It's also a complicated process that's difficult for businesses to achieve on their own. 

"There is no reason why anyone should be an expert in PCI compliance," says Groom. 

Stripe Elements is at least superficially similar to services offered by Braintree, a PayPal subsidiary that's also one of Stripe's most direct competitors. However, Groom says that Elements sets itself apart by "attention to detail," and by making it easier for developers to integrate into their apps. 

SEE ALSO: $9 billion Stripe has a master plan to take over the world — or at least, open it up for business

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NOW WATCH: The reason millennials became obsessed with payment app Venmo has nothing to do with money

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