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Bitcoin surges above $13,000 to new high

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

The digital currency has seen its value double in the last month in a volatile journey.

Steam no longer accepts bitcoin for game purchases

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

Have you been stockpiling bitcoin to go on a Steam shopping spree? You'll need to change your plans. Valve has stopped accepting bitcoin due to a combination of high transaction costs (up from 20 cents in the beginning to $20) and "volatility" in t...

Regulation and the Future of Cryptocurrency at Token Summit II

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

Token Summit 17

On December 5th, 2017, the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco hosted cryptocurrency enthusiasts in suits, hoodies and everything in between. Token Summit II, presented by William Mougayar, author of “The Business Blockchain,” and Nick Tomaino, founder of 1confirmation, was a hub for cohesion and problem-solving in the blockchain space. Experts gathered from every corner of the industry to discuss government regulation, cryptocurrency initiatives and the future of blockchain technology.

Here are some of the highlights from the conference.

Regulation Trials and Tribulations

Nancy Wojtas, partner at Cooley; Kathryn Haun, board member at Coinbase; Stan Miroshnik, CEO and managing director at Element; and Lowell Ness, partner at Perkins Coie, demystified and further debated looming government regulation (and lack thereof).

Common questions that echoed throughout the panel: Which regulatory agency should investors focus on? Are tokens securities? Will there be new regulation or does existing regulation suffice?

Haun believes that “people in the ICO space are myopically focused on the SEC.” Although the SEC has already issued guidance and issued emergency action, there is an “alphabet soup” of other agencies that could issue further regulation. Federal and state regulatory agencies such as the DOJ could also intervene –– which could involve prison time for breaking the law.

Wojtas, on the other hand, explained her perception that because the SEC is leading the charge, other agencies are taking a backseat. She speculated that “[people] are free to continue to do what we are doing,” while being sensitive to all regulations.

The short answer from the entire panel on whether or not tokens should count as securities: the government hasn’t figured it out yet. They agreed that until the government sets a precedent in court, there is no clear answer.

A utopian scenario in terms of regulating the industry as a whole would entail new regulatory schemes that specialize in blockchain technology and tokenization. The panelists suggested that there is a low likelihood for new regulation in the United States but that investors might see clarity once there is a body of cases that grows from tokens challenging the government in court or vice versa.

Token Transparency and ICO Insights

Messari, a new transparency and disclosures project, shared their vision to become the open source data library for the universe of crypto assets –– an SEC EDGAR-like solution for consumer protection. Ryan Selkis, founder of the Messari project, summarized the crux of cryptocurrency: Quasi-fiduciaries are selling quasi-securities, and there is no gold standard for disclosure.

By creating an open data library, Messari hopes to serve all people: consumers, investors, lawyers and beyond. The team is committed to neutrality, working with regulatory standards bodies and cryptocurrency projects on a global scale to provide a free, open-source database.

Crypto Valley > Silicon Valley?

Oliver Bussmann, President of the Crypto Valley Association, utilized his panel time to entice potential cryptocurrency token founders to consider the Crypto Valley (Zug, Switzerland) as the ultimate location to launch their venture. The Valley is leveraging Switzerland’s deep-rooted culture of privacy protection, confidentiality and legal certainty to become one of the fastest-growing global ecosystems. It boasts over 500 total members and an increase of 30 members per month. It’s no surprise that Crypto Valley churns out cryptocurrencies like clockwork. The Valley has produced 10+ large scale Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) with 40+ in the process and 170+ in the pipeline.

In an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Bussmann explained that unlike other ecosystems, such as Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs can expect to find every possible resource necessary for a successful token launch within a 30-mile radius of Crypto Valley.

“We have advisors helping with value proposition and token economy, seasoned legal experts, tax experts, accounting experts, people specialized in global marketing and global communications PR, secure ICO launch platforms, independent audit firms, smart contract audits, KYC, AML utilities and a community of investors looking to support the product.”

The Future of Cryptocurrency

Naval Ravikant, founder of AngelList, shared his thoughts about the current state of cryptocurrency. In his opinion, cryptocurrency seems to be going mainstream faster than expected. He cited factors such as “savings accounts returning nothing and federal reserves returning nothing” as motivators that investors might have for entering the cryptocurrency market. He also attributed the massive increase in market capitalization to the cryptocurrencies’ ability to “absorb infinite speculative money.” However, Ravikant believes that a regulation-free grace period is still necessary for cryptocurrencies to develop properly.

When asked where he hypothesizes cryptocurrencies are in terms of bubble status, Ravikant replied that money can be a bubble that doesn’t pop and that he isn’t sure about the severity of the cryptocurrency bubble. As he explained, “If we all agree that something has value, it does.”

In regards to government regulation, Ravikant’s answer was straight to the point:

“It’s not a question of when the government will get blockchain, but how.”



The post Regulation and the Future of Cryptocurrency at Token Summit II appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Citi is dropping after warning the Senate GOP tax bill could cost it $20 billion (C)

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

Citi share dive on senate plan

  • Citigroup fell 1.4% Wednesday after CFO John Gerspach warned at an investor conference that the GOP's Senate tax bill could cost the bank $20 billion. 
  • The hit would stem from Citi writing down deferred tax assets, a charge analysts had previously estimated at only $12 billion, according to a Bloomberg report.
  • Shares opened the day at $76.30 and fell to $75.44 at the closing bell.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Economist Jim Rickards on gold versus bitcoin — intrinsic value is meaningless for both but the bitcoin prices aren't real

Lululemon beats on earnings and raises its guidance (LULU)

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

lululemon employees

  • Lululemon beat on both the top and bottom lines.
  • The company raised its full-year 2017 adjusted earnings per share guidance.
  • Shares climbed more than 7% on the results.

 

Lululemon shares climbed more than 7% in after-hours trading on Wednesday after the company reported better than expected top and bottom line results and raised its guidance.

The athletic-apparel retailer earned an adjusted $0.56 a share, handily beating the $0.52 that Wall Street analysts surveyed by Bloomberg were anticipating. 

Revenue rose 14% versus a year ago to $619 million while total comparable sales, including direct to consumer and in-store sales, jumped 8% year-over-year.  

Lululemon raised its full-year 2017 adjusted earnings per share guidance to a range between $2.45 and $2.48, up from its previous guess of $2.35 to $2.42.

"As we start the holiday season, I'm energized by our momentum and we are increasing guidance to reflect this performance," CEO Laurent Potdevin said in the earnings release. "I'm grateful for the enthusiasm I see every day across our collective as we remain on our path to delivering $4 billion in revenue in 2020."

Additionally, Lululemon's board of directors authorized a $200 million share buyback program.

Shares of the company are up 7.33% this year. 

Lululemon

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STOCKS STAY PUT: Here's what you need to know

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

home depot

Stocks swung between green and red Wednesday, finishing largely unchanged after oil took a tumble and the threat of a possible government shutdown if no government spending deal is reached this week. 

Here’s the scoreboard:

  • S&P 500: 2,629.27 (-0.01%)
  • Dow: 24,142.01 (-0.16%)
  • Nasdaq: 6,776.38 (+0.23%)
  • Oil: $55.89 (-2.73%)
  • 10-year treasury bond: 2.35% (-0.83)
  1. UnitedHealth Group Inc said it would buy kidney care services provider DaVita Inc's medical unit for about $4.9 billion cash, as the health insurer looks to expand operations in outpatient care services.
  2. Home Depot is buying back $15 billion worth of its stock from shareholders.
  3. Major Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs, say to expect more M&A activity in 2018 thanks to the GOP tax plan and robust cash levels.
  4. Tim Cook gave a big speech about apps in China, but the stock stayed flat.

In other news…

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STOCKS STAY PUT: Here's what you need to know

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

home depot

Stocks swung between green and red Wednesday, finishing largely unchanged after oil took a tumble and the threat of a possible government shutdown looms if no government spending deal is reached this week. 

Here’s the scoreboard:

  • S&P 500: 2,628.59 (-0.04%)
  • Dow: 24,152.50 (-0.12%)
  • Nasdaq: 6,778.031 (+0.23%)
  • Oil: $55.89 (-2.73%)
  • 10-year treasury bond: 2.35% (-0.83)
  1. UnitedHealth Group Inc said it would buy kidney care services provider DaVita Inc's medical unit for about $4.9 billion cash, as the health insurer looks to expand operations in outpatient care services.
  2. Home Depot is buying back $15 billion worth of its stock from shareholders
  3. Major Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs, say to expect more M&A activity in 2018 thanks to the GOP tax plan and robust cash levels.
  4. Tim Cook gave a big speech about apps in China, but the stock stayed flat.

In other news…

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Disney CEO Bob Iger will reportedly stay on past 2019 if his company acquires Fox's TV assets (DIS)

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

bob iger mickey mouse

  • Disney CEO Bob Iger could stay on past the end of his contract in July 2019 if his company buys 21st Century Fox's TV assets, the Wall Street Journal says.
  • Iger would help integrate Fox's assets into Disney's portfolio.
  • James Murdoch has been floated as a possible successor to Iger if a deal is reached with Fox.

 

Disney CEO Bob Iger will stay with the company past 2019 if a deal can be worked out for 21st Century Fox's TV assets, according to the Wall Street Journal's Ben Fritz. Iger would help integrate Fox's assets into Disney's portfolio the report said. 

Wednesday's news comes just one day after a CNBC report suggested Disney and 21st Century Fox were closing in on a deal for Fox's TV assets, which have an enterprise value of about $60 billion. The assets include A&E and Star TV networks, as well as its regional sports operation, movie studios, and stakes in Sky and Hulu, and others. The proposed deal would leave Fox with its news and sports assets. 

Back in March, Iger's contract was extended until July 2019, sparking speculation he could enter the 2020 election. He has been urged by friends to make a run for the Oval Office and was reportedly considering such a move. 

Following Tuesday report that the two sides were closing in on a deal, the Financial Times suggested James Murdoch was "suggested" as a possible replacement for Iger in 2019. The thought being Murdoch would take a role as a senior executive with Disney as he was being groomed to succeed Iger.  

Shares of Disney slipped to session lows on the news before settling down 1.58% at $105.53 apiece. They're down 0.61% this year. 

 

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Mark Cuban’s One Rule for Investing in Bitcoin

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

It's pretty simple.

Bitcoin Price Mimicking Trajectory of Silver in 1970s: Legendary Trader

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

[…]

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Bitcoin's Price Shoots Past $13,000 to Reach New All-Time High

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

The price of bitcoin has broken to yet another all-time high today, crossing the $13,000 line for the first time.

Aetna wants to create a 'Genius Bar' at CVS, and it could forever change the way Americans access healthcare (CVS)

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

CVS Health CEO

  • CVS Health and Aetna's $69 billion merger would create an entirely new healthcare company, one that contains an insurer, pharmacy, and a company that negotiates prescription drug costs, among other businesses. 
  • The deal would put a lot more of the healthcare system under CVS's oversight and change the way people access their healthcare. 
  • It might mean, for instance, that a lot more healthcare happens outside a traditional doctor's office.


CVS Health's $69 billion merger with the health insurer Aetna could put a lot more of the healthcare system all under one roof. 

The combined companies, which altogether include a health insurance business, retail pharmacies, and a company that negotiates prescription drug prices with drugmakers called a pharmacy benefits manager, would have a lot more control over how people access and pay for healthcare. 

The intent of the deal is to create "health hubs," where communities can better improve their health, in a way that they might not if their pharmacy was separate from their urgent care and their insurance company. 

Here's how Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini explained it on a call with investors on Monday: 

"The real important part here is that we need to understand that almost 60% of Americans don't have a regular doctor. A lot of people can't get in to see the doctor they want to see. So I view the offering — I think it's less about what the store looks like and more about the offering, and the experience the customer gets is really about a patient-centered medical home model, where we're supporting interaction with the medical community, preparing people for appropriate compliance, preparing them for their visits, setting up appointments, eliminating prior ops, doing all those other sorts of things to help navigate that system for them. So the relationship becomes one of trust. And what I want to use over and over and over again because it makes it so much simpler."

The "patient-centered medical home" model that Bertolini refers to is a kind of primary care model in which primary care is more of a team effort, beyond the relationship between just a patient and his or her doctor. It might mean that a lot more healthcare happens outside a traditional doctor's office.

Bertolini envisions CVS pharmacies serving a lot like the Genius Bar that Apple has to provide tech support to customers. 

"Think of the Genius Bar at Apple, for example, and this ability to walk in the store and get help," Bertolini said. "I think this is the kind of idea we want to create in the stores, and I think we want to get going on the projects and pilots as soon as we can."

While CVS might be best-known for its roughly 10,000 pharmacies around the US, CVS as a company operates a number of different businesses, including a pharmacy benefits manager, its MinuteClinic health clinics that are staffed by health care professionals, specialty pharmacy fulfillment and management services, mail prescription services, and long-term care services.

Here's the full breakdown of all the parts of the healthcare system CVS touches on its own: 

Screen Shot 2017 12 05 at 12.15.50 PM

With Aetna, CVS picks up a few more pieces of the healthcare system, such as medical benefits and population health tools. The addition gives CVS a lot more data to analyze as well. Screen Shot 2017 12 05 at 12.16.23 PM

SEE ALSO: CVS Health is buying Aetna for $69 billion in 2017's biggest deal

DON'T MISS: A startup looking to reverse type 1 diabetes just raised $114 million

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Bitcoin blows past $13,000 for the first time

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

Screen Shot 2017 12 06 at 2.23.20 PM

 

  • Bitcoin, the scorching-hot cryptocurrency, broke through $13,000 a coin for the first time Wednesday. 
  • The new milestone comes less than a day after it hit $12,000. 
  • The price of bitcoin is up more than 1,180% year-to-date, according to data from Markets Insider. 

 

Bitcoin, the red-hot cryptocurrency, continued its jaw-dropping tear Wednesday, soaring above $13,000 per coin for the first time. 

The new high comes less than a day after it broke through $12,000, which it did Tuesday evening in New York, according to data from Markets Insider. By 2:40 p.m. ET, bitcoin was trading as high as $13,118 a coin. 

The new milestone comes ahead of the launch of bitcoin futures contracts by two major US exchanges. Cboe Global Markets, the Chicago-based options and derivatives exchange, is rolling out its bitcoin futures product Sunday. Its rival, CME Group, is launching its product later in December. Bitcoin futures, which will allow investors to bet on the future price of the digital coin, are a sign of the eight-year-old coin's maturation.

Bitcoin is up an eye-popping 1,180% year-to-date.

SEE ALSO: Bitcoin just hit an all-time high — here's how you buy and sell it

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$10k in Bitcoin for 10 Years? Ron Paul Fans Pick Crypto Over Gold

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

Ron Paul wants to know: would you take $10,000 in bitcoin, cash or something else?

51% of Respondents Chooses Bitcoin Over Gold and Fiat: Ron Paul Survey

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

[…]

The post 51% of Respondents Chooses Bitcoin Over Gold and Fiat: Ron Paul Survey appeared first on CryptoCoinsNews.

WALL STREET: More blockbuster mergers are coming

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

options trader

  • Firms across Wall Street are forecasting an upswing in corporate mergers and acquisitions activity in 2018 amid clarity around the GOP tax plan and robust cash levels.
  • Merger activity is already accelerating into the end of 2017, with CVS' recently announced acquisition of Aetna the most recent example.


If you're a fan of the corporate mega-mergers that keep getting announced, there's a good chance you're going to love 2018. At least that's the wisdom being touted by banks across Wall Street.

But before we get into the mergers and acquisitions outlooks for some of the biggest firms, let's recap what's been a torrid second half of 2017 for large merger deals.

Perhaps most notably, Broadcom is trying to buy Qualcomm for more than $100 billion, which would be the biggest tech takeover in history. In terms of deals that have actually been agreed upon, CVS Health is buying Aetna in the largest announced M&A deal of 2017.

Back in September, United Technologies agreed to fork over $30 billion for Rockwell Collins in 2017's second-biggest takeover. And just last week, Roark Capital, which owns Arby's, said it would buy Buffalo Wild Wings for about $2.9 billion.

With all of that considered, it's clear the M&A waters are churning, and the following Wall Street firms have taken notice.

Goldman Sachs

Goldman forecasts that cash M&A spending will climb by 6% to $355 billion in 2018. That will, in turn, boost the stock prices of companies with a high chance of being bought. As a result, a basket of likely M&A targets is poised to outperform in 2018 after trailing the broader S&P 500 in 2017, according to Goldman.

The firm is also bullish on the fact that the picture for tax reform has been clarified — a stance it shares with Wells Fargo (below). In Goldman's mind, the M&A market was partially paralyzed as companies awaited specifics.

"In 2018, robust confidence and reduced policy uncertainty should increase the fundamental incentive for corporate acquisitions," David Kostin, the head of US equity strategy, wrote in a client note.

Screen Shot 2017 12 06 at 10.20.25 AM

Wells Fargo

The ramping of M&A activity is a big part of Wells Fargo's 2018 S&P 500 target of 2,784, which would mark a 5.5% increase from current levels. The firm estimates that mergers will continue in earnest during the first half of the year, driven by clarity around the GOP's tax plan and a groundswell of pent-up demand.

Wells Fargo notes that US corporations are operating with too much capacity, but argues that this uptick in M&A activity will rationalize it. The firm is also closely watching the repatriation tax holiday, which it predicts will be a huge driver of merger activity as companies forego capital spending and share buybacks in favor of M&A.

Robert W. Baird

Baird's bullishness around M&A in 2018 stems largely from its outlook for private equity-backed companies. It notes that the number of such firms has surged by more than 30% from 2011 to 2017, growing each year. And Baird finds this meaningful because PE-backed companies are, by nature, more likely to be involved in M&A activity.

The firm also sees strong Chinese buyer participation in certain sectors driving merger deals. Those industries include consumer, education and travel, it wrote in a recent report. And lastly, Baird thinks that steep competition among buyers will push offer prices higher as companies fight for the upper hand.

SEE ALSO: A tug-of-war is raging over control of the stock market

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Bitcoin users are gunning for the exclusive '21 million club' — but membership is getting pricey

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

bitcoin

  • Bitcoin owners have set a benchmark for the "21 million club."
  • To gain entry, you must own a full bitcoin, currently valued at nearly $13,000.
  • The 21 million figure refers to how many bitcoin will ever be in circulation.
  • Many people who missed buying out when bitcoin was cheaper now fear they'll never become a member.


Bitcoin is having quite the year. Since it first hit $1,000 on January 2, the value of one bitcoin has risen to nearly $13,000 as of December 6.

The rising prices (and surrounding cryptocurrency rush) have enticed throngs of people to nab their first coins, coin, or fractions of a coin.

It's also spurred users to set a clear benchmark for bitcoin ownership, based on the fact that there are only 21 million bitcoin that will ever be in circulation: the exclusive "21 million club."

Members of the 21 million club own at least one full bitcoin. They are part of a rare group that makes up less than 0.3% of the global population (since some people own hundreds, if not thousands of bitcoin.)

On the bitcoin subreddit, users share stories of making into the 21 million club, their plans to eventually do so, and regrets about not having invested earlier, when their budgets might have still allowed them to join.

bitcoin reddit

bitcoin reddit

bitcoin reddit

Some Redditors lament not having bought in earlier. Now they're forced to buy fractions of a coin at a price that, just a year ago, would have been enough to net a full coin or more.

reddit bitcoin

There's no formal "club," per se. Membership is purely symbolic. But for those who have staked out their tiny corner of the massive (and finite) bitcoin fortune, the distinction is still a point of pride.

That is, unless bitcoin goes the way of some skeptical analysts who call the cryptocurrency rush a bubble. If it eventually pops, membership may not mean much of anything.

SEE ALSO: Bitcoin just hit an all-time high — here's how you buy and sell it

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Rupert Murdoch's $30 million Southern California estate is under threat from wildfires

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

moraga estate

  • Rupert Murdoch's Bel Air home and winery are under threat from wildfires.
  • The estate is located in the fire evacuation zone.
  • Wildfires have been burning throughout Southern California since Monday evening.

 

Rupert Murdoch's home and winery in the Bel Air enclave of Los Angeles are under threat from nearby wildfires.

Murdoch bought the 16-acre property, called Moraga Estate, for $29.5 million in 2013. It includes a large, five-bedroom residence as well as a winery and vineyard, which Murdoch uses to produce and sell wine.

Bloomberg reported that the property is within the current evacuation zone, and NBC is reporting that it has caught fire. The estate is located near the 405 freeway, which authorities have closed. 

Moraga posted a statement on its Twitter account: "We are watching the situation unfold very carefully along with everyone else. Our main concern at the moment is for the safety of our neighbors and first responders." 

Wildfires have been burning in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties since Monday evening. Nearly 200,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, and more than 65,000 acres and 150 structures have been damaged as of Wednesday morning. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency.

California wildfire

The current crisis follows the deadliest series of wildfires in California's history, which spread through Nothern California in October.

Here's a map charting the current fires:

California Fires 10/6 (10 a.m.)

SEE ALSO: Here's how to help victims of the Southern California wildfires

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What you need to know on Wall Street today

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

Welcome 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.

If you're a fan of the corporate mega-mergers that keep getting announced, there's a good chance you're going to love 2018. At least that's the wisdom being touted by banks across Wall Street.

Elsewhere in deal news:

In markets news, it's easier than ever to bet on the death of brick-and-mortar retail.

And in crypto news, traders on a $1 billion cryptocurrency exchange say they can't withdraw money and are left in the dark about why. Goldman Sachs asked clients about bitcoin's price trajectory. And one VC firm is starting a new blockchain fund — and plans to fund it with an initial coin offering.

Lastly, an 18-year-old is raffling off his uncle's £130,000 Porsche Panamera Turbo for £35 a ticket.

Join the conversation about this story »

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NYSE Owner: We Aren’t Rushing Toward Bitcoin, Yet

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

[…]

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AngelList's Naval Ravikant: Bitcoin Solves 'Money Problems'

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

During Token Summit II, AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant waved off talk of a bubble, saying cryptocurrency solves many people's money problems.

Developers Release Lightning Protocol 1.0; Perform Successful Interoperability Tests

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

Developers Release Lightning Protocol 1.0; Perform Successful Interoperability Tests

Blockchain developers ACINQ, Blockstream and Lightning Labs, are announcing the 1.0 release of the Lightning protocol and the world’s first Lightning test payments on the Bitcoin mainnet across all three implementations. These are considered to be important steps toward the standardization of the Lightning Network’s second-level, off-chain payment layer. The three teams, and others in the Bitcoin community, developed the Lightning specification through an open, collaborative process.

"Interoperability is key to making Lightning a success. We have worked for over a year to design a specification so that we and other developers can write implementations that talk to each other,” Elizabeth Stark, CEO of Lightning Labs, told Bitcoin Magazine. “This ensures that no matter which implementation a user is using, they will be connected to one Lightning Network.”

“It's the culmination of a year's work on the protocol specification, and the tests show that we have built a solid protocol that delivers on the promises of high scalability, increased privacy, and faster payments," Christian Decker, a Blockstream infrastructure tech engineer, told Bitcoin Magazine.

In parallel with protocol development work focused on interoperability and cross-compatibility, each of the three teams also developed specific Lightning implementations: ACINQ developed eclair, Blockstream developed c-lightning, and Lightning Labs developed lnd.

In a first test, the coffee shop Starblocks, a sample eclair application, accepted an incoming payment in bitcoin from a customer paying with the lnd Lightning app, routed through c-lightning.

In a second test, the developers made a payment from eclair to yalls.org, a sample lnd application, routed through c-lightning.

“This highlights another anticipated use case for Lightning: the ability to send instant, small value payments,” noted the three companies. The tests used nodes distributed around the world, including Asia, Europe, South America and North America.

It seems plausible that these and other interoperable Lightning Network implementations could be, one day, operational on the Bitcoin blockchain, but the developers are cautious about committing to a specific timeline.

“Our next steps are to continue testing and work as quickly as we can toward a mainnet beta, where users will be able to use small amounts on the Bitcoin mainnet,” Stark told Bitcoin Magazine.

Decker’s focus will be on the completion of the clients and individual releases “as quickly and safely as possible.” He emphasized that taking a patient approach and focusing on security is key. "We don't make any promises besides. We do not release immature software out of respect for our user's funds."

The Lightning Network is an overlay network built on top of an existing blockchain, in this case the Bitcoin blockchain. Similar to how the internet is built in layers, Lightning Network implementations create a new off-chain, high-throughput layer to channel near-instant payments. Interoperability will enable a single Lightning Network where payments are seamlessly routed without being isolated or incompatible.

Limited scalability is one of the main problems plaguing current Bitcoin technology. In fact, the current Bitcoin blockchain can only process a few transactions per second, far below the thousands of transactions per second processed by the main credit card payment networks. Therefore, following the first Bitcoin Lightning Network white paper, published in February 2015, developers have been working on Lightning Network implementations to enable bitcoin scalability, efficient micropayments and near-instant transactions.

This page on Github shows the latest integration test results for the three Lightning implementations.

“As we move towards a final 1.0 version of the specification, we invite the broader community to provide peer review and feedback,” concludes the announcement. “We look forward to continue working together to build the future of Layer 2 scalability technology.”



The post Developers Release Lightning Protocol 1.0; Perform Successful Interoperability Tests appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

These are the 100 best restaurants in America, according to OpenTable

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

Cafe Provence

  • OpenTable released its annual list of the 100 best restaurants in America.
  • The list is based on over 12 million reviews from OpenTable users.
  • All 50 states and Washington, DC, are represented on the list.

 

With the holidays near, it may be time to treat yourself and your family to some new restaurants.

You can start by consulting restaurant reservation site OpenTable, which just released its annual list of its 100 best restaurants in America. The list is based on over 12 million reviews from OpenTable users. All 50 states and Washington, DC are represented on the list.

These are OpenTable's 100 best restaurants in America, in alphabetical order: 

1770 House - East Hampton, New York

Arethusa al Tavolo - Bantam, Connecticut

Atera - New York, New York

Barclay Prime - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Barrique Venice - Venice, California

Bavette's - Chicago, Illinois

Benu - San Francisco, California

Bida Manda Restaurant and Bar - Raleigh, North Carolina

Bones - Atlanta, Georgia

BONDST - New York, New York

Buccan - Palm Beach, Florida

Café Monarch - Scottsdale, Arizona

Cafe Provence - Prairie Village, Kansas

Charleston - Baltimore, Maryland

Charleston Grill - Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston Grill

Chez Billy Sud - Washington, DC

chi SPACCA - Los Angeles, California  

Coppa - Boston, Massachusetts

CRUST - Miami, Florida

Daniel - New York, New York

Del Posto - New York, New York

Double Knot - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Fishing With Dynamite - Manhattan Beach, California

Frances - San Francisco, California

Gabriel Kreuther - New York, New York

Geronimo - Santa Fe, New Mexico

Girl & the Goat - Chicago, Illinois

Giulia Restaurant - Cambridge, Massachusetts

Gramercy Tavern - New York, New York

Gramercy Tavern

The Grill - Naples, Florida

Halls Chophouse - Charleston, South Carolina

Harold Black - Washington, DC

Heirloom Cafe - San Francisco, California

Hersh's - Baltimore, Maryland

Highlands Bar & Grill - Birmingham, Alabama

The Inn at Little Washington - Washington, Virginia

Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab - Multiple Locations

JUNGSIK - New York, New York

Kinship - Washington, DC

Koi - West Hollywood, California

Kokkari Estiatorio - San Francisco, California

L'Auberge Chez Francois - Great Falls, Virginia

La Grotta - Atlanta, Georgia

Lahaina Grill - Lahaina, Hawaii

Lahaina Grill

L'Artusi - New York, New York

Le Bilboquet - Dallas, Texas

Le Coucou - New York, New York

Le Diplomate - Washington, DC

Le Vallauris - Palm Springs, California

Linwoods - Owings Mills, Maryland

Mama's Fish House - Paia, Hawaii

Marc Forgione - New York, New York

Marcel's by Robert Wiedmaier - Washington, DC

Marea - New York, New York

Market Restaurant and Bar - Del Mar, California

Mistral - Sherman Oaks, California

The Modern - New York, New York

Momofuku Ko - New York, New York

Momofuku Ko

Neighborhood Services - Dallas, Texas

Orchids at Palm Court - Cincinnati, Ohio

Oriole - Chicago, Illinois

Parc - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Per Se - New York, New York

The Polo Bar - New York, New York

Polo Lounge @ The Beverly Hills Hotel - Beverly Hills, California

PRESS - St. Helena, California

Quince - San Francisco, California

Raoul's - New York, New York

Rasika - Washington, DC

Restaurant L - Cincinnati, Ohio

Riccardo Enoteca - Chicago, Illinois

Rich Table - San Francisco, California

Rich Table

RL Restaurant - Chicago, Illinois

RPM Restaurants -   Locations

Rudy & Paco Restaurant & Bar - Galveston, Texas

Ruth's Chris Steak House - Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The Saddle River Inn - Saddle River, New Jersey

Saint Jacques French Cuisine - Raleigh, North Carolina

Shinsei Restaurant - Dallas, Texas

SHU - Sushi House Unico - Bel Air, California

Sotto - Cincinnati, Ohio

Spinasse - Seattle, Washington

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards - Santa Rosa, California

Steve & Cookie's By the Bay - Margate, New Jersey

Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch - Santa Barbara, California

Sushi Nakazawa - New York, New York

The Table at Season To Taste - Cambridge, Massachusetts

Talula's Garden - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Metro Wine Bar & Bistro - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Toscana - Los Angeles, California

Townsend - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

True Food Kitchen - Chicago, Illinois

Uchi - Dallas, Texas

UMI - Atlanta, Georgia

Upland - New York, New York

Vernick Food & Drink - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Vetri Cucina - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Yvonne's - Boston, Massachusetts

Zahav - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Zero Restaurant + Bar  - Charleston, South Carolina

SEE ALSO: These are the 10 highest-grossing restaurants in America

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Economist Jim Rickards on gold versus bitcoin — intrinsic value is meaningless for both but the bitcoin prices aren't real

Lightning at Last? Test Shows Bitcoin Scaling Solution Almost Ready

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

Bitcoin's most anticipated scaling solution took a big step forward Tuesday with the presentation of new test results.

Hoping to cash in on cyrptocurrencies, one VC firm is starting a new fund — and plans to fund it with an initial coin offering

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

tmt crypto fund

  • Traditional venture capital firms are trying to get a piece of the cryptocurrency action.
  • One such firm, TMT Investments, is launching a new fund to invest in startups focused on blockchain technology before they hold initial coin offerings.
  • The partners are pitching themselves as the adults in the room who can offer expertise to technically talented but inexperienced founders.


The finance world is going crazy for all things related to cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin is soaring to ever-greater highs. And earlier this year, the amount of money raised by startups via initial coin offerings, a basically unregulated form of fundraising involving the issuance of new digital currencies, surpassed the amount of money raised by early-stage internet companies via traditional venture capital funding.

Now, some traditional venture capital firms want to get a piece of the action.

Among them is TMT Investments, a tech-focused firm with $70 million under management that has previously invested in companies including recruitment analytics firm Gild, cloud storage firm Backblaze, and ecommerce startup Wanelo. TMT is now branching out into the cryptocurrency space. On Wednesday, it's announcing a new $60 million fund that will invest explicitly in firms that focus on blockchains, the digital ledger technology that underlies bitcoin, ether, and other similar cybercurrencies.

In a call with Business Insider, partners Igor Shoifot and Julian Zegelman outlined their sales pitch. They're essentially trying to be the adults in the room — even if they wouldn't exactly put it like that.

The TMT Crypto Fund wants to help 'brilliant technologists'

Blockchain startups are often led by people with incredible technical talent but little in the way of business acumen, experience, or professional contacts, Shoifot and Zegelman argued. The companies won't gain any of that experience or those contacts from the anonymous investors who provide them funding through an initial coin offering, or ICO. But they are things that TMT can offer, they said.

"The fact that someone's a brilliant technologist means nothing about that person as a great business person," Shoifot said.

TMT plans to invest in blockchain startups in the traditional venture capital fashion — offering cash in return for equity, before any potential ICO.

"What we want to do is start helping these companies in [the] pre-ICO and pre-pre-ICO period," said Shoifot. "[Teach them] what a startup is, what business is, how to build an actual business, not just a technological dream."

But in a twist, TMT's fund will have a cryptocurrency component to it. Of the fund's $60 million total, $45 million will come from traditional investors, or limited partners. Some of that amount has already been committed, Zegelman said. TMT plans to raise the other $15 million by selling its own cybercurrency tokens to outside investors. Those investors could then potentially buy and sell those tokens on public exchanges.

Over the last few months, there has been confusion and debate about whether ICOs and the sale of crypto-tokens should be regulated like sales of stock, rather than be subject to basically no rules. At least with its particular planned cybercurrency, TMT plans for it to be treated like a traditional security that would be sold only to officially accredited investors. Unlike the case with the typical ICO startup, that stance would allow TMT to know the names of its investors.

"It would be a fully compliant security token," Zegelman said.

Venture capital is waking up to cryptocurrencies

Other VCs are also feeling the lure of cryptocurrencies  — and fear the potential downside if they miss the boat.

"This is going to turn arrogant venture capitalists on their heads," Mangrove Capital Partners partner Michael Jackson recently told The Financial Times. "Venture capitalists are going to have to enter into the ICO game to prove their value to companies."

Some venture capitalists are getting involved in the space indirectly. Sequoia, Andreeseen Horowitz, and Union Square Ventures — three high-profile tech investment firms — have all invested in Polychain Capital, a "hedge fund" that  invests in blockchain and cryptocurrency companies. 

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: What those tiny rivets on your jeans are for

Mexican Lawmakers Advance Bill to Regulate Bitcoin, Fintech Firms

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

The upper chamber of Mexico's national legislature has approved a bill that would bring bitcoin exchanges under the oversight of the central bank.

Bank of Canada holds key rate as expected, Canadian dollar falls

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

Stephen Poloz Bank of Canada

  • The Bank of Canada left its key rate unchanged at 1%, as expected. 
  • The BOC noted improvement in the jobs market following the unemployment rate's drop to a nine-year low in November. 
  • The BOC said it will continue to be cautious and data-dependent. 

 

The Bank of Canada held its key interest rate at 1% as economists had expected.

In its statement on Wednesday, the BOC acknowledged recent improvement in the jobs market, and said it would maintain a cautious approach to raising rates that depends on incoming data. 

Statistics Canada reported Friday that Canada's unemployment rate fell to the lowest level since 2008 in November, and its economy added 441,400 new full-time jobs. "Employment growth has been very strong and wages have shown some improvement, supporting robust consumer spending in the third quarter," the BOC said in its statement on Wednesday.

The BOC's statement noted that the housing market continued to moderate, as expected. Starting in January, the federal government is tightening the rules governing who qualifies for a mortgage to cut the share of borrowers that default on payments. 

Uncertainty about the housing market and NAFTA were expected to keep the BOC on hold. Also, the BOC raised rates in back-to-back meetings in July and September.       

The Canadian dollar fell against the US dollar following the BOC decision, by 0.4% to 1.2744. 

SEE ALSO: The housing inventory crisis is keeping older millennials stuck with their parents

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NOW WATCH: How to buy and sell bitcoin using one of the most popular cryptocurrency apps on the iPhone

Mobile Banking App Revolut Adds Litecoin, Ether Trading

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

Revolut's mobile app, which allows users to make payments using a debit card or bitcoin, is adding support for litecoin and ethereum.

Mobile Banking App Revolut Adds Litecoin, Ether Trading

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

Revolut's mobile app, which allows users to make payments using a debit card or bitcoin, is adding support for litecoin and ethereum.

A 16-year-old supermarket worker's son has been offered a scholarship to the £38,000-a-year private school attended by Prince Harry and David Cameron

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

Eton 5.JPG

  • A 16-year-old from inner city Liverpool has been offered at scholarship to the £38,000-a-year Eton College.
  • The private school was attended by the likes of Princes William and Harry and former Prime Minister David Cameron.


16-year-old Stephen Geddes from Liverpool has been offered a scholarship to Eton College, the £38,000-a-year private school which is the most prestigious in the country — and possibly the world.

Geddes, a student from the inner-city Toxteth area of Liverpool who attended King’s Leadership Academy, will join the Windsor-based college in September to study his A Levels in maths, biology, chemistry, and physics.

He joins royals and world leaders — such as Princes William and Harry and former Prime Minister David Cameron — who have attended the prestigious school before him.

Here's a young Prince William on his first day there:

FILE PHOTO OF 6SEPT95 - The Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince Harry, and housemaster Dr Andrew Gayley (behind) escort Prince William (2R), second in line to the throne, for his first day of term at the world famous Eton College September 6, 1995.

Eton is notoriously competitive, with around 23% of applicants earning a place among 1,300 students.

Geddes said the process involved exams and two interviews — one with the head of department and one with the headmaster.

"King’s really prepared me for them because a lot of what they do is about giving you confidence and I was confident when I met them," he said.

Eton 1.JPG

According to MailOnline, Geddes is the youngest of four children, and lives in a council-owned property with his 54-year-old carer mother, Brenda, and 50-year-old father, Stephen, who works in the frozen food department at Tesco.

"When they came to our house to tell me I was in shock. It was hard to take on board," Geddes said.

He added that his mum "hasn’t stopped crying since."

Eton 3.JPG

When he told his teacher Mr Crosby, who helped him prepare for the interviews, "he took off his glasses and there were tears in his eyes," according to Geddes.

Crosby, who was privately educated himself, and is helping five pupils from King’s gain sixth-form places at some of the country’s top public schools, confirmed Geddes' comments.

"I had what some would call a privileged education – I have been to Eton to play them at Eton Fives, which is like squash played with your hand, Crosby said. "One of the reasons I came to teach at King’s was that I wanted kids here to have some of the choices I enjoyed.

"I was in tears when I found out that Eton wanted to take him. I imagined Stephen in the future, filling out his CV. When he comes to the section marked 'education' he would write: 'King’s Leadership Academy, Liverpool' and then 'Eton College.'"

eton college

Geddes earned the place at Eton thanks to a partnership King’s Leadership Academy has with the SpringBoard Bursary Foundation and the Hope Opportunity Trust.

Mark O’Hagan, principal of King’s Leadership Academy, said: "What is so important about this scheme is not just that some of our pupils will be given life-changing opportunities but that it will affect the people around them.

"They may not want to go to Eton but they might see what Stephen has done and tell themselves that they might want to make the best of their education here at King’s through good grades or sporting excellence. This will have an impact on everyone around Stephen."

According to Eton's website, around a fifth of its 1,300 or so students receive some level of means-tested reduction in fees, and 72 pay nothing at all. On top of that, external organisations like SpringBoard fund applicants as well.

Eton 7 (1).JPG

Geddes called his experience visiting Eton for his interviews "unbelievable."

"The facilities were amazing," he said. "It had three theatres, two chapels and a sports fields that seemed to stretch for miles."

He added: "I know the uniform is a bit strange – they have tailcoats and everything – but I don’t mind wearing it because I think it looks quite smart."

eton school boys england

"Going to a place like Eton is something I’d love to be part of," Geddes said. "I know that it will change my life."

SEE ALSO: 13 of the most successful men who attended Eton, the school that educated 19 British prime ministers

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Economist Jim Rickards on gold versus bitcoin — intrinsic value is meaningless for both but the bitcoin prices aren't real

Take That, Jamie! Surging Bitcoin Price Propels Crypto Market Cap Ahead of JPMorgan

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

[…]

The post Take That, Jamie! Surging Bitcoin Price Propels Crypto Market Cap Ahead of JPMorgan appeared first on CryptoCoinsNews.

DaVita jumps after UnitedHealth agrees to pay $4.9 billion for its medical unit (DVA, UNH)

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

davita stock price

Shares of Davita, a kidney care service provider, jumped 10.54% to $67.85 on Wednesday after UnitedHealth Group said it would buy the company's medical unit for $4.9 billion.

The deal will be financed with cash and would combine UnitedHealth's Optum unit with DaVita's 300 clinic network that serves about 1.7 people annually.

DaVita has said it will use the money from the sale for stock buybacks and repaying debt after the deal closes, which is expected to occur sometime next year.

UnitedHealth is little changed near $220.10 on the news. Its shares are up 36.48% this year, while DaVita is higher by just 0.74%.

Read more about the deal here.

 

SEE ALSO: UnitedHealth is buying DaVita's medical unit for $4.9 billion

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How to buy and sell bitcoin using one of the most popular cryptocurrency apps on the iPhone

The CIO of a crypto hedge fund reveals why you should be cautious of the ICO bubble

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

Ari Paul, CIO of cryptocurrency hedge fund BlockTower Capitaltalks with Business Insider executive editor Sara Silverstein about why he thinks investors should be cautious when investing in ICOs. Following is a transcript of the video. 

Sara Silverstein: And what about the ICO bonanza that we've been seeing? How do you feel about initial coin offerings?

Ari Paul: I think that one aspect of the cryptocurrency market is a lot like 1999. So, in the early '90s you great high quality projects coming to market. It wasn't viewed as a get-rich-quick scheme to launch a tech company in 1990. It was hard to raise money. By 1999 it was easy. And it was viewed as easy money on the investment side. So you had a lot of bad business ideas, a lot of early-stage projects, and a lot of investors who didn't know what they were doing throwing money, and you had a bubble. So in ICOs I think we see the same thing today. Which is we see a lot of really bad projects, that are worth nothing, and some great projects, that are still dramatically overvalued — for where they are in their stage of development. This goes in cycles. So ICOs are experimenting. They are best viewed as early VC stage projects. Like as in equities, most will fail — most should fail. That doesn't mean they're bad as a class. So as an investor though, right now I'd be very picky about ICO investing, but I'm grateful for the experimentation happening. And like in the tech boom, there going to be a lot of lessons learned from failed experiments that move the world forward.

Silverstein: And when you look at an ICO what are you actually — what does the company actually owe you if you sign up for one of these new tokens?

Paul: So generally nothing. First, there’s almost no case law on this. Many of the contracts are structured legally as donations. So I'm contributing either US dollars or sometimes cryptocurrency, maybe I send ether or I send bitcoin to the development team. And basically they say, “Maybe we'll send you something at some point. Maybe we'll send you a new cryptocurrency that we create, at some point in the future.” But they're not legally obligated to. Those contracts haven't really been tested in court yet. So frankly is an investor we don't know.

Join the conversation about this story »

$12,795: Bitcoin's Price Just Gained Over $1,000 in 24 Hours

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

The price of bitcoin passed the $12,000 mark for the first time ever last night, and has now gained over $1,000 in less than 24 hours.

Newsflash: Bitcoin Price Leaps Nearly 10% Today, Nears $13,000

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

[…]

The post Newsflash: Bitcoin Price Leaps Nearly 10% Today, Nears $13,000 appeared first on CryptoCoinsNews.

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

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

Traders react at the closing bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, (NYSE)  in New York, U.S., November 30, 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, but rallying from overnight lows, as Angst over House antics on Short-term spending bill ahead of Friday’s Shutdown Deadline causes concern.  Tech still lagging, with QQQs off 40bp worse than Russells, which just went green.   Nothing but Red overseas, as the DAX drops 1% following a Sloppy session in Asia.  Tech stocks the biggest weight in Europe, while Consumer weak on Steinhoff headers.   The FTSE is basically flat as Staples hold up London, while those Miners continue yesterday’s selling.   In Asia, Nikkei smoked for 2% as Tech and Commodity names got hit - Hang Seng lost 2.2% as Sunny Optical and Geely got worked - Shanghai off small, only Shenzhen in the Green in Asia, up 60bp - Taiwan off 1.7% - KOSPI down 1.5% as Sammy drops 2.5% and Steel stocks weakened, while Aussie down 44bp as Miners pace the commodity drop

Ahead of ADP today (Street 190k, but “whisper” at 218k), the US 10YY drifts toward 1week lows as the Bund 10YY fell below 30bp on stronger German Factory Orders.   The Greenback has a bid, with Euro diving to test yesterday’s lows near $1.18 - Sterling drifting around $1.34 - A$ hit on lower GDP, while that $/Y saw a double 112 test on risk-off and Korea angst.   With the weaker $, Gold has rallied 50bp, and is back over the 200dma, while all the Talking heads are babbling about the Bitcoin hitting fresh peaks.   Ore was hit for another 3%, but we have Copper rebounding 1% of yesterday’s 5% smash.  WTI is testing last week’s lows below $57 - While API showed a bigger Crude draw, the massive 9mil+ build in Gasoline stocks weighs.

Here are the 10 things you need to know today.

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

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: One type of ETF is taking over the market

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

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

Traders react at the closing bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, (NYSE)  in New York, U.S., November 30, 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, but rallying from overnight lows, as Angst over House antics on Short-term spending bill ahead of Friday’s Shutdown Deadline causes concern.  Tech still lagging, with QQQs off 40bp worse than Russells, which just went green.   Nothing but Red overseas, as the DAX drops 1% following a Sloppy session in Asia.  Tech stocks the biggest weight in Europe, while Consumer weak on Steinhoff headers.   The FTSE is basically flat as Staples hold up London, while those Miners continue yesterday’s selling.   In Asia, Nikkei smoked for 2% as Tech and Commodity names got hit - Hang Seng lost 2.2% as Sunny Optical and Geely got worked - Shanghai off small, only Shenzhen in the Green in Asia, up 60bp - Taiwan off 1.7% - KOSPI down 1.5% as Sammy drops 2.5% and Steel stocks weakened, while Aussie down 44bp as Miners pace the commodity drop

Ahead of ADP today (Street 190k, but “whisper” at 218k), the US 10YY drifts toward 1week lows as the Bund 10YY fell below 30bp on stronger German Factory Orders.   The Greenback has a bid, with Euro diving to test yesterday’s lows near $1.18 - Sterling drifting around $1.34 - A$ hit on lower GDP, while that $/Y saw a double 112 test on risk-off and Korea angst.   With the weaker $, Gold has rallied 50bp, and is back over the 200dma, while all the Talking heads are babbling about the Bitcoin hitting fresh peaks.   Ore was hit for another 3%, but we have Copper rebounding 1% of yesterday’s 5% smash.  WTI is testing last week’s lows below $57 - While API showed a bigger Crude draw, the massive 9mil+ build in Gasoline stocks weighs.

Here are the 10 things you need to know today.

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

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Tesla's biggest problem is one nobody saw coming

'Ominous signs': A senior economist at an exchange about to launch bitcoin futures thinks a crash could be on the way

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

A trader signals an offer in the corn options pit at the CME Group March 15, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. U.S. stock and commodity prices tumbled today following a sharp drop in Japan’s stock market, as investors worldwide worry about the economic impact of that country's recent earthquake, tsunami and unfolding nuclear crisis. (Photo by )

  • Fluctuating costs of transaction fees appear to play "a major role in determining price corrections," and there are "ominous signs" that it could drive another bitcoin price crash, according to the CME group.
  • Transaction fees are those paid to bitcoin "miners," and they have risen dramatically as the demand to make high-value transactions has risen and miners prioritise transactions with higher fees.



LONDON — An exchange group which plans to launch Bitcoin futures says there are "ominous signs" that rising transaction costs could cause the volatile cryptocurrency to drop in value.

US-based CME Group will begin offering a trade in bitcoin futures contracts later this month, making it one of two major exchanges which will allow speculators to bet on bitcoin's price moving down as well as up. The move has been taken as a sign of rising interest in bitcoin from institutional investors.

CME Group said on Wednesday that the fluctuating costs of bitcoin transaction fees appear to play "a major role in determining price corrections," and warned that the market might struggle to cope if the fee paid to purchase bitcoin rises much further.

Erik Norland, executive director and senior economist at CME Group, said that transaction costs are showing "ominous signs" that could signal another price correction is imminent.

Norland writes in a research note shared with clients:

"Transaction costs spiked from $2 to around $30 per transaction in late 2010 just before bitcoin prices suffered a 93% collapse. As bitcoin transaction costs subsequently fell, another bull market developed. Transaction costs edged higher in 2012 and then soared to over $80 by early 2013, which coincided with another collapse in bitcoin prices. By 2015, transaction costs eased toward $8 when another bull market began."

Transaction fees are those paid to bitcoin "miners," people who use huge amounts of computer processing power to verify the digital blocks in which transactions using bitcoin are made. Miners are rewarded for their efforts with newly minted bitcoins. But the more bitcoins are "mined," the less the reward, meaning the cost to create a new bitcoin is going up.

Fees have risen dramatically as the demand to make high-value transactions using bitcoins has risen. Miners prioritise transactions with a higher fee.

Prices now hover around $60 to $70 per transaction, and Norland suggests that the question of whether the market could sustain a higher level is currently unknown.

"With the price of bitcoin now around $10,000 as of this writing, could the market sustain transaction costs of $80, $100 or more without demand and prices collapsing? The answer to this question is not known at the moment, but we will likely find out at some point in 2018 or 2019," he says.

Join the conversation about this story »

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MasterCard-Backed Revolut Enables Bitcoin for Cross-Border Payments

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

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The post MasterCard-Backed Revolut Enables Bitcoin for Cross-Border Payments appeared first on CryptoCoinsNews.

This 18-year-old is raffling off his uncle's £130,000 Porsche Panamera Turbo for £35 a ticket

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

DP_Front_Side_xwide

  • Faizan Mehdi is holding a raffle to auction off his uncle's Porsche Panamera Turbo and tickets cost £35 each.
  • His uncle bought the car, which is less than three years old, for £130,000.
  • Mehdi plans to draw the winner during an Instagram Live on New Year’s Eve.


18-year-old Faizan Mehdi is raffling off his uncle's Porsche Panamera Turbo just in time for the festive season — and tickets cost just £35 each.

Mehdi told Business Insider that his Uncle Hassan — his mum's brother — has owned the car for under three years, and bought it for £130,000.

It's been on the market for five months and hasn't sold, so Mehdi came up with an alternative way of earning some cash from it, inspired by a Chelsea estate agent who did the same with his Porsche Cayman in April.

The pair agreed to raffle the car online and are aiming to sell 3,000 tickets at £35 each, splitting the profits between them. That's £105,000, or £52,500 each if split equally, assuming they sell all the tickets.

To enter the raffle you need to buy a ticket and answer three trivia questions correctly. Entrants must be 18 and over and UK-based.

Mehdi plans to draw the winning ticket on his Instagram live on New Year’s Eve, and will deliver the car to the winner himself, "because it's the season of gift giving I think the timing is very suitable," he said.

It's easy to see why it's worth the effort for Mehdi...

🇵🇰 #Homeland

A post shared by Faizan Mehdi (@frizz_14) on Apr 18, 2017 at 1:56pm PDT on

...who clearly like fast cars, according to his Instagram.

If the full 3,000 tickets are not sold in time for New Year's Eve, the pair will hold off on selecting a winner until they reach their target. If ticket sales are much lower than their goal — if, for example, just 1,000 are sold — two winners will be chosen to receive 20% of the profits made from the raffle each, while the uncle and son duo will still make some cash for their efforts.

"The main target is to give away the car," Mehdi told Business Insider. "It’s in the circumstance where tickets sales are too low by Christmas that we would choose to do the cash option."

This is Hassan's 64 plate black Porsche Panamera Turbo. Similar models are available starting from about £115,000, according to the Porsche website.

Front_xwide

Mehdi said that the registration plate is blurred because there is a personal, private plate currently on the car.

Rear_with_Doors_Open_xwide

The MOT — or test to make sure the car is safe for the road — is due in January 2018, according to the listing, and the car has 20,000 miles on it.

Interior

It has 542bhp (horsepower) and is less than three years old.

Wheels

And, if you're lucky, it could be yours for just £35.

Steering Wheel

SEE ALSO: The Russian billionaire owner of Arsenal reportedly paid for his niece to wed in a lavish Disney-style wedding — take a look inside

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This is one of the best responses to Jamie Dimon calling bitcoin a fraud that we have heard so far

Bitcoin tops $12,000 for the first time and is gunning for $13,000

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

Capture.PNG

  • Bitcoin was eyeing $13,000 a coin Wednesday morning, less than 12 hours after soaring over $12,000 for the first time.
  • The red-hot coin is up more than 1,155% year-to-date, according to data from Markets Insider.

 

Bitcoin was gunning for $13,000 a coin Wednesday morning after breaking through a fresh milestone late Tuesday.

Bitcoin soared over $12,000 a coin in a bullish night of trading Tuesday. And by 6:36 a.m. ET Wednesday, the scorching-hot cryptocurrency was trading up 8.87% against the US dollar at $12,768 a coin.

John Spallanzani, chief macro strategist at CFI Group, told Business Insider trading activity in Asia was the catalyst for the impressive tear.

"Bitcoin continues to have a strong bid during Asia trading as emerging market currencies are being sold to buy, pushing us above another milestone," Spallanzani said in a Twitter direct message soon after bitcoin broke $12,000.

The new high Wednesday morning is ahead of the launch of new bitcoin futures contracts by two major US exchanges. Cboe Global Markets, the Chicago-based options and derivatives exchange, is rolling out its bitcoin futures product Sunday. Rival CME Group is launching later in December. Bitcoin futures, which will allow investors to bet on the future price of the digital coin, is the latest in the eight-year-old coin's maturation.

Futures could help dampen the coin's spine-tingling price swings, according to Craig Pirrong, a business professor at the University of Houston.

"Having this instrument that makes it easier to short might keep the bitcoin price a little closer to reality," he told  Bloomberg's Matt Levine.

As for how much room bitcoin has to run, some clients of investment bank Goldman Sachs appear bullish. As reported by Business Insider's Oscar Williams-Grut, the bank's market "strat" team polled clients on bitcoin.

Opinion on the price trajectory was divided, but the biggest minority — 30% — answered "Higher [12,000 - 15,000]."

SEE ALSO: Goldman Sachs asked clients about bitcoin's price trajectory

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Bitcoin tops $12,000 for the first time and is gunning for $13,000

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

Capture.PNG

  • Bitcoin was eyeing $13,000 a coin Wednesday morning, less than 12 hours after soaring over $12,000 for the first time.
  • The red-hot coin is up more than 1,155% year-to-date, according to data from Markets Insider.

 

Bitcoin was gunning for $13,000 a coin Wednesday morning after breaking through a fresh milestone late Tuesday.

Bitcoin soared over $12,000 a coin in a bullish night of trading Tuesday. And by 6:36 a.m. ET Wednesday, the scorching-hot cryptocurrency was trading up 8.87% against the US dollar at $12,768 a coin.

John Spallanzani, chief macro strategist at CFI Group, told Business Insider trading activity in Asia was the catalyst for the impressive tear.

"Bitcoin continues to have a strong bid during Asia trading as emerging market currencies are being sold to buy, pushing us above another milestone," Spallanzani said in a Twitter direct message soon after bitcoin broke $12,000.

The new high Wednesday morning is ahead of the launch of new bitcoin futures contracts by two major US exchanges. Cboe Global Markets, the Chicago-based options and derivatives exchange, is rolling out its bitcoin futures product Sunday. Rival CME Group is launching later in December. Bitcoin futures, which will allow investors to bet on the future price of the digital coin, is the latest in the eight-year-old coin's maturation.

Futures could help dampen the coin's spine-tingling price swings, according to Craig Pirrong, a business professor at the University of Houston.

"Having this instrument that makes it easier to short might keep the bitcoin price a little closer to reality," he told  Bloomberg's Matt Levine.

As for how much room bitcoin has to run, some clients of investment bank Goldman Sachs appear bullish. As reported by Business Insider's Oscar Williams-Grut, the bank's market "strat" team polled clients on bitcoin.

Opinion on the price trajectory was divided, but the biggest minority — 30% — answered "Higher [12,000 - 15,000]."

SEE ALSO: Goldman Sachs asked clients about bitcoin's price trajectory

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: We talked to the bond chief at the $6 trillion fund giant BlackRock about the most important issue for markets right now

Betting Against Bitcoin: Hedge Funds are Targeting Price Falls

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

[…]

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The Queen's bank, Coutts, has no plans to invest in bitcoin because it is backed by 'nothing but sentiment'

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

The Queen

  • The Queen's bank, Coutts, has said it has no plans to invest in bitcoin, since cryptocurrencies have "nothing but sentiment" behind them.
  • The bank said cryptocurrencies are vulnerable to government sanctions and could be a "bubble."
  • Bitcoin surpassed $12,000 on Wednesday, an all time high, after a week of ups and downs.


LONDON — Private bank Coutts said on Wednesday it has no plans to invest in bitcoin because the cryptocurrency has "nothing but sentiment" behind it.

Lilian Chovin, investment strategist at Coutts Bank — which is known as the bank of the Royal Family, as well as many of the UK's wealthiest people — said cryptocurrencies "have nothing but sentiment backing them up, are vulnerable to government sanctions and lack the kind of data we look for to gauge that."

As a result, she said, Coutts has no current plans to include cryptocurrencies in its investment strategies. 

The bank said the development of blockchain technology is a "far more interesting" area to watch, and has the potential to disrupt any field where there is the need for secure, transferable records.

Bitcoin reached a high of $11,400 before falling nearly 20% to $9,200, then climbing to another all time high of $12,777 in early trading on Wednesday. These turbulent ups and downs, said Coutts, are feeding wider concerns that bitcoin, and the tech sector, could be a "bubble."

Chovin pointed to the Bank of England's deputy governor Sir Jon Cunliffe's warning in November that investors should "do their homework" before investing in bitcoin.

However, Coutts said the tech sector is "still good value," with innovative trends such as Artificial Intelligence and driverless cars, as well as strong Q3 results and a robust economic backdrop, supporting earnings growth expectations.

The US tech sector has been a significant outperformer this year, it said, rising by about 35% — almost double the return from US equities.

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10 things you need to know before the opening bell (SPY, SPX, QQQ, DIA, DIS, FOXA, HD)

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

Kim Jong Un

Here is what you need to know. 

Disney is reportedly nearing a deal to buy 21st Century Fox's TV businessDisney and 21st Century Fox are closing in on a deal that could come as quickly as next week, which would involve Disney acquiring Fox's studio and television production assets — a portion of the business that has an enterprise value of more than $60 billion, CNBC's sources say.

Xiaomi is looking for a bank to help launch what could be the world's largest tech IPOThe Chinese smartphone maker will receive bank pitches next Friday for what is likely to be the world's largest tech initial public offering ever. Xiaomi was valued at $46 billion in 2014.

Home Depot is buying back a bunch of stockThe home-improvement chain announced a $15 billion share buy back program and said it's targeting annual sales of between $114.7 billion and $119.8 billion by the year ending January 2021, Reuters reports.

Bitcoin blows past $12,000 and is getting close to $13,000The cryptocurrency trades up 8.93%, or $1,047, at 12,776 a coin, according to Markets Insider data. 

A hedge fund star who retired at 41 is eyeing a comebackGreg Coffey, who previously ran emerging market funds at GLG Partners and Moore Capital, is considering launching a new fund with James Saltissi, people familiar with the matter told Business Insider.

Australian GDP missesAustralia's economy grew at a seasonally adjusted 0.6% in the third quarter, according  to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, missing the 0.7% growth that economists were expecting. 

India's central bank holdsThe Reserve Bank of India kept its key interest rate at 6.00% and said it sees recent reforms boosting growth.

Stock markets around the world are lowerHong Kong's Hang Seng (-2.14%) was hit hard in Asia and Germany's DAX (-0.98%) trails in Europe. The S&P 500 is set to open down 0.20% near 2,623.

Earnings reports keep comingAmerican Eagle Outfitters reports ahead of the opening bell while Broadcom and Lululemon release their quarterly results after markets close.

US economic data is lightADP Employment Change will be released at 8:15 a.m. ET and productivity will cross the wires at 8:30 a.m. ET. The US 10-year yield is down 1 basis point at 2.34%. 

Join the conversation about this story »

10 things you need to know before the opening bell (SPY, SPX, QQQ, DIA, DIS, FOXA, HD)

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

Kim Jong Un

Here is what you need to know.

Disney is reportedly nearing a deal to buy 21st Century Fox's TV business. Disney and 21st Century Fox are closing in on a deal that could come as quickly as next week and would involve Disney acquiring Fox's studio and television production assets — a portion of the business with an enterprise value of more than $60 billion, CNBC's sources say.

Xiaomi is looking for a bank to help launch what could be the world's largest tech IPO. The Chinese smartphone maker will receive bank pitches next Friday for what is likely to be the world's largest tech initial public offering ever. Xiaomi was valued at $46 billion in 2014.

Home Depot is buying back a bunch of stock. The home-improvement chain announced a $15 billion share-buyback program and said it's targeting annual sales of $114.7 billion to $119.8 billion by the year ending January 2021, Reuters reports.

Bitcoin blows past $12,000 and is getting close to $13,000. The cryptocurrency trades up 8.93%, or $1,047, at 12,776 a coin, according to Markets Insider data.

A hedge fund star who retired at 41 is eyeing a comeback. Greg Coffey, who previously ran emerging market funds at GLG Partners and Moore Capital, is considering launching a new fund with James Saltissi, people familiar with the matter told Business Insider.

Australian GDP misses. Australia's economy grew at a seasonally adjusted 0.6% in the third quarter, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, missing the 0.7% growth that economists were expecting.

India's central bank holds. The Reserve Bank of India kept its key interest rate at 6.00% and said it saw recent reforms boosting growth.

Stock markets around the world are lower. Hong Kong's Hang Seng (-2.14%) was hit hard in Asia, and Germany's DAX (-0.98%) trails in Europe. The S&P 500 is set to open down 0.20% near 2,623.

Earnings reports keep coming. American Eagle Outfitters reports ahead of the opening bell, while Broadcom and Lululemon release their quarterly results after markets close.

US economic data is light. ADP Employment Change will be released at 8:15 a.m. ET, and productivity will cross the wires at 8:30 a.m. ET. The US 10-year yield is down 1 basis point at 2.34%.

Join the conversation about this story »

Peer-to-peer lender RateSetter's losses jump as it takes a hit from bad loan to ad company

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

Rhydian Lewis, RateSetter CEO

  • RateSetter made a pre-tax loss of £23.3 million in the year to March 2017.
  • Figure inflated by a £12 million loan to an advertising company that RateSetter subsequently took over after it got into financial difficulty.
  • Results show revenues also rose by 38% to £23.7 million, customer and borrower numbers also up.


LONDON — RateSetter, one of the UK's three biggest peer-to-peer lenders, saw its losses jump last year after it took a hit from a bad loan.

RateSetter booked a pre-tax loss of £23.3 million in the year to March 2017, compared to a £5.3 million in the previous year. The company operates a peer-to-peer platform that matches retail investors with individuals looking to borrow money.

Operating losses were £9.2 million last year but the figure was pushed higher by a one-off write-down relating to a loan the platform made to Adpod Limited, an advertising business RateSetter lent £12 million.

RateSetter announced in July that it had taken the unusual step of taking over Adpod after the company got into financial difficulty. The company decided to stand behind the loan made to Adpod, agreeing to make repayments to RateSetter's platform investors in the event that Adpod couldn't.

"As this loan was outside RateSetter’s credit policy and was an exceptional case, RateSetter believed it was right for it as a company to absorb any losses from this loan, as opposed to the Provision Fund doing so," the company said on Wednesday.

RateSetter operates a provision fund that is meant to cover the initial losses of any loans, giving platform investors a buffer.

The £14 million impairment charge represents the total lifetime value of Adpod's loan repayments and RateSetter could end up spending less than that if Adpod gets onto a steady footing. Business Insider understands that the loan to Adpod is the only loan it has written to date that is outside of its credit policy.

'A resilient business'

RateSetter's accounts also show that revenue rose by 38% to £23.7 million. Loans under management rose by 23% to £714 million. The number of active lenders on the platform rose by 36% to 42,049 and the number of borrowers rose by 27% to 204,000.

CEO and cofounder Rhydian Lewis said in a statement: "The last year was an important one for RateSetter: we showed that we are a resilient business, with the strength and maturity to deal with challenges and emerge stronger as a result.

"During the year, we decided to focus on higher quality credit. Our view is that durability through a cycle is the key test and, while lower quality credit is still valid, it is clearly more vulnerable in a downturn."

RateSetter passed £2 billion of loans over its platform in July and gained full regulatory approval in the UK in October.

The company, which was founded by two former City finance workers in 2009, raised £13 million in May at a valuation just shy of £200 million.

Lewis said in a statement: "As we go into 2018, we are very confident that the investment we have made over the last two years provides a strong foundation from which we can efficiently grow our business. We will launch our ISA before the end of the tax year and expect to attract £500m within a year. We expect to return to profitability next year."

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Indonesia's Central Bank Mulls Bitcoin Payments Ban

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

Indonesia's central bank has revealed is considering regulations that would outlaw bitcoin transactions from 2018.

It's easier than ever to bet on the death of brick-and-mortar retail

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

snowy deserted empty mall

  • ProShares just launched its Decline of the Retail Store ETF (EMTY), which allows investors to make the inverse of a brick-and-mortar index's return.
  • The fund arrives at a time when many traders are skeptical about the future of traditional retail as online competition mounts.


There's no denying that traditional retailers are in trouble. Fortunately for stock investors, it just got even easier to bet on their demise.

ProShares, a provider of exchange-traded funds, just unveiled the Decline of the Retail Store ETF (ticker: EMTY) — a product designed to return the inverse of a brick-and-mortar store index. In other words, the price of the fund will rise when the underlying gauge falls. This allows investors to make a short wager of sorts on the entire industry by simply buying the ETF.

For retail pessimists, this is a vast improvement over previous options, which included the shorting of single retail chain stocks and the real estate investment trusts that own the land brick-and-mortar stores lease. These bears also had the option of shorting retail ETFs, except those funds also contained online retailers — the very group putting so much pressure on brick-and-mortar.

"Investors are witnessing signs of trouble in the malls and falling stock prices in the markets," Michael L. Sapir, co‑founder and CEO of ProShare Advisors, said in a press release. "For the first time, investors can turn these trends into a potential investment opportunity through an ETF."

Officially launched for trading on November 16, the ETF has declined 9.5% over its first two weeks. Based on that, it appears that the fund has been doing its job, with retail stocks rallying during the same period in the wake of a strong start to the holiday season.

With all of this in mind, it's important for investors to note that the ETF is designed to return the inverse of a brick-and-mortar index on a day-to-day basis, rather than tracking longer trends. So, rather than a long-term bet on the decline of the sector, it's intended to be an instrument to time a particularly weak day for retailers — perhaps around earnings, or another stock-moving event.

The ETF comes in direct response to souring sentiment around traditional brick-and-mortar retailers as emerging online juggernauts like Amazon threaten their long-term future.

And that long-term future looks bleak across the entire sector. Just two weeks ago, clothing store J. Crew announced that it's closing 50 stores amid tumbling sales. JCPenney, which is already planning to close 138 stores, had a disastrous third-quarter reporting period, bringing its stock decline to more than 50% on a year-to-date basis. Nordstrom's attempt to go private was derailed by a lack of investor interest, which was blamed on — wait for it — Toys R Us' bankruptcy earlier in the year.

The whole situation shows just how interconnected the failings of various physical retailers have become. Those are just a few examples of the plight facing the entire industry.

While EMTY is the first fund to function as a pure 1x short bet against brick-and-mortar retailers, there are other ETFs offered by ProShares that can be used for a similar purpose. The only catch is that they're leveraged, meaning they're designed to return two or three times the inverse of a long-retail index.

So if you're a relatively risk-averse investor looking to make a quick one-day bet on the death of retail, EMTY may be for you.

SEE ALSO: A tug-of-war is raging over control of the stock market

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Korean Regulator Hints at Reversing ICO Ban & “Stringent” Bitcoin Regulation

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

A Korean financial regulator calls bitcoin a 'bit of a Ponzi scheme."

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WeWork is set to become London's biggest renter of office space

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

WeWork Soho

  • Co-working office provider WeWork will become London's biggest private user of office space.
  • The move represents a big bet on the resilience of post-Brexit London's office market.


LONDON — Hip office provider WeWork has signed leases that will make it London's biggest private user of office space, according to data compiled by CoStar Group for Bloomberg.

The seven-year-old New York firm, valued at over £15 billion ($20 billion), is known for its trendy co-working offices which feature free beer taps and other perks. It currently operates 17 offices in London and is set to announce a further 10, according to CoStar's data.

The move represents a big bet on the resilience of post-Brexit London's office market. Business Insider reported in October that the firm had signed up to lease commitments in London of more than £2 billion over the next 25 years.

WeWork signs a long-term lease on a building and then sub-letting component parts of it on much shorter terms. The model has so far proved a hit with startups but could prove risky in a cyclical downturn, which many analysts believe London is heading towards.

WeWork has argued that uncertainty surrounding Brexit will support its business because firms will avoid long-term commitments. Industry figures, meanwhile, have warned that WeWork's business model is untested.

"[Flexible operators have] been accumulating a lot of space, they're all in expansion, and... they're not cycle-tested," said Kevin McCauley, head of London research at commercial property firm CBRE in November.

That is "something really to beware of, because we've been through this previously. I would argue that the economy and the market has changed, but again, the model is yet to be tested," McCauley said.

Flexible office space provider Regus expanded massively during the dotcom boom of the late nineties but was forced to rapidly downsize when the bubble burst in 2000.

WeWork has also been accused of using questionable, but legal, tactics to fuel its expansion in the UK. Rival firms accused the company in November of using tactics such as snooping on their premises and aggressively targeting tenants to fuel its growth. The company declined to comment on the allegations.

Business Insider has contacted WeWork for comment.

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The EU has published its first 'blacklist' of tax havens — here are the named countries

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

Barbados beach

  • The EU published its first "blacklist" of 17 tax havens on Tuesday, alongside a "greylist" of 47 jurisdictions.
  • The EU is calling on countries with non-transparent tax regimes and structures solely designed to shield companies' profits from tax to reform their systems.
  • The EU failed to agree on any financial sanctions for blacklisted countries, prompting criticism from the EU's tax commissioner and transparency campaigners.


LONDON — The EU published its first "blacklist" of tax havens on Tuesday, naming 17 countries including Barbados, Panama, and St Lucia.

The 17 blacklisted countries are:

  • American Samoa
  • Bahrain
  • Barbados
  • Grenada
  • Guam
  • South Korea
  • Macao
  • The Marshall Islands
  • Mongolia
  • Namibia
  • Palau
  • Panama
  • St Lucia
  • Samoa
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • The United Arab Emirates.

It also published a "greylist" of 47 countries, which include the British Overseas Territories (OTs) and Crown Dependencies (CDs) of Jersey, Guernsey, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

Countries were blacklisted if they were deemed to have failed to meet international standards on tax transparency and tax rates, and had not provided sufficient commitments that they would change in the months leading up to the list's publication. Those on the greylist made promises to reform their tax structures, which include changes to ensure companies are not using 0% corporate tax rates to avoid paying tax on profits.

Although the blacklisted jurisdictions will not be eligible for EU funds, unless it is to aid development, member states failed to agree on any financial sanctions.

Pierre Moscovici, the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, said the list "represents substantial progress but it remains an insufficient response to the scale of tax evasion worldwide," according to a report in the Guardian.

Moscovici reportedly said the countries on the greylist that had made commitments to change their tax laws must do so "as soon as possible," and called on ministers "to agree quickly on dissuasive national sanctions."

"We must do everything we can to keep up the pressure on all of these countries," he said. "We must not accept unfair tax competition and opacity."

'A political fix'

The news comes soon after the Paradise Papers leak in November, which revealed the tax structures used by the world's wealthy to avoid tax using offshore tax havens.

Commenting on the publication of the list, Alex Cobham, chief executive of Tax Justice Network, said in a statement that it was "hard to take seriously," and that the EU had "missed a great opportunity to tackle the real issues lying behind the large-scale tax avoidance and tax evasion that is bleeding EU countries dry."

He said the list looked like a "political fix" and that EU members had chosen "their least favourite countries to name and shame" — those that were "economically weak and politically unconnected." He condemned the UK for trying to "frustrate" the blacklisting of OTs and CDs "at every turn."

A Treasury spokesperson said: "Today's publication marks an important step in our ongoing efforts to tackle tax avoidance and evasion internationally. This is clearly working, as over 40 jurisdictions have made significant commitments to reform as part of this process. For those that are on today's list, we hope that this increased scrutiny and the potential for counter-measures will lead them to reconsider their approach."

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The pound is set for more pain if Brexit talks break down

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

Pound Euro

  • The pound could slump if Brexit talks break down or stall further, according to Capital Economics.
  • Positioning among investors suggests that they're not expecting anything other than successful talks, which could exacerbate any fall.
  • Sterling has dropped for three consecutive days as disagreements over the Irish border delay progress.

 

More pain could be on the way for sterling should Brexit talks stall further, according to a note circulated by Capital Economics to clients on Wednesday morning.

"Sterling’s slide against the dollar since Monday afternoon – after a meeting between Prime Minister May and European Commission President Juncker failed to produce a breakthrough in Brexit negotiations – raises the question of how the talks will influence the exchange rate in the coming quarters," the research house's daily briefing said.

Investors are not really expecting talks to break down, Capital Economics argues, pointing to the fact that those in the markets "do not appear to be purchasing much protection against a fall in cable in options markets, as demand for out-of-the-money puts relative to demand for out-of-the-money calls is not especially high."

"This is in contrast to the run-up to the EU referendum when the prospect of a “leave” vote saw relative demand for put options on the exchange rate surge."

Here's Capital Economics' chart illustrating just that:Screen Shot 2017 12 06 at 08.45.15Without having the possibility of a breakdown in Brexit talks priced into their positions, investors could get burned if it does transpire, especially when investors are now net long on sterling — effectively meaning that they're broadly positive about the pound going forward.

Here's Capital Economics' second chart:Screen Shot 2017 12 06 at 08.46.02"This all suggests that sterling might fall quite a bit further if Brexit negotiations were to break down," the note suggests.

Sterling has had an up and down week so far, swinging wildly between losses and gains as investors try to make sense of the latest developments in the UK and EU's Brexit negotiations.

Britain's currency appreciated sharply on Monday after reports that the UK and EU had agreed on a mutual position on the question of the Irish border.

It then dropped sharply when it became clear that this wasn't the case, with Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker delivering a joint press conference to announce that, while "progress" had been made, some issues surrounding the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border still need to be ironed out.

"Despite our best efforts and significant progress teams have made in recent days, it was not possible to make a complete agreement today," May said.

That fall extended into Tuesday and has now continued into Wednesday as well.

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South Korea Plans to Impose Income Taxes on Bitcoin Adopters

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

[…]

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Traders on a $1 billion cryptocurrency exchange say they can't withdraw money and are left in the dark about why

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

bittrex

  • Customers of Las Vegas exchange Bittrex claim they are having problems withdrawing money and are not receiving any communication from the company as to why.
  • Bittrex tells BI the issues are to do with new identity verification processes that are needed to comply with US regulation and protect users from fraud.
  • Bittrex admits to "significant delays" handling customer queries but says it has hired more staff to deal with the backlog.


LONDON — Customers of cryptocurrency trading platform Bittrex are complaining of problems withdrawing money and say they have been left in the dark by the huge US exchange.

Several Bittrex customers contacted Business Insider in recent weeks to complain about problems. Others have taken to Twitter and forums such as Reddit.

The majority appear to have issues verifying their identities when trying to withdraw money from the platform. The people who BI spoke to are angry that they have received little to no communication from the platform about the issues, leaving them confused and concerned.

Bittrex on Wednesday admitted to "significant delays" in handling customer issues but claimed the issues only affect "a small percentage of our overall user base."

Las Vegas-registered Bittrex, which has daily trading volumes of around $1 billion, said the "enhanced" identification procedures were part of efforts to comply with US banking regulations and to protect users from fraud and theft. It said in a statement that it has recently hired more staff to try and tackle the issues.

The incident highlights teething problems for the fast-evolving cryptocurrency space, which has attracted billions of dollars of investor money in 2017 but remains largely unregulated and untested.

'This is going on for almost 30 days now'

A Bittrex customer from Florida who asked Business Insider to use only his middle name, Andrew, said: "I, along with a lot of other users, have funds stuck with Bittrex and [am] unable to take them out due to what Bittrex calls 'Verification Issues.'

"Bittrex has 2 levels of verification. Basic Verification, which I completed, but it said it could not find any public record to match what I entered. Then [it] gives you the option to submit what they call Enhanced Verification where you have to submit Gov ID, Passport, Selfie etc. I, in turn, did this, but that one also failed, saying 'Name Mismatch Error.' To top it off, they do not provide any settings page to correctly make the name change if [there] truly is a name mismatch.

"The next step is for you to submit a Support Ticket, which I then completed. My Support ticket was opened on November 6 with not a single response from anyone at Bitrrex. This is going on for almost 30 days now. I updated the ticket many times to no avail."

The lack of communication means Andrew feels "Bittrex is not taking this seriously." He said the company should be doing more to communicate with customers given its size — Bittrex is one of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges, with daily trading regularly topping $1 billion.

"This is a big deal because when you sign up with Bittrex, they allow you to deposit funds into your wallet and even allow you to trade without Verification," Andrew said. "But then you cannot withdraw your funds. Even worse, no response from anyone. Bittrex is in the top 3 largest crypto exchanges and this is unacceptable."

Withdrawal delay is a particular issue in the cryptocurrency space, which is prone to wild price swings that can occur in just minutes. Delays to cashing out could see traders profits diminished or even wiped out if the market moves against them.

Cristian Ruiz, another Bittrex customer who contacted BI, said: "They let people deposit coins on their site and then blocked them for withdraw for any obscure reason and don't reply to mails (even worst, they doesn't have a support call number or even an official address on the website)."

'I don't sleep at night because of that'

Andrew and Cristian were two of three Bittrex customers to contact Business Insider over the last week, all with similar complaints. BI has also observed similar complaints on Twitter and Reddit.

Several complaints have been lodged with the US Better Business Burea. One, submitted in late November, reads: "Support doesn't work at all, I don't sleep at night because of that, when I put money there nobody asked about verification! And now my money blocked."

'We understand the process has been frustrating'

A spokesperson for Bittrex told BI:

"Bittrex recently reached out to its affected customers to explain more fully the improvements we have been making to our identity verification procedures and the reasons some accounts may have been affected. A small percentage of our overall user base has experienced delays in getting their account issues resolved, and we have recently added more staff to address those delays.

"We understand that the process has been frustrating at times, and we are committed to resolving these issues in a prompt and secure manner. We very much appreciate our users’ patience and understanding during this process."

The company sent an email to customers on Wednesday, days after BI first reached out to Bittrex for comment. In the email to customers, Bittrex admitted to "significant delays" in processing customer complaints.

BittrexThe company said the enhanced identification procedures were to "help protect Bittrex users from theft and fraud, and prevent abuse of the Bittrex platform." BI reported last month on "pump and dump" scams operating on the platforms. Bittrex wrote to customers shortly after saying it would "suspend and close any accounts engaging in this type of activity."

Bittrex also told customers on Wednesday that the changes were part of efforts to "comply with the Bank Secrecy Act, U.S. economic sanctions laws, and other legal and regulatory requirements."

"Bittrex takes these compliance obligations seriously," the company said in its email. "We are committed to making sure our services are not used to launder money, support terrorism, commit fraud or other illegal activities."

Andrew, the customer from Florida, told BI: "I'm not sure if this is supposed to make me feel any better. What I do know is that [there is] still no response to my ticket or many others."

Bittrex was founded in 2014 by former engineers from Amazon. The company is "a limited liability corporation formed and operated out of Las Vegas," according to its website. A Seattle PO box address is also listed at the bottom of its email to clients.

You can read Bittrex's full message to customers here.

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10 things you need to know in markets today

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

disney mickey minnie mouse

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

1. Disney and 21st Century Fox are closing in on a deal that could come as quickly as next week, according to a CNBC report citing sources familiar with the matter. The transaction would involve Disney acquiring Fox's studio and television production assets — a portion of the business that has an enterprise value of more than $60 billion, CNBC's sources say.

2. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has asked banks to pitch next Friday for an initial public offering in 2018, people familiar with the plan told Reuters. Xiaomi was valued at $46 billion in a 2014 funding round completed before its sales stagnated. More recently it has seen expectations of its value pick up following strong results this year.

3. Japan's Nikkei share average fell 2 percent on Wednesday, its biggest percentage drop since late March, with selling accelerating after a break of a key technical support level from its 25-day moving average. Market players said investors rushed to take profits from gains in recent months, with materials and other cyclical shares leading the losses following a tumble in copper prices.

4. Bitcoin extended its eye-popping rally on Wednesday, breaking above $12,000 to a record high despite questions about the cryptocurrency's real value and worries about a dangerous bubble. Bitcoin received a boost after Friday's announcement by the main U.S. derivatives regulator that it would allow CME Group Inc and CBOE Global Markets to list bitcoin futures contracts.

5. Goldman Sachs asked clients their views on bitcoin's likely price trajectory, yet another sign of growing interest in cryptocurrency from mainstream finance. Goldman Sachs' market "strat" team within the securities division sends a monthly poll to clients to gauge their thinking on a variety of investment issues. The December "Quickpoll" includes the question: "Where do you see bitcoin at the end of the year?"

6. Greg Coffey, a star hedge fund manager who bowed out of the industry in 2012, is said to be eyeing a comeback. Coffey is considering launching a new fund with James Saltissi, people familiar with the matter told Business Insider. The fund could launch as soon as March, some of the people said.

7. UK police foiled a terror plot to assassinate Prime Minister Theresa May. Police reportedly believed there were plans to detonate an explosive device at Downing Street and kill May amid the chaos.

8. Chancellor Philip Hammond has been banned from using a fleet of RAF jets and helicopters until the Treasury settles a bill with the Ministry of Defence, according to a report from the Times. "Hammond’s department is said to owe a six-figure sum for past flights with No 32 (The Royal) Squadron," the paper says.

9. Apple could release three new iPhone models in 2018, according to a note distributed to investors on Monday by Nomura analysts. Several of the predictions line up with a forecast from renowned KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo issued last month.  Apple could release two iPhones with OLED screens, and one with an LCD screen, according to the note.

10. Google is preventing YouTube from working on Amazon productsGoogle notified Amazon Echo Show owners that they will no longer be able to watch YouTube videos on their gadgets.

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India’s Central Bank Issues Bitcoin Warning [Rinse, Repeat]

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

[…]

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Goldman Sachs asked clients about bitcoin's price trajectory

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

lloyd blankfein goldman sachs chairman and ceo

  • Goldman asks clients where they think bitcoin price will be at the end of December.
  • No consensus among 1,200 who responded.
  • There's rising interest in bitcoin from institutional investors.


LONDON — Goldman Sachs asked clients their views on bitcoin's likely price trajectory, yet another sign of growing interest in cryptocurrency from mainstream finance.

Goldman Sachs' market "strat" team within the securities division sends a monthly poll to clients to gauge their thinking on a variety of investment issues.

The December "Quickpoll" includes the question: "Where do you see bitcoin at the end of the year?" — thought to be the first time the investment bank has used the poll to ask clients about the cryptocurrency.

BI understands that around 1,200 Goldman clients answered the question. Opinion on the price trajectory was divided, but the biggest minority — 30% — answered "Higher [12,000 - 15,000]." 15% said they believed bitcoin would be lower or much lower by the end of the year, while 28% had no view.

Bitcoin's price has surged over 1,000% so far this year to around $11,800 as of Tuesday afternoon. However, the cryptocurrency has been prone to wild swings in price.

The rise in price has coincided with rising interest from institutional investors and the companies that serve them. Exchange operators CBOE and CME Group are both set to launch bitcoin futures contracts later this month and Nasdaq is rumoured to be planning a similar product.

Goldman Sachs itself is reportedly considering launching a cryptocurrency trading desk that would offer liquidity to clients who want to trade bitcoin. The "strats" team called bitcoin the "Topic du jour" in its email to clients.

However, CEO Lloyd Blankfein said during a recent TV interview that it was too early for the investment bank to develop a bitcoin strategy.

"Something that moves up and down 20 percent in a day doesn’t feel like a currency, doesn’t feel like a store of value," Blankfein said.

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$12,000 and Higher! Bitcoin Price Hits New Milestone as Market Turns Optimistic

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

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Square is unleashing crypto onto more of its user base

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

jack dorsey

  • Square, the mobile-payments company, has been allowing some of its users to buy and sell bitcoin on its Cash App.
  • The company said on Tuesday it was rolling out the service to additional users.


Square is increasing the number of people eligible to buy and sell bitcoin on its Cash App, the company founded by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced on Twitter Tuesday.

The company has been running a trial on Cash App, a rival to Venmo, that has allowed only a small number of users to purchase bitcoin.

Here's the announcement:

A person familiar with the expansion told Business Insider it represents a "sizeable and noticeable increase."

The expansion of the service comes after some major gains for the crypto world. Since news broke on November 14 of the company's foray into bitcoin, two major US exchanges announced the specific launch date for their respective bitcoin futures contracts and the total market-cap for the crypto-market blew past $300 billion.

Square said in November it added the feature because users asked for it.

"We believe cryptocurrency can greatly impact the ability of individuals to participate in the global financial system, and we're excited to learn more here," the company said in the statement.

At first, Wall Street responded positively to the news. It sent the stock up 20% to an all-time high near $50 per share on November 24. The stock ended the trading day Tuesday at $37.60 per share.

The full roll-out of the feature could put Square up against cryptocurrency exchanges such as Coinbase and Gemini.

A research note penned by Credit Suisse analysts Paul Condra and Mrinalini Bhutoria said the move could be a tailwind for the company, despite some hurdles. Here’s the bank (emphasis ours):

“Given SQ’s tendency to move judiciously into new technologies, we expect it will do the same with bitcoin purchases. We believe the largest risk is regulation, which could limit its ability to provide the service or outright ban it. SQ is also exposed to liquidity and counterparty risk as it must source bitcoin for users either by pre-buying or using an exchange. Despite these risks, the upside could be significant if crypto currencies become more mainstream.”

The venture, Credit Suisse said, could ultimately translate into $30 million in additional revenues.

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India's Central Bank Sounds the Alarm (Again) on Bitcoin

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

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued a new warning on cryptocurrencies, the second time this year the central bank has done so.

(+) Bitcoin Party on Wall Street

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

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$12,000 and Rising: Bitcoin's Price Hits New All-Time High

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

The price of bitcoin has risen above $12,000 for the first time.

eBitcoin’s Payment Solution Aiming Mass Adoption via Messengers & Online Shops

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

[…]

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'All-You-Can-Fly' Airline Begins Accepting Bitcoin and Ether

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

Surf Air will accept bitcoin and ethereum to pay for its tickets going forward.

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