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UBS: Bitcoin Is Too "Unstable and Limited" to Function as Money

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

UBS doesn't believe bitcoin constitutes money or a viable asset class yet, but it could in the future.

Trump’s tax cuts have so far failed to deliver on one key promise

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

Trump University

  • The Trump tax cuts were pitched as a boon to US workers, with the administration arguing their benefits would trickle-down into rising wages.
  • While the tax cuts have meant some Americans are keeping more of their paychecks, no discernible gains in wages have materialized thus far.
  • Real average hourly earnings (adjusted for inflation) for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls were totally unchanged in June from one year earlier.

President Donald Trump’s massive tax cuts were pitched by the administration as pro-worker, despite extensive analysis documenting the vast majority of benefits would accrue to the wealthiest Americans and the corporations they run.

"Because of our tax cuts, you can keep more of your hard-earned money," Trump said in his April speech celebrating what the White House touted as "Tax Cuts for American Workers."

Trump emphasized the message: "This event is dedicated to you: the hardworking Americans who make our nation run."

And earlier, in February, the president's former chief economic advisor Gary Cohn said "one of the real impetuses for our tax reform and tax cut plan was to get real wages to grow in the United States, we haven’t had real wage growth in a long time in the United States."

Now that enough time has elapsed since the passage of the tax cuts for economists to begin analyzing the data, it's clear that while many Americans may be seeing a bit more money in their paychecks as a result of the new tax breaks, the promised wage growth and business investment have yet to materialize.  

A report from the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, points to the following in particular:

  • Real average hourly earnings (adjusted for inflation) for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls were totally unchanged in June from one year earlier.
  • Real average hourly earnings the approximately 80% of workers categorized as "production and nonsupervisory employees" edged 0.2% lower over the same period.
  • Real median weekly earnings have also decreased slightly.

This chart paints an even clearer picture:

Real Wages

Trump talked up the second quarter's strong 4.1% annualized pace of US gross domestic product growth, but most economists expect that number to come down closer to the recent 2% trend — and that's without the drag from worsening trade wars.

"Workers are not getting ahead in the Trump economy," write CAP economist Michael Madowitz and senior fellow Seth Hanlon in a report.

The 2% gain in nominal weekly median earnings from the second quarter of 2017 to the second quarter of 2018 was outpaced by inflation, which registered 2.7% over the same period, they note.

"Official data released in recent weeks have shown that workers’ wages are flat or even slightly down, in real terms, over the last year. These data fly in the face of many tax plan boosters who have claimed that the bill’s passage has already been a boon to middle-class workers."

SEE ALSO: Trump’s proposed auto tariffs will lead to sharp spikes in the price of Americans’ most prized possession

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McAfee’s ‘Unhackable’ Bitcoin Wallet Allegedly Hacked

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

John McAfee’s Bitfi bitcoin wallet has allegedly been hacked after its creator issued a $250,000 hacking challenge. Bitfi, which has marketed the wallet as “unhackable,” alongside promoter John McAfee has not yet responded to a post from security research group OverSoftNL, where it claimed to have obtained root access. Accusations and Speculation The tweet at

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Financial Services Firm Opens Doors to Crypto Hedge Funds

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

Financial Services Firm Opens Doors to Crypto Hedge Funds

The crypto industry has received another boost with the entry of financial services giant Northern Trust in a quiet but significant move. The firm, which manages over $10.7 trillion in assets, has added blockchain features into its private equity workflow, while extending its administration services to a select group of hedge funds betting on digital assets.

Institutional Entry at Long Last?

For months, the cryptocurrency market has waited for the expected entry of institutional finance, an event which is expected to herald its coming-of-age as a bona fide investment asset class with a long-term future. By and large, a torrent of banks and funds pouring money into crypto assets has not materialized, driven in part by fears of regulatory uncertainty, and the erratic and unconventional behavior of the asset.

This series of quiet but deliberate moves by Northern Trust, however, could signify the beginning of a significant investment influx to crypto markets. In an interview with Forbes, Pete Cherecwich, president of corporate and institutional services at Northern Trust confirmed that a shift is indeed taking place, and he highlighted the reason why.

“You can take anything today. You can take movie rights, you can take all sorts of entities, and you can create a token for those. We have to be able to figure out how to hold those tokens, value those tokens, do those things,” he said.

While Northern Trust didn’t reveal the identity of the hedge funds it's working with, in this new area of engagement, Cherecwich dropped a tantalizing hint, by mentioning that the project is with three “mainstream hedge funds” who are adopting a significant investment position in digital assets.

Northern Trust as the Lodestar

At the moment, few recognized financial services firms are offering their services to crypto-related activities. A few notable exceptions to this are the so-called “Big 4” accounting firms, namely KPMG, Deloitte, EY and PwC, who have variously embarked on individual crypto-related projects and client engagement.

Other vital exceptions are Goldman Sachs, which recently launched a bitcoin trading desk, and Bloomberg, which launched the Galaxy Crypto Index alongside hedge fund investor Mike Novogratz earlier this year. By adopting a crypto-positive position early on, Northern Trust hopes to become the premier financial services provider servicing hedge funds that choose to invest in crypto assets.

The firm’s strategy, however, doesn’t include taking direct custody of crypto assets. Instead, it's focused on helping its customers account for their crypto investments. Effectively, it is providing the proverbial picks and shovels during the crypto gold rush without actually taking on crypto assets or the risk therein. According to Cherecwich, this comes as part of a broader strategy to prepare for a time when cryptocurrencies effectively disrupt fiat currencies and become the accepted global norm.

Describing such a time, Cherecwich says, “I do believe that governments will ultimately look at digitizing their currencies and having them trade kind of like a digital token — a token of the U.S. dollar — but the U.S. dollar [would still be] in a vault somewhere, or backed by the government. How are they going to do that? I don’t know. But I do believe they are going to get there.”

The new crypto management solution which has been demoed to “well over 100 clients” is yet to be launched publicly, but Cherecwich believes it will be a success.

"We have determined that we will be able to go out and sell it," he concluded.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Sonos surges 33% in its trading debut

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

sonos

  • Sonos opened for trading at $16 on Thursday and surged by as much as 32.7%.
  • It had priced its initial public offering at $15, below the expected range of $17 to $19.
  • Sonos' IPO came as the California-based company seeks to build market share among voice-assistant-enabled smart speakers. 

Sonos shares opened for trading at $16 apiece on Thursday, and closed at $19.91, gaining $32.73% in the trading debut.

The smart-speaker company had priced its initial public offering at $15 per share on Thursday, below the expected range of $17 to $19, giving the company a valuation of about $1.5 billion.

In its regulatory filing to go public, Sonos said that its speakers were registered in 7 million homes and that its customers listened to 70 hours of content a month.

The California-based company is seeking to build market share among voice-assistant-enabled smart speakers. Sonos in the past year released two such speakers, the Sonos One and the Sonos Beam, which support Amazon's Alexa.

sonos number of speakers

Sonos said it intended to use the proceeds of its IPO to invest in marketing and development.

The IPO came roughly four months after the direct listing of Spotify. The streaming service has recently filed dozens of patents for hardware devices and music-discovery software, setting it up as a potential competitor for Sonos.

Sonos lost $14.22 million — or $0.50 per share — on revenue of $992.53 million in the most recent fiscal year ending September 30, a filing showed. The firm qualifies as an "emerging growth company" because its revenue was less than $1.07 billion, meaning the Securities and Exchange Commission permitted it to make narrower disclosures about its finances.

The company had $39.7 million in debt as of March 31.

Sonos is listed on the Nasdaq with the ticker SONO. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Allen & Company were the lead underwriters of the IPO.

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Trump's trade war reminds Morgan Stanley of a dispute that worsened the Great Depression — and the firm is sounding the alarm on an economic meltdown

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

trump xi jinping

  • With President Donald Trump's trade war ramping up further, Morgan Stanley just said the US's protectionist behavior reminded it of the conditions surrounding the Great Depression.
  • Morgan Stanley is also worried about how the trade war will affect foreign direct investment, a slowdown in which could crush global economic growth.

President Donald Trump's latest attempt to strong-arm China appeared to fail Thursday, as the nation's Ministry of Commerce dismissed his threats as a "carrot and stick" tactic.

The latest back-and-forth weighed on markets globally and renewed concerns that the struggle would become a huge drag on economic growth worldwide.

Morgan Stanley, one of many global financial leaders warning of the potential for fallout, went as far as to evoke the Great Depression in a recent note to clients. The protectionist culture permeating trade behavior reminds the firm of the downward spiral that worsened the massive economic meltdown that rocked the US economy almost a century ago.

The story goes like this: Following World War I, the US raised duties on agricultural products in response to a steep decline in exports. That tariff then spurred what Morgan Stanley calls an "avalanche of protectionist punches and counter-punches," which created a more insular international situation ahead of the Great Depression in 1929.

Then, in 1930, the US enacted the Smoot-Hawley Act, which raised tariffs on more than 20,000 imported goods. The measure is widely seen as ...

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Sonos execs break down the speaker company's $1.5 billion IPO —and lay out its road to profitability (SONO)

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

Sonos IPO

  • Smart-speaker company Sonos went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange Thursday, raising $1.5 billion to compete with Spotify, Apple, Amazon, and Google. 
  • Shares rose roughly 30% from opening price of $16.
  • Business Insider spoke to an early investor who now sits on Sonos' board, as well as the company's VP of corporate finance about what's next for the smart-speaker company.

Sonos — the smart-speaker company powering sound waves in seven million homes so far — raised $1.5 billion in an initial public offering on Thursday.

The Silicon Valley firm has been making high-fidelity speakers for more than 16 years. And after raising more than $450 million over the course of nine rounds on Sand Hill Road, Sonos finally made the leap to Wall Street.

Two company executives told Business Insider that the company hopes to use the proceeds from the IPO to take on mega-cap tech giants like Apple and Amazon, and recently public Spotify, for control of your home's soundscape.

"We felt like the company had a lot of positive tailwinds behind them in terms of the increase in streaming music, the increase in WiFi in peoples' homes, the technology Sonos had to make music a multi-room experience that we didn't see anywhere else," Brittany Bagley, a managing director at KKR — an original investor in Sonos' $135 million Series F round back in 2012 and underwriter on the IPO  — who now sits on Sonos' board, said in an interview.

"We very much like to invest thematically behind growing businesses, and we saw a lot of those positive opportunities all inside Sonos. They were a great way to back some of those trends."

Of course, Sonos isn't the only company hoping to hitch its wagon to the streaming train. Spotify went public through a so-called direct listing earlier this year, only to disappoint in its first earnings report as a publicly-traded company. Entrenched giants like Apple, Amazon, and Google all have released their own versions of home speakers as well.

Instead of competing directly, Sonos wants to remain agnostic, supporting anything from Spotify streaming, to Google's voice assistant, and more.

"I really see Sonos as an enabler of the streaming providers," Bagley said. "Customers listen to 70% more music when they are listening through Sonos. It really enables people who love to listen to those streaming music services to do it more, out loud, and in their home.

"Yes we sell a physical product and that's how we monetize our software from a business model standpoint, but we really view ourselves as an enabler of that ecosystem."

Profitability, on the other hand, could present the company with another struggle. Sonos said in its IPO filing that it lost $14.22 million — or $0.50 a share — in its most recent fiscal year ending September 30.

Mike Groeninger, Sonos' VP of corporate finance, says more international sales can help with that. "Historically, we episodically launched products," he told Business Insider in an interview.

"Now our intention is to launch two new products every year. We're looking at partnerships like what we're doing with Ikea to drive the number of new households at different price points. We also have a large geographic expansion opportunity. Eighty percent of our revenue comes from five countries. We'll actually be launching in Japan later this year, it's the second-largest music market in the world, so we're excited about the international opportunity as well."

But don't expect that profit anytime soon, both executives said. Instead, Sonos says Thursday's IPO was a way to access new investors and fresh cash as it continues to grow.

"It's about getting the right long-term investors today, building that base of investors over the long term, and executing against our business model and plans so that we can drive shareholder value over the long term," Groeninger said. "Because of product cadence, it's just natural that we will have volatility in our quarters."

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SEE ALSO: Sonos surges in trading debut

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Bitcoin Price Won’t Hit a New High [This Year]: Trader

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

It’s possible that the bitcoin price has found a bottom, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s headed for a new all-time high before the end of the year. That’s according to Tuur Demeester, an economist and bitcoin trader, who argues in a new report that the market needs more time to absorb the historic

The post Bitcoin Price Won’t Hit a New High [This Year]: Trader appeared first on CCN

An ETF veteran explains how she is trying to close the gender gap in asset management

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

Linda Zhang

  • Exchange-traded funds have become wildly popular in the past decade, and account for a quarter of all trading activity on exchanges.
  • We spoke to Linda Zhang, the founder of ETF investment management firm Purview Investments, about her firm's strategy in a saturated market, how she's helping women in the asset management space, and the future of the investment industry.  

As the index and exchange-traded fund industry continues to attract assets away from mutual funds, investors are demanding more and more nuanced vehicles to express a wider range of investment strategies.

There’s an ETF for almost everything, from Catholic companies to green and eco-friendly
investments. Right now, the number of indexes exceeds the total number of listed equities in the world by about 70 times.

As a result, active ETFs — those that track a bespoke index created for a particular point of view
on a sector or theme — are on the rise, particularly since they retain the low-cost transparency that makes the structure so popular among investors.

We spoke to Linda Zhang, Ph.D., CEO of Purview Investments, a registered investment advisor that offers actively-managed ETF portfolios focused on global and impact strategies. Her investment approach incorporates the impact on the world — whether that be through environmental screens, good governance or gender equality — along with risk and return.

Dr. Zhang, a veteran of State Street and BlackRock, also co-founded Women in ETFs, the first women networking group devoted to the industry.

We spoke with her to learn more about where investors are heading when they don’t want to sacrifice values for performance, and why all we all own the issue of trying to close the gender gap in asset management. 

How do you differentiate yourself when Exchange-Traded Funds seem to be highly commoditized? How do niche products attract flows?

The ETF industry has experienced phenomenal growth thanks to the competition among the product providers and the ever-rising demand for a cost-effective and transparent product structure. U.S. investors have over 1,900 ETFs to choose from, which provide low-fee exposure to nearly any investment thesis one might want. The commoditization of ETFs is great news for investors.

At Purview Investments, ETFs are the building blocks to our strategy. As an asset manager, we express our global investment views using ETFs on behalf of our clients.

Despite the proliferation of ETF products, we see more widespread adoption of what were once considered niche products, such as smart beta, thematic and active ETFs. The success of any niche product will depend on its sound long-term investment thesis, not a fad. Investor education is key: they need to know how to fit these products into an otherwise bland portfolio and how to avoid misusing them.

So tell me about Purview’s portfolio and strategy.

At Purview, we make investment decisions in line with the principles of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). We offer ESG-focused, actively-managed ETF portfolios, a cleaner version of a global multi-asset strategy. Our hope is to “detox” one’s portfolio without altering the risk and return profile of one’s investment objective.

We think it’s time to expand modern finance theory. For too long, investors have considered only two dimensions of investment, return and risk. It’s time to add the positive ESG impact as the third pillar of modern finance – return, risk and impact. Together, they transform the traditional 2D Efficient Frontier line to a new 3D Efficient Surface. The new framework allows investors to choose cleaner and more equitable portfolios on the Efficient Surface at the same time meeting their return objective and risk tolerance.

In practice, we implement our investment views using ESG ETFs and Impact ETFs that provide exposure to global equities and fixed income. The ESG-labeled ETFs have a young history but have experienced a nearly 70 percent annual growth rate, as of the end of June 2018, off a small base. Purview is a pioneer in ESG investing through ETFs. We see ripples ahead and potentially waves coming.

Who tends to invest in themes? Is there more interest on the institutional side vs. retail? Where is growth coming from?

We have seen strong interest from both individuals and institutions. On the individual side, it may surprise you to hear that we currently have more men than women on our client list. The stereotype that men don’t care about ESG investing is simply not true.

We also field many inquiries from millennials. In general, they get the impact dimension of the equation very quickly and want to be part of that new investment paradigm. We’re currently working on ways to allow more of them to become direct Purview clients without the hurdle of a minimum, a typical feature of the SMA structure.

Meanwhile, institutions have been behind ESG investing for years, especially in Europe. Many have invested in real projects, mutual funds and SMAs of individual securities. We’re now seeing endowments, emerging manager programs at large pensions and pension consultants take notice of our ESG ETF-based strategy as a cost-effective, transparent and liquid alternative to complement their portfolio allocation. They need impact investing through the public markets.

Talk a bit about Women in ETFs. What is its mission and how is it helping women in the asset management space?

Women in ETFs (WE) was founded by five women in 2013, the year I entered the ETF ecosystem. We envisioned a network to connect, support and inspire women and all genders in the industry — and WE has exceeded all expectations. We now have more than 4,000 members globally.

Our mission is to address and close the gender gap issue in asset management. This is not just a women’s issue or a men’s issue — it’s ours to own and solve.

We are currently launching the WE Speaker’s Bureau aimed at addressing the conference panel gender gap. Thus far, we’ve received strong support from Inside ETFs, Morningstar and IMN. Our goal is to raise the number of women panelists to 25 percent in the next 18 months from its current levels in the mid-teens. 

As a leader and mentor of young women in the space, what are some of the challenges they face?

The root gender issue our industry faces is that women are often not being heard by colleagues and leadership in the industry. It’s even worse for young women. Women’s interest, drive and talent are all there. Unfortunately, we’re still facing a culture that neither pays nor promotes women at the rates on par with men, and that’s in part because asset management is stuck in a connections-based mindset versus a results-oriented one. This stifles innovation and shuts out diverse talent. So not only is it immoral, it hurts companies’ bottom line. We have to change that, and quickly.

What are the biggest culture differences between the ETF and mutual fund worlds?

The ETF world tends to encourage transparency, innovation and collaboration among different parts of ecosystem. That makes sense, because the industry arose, in part, out of a demand for those values in investing. Meanwhile, the mutual fund world still emphasizes “secret sauces” and proprietary processes over openness and collaboration. It’s not the winning mindset, nor the industry trend.

Are you seeing more blended portfolios incorporating passive and active products?

More sophisticated managed portfolios are using a blend of passive and active products because this approach allows them to balance cost-efficiency with their investment precisions. But most robo products at brokerage firms still use plain vanilla passive products. Asset management firms, like Purview, are changing that, giving investor options for more advanced products.

How are mutual fund managers still justifying fees?

It puzzles me, with the exception for those truly active, less-correlated funds that will always appeal to some investors.

What do you think the industry will look like in 5 to 10 years?

I can foresee three possible trends. First, we’ll see the continuation of the migration of mutual funds to ETFs. Mutual funds will suffer more outflows to ETFs, especially in those most efficient and most-followed asset classes.

The second trend is the integration of the mutual fund and ETF businesses. More mutual fund shops will see the opportunity on the wall and want to, or have to, create transparent, liquid and cost-effective investment vehicles of their own.

And finally, I think that mutual fund firms have a precious opportunity to become some of the best active ETF providers, because they already have some of the best investment talent. They just need to be comfortable with the fact that ETFs are the product structure of the future.

Kiki O'Keeffe works in strategic communications at Makovsky and is a writer in Brooklyn.

SEE ALSO: Here's how ETFs became one of Wall Street's hottest investment products

SEE ALSO: A guide to how ETFs work

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Barclays has the fastest growing stock trading team on the planet (BARC)

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

Jes Staley

  • Barclays stock-trading team is the fastest growing on the planet so far in 2018. 
  • The bank reported second quarter results Thursday, growing its equities business 37% to $807 million.
  • No other major bank's stock-trading unit grew faster in the second quarter.
  • It's the second straight quarter of rapid growth for Barclays' stock-trading team, which the bank has been investing in heavily under CEO Jes Staley with 35 new outside hires so far this year. 

The hottest stock-trading team on the planet in 2018 isn't one of Wall Street's giants from the United States. 

Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs may dominate the equities industry in terms of raw market share, but British lender Barclays has the fastest-growing operation in the business so far this year.

The bank reported stellar second quarter earnings results Thursday, and its equities business was a key reason why, growing to $807 million from $588 million in 2017 — a 37% increase.

No other major bank's stock-trading team grew faster in the second quarter.

Barclays' gains easily outpaced those of European competitors Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, and UBS. And while its equities business is still much smaller than those of its US peers in terms of revenue, it grew more than any of them and is within shouting distance of Citigroup, which posted $864 million in second quarter revenues.

barclays stock trading team versus us competitors

"We obviously feel actually very good about our markets business. I think you've seen in our relative revenue performance that we believe we've taken a bit of market share again in the second quarter after taking some market share in the first quarter and in the fourth quarter," CFO Tushar Morzaria said during a call with analysts Thursday. "I'm really pleased with our performance in equities."

Barclays attributed the success primarily to strong performance in financing and equity derivatives, a product line that thrives on volatility, which has roared back in 2018.

The return of market volatility — which was absent much of 2016 and almost all of 2017 — has revived banks' stock-trading businesses across Wall Street, though none have benefited as much as Barclays. 

It's the second straight quarter of rapid growth for the bank's stock-trading team, which grew 43% to $827 million in the first quarter — the most of any bank during that period as well.

The division has struggled in recent years and in 2016 said it would exit its Asian cash equities business. But lately under CEO Jes Staley it has focused on bringing on new talent and investing in technology, which has helped boost its electronic trading volumes. In September 2017, Barclays brought in Stephen Dainton, formerly of Credit Suisse, as global equities chief, and Dainton has been on a hiring spree since.

In 2018 he's bolstered his equities roster with 35 new outside hires, according to the bank, including Nas Al-Khudairi, formerly of Credit Suisse, as global head of electronic equities and head of cash equities in Europe; Todd Sandoz, formerly of Nomura, as head of equities in the Americas; and Neil Staff, formerly of Credit Suisse, as global head of exotics trading and head of derivatives trading in Europe. 

So far, the investments appear to paying off, though it remains to be seen whether the gains will continue through the second half of the year. 

The bank cautioned that July was a subdued month for volatility, a trend that would put a damper on Wall Street's stock-trading comeback if it continues.  

But for now, Barclays holds claim to the fastest-growing equities business in the world. 

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A VC behind $5 billion Slack shares what it takes to convince him to write million dollar checks to startups looking for investors

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

Dave Munichiello GV

  • GV general partner Dave Munichiello has met a lot of founders, and his favorites always have one thing in common. 
  •  The best of the lot are open and vulnerable when pitching investors, Munichiello said. The worst leave the room, and he has no idea who they really are or what they're like.
  • It all comes down to why GV is investing. Munichiello wants to work with startups that are open to experimenting and solving problems — and you can't do that if you think you're already the best in the game.

Dave Munichiello has a word of advice to hungry entrepreneurs: be real.

In his five years as general partner at GV, formerly Google Ventures, Munichiello has taken a lot of meetings with founders hoping that the firm will invest a few million dollars to give their startup legs.

The best founders, he told Business Insider, are open and vulnerable about their work, and empathetic to other people's points of view. The worst are, well, the opposite. 

"Sometimes when entrepreneurs come in and pitch us, they can appear bulletproof," Munichiello told Business Insider. "They can say, 'I'm the smartest person in this space. I've never made a mistake. And we're gonna be huge and you're about to miss out on this big opportunity.'"

"It feels egotistical — it feels out of touch. And as somebody who's seen all of the challenges of startup world, and all of the risks and that every day is either a huge high or a huge low, it just doesn't feel real," he said, adding that it's a bad sign if a founder walks out of the room and Munichiello feels like he doesn't have a sense of who they are. 

Once upon a time, Munichiello was on the other side of the table. After five years in the military, he joined the robotics company Kiva Systems as a senior director and worked there through its $775 million acquisition by Amazon. He packed up soon after the change of ownership and took his Harvard MBA to GV in 2013.  

Since then, Munichiello has invested and advised a cohort of enterprise tech companies with a focus on ...

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There's a very good reason why Cisco shelled out $2.35 billion to buy hot startup Duo Security (CSCO)

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

Dug Song, Duo Security

  • After months of negotiating, Cisco has confirmed that it's buying Duo Security for $2.5 billion in cash.
  • This was a smart and totally expected move by Cisco, who had been watching this company's fast growth from the inside as an investor.
  • While Cisco is paying a hefty premium over Duo's last valuation of $1.17 billion, the price is not outlandish given how well these companies fit together, as well as Duo's strong growth.


After months of negotiating, Cisco has confirmed that it's buying Duo Security for $2.5 billion in cash and assumed equity awards.

Duo is a hot, up-and-coming Ann Arbor, Michigan-based startup that was last valued at $1.17 billion. It was even named as one of Business Insider's 50 startups that will boom in 2018.

And really, it's no surprise that Cisco was the one to snap up this startup. Cisco was one of the investors in the $70 million round that pushed its valuation over $1 billion, meaning that it was clearly on the acquisitive tech giant's radar.

Duo is a cloud service that manages passwords and employee access to cloud apps and the network. It provided an alternative to "clunky VPNs," as it describes. As every employee who works at a large corporation knows, the VPN, or virtual private network, can be a headache to deal with. And the largest provider of VPN software is Cisco.

So to Cisco, Duo was both a threat (of the annoying, ankle-biting kind), and an opportunity — Duo is a cloud service with subscription revenue, which fits into Cisco's current strategic focus. Duo fits exactly the mold of the kind of company Cisco wants to buy, and is willing to spend double its private valuation to get it on board.

It is an acquisition in the image of one of Cisco's most successful purchases, the WiFi-gear and cloud service company Meraki, which it bought for $1.2 billion in 2012. Meraki is the acquisition that CEO Chuck Robbins is constantly holding up as example of the direction he is taking the company. 

The deal was done by Cisco's David Goeckeler, the super-powerful exec running the enormous network business unit and its enormous security unit. He said in a blog post that the deal was "several months in the making," and that buying Duo was "highly strategic." It will allow Cisco's next-generation networking gear, designed for enterprises who want to use multiple cloud platforms, to handle the password security part.

On top of all that, Pitchbook estimated Duo's total revenue at around the $100 million mark at the end of 2017, growing at 37%, based on what investors revealed in their financial documents. Cisco was not immediately available for comment on those figures.

The company was founded by CEO Dug Song, a long-time member of the Ann Arbor startup community, and CTO Jonathan Oberheide, who founded Duo based on his PhD work at University of Michigan. 

Song made his mark as a key engineer at Arbor Networks, a network security company founded out of the University of Michigan in 2000, also backed by Cisco and bought by Tektronix for an undisclosed sum in 2011. Beyond security, Song is known for his sense of humor and his support of skateboard parks. Through their fund raising, investors owned about 60% of the company, leaving the founders and its 700 or so employees with the remaining 70%. 

SEE ALSO: A promising 11-year-old cloud startup that raised $56 million from top investors has quietly shut down

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Bitcoin Price Intraday Analysis: BTCUSD Stabilizes Near Crucial Support Level

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

Just close to a week of bearish action, the Bitcoin market is taking a break near a crucial support level. So far, we have seen the BTC/USD establishing its latest high at 8512-fiat, upon which the pair has undergone strong bearish correction action. We had found a weak support at 7814-fiat, but it was invalidated

The post Bitcoin Price Intraday Analysis: BTCUSD Stabilizes Near Crucial Support Level appeared first on CCN

Audits and Quality Assurance: Patching the Holes in Smart Contract Security

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

Audits and Quality Assurance: Patching the Holes in Smart Contract Security

On July 10, 2018, news broke that cryptocurrency wallet and decentralized exchange Bancor was hit with a hack. A wallet the Bancor team used to update the protocol’s smart contracts was infiltrated, and the $23.5 million vulnerability allowed the hackers to run off with $12.5 million ETH, $1 million NPXS tokens and $10 million of Bancor’s BNT token.

Following the hack, the Bancor team froze the BNT in question in an effort to stanch its losses.

The latest of its kind, the attack is an unfortunate reminder that smart contracts are not foolproof. Even built as they are on the blockchain’s security intensive network, they can feature bugs, backdoors and vulnerabilities that are ripe for exploitation.

Before Bancor, we saw the popular Ethereum wallet Parity drained of 150,000 ETH (now worth just over $68 million) in July of 2017. In November of the same year, Parity lost even more than this when a less-experienced coder accidentally froze some $153 million worth of ether and other tokens.

In perhaps the most infamous smart contract hack in the industry to date, The DAO, a decentralized venture fund, lost 3.6 million ether in June of 2016. The stolen funds are now worth $1.6 billion, and the fallout of the attack saw Ethereum hard fork to recoup losses.

The Why and How: Making the Same Mistake

If three’s company, then The DAO, Parity and now Bancor have become the poster triplets of smart contract vulnerabilities. But they’re not alone in their weakness, and similar smart contract bugs have been exploited or nearly exploited on other networks.

For such a nascent technology, such flaws may be expected, but given the mass sum of funds these contracts are supposed to protect, truly stalwart security measures are not yet routinely employed.

To Hartej Sawhney, co-founder of Hosho cybersecurity firm, the sheer amount of funds at stake is enough of an incentive to attract black hats to these smart contracts, especially if there’s a central point through which they can probe for access.

“There’s money behind every smart contract, so there’s an incentive to hack into it. And the scary part of smart contracts like Bancor is that they’ve coded their smart contracts in a way that gives centralized power to the founders of the project. They’ve put this backdoor in there,” Sawhney told Bitcoin Magazine in an interview.

Sawhney is referring to Bancor’s ability to confiscate and freeze tokens at will, as the smart contracts that govern their wallet and exchange feature central points of control. This degree of control has been widely criticized as centralized to the point that Bancor shouldn’t be able to advertise itself as a decentralized exchange.

And it may have even provided the hackers with an entry point into the network. While Bancor has not revealed the specifics of the hack and its execution, the team wrote in a blog post that “a wallet used to upgrade some smart contracts was compromised.” Sawhney indicated in our interview that “most smart contracts are coded to be irreversible,” while Bancor’s own are completely mutable. The hackers could have exploited — and likely did exploit — the same backdoor that the developers put into place to manage their project.

Bancor aside, Dmytro Budorin, CEO of cybersecurity community Hacken, echoed Sawhney’s belief that the industry’s treasure trove of assets is a powerful impetus for hackers to dirty their hands. He also believes that the relative youth of the technology makes it vulnerable to detrimental exploits.

“Coding on blockchain is something new,” Budorin added in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine. “We still lack security standards and best practices on how to properly code smart contracts. Also, when coding smart contracts, programmers think more about functionality than about security, since a programmer’s main task is to simply make the code work, and security is usually an afterthought.”

Working with new programming languages, security can take a back seat to functionality. More than just the casualty of a steep learning curve, Sawhney believes that security can slip by the eye of software engineers because they “don’t have a quality assurance (QA) mindset.”

With millions at stake and potential holes in the code to exploit, hackers are bound to drum up a scheme to breach these contracts, according to Budorin. Even if a team has audited their code for expected or known vulnerabilities, “a new type of attack can be developed any time and nothing can protect you from this.”

All it takes is a spurt of intuitive thinking to probe a smart contract’s code for an unexplored opening, Amy Wan, CEO and co-founder of Sagewise, iterated in a separate interview with Bitcoin Magazine.

“It is not often that developers are able to write perfect code that works the first time around — and even when that happens the code cannot be adapted to unforeseen situations. Code is also static, which makes smart contracts very rigid. However, humans are anything but static and very creative when it comes to problem solving. This combination creates something of a perfect storm, making smart contracts ill-suited where there are bugs in coding or loopholes/situation changes.”

Wan believes that “technology isn't about tech itself as much as it is about how humans interact with it,” meaning that we “are always going to have folks looking for opportunities to test the shortcomings of technology, which may result in hacks.”

To Wan, smart contracts feature intrinsic vulnerabilities. To make security matters worse, she also holds that they “cannot be amended or terminated (or in technologist speak, evolved or upgraded),” and their static nature renders them susceptible to the dynamic, adaptive strategies of black hats.

“Code aside, with every situation, there are an infinite number of things that can go awry. The rigidity of smart contracts presently cannot accommodate the fluidity of the real world,” she said.

Mending the Achilles Heel

If technical flexibility is the crux of smart contract weakness, then the fix is in the inception and carry-through of their development. Developers should put preventative measures in place to ensure that their code can bend without breaking, both CEOs expressed.

“We need to have a more comprehensive approach in order to solve this problem in the long term,” Budorin argued. “First of all, even though it is impossible to make all contracts absolutely secure, smart contract risks can be reduced. The best way to secure a smart contract is to have a security engineer on staff, conduct two different independent audits, and launch a bug bounty program for a dedicated period of time before deployment.”

Hacken itself facilitates such bug bounties, and the platform, called HackenProof, has seen its white hat community audit and test such industry projects as VeChainThor, Neverdie, Legolas Exchange, NapoleonX, Shopin and Enecuum. Budorin and his team find that bug bounties provide a reliable if tertiary buffer for projects before they go public.

“We believe that the only efficient way to mitigate modern cybersecurity threats is to host bug bounty programs on bug bounty platforms. This is called a crowdsourced security approach,”

“Bug bounty platforms attract a crowd of third-party cybersecurity experts (dozens if not hundreds at a time) to test the client’s software. Testing can be ongoing for months or even years.”

Sawhney agrees that projects need to house more on-staff security experts to police vulnerabilities, while lamenting the fact that some projects lack a CIO or CTO for this effect. But he also indicated that, in some cases, companies need only to submit themselves to a proper audit to avoid a fate similar to Bancor’s.

“Some of these companies believe that they have the world’s best engineers, so they think they don’t need an audit. And if they get one, chances are they’ve done a third-party audit that was in their favor. Even if they’re getting an audit, some of these audit companies aren’t doing what we deem to be a professional audit. They’re taking the code and putting it through automated tooling. They’re not taking the time to do some of the more manual tasks which includes a dynamic analysis, quality assurance,” he explained.

The manual tasks that Sawhney lauds are at the heart of Hosho’s own auditing processes. They allow Hosho’s team to sniff out coding errors that automated tooling might miss, like discrepancies between the smart contract’s token algorithms and a white paper’s business model.

“So the most manual part of conducting an audit is marrying the code to the words — we call it dynamic analysis. Most of the time when we find errors with a smart contract, we’re finding colossal errors in the business logic. We’re finding everything from mathematical errors to errors in token allocation,” Sawhney said.

He went on to reveal that Hosho’s team includes professionals “from the infosec, devcon communities that are white hats who have spent years doing QA.” QA, shorthand for quality assurance, is a method by which coders test a code for its designed function to check for any malfunctions, defects and other flaws that may render it vulnerable or inoperable.

As Sawhney indicated earlier, part of the reason these projects and their auditors don’t do QA is simply because they lack the professional experience to do so. It’s easier, he claimed, to teach Solidity (a smart contract coding language) to those who know how to conduct sound QA than the other way around.

When lack of QA training or a learning curve isn’t the issue, however, Sawhney suggested that, at times, projects won’t secure a thorough audit because they’re simply cutting corners.

“Sometimes I think it’s sheer laziness and being cheap. They see that cost to code a smart contract was only $10k and [an auditor] is charging $30k to review it. They say, ‘Nah, we don’t need that. We have the best engineers in the world so we’re good.’”

To Sawhney, there’s no substitute for a thorough audit. He also holds that, once an audit has been completed, the smart contract should come with a seal of approval, one that both attests to the audit’s quality and reassures users that no code has been altered after the fact. For Hosho’s work, this comes in the form of a GPG file, a cryptographic stamp that simultaneously functions like a certificate of authenticity and denotes the final (or at least most recent) version of audited code, acting rather like the seal on a bottle of cough syrup that proves it hasn’t been tampered with since it last passed quality control.

“Having central governments, regulators, lawyers, PR firms, investors, token holders — everyone — looking for this GPG file, this sign of approval [answers the question]: Has this code been sealed? Because we can monitor this code once we’ve put this seal on it to prove that no one has touched this code, not one line of this code has been changed since a third party audited it. If code changes you’re opening up room for security vulnerabilities.”

Wan’s own solution offers a different sort of prescription, in that she adds post-audit safety nets like Sagewise’s software as a smart contract’s third line of defense.

“Going forward, I believe that blockchain companies will be able to prevent smart contract disasters by using a smart contract developer whose sole focus is developing smart contracts, hiring a reputable security auditing firm, and including a catch-all safety net into smart contracts, such as Sagewise's SDK.”

The Sagewise SDK integrates with smart contracts to police malicious inputs. It gives developers the chance to freeze the smart contract in question and adjust it accordingly.

“It starts with a monitoring and notification service so users are aware of what's happening with their smart contract. Paired with our SDK, which basically acts as an arbitration clause in code, users are notified of functions executing on their smart contract and, if such functions are unintended, [they have] the ability to freeze the smart contract. They then can take the time they need to fix whatever needs to be fixed, whether that's merely fixing a coding error to amending the smart contract or resolving a dispute,” she said.

A Community Problem, a Community Solution

In our interview, Wan claimed that “[less than] 2 percent of the population is able to read code.” Fewer people still are able to read Solidity, let alone at the level needed to insulate it with airtight security features.

So even if projects and companies want to take the measures necessary to vet and protect their code properly, they may be wanting for talent and resources. This problem will likely be educated out of existence as more software engineers develop a thorough, more sophisticated understanding of Solidity and other smart contract programming languages. More mature coding languages may present a solution to this ailment, as well.

But for the time being, the community can help developers and teams to err on the side of caution. Like an arbiter with skin in the game, people using these services need to step up and demand action and change, Wan believes. Otherwise these types of security breaches will continue to happen.

“[B]ecause much of the population cannot read code, it is difficult for them to hold developers accountable for when they do things like code an administrative backdoor into their smart contract (which many large projects have done),” said Wan.

“Just in 2017 alone, half a billion dollars in value was lost in smart contracts, but that apparently has not been enough to get developers to consider adding additional safety nets or community members to demand them. Perhaps we will need to lose billions more to get people to realize that this isn't how the system should work.”

Sawhney also reiterated this point: “[More] people need to be outspoken, call people out. I think people are scared because the community is tight-knit and everybody knows everybody. No one wants to shun people. There’s not enough self-governance in this space, and I think that’s the biggest step this community needs to take.”

He added, “[not] enough pressure [is] being put on security; there’s not enough regulation around security.”

In an effort to bring self-regulation to the forefront of the industry’s to do list, Hosho is hosting a summit for cybersecurity firms in Berlin. Slated for this September, Sawhney hopes the summit will spawn a self-regulatory organization (SRO) from its attendence, “complete with a certificate for our work, kind of like the Big Four for financial audits.”

Adding to the conversation on self-regulation, Budorin finds that the community would do well to document exploited vulnerabilities. This would create a library of case studies and situations for developers to study and to create the solutions necessary to avoid the same pitfalls in the future.

“...the blockchain community needs to collect, store and analyze all known vulnerabilities that have been found in smart contracts and host regular security conferences that will cover security issues in blockchain and develop security guidelines so that new generation of blockchain programmers is more prepared for these problems,” he said.

The onus is not on the community alone, as the lion’s share of responsibility rests on developers to ensure that their code is as sound as possible before reaching an audience. Together, however, the industry’s community and its architects may combine perspectives to make smart contract hazards an issue of yesterdays.

Until then, Sawhney, Budorin and Wan’s perspectives — and their respective companies’ purposes — provide a healthy reality check for the industry’s pain points. For mainstream adoption and acceptance, these points need be addressed if there is to be any sort of sustained sense of confidence in this new technology.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

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.

IT'S OFFICIAL: Apple is the first US company worth $1 trillion

Apple on Thursday become the first US company to be worth more than $1 trillion on a public stock market.

The company on Tuesday reported second-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street expectations, sending shares surging by more than 5% into Wednesday. The rally continued on Thursday, propelling shares to the magic number of $207.05 apiece.

That price translates to a $1 trillion market cap based on the current estimated number of outstanding shares.

The stock market is seeing abnormally large moves this earnings season — Goldman Sachs explains why, and how traders can capitalize

Single-stock price fluctuations have been more extreme this earnings season than at any other point in the past eight quarters, Goldman Sachs says.

The firm attributes this to poor forecasting from Wall Street analysts that has been driven by unpredictable macro developments.

Goldman also offers four single-stock trades for the remainder of earnings season.

Kroger's battle with Visa is escalating

Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the US, is ending Visa credit card acceptance at 21 of its Foods Co supermarket subsidiaries and five gas stations in California, effective August 14, according to The Wall Street Journal . The stores will still accept Visa debit cards.

Kroger and Visa have been in an ongoing dispute. The companies have been battling over interchange fees, which are charged to merchants each time a customer makes transactions using a credit card. Kroger sued Visa in 2016 over debit card transactions, after Visa said that the retailer's EMV-enabled terminals didn't comply with Visa regulations.

Tesla's surging stock has cost short sellers $1.1 billion in a single day

Score one for Elon Musk .

The Tesla CEO, who has long been an outspoken critic of stock traders betting against his company, struck a blow on Thursday after second-quarter earnings sent shares soaring by as much as 11%.

That resulted in a mark-to-market loss of more than $1.1 billion for short sellers , according to data compiled by financial technology and analytics firm S3 Partners .

More here. 

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You can now buy Prince Harry's old Audi RS6 wagon for $93,000

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

Audi RS6 Prince Harry

  • Prince Harry's old Audi RS6 Avant is on sale on AutoTrader.com.
  • The Duke of Sussex used the wagon to drive his new wife, Meghan Markle, to Pippa Middleton's wedding in May 2017. 
  • The car features BOSE Surround Sound, MMI infotainment system, and 552 bhp engine power. 

Prince Harry's 2017 Audi RS6 Avant wagon is up for grabs after only a year of ownership. This is the same car the Prince used to drive Meghan Markle to Pippa Middleton's wedding last year. Now, it's has been put up for sale on AutoTrader.com with just 4,464 miles on it. 

According to the dealer, Overton Prestige, the prince's Audi is available for a cool £71,000 ($93,147 USD) or £1475 ($1935 USD) per month to finance. Among its features, the car comes equipped with BOSE Surround Sound, Audi's award-winning MMI infotainment system, power-operated tailgate, sport suspension, parking sensors, quattro permanent all-wheel drive with self-locking center differential, night vision camera, deluxe 4-zone automatic air conditioning, LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, and keyless ignition.

The RS6 Avant, which isn't available for sale in the US, is powered by a 552 horsepower 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission. According to Audi, the RS6 can hit 62 mph in just 3.9 seconds and reach a limited top speed of 155 mph. 

Audi RS6 Prince HarryHere is the dealer's ad in its entirety:

"SELLING PRINCE HARRY'S OLD CAR RS6 AVANT WITH MASSIVE SPEC.VAT Q AUDI RS6 IN DAYTONA GREY WITH THE FOLLOWING FITTED OPTIONS: PANORAMIC SUNROOF, PRIVACY GLASS, DYNAMIC PACK, Top speed restriction increase,RS Sport suspension plus with Dynamic Ride Control (DRC), Dynamic steering NIGHT VISION ASSIST, DAYTONA GREY, 21" ALLOYS 5 TWIN SPOKE ALLOYS, PARKING PACK, SPORTS EXHAUST , HEADS UP DISPLAY, HEATED FRONT & REAR SEATS, LIST PRICE WAS £91,530.00 WITH THE £11,330.00 OPTIONS FITTED. , EXCELLENT FUNDING SOLUTIONS AVAILABLE TO SUIT YOUR NEEDS"

When asked by Business Insider how they could confirm the Audi RS6 they are selling is actually Prince Harry's former vehicle, Overton Prestige referenced photos on their website that show the car's current license-plate number and a single photo of Prince Harry in the car with the same license-plate number. 

The Prince, 33, has already had quite a year, as he married his girlfriend, the American actress Meghan Markle, on May 19, 2018 in a stunning ceremony at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. 

Prince Harry, whose full title is Duke of Sussex, KCVO, is sixth in the line of succession to the British Royal Throne. 

SEE ALSO: Audi unveils its stylish new weapon against BMW and Mercedes

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IT'S OFFICIAL: Apple is the first US company worth $1 trillion (AAPL)

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

tim cook


Apple on Thursday become the first US company to be worth more than $1 trillion on a public stock market.

The company on Tuesday reported second-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street expectations, sending shares surging by more than 5% into Wednesday. The rally continued on Thursday, propelling shares to the magic number of $207.05 apiece.

That price translates to a $1 trillion market cap based on the current estimated number of outstanding shares.

In the nearly more than four decades since Steve Jobs founded the company in a California garage, Apple has become nearly synonymous with personal computing and mobile devices. After launching the iPhone — arguably its most famous product — in 2007, Apple now churns out over 40 million of the devices every quarter, helping it rake in $254.63 billion in revenue last year.

Adjusted for splits, Apple's stock price has risen nearly 40,000% since its initial public offering in 1980.

aapl 1 trillion

Now, the non-hardware services category is fueling Apple's continued growth. On Tuesday, the company said Apple Services — which includes things like the App Store and Apple Music — saw a 31% jump in revenue.

For context, passing the $1 trillion mark means Apple now has a value greater than the gross domestic product (GDP) of all but 27 major countries, including Argentina, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, according to the CIA's world fact book.

Other companies have come close to the mark, but no public US company has hit a $1 trillion valuation. PetroChina briefly crossed the mark back in November 2007 — but for less than a day. The state-controlled oil firm is now valued at less than $500 billion and is smaller than Chinese tech giant Alibaba. 

Elsewhere Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia, has reportedly been eyeing a public offering that could value it near $2 trillion, but the listing has been mired with delays.

Mega-cap tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google-parent Alphabet were also in the race to $1 trillion— but none of them could beat Apple in the end. Amazon has the second-largest US market cap as of Wednesday, at roughly $872.5 billion.

Wall Street thinks Apple shares can go even higher, too. Analysts polled by Bloomberg have an average price target of $212.79, which would translate to a market cap of $1.046 trillion.

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SEE ALSO: Apple's earnings impressed, and it hinted at a big September iPhone launch

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US Steel is tumbling after third-quarter earnings guidance misses expectations (X)

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

Steel

  • US Steel shares are tumbling on Thursday after the company provided guidance for third-quarter earnings that was weaker than analysts had expected. 
  • Second-quarter earnings topped forecast, initially sending the shares higher in after-hours trading on Wednesday. 
  • Watch US Steel trade in realtime here.

US Steel shares are tumbling on Thursday, down 9% after the company's guidance for third-quarter earnings missed Wall Street's expectations. 

Kevin Bradley, the chief financial officer, told analysts on the earnings call that the company expects third-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $525 million. That was lower than the $589.8 million that analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expected. 

Bradley added that Q3 EBITDA in Europe is expected to be lower due to planned outages. 

The steelmaker reported second-quarter earnings on Wednesday that topped analysts' expectations, and raised its full-year forecast for adjusted EBITDA to a range of $1.85 billion to $1.9 billion, up from $1.7 billion to $1.8 billion. This initially lifted the stock by as much as 6% in after-hours trading. 

"The success to date of our ongoing $2 billion asset revitalization program, as well as our earnings power in the
current market, makes us increasingly optimistic about future investments that will drive long-term profitable growth," David Burritt, US Steel's CEO, said in the earnings release

US Steel's stock is down 7% this year. It had spiked right after several announcements from the Trump administration on steel tariffs, which are intended to boost the domestic steel industry.

"My view is that he [President Donald Trump] will continue to be supportive he gave every indication of that," Burritt said on the earnings call. He added, "we don't expect the president to blink." 

Screen Shot 2018 08 02 at 11.30.10 AM

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Barclays is teaming up with a startup online lender — and it points to a growing trend for banks

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

The signage of a branch of Barclays bank in central London on February 15, 2011 in London, England. Barclays banking group has today reported pre-tax profits in 2010 of 6.07bn GBP. (Photo by )

  • Barclays has taken a stake in and partnered with UK SME lender MarketInvoice.
  • It is one of a number of recent partnerships between established banks and fintech startups.
  • Banks used to either buy or build new products and services but are increasingly favouring partnerships, realising they can't be experts at everything.


LONDON — Not so long ago, most banks took one of two approaches when launching new products and services: build or buy.

Increasingly, however, there's a third way: partner.

Barclays announced on Thursday that it has taken a stake in online small business lender MarketInvoice and is partnering with the startup to offer MarketInvoice's lending capabilities to its small business clients.

London-headquartered MarketInvoice, founded in 2011, offers invoice factoring and lines of credit to small and medium-sized businesses. It has lent over £2.7 billion to date.

Barclays said in a release that the tie-up is part of its "plans to invest in new business models for growth, and MarketInvoice’s ambition to broaden its reach across the UK." Crucially, Barclays has only taken what it calls a "significant minority" stake, rather than a controlling ownership holding. It means MarketInvoice should continue to operate at somewhat of an arm's length.

Barclays isn't the first to turn to an innovative startup to help them power growth through partnerships. Spanish bank Santander signed a deal with online lender Kabbage in 2016, and JPMorgan has had a small business lending tie-up with OnDeck Capital since 2015, for example.

Banks are embracing the old maxim: if you can't beat them, join them. Rather than spend millions building out new business lines to compete with these upstarts, banks are deciding instead that it's easier to simply use the resources that these companies have developed.

In the past, this has generally led to acquisitions of the most promising challengers. But there's a growing sense that this approach can often stifle the very innovation that made a startup so compelling. In some cases, it can also turn out to be a costly mistake. Spanish bank BBVA last year had to take a $60 million write-down on its $117 million 2014 acquisition of US digital bank Simple, for example.

Partnership offers a "best of both worlds" approach — access to the innovative products and services without taking on as much of the risk (there is of course still a reputational risk associated with a partnership). These deals also benefit the startups by potentially kicking their growth up a gear.

More broadly, this trend speaks to the post-financial crisis mood within banking. Lenders that once sort to be financial goliaths now accept that they can't be all things to all people. HSBC is focusing on international trade and UBS is going back to its focus on wealth management, for example.

By partnering with startups that can fill the gaps, banks can keep their clients happy by referring them on and potentially earning a small commission. Better than simply saying, sorry, can't help.

SEE ALSO: Startups are rushing to try and digitise the mortgage market — now £1.6 billion UK comparison giant Moneysupermarket is getting in on the action

DON'T MISS: 'A new era for capital markets': The Swiss stock exchange is launching its own cryptocurrency exchange

NEXT UP: Inside the race to build Europe's Robinhood: 'The opportunity is enormous'

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Bitcoin Price Preparing for a Breakout [But Must Hold Above $6,800]: Wall Street Trader

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

One of Wall Street’s biggest crypto bulls said that the bitcoin price could be primed for a breakout, as long as it continues to hold near its present level at $7,500. Bart Smith, head of digital asset at Pennsylvania-based trading firm Susquehanna International Group, provided this analysis during an interview with CNBC, explaining that he … Continued

The post Bitcoin Price Preparing for a Breakout [But Must Hold Above $6,800]: Wall Street Trader appeared first on CCN

A "Good Start": U.S. Introduces Office of Innovation and Sandbox for Fintech

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

A "Good Start": U.S. Introduces Office of Innovation and Sandbox for Fintech

Fintech businesses struggling to stay inbounds of government rules may soon receive a dose of much-needed guidance via the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Through its newly-created Office of Innovation, agency leadership intends to develop a regulatory framework designed to open the spigot in terms of the development of new products and services for those companies involved in cryptocurrencies, blockchain technologies and microlending, and also loans by individuals. Paul Watkins, the architect of Arizona’s fintech regulatory sandbox that launches in August, was named to spearhead the federal effort.

“It’s a good first step,” Washington D.C.-based finance and regulatory attorney Laurel Loomis Rimon told Bitcoin Magazine.

Rimon, senior counsel with the global law firm O’Melveny and former lawyer with various government agencies — including a stint as CFPB assistant deputy enforcement director — said entrepreneurs and startup companies in the fintech space “operate with a lot of uncertainty.”

For these financial innovators, ensuring universal compliance within the vast span of regulatory agencies “all come with a pretty heavy investment.” Combined with the hefty outlay of cash involved, especially in the early stages of startups, the lack of regulatory guidance “leaves them really unsure of how to spend their money.”

Theoretically, then, the construction of a CFPB sandbox could alleviate some of the regulatory uncertainty fintech companies face and would provide at least some guidance to innovative fintech operations.

Still, the creation of the Office of Innovation and its planned sandbox isn’t the first attempt by the agency to step into the fintech world. In a previous iteration, agency officials promised to support fintech innovations through the use of no-action letters, among other things, for approved companies.

But this program, something not seen as particularly effective, resulted in the issuance of only a single letter issued to an online lender utilizing unconventional underwriting methods. From the entrepreneur’s perspective, regulatory efforts of this ilk “only give you so much comfort.”

Ideally, said Rimon, the CFPB sandbox will facilitate regulator/company match-ups to create a collaborative relationship between government officials and business leaders. In this scenario, officials create limits of liability and work “more in the vein of coordinated sandbox for companies.”

Nonetheless, Rimon points out that no single clear definition exists for what exactly a sandbox is, and established rules for how sandboxes operate don’t exist. For U.S. regulators, sandboxes tend toward a philosophical nature without establishing formal operating procedures.

“It’s a continuum,” said Rimon.

But even from a philosophical point of view, the regulator track record is less than stellar. For instance, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced the agency’s consideration of a plan to allow some fintech companies special-purpose national bank charters. Since then, OCC officials have remained on the fence, though agency leadership is expected to make an announcement on the issue sometime this summer.

Where the CFPB is concerned, the Arizona sandbox rules will likely serve as a template for federal regulations. Some of the key aspects for companies approved to play in Arizona’s regulatory sandbox include a two-year window to test innovative financial products and services with the possibility of a one-year extension with the approval of the state attorney general’s office. Sandbox rules also puts limits on the number of consumers allowed to participate with sandbox players and also caps loan amounts that companies in the space can issue. Fintech companies operating within the state’s regulatory sandbox can serve only Arizona residents.

While plenty of question marks remain in terms of the kind of framework in which the CFPB operates its sandbox, Rimon remains optimistic that real progress lies ahead. When she crosses paths with CFPB officials, she says she sees a genuine “excitement and interest in this new technology.”

However, even with these best of intentions, “CFPB has a lot of thinking to do,” she says.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

When this ice tea company stuck the word 'blockchain' in its name, its stock skyrocketed by nearly 500%. Now, it's being investigated by the government.

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

iced tea

 

  • Stock for the New York beverage company Long Island Iced Tea Company jumped by nearly 300% after it announced it was changing its name to the the "Long Blockchain Company" last December.
  • The company announced it was shifting its focus from non-alcoholic beverages to blockchain technology and said that it planned to purchase 1,000 bitcoin mining rigs and partner with a blockchain-focused fintech company.
  • Recently, the SEC began investigating the company, although few details regarding the investigation have emerged.

When a New York-based beverage company called Long Island Iced Tea announced that it planned to change its name to "Long Blockchain Company" during the height of the cryptocurrency craze last December, its stock jumped by nearly 500%.

The newly rebranded Long Blockchain Company's foray into the cryptocurrency-inspired technology was more than just a marketing strategy. Long Blockchain Co. followed up with a series of announcements that suggest that the beverage company had serious ambitions as a technology company -- despite having no blockchain assets at the time of the announcements.

"Long Island Iced Tea Corp. is now focused on developing and investing in globally scalable blockchain technology solutions," the company announced last December. "[... It] is shifting its primary corporate focus towards the exploration of and investment in opportunities that leverage the benefits of blockchain technology."

So far, the company's pursuits in blockchain technology include the addition of two technology entrepreneurs to its board, a new CEO, plans to purchase 1,000 bitcoin mining machines, and a forthcoming partnership with a British, blockchain-focused fintech company.

But now, the company's blockchain involvement has drawn scrutiny from the Security and Exchange Commission. Bloomberg reports the SEC has been investigating the Long Island Iced Tea with a request for documents dating back to early July. 

Long Blockchain Company, which didn't immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider, told Bloomberg that they fully intend on cooperating with the SEC's investigation. 

For now, the beverage company's pivot to blockchain looks like it might have been only a short-lived success. Since December, the company's market value dwindled to under $5 million after the Nasdaq said it planned to delist its stock.

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A Chinese media mogul is building out a nearly $300 million crypto hub in an unlikely city, and it could include a college focused completely on fintech

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

google data center

  • A Chinese billionaire named Bruno Wu is building out a nearly $300 million crypto innovation hub in an unlikely place — Hartford, Connecticut. 
  • Part of the plan includes a fintech college, according to documents reviewed by Business Insider. 

BrunoWu_360

A little-known Chinese financial technology company is making a big splash in Connecticut's state capital with a plan for a nearly $300 million crypto innovation hub. 

Seven Stars Cloud, a company led by China-born media-mogul-turned-tech-entrepreneur billionaire Bruno Wu, announced plans in July to build out what is being dubbed Fintech Valley, a hub for the firm and others to collaborate on robotics, machine-learning, and crypto-related initiatives, in Hartford, Connecticut. 

It's also looking to launch a fintech college at the Hartford campus, according to documents obtained by Business Insider. 

To that end, SSC is looking to seek out partnerships with nearby colleges to create an accredited entity specializing in fintech. It would offer courses in artificial intelligence and blockchain, according to documents. 

Wu said he selected Hartford as the location for his new venture because of its proximity to top colleges. Yale University is in nearby New Haven, and other local colleges include the University of Connecticut, University of Hartford, and University of New Haven.

The move points to a spike in demand for talent with backgrounds in financial technology skills. 

Elsewhere, Fordham University in New York launched a fintech secondary concentration for its business students. New York University also offers a number of fintech courses, including one in cryptocurrencies and blockchain. 

The number of blockchain or cryptocurrency job postings on LinkedIn increased at least four-fold in 2017.

Still such talent is in short supply, according to Miha Grcar, the head of business development for Bitstamp, a crypto exchange. He said the talent shortage is a bigger headache than bitcoin's volatility.

"Globally, the pool of talent — people with experience in blockchain and distributed-ledger technology — is somewhat limited," Grcar said. "This is a big challenge."

As for SSC, the firm secured $23 million from Changan Investment Group, as well as a $10 million loan from the Connecticut state government. 

See also:

SEE ALSO: Bitcoin king Mike Novogratz leads $52 million investment in crypto-lending startup

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NOW WATCH: A Nobel Prize-winning economist says 'non-competes' are keeping wages down for all workers

Arizona Bitcoin Trader Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison for Money Laundering

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

An Arizona man with a particularly lengthy rap sheet that includes guns, ammo and drugs has been sentenced to prison for laundering drug money with bitcoin. Announced on Wednesday by a U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona, 54-year-old Thomas Costanzo, aka Morpheous Titania, has seen a sentence of 41 months in prison for charges related to

The post Arizona Bitcoin Trader Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison for Money Laundering appeared first on CCN

Elon Musk backs off Tesla's goal of making 1 million vehicles by 2020 (TSLA)

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

elon musk

  • Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, and CTO, JB Straubel, suggested the company may not hit its goal of making 1 million vehicles by 2020 during its second-quarter earnings call on Wednesday.
  • After Wall Street Journal reporter Tim Higgins asked if the company still planned to make 1 million vehicles in 2020, Musk and Straubel said that was their goal, but suggested the actual number may be lower.
  • "I think we have a shot at a million but somewhere 700,000, 800,000 seems pretty likely given ... what we know today," Straubel said.
  • During Tesla's first-quarter earnings call in 2017, Musk said it was "quite likely" the company would make 1 million vehicles "or maybe more" in 2020.


Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, and CTO, JB Straubel, suggested the company may not hit its goal of making 1 million vehicles by 2020 during its second-quarter earnings call on Wednesday.

After Wall Street Journal reporter Tim Higgins asked if the company still planned to make 1 million vehicles in 2020, Musk and Straubel said that was their goal, but suggested the actual number may be lower.

"I think so, yeah," Musk replied. "If it's not a million, it's going to be pretty close. I'd say if it's not a million it'd probably be 750,000 or something like that in 2020. So, we're aiming for a million, 2020, but somewhere between half million and a million seems pretty likely."

Straubel expressed less certainty about Musk's previously-stated 2020 production target.

"I think we have a shot at a million but somewhere 700,000, 800,000 seems pretty likely given ... what we know today," he said.

During Tesla's first-quarter earnings call in 2017, Musk said it was "quite likely" Tesla would make 1 million vehicles "or maybe more" in 2020.

The company has a history of revising ambitious production timelines. In 2016, the company said it would make 500,000 vehicles in 2018, but made 87,833 vehicles in the first half of this year. Tesla hasn't said it will be able to achieve a production rate in the second half of 2018 that would allow it to approach 500,000 total vehicles by the end of the year.

Tesla said on Wednesday that it made 7,000 total vehicles in a week multiple times in July after struggling to ramp up Model 3 production. Achieving a consistent production rate of 7,000 vehicles per week is critical to the company's goal of becoming profitable. 

Tesla reported an adjusted loss per share of $3.06 for the second quarter, which was larger than what analysts had predicted, and revenue of $4 billion, which beat analyst projections. The company said it expects to be profitable during the second half of 2018.

"Going forward, we believe Tesla can achieve sustained quarterly profits, absent a severe force majeure or economic downturn, while continuing to grow at a rapid pace," the company said.

If you've worked for Tesla and have a story to share, you can contact this reporter at mmatousek@businessinsider.com

SEE ALSO: Tesla surges after slowing its cash burn and Elon Musk apologizing for 'bad manners'

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NOW WATCH: An early investor in Uber, Airbnb, and bitcoin explains why it's actually a good sign that no one is spending their crypto

A New Bitcoin Mining Calculator Aims to Tell 'Truth' on Profitability

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

A new type of profitability calculator has been released – and it brings bad news for many miners.

Bit by Bitcoin: Square’s Cryptocurrency Profits Doubled in Q2

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

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies may have continued to endure a bear market during the second quarter of 2018, but that did not stop digital payments firm Square from recording a 100 percent increase in BTC profit over Q1. Square, which added bitcoin trading to its peer-to-peer payments app toward the end of last year, reported

The post Bit by Bitcoin: Square’s Cryptocurrency Profits Doubled in Q2 appeared first on CCN

Trump's trade war reminds Morgan Stanley of a dispute that worsened the Great Depression — and the firm is sounding the alarm on an economic meltdown

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

trump xi jinping

  • With President Donald Trump's trade war ramping up further, Morgan Stanley just said the US's protectionist behavior reminded it of the conditions surrounding the Great Depression.
  • Morgan Stanley is also worried about how the trade war will affect foreign direct investment, a slowdown in which could crush global economic growth.

President Donald Trump's latest attempt to strong-arm China appeared to fail Thursday, as the nation's Ministry of Commerce dismissed his threats as a "carrot and stick" tactic.

The latest back-and-forth weighed on markets globally and renewed concerns that the struggle would become a huge drag on economic growth worldwide.

Morgan Stanley, one of many global financial leaders warning of the potential for fallout, went as far as to evoke the Great Depression in a recent note to clients. The protectionist culture permeating trade behavior reminds the firm of the downward spiral that worsened the massive economic meltdown that rocked the US economy almost a century ago.

The story goes like this: Following World War I, the US raised duties on agricultural products in response to a steep decline in exports. That tariff then spurred what Morgan Stanley calls an "avalanche of protectionist punches and counter-punches," which created a more insular international situation ahead of the Great Depression in 1929.

Then, in 1930, the US enacted the Smoot-Hawley Act, which raised tariffs on more than 20,000 imported goods. The measure is widely seen as worsening the Great Depression.

While Morgan Stanley acknowledges that the two situations aren't yet fully analogous, it argues that trade conflicts are a slippery slope. They can have dramatic, unforeseen consequences if left unchecked.

Even if today's trade battle doesn't go quite that far, Morgan Stanley is still very worried about the effect it will have on foreign direct investment. It finds that, throughout history, foreign direct investment — which gauges the willingness of global corporations to invest across geographies — has closely tracked the pace of worldwide trade.

Screen Shot 2018 08 02 at 8.00.56 AM

"Since 1980, global investment has moved in conjunction with global trade growth," Morgan Stanley strategists wrote in a recent note. "The impact on corporate investment could meaningfully change the trajectory of the late-cycle economic recovery. Direct investment, a critical element of global growth, and large-cap market leaders may be more vulnerable to trade tensions than investors assume."

As if the immediate threat to the world's economy weren't bad enough, Morgan Stanley also warns against possible weakness in equity markets. The firm notes that the 20% of the S&P 500 most vulnerable to trade disruptions carries a disproportionately big weighting in the benchmark.

This heavy reliance could create a disastrous scenario if margins start to get squeezed by the tit-for-tat moves in a trade war.

"Companies most vulnerable to protectionism also have profit margins that exceed the least vulnerable by more than 4%," Morgan Stanley said. "At a time when investors are already worried about peak margins amid higher labor and commodity costs, this represents an additional risk to margin leaders."

SEE ALSO: A $3 trillion market that's boldly ignoring the trade war is headed for a rude awakening — here's how UBS says to prepare

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Arizona Bitcoin Trader Gets Jail Sentence for Money Laundering

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

A former bitcoin trader from Arizona has been sentenced to 41 months in jail for laundering drugs money with crypto.

Bitcoin Exchange CoinJar Launches Australia’s First Cryptocurrency Index Fund

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

Australian bitcoin exchange CoinJar has launched the country’s first cryptocurrency index fund available to wholesale investors. CoinJar Launches Australia’s First Crypto Fund Announced on Thursday, the CoinJar Digital Currency Fund provides a convenient way for wealthy Australian investors to obtain exposure to cryptocurrencies while offloading the custodial responsibility to another entity. The Digital Currency Fund

The post Bitcoin Exchange CoinJar Launches Australia’s First Cryptocurrency Index Fund appeared first on CCN

Bitcoin Bulls Defend $7,450 But Need Progress Soon

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

Bitcoin needs to capitalize on the defense of a key Fibonacci support of $7,450 to avoid further decline towards the $7,000 mark.

Here comes the Bank of England ...

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

Bank of England graphic

  • The Bank of England is set to hike interest rates for just the second time since the financial crisis on Thursday.
  • Britain's central bank is expected to raise rates from 0.5% to 0.75%, taking the UK's base rate of interest to its highest level since March 2009.
  • Markets are pricing in a more than 90% chance of a hike.
  • The bank's decision will be announced at 12.00 p.m. BST (7.00 a.m. ET), with a press conference from Governor Mark Carney 30 minutes later.


The Bank of England is set to raise interest rates for just the second time since the financial crisis.

If financial market expectations are met, Britain's central bank should raise rates from 0.5% to 0.75%, taking the UK's base rate of interest to its highest level since March 2009. Markets are pricing a more than 90% chance of a hike, according to the latest data.

The rate hike is set to be one of the most divisive decisions in recent bank history, with opinions split on whether increasing borrowing costs will be a good idea going forward.

Governor Mark Carney and the other eight members of the bank's rate setting Monetary Policy Committee have been signalling that a hike is likely to come at some point in 2018, and Thursday looks like the day it will happen.

The decision is as close to a certainty as exists in the world of central banking, but the announcement is still full of intrigue, with the bank likely to signal whether its future guidance for interest rates has shifted, and with Governor Carney set to face questions from reporters.

The Bank of England's announcement will be made at 12.00 p.m. BST (7.00 a.m. ET), while a press conference from Carney and two of his deputies will follow 30 minutes later.

This post will be updated throughout the day. Refresh the page for updates.

SEE ALSO: BARCLAYS: Investors can leverage Brexit to make a killing on European stocks — here's how

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NOW WATCH: An early bitcoin investor explains what most people get wrong about the cryptocurrency

The stock market is seeing abnormally large moves this earnings season — Goldman Sachs explains why, and how traders can capitalize

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

trader stunned shocked surprised

  • Single-stock price fluctuations have been more extreme this earnings season than at any point in the past eight quarters, Goldman Sachs says.
  • The firm attributes this to poor forecasting from Wall Street analysts, which has been driven by unpredictable macro developments.
  • Goldman also offers four single-stock trades for the remainder of earnings season.

If you've noticed that stock prices have been swinging more than usual this earnings season, it's not just your imagination playing tricks on you.

The 252 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported so far have seen an average absolute move of 3.9%, according to data compiled by Goldman Sachs. That's well above the mean fluctuation for both the past eight quarters (3.2%) and the previous four (3.3%), the firm finds.

Screen Shot 2018 08 01 at 2.50.10 PM

This is perhaps best explained by one unfortunate reality: earnings forecasts haven't been accurate, which opens up companies to the types of surprises that can whipsaw share prices.

But Goldman suggests its not entirely their fault. There are influential macro forces in play, making everyone's lives more difficult.

"This is a sign that the strong economic environment and accelerating inflation trends has reduced the earnings visibility for company management teams and covering analysts," Katherine Fogertey and the Goldman derivatives team wrote in a client note.

Even though big price swings can catch investors off-guard, they can also be a boon for stock-pickers that have made the right trades. Active managers who make their living by selecting single stocks are already off to a record-setting start in 2018, and this type of idiosyncratic market behavior can only help their cause.

But Goldman's assessment doesn't end there. Fogertey & Co. go as far as to make four single-stock recommendations to help traders make a killing over the rest of earnings season. All of the quotes below are attributable to the derivatives team at Goldman.

  1. Buy Cisco (CSCO) August $42.50 calls — "We expect a relief rally as CSCO has underperformed the NDX by 14% over the past 3 months."
  2. Buy Canadian Natural (CNQ) August $37 calls — The "company has executed well with strong volume growth in Horizon and Athabasca projects."
  3. Buy Tapestry (TPR) August $47.50 calls — "Our analyst believes growth momentum at Coach and inflection at Kate Spade outweigh challenges at Stuart Weitzman."
  4. Buy TripAdvisor (TRIP) $57.50 weekly puts expiring August 3 — Our "estimate for the quarter is $0.31, below consensus estimates of $0.39.

SEE ALSO: The stock market's biggest bear calls out a huge investing mistake that could have 'brutal consequences' — and explains how it will cause the next market crash

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NOW WATCH: An early bitcoin investor explains what most people get wrong about the cryptocurrency

‘Bitcoin Boost’: Australian State Government Invests in Crypto Startup for Tourism

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

The government of Queensland, Australia’s second largest and third-most populous state, is backing a local crypto payments startup that officials believe will help boost tourism in the state. In an announcement on its official website on Wednesday, the Queensland government revealed details of an AUD$8.3 million grant given to 70 domestic companies looking to innovate … Continued

The post ‘Bitcoin Boost’: Australian State Government Invests in Crypto Startup for Tourism appeared first on CCN

Crypto Downtrend Continues With Bitcoin at $7,680 in Weak Recovery Attempt

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

On August 1, the valuation of the crypto market fell to $270 billion as the price of Bitcoin declined by more than 7 percent from $8,300 to $7,500. Low Volume Over the past 24 hours, Bitcoin and other major digital assets have slightly rebounded, adding $3 billion to the valuation of the crypto market. However,

The post Crypto Downtrend Continues With Bitcoin at $7,680 in Weak Recovery Attempt appeared first on CCN

The London Stock Exchange is triggering its no deal Brexit contingency plan

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

London Stock Exchange

  • London Stock Exchange is triggering it contingency planning around a no deal Brexit.
  • "The Group is executing contingency plans to maintain continuity of market function and customer service in the event of a hard Brexit," the exchange said in a statement.
  • The plans include creating new entities in the EU.
  • London Stock Exchange Group also reported a 21% jump in profits in the first half of 2018.


LONDON — Europe's biggest single trading venue, the London Stock Exchange, is putting into motion contingency plans for a no deal Brexit for the UK.

It's the latest sign that major financial institutions are starting to worry that such an outcome is now a real possibility.

London Stock Exchange Group informed investors on Thursday that actions are now being taken to ensure that if the UK does fall out of the EU without a deal LSE's markets can continue to function.

"The Group is executing contingency plans to maintain continuity of market function and customer service in the event of a hard Brexit," the exchange said in a statement. "These contingency plans include incorporation of new entities in the EU27 and applications for authorisation within the EU27 for certain Group businesses."

The group also warned that the "complexity" of working out exactly what a no deal Brexit will look like means that those contingencies may end up not being effective. 

"The complexity and the lack of clarity of the application of a hard Brexit may decrease the effectiveness, or applicability of some of these contingency plans. As is the case with all change, these contingency plans introduce some change management risk," the statement continued.

The group added that it has formed a "structured Brexit programme" in which is it consulting with UK and EU policymakers to "advise on financial market infrastructure considerations."

That program's key objectives are: "Maintaining London's position as a global financial hub and providing continuity of stable financial infrastructure services."

A "no deal" Brexit — whereby Britain leaves the EU without a deal on future trading arrangements — is looking increasingly likely. Last week, the government admitted it is stockpiling food and medicines in preparation for such an occurrence, and Trade Minister Liam Fox told Business Insider that Britain should "leave without a deal" if one has not been secured by the end of the Article 50 period.

News of the LSE's Brexit contingency planning comes just days after Germany's biggest lender, Deutsche Bank, confirmed that it will move around half of its activities in the clearing of trades out of the City of London, and to its headquarters in Frankfurt. At the time of the news, a person with knowledge of the move told Business Insider that it was down, in part at least, to Brexit.

Away from its Brexit contingency planning, the London Stock Exchange reported a strong first half of the year, with adjusted operating profit up 21% to £480 million ($628 million), thanks to strong growth in clearing, capital markets and information services.

The results surpassed market consensus, which had forecast a £459 million ($600 million) profit.

SEE ALSO: Here's what a no deal Brexit would mean for the British economy

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A pick-up at the investment bank helped Barclays' second-quarter profits pop by 44%

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

Jes Staley

  • Barclays Q2 pre-tax profits rise 44%, while income climbs 10%.
  • The bank had a strong performance at its investment bank and also benefitted from lower impairment costs.


LONDON — Barclays reported a strong set of second-quarter results on Thursday, including solid numbers from its under-fire investment banking unit.

Here are the top-line numbers from Barclays results for the three months to June:

  • Income: Up 10% to £5.6 billion
  • Pre-tax profit: Up 44% to £2 billion
  • Costs: Down 3% to £3.3 billion
  • Return on equity: 12.3%

The return of volatility this year helped markets income at Barclays' investment bank increase by 11%, with a big uptick in derivatives and equity financing. The results will buoy the bank's management which is facing pressure from activist investor Edward Bramson over the investment banking unit.

Bramson wants to shut almost all trading activity at Barclays' investment bank as part of plans to cut costs and boost returns. Barclays' trading income rose 13% in the first half of the year to £2.5 billion.

Laith Khalaf, a senior analyst at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "The positive performance of the investment bank will help to fend off the advances of activist investor Edward Bramson, who has taken a 5% stake in Barclays and reportedly wants to slim down the division.

"However it’s been achieved against a backdrop of good times across the US investment banking sector, and anyone can make hay when the sun is shining."

The group's second-quarter performance was helped by a big decline in conduct and litigation costs in the quarter, down to £81 million from £715 million a year earlier.

CEO Jes Staley said in the accompanying half-year report: "The second quarter, where we generated a Group RoTE of 12.3%, underlines the growing pace of delivery at Barclays. This is a business which is performing well, having addressed the challenges of the last decade."

Pre-tax profit across the first-half of 2018 fell by 28% to £1.6 billion, mostly due to conduct and litigation costs. When these are excluded, profit rose 20% to £3.7 billion.

Jefferies analyst Joseph Dickerson and his team said in a note: "Q2 results show a much better impairment performance and solid delivery across business segments. We see consensus drifting higher despite a mixed cost guide."

Despite the strong performance, Barclays shares are trading down 0.3% after just over half an hour of trade on the London Stock Exchange.

SEE ALSO: Barclays activist Bramson eyes trading shutdown at under-fire investment bank

DON'T MISS: Barclays has reportedly 'kicked around' the idea of merging with Standard Chartered

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: An early investor in Uber, Airbnb, and bitcoin explains why it's actually a good sign that no one is spending their crypto

SamSam Ransomware Makers Rake in $6 Million in Bitcoin: Research

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

The SamSam ransomware has grossed its creator over $6 million in Bitcoin since late 2015, according to research from cybersecurity firm Sophos. The UK-based cyber-security firm published its findings in what is believed to be the most comprehensive research on the SamSam ransomware. The study is based on the data collected by the researchers from

The post SamSam Ransomware Makers Rake in $6 Million in Bitcoin: Research appeared first on CCN

10 things you need to know in markets today

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

Tourists walk past giant hand structure on the Gold Bridge on Ba Na hill near Danang City, Vietnam August 1, 2018.

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

1. Chinese stocks are getting hosed amid the threat of higher US tariffs on Chinese imports, as well as the potential for further property market restrictions. China's Shangai Composite is down 2.5% at the time of writing (7.17 a.m. BST/2.17 a.m. ET). Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei stock index closed down 1.07% and the Hong Kong Hang Seng is down 2.5% at the time of writing.

2. President Donald Trump could be about to double down on the next phase of the trade war with China. Senior administration officials told reporters Wednesday that Trump asked the US Trade Representative to explore the possibility of imposing a 25% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports to the US. The original proposal proposed hitting the same amount of goods with a 10% tariff.

3. Barclays' second-quarter pretax profits almost trebled compared with a year ago, the lender said on Thursday, beating analysts’ expectations as it avoided the heavy restructuring and legal costs that blighted past results. Reuters reports that Barclays made a pre-tax profit of £1.9 billion for the three months from April-June, up from £659 million a year ago.

4. The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it decided during a two-day policy meeting to keep its key interest rate unchanged. Traders had widely expected this decision, anticipating that the Fed would raise the benchmark for borrowing costs two more times this year including next month.

5. The Bank of England is set to hike interest rates for just the second time since the financial crisis later on Thursday. Markets are pricing a more than 90% chance of a hike but UBS strategist John Wraith says a hike at 12 p.m. BST (7.00 a.m. ET) today is an "unnecessary risk."

6. British engine-maker Rolls-Royce said that its 2018 results would come in at the upper half of its guidance range after its civil aerospace and power systems businesses posted a stronger than expected first-half performance. Reuters reports that the upgrade to guidance comes despite the company being under pressure to fix problems with its Trent 1000 engine which powers the Boeing 787.

7. Aviva said it was on track to hit its target of 5% growth this year, despite a fall in first-half profits. The Financial Times said that the insurer reported operating profits of £1.44 billion, down 2% on last year.

8. Following the February stock market correction, tight market liquidity was largely looked at as a symptom rather than a cause. A new study from Goldman Sachs throws that into question, arguing that constrained liquidity conditions actually helped cause and worsen the sell-off.

9. Tesla on Wednesday reported second-quarter losses that were greater than Wall Street's expectations. Shares dipped immediately after the release, before rallying back into the green in after-hours trading.

10. Global manufacturing is plagued by increasing supply-chain bottlenecks, cost pressures, and weakening demand from abroad, leading to a slowdown in production levels and slower hiring levels. IHS Markit’s Global Manufacturing PMI, produced in conjunction with JP Morgan, fell to 52.7 last month after seasonal adjustments, down marginally from 53.0 in June.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: An early investor in Airbnb and Uber explains why he started buying bitcoin in 2009

Square Sees Bitcoin Sales Profits Double in Q2

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

Mobile payment firm Square said it has made $37 million in revenue in the second quarter that was generated by its offering of bitcoin purchases. 

The Bank of England is ready to raise interest rates today — it could be an 'unnecessary risk'

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

Bank of England graphic

  • The Bank of England is set to hike interest rates for just the second time since the financial crisis later on Thursday.
  • Britain's central bank is expected to raise rates from 0.5% to 0.75%, taking the UK's base rate of interest to its highest level since March 2009.
  • Markets are pricing a more than 90% chance of a hike but UBS strategist John Wraith says a hike on Thursday is an "unnecessary risk."


LONDON — At lunchtime today, the Bank of England looks set to raise interest rates for just the second time since the financial crisis.

If financial market expectations are met, Britain's central bank should raise rates from 0.5% to 0.75%, taking the UK's base rate of interest to its highest level since March 2009. Markets are pricing a more than 90% chance of a hike, according to the latest data.

The rate hike is set to be one of the most divisive decisions in recent bank history, with opinions split on whether or not increasing borrowing costs will be a good idea going forward.

Governor Mark Carney and the other eight members of the bank's rate setting Monetary Policy Committee have been signalling that a hike is likely to come at some point in 2018 since their last hike in November last year, and Thursday looks like the day it will happen.

Many had expected a hike in May, but weaker than expected data stopped the committee from doing so. Now, however, the time — if not perfect — is right to raise rates.

"There is only a very remote possibility that the BOE won’t hike rates on Thursday," Kathleen Brooks, research director at Capital Index said in an email.

Carney and his team's problem is that markets are now so convinced that a rate hike is coming, that the committee's credibility would be under threat if it were to leave rates on hold. Throughout his tenure as governor, Carney has faced accusations of being a so-called "unreliable boyfriend," frequently promising rate hikes and then ultimately failing to deliver.

The accusation was levelled at Carney after May's policy meeting, which many had expected would see a rate hike.

"Not for the first time, Mark Carney’s policy of guiding the markets as to what to expect has backfired," Ben Brettell, a senior economist at FTSE 100-listed investment manager Hargreaves Lansdown said at the time.

The u-turn in May and the lack of attempt from the MPC to try and dampen financial market expectations of a hike point in one direction, John Wraith, strategist at UBS wrote in a note on Monday.

"Guidance and communication from the MPC over recent months, and in particular the lack of any attempt to rein in the ever higher market-implied probability of a 25bp hike, suggests a majority of members are set to vote for a hike on Thursday," he said.

But Wraith is one of a handful of analysts who sees the bank's likely hike as premature. He called it an "unnecessary risk" in a note sent to clients this week.

"We continue to view even the tentative tightening embarked on since late 2017 as an unnecessary risk, and see several reasons why a hike is not justified at this point in time," he added.

Uninspiring data

The British economy could be summed up as average. Growth is hovering at around 0.3% per quarter, inflation is just above 2%, and real wage growth is just about climbing. The number of people in jobs is at a record high.

On the downside, consumer and business confidence are falling, largely due to continued uncertainty about what Brexit is actually going to look like.

"Despite ongoing healthy job creation and the very low level of unemployment, confidence among consumers has been softening of late, particularly in their forward-looking assessment of the economic outlook," Wraith said. "Corporate confidence too looks weak, and is being reflected in ongoing very soft business investment."

"The latest edition of the Ipsos Mori Issues Index provides striking evidence that concerns about Brexit are the reason that consumer confidence is ailing," he continued.

"The proportion of respondents viewing the EU and Brexit as one of the most important concerns facing the UK shot up from 46% to 58% in July, the highest reading in the history of the index which dates back to 1974."

Wraith doesn't believe that such data will stop the Bank of England from hiking rates but believes it should, particularly when considering that this behaviour is going against the bank's own forecasts.

"It has long been the MPC's explicit assumption that 'households and companies (will) base their decisions on the expectation of a smooth adjustment to new trading arrangements'," he said.

"Subsiding consumer and business confidence, especially in forward looking gauges, together with the responses to the Ipsos Mori opinion poll, suggest strongly in our view that private sector economic agents are increasingly and demonstrably not behaving in this way," Wraith concluded.

What to look out for

Bank of EnglandGiven that a rate hike is almost a foregone conclusion, other parts of the MPC's decisions, and the minutes of the meeting are likely to provide more intrigue.

Kathleen Brooks said that one of the main things to look for will be the "mechanics of the rate decision," particularly with regard to how the vote goes in terms of who votes for what.

"The market is currently expecting an 8-1 split in favour of a hike, with Sir Jon Cunliffe the only member expected to dissent and vote against a hike," she wrote.

"However, if we get more MPC members voting against a hike then sterling could come under pressure, as it would suggest a future dovish stance by the BOE."

Mark Carney's press conference will also be of interest, particularly if the governor provides an update on the equilibrium rate of UK interest rates.

Here's Brooks one last time: "Earlier this year the BOE Governor Mark Carney said that the Bank would give its view on the latest equilibrium, or neutral, interest rate for the UK economy.

"This is also known as R*. The market is expecting this rate to come in around 1.5%. If an R* of 1.5% is confirmed by the BOE, then it would suggest another three rate hikes are likely in the next 3 years."

Stay tuned to Business Insider for updates after the decision is announced at 12.00 p.m. BST (7.00 a.m. ET).

SEE ALSO: Here's what a no deal Brexit would mean for the British economy

DON'T MISS: 'The easiest call in 25 years': Mark Carney says the Bank of England got everything about Brexit right — and warns that no deal will be bad

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Op-ed: Bitcoin Cash’s First Anniversary — Where Are We Now?

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

August 1st marks the first birthday of Bitcoin Cash (BCH), the cryptocurrency that launched (forked) a year ago from bitcoin with the simple purpose of increasing the space available to make transactions through the bitcoin protocol. Bitcoin Scaling Debate Leads to BCH Hard Fork The last year has seen bitcoin truly enter the realm of

The post Op-ed: Bitcoin Cash’s First Anniversary — Where Are We Now? appeared first on CCN

Elon Musk said 'breakthrough' Autopilot features to arrive soon (TSLA)

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

elon musk

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company will start rolling out "breakthrough" features to its semi-autonomous Autopilot software in around four weeks during the company's second-quarter earnings call on Wednesday.
  • Musk said some customers would begin receiving the update in around four weeks and all Tesla customers who purchased Autopilot would receive the update in September.
  • Tesla's website describes upcoming features — including the ability for a vehicle to change lanes without driver input, move from one freeway to another, and exit a freeway near the driver's destination — that are not available in Autopilot's current iteration. 


Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company will start rolling out "breakthrough" features to its semi-autonomous Autopilot software in around four weeks during the company's second-quarter earnings call on Wednesday.

Musk said some customers would begin receiving the update in around four weeks and all Tesla customers who purchased Autopilot would receive the update in September. Musk said the update would "certainly include some significant advancements in autonomy."

During Tesla's annual shareholder meeting in June, Musk alluded to the update and said it would include, "full, self-driving features," and indicated the update would allow Tesla vehicles to perform better in areas where lanes merge on highways.

Tesla's website describes upcoming features — including the ability for a vehicle to change lanes without driver input, move from one freeway to another, and exit a freeway near the driver's destination — that are not available in Autopilot's current iteration. 

In its current iteration, Autopilot can keep a car in its lane and adjust its speed based on surrounding traffic, among other features. Recent accidents involving the feature have raised questions about whether drivers place too much trust in it and fail to pay attention to the road. Tesla has repeatedly said Autopilot is meant to be used with an attentive driver whose hands are on the wheel, but the most visible accidents involving Autopilot have included reports of distracted drivers .

Tesla has received criticism for how it has promoted the feature. In May, Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Auto Safety sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to investigate the strategies the company has used to sell Autopilot.

If you've worked for Tesla and have a story to share, you can contact this reporter at mmatousek@businessinsider.com.

SEE ALSO: Tesla reports wider loss than expected, expects to be profitable in the 2nd half of the year as it ramps up Model 3 production

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Tesla says these are the 5 cars people are trading in for the Model 3 (TSLA)

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

Tesla Model 3

  • Tesla revealed which cars are most commonly traded in for the Model 3 during the company's Q2 2018 earnings call.
  • According to Tesla, the Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Toyota Prius, Nissan Leaf, and the BMW 3 Series are the five most commonly traded models.
  • Even though Tesla sees the Model 3 competing with entry-level luxury sedans, it is actually conquesting mostly mass-market vehicles.
  • The five models listed by Tesla are also some of the best vehicles in their respective market segments.

Tesla revealed the cars people are giving up in favor of its Model 3 sedan on Wednesday during the company's second quarter 2018 earnings call.

According to Tesla, the most commonly traded in models include the Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Toyota Prius, Nissan Leaf, and BMW 3 Series. 

Even though Tesla sees the Model 3 as a rival for entry-level luxury sedans the most commonly traded in vehicles, apart from the 3 Series, are actually from mass-market brands.

While operating at different price points, each of these five models are all sales leaders in their respective segments of the marketplace. Through June, the Honda Civic is the best-selling compact sedan in the US while the Accord is the second best selling mid-size sedan. The Prius is the best selling hybrid in the US while the Nissan Leaf has been the best selling EV in the US since its introduction nearly a decade ago. 

As a result, it's not surprising to see any of these vehicles on the list. 

As for the Model 3, Tesla announced during the call that it has reached 5,000 cars in weekly production several times during the second quarter. 

Moving forward, the company expects to make 6,000 Model 3s per week by the end of August and a total of 50,000 to 55,000 during the third quarter. In 2019, Tesla hopes to make up to 10,000 Model 3 per week. 

SEE ALSO: I took a $163,000 Tesla Model X SUV on a road trip and discovered Tesla's greatest weapon isn't its cars

FOLLOW US: On Facebook for more car and transportation content!

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Elon Musk just apologized to the analyst whose questions he called 'boring' and 'boneheaded' last quarter (TSLA)

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

elon musk

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk apologized to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Antonio Sacconaghi and other Wall Street analysts during the company's second-quarter earnings call on Wednesday.
  • During Tesla's first-quarter earnings call in May, Musk referred to Sacconahgi's questions as "boring" and "boneheaded."
  • Musk began the Q&A segment of Wednesday's call on a more subdued note and answered Sacconaghi's questions after the apology.


Tesla CEO Elon Musk apologized to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Antonio Sacconaghi during the company's second-quarter earnings call on Wednesday. During Tesla's first-quarter earnings call in May, Musk referred to Sacconaghi's questions as "boring" and "boneheaded."

"I’d like to apologize for being impolite on the prior call. Honestly, I really think there’s no excuse for bad manners, and I was kind of violating my own rule in that regard. There are reasons for it in that I had gotten no sleep, had been working 110 hour, 120 hour weeks, but nonetheless, there’s still no excuse," Musk said on Wednesday.

Musk spurred controversy by criticizing and rejecting questions from Wall Street analysts on Tesla's first-quarter earnings call. During the Q&A segment of the call, Musk rejected a question from Sacconaghi about the company's future capital requirements.

"Excuse me. Next. Boring bonehead questions are not cool," Musk replied.

The next question came from RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak, who asked about Model 3 reservations.

"These questions are so dry. They're killing me," Musk said, before turning to Galileo Russell, a retail investor who runs a YouTube channel about Tesla. Russell was allowed to ask several questions about a range of subjects, none of which concerned Tesla's financial health.

The call surprised analysts like Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas, who told CNBC it was "arguably the most unusual" earnings call he had heard in 20 years.

Business Insider's Matthew DeBord wrote that the call was "easily the most bizarre Muskian performance yet."

Musk began the Q&A segment of Wednesday's call on a more subdued note and answered Sacconaghi's questions after the apology.

If you've worked for Tesla and have a story to share, you can contact this reporter at mmatousek@businessinsider.com.

SEE ALSO: We visited a Tesla store and a Mercedes-Benz dealership — here are the biggest differences between the two

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Brazilian Cryptocurrency Exchange Wins Injunction Against Bank Who Closed Its Account

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

Brazilian cryptocurrency exchange Walltime has recently won a court battle against local bank Caixa Econômica Federal, forcing it to unfreeze its account holding more than $200,000 worth of funds. Crypto Exchange Walltime Wins Preliminary Injunction Against Hostile Bank According to local news outlet Portal do Bitcoin, Walltime won a preliminary injunction, meaning the court’s decision

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