DealBook Briefing: Is Someone Manipulating the Price of Bitcoin?

Good Thursday morning. Regulators are worried that Bitcoin’s price is being manipulated. The good and the bad of Facebook’s latest quarterly earnings. And when will Congress raise the debt ceiling? On deck today: Earnings reports for Apple, Alphabet and Amazon. Just in: Jeff Immelt, the former G.E. chief, has joined New Enterprise Associates as a venture partner.

Regulators are increasingly worried that Bitfinex, a widely used (and famously opaque) exchange, has been propping it up. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has subpoenaed the company, whose Tether digital token is often used to buy other virtual currencies.

More from Nathaniel Popper of the NYT:

Where we stand: According to CoinMarketCap, Bitcoin is trading at $9,545, down almost 7 percent over the last 24 hours, Ethereum’s Ether at $1,099, and Ripple’s XRP at $1.05, down 7 percent.

The digital money flyaround

• How Goldman Sachs was rushed into supporting Bitcoin. (Bloomberg)

• Meet Bibor, a proposed interest rate for lending Bitcoin. (Bloomberg)

• Samsung is making specialist chips for mining virtual currency. (CNBC)


Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in New York, and Michael J. de la Merced and Amie Tsang in London.


The good news: Its fourth-quarter earnings handily beat expectations. The average price per ad went up 43 percent.

The possibly bad news: Mark Zuckerberg said changes to the News Feed had cut 50 million hours a day from the time users spent on it (as Shira Ovide of Gadfly points out, that’s about 2 minutes less each).

Here’s where our colleague Peter Eavis says investors should focus:

Today’s a big day for tech earnings

• Apple: Everyone wants to know how well the iPhone X has sold — well enough to start a new “supercycle”?

• Alphabet: Will Google’s hardware sales make its nonadvertising business more than a tiny blip in earnings?

• Amazon: Will Wall Street have finally got the fourth-quarter results right? ¯_(ツ)_/¯

• Is digital advertising what’s wrong with the internet? (NYT)

• More than a million followers have disappeared from the accounts of dozens of prominent Twitter users in recent days. Funny, that. (NYT)

• Microsoft’s cloud computing push continues to pay off. (NYT)

• Uber is offering bicycle sharing in San Francisco. (NYT)

• EBay will shift its payments business from PayPal. That pummeled PayPal’s share price in after-hours trading. (Bloomberg)

• The Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and the Craigslist co-founder Craig Newmark are investing in a fact-checking start-up. (Bloomberg)

Steven Mnuchin urged lawmakers to do it quickly, amid worries that the government could run out of borrowing capacity late this month. (The Congressional Budget Office has changed its estimate because of the tax cuts.)

The Treasury secretary argued that the cuts would eventually pay for themselves, but conceded that it wouldn’t happen this year.

In the meantime, the Treasury Department said that the size of Treasury auctions will increase. And Republicans are increasingly split over whether to keep supporting short-term bills to keep the government operating.

The policy flyaround

• Robert Mueller appears to be focusing on the White House’s initial statement about a June 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russian individuals over potential dirt on Hillary Clinton. (NYT)

• The F.B.I. made an unusual public statement opposing the release of a secret House Intelligence Committee memo about surveillance of a Trump campaign aide. (NYT)

• A federal appeals court ruled that the president could fire the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s director only for cause. (NYT)

• The E.U. is preparing measures to stop Britain undercutting it on tax or regulation after Brexit. (FT)

• The Treasury Department insisted that new sanctions are coming against Russian individuals close to Vladimir Putin. (Bloomberg)

• Prosecutors have dropped corruption charges against Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey. (NYT)

• The director of the C.D.C., Brenda Fitzgerald, resigned after she was reported to have bought stock in a tobacco company. (Politico)

Yesterday’s meeting, Janet Yellen’s last as Fed chairwoman, left rates unchanged. But the accompanying statement hinted that higher inflation — and rate hikes — might be around the corner.

Analysts’ takes:

• Economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch write, “This shows that the Fed is taking notice of the recent shift in market perception about inflation.”

• Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics writes, “In short, the statement sets up the March hike, which will be followed by Jay Powell’s first press conference.”

• Diane Swonk of Grant Thornton said, “Everything from stronger growth at home and abroad to debt-financed tax cuts have raised expectations for inflation.”

The scene at the Fed yesterday, from Binyamin Appelbaum of the NYT:

Analysts over at Deutsche Bank think so. They wrote in a research note yesterday:

G.E. is the last survivor of the index’s 12 original components from when it started in 1896, and has been in it continuously for more than 110 years.

More on G.E.’s troubles in Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover story.

• SoftBank agreed to buy a majority stake in the cellphone service unit of Line, a Japanese messaging company. (CNBC)

• Brookfield Asset Management is in talks to buy Forest City Realty Trust, a fellow real estate owner with a market value of about $6.2 billion, according to unnamed sources. (Bloomberg)

• CVC Capital Partners has hired Morgan Stanley and UBS to lead an initial public offering of the antivirus company Avast Software, which could be the biggest ever in British tech, according to unnamed sources. (Reuters)

• Meet the three-month old boutique investment bank that helped put together the Blackstone Group’s $20 billion deal for Thomson Reuters’ financial information unit. (Bloomberg)

• General Assembly, the coding boot camp, may sell itself. (Reuters)

• Tell us your memories of Xerox as the onetime corporate icon strikes a deal with Fujifilm of Japan. (NYT)

The state’s gaming commission is looking into the numerous, decade-spanning sexual assault and misconduct allegations against Steve Wynn. It has the power to revoke the operating license for Wynn Boston Harbor, the biggest single-phase development in Massachusetts history, which is expected to create thousands of jobs.

More from Susan Pulliam, Jon Kamp, Chris Kirkham and Kate O’Keeffe of the WSJ:

Shares in Wynn Resorts fell more than 3 percent yesterday.

• Stephen Cutler, who spent 11 years at JPMorgan, mostly as its general counsel, has joined Simpson Thacher & Bartlett as a litigation partner. (Simpson Thacher)

• The public relations firm Brunswick Group has hired Bob Zoellick, the former president of the World Bank, and Pascal Lamy, the former director general of the World Trade Organization, as part of a new consultancy focused on geopolitical advice. (Brunswick)

Our colleagues want to know how you’re thinking about retirement. They’ll use the best responses in a forthcoming special section.

• U.S. prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas in an investigation into potential corruption at international sports bodies, and exploring bringing charges of racketeering, money laundering and fraud. (NYT)

• BMW and Daimler said they had taken action against executives involved in an organization that sponsored emissions experiments on monkeys. (NYT)

• Equifax began offering a free service on Wednesday that promised to let consumers lock their credit files using their cellphones. It didn’t work. (NYT)

• Some of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s rapid moves on environmental regulation look vulnerable to legal challenge, experts say. (NYT)

• SoFi is laying off dozens of employees in its mortgage division, according to people familiar with the matter. It used to highlight the area as a growth prospect. (WSJ)

• Hong Kong developers and distressed debt and private credit funds are lining up to offer financing to HNA, bankers and property investors say. (FT)

• David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital lost roughly 6 percent in January, extending a multiyear period of weakness. (WSJ)

• Private equity heavyweights like K.K.R., Carlyle and Apollo have started issuing U.S. preferred shares, which pay higher interest than traditional bonds and can be a highly efficient way to raise capital. (FT)

• Hedge funds have earned spectacular payoffs from bearish bets against companies like Steinhoff International and Carillion, but can accounting sleuths expect more wins on that scale? (FT)

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