Apple hits $1 trillion mark, turns Nasdaq positive

Apple CEO Tim Cook takes a selfie with a customer at the Apple Store in Chicago, Illinois. (Reuters)
Updated 02 August 2018
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Apple hits $1 trillion mark, turns Nasdaq positive

  • Apple hits record high of $207.05 – crowning decade-long rise fueled by its ubiquitous iPhone
  • Apple led rebound in tech stocks helping Wall Street pare losses and turning Nasdaq positive

NEW YORK: Apple became the first US company to top $1 trillion in market value on Thursday, leading a rebound in technology stocks that helped Wall Street pare losses and turned the Nasdaq positive.
Market sentiment was also lifted by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s comment, who said the tariffs that United States is threatening to impose on Chinese goods would not be disastrous for the Asian nation.
“It’s not something that’s going to be cataclysmic,” he said in an interview with Fox Business Network, explaining that a 25 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of goods would equal to less than 1 percent of China’s economy.
Technology stocks, which were trading lower earlier in the session, rose 0.4 percent.
Apple hit a record high of $207.05, crowning a decade-long rise fueled by its ubiquitous iPhone that transformed it from a niche player in personal computers into a global powerhouse spanning entertainment and communications.
“There’s a dichotomy on whether the tech run is going to continue,” said Cliff Hodge, director of investments for Cornerstone Wealth in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“The tariffs are not enough to derail the US economy that is firing on all cylinders.”
The trade-sensitive industrial sector fell 0.38 percent. Caterpillar, Boeing and 3M fell more than 1 percent and weighed on the bluechip Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Financials fell 0.5 percent, the biggest drag on the S&P 500, as 10-year US Treasury yields eased.
The Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday, but characterized the economy as strong, keeping the central bank on track to increase borrowing costs in September.
At 11:23 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 120.33 points, or 0.47 percent, at 25,213.49, the S&P 500 was down 1.84 points, or 0.07 percent, at 2,811.52 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 23.95 points, or 0.31 percent, at 7,731.24.
The materials group fell 1.2 percent as prices of copper and other base metals slipped. Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower.
Tesla jumped 9.5 percent after the electric car maker convinced investors that it was able to produce positive cash flow and turn a profit.
DowDuPont fell 3.1 percent after the chemical producer said it expects higher raw material costs to hit all its units for the rest of the year.
Shares of TripAdviser and Cognizant slipped 14.4 percent and 6.8 percent after their earnings failed to impress investors.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.01-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.07-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 10 new 52-week highs and five new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 59 new highs and 65 new lows.


Bitcoin craze hits Iran as US sanctions squeeze weak economy

Updated 18 July 2019
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Bitcoin craze hits Iran as US sanctions squeeze weak economy

  • Some Iranian officials worry that “mining” is abusing the subsidized electricity
  • Iranian Bitcoin miners are purchasing more affordable Chinese ready-made computers

TEHRAN: Iranians feeling the squeeze from US sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s ailing economy are increasingly turning to such digital currencies as Bitcoin to make money, prompting alarm in and out of the country.
In Iran, some government officials worry that the energy-hungry process of “mining” Bitcoin is abusing Iran’s system of subsidized electricity; in the United States, some observers have warned that cryptocurrencies could be used to bypass the Trump administration’s sanctions targeting Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.
The Bitcoin craze has made the front pages of Iranian newspapers and been discussed by some of the country’s top ayatollahs, and there have been televised police raids on hidden computer farms set up to bring in money by “mining” the currency.
Like other digital currencies, Bitcoin is an alternative to money printed by sovereign governments around the world. Unlike those bills, however, cryptocurrencies are not controlled by a central bank. Bitcoin and other digital currencies like it trade globally in highly speculative markets without any backing from a physical entity.
As a result, computers around the world “mine” the data, meaning they use highly complex algorithms to verify transactions. The verified transactions, called blocks, are then added to a public record, known as the blockchain. Any time “miners” add a new block to the blockchain, they are rewarded with a payment in bitcoins.
To work, the expensive specialized computers require a lot of electricity to power their processors and to keep them cool. In Iran, “miners” have an edge because electricity is cheap thanks to longtime government subsidies. “Miners” also buy cheaper Chinese ready-made computers to do the work.
But the constant raids and authorities’ conflicting statements on the issue have Bitcoin “miners” in Iran incredibly leery of being identified. Those contacted by The Associated Press refused to speak about their work or to say how much they earn from their “mining.”
But they acknowledge they do this to make some money at a time when Iran’s currency, the rial, tumbled from 32,000 rials to $1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear deal, to around 120,000 rials to $1 now.
“It is clear that here has turned into a heaven for ‘miners,’” Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s minister for information and communications technology, recently told AP in an interview. “The business of ‘mining’ is not forbidden in law but the government and the Central Bank have ordered the Customs Bureau to ban the import of (mining machines) until new regulations are introduced.”
Ali Bakhshi, the head of the Iran Electrical Industry Syndicate, said earlier this month that the country’s Energy Ministry likely would boost costs for Bitcoin “miners” to 7 cents for each kilowatt of electricity they consume, a massive increase from the current half-cent but still almost half the cost of electricity in the United States, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Still, there are concerns, especially among Iran’s religious leaders, that people might try to circumvent paying extra for the electricity as well as using digital currency to hide or move money illicitly.
Tabnak, a hard-line news website associated with a former commander of the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, quoted three ayatollahs describing Bitcoin as either problematic or “haram,” meaning forbidden. Islam prescribes strict rules about finance.
But Jahromi said clerics became more receptive to the idea after his staff briefed them that Bitcoin had a value in the real world, which is required under Islamic finance. Islamic finance also prohibits gambling, the payment of interest and misleading others.
“Some of our top clerics have issued fatwas that say Bitcoin is money without a reserve, that it is rejected by Islamic and cybercurrencies are haram,” Jahromi said. “When we explain to them this is not a currency but an asset, they change their mind.”
Iran has tried to keep its economic situation in check by controlling foreign currency rates and cutting down on those moving their money from the rial to other currencies, including Bitcoin. Last year, the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Mohammad Reza Pour-Ebrahimi, the head of the Iranian parliament’s economic commission, as suggesting that about $2.5 billion left Iran through digital currency purchases. He did not elaborate and authorities have not discussed it since.
The US, meanwhile, has been keeping a close watch on Iranians holding bitcoins. In November, a federal grand jury in Newark, New Jersey, accused two Iranian men of hacking and holding hostage computer systems of over 200 American entities to extort them for Bitcoin, including the cities of Newark and Atlanta.
“As Iran becomes increasingly isolated and desperate for access to US dollars, it is vital that virtual currency exchanges, peer-to-peer exchangers and other providers of digital currency services harden their networks against these illicit schemes,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Not so, said Jahromi.
“Cybercurrencies are effective in bypassing sanctions when it comes to small transactions, but we do not see any special impact in them as far as mega-transactions are concerned,” he said. “We cannot use them to go around international monetary mechanisms.”