• Americans are more likely to believe former FBI Director James Comey than President Donald Trump by a 2-to-1 margin, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
  • More respondents disapproved of Comey’s ouster than approved of it, the poll shows.

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Americans are more “likely to believe” former FBI Director James Comey than President Donald Trump about the events that led to Comey’s abrupt ouster last month, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Friday.

By about a 2-to-1 margin, the respondents said they are more likely to trust Comey’s account, which he laid out in detail in Senate testimony earlier this month. Some 45 percent of respondents said they are more likely to believe Comey, while 22 percent said the same for Trump, who has disputed key parts of Comey’s testimony. Just 21 percent said “they believe neither of them,” while 8 percent said “they believe both of them,” according to ibf News.

Only 27 percent of Americans approve of Trump firing Comey, while 46 percent disapprove, the poll shows. 

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Trump terminated Comey last month amid the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Comey later testified that Trump asked him for loyalty — which an FBI chief does not owe a president — and made a statement that he interpreted as a request to “drop” a probe into former national security advisor Michael Flynn. Trump denied making those statements.

Trump is reportedly being investigated to find out if he attempted to impede the Russia probe.

  • Bitcoin has more than doubled in value this year, and other digital currencies have also soared.
  • While U.S. stocks churn near record highs, some analysts worry markets may be too ambivalent about speculation in other assets.
  • Bitcoin wealth is also concentrated in the hands of a few, data show.

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To some market analysts, quiet, expensive stock markets are being overlooked by worrisome speculative activity in products such as bitcoin.

The price of the digital currency has surged since the end of last year, topping $3,000 earlier this month from $968 at the end of December, according to CoinDesk. Bitcoin traded around $2,750 on Friday.

A rival has soared even more. Ethereum, also known as ether, leaped more than 4,000 percent from around $7 last December to above $300 this month. The overall market value for cryptocurrencies has risen from below $20 billion at the start of this year to above $110 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.

As the stock market becomes increasingly expensive for ordinary investors — Apple and Facebook shares cost around $150 each — trading has heated up in bitcoin and other digital currencies. Bitcoin can be bought in fractions as low as one hundredth of a millionth, or about less than one-tenth of a cent at current prices. That makes it an easy target for speculation. 

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During the dot-com euphoria of the late 1990s, ordinary investors piled into shares of young, unproven technology companies and the day-trading taxi driver symbolized the era. But this time ordinary investors are going elsewhere, says Ian Winer, head of equities at Wedbush.

“They’re not playing the stock market anymore. They’re playing all the markets that are less regulated, and one of them is the cryptocurrency market,” Winer said.

“Rather than your average guy or gal buying tech stocks, they’re buying bitcoin or ether,” he said. “I see speculation all over the place. I just don’t see it in the stock market.”

Number of bitcoin addresses by individual bitcoin balances

Number of bitcoin addresses
Individual balance of BTC greater than:
$ value per bitcoin balance at $2750
17.8 million 0.0000001 0.000275
17.6 million 0.000001 0.1 cents
16.8 million 0.00001 3 cents
12.9 million 0.0001 27.5 cents
7.5 million 0.001 2.75
4.4 million 0.01 27.5
1.8 million 0.1 275
531,248 1 2,750
137,501 10 27,500
13,852 100 275,000
1,619 1,000.00 $2.75
115 10,000.00 $27.50
3 100,000.00 $275 million

The average retail investor may not be reaping the benefits of bitcoin’s gains, however. Analysis of bitcoin addresses — a combination of letters and numbers that identifies a bitcoin recipient — shows that the majority of transactions are done in fractions of bitcoin.

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Just three addresses had balances of more than 100,000 bitcoins, or roughly $275 million, each, according to data from BitcoinPrivacy. In contrast, 16.8 million addresses had 0.00001 bitcoin, or about 3 cents, the data showed.

“Large amounts of bitcoin are heavily concentrated in the hands of a few people. People that get in now [can] only buy fractional pieces,” said Alex Sunnarborg, research analyst at CoinDesk.

“I definitely think more and more retail investors have gone into it,” he said. “There is definitely a lot of fear of missing out.”

Younger investors more likely to buy bitcoin rather than stocks

Younger, tech-savvy people are also more likely to play the digital currency markets and the high risk involved, Sunnarborg said. He estimates that about two-thirds of investors in cryptocurrencies are under age 40.

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That same age category is less likely to invest in the stock market. Just one-third of millennials, or adults currently aged 21 to 35, said they owned a stock in a Bankrate study last July. In contrast, 51 percent of Gen Xers, or those age 36 to 51, said they owned a stock, and 48 percent of baby boomers, ages 52 to 70, according to the survey of 1,000 American adults conducted for Bankrate by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

“The next generation is suffering from the same thing that the Gen Xers suffered in the dot-com bust,” Winer said. “They’re playing all kind of markets that they know nothing about.”

He was referring to the speculative trading that ended in the stock market’s plunge in 2000.

Traders and market strategists also worry that a “fear of missing out trade” has helped send U.S. stocks deep into record territory — the S&P 500 has posted 24 record closes this year and is up 9 percent over that time.

The difference is this time, typical measures of overexuberance may not apply to stocks.

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Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s June global fund manager survey found that while a record 44 percent of managers say stocks are overvalued, their cash holdings have actually moved up to 5 percent, higher than the 10-year average of 4.5 percent. There’s “no irrational exuberance” in contrast with the 1999 bubble, the note said.

However, sluggish global growth and easy central bank policy could limit investment returns, while people remain wary about stock markets after the financial crisis.

“I do believe that in a market with few attractive alternatives, speculation tends to become rampant,” said Daniel Alpert, a founding managing partner at Westwood Capital. “And it almost doesn’t matter what people choose to speculate in, as long as they believe there is a fool greater than they out there somewhere.”

  • Mark Zuckerberg went to Chicago this week to say that Facebook’s new mission was to “bring people closer together” and “strengthen the social fabric.”
  • Zuckerberg skipped a White House meeting where a top exec from chief rival Google spoke favorably of the President’s agenda.
  • On Friday, Sheryl Sandberg met with U.K. Home Secretary amid mounting European pressure on U.S. internet giants.

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Mark Zuckerberg had a choice to make this week.

The Facebook CEO could either go to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump, along with nearly every other marquee CEO from the tech industry, or skip it and prepare for a Chicago rally for people who’d created social-support groups on Facebook.

Zuckerberg, who loudly criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords in early June, chose the latter. Facebook was alone among the five most-valuable U.S. tech firms in not sending a top executive to the White House meeting.

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At that same meeting, a top official from Facebook’s chief rival—Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt — sat at the table with Trump and praised the President’s pro-business agenda, saying it would create “big opportunities” for U.S. firms.

The contrast between the two companies, which together dominate digital advertising, is stark when it comes to U.S. government relations.

Both companies are on the defensive in Europe, where their business and legal practices are under attack, accused of not doing enough to stop the spread of terrorism or protect the privacy of EU citizens.

Google also faces a fine that could top €1 billion after the EU said it used its search monopoly to favor its own shopping services in search results.

While Google’s Schmidt softened up Trump with praise, Zuckerberg’s snub could make it harder to enlist the administration’s help as the pressure gets turned up in European capitals.

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In a sign of how seriously Facebook is taking the current political climate in Europe, COO Sheryl Sandberg met Friday with the U.K. Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and highlighted the company’s efforts “to keep terrorists off Facebook.”

“We had a constructive meeting with the Home Secretary,” Sandberg said in a statement provided to CNBC, in response to a request for comment on the meeting.

Sandberg’s trip comes one week after U.K. Prime Minister Theresa Mayand French President Emmanuel Macron said they would consider new laws to punish companies that refuse to remove content filled with all forms of hate speech, including terrorism.

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Zuckerberg’s choice surely played well with the Facebook rank and file and with users who oppose Trump politically.

Whether it was good for Facebook shareholders—or risks relegating the company to a position behind Google in a line for the President’s ear—is less certain.

* Spreadbetter sees European bourses opening lower

* Nikkei edges higher, on track for 0.9 pct weekly rise

* Dollar edges down, but DXY poised for a winning week

* U.S. crude edges up, pulls further away from this week’s lows

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TOKYO, June 23 Asian shares flatlined on Friday but remained on track for a weekly gain, while crude oil prices pulled away from this week’s 10-month lows.

Financial spreadbetter CMC Markets sees European markets opening modestly weaker, with Britain’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 all seen shedding points in early trade.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was nearly unchanged on the day, and was up 0.4 percent for the week.

The Shanghai Composite slipped 0.7 percent while China’s blue-chip CSI300 index was down 0.3 percent. The latter earlier this week hit an 18-month high on excitement over MSCI’s decision to include mainland shares in a key index.

“Investors have no incentives today to take new positions ahead of the weekend,” said Mitsuo Shimizu, equity strategist at Japan Asia Securities in Tokyo.

Japan’s Nikkei stock index was slightly higher in afternoon trade, on track to log a rise of 0.9 percent for a week in which it touched its highest levels since August 2015.

“The actual macro situation in Japan is pretty good,” said Ed Rogers, head of Rogers Investment Advisors in Tokyo, who noted the country’s streak of five quarters of positive gross domestic product numbers.

He said the dollar remained bolstered against the yen by the Federal Reserve’s move to hike interest rates last week and leave the door open for further monetary tightening later in the year.

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“We’re not seeing global inflation, but we think the Fed will continue to move. That stone’s rolling down the hill,” Rogers said.

Longer-term, that will support the dollar and underpin Japanese shares, he added.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.2 percent at 97.449, though up 0.3 percent for the week.

The euro was up 0.1 percent on the day at $1.1163 but was down 0.3 percent for the week, while the dollar was steady against the yen at 111.29, up 0.4 percent for the week.

“We’re getting close to the end of the month, and fundamentals aside, there will be people selling dollars, so it will be easy for the yen to strengthen next week,” said Mitsuo Imaizumi, Tokyo-based chief foreign exchange strategist for Daiwa Securities.

“We also need to keep an eye on the healthcare debate in Washington, because political turmoil tends to undermine the dollar,” he said.

U.S. Senate Republicans offered a bill on Thursday to overhaul Obamacare, the next phase in the party’s long war against the 2010 law enacted by then-President Barack Obama, though it remained unclear if the bill has enough support to pass the Senate.

On Wall Street overnight, U.S. shares put in a mixed performance, though the S&P healthcare index rose 1 percent and hit its fifth consecutive record close following the release of the Senate Republicans’ bill.

U.S. economic data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week, but remained at levels consistent with a tight labour market. Home prices also increased in April more than expected.

The Mexican peso added 0.1 percent after soaring 1 percent on Thursday as Mexico’s central bank board raised interest rates, saying it wanted to anchor inflation expectations and take into account last week’s move by the U.S. Federal Reserve to hike borrowing costs.

Crude oil futures pulled further away from this week’s lows, though market sentiment remained fragile amid a global crude glut that has persisted despite OPEC-led output cuts.

Brent crude was up 0.4 percent at $45.40 a barrel. U.S. crude futures also rose 0.4 percent to $42.91 a barrel.

Spot gold added 0.2 percent to $1,252.51 an ounce, moving away from a five-week low touched earlier this week.

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There was an unexpected fall in exports from Germany in May, another indicator of a slowing economy.

The export decline of 1.8 percent compared to April, was the steepest in nine months. Year-on-year exports were up by 1.6 percent.

Imports also rose less than expected; they were up just 0.1 percent, pointing to subdued domestic demand in Germany

These are further signs that weak global demand for German products is hitting growth in Europe’s largest economy.

Underscoring that, German exports to the rest of the eurozone went up compared to May last year.

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“German export development is sluggish so far this year,” DIHK foreign trade director Volker Treier said. Trade with European Union countries was the only reason unadjusted exports rose 1.6 percent on the year in May, he said.

“Outside the EU, there is hardly any growth potential due to global crises and low oil prices.”

The slump in exports and the slight rise in imports means the seasonally-adjusted trade balance narrowed. It was 22.1 billion euros in May down from April’s 24.1 billion euros.

The disappointing trade figures come just days after the release of stats showing German industrial output posted its biggest monthly drop in nearly two years. In addition industrial orders were weaker than expected.

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Germany’s economy grew by 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2016, its strongest quarterly rate in two years. Soaring private consumption, higher construction investment and state spending on refugees more than offset a dip in trade.

Donald Trump’s spectacular journey from Trump Tower to the White House appears not to have had any impact on the German economy to date.

However, it may take sometime for the ripples or waves to hit Berlin.

The general consensus is that uncertainty and pessimism,
two ingredients that induce allergies in the financial sector, are the order of the day, tomorrow and many years to come.

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Klaus Wohlrabe is an IFO economist:“Right now we are not seeing a huge impact on the result of our poll after Trump’s election. After the Brexit vote there was a two-month delay. That’s when we noticed an increase in uncertainty. This could happen again, that companies will become more sceptical or more cautious in December. After all, Trump’s remarks are very erratic, meaning that we first need to see what is actually implemented from the things he announced during the election campaign.”

In the third quarter the German economy halved to 0.2 percent as a result of weak foreign trade.

In contrast private consumption remained on an upward trend with consumers happy with high employment, wage rises and low interest rates.

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German government spending is contributing to growth as the country accommodates more than one million migrants who have arrived since the start of 2015.

German businesses are gloomier this month. A regular survey of some 7,000 firms in Europe’s largest economy showed morale unexpectedly dropped.

It was previously at its highest level in almost three years.

The United States is Germany’s most important single export destination and President Donald Trump’s protectionist comments have unsettled German politicians and business leaders.

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But economist Klaus Wohlrabe at the Ifo research institution, which carried out the surveys, said the weaker morale does not seem to be linked to the new man in the White House: “So far Donald Trump has had no effect on the current surveys, which surprised us because his remarks would indicate not such a good mood, or sentiment suffering in the German export industry. But surprisingly, export expectations rose, and for now, that sentiment is still very optimistic. But of course nothing concrete has been decided so far.”

Dampener

Others were not so sure. Dekabank economist Andreas Scheuerle said: “It did not even take a week for US President Trump to put a dampener on the mood of German companies.”

For the second year in a row, Business France, France’s public investment bank Bpifrance and the Medicen Paris Region cluster have organized a Healthcare French Tech Tour in Israel.

The aim of this specially tailored immersion program in the Israel HealthTech ecosystem is to enable French startups to assess their development potential, forge technology partnerships, and start off on the right foot in one of the most innovation markets in the world.

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This second tour was attended by seven startups specializing in medical devices, biotechnology, and digital healthcare. They were handpicked after a competitive selection process by a panel of French and Israeli experts in the field, and will receive customized support for three months, including a week’s immersion in Tel Aviv from May 20-25, 2017.

 

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The annual IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook analyses the capacity of countries to stimulate and sustain business competitiveness, using a composite competitiveness index based on four pillars: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure.

France gained one place overall in the 2017 standings, with particularly good showings for its world-leading infrastructure. Among other highlights, it was ranked sixth in the world for qualified engineers available in the labor market, fifth for technological infrastructure, and 10th for health and environment infrastructure.

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France also stood out for its innovation capacity and scientific performances, along with its highly skilled and productive workforce.

Through its internationally focused economy, France is the world’s seventh leading goods exporter and fifth leading exporter of services.