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Bitcoin prices on its biggest exchanges diverged wildly on Thursday in a session that sharply exposed the fragile trading infrastructure for the nascent cryptocurrency. In one wild 20 minute period, the price of bitcoin soared $2,000 per coin to more than $19,000 only to drop to $15,000 on the Coinbase trading venue. The frenzied demand left other exchanges struggling to cope, and the difference in prices quoted on other venues for the same bitcoin asset was as much $4,000.
“People are looking at a video game as a regular market. And it’s clearly not, otherwise it wouldn’t be where it is already,” said Walter Zimmerman, technical analyst at ICAP TA. “It’s beyond abnormal, it’s unprecedented. Every other commodity has natural sellers.” (FT)
In the news
The United States of Europe
The leader of Germany’s Social Democrats has called for EU member states to commit to a “United States of Europe” by 2025, setting out an ambitious European reform agenda as a condition for holding talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on the formation of a new government. Martin Schulz told a party conference in Berlin on Thursday that he wanted EU member states to agree a new “constitutional treaty” to establish a federal union and that countries that did not sign up would have to leave the bloc. (FT)
HK risks losing listings crown to NY
Hong Kong is poised to lose its title as the leading global venue for flotations this year, following a drop in the number of local “jumbo” listings and a rising preference among Chinese companies for the US. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is on track to lose out to the New York Stock Exchange as the venue of choice for companies undertaking initial public offerings in 2017, after two consecutive years in the top spot. Data from Dealogic show that the amount raised by companies listing on NYSE so far this year has exceeded $32.6bn, compared with $14.6bn on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s main board — putting Hong Kong in fourth place at present. (FT)
Ford to sell cars with Alibaba
The automaker has signed a three-year agreement with the Chinese ecommerce group to collaborate over online car sales, new transport services and artificial intelligence. It could mean Ford selling its cars on Alibaba’s online marketplace Tmall. China is the world’s largest car market, and also the world leader in online car sales. (FT)
GE cuts 12,000 jobs
General Electric, the US manufacturing group, is cutting 12,000 jobs at its power equipment business, as John Flannery, the new chief executive, seeks to reverse a plunge in profitability. The division making turbines and other equipment for gas and coal-fired power plants has been hit hard by the rise of renewable energy. (FT)
Brexit divorce deal may slip to 2018
Time is running out for Brexit talks to move on to phase two this year. Theresa May struggled to agree a Brexit deal with Northern Irish unionists on Wednesday, prompting Ireland’s prime minister to warn that a divorce settlement might not be completed until early 2018. On Thursday, the British PM was engaged in a frenetic attempt to make a deal. Michel Barnier, EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said the UK had until Friday to agree a potential deal on the Irish border or Brexit talks could not progress. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker “fears Theresa May’s government will collapse next week without a Brexit deal”. Here are 10 lessons from three frantic days of Brexit reversals. (FT, Guardian, Telegraph, Bloomberg)
Video of killing of Muslim roils north Indian state
A video of a Hindu man murdering a Muslim labourer — and warning other Muslims of a similar fate if they have relationships with Hindu women — has raised tensions in India’s northern state of Rajastan, leading to police calls for calm. Rightwing Hindu groups portray such relationships as part of a ‘love jihad’, a conspiracy to alter India’s demographic balance and diminish the overwhelming Hindu majority. (FT)
Which Saudi prince bought that rare Da Vinci?
Was it Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, a little-known Saudi prince from a remote branch of the royal family, with no history as a major art collector, and no publicly known source of great wealth, who bought Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Salvator Mundi” for a record $450m. (WSJ, NYT)
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The day ahead
World reacts to Jerusalem decision
Leaders from within the Muslim world and from the wider international community were swift to criticise Donald Trump for recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, while the UN Security Council is set to meet on Friday over the decision. Here is a round-up of the (mostly negative) reactions from Pope Francis to the Palestinians to the EU, amid clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces. The UN Security Council is expected to meet on Friday for talks demanded by more than half its members on the US decision. (FT, BBC)
US jobs data
Data are expected to show that the pace of US job creation cooled in November, having rebounded strongly the previous month following hurricane-related damage in Texas and Florida. Non-farm payrolls are expected to increase by 185,000 in November, having climbed by 261,000 the previous month, according to a Thomson Reuters survey. ADP data released Wednesday showed the private sector added 190,000 jobs in November. (WSJ)
What we’re reading
The women of 2017
From World Cup winners to prime ministers, firefighters to warriors in the war against discrimination, FT magazine spotlights women who made waves this year. Here’s Time’s person of the year: “The Silence Breakers”. (FT, Time)
Even Leavers expect a bad Brexit deal
Britons’ views on whether Brexit was the right decision have not changed, although an increasing number expect it to be botched. Check out these illuminating — and worrying — charts from a survey by the National Centre for Social Research. Separately, our Big Read looks at how UK Labour is trying to present itself as a friend of small business. But the private sector remains terrified of the party’s plans. (FT)
The world’s most pessimistic philosopher
David Benatar believes that life is so bad, so painful, that human beings should stop having children for reasons of compassion. The New Yorker interviews the intensely private anti-natalist, who is far from being the only person with this view. (New Yorker)
North Korean ‘ghost boats’
Every year, dozens of fishing boats from North Korea find their way to Japanese shores. But there has been a spike in sightings across a string of prefectures. Are they lost fishermen, defectors or North Korean agents on a mission? This article suggests something has changed back in the Hermit Kingdom. (Nikkei Asian Review)
Battle of the giants
The oligopoly of Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix (and Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent in China) is begetting others. There is a growing belief that to compete with them, other companies must turn into giants themselves. Our chief business commentator argues we cannot submit entirely to this trend. “The rise of Amazon, Facebook and Google means antitrust rules need to be rewritten,” he writes. (FT)
Video of the day
Southern California devastated by fires
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes as an increasing number of wildfires have raged around Los Angeles. (FT)