Bitcoin Sinks Below $40,000 After China Calls For Crackdown On Mining & Trading

Plus, Apple CEO Tim Cook is testifying in the company’s legal battle with Epic Games today, the U.S. called for a global minimum tax rate of 15%, and Snap is buying WaveOptics for $500 million.

Stocks were higher at the open on Friday with the Dow gaining 38 points, or 0.1%. The S&P 500 added 0.2%, while the Nasdaq rose by 0.6%.

Bitcoin looks set to end the week on a wild note. The world’s largest digital coin is down more than 9% at the time of writing to $37,845.24 after China called for a crackdown on Bitcoin mining and trading behavior, with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and the State Council saying in a statement that tighter regulation is needed to protect the financial system. The statement said it is necessary to “crack down on Bitcoin mining and trading behavior, and resolutely prevent the transmission of individual risks to the social field.” Also hurting Bitcoin and the broader cryptocurrency market was the U.S. Treasury Department’s announcement late Thursday that it is taking steps to crack down on crypto markets and transactions and will require any transfer worth $10,000 or more to be reported to the IRS. “Cryptocurrency already poses a significant detection problem by facilitating illegal activity broadly including tax evasion,” the Treasury Department said in a statement. “Within the context of the new financial account reporting regime, cryptocurrencies and crypto asset exchange accounts and payment service accounts that accept cryptocurrencies would be covered. Further, as with cash transactions, businesses that receive crypto assets with a fair market value of more than $10,000 would also be reported on.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook is set to testify today in the company’s legal battle with Epic Games, appearing as the final witness in the antitrust battle with the Fortnite developer. Epic filed suit against Apple back in August after the iPhone maker removed Fortnite from its App Store because the gaming company created a workaround so it would no longer have to pay the 30% fee on customers’ in-app purchases. In the 30 months Fortune was on the App Store, Apple generated at least $100 million in revenue from the app according to testimony for yesterday. A ruling in Epic’s favor would loosen Apple’s grip on its store and could upend the way millions of developers distribute their apps to users around the world, and could spur action from the Justice Department and other regulators concerned about the extent of Apple’s power as a gatekeeper of the digital economy. 

The U.S. called for a global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15% late Thursday. While the final rate could go higher, the Treasury Department said the 15% minimum is a “floor and that discussions should continue to be ambitious and push that rate higher.” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has argued for an ambitious effort to end a global “race to the bottom” on corporate taxes that encourages companies to relocate to other countries to cut their tax burdens even when most of their operations are in the U.S. The department said in a statement “that the international tax architecture must be stabilized, that the global playing field must be fair, and that we must create an environment in which countries work together to maintain our tax bases and ensure the global tax system is equitable and equipped to meet the needs of the 21st century global economy.”

Snap is buying WaveOptics, the supplier of the augmented reality displays that power its new Spectacles glasses, for more than $500 million. The deal is Snap’s largest ever and underscores its long-term bet that AR eyewear will eventually go mainstream. The parent company of social media app Snapchat unveiled its first AR Spectacles glasses on Thursday. Spectacles will be given to creators first, then will be fine-tuned before sales open to the public. 

And Amazon announced that it is shutting down its stand-alone Prime Now platforms and is directing users who want fast delivery on groceries and other goods to order them though the Amazon app or website. The Prime Now website and app will be discontinued worldwide by the end of the year. “To make this experience even more seamless for customers, we are moving the experience from a separate Prime Now app onto the Amazon app and website so customers can shop all Amazon has to offer from one convenient location,” said Stephanie Landry, vice president of grocery at Amazon. 

Stocks We’re Watching

BBQ Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: BBQ): BBQ Holdings shares jumped as much as 24.5% yesterday after the Famous Dave’s operator announced first quarter earnings. “While we still operate under certain state capacity and distancing restrictions throughout the country, we were pleased to see those restriction begin to ease in mid-late January as business began to return to a more normal environment. This has been especially helpful to Granite City as a brand that relies on dine-in customers and we have seen their sales quickly move closer to 2019 levels. Famous Dave’s continues to accelerate its overall sales as it has through the pandemic with its strong to-go business,” CEO Jeff Crivello said in an earnings release. “We are excited to move into a new growth phase as construction has begun on two new prototypes, a cafeteria style line-serve, and a counter-serve drive thru. We currently have 15 new ghost kitchens, and 5 brick and mortar Famous Dave’s in the pipeline to open this year.   Our M&A opportunities are robust.”

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