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Bitcoin’s Price Was Artificially Inflated Last Year, Researchers Say

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, New York Times

Bitcoin’s Price Was Artificially Inflated Last Year, Researchers Say

A concentrated campaign of price manipulation may have accounted for at least half of the increase in the price of bitcoin and other big cryptocurrencies last year, according to a paper released on Wednesday by an academic with a history of spotting fraud in financial markets. The paper by John Griffin, a finance professor at the University of Texas, and Amin Shams, a graduate student, is likely to stoke a debate about how much of bitcoin’s skyrocketing gain last year was caused by the covert actions of a few big players, rather than real demand from investors.

Fed Raises Interest Rates and Signals 2 More Increases Are Coming

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates Wednesday and signaled that two additional increases were on the way this year, as officials expressed confidence that the U.S. economy was strong enough for borrowing costs to rise without choking off economic growth. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chairman, said the economy had strengthened significantly since the 2008 financial crisis and was approaching a “normal” level that could allow the Fed to soon step back and play less of a hands-on role in encouraging economic activity. The rate increase was the second this year and brings the Fed’s benchmark rate to a range of 1.75 to 2 percent.

Comcast Offers $65 Billion Cash for 21st Century Fox

Comcast announced an offer worth $65 billion for the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s businesses on Wednesday, setting up a showdown with the Walt Disney Co. for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. The all-cash bid by Comcast came a day after a federal judge approved a merger between AT&T and Time Warner. That deal had been challenged by the Justice Department, and Comcast executives had awaited the judge's decision before mounting their bid for 21st Century Fox. In December, Disney struck a $52.4 billion, all-stock deal for Fox’s assets. At $35 a share, Comcast’s offer is about 19 percent higher than Disney’s proposal.

Apple to Close iPhone Security Hole That Police Use to Crack Devices

Apple has long positioned the iPhone as a secure device that only its owner can open. That has led to battles with law enforcement officials, including a showdown with the FBI in 2016 after Apple refused to help open the locked iPhone of a mass shooter. The FBI eventually paid a third party to get into the phone. But now Apple is closing the technological loophole that let authorities hack into iPhones, angering police and reigniting a debate over whether the government has a right to get into the personal devices that are at the center of modern life.

United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia Find Agreement on Oil Policy

It is unusual for the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia to see eye-to-eye, much less try to achieve common energy-policy goals. But that is what seems to be happening, and it is taking the edge off the rise in oil and gasoline prices. It is also reducing the influence of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which will meet in Vienna next week to discuss production cuts for early 2017. The cheerleader, if not the ringmaster, in this effort is President Donald Trump, who took to Twitter on Wednesday to criticize OPEC for high crude prices.

Volkswagen Agrees to $1.2 Billion German Fine in Emissions-Cheating Scheme

Even after Volkswagen was hit with billions of dollars in penalties in the United States over an emissions-cheating scheme that continues to unfold, the company remained mostly unpunished in Europe. That changed Wednesday, when German prosecutors said they had imposed a fine of 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) on the carmaker for failing to properly supervise the employees who devised and deployed illegal software in diesel models to evade pollution controls. In a statement, the Braunschweig state’s attorney’s office described the penalty as one of the largest ever imposed on a company in postwar Germany.

ZTE Shares Plunge 40% as Congress Threatens to Block Deal With Trump

The Trump administration signaled Wednesday that it will try to block any effort by Congress to interfere with its plan to throw a lifeline to ZTE, the Chinese technology company the U.S. government has penalized for violating sanctions. The Department of Commerce brokered a settlement with ZTE this after Chinese President Xi Jinping asked President Donald Trump to issue a softer penalty that would not put the company out of business. Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been working on legislation that would undermine that agreement and impose a stiffer punishment on ZTE. The company’s shares plunged Wednesday, losing more than 40 percent of their value.

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