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Gold bitcoin
Bitcoin marks 10 years
23 October 2018, 3:36 PM

October 31, 2008 marked the birth of bitcoin. 10 years on, the world’s first cryptocurrency is at the forefront of a complex financial system viewed warily by markets and investors.

From its first evocation amid a global financial crisis, in a white paper written by Satoshi Nakamoto, an unknown pseudonym, bitcoin conveyed a political vision.

The “abstract” set out in the paper for bitcoin, currently worth about $6,400 per unit from a starting point of virtually zero, was for “a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash (that) would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.”

A decade on, this continues to be carried out via a decentralised registry system known as a block-chain.

Such ambition for a cryptocurrency was fuelled by the bankruptcy of US investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008, an event that discredited the traditional system of “a small elite of bankers… (that) establishes monetary rules imposed on everybody”, according to Pierre Noizat, founder of the first French bitcoin exchange in 2011.

Following its creation, bitcoin evolved for several years away from the public eye, grabbing the attention for the most part of geeks and criminals — the latter seeing it as a way to launder money.

After bitcoin surpassed $1,000 for the first time in 2013, it began to attract the attention of financial institutions.

The European Central Bank compared it to a Ponzi scheme, but Ben Bernanke, then head of the US Federal Reserve, hailed its potential.

In early 2014, the crypto-currency faced its biggest crisis to date, with the hacking of the Mt. Gox platform, where about 80% of all bitcoins were traded.

The result was a collapse in their value, leading to predictions of the virtual currency’s death.

It took until early 2017 for bitcoin’s price to fully recover.

That marked the start of a “turning point” according to Noizat, as the controversial crypto-currency then rocketed to more than $19,500 by the end of the year according to Bloomberg data.

That meant bitcoin had a total capitalisation of more than $300 billion, according to the specialised website Coinmarketcap.

By January 2018 the value of all cryptocurrencies exceeded $800 billion, before the bubble burst.

The concept of a digital currency has progressed substantially thanks to bitcoin, cryptocurrency analyst Bob McDowall told AFP, pointing to the creation of 2,000 rivals.

“It becomes more than a technological, economic innovation. It almost becomes a religion for some people,” he noted.

According to Anthony Lesoismier, co-founder of investment fund Swissborg which offers portfolios based on blockchain, “the real revolution has been on a philosophical level”.

But for economist Nouriel Roubini, decentralisation in crypto is a myth.

“It is a system more centralised than North Korea. Miners are centralised, exchanges are centralised, developers are centralised dictators,” Roubini tweeted.

If the initial idea was for bitcoin to facilitate payments, a majority of observers recognise that it is used above all as a store of value or as a speculative instrument owing to volatility in its value.

“You need 20 years for this kind of… technology to take hold completely,” said Noizat, who is banking on faster transaction speeds for bitcoin.

As it stands, about five to ten bitcoin transactions can be processed per second compared with several thousand for Visa cards.

Looking ahead, US market regulators are considering applications for bitcoin-based exchange-traded funds, which if approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission would see the virtual currency become part of a financial system it set out to bypass.

“We must cross some bridges in the short term” to generate the general public’s interest and trust, said Lesoismier, who described himself as both an “idealist” and “realist”.

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Novak Djokovic kissing his trophy
Djokovic cruises past Coric to win fourth Shanghai title
14 October 2018, 5:27 PM

Novak Djokovic continued his scintillating run of form as he breezed past Croatian Borna Coric 6-3 6-4 to win the Shanghai Masters title for the fourth time on Sunday.

With a clever mix of groundstrokes, the 31-year-old Serb broke Coric’s serve in the sixth game and made a series of forays to the net as he consolidated his lead.

The Serb grabbed the opening set with a hold to love, having dropped just four points on his serve overall.

Coric, who collected one of the biggest wins of his career by defeating Roger Federer in the semi-finals, looked far from his best in his first ATP Masters final as he dropped his serve in the opening game of the second set.

The 21-year-old saved three match points to hold serve in the ninth game before Djokovic served out to clinch his fourth title of the season.

“This was definitely one of the best service weeks that I’ve had in my career,” Djokovic, who did not drop his serve during the tournament, said.

“I was saying before that I have never played on faster courts here in Shanghai, so this year more than ever I needed a lot of success with the first serves in.”

Djokovic, who has returned to his brutal best this season with Grand Slam wins at Wimbledon and the US Open, will surpass Federer as world number two when the next edition of the ATP rankings are released on Monday.

“Obviously the last three, four months have been terrific for me,” Djokovic added. “Not many holes in the game in general, especially this week. Everything worked perfectly.”

The 14-times Grand Slam champion extended his winning streak to 18 matches as he continues to chase Rafa Nadal’s world number one crown, with the Spaniard skipping the Asian swing to recover from a knee injury.

Moody’s delay announcing SA’s credit rating
13 October 2018, 8:26 PM

It’s not clear when Moody’s will publish its next review of South Africa’s debt, after the ratings agency delayed its announcement, which was widely expected on Friday.

Moody’s did not give any reason for the delay or the next scheduled release date.

Moody’s currently rates South Africa’s foreign and local currency debt at its lowest investment grade rung of Baa3, with a stable outlook.

An analyst at Intellidex, Peter Attard Montalto says they expect Moody’s to keep South Africa’s ratings unchanged for the rest of the year and wait for the country’s budget next year before making a decision.

Spain and Portugal brace for Hurricane Leslie
13 October 2018, 6:53 PM

Hurricane Leslie is expected to hit the Iberian Peninsula within hours, authorities said on Saturday, bringing strong winds and heavy rains days after deadly floods on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

The storm will most likely hit land around the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, before moving across the peninsula, bringing winds of up to 100 km/h (60 mph), Spain’s state weather service said.

Earlier this week, 12 people died in the flooding on Mallorca in the Mediterranean.

Currently a Category 1 hurricane, Leslie is expected to weaken slightly as it moves east on Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.

As of Saturday afternoon, Leslie was about 200 miles (320km) west of Lisbon, the NHC said, adding that it is expected to become a post-tropical cyclone and dissipate by Sunday night or Monday.

Spanish emergency services warned of the possibility of flash floods and urged to motorists to be vigilant in case of strong winds.

Separate storm fronts in the north and east of Spain mean heavy rain is expected across much of the country on Sunday.

Heavy rain hit Mallorca on Tuesday, sending torrents of brown water along narrow streets in the town of Sant Llorenc.

Rivers burst their banks and swamped homes, leaving road sides strewn with wrecked vehicles and beaches covered in debris.

Leishman and Woodland joined by Sharma in CIMB Classic lead
13 October 2018, 6:17 PM

Australian Marc Leishman and American Gary Woodland retained their position atop the CIMB Classic leaderboard at the TPC Kuala Lumpur on Saturday and were joined by Indian youngster Shubhankar Sharma in a three-way share of lead.

Leishman made a blistering start as he gained six shots in his opening seven holes, including an eagle at the third, before finishing with a five-under-par 67 to sit on 19-under overall.

Woodland followed his course record-equalling second round 11-under with a battling 67, while 22-year-old Sharma dropped only one stroke for a gutsy 66 in hot and humid conditions.

Sharma, seeking his first PGA title, has already won in Malaysia this season with a European Tour victory at the Maybank Championship in February.

“Good thing is that I’ve been in this position before so I know what happens and what my mind goes through, so I’ll just try and relax myself as much as possible,” he said.

“The way I’m playing, I’m pretty sure I’ll play well tomorrow as well.”

The leading trio are two clear of South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen after the 2010 British Open champion carded a sparkling 65 to move alongside first-round leader American Bronson Burgoon.

Another American Stewart Cink raced into contention heading into the final round with nine birdies to finish with a 63, four shots off the pace.

But Englishman Paul Casey, one-shot off the lead at the halfway stage, struggled on the back nine and dropped 10 places after a one-under 71 to stand five shots behind the pacesetters.

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