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Five of the most interesting ideas of the week

It’s getting bad for Wall Street traders, bitcoin nears a meltdown and there’s a new type of airline rewards programme.

1) There’s little happening

Traders can play Nintendo and head off to Massachusetts for an afternoon of golf. Or while away the afternoons swiping on Tinder. Traders at some of Wall Street’s biggest banks have time on their hands, because not enough is happening on the global stage to persuade investors to get involved, Bloomberg’s Laura J. Keller reports. The Federal Reserve is holding steady on its plan for interest rates, President Donald Trump’s agenda appears to be stalled, and there hasn’t been a big surprise event like the Brexit vote to provide volatility. “As a salesman or trader, it does get to the stage where you go, ‘Christ, what am I going to do for the rest of the day?’” said Chris Wheeler, a bank analyst at Atlantic Equities. That’s bad for revenue at the big banks, which start reporting earnings Friday. 

2) Bitcoin could be nearing a total meltdown

Bitcoin believers have said the cryptocurrency could be the way we all pay for things in the future, a monetary esperanto that crosses borders, protects against fraud, and transforms the financial industry. But there’s a civil war brewing, Bloomberg’s Lulu Yilun Chen and Yuji Nakamura report: “Rival factions of computer whizzes who play key roles in bitcoin’s upkeep are poised to adopt two competing software updates at the end of the month. That has raised the possibility that bitcoin will split in two, an unprecedented event that would send shockwaves through the $41 billion market.” In general, digital currencies have lost a third of their market value since early June’s peak.

3) There’s a new type of airline rewards programme 

United Airlines this week introduced a programme to try to wring more money out of every seat, without causing more public-relations debacles. In the days before takeoff, United will reach out to passengers scheduled to travel on a packed flight and offer to move them to one at a less popular time in exchange for rewards, such as a $250 voucher. United can then sell those tickets to travelers willing to pay more for last-minute bookings—such as business travelers. We can all agree this is far better than the alternative.

4) A cover-up always makes it worse

Would these meetings with Russians be a big deal if people in the Trump orbit were up front about them? Each revelation of yet another undisclosed meeting or phone call with someone from Russia — diplomats, lawyers, bankers—provides an opportunity to play highlight reels where senior members of the Trump administration deny any contact. The criticisms echo one of the bigger misgivings about the Clintons, that they were always perceived to be hiding something.

5) A waiter’s dream customer: A Republican man from New England

Tipping can be stressful when traveling. But in America, it’s standard. Why? Because the federal minimum wage for waiters is only $2.13, and restaurants expect diners to help their servers afford rent. Still, cultural norms vary for tipping around the country. (In New York City, expect to get dirty looks if you don’t leave 20 percent at brunch.) But we can dive deeper: A new survey shows that men, Republicans and people from the Northeast leave an average 20 percent tip, while Democrats and southerners tend to leave 15 percent.

© 2017 Bloomberg 

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Werner Swanepoel

Werner Swanepoel

Optimum Financial Services Group
Moneyweb Click an Advisor
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