Business briefing

The daily business briefing: January 11, 2018

South Korea says it will ban cryptocurrency trading, ICE agents raid 7-Elevens across the U.S., and more

1

South Korea announces plan to ban cryptocurrency trading

South Korea's government said Thursday that it plans to ban cryptocurrency trading, sparking a 21 percent plunge in local bitcoin prices. Bitcoin also fell by more than 10 percent on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, to as low as $13,120, its lowest level since Jan. 2. "There are great concerns regarding virtual currencies and justice ministry is basically preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading through exchanges," Justice Minister Park Sang-ki said. South Korean authorities also raided local exchanges in a clampdown on alleged tax evasion. The country is a big source of demand for cryptocurrency, and its moves came as governments around the world rush to come up with ways to regulate digital currency as its value soars.

2

ICE agents raid 7-Eleven stores nationwide

Immigration agents raided 7-Eleven convenience stores across the country on Wednesday in the largest crackdown of its kind since President Trump took office. Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeted 98 7-Eleven stores, and arrested 21 people. The agency suspected the company of hiring undocumented immigrants. "Today's actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce," ICE Acting Director Thomas D. Homan said in a statement. "ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable."

3

Stocks struggle to shake off their first pullback of 2018

U.S. stock futures inched higher early Thursday as investors remained cautious after equities pulled back Wednesday for the first time this year. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq-100 all rose by just over 0.1 percent after edging lower on Wednesday. A Bloomberg report that China was planning to cut its purchases of U.S. debt had rattled markets, but China's foreign-exchange dismissed the account as "false news." St. Louis Fed President James Bullard's statement that it could take a decade of 2.5 percent inflation to make up for recent low inflation also weighed on stocks.

4

Sears reports disappointing holiday sales and says debt restructuring critical

Sears Holdings warned Wednesday that it would record a net loss for the period that included the critical holiday shopping season, raising fresh doubts about its future. CEO Eddie Lampert said the company would "consider all other options to maximize the value of Sears Holdings' assets" if it can't refinance $1 billion in debt to give it time to "unlock value in our other brands and major assets, including Kenmore, DieHard," and more. In 2017, Sears sold its Craftsman brand for $900 million and announced it would close 400 Sears and Kmart stores, leaving it with about 1,000 remaining locations at the start of 2018. Bankruptcy is "not unrealistic" if Sears can't renegotiate its debt, said Philip Emma, senior retail and credit analyst at Debtwire.

5

New York City sues oil companies over climate change

New York City announced Wednesday that it was filing a lawsuit against five major oil companies, seeking billions of dollars to pay for damages from climate change, such as those suffered due to superstorm Sandy. The lawsuit said the companies — BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell — knew for years that burning fossil fuels contributed to climate change, but covered up their scientists' conclusions. Mayor Bill de Blasio also said city pension funds would divest about $5 billion from fossil fuel industry companies. "This city is standing up and saying, 'We're going to take our own actions to protect our own people,'" de Blasio said. "We're not waiting."

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