It doesn’t jingle, but bitcoin value soars
Recapping the day's news and newsmakers through the lens of CNBC.
Lots of us are only vaguely aware of bitcoin, imagining the virtual currency is, well, something computer gamers use to buy ray guns. In fact, it's real currency that hit an all-time high today, up more than 25 percent in a single day, and at least 11-fold over the past year, as more investors become aware of it and more confident about putting it to use—even to pay for sandwiches at Subway. The future, though, is cloudy, as various regulators consider tightening the rules for bitcoin use and trading. Congressional hearings were to start this afternoon. Regulators have concerns about possible money laundering, but merchants are starting to discover that bitcoin's fees are lower than credit cards fees.
"I think it's awesome. I feel like once the word gets out, it could really spread like wildfire."—Adam Welsh, a customer who used bitcoin to buy a Subway sandwich in Allentown, PA
"Credit card transaction fees are going to average 2 percent to 3 percent, with some as high as 5 percent. So with bitcoin you pay less than 1 percent."—Brooklyn store owner Daniel Lee
Yours kids, on data
Cutting-edge executives know it's all about data. Every bit you can learn about your customers makes for better products and marketing. But too much looking over the shoulder is creepy, and parents and other critics are especially wary of data mining of young teens. The Do Not Track Act of 2013, introduced last week, extends to 13-to-15-year-olds protections already in place for kids 12 and under. If passed, the bill would require parental consent for data to be collected on children 13 and under. For 13- to 15-year-olds, data miners would need the user's consent. The bill also includes an "eraser button" requirement, similar to one in California, to allow young users to delete personal information they don't want to share.
"It's a big deal for me. I have six precious little souls whose privacy I want to protect."—Bill sponsor Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who has an eight-year-old son and five grandchildren under 14
Bad PR, 140 characters at a time
Bad damage control is worse than no damage control. That's the object lesson in the lashing JPMorgan Chase took from angry civilians after offering up a top executive for a wide-open Q&A via Twitter. Tweeters, it turned out, were mad as hell about the firm's financial miscues. The takeaway: social media is not a good forum for addressing a complex topic. A firm that's under the gun needs to show empathy and transparency, and tricky PR problems need the input of—surprise!—PR experts, who might let them know that a little humility goes a long way, and it's critical to pick the right spokesman for each particular challenge.
"The #AskJPM debacle is a story of hubris, not enough empathy and a huge lack of understanding of the public's frustration and downright anger with JPMorgan's brand."— Ted Birkhahn, president of Peppercomm
'Icahn correction' coming
There's nothing Carl Icahn likes more than an undervalued stock, and he's found some good ones lately, like Netflix, which he bought went it fell all the way to the $60s and has ridden back up to $341, as of today's close. But Icahn may be running out of value plays in the market. The famed activist investor said at a Reuters conference today that the market is looking pretty frothy. Icahn said earnings at many companies are fueled more by low borrowing costs rather than the strength of management.
Volcker Rule cool
One of the biggest pieces of unfinished business from the financial crisis is the Volcker Rule, meant to rein in risky trading by banks. Now, after years of wrangling over just what the rule will say, the Federal Reserve is thinking of delaying its full implementation, currently next July, by 12 months. A final proposal probably won't be released until December, and that would leave banks less than a year for the complex business of compliance. The rule, which could be implemented in stages, would limit banks proprietary trading and force them to stop investing in vehicles like hedge funds and private equity funds.
—By Jeff Brown, Special to CNBC.com