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Morning Brief: Bitcoin futures launch, prices soar

Monday, December 11, 2017

What to watch today

Markets will be keeping an eye on bitcoin (BTC-USD) with bitcoin futures having begun trading on the CBOE Sunday evening. The contracts have been well-received by the bulls, who sent prices so high so quickly that they triggered circuit breakers. The January futures contract, which is a bet on where bitcoin will trade one month from now, was last trading at around $18,000.  According to Yahoo Finance data, the current spot price of bitcoin is $16,630. Last week, bitcoin prices dominated headlines after a sharp run higher, culminating in Wednesday’s wild day of trading that saw the price of the digital currency rise, then fall, $3,000 in just hours.

Tax reform will also continue to be a background focus for markets, as the House and Senate continue to work towards a unified tax plan that can pass in both chambers of Congress, though market moves over the last couple weeks have broadly indicated that the passage, or failure to pass, tax reform isn’t likely to be a major market catalyst in the coming weeks.

There are just two full trading weeks left in 2017. And in the week ahead, the Federal Reserve’s latest policy statement will serve as one of the year’s final remaining catalysts, with markets expecting the central bank to raise interest rates for the third time in 2017. This would also mark the fifth rate hike since the financial crisis and the fifth — and likely final rate hike — of outgoing Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s tenure.

The economics calendar will also feature key readings on job openings, inflation, and retail sales as one of the best year’s for the U.S. economy since the financial crisis comes to a close. On the earnings side, highlights this week should come from Oracle (ORCL), Adobe (ADBE), and Costco (COST).

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Top news

Hospital giants in talks to merge:  Two major hospital systems are in talks about a possible merger that would create the largest U.S. owner of hospitals, as a series of deals shape up to further consolidate control of the health-care landscape. Ascension and Providence St. Joseph Health, both nonprofits, are talking about combining, according to people familiar with the discussions. A deal would create an entity of unprecedented reach, with 191 hospitals in 27 states and annual revenue of $44.8 billion, based on the most recent fiscal year. [The Wall Street Journal]

Investors told to brace for steepest rate hikes since 2006: Wall Street economists are telling investors to brace for the biggest tightening of monetary policy in more than a decade. With the world economy heading into its strongest period since 2011, Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. predict average interest rates across advanced economies will climb to at least 1% next year in what would be the largest increase since 2006. [Bloomberg]

Mall owner GGP rejects Brookfield Property’s $14.8 billion offer: GGP Inc (GGP), one of the largest owners and operators of U.S. shopping centres, has rejected a buyout offer from its biggest shareholder, Brookfield Property Partners LP (BPY), people familiar with the matter said on Sunday. Brookfield Property made a $23-per-share cash and stock offer last month for the 66% of GGP it does not already own. A combination of Chicago-based GGP and Brookfield Property would create one of the world’s largest publicly traded property companies. [Reuters]

Was Trump SoHo used to hide part of a Kazakh bank’s missing billions?: For eight years, Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank has waged a legal war on three continents against former Chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov. It’s a clash that has featured death threats, a hack of Kazakh government computers and at least $4 billion in missing bank assets. Now, court cases playing out on both sides of the Atlantic could pull back the curtain on whether some of those funds wound up in properties developed by former associates of Donald J. Trump. [Bloomberg]

Winklevoss sees bitcoin surge of as much as 20 fold: Cameron Winklevoss, thought to be one of the largest holders of bitcoin, thinks the cryptocurrency’s blazing gains this year are just the start. Winklevoss, one of the famed 36-year-old twins who played an early role in Facebook Inc.’s formation, predicts it will rise as much as 20-fold as investors come to view it as an upgrade to gold. [Bloomberg]

Participants dressed in Father Christmas costumes take part in the traditional Santa Claus run in Michendorf, eastern Germany, on December 10, 2017.  (RALF HIRSCHBERGER/AFP/Getty Images)

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The Morning Brief provides a quick rundown on what to watch in the markets, top news stories, and the best of Yahoo Finance Originals.