Business Briefs – December 11, 2017

Bitcoin Futures Soar Amid Frenzy Over Virtual Currency

NEW YORK (AP) – Wall Street got its first taste of bitcoin on Monday, with the price of the first-ever futures contract for the digital currency jumping 20 percent. It’s a step forward for the bitcoin, which has soared this year despite concerns that the surge of investor interest has transformed it from a new-age currency into just the latest speculative bubble.

Trading on the contract for the virtual currency began Sunday. The first-ever futures contract closed at $18,545, according to data from Cboe Global Markets, ending its initial day of trading with a 20 percent gain from its opening price.

Overstock.com, which accepts bitcoin, surged $9.92, or 22 percent, to $55.

Apple Orchestrates Deal for Song-Recognition App Shazam

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple has bought Shazam, the maker of a song-recognition app that Apple’s digital assistant Siri has already been using to help people identify the music playing on their iPhones. The companies didn’t disclose the price of the acquisition announced Monday, but previous reports placed the value at about $400 million. Siri began drawing upon Shazam’s technology to answer questions about songs in a 2014 update to the iPhone’s operating system.

Some Glitches Seen in Deadline Week for ‘Obamacare’ Sign-Ups

WASHINGTON (AP) – Consumer advocates are reporting some glitches in the final days for “Obamacare” sign-ups, but the Trump administration largely seems to be keeping its promise of a smooth enrollment experience. Some HealthCare.gov customers got an incorrect message that no plans were available. President Donald Trump came into office promising to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, but it survived. Now his administration is overseeing the finale to sign-ups. Friday, Dec. 15 is the last day in most states.

Zinke, House GOP Face Criticism Over Patagonia Attacks

WASHINGTON (AP) – Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and House Republicans are escalating their feud with an outdoor retail company that opposes the Trump administration’s plan to shrink two sprawling Utah national monuments. The House Natural Resources Committee said in a tweet that clothing giant Patagonia is “lying” about Mr. Trump’s plan in order “to sell more products to wealthy elitist urban dwellers from New York to San Francisco.”

Waiting for Congress, Mnuchin Makes 2nd Emergency Debt Move

WASHINGTON (AP) – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday he is making a second emergency move to keep the government from going above the debt limit while awaiting congressional action to raise the threshold. In a letter to congressional leaders, Mnuchin said he will not be able to fully invest in a large civil service retirement and disability fund. Skipped investments will be restored once the debt limit has been raised, he said.

Comcast Drops Bid for Fox Assets, Leaving Disney in Pole Position

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Comcast Corp said on Monday it had abandoned its bid for most of the assets of Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, leaving Walt Disney Co as the sole suitor in pursuit of the $40 billion-plus deal. “When a set of assets like Fox’s becomes available, it is our responsibility to evaluate if there is a strategic fit that could benefit our company and our shareholders,” Comcast said in a statement. “That is what we tried to do and we are no longer engaged in the review of those assets. We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer.”

Disney’s negotiations with Fox are continuing, and a deal could be reached as early as this month, sources close to the situation said on Monday. The persons asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential.