Market Update: U.S. Stocks Snap Five-Day Skid; Bitcoin Cash Splits Following Contentious Hard Fork
U.S. stocks wrestled their way back into positive territory on Thursday, as solid consumer spending data outshined a mixed earnings report from Walmart. Cryptocurrency prices remained under pressure as bitcoin cash split into two competing chains following a highly anticipated hard fork event.
Stocks Snap Five-Day Skid
All of Wall Street’s major indexes posted gains, with the S&P 500 snapping a five-day losing streak. The large-cap index rose 1.1% to 2,730.20, with seven of 11 primary sectors finishing higher. Shares of information technology companies led the advance, rising 2.4% as a sector.
A strong performance in tech lifted the Nasdaq Composite Index to higher ground. The gauge climbed 1.7% to close at 7,259.03.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 208.84 points, or 0.8%, to 25,289.34.
Dow blue-chip Walmart Stores Inc. (WMT) fell on Thursday even as the company reported mostly positive quarterly results. The retailing giant earned $1.08 per share for the third quarter, easily beating expectations calling for $1.01. Revenues of $124.9 billion came in slightly below estimates. Still, the company raised its guidance for fiscal 2019 amid surging e-commerce sales.
Stocks were also aided by stronger than expected retail sales data courtesy of the Department of Commerce. Receipts at retail stores jumped 0.9% in October, topping forecasts for a 0.6% increase. Retail sales are a key proxy for consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic output.
Bitcoin Cash Hard Fork
Shortly after 18:00 UTC, the bitcoin cash network officially upgraded with two competing versions of the blockchain – BCHABC and BCHSV – diverging at block 556,767. The first two bitcoin cash ABC blocks were mined by Bitcoin.com, the platform owned by Roger Ver.
Prior to the hard fork, bitcoin cash SV – the protocol backed by Craig Steven Wright and casino tycoon Calvin Ayre – had a significant edge in terms of hash rate. However, the ABC implementation backed by Ver had the upper hand in terms of economic and community support. Shortly after the fork, it was confirmed that nearly three-quarters of bitcoin cash node operators were running the ABC implementation, which is considered the “official” roadmap for BCH.
The future of the bitcoin cash community remains up in the air, with market participants waiting to see if mining support changes in the coming days. Wright has threatened to sabotage the ABC chain by using has power to create empty blocks.
Crypto Markets Bounce Off Lows
With the bitcoin cash hard fork underway, activity in the broader cryptocurrency market cooled significantly. The combined market capitalization of all coins bottomed near $176 billion on Thursday before recovering to around $184 billion at the time of the fork. Trade volumes, measured in 24-hour cycles, fell from $25 billion to below $22 billion.
Crypto prices continue to face strong headwinds, with bitcoin and the major altcoins showing very little upside. XRP appears to be a notable example, with recent price data showing a fairly significant bounce from recent lows. Compared with 24 hours ago, XRP is up nearly 4% to trade at $0.4674, according to CoinMarketCap. XRP is down 6.8% week-on-week compared with double-digit percentage losses reported across the majors.
As for bitcoin cash (BCH), prices appear to have stabilized around $415. The no. 4 cryptocurrency is the biggest loser over the past seven days, having lost a whopping 29% over that stretch.
Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.
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