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President Trump Delivers First State of the Union Address

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U.S. President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, where he vowed to beef up infrastructure spending and seek bipartisan support on immigration. Although the annual presidential has become more akin to political theater, it nevertheless divulges key information on the current administration’s priorities.

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Trump’s Agenda

In his first State of the Union, President Trump applauded the improving economy and took ownership of the surging stock market. The speech touched on infrastructure spending, national security and immigration, highlighting the Trump administration’s focus over the next 12 months.

After a rocky start, the Republican-controlled Congress scored its first major legislative victory in December by delivering a $1.5 trillion tax reform bill. The GOP had previously struck out on healthcare, followed by several failed attempts at replacing the tax code.

Despite an unconventional presidency, Trump avoided controversy on Tuesday and even pledged to work with Democrats on key issues. He also advanced his pledge for more border security, and said such measures would support American workers.

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Trump’s proposed infrastructure plan, though not yet announced, is expected to add up to more than $1.5 trillion through a combination of government and private spending.

According to analysts, expectations of an infrastructure boost could be the next leg in the bull market, now in its ninth year.

U.S. stock futures were trading higher following the State of the Union address, with the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq mini contracts all moving in the positive direction.

Focus Shifts to Federal Reserve

Rate-hike jitters helped fuel back-to-back selloffs on Wall Street this week, as investors turned their attention to the Federal Reserve’s first meeting of 2018. The central bank will hand down its rate decision Wednesday afternoon, and while no change is expected, the official statement could provide clues about the future of monetary policy.

This week’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting will be the last chaired by Janet Yellen. Beginning next month, Trump appointee Jerome Powell will take the helm as Fed boss. Powell is expected to continue down the path set forth by Yellen, but could tweak the Federal Reserve’s forward guidance strategy as it relates to interest rates.

Last month, Fed officials predicted three interest rate hikes this year on the back of a stronger economy fueled by President Trump’s tax cuts.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently predicted U.S. GDP growth of 2.5% for the year, unchanged from its previous forecast.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 165 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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President Trump Will Unveil $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan on Monday

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U.S. President Donald Trump will unveil his administration’s long-awaited infrastructure plan on Monday, fulfilling a core campaign pledge. Although the Trump White House is riding a wave of momentum following successful tax reform, the proposed infrastructure blueprint already faces major hurdles in Congress.

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Trump Infrastructure Plan

President Trump’s infrastructure plan is said to be worth $1.5 trillion and will rely heavily on state and local spending. The proposal includes $200 billion in federal funding to leverage local and state buy-in to fix roads, highways and airports.

Infrastructure was an important theme in last month’s State of the Union address, Trump’s first since taking office.

“Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and — where appropriate — tapping into private sector investment to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit,” Trump said at the Jan. 30 address.

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The plan also seeks to unwind bureaucratic entanglements and speed up the federal permitting process to reduce the amount of time it takes for projects to get approved. Included in the proposal is $50 for rural projects, $20 billion toward public-private partnerships greater support for a financing program known as TIFIA.

Infrastructure spending under the new bill will be carried out over a ten-year period and is part of a broader plan to grow the U.S. economy by at least 3% annually. The Federal Reserve recently upped its forecast for GDP growth on anticipated tax reform; increased infrastructure spending could add to the Fed’s cautiously optimistic outlook.

Polarizing Congress

The Trump administration has faced stiff opposition in implementing its pro-growth agenda. That is unlikely to change on infrastructure given tax cuts, trade imbalances and the recent $300 billion funding deal fueling the nation’s deficit.

Democrats have already signaled their opposition to the bill on grounds that it shifts much of the burden to state and local governments. This sentiment is also shared by the Chamber of Commerce, which would like to see more federal dollars devoted to the plan by way of tax increases.

Democrats are also calling for new revenue measures to be implemented in support of the bill, including raiding the federal gas tax for the first time since 1993. Last week, Congressional Democrats called for $1 trillion in federal spending.

Investors will be watching the infrastructure debate intently over the next few weeks to determine whether pro-growth optimism can sustain the next leg of the bull market after last week’s epic collapse. Stocks shed more than 5% over the previous five days, capping off one of Wall Street’s worst weeks since the financial crisis.

In addition to rolling out the infrastructure blueprint this week, Trump is also scheduled to discuss the proposal with  both Democratic and Republican leaders on Wednesday.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 165 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Thailand Seizes 100,000 Bitcoins in Arrest of Infraud Kingpin Sergey Medvedev

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Authorities in Thailand have reportedly seized 100,000 bitcoins following the arrest arrest of cyber crime kingpin Sergey Medvedev.

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Bitcoin Seized

The coins were seized by law enforcement agencies in the wake of a Feb. 2 arrest of Medvedev, the co-founder of an online criminal network called Infraud. The platform served as a marketplace for buyers and sellers of stolen credit card information, weapons, narcotics, government documents and other illegal items commonly traded on the darknet.

Using today’s prices, the coins confiscated by Thai authorities are worth roughly $822 million. About six weeks ago, the bitcoins would have been worth nearly $2 billion.

Medvedev, a Russian national, was arrested in Bangkok on Feb. 2 at the request of U.S. law enforcement agencies. His apartment was raided by 30 officers from Thailand’s Crime Suppression Division (CSD), which confiscated the coins, a notebook computer and several documents.

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The Infraud group operated under the motto, “In Fraud We Trust.” It was widely regarded as one of the biggest online criminal networks in existence. The Bangkok Post reports that the group was formed in Ukraine in 2010 with Medvedev and Svyatoslav Bondarenko.

The organization operated vending websites that made it easy for criminals to purchase stolen card and identity data. The platform had 10,901 members approved to buy and sell illicit items, according to various reports.

According to  U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney GeneralDavid Rybicki, Infraud was “the premier one-stop shop for cyber criminals worldwide.”

The Link Between Cryptocurrencies and Crime Networks

For all its apparent benefits, bitcoin has been considered a key enabler of global crime networks. In the early days of digital currency, many of its opponents conflated it with the dark web, and used criminal networks like Infraud to de-legitimize bitcoin.

Advances in digital currency mean bitcoin isn’t the only platform capable of masking international crime networks. In fact, it isn’t even the best at doing so.

For the past two years, cyber criminals have been disavowing bitcoin in favor of “privacy coins” that offer greater anonymity. That was the key takeaway of a recent report released by Recorded Future, an intelligent firm that analyzes criminal marketplaces.

According to the report, bitcoin’s stock among cyber criminals has been declining for the better part of two years, with a greater percentage of dark web users preferring Litecoin and even Dash.

“Bitcoin remains the gold standard in the dark web, with all vendors accepting it as a payment, and Litecoin emerged as the second most popular currency, with 30 percent of all vendors who implemented alternative payment methods willing to accept it,” the report read.

Litecoin generally isn’t part of the same “privacy coin” grouping as Dash, Monero and Zcash. However, it is still considered one of the more privacy-oriented altcoins after its developers added confidential transactions (CTs) to the protocol. The addition was made last September, and was considered a significant competitive advantage in Litecoin’s quest to overtake bitcoin.

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.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 165 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Japanese Cryptocurrency Traders Will See Profits Taxed 15% to 55% This Year

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Last summer, Japan became one of the first countries to formally recognize cryptocurrencies as legal tender. Now, it has announced new tax measures to govern the trade, sale and exchange of digital assets.

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“Miscellaneous Income”

In Japan, capital gains on cryptocurrency transactions are deemed “miscellaneous income,” according to a Dec. 1 ruling by the National Tax Agency. As such, cryptocurrency investors will be taxed 15% to 55% on their profits this year.

The top bracket is much higher than winnings on stocks and forex, which are taxed around 20%.  The top amount applies to tax payers with annual income of 40 million yen, which is equivalent to about $365,000 U.S.

Under the tax law, “miscellaneous income” doesn’t just apply to cryptocurrency trading on exchanges, but also on gains collected from sales, purchases, mining and associated network fees.

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It is estimated that 40% of bitcoin transactions are funded in Japanese yen, a testament to the nation’s wide scale adoption of cryptocurrency. However, as Bloomberg reports, cryptocurrency-rich investors are  feeling skittish about the new tax laws, with a handful of big name players already leaving the country. Some of them could be headed to jurisdictions like Singapore, which offer zero capital gains tax on long-term cryptocurrency investments.

Local experts have described the new tax process as unclear, leaving investors guessing on how to meet their obligations. In Japan, annual filings are due Feb. 16-Mar. 15.

Evolving Tax Laws

Although Japan is much further ahead when it comes to regulating cryptocurrency, it is not the first nation to impose tax levies on the digital asset class. South Korea – another hotbed for everything crypto – has decided to tax digital currency exchanges at a rate of 24.2%. That is the same tax bracket applied to most local companies.

Meanwhile, the United States has classified cryptocurrencies as regular securities, which means they are taxed accordingly.

In the European Union, cryptocurrencies are defined as actual currencies instead of property, which means they are subject to capital gains and income taxes. In places like Germany, a “wealth” tax is also involved.

Tax legislation will likely evolve further in the coming years as regulators play the game of perpetual catch up with the market. As U.S. lawmakers recently demonstrated, the regulatory landscape could evolve more favorably than some traders initially suspected.

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.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 165 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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