The Week in Business: Stocks Hit a Record High, and Facebook Wants to Replace Your Bank

on Jun23
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Here’s your quick rundown of the week’s biggest stories in business and tech, so you can spend more of your weekend hours enjoying the sun on the longest days of the year. (Or, you know, sit inside and watch season 2 of “Dark” on Netflix. You do you.)

Maybe you don’t trust Facebook with your personal information. But what about your money? On Tuesday, the tech giant announced an ambitious vision for its new digital currency, Libra, which it has been secretly working on for over a year and plans to roll out in early 2020. Unlike Bitcoin, Libra will be backed by actual currency (the dollar, the euro and so on), ideally making it more stable. Facebook’s larger goal: to create a global financial system that enables people to send and receive funds online without dealing with banks at all — effectively cutting out (or replacing) the middleman. But the plan already faces an uphill battle with government officials, who have no idea how they’ll regulate it.

The stock market hit a record high on Thursday after the Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome H. Powell, said he might be open to lowering interest rates — but not just yet. The Fed chose last week to keep rates where they are for now. Their decision defied the wishes of President Trump, who has been pushing for decreased rates to juice the slowing economy, weaken the dollar and help with his trade wars. Still, Mr. Powell indicated that rate cuts might be on the horizon if “increased uncertainties” continue to weigh on American businesses and consumers. Many investors are now predicting that cuts could happen as soon as this summer.

Silicon Valley darlings like Uber, Lyft and Pinterest got a ton of hype when they went public earlier this year. So how did the tech start-up Slack — a workplace messaging platform so widespread that it has become a verb (“I’ll Slack you”) — manage to sneak onto the trading floor on Thursday with little to no anticipatory fuss? Also unlike Uber and Lyft, whose stock prices have dropped since their initial public offerings, Slack’s valuation proceeded to blow past estimates. The difference may be that Slack took an unusual route called a direct listing, in which a company does not issue new shares or raise capital; its stock simply begins trading. In the process, Slack may have inadvertently modeled a more successful I.P.O. than its larger, splashier counterparts.

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