Bitcoin and Ripple Have Busy Days; Amazon’s Banking Hopes Threaten Walmart-ICYMI

We’re back within shouting distance of all-time highs after a nice rebound Monday that saw the Dow Jones Industrial average close up more than 300 points. Perhaps a bit of a correction after the markets sold off for four straight days following President Donald Trump’s plans to impose strict import tariffs on steel and aluminum.

While the world has been hung up on these tariffs, news in the way of cryptocurrencies — Bitcoin, ripple, you name it — has gone relatively under the radar. Monday’s machinations were hard to ignore however, as there were a few big development that rattled the industry. First and foremost, Ripple’s XRP cryptocurrency surged Monday on fresh rumors it might be added to the popular Coinbase exchange. In morning trading, Ripple’s cross-border payment coin XRP jumped as much as 20%. Trading volume spiked to $1.9 billion, crossing the billion-dollar volume threshold for the first time since Sunday, Feb. 18. Also recently, PayPal (PYPL)  filed a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to increase the speed of cryptocurrency payments. The patent, filed March 1, details an “Expedited Virtual Currency Transaction System” that uses secondary private keys to shorten wait times for transactions between merchants and consumers.

We aren’t done either as the transportation arm of General Electric  (GE) announced it has joined the Blockchain in Transportation Alliance. Given GE’s recent track record — sans its strong trading day Monday — it’s hard to say the endorsement is a bode of confidence for the cryptocurrency world. But with other Blue Chips like United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS)  and FedEx Corp. (FDX)  , among others, also involved it’s not the most hollow endorsement of the technology we’ve seen recently.

Don’t look now, but Amazon (AMZN)  is coming for your checking account, as if your front door, refrigerator and media library weren’t enough. After making several moves last year to grow its sales to lower-income consumers, it looks like Amazon is set to partner with major banks to launch another one. Reports say the e-commerce giant is talking with JPMorgan Chase (JPM) , Capital One (COF) and other large banks to create a “checking-account-like product” aimed at “younger consumers and those without bank accounts.” The company is also reportedly looking to bring Amazon Pay, its online payment platform/would-be PayPal rival, to Whole Foods and other bricks-and-mortar stores.

The moves give Amazon additional weapons in its battle against Walmart (WMT) , TheStreet’s Eric Jhonsa reports, whose U.S. retail gross merchandise volume (GMV) is believed to still be about twice Amazon’s. And with Amazon Prime already possessing sky-high penetration rates among higher-income U.S. demographic groups, the effort could also prove vital in keeping Prime’s subscriber base growing at a healthy clip.

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Photo of the day: One review that just didn’t pan out

The time just before Yelp (YELP) reviewers took control of the review scene and just after newspaper reviewers lost a little bit of their cache, Zagat, a small company founded in 1979 by husband and wife Tim and Nina Zagat, was rising to prominence one New York City review at a time. In 2011 (about 10 years after the skit above featuring Chris Farley and Adam Sandler aired on SNL), tech giant Google (GOOGL) spent $150 million to acquire the company best known for its small guide books in what many thought would be the first step to a web-based reviewing powerhouse. That hasn’t panned out and on Monday the New York Times reported that a 9-year-old company called The Infatuation had acquired the company from Google parent Alphabet. Read more

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