Dow drifts to record as bitcoin tumbles on South Korean curbs

John Biers, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 29 2017 07:34 AM

NEW YORK - The Dow drifted to a fresh record Thursday in sleepy holiday trading, while bitcoin prices tumbled after South Korea announced new restrictions on cryptocurrencies.

Most of the 30 companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced in a quiet session, the latest record on the heels of dozens of earlier all-time highs in US equities this year. 

US stocks have been boosted all year by an improving labor market, anticipation of the massive US tax cut plan that was signed into law last week by President Donald Trump, and improving economic conditions in other key regions.

With many traders on holiday, the week between Christmas and New Year is traditionally a sleepy time for markets, among the least traded period of the year. That low volume can cause increased volatility.

"There wasn't much trading excitement in the stock market because there was a dearth of market-moving news, as well as a dearth of participants," Briefing.com said. 

"For the third day running, extremely light trading volume reflected the fact that many market participants have checked out until the new year."

In Europe, London's FTSE ended the session flat, while Frankfurt's DAX 30 index lost 0.7 percent and the Paris CAC 0.6 percent as the euro strengthened on the dollar.

Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong rose 0.9 percent and Shanghai gained 0.6 percent, while Sydney put on 0.3 percent.

But Tokyo finished 0.6 percent lower after an afternoon sell-off fuel curbed by the strengthening yen, as traders fret over another possible North Korean missile test.

BITCOIN TUMBLES

Bitcoin sank under $14,000 after South Korea said it would ban anonymous trading of virtual currencies and crack down on links to money laundering activities. 

The announcement came as the hyper-wired market emerged as a hotbed for cryptocurrency trading, accounting for some 20 percent of global bitcoin transactions -- about 10 times the country's share of the world economy.

The new rules announced by Seoul include a ban on opening anonymous cryptocurrency accounts and new legislation to allow regulators to close virtual currency exchanges if necessary.

The digital unit has seen stratospheric growth this year, rising more than 25-fold from January to hit a record around $19,500 earlier this month, according to Bloomberg figures.

"Officials share the view that virtual currency trading is overheating irrationally ... and we can no longer overlook this abnormal speculative situation," the government said in a statement.

Near 2130 GMT (5:30 a.m. Friday in Manila), bitcoin was at $13,768, according to Bloomberg, down 13.5 percent from before the announcement. 

KEY FIGURES AROUND 2130 GMT

New York - DOW: UP 0.3 percent at 24,837.51 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.2 percent at 2,687.54 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.2 percent at 6,950.16 (close)

London - FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,622.88 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.7 percent at 12,979.94 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.6 percent at 5,339.42 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,524.50

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 22,783.98 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.9 percent at 29,863.71 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.6 percent at 3,296.38 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1941 from $1.1889

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3441 from $1.3400 

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.85 from 113.33

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 20 cents at $59.84 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 28 cents at $66.72 per barrel

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