Welcome to the Future of Finance, all in a tidy little package:
COVID-19 and the Hard Realities of the Real Economy: The Federal Reserve cut its federal funds rate by a half percentage point on Tuesday morning to combat coronavirus (COVID-19) fears. It was the first such between-meeting move since the financial crisis and followed last week’s sharp decline of the largest three equity indexes — Dow 30, S&P 500 and NASDAQ — into correction territory. Along with the potentially devastating human toll, and the attendant disruptions to commerce and public services, S&P Global estimates U.S. economic growth in the first half of the year has been cut from 2.2 percent to 1 percent.
Civic Cash Declines: Against that background, the Wall Street Journal is reporting on a 478-city survey by the National League of Cities. It found a 10 percent year-to-year increase in the number of responding cities that are expecting more than a 3 percent decline in general fund revenues. That widened to declines of 11 percent in western states and 17 percent in the northeast.
From Cash to Crypto: Public agencies are creatures of cash or equivalents. Checks or ACH transfers are OK but credit card payments often bring with them a legislatively mandated convenience fee to cover the transaction costs. What would local and state governments do if cash were to give way to digital forms of payment at scale?
A report released this week by the Bank for International Settlements, often called the central bank for central banks, says such a transition is already underway — both driven by private commercial interests and central banks themselves.
As money gets swept up by tech innovation, government authorities are taking a closer look at old-fashioned notes and coins. According to the BIS, “more than a dozen countries are either researching, piloting, or have ongoing work in place for central bank digital currencies….”
“Central banks around the world are investigating a rich set of prototypes,” the BIS wrote. “If these results are shared, it could help determine which technologies and designs are most optimal for a central bank digital currency, and whether and how they should be rolled out to the public.”
Digital Money and Privacy: MIT Technology Review succinctly sums up the dilemma in two short sentences. “The rise of digital currency has massive ramifications for financial privacy. … As the use of physical cash declines, so does the freedom to transact without an intermediary.”
By the Numbers
- The amount that fintech startups raised globally during 2019, a decrease from 2018’s $40.8 billion. In the U.S. alone, there were more than 140 building startups, amounting to $4 billion. (TechCrunch)
- The amount stolen from a small school district about 15 miles southwest of Austin, Texas. The Manor Independent School District fell victim to an email phishing scam.
- What the average German Facebook user would want the social media platform to pay them for sharing their contact information. (Reuters)
- What the average American Facebook user would want the social media platform to pay them for sharing their contact information. (Reuters)
- The value ascribed to cryptocurrency by investor Warren Buffett. (CNBC)