Amazon Aims to Be the Next Big Fashion Brand with Body Labs Acquisition

This month, not long after acquiring Whole Foods, Amazon quietly bolted on Body Labs, a New York artificial intelligence startup that creates 3D models of real people from photos, with better than 2-centimeter accuracy. Natasha Lomos and Jordan Crook, writing for TechCrunch which broke the acquisition story, commented, “Amazon has been ramping up its own fashion business in recent years, expanding and growing its private label fashion brands.”

So what are three possible outcomes from another Amazon acquisition, this one AI? Let’s take them one by one.

1. Amazon uses social selling to sell more clothes, sportswear, shoes and jewelry

Amazon has already invested a lot into its product recommendation engine. If you’re like me, you scan Amazon’s “Recommended for you” a lot–it’s good. Body Labs should jump that forward in product categories like clothing, jewelry, and sportswear.

Flo McDavid, director of business development at Body Labs, put it this way just before the acquisition,  “While there are tons and tons of Google images of very diverse people, it’s hard to find someone who’s like you. At Body Labs we’ve developed artificially intelligence software that understands human body shape from everyday photos.  . . . No body scanners, no changing clothes or anything like that–just a  simple photo. So we thought, what if we could connect people with similar body shapes so they could be inspired by people like them?”

The Body Labs demo shows people using a selfie to connect them to “shape doppelgangers” on Instagram in clothes that look good. Hear Flo talk more about it in the video below:

2. Amazon Fashion rolls out the red carpet for customers.

Amazon currently has a product–Echo Look–that takes real-time images of customers. It is marketed as a “Hands-Free Camera and Style Assistant with Alexa–includes Style Check to get a second opinion on your outfit.” It is not a tough guess that Amazon’s second opinion is you can buy three or four more things–just ask Alexa. But seriously, by bolting on Body Labs engine in the background, Amazon could power recommendations around fashion and accessories that work in the real world.

Body Labs VP of Developer Relations Ali Javid said recently in a company YouTube video, “Imagine if an apparel brand or retailer knew the shape of every single one of their customers—imagine how the shopping experience could change. Imagine how the supply chain would be innovated upon. This is possible today with BodyLabs human-aware AI.”

3.    Amazon grows profitable game developer infrastructure.

In July, Amazon reported just over 4 billion in income from its Amazon Web Services division. Amazon runs its own games studios, distributes Lumberyard, and has GameLift and GameSparks back-end services for multi-player games. Body Labs would be a natural extension for gamers to have to develop photo-realistic, moving body avatars. Adding on this kind of service would continue to expand their digital revenue, so it makes sense, although the company has not commented on this direction.

So, what’s next for Amazon?

Integrating Body Labs into the launch of Amazon Prime Wardrobe, a try-before-you-buy clothing discount service now in beta, is an obvious next step–whether or not that integration is obvious to the customer. Echo Look integration also looks to be a no-brainer. Peering a bit further down the line, with big technology companies hungry to acquire production and distribution, it wouldn’t be surprising to have Amazon acquire fashion production as well as fashion brand assets in the near future to round out its in-house fashion lines Lark + Ro, Franklin & Freeman, Pinzon, Scout + Ro, and more.

Tech

IBM and Stellar Are Launching Blockchain Banking Across Multiple Countries

The news also comes as an important validation of blockchain technology.

In a breakthrough for payments technology, IBM and a network of banks have begun using digital currency and blockchain software to move money across borders throughout the South Pacific.

The significance of the news, which IBM announced on Monday, is that merchants and consumers will be able to send money to another country in near real-time, accelerating a payments process that typically takes days.

The banking network includes “12 currency corridors” that encompass Australia and New Zealand, as well as smaller countries like Fiji and Tonga. It will reportedly process up to 60 percent of all cross-border payments in the South Pacific’s retail foreign exchange corridors by early next year.

The news also comes as an important validation of blockchain technology, which has long promised enormous efficiencies for the financial sector, but has been slow to move from the concept stage to the real world.

Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter.

Blockchain, which relies on a disparate network of computers to create an indelible, tamper-proof record of transactions, is most famously associated with the digital currency bitcoin. But it can be used in many other applications such as tracking shipments or, as in this case, to record a series of cross-border transactions.

As an example, IBM said a farmer in Samoa will soon be able to contract with a buyer in Indonesia, and use the blockchain to record everything from the farmer’s collateral to letters of credit to payment.

“This is the next step in the evolution of blockchain technology. It’s live money moving around a network,” Jesse Lund, IBM’s VP of Blockchain, told Fortune.

Digital Currency is Key

The new blockchain banking process is also notable because the banks will initially rely on a bitcoin-like digital currency, known as Lumens, to facilitate the cross border payments.

Currently, banks arrange such payments by maintaining foreign accounts in a local currency (so-called nostro accounts), and then debiting the accounts as required—a process that is both slow and ties up capital.

Under the new blockchain arrangement, banks will conduct the transactions using Lumens, and then rely on local market makers to convert the Lumens into local fiat currency. The Lumens are created by a non-profit company called Stellar, founded a Jed McCaleb, a well known figure in the payments and crypto-currency world.

Both Stellar and IBM are part of a project called Hyperledger Fabric, which is building open source blockchain tools to support payment infrastructures.

According to Lund, though, the banks use of Stellar’s digital currency is likely to be temporary. He predicts that, in the next year, central banks will begin issuing digital currencies of their own, and that these will become an integral part of blockchain-based money transfers.

The IBM-backed blockchain project comes at a time when other companies are creating efficient new ways to conduct global money transfers. These include BitPesa, which relies on the bitcoin network to replace traditional wire transfers between merchants in Africa, and TransferWise, which provides an inexpensive way for consumers to obtain foreign currencies.

This is part of Fortune’s new initiative, The Ledger, a trusted news source at the intersection of tech and finance. For more on The Ledger, click here.

Tech

Elon Musk Reveals More Details About His Plan to Colonize Mars

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed a trove of new details on the company’s plan to colonize Mars.

He discussed technical details about the giant rocket that he says will take passengers to the Red Planet, the road map for getting to its first launch, and insights into SpaceX’s broader strategy in an “Ask Me Anything” forum on Reddit Saturday.

Musk was his typical freewheeling self during the AMA, quoting the cartoon Bob the Builder and responding to a question about spaceship design with the highly technical insight that “tails are lame.”

He also gamely responded to questions about tangential details of settling Mars, including speculation that settlers might use a compressed version of the Internet. Musk observed that data would take between 3 and 22 minutes to travel between Earth and Mars. “So you could Snapchat, I suppose. If that’s a thing in the future,” he wrote.

More substantively, Musk clarified the scope of SpaceX’s ambitions on Mars. Though he has shared images of vast Martian cities in his presentations on Mars colonization, he said SpaceX isn’t focused on building those cities itself.

“Our goal is get you there and ensure the basic infrastructure for propellant production and survival is in place. A rough analogy is that we are trying to build the equivalent of the transcontinental railway. A vast amount of industry will need to be built on Mars by many other companies and millions of people.”

Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter.

That means SpaceX will be designing and building things like systems for creating fuel from Martian resources, work that Musk said is “pretty far along.” But they won’t be focused on issues like how colonists grow food.

Musk also reiterated previous claims that SpaceX is designing the new Mars rocketstill code-named BFR, which stands for exactly what you think it does – to be as safe and reliable as today’s commercial airliners. That will be crucial if plans to use the BFR for transportation around Earth come to fruition.

Musk also shared some details about the game plan for testing the BFR ahead of its first scheduled flight in 2022.

“[We] will be starting with a full-scale Ship doing short hops of a few hundred kilometers in altitude and lateral distance,” Musk wrote. “Those are fairly easy on the vehicle, as no heat shield is needed, we can have a large amount of reserve propellant and don’t need the high area ratio, deep space Raptor engines.

“[The] next step will be doing orbital velocity Ship flights, which will need all of the above.”

SpaceX’s progress on its Falcon 9 rocket in recent years – especially its unprecedented success in landing and reusing rockets – has fascinated observers and re-energized public dialogue about space.

Tech

6 Rules You Must Know for Using SEO and SEM to Grow Your Business

If you’re managing a business, you know how important a web and mobile presence is. Whether you’re selling tacos, tiaras, or terabytes, customers need to be able to find you.

You’ve probably dipped your toe into the complex world of organic or “free” search, also known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and paid search, also known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM). But what do you really need to know about SEO and SEM?

I spoke with SEO/SEM expert Andrew Shelton, founder of the digital marketing agency Martec360, who gave me six rules that you need to pay attention to right now if you want to increase your sales through search:

1. Mobile is king

Need evidence of the importance of mobile? Some 96% of smartphone owners use their device to get things done. About 70% of smartphone owners use their phone to research a product before purchasing it in a store. Half of all web traffic comes from smartphones and tablets.

Furthermore, Google has begun to make its search index “mobile-first.” That means that Google will primarily index mobile content and use that to decide how to rank its results.

2. Paid search pays off on mobile

On mobile, paid search (SEM) is increasingly paying off. Shelton says he used to tell his clients to focus on free search (SEO) but with users putting mobile first, the continuum has changed.

“The greatest return on investment is email,” Shelton says, “because you have those customers in house. But paid search is next.” He estimates that paid search spending went up by factors of 25% to 50% in 2016.

3. Have a solid content strategy

The old adage is the new adage: “Content is king.” You need high-quality content for your website if it’s going to compete in the free search business. You can’t go about that blindly.

Consider what customer problem you’re solving. What customer questions can you be answering?

Do you have a mechanism for customers to ask questions? There could be a wealth of ideas for blog posts, FAQs, and buyers’ guides right there.

4. Social media is worth your return on investment

Social media can be vexing for many businesses. You definitely have to perform a cost-benefit analysis on it. Spending six hours a day sending out tweets that don’t lead to conversions is going to be a losing proposition.

Treat social media as “an engagement with an ongoing conversation with your customers,” Shelton recommends. “It’s not just for selling.”

In fact, if your social media channels are too hard-sell, they’ll be counter productive. You have to create value. Tools like Hootsuite, Falcon.IO, and Curalate can help.

5. Manage your online reputation

According to Shopper Approved, an app that helps its clients collect online ratings and reviews, 88% of all consumers read online reviews to determine whether a local business is a good business.

All of those reviews are part of the SEO equation. They can help you, or they can hurt you. But an app like Shopper Approved can help push more positive reviews where you need them.

6. Measure and monitor your progress

The only way you’re going see your business grow exponentially through SEO, SEM, and social media is to measure what you’re doing. You have to know where you’re starting, set some benchmarks, and monitor your progress.

Install Google Analytics. There is a plethora of other e-commerce tools you can use for analysis. Data is your friend. Get used to swimming in it.

And if you need help, find a consulting firm that understands your customer and your goals.

Just remember, effective search is process. You won’t get it right the first time. But you’ll get better at it with everything you learn.

About the author:

Kim Folsom is the Founder of LIFT Development Enterprises–a not-for-profit, community development organization with a mission to help underserved, underrepresented small-business owners – and Co-Founder and CEO of Founders First Capital Partners, LLC, a small business growth accelerator and revenue based venture fund. Learn more about Kim and her company’s mission to help grow and fund 1000 underserved and underrepresented small businesses by 2026 via their Founders Business Growth Bootcamp program at www.foundersfirstcapitalpartners.com.

 

Tech

General Electric: Dividend Cut?

General Electric’s (GE) shares fell to fresh 52-week lows last week as investors continue to be negative about the industrial company. While negative analyst commentary and concerns over General Electric’s dividend sustainability have more heavily weighed on investor sentiment lately, I think General Electric makes for an interesting contrarian ‘Buy’ today.

General Electric is not in an enviable position, and neither are shareholders that bought into the industrial company at a much higher valuation in the past. General Electric’s shares have slumped 27.3 percent year-to-date, falling to one new low after another. Last week, General Electric hit a new 52-week low @$ 22.83, extending a multi-week streak of losses.

See for yourself.

Source: StockCharts.com

A couple of factors have weighed on investor sentiment lately, including negative analyst commentary from JPMorgan that suggested General Electric might have to cut its dividend. According to a CNBC report, analysts at JPMorgan see a GE dividend cut as “increasingly likely”.

Not only did JPMorgan fuel the fire of doubt when it comes to General Electric’s dividend sustainability but the investment bank also lowered its price target for GE’s shares from $ 22 to $ 20, maintaining its firm ‘underweight’ rating on the stock. In addition, widely-followed media and investment personality Jim Cramer last week suggested that General Electric likely will cut guidance and may slash the dividend.

Given General Electric’s core industrial business weakness – keep in mind that GE’s industrial revenues slumped 12 percent and industrial/vertical EPS dropped 45 percent year on year in the second quarter on the back of a weak performance in oil & gas as well as transportation – a guidance revision is a distinct possibility, especially as it relates to GE’s industrial operating profit and margin guidance.

Source: General Electric

The real question, however, is whether General Electric will take the rather significant step and slash its dividend.

General Electric has cut its dividend in the past. The last time General Electric slashed its dividend payout was during the Great Recession when a lot of companies cut back on shareholder payments. In 2009, General Electric cut its quarterly cash dividend from $ 0.31/share to $ 0.10/share. However, GE’s dividend rate consistently edged up over the last eight years. General Electric’s long-term dividend history is impressive.

Source: General Electric

Will General Electric Have To Cut Its Dividend?

I don’t think General Electric will have to cut its dividend, although management could decide that it is better for the company to conserve cash and invest in General Electric’s industrial businesses directly. That said, here is why I think a dividend cut is relatively unlikely.

For one thing, General Electric has affirmed investors multiple times that the dividend is a ‘top priority’ for management. This statement suggests that management will remain committed to paying shareholders a steady dividend even though it costs the company a lot of cash. Remember that General Electric plans to return $ 8 billion in dividends to shareholders this year alone.

Further, I think General Electric will be able to maintain its dividend from a cash flow perspective.

General Electric has guided for $ 16-20 billion in free cash flow, including dispositions in 2017. A large part of this cash flow is contributed by GE Capital, which is expected to produce $ 6-7 billion in dividends for GE this year. In the first six months of 2017, GE Capital has already beefed up General Electric’s cash flow by $ 4 billion, making up for a significant portion of General Electric’s dividends to shareholders.

GE Capital dividends indeed play a crucial role in propping up General Electric’s cash flow. General Electric’s industrial free cash flow excluding deal taxes and pension expenses was actually negative $ 1.6 billion year to date, and total FCF only turned positive because of GE Capital’s dividend to the parent company. Shareholder dividends therefore depend largely on GE Capital’s cash flow, while GE’s industrial business on a standalone basis does not have the cash power right now to fund those payments.

Source: General Electric

I don’t think that General Electric will have to cut its dividend, though. General Electric has guided for $ 19-21 billion in capital returns this year of which only $ 8 billion are cash (and recurring). In other words, as long as GE can fall back on GE Capital for its dividend payments and the company cuts back on share buybacks, there is no immediate need to cut the dividend.

Your Takeaway

General Electric could adjust its dividend payout. Yes, but I consider this not that likely considering past management statements that the dividend is a ‘top priority’ and considering that GE Capital produces a LOT of cash for General Electric. General Electric has an impressive long-term dividend history which signals its commitment to shareholders, and I doubt management wants to put off investors with another dividend cut. I think investors are a bit too fearful right now, which is exactly the right time to get greedy. Buy for long-term dividend income and capital appreciation.

If you like to read more of my articles, and like to be kept up to date with the companies I cover, I kindly ask you that you scroll to the top of this page and click ‘follow‘. I am largely investing in dividend paying stocks, but also venture out occasionally and cover special situations that offer appealing reward-to-risk ratios and have potential for significant capital appreciation. Above all, my immediate investment goal is to achieve financial independence.

Disclosure: I am/we are long GE.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Tech

Tesla Fires Hundreds of Workers After Their Annual Performance Review

They’re not layoffs, the automaker says.

Electric automaker Tesla Motors fired hundreds of employees this week, including workers at its Fremont, Calif. factory and corporate managers, as it tries to solve production problems for its recently released Model 3.

An estimated 400 to 700 people were dismissed this week, according to a San Jose Mercury News report published Friday afternoon. That’s between 1% and 2% of the company’s more than 33,000 employees. Former and current employees told the Mercury News that little or no warning preceded the dismissals.

A Tesla spokesman would not confirm that number but told Fortune that the move follows its annual performance reviews, which typically involve both involuntary and voluntary departures.

“Like all companies, Tesla conducts an annual performance review during which a manager and employee discuss the results that were achieved, as well as how those results were achieved, during the performance period,” a Tesla spokesman said in an emailed statement. “This includes both constructive feedback and recognition of top performers with additional compensation and equity awards, as well as promotions in many cases. As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures. Tesla is continuing to grow and hire new employees around the world.”

Tesla insists that the losses are not layoffs and that it plans to backfill the positions. That’s likely accurate, at least for jobs in California. State law requires companies to notify employees of layoffs through its WARN notification system. There are no records of new layoffs from Tesla. About 200 Tesla and SolarCity employees in the company’s Roseville, Calif. offices were notified Aug. 30 that they would be terminated.

The latest cuts come as the automaker tries to fix bottlenecks on the production line for its Model 3, an all-electric model designed to appeal to the masses. Earlier this month, Tesla reported that it produced 260 Model 3 cars in the third quarter, of which it has delivered 220. That figure is far less than CEO Elon Musk’s prediction that Tesla would produce more than 1,600 of the vehicles by September.

In July, Musk tweeted a production update for the Model 3, saying the car had passed all regulatory requirements ahead of schedule. After announcing that the first 30 customers would receive the Model 3s on July 28, Musk wrote, “production grows exponentially, so Aug should be 100 cars and Sept above 1,500.”

Altogether, Musk said that third quarter production numbers for the Model 3 would be around 1,630 vehicles—a prediction off by 84%.

A Wall Street Journal report published earlier this month revealed that Tesla workers were assembling Model 3 vehicles by hand until at least early September. One of the “bottlenecks” Musk alluded to was a process that involved positioning and welding body panels by hand, rather than by precision robots, according to workers interviewed by the Journal.

Musk recently delayed the unveiling of an electric semi-truck until Nov. 16 so the company can focus its attention on production problems with its new mass-market car, the Model 3.

Tech

Future Versions of the Apple iPhone Could Take a Cue From Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Apple’s iPad Pro might not be alone.

Future version of the Apple iPhone might have a feature you can only find in the company’s iPad Pro tablets.

The tech giant is planning to bring “digital pen” support to iPhones starting in 2019, Korean news outlet The Investor is reporting, citing people who claim to have knowledge of the company’s plans. Apple is working on the feature now and has already held talks with digital stylus companies to see how the feature might work with a future iPhone update, according to the report, which was earlier discovered by 9to5Mac.

Apple AAPL offers a digital stylus already called the Apple Pencil. However, the accessory, which is about the size of a real pencil, is only compatible with the company’s iPad Pro. Apple Pencil allows users to digitally “write” on the iPad Pro’s screen to annotate and sign documents, and take notes. Apple Pencil costs $ 99.

Apple’s chief competitor in the smartphone market, Samsung, has offered a digital stylus with its Galaxy Note line of devices for years. Its most recent smartphone, the Galaxy Note 8, similarly comes with the company’s S Pen stylus.

Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter

While some customers have called on Apple to offer a stylus, the company has been loath to do so after late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said when the iPhone was announced in 2007 that touch input is far superior to stylus input. And each time Apple has been called on to consider a stylus, the company has balked.

However, in recent years, Apple patents have surfaced that point to the company at least considering a stylus for its iPhone. Apple CEO Tim Cook also said last year in an interview with Apple-tracking site Daring Fireball that “if you’ve ever seen what can be created with that Pencil on an iPad or an iPhone, it’s really unbelievable.” His comment ignited speculation that Apple is testing a stylus for the iPhone

Still, Apple has remained silent on possible plans and hasn’t discussed bringing Apple Pencil to any other devices. And it’s also worth noting that two years is a long time in the technology industry. And although Apple might be considering iPhone stylus support for 2019, things can change and the concept could be scrapped without much notice.

Apple did not immediately respond to a Fortune request for comment on the report.

Tech

Research Shows That Companies That Do This One Thing Increase Worker Productivity by 25%

When we think productivity, we rarely think of workplace design as a major contributor or detractor, but compelling ongoing research shows that it plays a much larger role than initially thought. According to research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, an empowered office environment can increase worker productivity on cognitive tasks by 25%, and possibly more.

Workspace design today is undergoing a major creative shift. We’ve gone from cubicles (people are productive in isolation) to open-plan spaces (collaboration leads to success) to what I believe is the next major step – integrated multi-function design which recognizes that people need multiple spaces based on their ongoing and changing needs within a business day.

Instead of looking out across rows of cubicles, today’s office worker needs a mix of team meeting rooms, open lounge-like areas, and private workspaces.

This is the “empowered office” – an office in which workers can choose their work environment. It’s a design concept that’s gaining traction – and not only because it creates more pleasant workspaces. It also has a powerful influence on worker productivity.

Great office design isn’t just for startups anymore

Major tech companies and Silicon Valley startups were among the first to embrace the concept of the empowered office. The New York Times recently highlighted Microsoft for its forward-thinking office designs, which incorporate everything from “isolation rooms,” or soundproof private spaces, to comfy central lounges with large tables and couches.

What’s really exciting, however, is that this way of thinking about space – specifically, about the ways that spaces influence behavior – is becoming more mainstream.  

“The great thing we are seeing, as far as transformative spaces in the workplace, is that these principles are being adopted across all disciplines – all fields and industries,” says Architectural Designer Jared Skinner, co-founder at MADE Design. “Companies are realizing that these best practices are bolstering not only creative collaboration – often seen as a soft skill, but productivity and results. It’s impacting the bottom line.”

Striking the perfect balance between privacy and collaboration

When it comes to progressive, transformative workspaces. some of the most successful companies have been the ones that aren’t afraid to experiment.

At Microsoft, for example, designers began testing open team workspaces in one specific area in one building. Through experimentation, they learned that the spaces they’d started with were too open – they were built for 16 to 24 software engineers, and those who worked in them found them to be too loud and distracting.

Working with that knowledge, Microsoft then adjusted those team spaces till they held just 8 to 12 engineers, which the company – and more importantly, the employees – believe to be ideal.

To achieve higher productivity, then, companies must embrace the need for creativity and flexibility. They must allow themselves to try out new configurations and change them as needed, adding in more private spaces, perhaps, or bringing in standing desks, or creating smaller collaborative work stations.  

Workspace design must embrace our digital, connected reality

Just as today’s consumers are constantly connected, so are today’s workers. What’s more, they’re mobile – work no longer has to be tied to a desk or an office.

When designing workspaces, it’s crucial to take these realities into account. But it takes more than an espresso machine or a pingpong table to make your workspace truly progressive, and thereby productive. If you’re not baking the principles of empowerment, connectedness, and mobility into your office design at its most basic level, then you can easily end up with a workspace that feels gimmicky and disingenuous.

That’s not to mention that you won’t be reaping the real productivity benefits of empowered office design.

Integrated design is a must for attracting talent – especially among Millennials and Gen Z

Millennials and members of Generation Z take connectivity for granted in their workspaces, so companies that want to truly stay ahead of the pack must go further.

We need to create designs that engage members of these generations. This isn’t the old model of engagement, either – Millennials and Gen Zers have a completely unique approach to engaging with spaces that’s based on more than just technology. To be successful, companies must keep these new sensibilities in mind as they design or renovate their workspaces.

This shift in workplace design is both responding to and influencing the new ways we’re defining work in the digital age. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be working at the intersection of design and branding, as we do at MADE.

To quote my co-founder, Jared Skinner, once more: “We’re living in an evolve-or-die day and age. Smart companies are being proactive and taking initiative to welcome this much-needed change.”

Tech

Bitcoin rockets above $5,000 to all-time high

LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin smashed through the $ 5,000 barrier for the first time on Thursday, jumping as much as 8 percent on the day as investors shrugged off the latest warnings on the risks of buying into the booming cryptocurrency market.

Bitcoin, the biggest and best-known cryptocurrency, has chalked up a more than fivefold increase in price this year.

Typically for bitcoin, which at less than nine years old is still highly volatile and illiquid compared with traditional currencies and assets, the precise reason for its recent tear was unclear.

Upcoming splits in its software, reports that Goldman Sachs is considering offering bitcoin trading, rumors that China could ease restrictions, and even a political crisis in Spain’s Catalonia region were all cited by market-watchers as reasons for the rally.

But the main factor could simply be demand from investors wanting ‘in’ on a market that has provided gains exceeding those of any other currency in every year bar one since 2010.

“People are just wanting to be part of it,” said Ryan Nettles, head of FX trading and market strategy at Swiss bank Swissquote, which launched bitcoin trading two months ago. Nettles said interest had been much higher than anticipated and has come from banks, hedge funds and brokers.

“The interest really stems from the media hype,” he added.

On Wednesday Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of the “serious risks” surrounding the nascent market, while Russia’s central bank said it would ban cryptocurrency trading websites.

But that was not enough to put investors off, with bitcoin rallying around 10 percent since then.

Data released last week from SEMrush, a search engine data analytics firm, found the price had a 91 percent correlation with Google searches on bitcoin, suggesting that all news — whether negative or positive — drives up demand, even if bad news can have a temporary negative effect.

Bitcoin almost reached $ 5,000 at the start of September, but fell back sharply after the head of Goldman Sachs blasted the cryptocurrency as a “fraud” and as China forced exchanges to close down, sparking fears of a broader crackdown.

But after dipping below $ 3,000 in mid-September, bitcoin has leapt in value by more than 75 percent in four weeks.

“Bitcoin was designed to operate outside of the influence of governments and central banks, and is doing exactly that,” said Iqbal Gandham, Managing Director at retail trading app eToro, which has seen huge increases in cryptocurrency trading volumes.

CRYPTO-RIVALS ALSO RALLY

By 1245 GMT, bitcoin was trading up 8 percent on the day around $ 5,200 on Luxembourg-based exchange Bitstamp.

Though there have been many warnings about a bitcoin “bubble”, including from European Central Bank Deputy Governor Vitor Constancio, some say it has much further to climb. But determining its value is difficult.

“For most currencies there are several accepted methodologies for estimating relative value, normally based on macroeconomic fundamentals,” said EFG Asset Management’s Global Head of Research, Daniel Murray. “For bitcoin no such fundamentals exist.”

Other cryptocurrencies — whose prices tend to be highly correlated to bitcoin — also rallied. Their total value — or market capitalization — climbed above $ 160 billion for the first time since early September, according to industry website Coinmarketcap.com.

Two upcoming “forks” in the bitcoin software code, which will create rival clones of the cryptocurrency, were seen by some as a reason for the rise in price, which saw a boost after the “Bitcoin Cash” clone was created at the start of August.

“Investors are seeing the lessons of history in the up-and-coming forks and hoping for an extra dividend,” said Charles Hayter, co-founder of data analysis website Cryptocompare, adding that rumors on online forums that China could reopen exchanges could also be affecting the price.

Additional reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Catherine Evans

Tech

Some Charter Cable Subscribers May Lose MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon

Along with Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.

Viacom, the owner of MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, said on Wednesday it was unable to come to a distribution deal with Charter Communications as part of its ongoing negotiations with the cable television distributor.

Charter’s Spectrum subscribers may see a disruption in service, Viacom said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Charter moved Viacom’s viab flagship networks to its most expensive programming tier, a move that threatened the media company’s affiliate and advertising revenue.

A spokesman for Charter chtr did not immediately return calls outside of business hours.

Tech