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Robinhood ditches confetti in stock trading app amid criticism

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Robinhood ditches confetti in stock trading app amid criticism

Robinhood plans to stop showering users in digital confetti amid criticism that the signature animation made risky investing too much like a game.

The confetti would pop up on Robinhood’s mobile app when retail traders reached “investing milestones,” such as making their first trade or depositing money in their account.

But starting next week, the confetti will be replaced with new animations that are a bit more subtle, like three-dimensional shapes floating through space or a rotating golden circle to mark a new signup for the Robinhood Gold premium service.

In a Wednesday blog post announcing the move, Robinhood — which has filed paperwork to go public — called these updated graphics “dynamic visual experiences that cheer on customers through the milestones in their financial journeys.”

Robinhood has made the confetti a key part of its branding — it even released an ad showing the stuff shooting out of traders’ cellphones while they sat at a dinner table or in a coffee shop.

But Robinhood honcho Madhu Muthukumar told The Wall Street Journal that the confetti had become “misconstrued” as regulators raised concerns about it.

“If the focus of a conversation is around confetti and not around [everyday investors] taking these first steps … then we’ve done something that’s just off base,” Muthukumar, Robinhood’s senior director of product management, told the paper.

The colorful feature has drawn the ire of Massachusetts Securities Division, which cited the confetti in a December complaint over Robinhood’s alleged “gamification” of investing that encourages users to keep buying and selling stocks to the startup’s financial benefit.

Gary Gensler, President Biden’s nominee to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, also raised concerns about Robinhood’s tactics in a Senate hearing earlier this month.

“What does it mean when balloons and confetti are dropping and you have behavioral prompts to do more transactions on what appears to be a free trading app?” he told lawmakers. “I think we’re going to study that and look at it.”

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Jordan Belfort has investing advice for the Reddit crowd

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Jordan Belfort has investing advice for the Reddit crowd

Jordan Belfort, the infamous stockbroker who inspired the hit 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” is hosting a new documentary for the Discovery+ streaming service about the wild rise and fall of GameStop’s stock.

Discovery took notice when Belfort weighed in as the GameStop saga unfolded, telling news outlets that the “little guy” can “play the same game” as the Wall Street overlords. He also posted a video to YouTube in which he reenacted a scene from Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated “Wolf of Wall Street,” which was based on his 2007 memoir of the same name.

Belfort recently sat down with The Post to chat about the meme stocks, how the Reddit rally took hold and what investors should do now.

New York Post: You tweeted out that video that was very similar to “The Wolf of Wall Street” speech, and seemed to be urging the WallStreetBets guys to hold onto their investments. How would you compare the Reddit crowd to the traders at your old firm, Stratton Oakmont?

Jordan Belfort: So that, that video was a joke. That was meant to be a funny thing. And just to be clear, I never invested in GameStop because I figured if I put a video like that out, I was investing, people might say I’m trying to do something. The comparisons are interesting between what happened at Stratton because in some respects when I first saw the whole thing going on, I thought, oh, it’s like a pump and dump, right? I mean, it seemed pretty obvious to me like when it first started. But when I started to dig more into it, [I saw] they’re not dumping. There’s no dump on the pump. It’s an oddity in the sense that there’s this really strong emotional attachment to the stock and they’re really ultra long-term players, and for many of them, it’s not even about making money as much as making a point. I think they want to make money as well. But it’s a very interesting thing. I’ve never seen anything like it before. 

NYP: Why are hedge funds in a panic right now? 

JB: Panic is not the right word as much as, like scratching their heads maybe. Some of them were probably panicking at the time that they were on the wrong side of it. It’s because there’s a certain set of rules, like how stocks act. One of the most basic rules of all is that fundamentals do eventually matter. At any given time, stocks can be much higher or lower and, like a Warren Buffet would use that as an opportunity. It is value investing. This is diametrically opposed to value investing. Now, this is sort of like momentum investing, but there are rules to that, too, and the rules to that are when the stock flies up, that it has to come back down because people are going to start to bail.

When your Uber driver is telling you he’s investing in GameStop and your haircutter, you think OK, it’s been out there for too long and it’s almost over. But with this particular paradigm, it’s a bit different because these people are really not selling. There’s an emotional attachment and the nervousness is that there’s an unfamiliarity. What are the rules of this game now? That’s the concern that the bigger firms probably have now with this sort of stuff. 

NYP: At the time you painted the rally as a revolution, but what are the dangers for amateur investors?

JB: My message to everyone was — good for you, but be careful. I’ve always said history would say this is probably not going to end well. A stock that has a book value of, pick a number, $10 a share and is trading at 20 times that with no reason why other than emotion, it probably is not going to end well. I think that if you’re playing in this game, it’s more like gambling than investing and you need to be really, really careful. There’s so much spoiled from watching things like Bitcoin go up so they have this false sense of security, that things can go up and if they go back down, they’ll always go back up again. But Bitcoin is not a stock. It’s a very different animal. And what drives Bitcoin up and what keeps it up and makes it come back has nothing to do with stocks. I guess my biggest concern would be that if everyone thinks this is just the easiest way to get rich, freaking everyone is putting all their money in. It can get very ugly.

NYP: Do you think apps like Robin Hood are dangerous to amateur investors? 

JB:  I think, like most things, they are good and bad. The danger with Robin Hood is that it makes investors feel like it’s almost a video game. Charlie Munger — you know, Warren Buffett’s partner — said he thought it was the worst thing in the world. He said, like, there’s no free trading, that they’re selling your information and your workflow, and that nothing in this world is free. The best thing about Robin Hood is that you can trade instantly with no commission and the worst thing about it is you can trade instantly with no commission. You know, it could go either way. If you’re not disciplined, you could become a compulsive gambler on the platform. I didn’t agree with what they did. The way to handle the whole thing, I thought was kind of foolish. But I guess the truth will come out why they suspended the ability to buy it when they did. It kind of seemed a bit odd to me. 

NYP: People are stuck at home during the pandemic with nothing to do. Do you think the pandemic has created the perfect storm for the Reddit rally to occur or is this a coincidence?

JB: You’re kind of hitting all the points here. One thing in this documentary, there’s a funny scene that we do where I use different objects to explain what happened. It’s like a little bit of this, a pinch of that. It’s a devilish cocktail. One of the parts of the cocktail is take a few billion people walking away long enough, and you give them nothing to do and then you put a phone in their hand with an app and you gamify it. You have the reality of social chat rooms. Now, you have seething anger at Wall Street institutions. It’s the perfect storm for something like this to happen. The spark in this case was the short squeeze. But it’s far more than that. It’s a bunch of things together that made this happen.

NYP: Do short sellers deserve the criticism they are getting from the WallStreetBets group?

JB: I think the biggest myth here for the average person is they don’t distinguish from short selling and these hyper-aggressive short funds that are literally betting and trying to drive companies out of business.

When someone goes short every day, it’s a healthy part of the market and it makes the market function more smoothly. I don’t think the market could go without short selling. It wouldn’t make any sense. But that’s very different than when a large hedge fund does deep research on something and makes this massive investment on the short side. Because the problem is, is that unlike the long side, is really expensive to stay short and to go short, relatively speaking. So it’s not enough for a short seller of that magnitude to be right. They have to be right at the right time. So we also get massively short. They will actively do things to try to precipitate the immediate fall of the stock. They’ll plant negative articles with journalists. They’ll try to start investigations to get their friends to short it that they’ll create the rumor mill. And that’s the uglier side of shorting. So it’s a very different thing than the normal shorting that people think of. 

NYP: What would you say to the average rookie investor? 

JB: One thing that you owe it to yourself and shame on you, if you don’t do this, is become financially literate. One of the great things about the Internet is that all information that you need to at least understand what you’re buying, why things go on, why things go down, it’s out there. I know it’s not the most exciting read but information is out there. Educate yourself and know what you’re investing in, why things go up, why they go down. 

I always say, learn the Warren Buffet-style of things, like the real value. More of your money should be [invested] in that than the high-flying deal of the day, especially as you start to get older. It doesn’t matter when you’re in your 20s. You lose it all you make it back. But that starts to change with your 30s, and you build a family. It’s never good to lose all your money but at least the consequences aren’t as severe. I think that you should look at it that way. It’s a very healthy way. I think there’s a lot of good that comes from this as long as it’s tempered with other research and diversification. 

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Bitcoin price hits record above $63K before Coinbase listing

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Bitcoin price hits record above $63K before Coinbase listing

The price of bitcoin climbed to a new record high above $63,000 Tuesday as the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase prepares to go public this week.

The world’s largest and oldest digital coin hit an all-time peak of $63,209.45 Tuesday morning, according to CoinDesk, surpassing the previous record of $61,742 it hit last month.

Bitcoin was recently trading at $63,171.14 as of 11:41 a.m., putting it up 5.5 percent from a day earlier and roughly 116 percent for the year so far, CoinDesk data show.

Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market value, also hit a new record high of $2,266.68 on Tuesday, CoinDesk says.

Bitcoin has been on a tear over the past six months, but the latest rally came a day before Coinbase — the US’ largest cryptocurrency exchange — was set to start trading on the Nasdaq.

The company’s direct listing slated for Wednesday — which could give it a valuation as high as $100 billion, according to CNBC — is viewed as a major milestone for cryptocurrency advocates and marks another sign of the mainstream financial world embracing the digital assets.

“The Coinbase IPO is a seminal moment for the digital assets industry,” said Pete Cheyne, founder of Bottleypay, a bitcoin-based payments app. “From tomorrow, there is an exchange tradeable instrument for [asset managers] to participate in this paradigm change, and this is having a big impact on Bitcoin’s price.”

The value of the entire cryptocurrency market recently topped $2 trillion for the first time amid other signals that big companies were embracing cryptocurrency.

Publicly traded firms such as Tesla and Twitter have added bitcoin to their corporate balance sheets, while Mastercard, Visa and PayPal have pledged to make it easier to use cryptocurrency as a form of payment.

And banking giants Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are reportedly planning to offer their wealthy clients investment exposure to bitcoin and other digital currencies.

With Post wires

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Domino’s to start robot pizza deliveries in Houston this week

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Domino's to start robot pizza deliveries in Houston this week

Domino’s Pizza will be delivering pies with the help of driverless robot cars as part of a pilot in Houston beginning this week.

The largest pizza chain in the US is partnering with Nuro, a self-driving delivery company that has raised more than $1 billion from investors including Softbank, and which received regulatory approval last year to begin unmanned deliveries.

The companies announced their partnership in 2019, but the pilot for the service launches this week, the companies said on Monday.

Nuro also launched a pilot in Houston with CVS last year to deliver prescriptions to consumers and it has been working with Walmart and Kroger as well.

The collaboration with Domino’s comes amid a severe shortage of drivers available for food delivery, Nuro told Reuters in a statement.

Consumers who are part of the pilot — which is being run out of the Woodland Heights Domino’s — can track the vans’ route via text alerts. They pre-pay for their delivery online and once the vans arrive they use a PIN code to retrieve their order from the vans, which are smaller than a regular vehicle. The ceiling doors open upwards and the pie is presented to the customer.

“There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space,” Domino’s chief innovation officer, Dennis Maloney said in a statement. “This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations.”

Houston, the fourth-largest US city, has one of the country’s highest road fatality rates. “Houston’s roadways create challenging scenarios for our technology to work with,” said Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partner relations.

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