Bitcoin surges after US agencies legitimise it; ACCC to continue investigating supermarkets; Australia Post allowed to compete for Centrelink services: Midday Roundup

The digital currency bitcoin has sky-rocketed more than 50% to a new record of $US788 this morning, as yesterday United States agencies told a Senate committee the virtual currency was a “legal means of exchange”.

The currency set a number of new highs yesterday, including exceeding the $US500 mark for the first time earlier that day.

Acting assistant attorney general at the US Justice Department’s criminal division, Mythili Raman, said at the hearing: “We all recognise that virtual currencies, in and of themselves, are not illegal,” as quoted in the UK’s Telegraph.

Bitcoin has recently been associated with a raft of illegal activities taking place on the now shutdown website Silk Road, which caused the value and legitimacy of the currency to take a hit.

ACCC to continue investigating supermarkets

The competition and consumer watchdog has said it will continue investigating the market power of Coles and Woolworths, despite the release of the draft voluntary code of conduct between supermarkets and suppliers on Monday.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims told BusinessDay he welcomed the code, but there was more to be done.

“We are continuing those investigations, but there is not much more I want to say about it,” Sims said.

The voluntary code has taken more than a year-and-a-half to formulate and sets out rules to govern the supermarkets’ dealings with suppliers in response to complaints of bullying.

Australian Food and Grocery Council chief executive Gary Dawson said yesterday the code would help limit how much money suppliers handed over to grocers each year in the form of rebates, discounts and shelf and listing fees.

“There’s only so much profit in the pot and there’s a limit on how much can be transferred,” he said when handing over the code to the federal government yesterday.

Australia Post allowed to compete for Centrelink services

Australia Post has been given approval to apply to run some Centrelink services, clearing the way for it to apply to take on more government services, chief executive Ahmed Fahour told a Senate estimates hearing this morning.

He said he has begun a process of “identifying services that post offices could provide, adding he would only take on processes that ‘make sense’,” reports Business Spectator.

Shares fall on open

The Australian sharemarket has opened lower this morning, as volatility on Wall Street impacts the local market.

The S&P/ASX 200 benchmark was down 28.5 points to 5356.2 at 11:44 AEDT. Overnight the Dow Jones closed up 14.32 points to 15,976.02, despite rising earlier in the day to a record high of 16,000.

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