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​Tech 5: Bitcoin Price Hits New Record, Apple Fined by EU, Novo Nordisk Shares Jump

Bitcoin had its hottest streak in over two years this week, hitting two new all-time price highs.

Meanwhile, pharma giant Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO) briefly overtook Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) in terms of market cap size, potentially signaling the rise of new power players beyond Silicon Valley.

Also this past week, a former Tesla employee joined Hugging Face as the startup embarks on a new hardware project, and Anthropic released the newest version of its language model family, Claude 3.

1. Bitcoin price reaches new all-time highs

Bitcoin posted two new all-time price highs this week, starting strong by approaching its November 2021 record of US$69,000 on Monday (March 4). On Tuesday (March 5), Bitcoin briefly crossed that threshold, reaching US$69,208, according to data gathered from CoinDesk; however it quickly fell 10 percent.

The decline prompted talk of another “sell the news” event akin to the rapid spike and pullback seen in January, when the US Securities and Exchange Commission approved 10 spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Analysts believe these ETFs are the primary driver of the current rally, coupled with anticipation of the halving event scheduled for April. ‘The institutional race is on and it’s driving demand,’ Bundeep Rangar, CEO Fineqia, said in an emailed note. ‘The high uptake of ETFs is causing its issuers to soak up available BTC supply in the market, driving up prices. And it looks like there might still be some more room to stretch along the price elasticity curve.’

Bitcoin stayed within the US$65,000 to US$67,000 range throughout the week, then soared above US$70,000 in the early hours of Friday (March 8). This increase was quickly followed by a price drop, taking Bitcoin back to just above US$68,000.

As momentum gained, Ethereum and a handful of meme coins also saw dramatic price increases. Ethereum went above the US$4,000 mark on Friday, reaching levels not observed since December 2021.

According to CoinGecko, the crypto market gained US$1 trillion in market cap in February alone, bringing its total market cap to US$2.7 trillion. Bitcoin’s market cap is now trailing just behind silver’s at US$1.38 trillion. At the time of this writing on Friday afternoon, Bitcoin was changing hands at US$68,632.05.

2. Big Pharma trumps Big Tech

The era of the Magnificent 7, a group of tech stocks that have dominated the stock market since the tail end of 2023, may be drawing to a close. This week, Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk surpassed Tesla in terms of market cap following reports of positive early stage results from a trial of amycretin, its experimental weight-loss drug.

Following the announcement, which was discussed at an investor meeting, shares of Novo Nordisk jumped 8 percent, driving the company’s market cap to US$609 billion, roughly US$40 billion more than Tesla’s at the time the news broke. As of this writing, Novo Nordisk was valued at US$452.21 billion, while Tesla had a market cap of US$549.42 billion.

Meanwhile, the Bank of America reported the largest weekly tech stock outflows ever recorded. The bank notes that US$4.4 billion in outflows occurred in the week leading up to Wednesday (March 6), the first outflows in nine weeks.

The S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) logged another record close on Thursday (March 7), unsurprisingly driven by gains in tech stocks. However, big players put on mixed performances. Shares of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) declined for much of the week following reports that sales have slowed in China, while NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) fell nearly 8 percent on Friday.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) closed the week 0.7 percent and 01.16 percent lower, respectively. The declines lend credence to analysts’ warnings of over-concentration in the tech and artificial intelligence (AI) sectors, although some experts have attributed the market drop to disappointing US non-farm payroll data.

Shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) also experienced steep drops on Monday, ending the week with retreats of 1.75 percent and 1.21 percent, respectively. Meta (NASDAQ:META) managed to keep its head above water, ending the week with a modest 0.55 percent gain. Finally, Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL), the parent company of Google, had recorded a relatively insignificant 0.22 percent decline by the week’s end.

3. Apple found in violation of new EU rules

On Monday, the European Union (EU) found that Apple was in breach of new rules regarding competition law.

Specifically, the EU’s preliminary findings show that Apple’s App Store policies and high commission fees unfairly disadvantage rival music streaming services like Spotify (NYSE:SPOT), which filed a complaint against the tech giant in 2019. The court found that the App Store’s policies have effectively limited consumer choice, and the conglomerate was fined 1.8 billion euros as a penalty, the first of its kind for the iPhone maker.

This marks one of the largest antitrust fines ever imposed by the EU, surpassed only by fines levied against Google in 2018 and 2017, which amounted to 4.34 billion and 2.42 billion euros, respectively. According to documents, the magnitude of the fine was intended to serve as a deterrent.

4. Anthropic releases Claude 3

Anthropic released the newest version of its language model family, Claude 3, on Monday. The family includes three models: Claude 3 Haiku, Claude 3 Sonnet and Claude 3 Opus. Opus and Sonnet became available immediately in and the Claude API. Sonnet is also available through Amazon’s Bedrock platform and Google’s Vertex AI platform. Haiku will be available “soon,” but Anthropic’s press release does not specify when.

The company claims that Opus, Claude 3’s most intelligent model, “exhibits near-human levels of comprehension and fluency on complex tasks,” and that all models have increased capabilities in English and other languages, putting them a step ahead of competitors like ChatGPT, which was created by OpenAI.

Anthropic prompt engineer Alex Albert tweeted a story from Claude 3’s “needle in the haystack” evaluation, a test designed to assess its ability to identify and isolate specific, relevant information within a large dataset. During the test, the chatbot seemed to demonstrate a variety of metacognition, or the ability to monitor its own internal processes.

According to Albert, the chatbot called out its developers for inserting a seemingly random phrase about pizza in a block of text that was about programming languages and startups. “I suspect this pizza topping ‘fact’ may have been inserted as a joke or to test if I was paying attention,” the chatbot said when asked to locate the sentence in question.

‘Opus not only found the needle, it recognized that the inserted needle was so out of place in the haystack that this had to be an artificial test constructed by us to test its attention abilities,’ wrote Albert.

Margaret Mitchell, an ethics researcher at Hugging Face and co-author of the Stochastic Parrots research paper, which examines the potential risks of large language models, responded with intrigue, but questioned the safety of an AI model that can tell the difference between deliberate instructions and exploitation. “The ability to determine whether a human is manipulating it to do something foreseeably can lead to making decisions to obey or not,” she wrote.

Anthropic has stated that the Claude 3 model family was developed in accordance with the 2023 US Executive Order on AI and remains at AI Safety Level 2 (ASL-2). The company will “continue to carefully monitor future models to assess their proximity to the ASL-3 threshold.”

5. Hugging Face plans to expand into robotics

New York City-based startup Hugging Face is reportedly launching a new open-source robotics project that is being led by former Tesla scientist Remi Cadene. Cadene, who left Tesla in January after working on the tech company’s Autopilot and Optimus teams, announced the venture by posting on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. He also mentioned that Hugging Face is looking to hire engineers in Paris and included a link to the job application.

This marks Hugging Face’s first major expansion into hardware and comes at a time when research on robots is at its peak thanks to innovations in AI and machine learning.

Securities Disclosure: I, Meagen Seatter, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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