Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

There's an arms race underway for control of the world's money in the coming cashless society. While a future without hard currency notes may seem far away in the U.S. where more people write checks than use digital payments, globally, digital currencies are becoming the norm at a stunning pace.

Why it matters: "We might have to be prepared for a future with a lot more digital money, maybe with cash, maybe substituting for cash," Benoit Coeure, a member of the executive board of the European Central Bank, said last week during a presentation at the IMF-World Bank meetings.

  • As more people move into the middle class in emerging nations, they're showing a clear preference for cyber currency provided by tech companies.
  • Mobile payment transactions in China rose to nearly $13 trillion in just the period from January to October last year, according to official figures from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology cited by the South China Morning Post. The transactions were largely on Alibaba's Alipay and Tencent's WeChat Pay.
  • More tech companies are moving into the space, as are unregulated currency systems like Bitcoin.

The big picture: The Bank for International Settlements is studying digital currencies, and global central banks including Bank of Canada and Bank of Japan are looking into releasing central bank digital currencies.

  • Cecilia Skingsley, deputy governor of Sweden's Riksbank, says there's a "50/50" chance the central bank launches an "e-krona" digital currency within the next 5 years.
  • In Kenya, the M-Pesa is quickly replacing cash. Government data showed that in December Kenya had 31.6 million active users of mobile money services with a population of around 50 million.

The other side: The world's largest financial institutions are working to ensure they aren't displaced in the developed world.

  • The largest U.S. banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, US Bank and Wells Fargo, together launched online payment provider Zelle in 2017. According to JPMorgan's CFO of Consumer and Community Banking Sarah Youngwood, Zelle is now larger than Venmo.
  • JPMorgan also announced JPM Coin in February, which allows global payment and settlement between clients on the blockchain. (Just don't call it a cryptocurrency.)

The intrigue: While Jeremy Allaire, CEO of crypto finance company Circle, argues that in the cashless society no one will pay for the ability to pay, with commercial banks dominating both digital payments and debit and credit instruments, the banks would oversee the exchange of almost all money and could thereby control its cost.

  • "Payments are to their nature a monopoly," Riksbank's Skingsley said. "It may look from the outside like you have very, very many choices as a customer, but it may be a very concentrated, private system in the middle."

Go deeper: The cashless backlash is getting results

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
56 mins ago - Economy & Business

Wall Street fears meltdown over election and Supreme Court

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and President Trump's vow to name her replacement to the Supreme Court before November's election are amplifying Wall Street's worries about major volatility and market losses ahead of and even after the election.

The big picture: The 2020 election is the most expensive event risk on record, per Bloomberg — with insurance bets on implied volatility six times their normal level, according to JPMorgan analysts. And it could take days or even weeks to count the record number of mail-in ballots and declare a winner.

Election clues county by county

Ipsos and the University of Virginia's Center for Politics are out with an interactive U.S. map that goes down to the county level to track changes in public sentiment that could decide the presidential election.

How it works: The 2020 Political Atlas tracks President Trump's approval ratings, interest around the coronavirus, what's dominating social media and other measures, with polling updated daily — enhancing UVA's "Crystal Ball."

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 31,605,656 — Total deaths: 970,934 Total recoveries: 21,747,491Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 6,897,432 — Total deaths: 200,814 — Total recoveries: 2,646,959 — Total tests: 96,612,436Map.
  3. Health: The U.S. reaches 200,000 coronavirus deaths — The CDC's crumbling reputation — America turns against coronavirus vaccine.
  4. Politics: Elected officials are failing us on much-needed stimulus.
  5. Business: Two-thirds of business leaders think pandemic will lead to permanent changes — Fed chair warns economy will feel the weight of expired stimulus.
  6. Sports: NFL fines maskless coaches.

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