Led 08

BIS Reports 70% of Central Banks Are Studying Cryptocurrencies

A new report published by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) shows that the majority of central banks are studying central bank digital currencies (CBDC). However, most of them are unlikely to issue any type of digital currency in the near future. 


CBDC ‘Unlikely’ in The Short Term

BIS published the results of a new survey on central banks studying the technology behind Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. A total of 63 banks have responded. They represent jurisdictions, which cover about 80 percent of the population of the world and more than 90 percent of its entire economic output.

The intention of the survey was to find out whether central banks currently are developing their own central bank digital currencies (CBDC) and how likely they are to issue them.

Of the 63 banks, 70 percent said that they are either currently working or will soon be engaged in work on CBDC.

However, this includes conducting conceptual research on the matter, sharing studies and views of developing a “common understanding of this new field of study.” According to the report, half of the respondents have moved to a more “hands-on” proof-of-concept activities in order to test new technologies.

The report reveals that 85 percent of the central banks are unlikely or very unlikely to issue any type of CBDC in the short term (1-3 years).

Back and Forth

In September, Bitcoinist reported that the European Central Bank (ECB) has no intentions of issuing a central bank digital currency.

ECB

It’s also arguable whether a central bank issued digital currency will even fit the mold of decentralized cryptocurrencies. In December, a couple of researches at the St. Louis Fed, outlined that:

Once you add a central bank and remove the “permissionless” network—with nodes that can leave and join as they wish, there isn’t much left to the cryptocurrency you started with.

Nevertheless, some central banks remain open to the idea of CBDC. The BIS report outlines that the Central Bank of Uruguay has completed a pilot programme on a general purpose CBDC.

At the same time, the governor of UK’s central bank Mark Carney has previously said that the Bank of England is open to the idea of a central bank issued digital currency.

What do you think of CBDCs? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!


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Led 06

Seized Monero Up For Auction In UK First

An auction house in Northern Ireland is holding the UK’s first live online auction of seized cryptocurrency. The sale, of 167.69 monero coins will start at midday tomorrow (GMT).


First Sale Through Private Auction House

Wilsons Auctions, of Newtownabbey, have arranged the sale, which will allow participants to view the live price and place bids online. While governments across the world have held similar sales, this is the first by an independent auction house. A UK law enforcement agency seized the coins under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The monero (XMR) 00 in the auction comes in 10 lots of 16.769 XMR, which each have a market value of around £670 (US$850). However the first lot also comes with a private key to claim various fork coins. These include 167 Monero Classic, 167 Monero Original, 167 Monero O, and 1670 Monero V

Each Lot will time out in 2-minute intervals with the first lot ending at 12 noon.

The First Of Many

This will be the first in a series of auctions over the coming weeks. It is unclear how the privacy-focused coin was seized by the authorities but Wilsons recently won a contract with the Belgium Federal Government’s Asset Management Office. Under the contract, Wilsons will support investigators in Belgium and facilitate the secure seizure and storage of cryptocurrencies.

In addition, Wilsons claim to be working with over 40 government and law enforcement agencies, both nationally and internationally. Aidan Larkin, head of asset recovery at the company, told the Belfast Telegraph:

Following huge investment into our systems and infrastructure, we are able to offer government and law enforcement agencies throughout the UK, Ireland and internationally a secure solution so that the ever-increasing problem of seized cryptocurrencies can be managed by an auction company with significant experience dealing with seized assets.

Will the winning bid be above or below market spot price? Share your thoughts below!


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Pro 28

The Federal Reserve Could Launch a ‘FedCoin’- But There’s Really No Point

It seems as if the Federal Reserve really understands the core values of Bitcoin and that launching a national cryptocurrency is pointless.


Director of the IMF Christine Lagarde spoke out about the benefits of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) this November. She said that they could improve security, accelerate financial inclusion, reduce poverty, and afford greater privacy. She even made a reference to cryptocurrencies as a “contender” in our cashless society.

And many crypto enthusiasts took heart. It seemed that finally, aging institutions were coming around to the technology and understanding its value. After all, cryptocurrencies can already achieve most of the things that Lagarde suggested. They can lower the cost of international remittances, streamline efficiencies, and protect the identity of their users.

But It’s Not Interesting to The Federal Reserve

At the height of bitcoin’s price explosion last year, when crypto entered the mainstream, many people called it the future of money. In fact, a former governor at the Federal Reserve Kevin Walsh, who was among the candidates to become chairman, said that if he were elected he would allocate resources to explore the creation of Fedcoin–a national cryptocurrency.

St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank: 3 Qualities Bitcoin and Cash Share

Why? Because it could improve transparency, increase efficiency, and allow the Fed to access negative interest rates and other financial tools.

But when you get down to the nitty-gritty, none of these things are of interest to the Fed, the banks, or national governments.

Sorry, No National Cryptocurrency for Now

The IMF is famous for imposing loans on struggling countries and crippling them with exorbitant interest rates. So it seems unlikely that such an institution would race to adopt a technology that would unchain the downtrodden from their shackles.

Moreover, researchers at the St. Louis Fed, Fabian Schar and Aleksander Berentsen, noted that a central bank “could easily” create its own crypto:

However, the key characteristics of cryptocurrencies are a red flag for central banks.

The red flags, they argued, were that law enforcers must be able to monitor who is using a currency at all times, which means that they would need strict identification requirements to eliminate fraudsters and money launderers.

They fail to mention that some two-thirds of all $100 US dollar bills are outside of the United States–and that no one has any idea who is using them.

They do make some very valid points, however, that underpin the reason there may never be a Fedcoin or any other national cryptocurrency:

Once you add a central bank and remove the “permissionless” network—with nodes that can leave and join as they wish, there isn’t much left to the cryptocurrency you started with.

In fact, a centralized cryptocurrency isn’t really a ‘cryptocurrency’ at all. It’s just centralized electronic money, which they’ve already got bucketloads of.

The two St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve researchers further pointed out that this kind of centralized electronic money doesn’t even need a blockchain to work, in fact:

The technology for issuing virtual money in a centralized way existed long before the invention of the blockchain.

The Old Money Laundering Argument Again

A Federal Reserve Board governor Lael Brainard tore the concept of CBDCs apart at San Francisco’s Decoding Digital Currency Conference. While praising blockchain’s innovation, she went on to note that crypto’s volatility made it unsuitable as a unit of currency or store of value and that it was susceptible to hacks and money laundering.

She repeated Schar and Berentsen’s red flag of identity management and noted how a national digital currency would affect banks–again, pointing out that we do, indeed, already have electronic money.

So, while its certainly true that the Fed could digitize the US dollar and turn it into a cryptocurrency, it would only work against the interests of existing institutions and essentially be totally pointless.

Could There Be a Middle Ground?

It’s interesting to note that while adding centralized authorities to crypto does, in fact, seem to be missing the point, that doesn’t render crypto entirely useless for national purposes. Neither does it make fiat any more suitable. Cryptographer Peter Todd noted that:

It’s fashionable to criticise all blockchain stuff when applied to centralized systems as nonsense, because most of the solutions peddled have been nonsense. But the truth is somewhere in between.

Which means there may be some middle ground. But perhaps the main takeaway is this:

That the Federal Reserve wants nothing to do with a national cryptocurrency should be about as surprising as the Vatican failing to embrace gay marriage or abortion. Or if you want a further comparison, asking Jamie Dimon about bitcoin is like asking a taxi driver about Uber.

It’s still a young technology, and we’ve got a long way to go. So for now, it’s really no shocker that the old institutions aren’t diving in to expose their ills and remove their controls.

Do you agree with the Fed’s position on national cryptocurrencies? Share below!


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Pro 19

Privacy Coins Like Monero Perfect For Buying Cannabis in Canada, Says Expert

Senior market analyst at eToro believes that privacy coin usage in Canada will “almost certainly” increase as the country has officially warned citizens to protect their personal information by buying cannabis with cash. 


‘Consider Using Cash’

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has released a guidance document which addresses some of the concerns marijuana users need to address in regard to their personal information

Recreational cannabis became legal in Canada on October 17, 2018. However, as of yet, it’s still illegal in most jurisdictions elsewhere in the world. Hence, the personal information of cannabis users can be particularly sensitive.

According to the document, “some countries may deny entry to individuals if they know they have purchased cannabis, even lawfully.”

As such, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has formally warned marijuana users not to provide any cannabis retailer with more personal information than necessary. What is more, users are encouraged to use cash if they are unsure of purchasing cannabis with their credit cards. The document states:

If you are concerned about using your credit card, and the option is available, consider using cash to purchase cannabis.

An Opening for Privacy Coins?

According to Mati Greenspan, senior market analyst at eToro, “this will almost certainly increase the usage of privacy coins, especially Dash and Monero in Canada.”

Canada has historically shown openness to cryptocurrencies. Early in 2018 regulators decided not to reconfigure the country’s tax laws to target digital currencies.

In addition, cryptocurrency ownership in the country has been increasing. Bitcoinist reported earlier this year that at least four different studies by institutional authorities indicate that between 3 and 5 percent of people in the country own Bitcoin.

Do you think that the protection of personal information will trigger an increase in the usage of privacy coins in Canada? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!


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Pro 10

Venezuela and Argentina Are Buying the Dip, New Data Shows

If you look at the latest activity on Localbitcoins, there has been a large spike in recent days from both Argentina and Venezuela buying bitcoins. Both these troubled Latin American countries have displayed a steady increase in buying cryptocurrency due to rising inflation and troubled economies. But is the sudden uptick evidence of the two countries buying the dip?


What’s Happening in Venezuela?

Looking at the charts, one of the first things you notice is that bitcoin purchases in Venezuela didn’t really begin in earnest until the second quarter of this year. Since April of 2018, the volume has increased from around 17 million to over 3 billion for the second week of December 2018, where it rises astronomically.

coin-dance-localbitcoins-VES-volume

This likely indicates a lack of knowledge, trust or means to purchase virtual currency. But as the economic situation has worsened and the government devalued the national currency by 95 percent from one day to the next, more and more Venezuelans are looking to shield their wealth.

Bitcoinist spoke to Eugenia Alcalá Sucre who founded Dash Venezuela earlier this year and she explained the many problems in Venezuela that prohibit them using their national currency. Not only is its value almost entirely wiped out from one day to the next but there is a limit to the amount you can take out of machines and a scarcity of notes. She said:

Bills are really, really scarce. You go to the bank and they only give you a little amount. They have limits. Even though you have the money in the bank you can’t take it out.

Venezuela is one of the most important countries for Dash cryptocurrency acceptance, with more than 2,500 merchants taking it including KFC.

While the western world is in panic at the crashing crypto market, for Venezuelans, it’s still a better option than their national coin. They’ve been using bitcoin (BTC) 00 to shield their wealth despite the value going down.

Volume Keeps Rising

However, the recent spike on Localbitcoins could indicate that more people are getting in as a lower price makes buying bitcoins more accessible.

Bitcoinist spoke to Rodrigo Marques CEO of Latin America’s largest crypto company and bitcoin investing platform Atlas Quantum. He said:

Look at the countries in Latin America, especially Venezuela and Argentina. It’s very hard for people to move money outside of these countries and people see bitcoin as a way to protect their investments. So it’s not just a matter of it’s faster and more stable, but making it possible for some people in some place to actually hold on to what they own, protecting their wealth.

A Look at Argentina

Argentina is in a similar situation, and Bitcoinist has been reporting on how Argentinians are using cryptocurrency to protect their wealth from inflation.

Reports of easing regulation could also see as many as 4,000 bitcoin ATMs in Argentina go online in the near future. However, the number currently still stands at two. According to Reuters, though, this is expected to rise to 30 by the end of the year.

Argentina is not undergoing a humanitarian crisis the likes of Venezuela. However, it is no stranger to inflation, which can almost be defined as hyperinflation since it is expected to reach 40 percent by the end of the year.

Moreover, the Argentine peso has lost more than 50 percent of its value against the dollar in 2018 alone. This makes it extremely hard for Argentinians to buy outside goods, to leave the country, or to protect their wealth.

Unlike Venezuela that is relatively new to cryptocurrencies, Argentina has demonstrated a longer history of buying bitcoins. Like Venezuela, though, it looks as if the dip of the week of November 24 when bitcoin was over $4,000 and the psychological barrier to it falling well under $4,000 now has encouraged more to jump on the bandwagon.

coin-dance-localbitcoins-ARS-volume

Are Argentina and Venezuela Buying the Dip?

Are Argentina and Venezuela buying the dip? It’s possible. However, the uptick also appears to coincide with the most influential Bitcoin and Blockchain conference in Latin America held on December 6 in Santiago Chile, LA Bit Conf. As we’ve seen, trading volumes of bitcoin tend to rally upon an event or announcement.

Moreover, Chile despite a much lower volume of trading in the first week of December, also saw a huge uptick that coincides with the event.

Are Venezuela and Argentina buying the Bitcoin dip? Share your thoughts!


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Pro 05

Tether Dominance Of Stablecoin Market Falls To 74%

As 2018 began, with only two competitors, Tether commanded 94 percent of the stablecoin market. With the year seeing the emergence of 8 new players in the space, that dominance has fallen to 74 percent.


Flood Waters

It seems that the cryptocurrency du jour is the US Dollar, or at least the stablecoins pegged to it. This year has seen a wealth of new offerings flood to market, causing exchanges to reassess how to list them.

Huobi added its own stablecoin to the fray, with the launch of HUSD. This is interchangeable with and amalgamates Paxos, TrueUSD, USDCoin, and Gemini Dollars, allowing deposits and withdrawals for no conversion fees.

Binance also introduced changes, to clearly identify markets with stablecoin pairings.

Chip Chip Chipping Away

Forgetting the headline figure, 74 percent is still a full three-quarters of the market, which is quite significant. On average, each new competitor eroded less of Tether’s market share than the original two.

Which illustrates the value in this case of being first to market, compared to the comparative value of your product. Despite the continuing criticism and scrutiny of Tether, it maintains a market share that its competitors are all vying for.

Stablecoins Aren’t Going Anywhere

Stablecoins are certainly divisive. The touted benefits are questioned as often as they are lauded. Are they just the answer to a problem that nobody really had in the first place? Or are they a necessity in the evolution of crypto?

Either way, they are fast becoming a permanent fixture in crypto-news and shaping the current crypto-landscape. As more and more players continue to move into the market, stablecoins are clearly the current craze in the nascent industry that has struggled as a whole against the USD in 2018.

What remains to be seen is the ongoing impact of this on Tether. Will each new project continue to nibble away at its market share? Will a plucky young upstart find enough popular support to launch a serious uprising and eventually usurp the king? Or will the overcrowded throng of hungry contenders start to cannibalize each other’s piece of the pie?


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Lis 27

FCA Investigations Into Crypto Businesses Have Doubled Since May

FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), UK’s Financial watchdog, has doubled the number of investigations into cryptocurrency companies to 50 since May 2018.


FCA Increasingly Looking at Crypto Firms

According to Top Ten accountancy firm, Moore Stephens, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has doubled the number of investigations into crypto related businesses in the UK since May of this year. This takes the total number up to 50 as of October 2018 against a backdrop of increased regulatory scrutiny.

FCA Urges UK Banks to Adopt Robust Security Measures Against 'Risky' Cryptocurrency Business

According to the UK’s 9th largest accountancy firm, failure to correctly address existing problems in the crypto community could lead to heavy regulation in the future.

Moreover, the latest plunge in the price of bitcoin 00 and a massive drop in the value of all major cryptocurrencies has further shed light onto concerns that the market is not properly regulated. This has also caused a surge in the number of complaints to the FCA.

The FCA Isn’t Messing Around

Often accused of regulatory indifference or moving at a glacial pace, it seems that the FCA is finally taking a serious approach to cryptocurrencies. One of the key focuses of their investigation is on closing down unauthorized businesses. These are the types of companies that hold ICOs to raise vast sums of money by using unregulated loopholes.

Tighter regulation in the future is a concern to many in the industry as it is widely believed that restrictive regulation could be inhibitive to innovation. Partner at Moore Stephens, Andrew Jacobs, explains:

The huge sums lost as a result of cryptocurrency prices falling this year will have triggered a rash of complaints to the FCA.

He goes on to add that the rise of Bitcoin and other altcoins’ prices had attracted interest from many “enterprising firms” who aren’t conducting themselves by the book. Now the market has all but bottomed out, this is a problem.

Now that prices have collapsed, fraud and other suspicious activity are likely to be exposed, with greater pressure coming to bear on the FCA to ensure that this market can operate transparently and fairly, with investor protection embedded at its heart. The FCA is now clearly looking to get out in front of potential issues related to cryptocurrencies in order to more effectively manage their risk.

A Properly Regulated Environment

Regulation is still a topic that splits the crypto community down the middle. While many argue that lack of regulation causes problems, Jacobs believes that an environment that is correctly regulated is crucial to building confidence in cryptocurrency for both retail investors and institutions alike. He says:

It is important that any new regulations don’t choke competition in the market to the point where cryptocurrencies become ineffective. Walking this line will be key in helping to establish the UK as a cryptocurrency hub in Europe.

The UK’s FCA released its Cryptoassets Taskforce report in October. The report includes the actions that it will take to mitigate risks with cryptocurrencies, including the correct classification of cryptocurrencies–and which ones fall into the perimeter of the FCA, whether or not the FCA will need to regulate all cryptocurrencies, and an extra section on the need for regulation of e-wallet providers and exchanges.

Will a regulated environment benefit the cryptocurrency industry? Share your thoughts below! 


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Lis 13

Stock Market Slump Could See Bitcoin Price ‘Make New All-Time High’

Cryptocurrency inventor, fund partner and advocate Max Keiser is predicting new all-time Bitcoin price highs as the stock market tumbled again this week.


Bitcoin to ‘New All-Time High’ as Stock Market Slumps

A drop in share prices for both Goldman Sachs and Apple has equated to an approximately 160-point loss for the Dow Jones November 12, leading Keiser to suggest the index could collapse to below the significant 10,000 barrier in future.

“10 (years) of cash transfusions from central banks – masking the globe’s economic death in 2008 – hasn’t worked,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Dow 10,000 here we come. (Bitcoin) will make new (all-time high).”

The Dow last saw 10,000 during the banking crisis a decade ago, having hovered around 25,000 for most of 2018.

Anticipation Of Crypto Awakening Grows

While Keiser like many other well-known commentators has long heralded a return to form for Bitcoin price 00, cryptocurrency markets have yet to signal their bear market is over this year.

As Bitcoinist has frequently reported in recent months, the anticipation of institutional investor money buoying sideways prices continues to run high. Major crypto assets themselves, however, continue to trend slowly downwards.

Big money remains faithful to the optimistic narrative on Bitcoin, however. Last week, billionaire investor Tim Draper took to the stage at Europe’s largest fintech conference Summit 2018 to double down on his prediction the largest cryptocurrency would hit $250,000 per unit by 2023 at the latest.

He was joined by Blockchain wallet CEO Peter Smith and Managing Capital co-founder Garry Tan. While both stopped short of endorsing the quarter-million figure, there appeared to be unanimous agreement that Bitcoin would be worth more in USD terms by this time next year.

“…My prediction for $250,000 by 2022 – maybe 2023 but in that range – is absolutely solid, but I’m not so sure how we’re going to get there,” Draper said.

What do you think about Max Keiser and Tim Draper’s predictions? Let us know in the comments below!


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Říj 30

Japan’s Financial Regulator Says Stablecoins Are Not Cryptocurrencies

The lack of uniformity in stablecoins has led Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) to conclude that stablecoins are not cryptocurrency.


Not All Digital Assets Are Created Equal

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) recently announced that it does not believe stablecoins should be classified in the same category as cryptocurrencies.

According to Japan’s Payment Services Act and the Fund Settlement Law, cryptocurrencies are considered a method of payment that users do not need to pay taxes for. Meanwhile, stablecoins do not meet these criteria as the majority of the current dollar pegged digital assets have varying characteristics, and the lack of a uniform set of characteristics makes it impossible to categorize them.

FSA Japan

JVCEA Cannot Regulate Stablecoins

Under the Payment Service Act, stablecoins fail to meet the current criteria for classifying as a “virtual currency” and an FSA spokesperson said, Due to [varying] characteristics [of stablecoins], it is not necessarily appropriate to suggest what those companies need to obtain or register before issuing stablecoins.”

Interestingly, while the FSA recently ceded authority to Japan’s Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA) by granting the collective the authority to self-regulate Japan’s cryptocurrency exchanges, the JVCEA will not be able to regulate stablecoins as they have been determined to not be cryptocurrencies.

It appears that the task of regulating stablecoins to will fall to the FSA and regulators will need to analyze each stablecoin on an individual basis.

Do stablecoins function the same as non-fiat pegged digital assets? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 


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Říj 29

UK Fintech Industry Slams Govt’s ‘Blunt Instrument Approach’ To Cryptocurrency

The UK could compromise its fintech sector with “very blunt instrument” regulation currently under consideration, a new report from several industry entities warns.


‘Ashamedly Geared Around Bitcoin’

As local news outlet the Telegraph reports October 29, the report criticizes plans to award more power to regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and says treating all cryptoassets in the same way as Bitcoin was counterproductive.

“Bad regulation is worse than no regulation at all,” the Telegraph quotes it as reading, adding that the extant proposals are “ashamedly geared around Bitcoin.”

Politicians had lobbied for wider FCA jurisdiction in September, six months after the regulator had launched a dedicated “task force” with the remit of formalizing the domestic space.

Far from increasing security and consumer protection, however, one of the report’s authors argues a laissez-faire attitude would be considerably more beneficial for a sector which is only just beginning to mature.

“It is a very blunt instrument approach and I haven’t seen this in other countries,” Patrick Curry, chief executive of the British Business Federation Authority (BBFA) commented about the plans.

The use of this technology is still a voyage of discovery and these technologies are being refined for different types of use. My concern is the law of unintended consequences.

Overreaching?

The government had pledged to make London a home for fintech in the coming years, sounding out concerns that Brexit would make the city an unattractive place for innovative newcomers.

Blockchain Expo - Crypto La La land

At the same time, the Bank of England has said it is open to the concept of a self-issued national digital currency while also claiming that cryptocurrency poses “reputational risks.”

“Crypto-assets also raise concerns related to misconduct and market integrity,” Deputy Governor Sam Woods wrote in June.

Many appear vulnerable to fraud and manipulation, as well as money-laundering and terrorist financing risks.

What do you think about the UK’s cryptocurrency regulation plans? Let us know in the comments below!


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