Úno 13

IMF Proposes to ‘Fork Off’ Cash From E-Money

Interest rates in many countries around the world are still languishing at near-zero levels since the last financial crash. Which doesn’t leave much space to move in the event of, say, the next financial crash. At least as far as cash is concerned. So the Intentional Monetary Fund (IMF) have been looking at solutions to make negative interest rates a viable option.


Less Than Zero

Recessions require tough measures, which has historically resulted in around 3-6 percent cut from interest base rates. But with many nations still maintaining near-zero rates from the last financial crisis, that doesn’t leave them much wiggle room.

The problem, of course, is cash, which has a lower-bound interest rate of zero by design. A negative base rate would necessitate commercial banks to either compress their margins or charge interest on deposits. And charging negative interest on deposits would likely cause a mass withdrawal of cash.

The IMF notes that:

…instead of paying negative interest, one can simply hold cash at zero interest. Cash is a free option on zero interest, and acts as an interest rate floor.

So why don’t we just get rid of cash?

Cashless Society

A cashless society would not be limited by a lower bound on interest rates of zero percent. Central banks could reduce the rate to a negative figure, forcing consumers to pay interest on deposits. This would encourage investing or simply spending money as a preferable option, boosting the economy.

ECB

But if cash exists then this cannot happen. People would simply hold cash at zero percent interest rather than paying for bank deposits in safes and mattresses.

Interestingly, countries such as largely-cashless Sweden have already pushed rates slightly below zero. The inconvenience and expense of taking out and holding large amounts of cash has deterred most depositors from doing so.

But cash still plays a significant role for payments in many countries such as Japan, Switzerland and Hungary. People kinda like the ‘P2p’ (person-to-person) nature of it.

Hard Fork

The solution proposed by the IMF would be to enact a divorce between cash and electronic money, creating two separate currencies. In doing this, a central bank could make cash as costly as a bank deposit with a negative interest rate.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? How can we make cash more costly? But it’s all to maintain the inflation target at all costs, according to the IMF. An excerpt reads:

While a dual currency system challenges our preconceptions about money, countries could implement the idea with relatively small changes to central bank operating frameworks. In comparison to alternative proposals, it would have the advantage of completely freeing monetary policy from the zero lower bound. Its introduction would reconfirm the central bank’s commitment to the inflation target, rather than raise doubts about it.

Anyway, the electronic currency (e-money) would pay the policy rate of interest (either positive or negative). Then cash would have an exchange rate to the e-money. In times of negative interest, the cash exchange rate would depreciate at the same rate as the negative interest.

Prices would be advertised separately in e-money and cash, so in terms of goods or e-money, there is no benefit to holding cash.

“This dual local currency system would allow the central bank to implement as negative an interest rate as necessary for countering a recession, without triggering any large-scale substitutions into cash,” the post reads.

Or you could always take your suitcase full of cash to a shady geezer you met on LocalBitcoins, and swap it for some shiny inflation-free Bitcoin.

IMF

Seriously. When the banks cause another financial crash, then tell us that they want to make all our money worthless. At that point, will anyone still have any faith at all left in the banking system?

It’s no wonder IMF’svery own head, Christine Lagarde, thinks fintech will “shake the financial system.”

Will central banks succeed in phasing out physical cash in the next 10 years? Share your thoughts below!


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Úno 09

CBOE and CME Bitcoin Futures See Lowest Volumes Since Launch

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) have seen the lowest Bitcoin futures volumes since they launched to much fanfare in December 2017. 


Battle Of The Markets

New research by TradeBlock shows that at their summer 2018 peak, combined trading volumes reached near-parity with spot trading volumes across five top US exchanges.

Bitcoin futures trading volume has fallen significantly since peaking in the summer. The latest numbers from December 2018 show the lowest volumes since the products were launched in December 2017.

What’s more, the vast majority of that volume has been through CME. Whilst the two markets were initially neck-and-neck, the gap between them has steadily widened since February 2018.

Volume grew rapidly following the products’ launch, reaching a high-point in July 2018 when it topped $5 billion. At the same time, spot trading volume was falling at digital currency exchanges in the US. Across five of the largest US exchanges (Coinbase, itBit, Kraken, Bitstamp, and Gemini) it fell dramatically, from over $20 billion, down to just over $5 billion.

Between January 2018 and October 2018, spot-trading volume fell 85%, following the general trend of the bitcoin price 00. Although volumes did start to pick up again in November and December 2018.

Back To The Futures

Meanwhile, following the peaking of the futures market in July and August 2018, volumes almost halved in September and have fallen steadily since. The exception to this was November, when volumes spiked, following volatility and a number of price crashes.

This decline in futures trading over H2 2018, coupled with the resurgence in spot trading, has seen spot trading volumes pull ahead again at the start of 2019.

But 2019 will see the launch of several new bitcoin futures products, from firms such as Bakkt, Nasdaq, ErisX, and CoinFLEX. It will be interesting to see the effect of these platforms on volumes as they come live over the next few months.

And of course, we may need to factor in the effects of volatility in price, should any also occur during this period.

Will futures volumes rebound with increasing price? Share your thoughts below!


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Led 26

Davos: IMF’s Lagarde Says Fintech Will Shake The System

International Monetary Fund Head, Christine Lagarde, told the World Economic Forum in Davos, “fintech is going to shake the system.” She also urged against relying on central banks in the next financial crisis, at the CNBC-hosted panel.


Central Banks Have Very Limited Ammunition

Her comments followed UBS CEO, Sergio Ermotti, saying that he hoped “we don’t rely on central banks to resolve the issues,” in the wake of another crash. He suggested that some central banks have “very limited ammunition,” while others perhaps had a bit more flexibility.

Lagarde concurred that,

It would be very nice if the economies at large didn’t have to rely on the central banks yet again in order to resist the next shock.

She singled out Mark Carney of the Bank of England, and Jay Powell of the Federal Reserve, as two of the very few central bankers who have a little bit of space to maneuver in the wake of the next downturn.

Complete Reforms While The Going Is Good

Both Lagarde and Ermotti suggested that it was important to complete reforms while the economic environment is good. Central Banks took unprecedented measures to stimulate lending and economic growth after the 2008 crash (by printing a record amount of money).

However, a belief that this fallback will always be there, can lead to complacency, meaning critical reforms are never implemented.

Ermotti said that countries must “take the bitter medicine” and implement changes that would benefit their citizens. Lagarde urged policymakers to “take the right course of action” on reforms. Although work had begun, this in some cases barely scratched the surface. It is essential to complete these critical reforms and that they go deep enough.

Fintech Is Going To Shake The System

Lagarde concluded by saying that banks needed “purpose” beyond just the single-minded pursuit of profit. She warned against complacency regarding fintech, which includes virtual currencies and bitcoin, that she said would “shake the system.”

Repeating her view that a regulated fintech with AML measures and consumer protections was a positive force, she continued to say that many large banks realized this, and were either incorporating fintech companies or moving in the same direction themselves.

Of course, Bitcoin didn’t exist at the time of the last financial crisis. In fact, it was ‘spawned’ as a direct response to it, according to ECB Executive Board member Benoît Cœuré.

Meanwhile, adoption is always accelerated by national economic failures and unrest. The next global financial crash could provide a key momentum swing, leading to the eventual collapse of banks that have indeed become complacent with their monopoly over money creation.

Do you agree with Lagarde in the disruptive power of fintech? Share your thoughts below!


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Led 25

Wall Street Invests $20M to Bridge Blockchain With Capital Markets

Despite the bear market, and rising camp of naysayers predicting Bitcoin’s demise, Wall Street is steadily plowing funds into crypto. The latest blockchain company to catch investors’ eyes is Symbiont, a New York startup bringing blockchain tech to capital markets.


2019 The Year of Institutional Investment

Bitcoinist reported yesterday that Nasdaq is positively bullish on bitcoin. Ahead of Davos, Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman stated unequivocably that cryptocurrencies would play an important role in the future. She even predicted that bitcoin could become a global currency.

Now the world’s second largest stock exchange Nasdaq Ventures initiative is taking the lead in Symbiont’s series B funding round. Along with Citigroup, and other high-name investors including Mike Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd, they’re investing $20 million.

This vote of support in Symbiont shows that Wall Street is still anxious to make its way into the cryptocurrency space. Despite a torrid 12 months with as much as 90 percent of value wiped off of some altcoins.

Blockchain Technology Called into Question

According to Symbiont CEO Mark Smith, this much-needed backing from Wall Street comes not only during the crypto winter but at a time when blockchain technology is being called into question as well.

After an overhyped 2017, 2018 left people’s expectations deflated like a helium balloon after a children’s party. Smith told Bloomberg that we were now entering a much more “realistic phase” about what blockchain can and cannot do.

We are leaving the peak of the hype cycle and entering the trough of disillusionment, especially for people who inappropriately applied this technology hoping it would become a panacea for solving all their problems.

From finding a cure to cancer to eradicating corruption in the supply chain, blockchain was the solution. However, it’s becoming clear that while the technology is undoubtedly important, its uses are limited–for the current time.

What Makes Symbiont a Good Bet?

Symbiont’s smart contract platform Assembly allows financial institutions to verify and share data. By using smart contracts, the company aims to make the mortgage bond market more efficient. It also plans to speed up times for syndicated loans.

As well as the backing of Nasdaq, Citi, Novogratz, and Jim Pallotta’s Raptor Group Holdings, Symbiont has also teamed up with Vanguard Group Inc.

This will be an important partnership that will enable investment giant Vanguard to apply blockchain tech to update the index data behind mutual funds.

Symbiont will use the funds to improve their data management process and work on private equity, mortgages, and syndicated loans.

And as for Nasdaq? The world’s second largest stock exchange will be looking into opportunities to capture new clients who want to tokenize assets and use smart contracts through Symbiont’s Assembly platform. Watch this space.

Will this latest cash injection materialize for the Wall Street investors? Share your thoughts below!


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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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