Category Archives: digital currency

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Ethereum Founder and Coinbase CEO See Positive Growth in Crypto

Joe Lubin, co-founder of Ethereum, has commented that the fall in recent cryptocurrency prices is no constraint to future positive market growth.

The comments were made in an interview with Bloomberg yesterday when the ConsenSys CEO indicated that the big picture was the relevant factor for investors, and not to focus on “pimples on a chart” as he put it, referring the peaks and troughs of Bitcoin prices.

He spoke of the “bubble” factor, suggesting that each of the six major events has always bought a surge of activity. He argues:

“…we build more fundamental infrastructure, we see a correction, and the potential gets even more impressive… I absolutely expect that there is a strong correlation between the rise in price and the growth of fundamental infrastructure in the ecosystem and the growth of development in the ecosystem. We are probably two orders of magnitude bigger as a developer community than we were eight or ten months ago.”

The current market trend should be expected, Lubin suggests. He argues that much of the current volatility has to be put down to investor speculation rather than flaws in the underlying technology, suggesting that cryptocurrencies were very much still on the right positive trajectory. Regarding his own case as a CEO, he said:

“So we can look at the price and make growth plans and projections, and we’re still on track, basically. So this is not unexpected.”

Lubin added that each value surge over the past years indicated that the current situation is just like the last “six big bubbles, each more epic than the previous one, and each bubble is astonishing when they’re happening”.

In other news, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong has revealed that the company signed up 50,000 new customers a day last year and on Tuesday reflected Lubin’s view that the general trend is positive, suggesting:

“This technology is going through a series of bubbles and corrections, and each time it does that, it’s at a new plateau… People’s expectations are all over the map, but real-world adoption has been going up.”

At time of press, Bitcoin is currently trading at USD 6,429, up 6.47% on 24-hr trading. Ethereum is trading at USD 285, up by 6.93% on 24-hr trade.

 

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South Korea Plans Special Crypto Zone Status for Jeju Island

The South Korean island of Jeju sees itself as a potential crypto haven and has requested that the government allows it special crypto zone status.

The island’s governor made the request at a meeting with Kim Dong-yeon, Korea’s finance minister and deputy prime minister for the economy, and other government officials in an attempt to place the island at the forefront of South Korea’s crypto economy.

Jeju Province, officially Jeju Self-Governing Province, is one of the nine provinces of South Korea. According to Wikipedia, the province is situated on and conterminous with the nation’s largest island of Jeju, formerly transliterated as Cheju, Cheju Do, etc., or known as Quelpart to Europeans.

Governor Won Hee-ryong proposes making the island a hub for the development of blockchain and cryptocurrency technology and has requested that the South Korean government form a panel of specialists to plan a strategy to boost its blockchain profile. At a meeting last week, the governor commented:

“For Korea to become a leader rather than a consumer of this new global industry, we need to quickly allow [the operation of] blockchain and cryptocurrency [firms].”

The request comes on the heels of a statement by central government on Monday that it plans to spend USD 4.4 million on eight tech sectors it regards as critical, citing self-driving cars and smart factories, with an emphasis on blockchain, big data, and artificial intelligence. This spending could increase to KRW 10 trillion over the next five years according to Kim Dong-yeon. If these reports are accurate, then the government would need to train 10,000 specialists to service these new projects.

The ministry said, “The measures will help facilitate the platform economy, which in turn will help speed up innovative growth.”

It appears that the request by Jeju may not be an accident coming so quickly after the government statement of extra funds targeting new technology. Governor Won’s desire to create “Jeju Free International City” is very much in keeping with the government’s drive towards regulating blockchain so that becomes fit for purpose, freeing up current restrictions.

Moves towards deregulating ICOs in South Korea is never far from the crypto news in the Asian techno hub, with announcements in June that Korea’s Financial Convergence Association had plans to build its own blockchain hub.

A startup fund is planned for the end of 2018 with Seoul talking the talk, promising that it plans to use “drastic measures to ease regulations that have been blocking new industries and technologies from moving forward”.

 

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Venezuela Central Crypto Bank Next as IMF Predicts Million Percent Hyperinflation

It has been reported that there are new plans afoot for a Venezuelan central bank cryptocurrency along with a “superior court to the Supreme Court of Justice”.

According to Venezuela National Constituent Assembly member Hermann Escarra, the government is preparing to change the constitution to allow for the new crypto bank.

Venezuela’s crisis has steadily worsened as a result of lower oil prices, corruption, and a mismanaged socialist system, experiencing all but a total collapse of the economy, public services, security, and healthcare. In February, Venezuela launched its own Petro cryptocurrency backed by the country’s oil reserves.

Shopping bags made of the national currency the bolivar (VEF) are now being made in order to transport the notes, and a cup of coffee costs around VEF 2.2 million (around USD 0.50 at black market rates). For the same price, you can fill a small SUV with petrol almost 9,000 times.

The government continues to print money at an alarming rate with a current inflation rate of over 25,000%. The IMF predicts hyperinflation in Venezuela will reach a staggering one million per cent by the end of this year at the current rate, although this has been refuted as ludicrous by some economists. Economic meltdown and a recent assassination attempt on President Maduro just this weekend continue to paint a grim future for the South American oil-rich giant.

It is uncertain if a cryptocurrency-based central bank can do anything to help to at least alleviate some of the country’s extreme financial problems, particularly as the Petro has so far made little impact. It looks very much as though Venezuela has reached the “try anything” stage. Nonetheless, Escarra divulged the latest plan on Thursday:

“The National Constituent Assembly of Venezuela… is preparing a reform to the Constitution that would include a central bank for crypto-assets and a superior court to the Supreme Court of Justice… the draft changes to the Constitution will be presented in 35 days to the board of the Constituent Assembly.”

Maduro’s new “Bolivar Soberano” which is linked to the Petro is also ready for release on 20 August.

 

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Spanish Political Coalition Calls for Regulatory Body to Explore Crypto

Spanish coalition party Unidos Podemos is proposing a body to oversee the implementation of blockchain technology and crypto regulation in the country.

The coalition formed from left-wing parties Podemos, United Left, Equo and smaller parties has suggested the move in order to study the benefits of blockchain and implement its use in public administration in the country as well as explore its industrial potential.

Under the last administration, then Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was suggesting possible tax breaks in order to create a more favorable environment for potential blockchain investment. Although Spain’s new prime minister Pedro Sánchez has promised to raise taxation on companies and increase public spending, so far, his views on new technologies such as blockchain and cryptocurrency still remain unclear.

Alberto Montero, the deputy of the political alliance, has presented the plan to Spain’s lower house as he sees blockchain significantly boosting security levels for social and economic transactions, suggesting that blockchain has “enormous potential”.

Regarding cryptocurrencies, the alliance is looking at examining current regulation for the use of digital currencies in Spain. Many of the major currencies are described by Podemos as being “located in a grey area of regulation”.

Podemos is not the only party looking at the adoption blockchain in government, as members of the current ruling party Partido Popular (People’s Party) had proposed a similar bill, although it now remains to be seen if this position is taken up by prime minister Sánchez as that proposal was made with Rajoy at the political helm before his departure in June of this year.

The current position is that Spanish Congress supports a draft regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies in theory. The Partido Popular’s original suggestion is that the state cooperates with the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) and the Bank of Spain to coordinate its position on cryptocurrency in line with EU guidelines.

 

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Crypto Hedge Funds Face Tax Uncertainty

With US government scrutiny focusing in on cryptocurrencies, hedge funds face tense uncertainty due to the unclear tax regulations regarding digital currency assets.

Trying to play by the rules

With billions of dollars on the line, cryptocurrency hedge fund managers face a challenge when trying to fully comply with tax laws just as individual investors do. Their jobs required them to maximize profits while minimizing liabilities, but with few guidelines regulating their holdings, there is a lack of direction for this to take place in a fully legal manner.

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is attempting to keep up with the pace of innovation with regulations, last month announcing that the large business and international division would focus on cryptocurrency audits in the coming year. Bigger tax bills and penalties have been threatened by the government department when the rules come in.

Clay Littlefield, a tax attorney for Alston & Bird in Charlotte, North Carolina, told Forbes that there is indeed a lot of uncertainty considering how the IRS will treat cryptocurrencies in the near future. Littlefield acknowledged that while there is plenty of analogies that can be placed on circumstances, there is not a lot of solid legal framework for investors to reference.

Why the lack of clarity?

There are several key factors that have contributed to this uncertain climate. Most crucially, regulatory bodies such as the IRS have been slow in laying out their full positions on digital currency.

Karl Walli, senior counsel at the Treasury Department’s office of tax policy earlier this year told tax professionals there is a ”long list” of issues the IRS needs to address, adding that planned new tax laws would increase the efficiency of comprehending all these problems. Walli said: “There’s no way in this environment that we’re going to be able to put out guidance on the majority of those issues.”

In 2014, the IRS settled on considering crypto as property, not currency, meaning that investors, miners and those earning wages in Bitcoin would be required to report profits and losses as is required with property. The market was dominated at this time by small investors; hedge funds trading in cryptocurrency has created problematic issues for the concept of crypto as property which has yet to be addressed.

Ultimately, funds may well end up owing more in taxes than their current estimations, dependent on the IRS’s decision.  David Shakow, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania Law School assumes that the lack of guidance right now may well provide a solid defense for hedge funds, regardless of future implementations.

For now, however, offshore tax havens such as the Cayman Islands have begun to attract big investors looking to avoid the necessity of following the unclear US tax regulation, although operations investing in cryptocurrencies for a foreign investor have not yet been legitimized by the IRS as non-taxable by the US.

 

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Could Wall Street Banks Become Crypto Custody Specialists?

Wall Street banks are slowly beginning to consider crypto custody as another mainstream service.

This, despite the occasional dig at crypto from the big players on Wall Street such as Goldman Sachs recent “cryptocurrency mania” comment last week citing it as one of the top risks for the market, even though the very same bank is dipping into Bitcoin derivatives on behalf of its fund manager clients.

The above service offered by Goldman Sachs may well be client-driven but behind the usual anti-crypto spin, a different picture can be detected after a bit of surface scratching. The Financial Times suggests that “trendy young crypto-types” are the new kids on the Wall Street financial block, although what crypto-related products will come from these young brains is still to be revealed. However, the trend is very much toward research and crypto is the name on the tip of everyone’s tongues.

Analysts are suggesting that the new frontier on Wall Street could well be cryptocurrency assets custody; looking after customer’s cryptocurrency funds. At the back of this are fees, another way the bank can make money out of cryptocurrency without dabbling themselves. In this way, billions of dollars held in custody by the banks can be another payday for the big names on Wall Street.

Recent Bitcoin News reports have illustrated some of the problems of safe storage of cryptocurrency assets, which vary in degrees of complexity from multiple vaults with random back up keys to Swiss Bunkers carved into the sides of mountains. Thus, there is clearly scope for bank intervention on behalf of clients.

Reportedly, forerunners in this new race are New York City-based ItBit, Gemini and more lately Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan now lining up to offer their services. Others are Japanese broker Nomara and notably the Swiss Stock Exchange part-owned by the 130-bank SIX group conglomerate.

Sam Mcingvale, San Francisco-based head of Coinbase Custody suggest that his company is joining the custody fray with plans to cold-store USD 5 billion of institutional crypto assets by the end 2018. Customers need these services, he argues:

“People were saying: “Hey, we’re already holding Bitcoin with you, we trust you, but we need more; we need a regulatory component, we need monthly statements, we need a different type of insurance.”

 

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Nigeria to Launch State-Backed Blockchain Hub in African Crypto Surge

A new Nigerian blockchain hub is being launched by the government in conjunction with a UK blockchain firm.

The popularity of Bitcoin in Africa continues to grow, enabled by the presence of a greater number of cryptocurrency exchange platforms. There are benefits to cryptocurrency ownership that are unique to the continent of Africa, many devolving from the widespread unstable economic conditions.

Google searches reveal that , Nigeria and South Africa are frantically searching online when it comes down to cryptocurrency and Bitcoin. Many nationals fall foul of inflation and hyperinflation, resulting in weak and unstable financial systems.

Recently, countries such as Zimbabwe, South Sudan, and oil-rich Nigeria have all suffered, many of these countries with inflation rates well into the hundreds of percentages. In these situations, it is hardly surprising that the people look to a more stable form of a monetary solution in their daily lives.

Lady Victoria Walker, CEO of the United Digital Currency Reserve Foundation and UK based fintech entrepreneur feels that new technologies such as blockchain and cryptocurrency are essential factors in empowering African leaders to inject growth and financial inclusivity into their economies. She argues:

“Bitcoin is a reality. We have all major world governments scrambling to make sense of it and world leaders sharing their views on the currency. For the past 700 years, our world has relied on the European legacy banking system for means of payments and transactions. Bitcoin is definitely challenging the traditional way when it comes to the transfer of value. Just like the internet changed how we shop, bank, date and find information.”

Nigeria is looking to this kind of future with its new Africa Blockchain Lab in the Kaduna area, designed to create blockchain growth through crypto solutions across the region. The state-backed blockchain hub project between KAD ICT Hub and the British crypto firm Coinfirm wants to stake its claim as a societal changer with latter’s AMLT network offering rewards to Nigerians reporting Cyber Crime and other illegal activity online.

The Africa Blockchain Lab, launched last week has promised to offer financial inclusion to many Nigerians who are excluded from the country’s financial system and also attract new startups as part of the country’s drive to support the adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies in the continent.

As Lady Walker suggested, an understanding and deployment of bitcoin can kickstart the financial growth in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

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Malta Makes Huge ICO Funding Gains as Crypto Investment Funds Rise in 2018

New crypto funds are continuing to open despite a falling market and apprehension over ETF decisions, according to the latest analysis from Crypto Fund Research.

With things seeming to go well for crypto funds, collectively amassing $7.1 billion, they still lag behind traditional hedge funds, with most of the institutional investment managers playing a wait and see scenario. Cryptocurrencies’ next big hurdle, now that digital currencies are very much out there in the financial sector, is to start encouraging institutional investment on a larger scale.

It is thought that 2018 will see more crypto hedge funds arrive on the scene, which is on target to reach 165, nine more than in 2017. Statistics show that until July 31 of this year, there were 96 new crypto hedge funds and venture capital funds with more than half of those existing today being launched in the past 18 months.

There are currently 466 crypto funds across the globe with San Francisco, New York, Singapore and London topping the list for 2018 launches. In addition, Austin, Dallas, Hong Kong, Philadelphia, San Diego, Tokyo, and Zug are not far behind in terms of multiple launches of crypto hedge funds and capital ventures since January this year.

In terms of ICOs, launches have also accelerated this year to date, also seemingly undeterred by a bear market. However, 50 percent of all projects in 2018 have failed to raise more than £100,000. This low figure was put down to investors concerns about scams

Service tokens accounted for 42 percent of new ICOs, but utility tokens attracted the most funding at $22 million per project, followed by crypto tokens at an average of $7 million.

Another hurdle for new ICOs remains that problem of getting projects listed on exchanges, which has become an increasingly lengthy process. The number of projects that managed to get listed in the shortest possible time fell by 22 percent this year, due in part to tougher exchange requirements and new regulatory demands.

In overall terms, 2018 has been 10 times better than the previous year for ICOs, according to a market status report published by ETF on August 8, with more money being raised and more ICOs being launched in the second quarter of the year.

A notable fact coming out of the report is that small nations are winning in terms of making the largest gains, with Malta, Gibraltar, and Singapore coming out on top. Malta raised an average of £119 million, almost twice the funds raised by second on the list Gibraltar. Other statistics show that although it is clearly European nations that are making the largest gains in terms of overall fundraising, North America is still the crypto giant at $4.98 billion with 116 projects, a huge 65 percent of all the funding raised. Europe came in second at $1.12 billion, with Asia coming in third with $751 million.

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Singapore VC Firm to Launch $10 Million Crypto Fund, Follows Blockchain Investment Trend

Singapore-based Venture Capital firm Golden Gate Ventures is to launch a $10 million fund targetting crypto and blockchain start-ups that use innovative DLT, in what appears to be a growing investment trend.

Golden Gate Ventures will call the fund LuneX Ventures and will be funded primarily by high net worth individuals. The main focus of LuneX investment will be aimed at early-stage companies such as cryptocurrency exchanges and cybersecurity providers

The LuneX fund becomes the first such fund, set up by a traditional markets company in the region. Head of Growth at Golden Gate, Kenrick Drijkoningen, who is heading the project sees the recent downturn in the cryptocurrency markets as no hurdle to success. He points out:

“Despite the fact that public markets are down, the amount of talent that’s moving into this space is exciting. There are young entrepreneurs who are passionate about this space and want to build an ecosystem.”

One of these is Tushar Aggarwal, host of the Decrypt Asia podcast, who is to collaborate on the new project. Drijkoningen himself points out that the project is planned for the long-term and that the invested capital would be spread through a range of areas including ICO’s and previously-existing cryptos, along with investments into other crypto and blockchain products. Currently, about half a dozen deals are reportedly in the pipeline

The talk of a blockchain revolution, a term cited frequently over the past months, would certainly include such projects as these involve crypto custody and banking. Such blockchain investment funds are growing in popularity as traditional investors seek to make inroads into blockchain and crypto by another route to get ahead of the rush if it happens.

The recent Chinese venture in Nanjing sparked the new term “blockchain revolution” as the country appears to have ramped up its support for blockchain technologies with a CNY 10 billion (USD 1.48 billion) investment fund, focusing primarily on the public blockchain projects. The new fund was announced and reported to be formed by the district government of Jiangbei — new area in Nanjing city and the Beijing-based Zhongguancun Blockchain Industry Alliance, a cooperative alliance between blockchain companies and government research institutes.

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Survey: 50% of Americans Would Give Bitcoin a Try

A poll by analytics firm Harris Insights and cryptocurrency startup Gem has come up with some interesting results, one of which indicates that out of 2000 who participated in the survey,  50% of Americans would like to try out Bitcoin.

Another suggested that Americans with lower incomes are more likely to buy the flagship currency. Millennials came high up on the list of investors as numerous surveys conducted over the past year have already shown. Micah Winkelspecht of Gem commented on the “millennial factor”:

“We find that younger people with less income are more willing to put money in crypto. […] My guess is that crypto is of the digital age. And the younger generation is of the digital age and used to doing everything on the internet.”

The number of investors from lower incomes almost doubled that buying in the higher income bracket. Those Americans owning some cryptocurrencies earning between $50,000 and $74,900 per year was 11 percent, dropping to just six percent amongst higher earners of over $100,000 per year.

Bitcoin News has published a number of reports this year which illustrate the tendency of Millennials to withdraw from traditional finance options towards digital currencies such as Bitcoin. Kari Paul of MarketWatch commented recently:

“Over 82% of millennials say their investment decisions were influenced by the Great Recession when $14 trillion in wealth was lost…Millennials regard the stock market with skepticism. People between the ages of 18 and 39 are less likely to invest money in the stock market than are other generations, studies show.”

Across the Atlantic, in the UK, another recent survey suggested that far more education was needed about cryptocurrencies. The survey revealed that although up to 3 million people have invested in Bitcoin in the country through online trading platforms, many went in with virtually no knowledge about virtual currencies citing 2.5 million investors making commitments without fully understanding cryptocurrency.

An interesting survey finding has suggested that in the UK, in fact, as many as 31% would be happy to have at least some portion of their earnings paid in Bitcoin. Of the 1,000 respondents, 37% said that they would go for between 1-20% in digital pay and the rest in fiat.

The polls alone are not the whole picture, but when examined together do begin to show current cryptocurrency trends, most of which are favourable for the industry at this time of crypto volatility, given that they have all been conducted in recent months.

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