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Report Cites Record Exchange Transaction Volumes in 2018

Report Cites Record Exchange Transaction Volumes in 2018

The latest Diar report shows that 2018 was a record year for cryptocurrency transacting volumes with huge increases across most major exchanges.

The report states that in the US markets, crypto exchanges such as Kraken and Bitfinex led the way in 2018 with increases of 192% and 50% respectively. San Francisco-based giant Coinbase also showed significant trading increases with a rise of 27% over 2017 trading. Coinbase reported a hike in trading from 82.7 million deals over the year to 94.4 million.

However, Diar predicts a drop off in 2019 spot markets to below the 2017 level despite increases of available cryptocurrencies on the market. In terms of mining activity, Bitcoin miner revenues were also on the up, according to the report, earning a huge USD 5.8 billion in 2018. This, despite monthly figures slumping by 83% over the course of the same year.

Diar commented on the changing face of cryptocurrency mining, indicating that many companies have shifted to operating large numbers of small mining pools rather than larger operations, as a protection against attack. The report stated:

“Unknown miners closed December having solved a whopping 22% of the total blocks up from 6% at the start of last year. The Bitcoin network is currently less likely to experience an attack given the fact the BTC.com controlled pools have lost dominance over the network.”

Another significant factor regarding the direction of the market is that high liquidity OTC transactions are finding greater favor among investors compared to physical BTC markets, reflected in Coinbase observing a 20% increase in BTC trade volume during OTC markets hours.

 

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UK Investor Who Lost a Million Still Has Faith in Bitcoin

UK Investor Who Lost a Million Still Has Faith in Bitcoin

It’s a familiar story, but it still hurts for those who have had the same experience as investor Peter McCormack who lost $1 million in the recent bear market. But he has faith.

McCormack claims that he got himself too “caught up in the hype’ during the buoyant and heady cryptocurrency market in 2017. The ex-London advertising agency manager decided that after losing his job in 2016 he’d try investing GBP 5000 (USD 6,400) in Bitcoin.

By the spring of 2017 his modest BTC investment with some extra purchases swelled to $300,000 and like many other investors at this time decided that he was in for the long ride. What happened next in the market is history, of course.

By the end of the year, his portfolio was worth GBP 1.2 million but crashed in January of 2018 wiping out his investments, having traveled and splurged money on dining out, travel, and extravagant family gifts, meanwhile dipping into his BTC throughout 2017.

“I wish I had taken everything out before the bubble burst, I have earned money in the past through hard work and enjoyed it more,” he reflected, adding “Much of my spending was quite frivolous.”

Today McCormack still podcasts and is surprisingly upbeat about Bitcoin, but warns others to be more careful with their money than he was. To him, cryptocurrency remains a “force for good” despite his up and down relationship with the market, particularly, in some undeveloped or war-torn countries where bitcoin and other digital currencies are empowering communities and minorities, he argues.

 

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Sleeping Bitcoin Whales Could Make the Market Splash in 2019

bitcoin, 2019, whales

The early movement in the reactivated dormant Bitcoin (BTC) wallets in 2019 indicate that prices may soon see some bearish movement, according to analysts.

According to Bloomberg’s data analysis compiled from research by a crypto analytics startup — Flipside Crypto, BTC is being transferred from accounts, many of which have not been active between the period of six and thirty months. Research shows that wallets active in the last month represent about 60 percent of total bitcoin in circulation.

Flipside maintains that the active supply of Bitcoin is on the move, leaping 40 percent since the summer of 2018, representing “a big shift” according to Eric Stone, head of data science at the company. Flipside CEO David Balter said this activity is due to long-term holders coming back on board after sitting out the volatile market since 2017. Balter sees that this could continue, with little doubt in his mind that many long term “hodlers” won’t wish to sit on the sidelines for another two years, commenting that there is now, “more potential than usual for price swings.”

Other analysis, compiled in October 2018 when this market trend began, put together by blockchain research firm Chainalysis, reported that only a third of so-called Bitcoin whales were active traders, buying only on price declines, concluding that whales were not responsible for price volatility.

With around 1000 wallet addresses reportedly owning a staggering 85 percent of all bitcoins, the awakening of some of these dormant accounts in the near future could have a significant impact on the Bitcoin price in 2019 and ultimately the entire cryptocurrency market.

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Google Forces Samourai Wallet to Remove Key Security Features

Google Forces Samourai Wallet to Remove Key Security Features

Internet search giant Google has forced Samourai, the privacy-focused Bitcoin wallet, to remove key security features from its app.

Google claims that Samourai risked breaching its so-called unofficial “walled garden” policy which is designed to prevent app manufacturers and designers creating closed systems where the service provider controls all operations in the system including applications, content, and media.

The new app has had to remove three key features in order to continue using Google’s distribution service, Google Play. Stealth mode, SIM switch defense, and remote SMS commands have all been taken down from the app in line with Google’s request. Samourai commented that:

“Users of Samourai might have noticed that they are no longer getting notifications on when they receive Bitcoin. That’s because if you want to use notification services you have to route everything through Google services.”

Despite the enforced changes, Samourai maintains that users are still getting “maximum amounts of privacy” unsurpassed by other Bitcoin wallet apps. However, the company says that it hopes that the decision may be reversed by Google or find a compromise. Developers have promised to re-implement all disabled features.

3/ Features disallowed by Google will be re-implemented as soon as possible, either as workarounds or by other means.

— TDevD aka “Crud”, [No BC.i][No KYC] (@SamouraiDev) January 9, 2019

The removal of “stealth mode” can be an issue as it masks the presence of a Bitcoin wallet on a users mobile device and is, therefore, a security issue. Another missing feature under Google’s instructions, the remote SMS commands, normally ensures that a stolen phone can be wiped via on SMS, thereby protecting user information.

 

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7 South Korean Exchanges Pass Security Inspection Checklist

7 South Korean Exchanges Pass Security Inspection Checklist

The South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT reported yesterday that only seven cryptocurrency exchanges including Upbit, Bithumb, Gopax, Korbit, Coinone, Hanbitco, and Huobi Korea have passed the security inspection checklist.

A survey was conducted by the Ministry of Science and ICT, the Korea Internet & Security Agency and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, during the period of September to December of 2018 to evaluate the security performance of cryptocurrency exchanges in the country.

The inspection covered the following areas: administrative security, operational environment security, network and account security, database & backup security, and wallet security.

Out of 21 cryptocurrency exchanges that were inspected earlier last year for security compliance, only seven passed the improvement recommendation, leaving the remaining 14 labeled as “vulnerable” to one or more of the 85 security checkpoints. “The 14 exchanges are vulnerable to hacking attacks at all times because of poor security,” the ministry said. Moreover, 17 new exchanges that were inspected for the first time, did not meet the cutoff either. This brings the total of exchanges scrutinized to 38.

South Korea is home to over 100 cryptocurrency exchanges and due to the number of security breaches that have led to the loss of millions of dollars of user assets on exchanges, the Korean government decided to carry out a survey to determine the fitness level of these exchanges.

It would seem the agency expects more of this hacks to occur this year, and are prepared to mitigate the severity of the damage if not completely averted through these security inspections. Director of information security policy at the Ministry of Information and Communication Oh Yong-soo said: “This year, cyber attacks targeting encrypted money are expected to continue”. Yet, most of the inspected exchanges “are still vulnerable”, and there a lot more exchanges are out there whose security status is currently unknown.

The South Korean nation has been pulling resources to ensure the standardization of the industry, a part of that effort includes setting up a representative committee to oversee legislation for the industry and suggest possible adaptive measures to national laws. Though leaning on the side of caution, so far, the nation appears to be a friendlier territory for the industry than some other Asian countries.

Last month in Japan, the Financial Services Agency (FSA) reported having received 190 cryptocurrency license applications from exchanges as 2019 approached. Regulation and standardization seem to be the way forward in the industry.

 

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UK Crypto Businesses Boast £200 Million Investments in 2018

UK Crypto Businesses Boast Over £200 Million Investment in 2018

Cryptocurrency businesses in the UK in 2018 broke new ground, raising GBP 200 million (USD 255 million) from venture capital investors, demonstrating the health of the industry despite the market downturn last year.

As for current concerns regarding a no-deal Brexit in the UK, Chancellor Philip Hammond‘s forecast last year that the UK could see an 87.7% hit to GDP and a GBP 80 billion black hole in public finances in a no-deal scenario holds no concern for many cryptocurrency experts moving forward towards D-day.

Mike Romanov, chief executive of Digital Securities Exchange (DSX), sees Brexit as a further way of the UK establishing its own rules for cryptocurrency trading which will push the sector forward, arguing, “Britain is already looking at how it can maintain its dominance in financial services post Brexit, even as some major players abandon ship ahead of March next year.”

Last year saw the world’s leading full-service blockchain technology company Bitfury launching its series A funding, raising GBP 61 million; this compared to 2016 where crypto companies combined in the UK received GBP 51.96 million, a figure which dropped GBP 19.11 million in 2017.

The figures were released as part of a recent report published by Pitchbook and London & Partners, which also revealed that London was way ahead of other European capitals such as Berlin, Paris or Stockholm. London’s Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, commented:

“These figures demonstrate that London is going from strength to strength as a global hub for technology, innovation, and creativity. The fantastic success of our tech sector is rooted in our city’s openness and our diverse, international talent pool.”

He went to assure the industry that regardless of Brexit, whatever the outcome on 29 March, London is still open for crypto business and new technology. Kay Swinburne, a member of the European Parliament for Wales, echoed these thoughts, suggesting the need to stay relevant in embracing blockchain technology, thereby remaining a major European hub for business.

 

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90-Year-Old Hong Kong Billionaire “Superman” Backs Bakkt

90-Year-Old Hong Kong Billionaire

The owner of venture capital firm Horizon Ventures, Li Ka-shing, has become the latest proponent of cryptocurrency platform Bakkt investing heavily in Bitcoin. Bitcoin backers abound around the world but experience wise with his 90 years, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, known affectionally as Superman, is way up there.

The Bakkt project has delayed its launch twice in a row with a timeline now set for early 2019, in line with CFTC’s process and timeline.

Bakkt has already announced its successful first seed funding round of USD 182 million with 14 investors and partners listed to have participated. Intercontinental Exchange, Goldfinch Partners, Boston Consulting Group, Microsoft’s Venture Capital arm and Pantera Capital were among participants.

Li, who is said to be worth about USD 34.9 billion, has made some major forays into the cryptocurrency space late in his business career, including Bitpay in 2013 and Blockstream in 2016, through his company Horizon Ventures. Bitpay also attracted another “Superman”, British Virgin entrepreneur Sir Richard Branston, who also put about USD 30 million of his money into the Bitcoin payment service provider headquartered in Atlanta.

The Bakkt Bitcoin platform, which is being developed with New York Stock Exchange owner Intercontinental Exchange, Starbucks, and Microsoft, will offer Bitcoin futures trading once the launch date has been announced, opening up the opportunity for users to buy, sell, store and spend cryptocurrencies through MS Cloud. Global coffee chain Starbucks will allow customers to convert Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to US dollars to make purchases in their stores.

 

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Thai Crypto Regulation Makes Progress as 4 Crypto Businesses Get Licenses

Thai Crypto Regulation Makes Progress as 4 Crypto Businesses Get Licenses

The SEC in Thailand announced that the Ministry of Finance has granted licenses to four crypto businesses out of seven applications under review to operate in the country under the Emergency Degree on Digital Asset Businesses B.E. 2561 (2018).

Prior to this development, the seven crypto-related businesses were granted provisional rights to operate under the Emergency Decree on Digital Asset Businesses B.E. 2561 (2018), while their license applications were being reviewed.

Per the announcement, three of the crypto ventures that were granted the license were exchanges while the fourth is a digital asset broker. The four are Bitcoin Exchange Co Ltd, Bitkub Online Co Ltd, Satang Corporation and Coins TH Co Ltd.

Two exchange license requests from Cash2coin Co Ltd and Southeast Asia Digital Exchange Co Ltd were rejected on the grounds of failing to meet the approval criteria with respect to important work systems. These included “systems for custody of client assets and Know Your Customer (KYC) were inconsistent with the SEC’s acceptable standards, while the sufficiency of their IT security and cybersecurity systems could not be verified”.

As a result of the rejection, the financial regulator is granting Cash2coin and SEADEX a deadline of 14 January 2019 to cease all business operations which was previously accorded under temporal arrangements according to the transitional provisions of the Emergency Decree. The SEC, however, mentioned that the rejected applicants can still apply in the future provided they meet the criteria for the application.

One more application from Coin Asset Co Ltd is still under review by the board due to organizational changes in its executive board. However, the SEC noted that the business may proceed with its normal business operation.

Asia as a whole has a rather unequivocal voice when it comes to the stance on crypto. While some are making efforts to accommodate the emerging technology and seeking for a compromise, others are clamping down hard on the industry.

Thailand’s crypto industry frequented the news in 2018; highlights included stern regulations which came down hard on operators and promoters in the country. Recently, it has been found to incline towards the advancement of the industry with a more considerate regulatory framework.

Last year, Thai finance minister Apisak Tantivorawong said the new law was “necessary to comprehensively regulate cryptocurrencies and digital tokens to prevent money laundering, tax avoidance and crime”.

Moreover, over 50 ICO projects and 20 cryptocurrency exchanges had filed for a license to operate their businesses in the region in August 2018, which in turn was indicative of the high interest in digital assets. The Thai SEC secretary general said that “digital assets and cryptocurrency trading in the Thai market are quite active”.

The country has also indicated an interest in applying blockchain technology to its economy. The Director General of Thailand’s Revenue Department Ekniti Nitithanprapas has said that blockchain and machine learning will be utilized in tax avoidance probes.

 

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Ukraine National Bank Blames Over-Regulation for Stifled Crypto Growth

Ukraine National Bank Says Over-Regulation Preventing Crypto Growth

A National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) official has called for a hands-off approach to cryptocurrency regulation in the Central European nation, claiming that over-regulation is stunting industry growth.

Mikhail Vidyaking, the head of Strategies and Reforms Department at NBU has charged that laws need to be sensibly implemented with an aim to promote the growth of the cryptocurrency industry. Clear definition, according to him, is another problem, with numerous regulators overseeing the industry without any real guidelines.

Vidyaking feels that Ukraine’s banks will be far more likely to come on board with cryptocurrency services with clear guidance and less regulation coming from Kiev. These views follow the central government’s announcement that Ukraine will fully legitimize cryptocurrencies in two stages within the next three years with full regulation for providers and custodial platforms by 2021.

It appears that the government in Kiev is beginning to heed the calls from the industry, including such bodies as the National Cybersecurity Coordination in Kiev, where concerns for the future of Ukraine’s crypto industry have been aired.

The main regulatory body in Ukraine is the FSC who is responsible for assessing and minimizing risk in the country’s national financial sector. The council comprises of the Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, the Minister of Finance, heads of the National Securities and Stock Market Commission and the National Commission for State Regulation of Financial Services Markets and Managing Director of the Deposit Guarantee Fund.

Ukraine’s current crypto trade stands at USD 775 million a year; any review of legislation in favor of cryptocurrency users is certain to give the industry its long-awaited stability.

 

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Winklevoss Twins Reaffirm Commitment to Bitcoin ETF

Winklevoss Twins Reaffirms Commitment to Making Bitcoin ETF a Reality

The Winklevoss twins have renewed their commitment to bring about the first Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the US. This happened during an Ask Me Anything (AMA) event on Reddit yesterday, the first organized by them since 2015 – around the same time their Gemini crypto trading platform was launched.

In the past year, many investors were overwhelmed by the downtrend in the cryptocurrency markets and focused more on price measures to determine success. However, in the midst of misrepresentation of valued propositions, companies were making progress in their development timeline. One such company was Gemini.

According to Cameron, 2018 was a banner year, as the company was able to hit major milestones and considered it a successful growth period for the industry.

Though Bitcoin – the flagship cryptocurrency and the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization – had suffered a hit and dropped by approximately 81.98% during 2018, the twins are still confident that the cryptocurrency is “most likely the winner in the long term… Bitcoin is certainly the OG crypto”.

During the AMA session, a Reddit user asked the twins about their previous bullish speculation price of USD 40,000 for Bitcoin in the last AMA, to which Tyler responded saying:

“Our thesis around Bitcoin’s upside remains unchanged. We believe Bitcoin is better at being gold than gold. If we’re right, then over time the market cap of Bitcoin will surpass the [approximate] 7 trillion-dollar market cap of gold.”

For the take-home, the twins did leave the attendees a hint of what cryptocurrency in the future should look like: “Success is a future where the internet looks dramatically different than it does today (i.e., decentralized and open) and your money does things that your current money cannot do (i.e., it works like your email).”

In another response, Cameron said: “I can see a future where everything (including fiat) is crypto (e.g., Gemini dollar).”

With respect to derivative markets like the ETF, the twins said they understand the regulator’s concerns as related to “increased marketplace surveillance”, and are currently taking steps to address those concerns through inclusive surveillance on their platform.

Moreover, they said that efforts are geared towards making cryptocurrency safe and clear of all stigma: “Marketplace Surveillance is commonplace in equities and derivatives markets — so we aren’t re-inventing the wheel here, just bringing best practices into crypto.” They further reassured that they were “committed as ever to making an ETF a reality”.

The Winklevoss twins are not the only ones motivated by crypto adoption. During the past weeks, institutional investment portals have been making appearances, with the likes of Coinfloor’s CoinFLEX, Overstock’s securities trading platform tZERO’s patent, Japan’s Bitcoin ETF, and imminent Bakkt all hitting the headlines.

 

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