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31. 07/01/2019 12:38
Back Above $4K: Bitcoin’s Price Hits a Two-Week High

The price of bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, jumped 6.5 percent Sunday to rise back above $4,000, its highest point in two weeks.

CoinDesk data shows bitcoin’s (BTC) price spiked $262 on Monday at 17:10 UTC to $4,063, a move accompanied by a large injection of volume.

At press time, bitcoin is up 5.95 percent over the last seven days, regaining losses seen toward the end of December.

Bitcoin’s market capitalization has also risen substantially, up $4 billion on the day to $70.73 billion, its highest point since Dec. 25. The move signals an expansion beyond the yearly low of $3,650 and an opportunity for the bulls to push higher this week, based on current price action and momentum.

Still, bitcoin is just one of many cryptocurrencies enjoying strong upside momentum with litecoin (LTC), NEO (NEO) and Cardano (ADA) leading the top 25, up 12.16, 10.6 and 9.11 percent respectively.

The total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies is up $6.1 billion from yesterday’s top of $132 billion and is currently sitting just above $138.1 billion CoinMarketCap data shows.

32. 06/01/2019 20:44
The False Promise Blockchains Will Revolutionize Real-World Assets

In 2018, as cryptocurrency prices declined, the corporate-blockchain-marketing machine continued to hum unabated. Corporates continued to issue press releases about their “world-first” blockchain implementations that were going to solve the world’s greatest challenges.

Here’s the thing. If you lived at the time of Alexander Graham Bell and heard about a new invention that promised to radically transform communication, you would be forgiven for thinking that the telephone may have been the solution to your communication problems in marriage. While the telephone did indeed change the face of communication globally, it did nothing to address marital communication problems.

Such is the state of the blockchain promise today: It’s a powerful tool, but probably not for what you think.

We’ve been told that blockchain technology will get rid of the need for trust in the world. We won’t have to trust corrupt governments, greedy corporations or rigged electoral systems. Everything from deeds offices to supply chains to voting systems to identity will be revolutionized, ensuring we never have to trust another untrustworthy human being, institution or government ever again.

This is a pipe dream that is unsubstantiated and misleading.

A digital revolution

Blockchain technology is powerful, but its domain is the digital world, not the physical one.

More specifically, blockchains reduce the need for trusted intermediaries for digitally-native assets that are born, live and potentially die exclusively on a blockchain. Cryptocurrencies are a good example. Their existence and ownership is defined by entries on a blockchain which serve as the source of truth for these digitally-native assets.

No reconciliations with other databases nor the physical world is needed. Whatever the blockchain says is truth for these digital assets.

But for assets in the physical world, this is not the case. Let’s take property as an example. There are several problems with using blockchain technology for this use case. A feature of blockchain technology is the emergence of the digital bearer instrument. This means that if you are in possession of a private key, you are the owner of the asset at the corresponding public address on a particular blockchain and are entitled to spend or transfer the asset as you please.

This also means that if you lose the private key, you have lost ownership of the asset.

This is all part of the “censorship resistance” property of blockchains that will supposedly eliminate trust in untrustworthy people or institutions.

Don’t forget databases

So, if a country did decide to move all properties onto a blockchain (let’s leave aside the question of which blockchain would be used, who would run the nodes, what the consensus algorithm would be, and who would maintain and upgrade the software/protocol as required), what would happen if you lost the private key to your home?

Would this somehow mean you no longer owned it and that you could no longer sell it?

Surely there would have to be a process for you to reclaim your “lost” home. And if this process involved appealing to a central authority to reinstate your rightful claim to your home, then what would be the point of a supposedly immutable database that could be overridden by a central authority?

Furthermore, if a central authority could reinstate your claim to your home, that would certainly open up the possibility of a corrupt official “reinstating” your home to someone else.

What of the scenario where squatters take possession of your land? Holding the private key won’t magically evict them from the land and enforce property rights that have become a hallmark of well-functioning economies. You’ll need to either take matters into your own hands to persuade or coerce the squatters to leave your land, or you’ll have to appeal to an executive force that you trust to enforce your rights to the land.

Once again, if you need to trust a government to enforce your rights, then surely you should be able to trust them to run a database? On the topic of hard forks, what happens to physical property that is represented on a blockchain when a hard fork occurs? There are now two tokens on two separate chains representing a single property in the real world.

This would potentially lead to conflict, unless of course a central authority decides how to resolve such a situation, which renders a decentralized blockchain redundant. And if a hard fork can’t occur because the blockchain is run by a central authority on a distributed ledger, then a regular database would suffice.

It would be cheaper and more efficient to run. A blockchain wouldn’t be required.

Several countries over the last few years such as Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, Sweden and others have made announcements about how they intend to use blockchain technology to manage their land registries. While some of these projects are still in “research” or “testing” phases, others have issued public comments that they have “stalled.”

A clearer focus

We should expect more to head in this direction in 2019. Land registries are just one example of the false promise that blockchain technology will revolutionize industries based in the physical world.

The fact is that we will never be able to completely get rid of the reconciliation between the physical and digital worlds (at least given current and foreseeable technologies).

We live in a physical world and when digital tokens that represent physical assets (e.g., art pieces, bananas, cars, diamonds, houses, etc.) are issued on a blockchain, there is a need to verify that these digital tokens are in fact backed by the physical assets they claim to represent. It is, however, impractical and economically inefficient for each person to verify this for him or herself. The need for verification reintroduces the need for a trusted intermediary. Blockchains or distributed ledgers won’t get rid of this trust.

Today everyone knows what communication problems a telephone solves and which ones it doesn’t.

Let’s hope it’s not much longer before the world understands what problems a blockchain solves and which ones it doesn’t.

33. 05/01/2019 10:25
Stablecoin Issuers May Need Licenses in Texas, Unlike Most Crypto Startups

Stablecoins may qualify as “money” under Texas law, according to updated guidance from the state Department of Banking.

A memo published Wednesday by Texas Banking Commissioner Charles Cooper outlines how cryptocurrencies are to be treated under local and federal regulations, in particular adding details of how stablecoins backed by sovereign, or fiat, currencies may be assessed.

The guidance builds upon a previous memo released by the state in 2014, which described how cryptocurrency companies with operations in Texas should treat the nascent asset class.

As in the previous version, Cooper notes that cryptocurrencies are not treated as money under Texas law, and exchanging cryptocurrencies for fiat does not count as “currency exchange.” As such, startups do not need to acquire currency exchange licenses to conduct transactions – making the Lone Star State one of the nation’s most permissive.

However, in the revised version Cooper adds that stablecoins may fall under existing definitions of “money” or “monetary value,” and therefore anyone who purchases the stablecoin has a claim to the sovereign currency assets underlying the tokens they possess.

This is “because the issuer has taken on the obligation to provide sovereign currency in exchange for the stablecoin at a later time,” Cooper writes.

Warning to comply

The document specifically outlines Texas banking policy on different forms of crypto transactions, including crypto-to-crypto exchanges and crypto-to-fiat exchanges. The document also outlines how directly transferring cryptocurrencies from one party to another does not qualify as money transmission.

It further adds:

“In contrast, because a sovereign-backed stablecoin may be considered money or monetary value under the Money Services Act, receiving it in exchange for a promise to make it available at a later time or different location may be money transmission.”

Whether a stablecoin issuer or exchange actually owes a holder fiat currency may be dependent on analysis, however.

Cooper concludes his memo by warning exchanges and other startups that they must comply with relevant laws, particularly if they conduct money transmission.

34. 04/01/2019 22:06
Falling Crypto Prices Aren’t Stopping Real Blockchain Progress

Plunging cryptocurrency values in 2018 and the collapse of the money-for-nothing white paper market in initial coin offerings (ICOs) took much of the focus last year for many people when it came to blockchain mindshare.

All of that marketplace drama, however, concealed an enormous amount of real progress for the technology that will, slowly but surely, lay the foundation for a robust revival of the blockchain markets in the future.

Over the last year, the market did provide lots of drama related to ICOs. Nearly a quarter of all the ICOs from 2017 lost most of their value, and the market as a whole declined by nearly two- thirds.

The first half of 2018 was no better. There were nearly 1,000 ICOs every month, but only 5% of them raised more than $1 million – with one, EOS, raising around $4 billion.

Not only did the bulk of the money raised go to a very small number of the ICOs, but nearly every aspect of the world of blockchain also became more consolidated and, dare I say, centralized, in 2018 – rather counterintuitive for blockchain, since decentralization is at its core.

Public blockchains consolidate

According to a study by EY that examined the ICOs’ progress and investment returns, ethereum, which is the dominant platform and shows the highest activity among developers and on social media, became even more dominant, with more than 95% of all ICOs and funds raised.

The market for exchanges consolidated rapidly as well, with 73% of daily trading volume in the first half of the year taken by the top 10 exchanges. Though the full-year numbers are yet to be updated, that trend seems set to continue.

The biggest exchanges are consolidating their positions in part by rapidly maturing their processes and approach to regulatory compliance. Know-your-customer procedures are being tightened and many of the big exchanges are, or soon will be, audited by some of the major financial services organizations (EY included). These same exchanges have been beefing up their security as well, with fewer large-scale thefts in 2018 than in 2017.

Another big trend last year in the world of public blockchains was the surge in popularity of stablecoins of all kinds, mostly based on fiat currencies. While stablecoins offer some advantages, including stability, they do raise the single most important question remaining for public blockchains: why are they useful?

Parking money in a stablecoin is beneficial if it’s between investments or purchases as a way to avoid volatility, but it’s not a very good investment in and of itself. The purpose of capital markets is to allocate capital to productive uses and, at least for the moment, that doesn’t seem to be happening. For public blockchains in 2019, this is the single most important question.

Private blockchains deliver

While public exchanges have been consolidating their hold on the market, private blockchains are getting to work by delivering real business value for enterprises. At EY, a number of systems entered production status, including our software licensing solution with Microsoft and a maritime insurance joint venture with Maersk and Guardtime.

Looking at the enterprise space, there are three key learnings from the work with blockchain in 2018.

First and foremost, the biggest rule in blockchain seems to be: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Over and over again, when companies are working on projects where blockchain seemed to be an excellent fit, they did not move forward because they already found a solution to their problem. Despite the fact that blockchain in nearly every case would be better, that isn’t necessarily enough to justify replacing already existing processes, given the cost and risk.

Second, and very closely related to the first learning, is the primacy of solving real problems. While chief innovation officers sometimes love to do blockchain proofs of concept, the technology is far past that. It’s all about the focus on productizing and solving solutions for line-of-business executives — with real ROI. If one can, with confidence, point to an ROI from a solution, then there’s no need to worry about which blockchain platform or future comes to pass. There is a return from this investment, no matter what.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is clear that companies are prioritizing operations before finance. While tracking products and assets as they move through the supply chain is useful, there are a lot of financial services that could add value, from the very simple approach “payment upon delivery,” to complex services like factoring receivables and trade finance.

However, in most cases, companies want to achieve confidence in their operational systems before closing the loop with payments and financial services, a challenge they will start to take up at the start of 2019.

35. 02/01/2019 21:48
Bitcoin Price Suffers Worst Monthly Losing Streak in 7 Years

Bitcoin (BTC) chalked up its longest monthly losing streak in seven years in December.

The leading cryptocurrency by market value closed at $3,689 on Dec. 31, representing a 13 percent drop from the monthly opening price of $4,241. That was the fifth straight monthly loss – its worst period since November 2011 – according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI).

Back then, BTC was trading below $20 and had depreciated by 81 percent in five months to November 2011. Notably, the tide had turned in favor of the bulls in the following months. BTC gained 59 percent in December 2011 and traded at record highs above $900 in November 2013.

Bitcoin may repeat history by posting gains this month. After all, the cryptocurrency is looking oversold, having lost 52 percent in the last five months and 70 percent in 2018. Further, it is currently down 80 percent from the record high of $20,000 seen in December 2017.

The follow-through, however, may lack vigor, as key fundamental metrics are still biased toward the bears. For instance, the widely followed network value transmitted (NVT) ratio of 108 is still reporting overbought conditions.

Further, on technical charts, a long run bullish reversal would be confirmed above the 21-month exponential moving average (EMA) of $5,547.

As of writing, BTC is trading at $3,790 on Bitstamp – up 1.86 percent on a 24-hour basis.

Daily chart

Bitcoin is likely charting an inverse head-and-shoulders bullish reversal pattern on the daily chart with the neckline resistance at 4,180.

A UTC close above that level would open the doors to $5,200 (target as per the measured move method).

More importantly, the resistance at $4,180 could be put to test soon as the 3-day chart is biased toward the bulls.

3-day chart

As seen above, BTC is holding well above the December low of $3,122. Therefore, the bullish view put forward by the positive divergence of the relative strength index (RSI) in mid-December is still valid.

4-hour chart

On the 4-hour chart, the 100-candle moving average (MA) is located by the 200-candle MA, indicating the path of least resistance is on the higher side.

The chart also shows a falling channel breakout – a bullish pattern. BTC, therefore, could re-test recent highs above $4,200.

View

  • BTC could snap its five-month losing streak in January.
  • An inverse head-and-shoulders breakout, if confirmed, would validate the bullish divergence of the RSI seen on the 3-day chart and could yield a rally to $5,000 in the near-term.
  • The prospects of BTC posting gains in January would drop if prices find acceptance below the Dec. 27 low of $3,566.

 

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