The Abacus join us again for their seventh weekly crypto recap. Their recurring column will bring you up to speed on the all the major crypto headlines you need to know about.
The Abacus Crypto Recap is a weekly update focused on two polar yet symbiotic elements of cryptocurrency markets—adoption and regulation. Here’s all the major happenings for this past week in crypto.
The Ethereum network has a new favorite toy that involves the buying and selling of virtual kittens, Bitcoin has continued to shatter expectations, and Monero is set to be an accepted form of payment by 45 musicians this holiday season. Cryptocurrency is in the spotlight like never before, and its meteoric rise possibly has a ways to go.
- Kitty Cats Bog Down Ethereum Network: Give people enough time and a new technology and they will eventually bring cats into the mix. CryptoKitties has officially become not only the most popular game on the Ethereum network but also the most popular Dapp, accounting for 16% of total network transactions at various points. These transactions involve users selling their “kitties” to other users for large sums of Ether, in some cases up to 250ETH! Thanks to the blockchain, each kitty is a truly unique “collectible” with its own inherent characteristics which can be be bred with other kitties to create, you got it, more kitties.
- Bitcoin Becomes 6th Largest Currency By Circulation: According to a recent report by CoinTelegraph, Bitcoin is now the 6th largest currency in circulation and is officially larger than the British Pound and Russian Ruble. If Bitcoin can make it all the way to $15000, it will surpass the Indian Rupee.
- Monero Meets The Music Industry: If you were planning on purchasing music this holiday season you might as well do it with Monero. The celebrated privacy coin announced that it will be accepted by 45 musicians including Mariah Carey, Lana Del Ray, G-Easy, and Sia. Rapper G-Eazy had high praise for cryptocurrency as he said, “As cryptocurrencies become more popular, it’s important that my fans have choices when it comes to how they buy my songs and merchandise, Given Monero is one of the safest, most secure and most private cryptocurrencies, it’s one of the best options for my fans this holiday season […].” Some users will receive discounts when paying with Monero, too.
- PWC To Accept Bitcoin: You may think accounting firms would view cryptocurrency as a major source of accounting madness, but PWC has officially become the first of the “Big Four” accounting firms to get ahead of the pack. The Hong Kong outpost of the mainstream accounting firm announced they have been begun accepting Bitcoin.
- Controversial “Facebook Ideators” Become Bitcoin Billionaires: The Winklevoss Twins of Facebook lore are reportedly the first “official” Bitcoin billionaires. This of course does not included the purported billions held by Bitcoin’s anonymous founder Satoshi Nakimoto. The Winklevoss twins purchased $11 million worth of BTC in 2013 after their $65 million settlement with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The twins have been early pioneers of the cryptocurrency space and manage their own U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange known as Gemini. Gemini is well regarded as a fully compliant and regulated cryptocurrency exchange within the United States.
- India Continues Bitcoin Boom: The Bitcoin bonanza in India continued its breakneck pace with an astonishing increase in retail investors. Unocoin, a prominent Indian cryptocurrency exchange, reported 200k increase in users over the past month. Sandeep Goenka, CEO of another respected Indian cryptocurrency exchange, exclaimed, “The extent of interest in Bitcoins is at unprecedented levels. Every time prices increase, investors who were sitting on the fence and were skeptical do enter the ecosystem. This time it almost feels like mainstream adoption, something I have never experienced before, because now we are seeing interest coming in from even the conservative investors.”
- JP Morgan Changes Its Tune: Earlier this year CEO of JPMorgan Jamie Dimon went on a Bitcoin tear, going as far as stating that the cryptocurrency was a fraud. With the advent of Bitcoin futures trading this month it seems the banking heavyweight is changing its stance. JPMorgan analysts are considering Bitcoin a form of “digital gold” and now believe cryptocurrency is maturing as an asset class. One analyst stated, “The prospective launch of Bitcoin futures contracts by established exchanges, in particular, has the potential to add legitimacy and thus increase the appeal of the cryptocurrency market to both retail and institutional investors.”
- Bitcoin ATMs Storm Atlanta: Texas-based Bitcoin ATM provider Coinsource recently launched 18 new Bitcoin ATMs in Atlanta and two more in relatively close Athens. Coinsource CEO Sheffield Clark believes his company is providing citizens a bridge to the future. He went on to say, “This is a major opportunity not only for Coinsource but for the cities of Atlanta and Athens as well. Atlanta is one of the most mature Bitcoin ATM markets in the country … Our goal is to give everyone the equal ability to access Bitcoin, particularly in times of record demand, and participate in this soaring new economy.”
- Venezuela Announces National Cryptocurrency “The Petro”: As many know, the Bitcoin Boom has been prevalent in Venezuela where many citizens have turned to cryptocurrency as a hedge against rampant hyperinflation. President Maduro seems to be taking the hint and announced a state-issued cryptocurrency that will be backed by the nation’s rich oil reserves. The cryptocurrency will be known as the “Petro.” Despite initial excitement, many Venezuelan opposition leaders are labeling the idea as more of a publicity stunt as it will require congressional approval from a congress unlikely to go along for the ride.
- South African Traffic Fines Become Bitcoin-Friendly: A South African Traffic Fine Collector has taken a fairly straightforward approach to upping its Bitcoin holdings – allow customers to pay their fines in the world’s most valuable crypto asset. The company Fines4U acts as a middleman between individuals and government agencies that collect traffic fines. Fines4U founder Cornelia van Niekerk claims she is paying the actual fines her customers accumulate in fiat currency with the aim of keeping her Bitcoin stockpile to herself. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she has found that while she’s garnered attention for the move, many users, if they Bitcoin at all, are reluctant to part with the skyrocketing digital asset.
- China’s OTC Market Running Rampant: Months ago the majority of daily Bitcoin trade volume took place in China until the government decided to impose a ban on cryptocurrency exchanges. Despite the crackdown on exchanges, some Chinese citizens are keeping pace with the cryptocurrency circus. Over-The-Counter (OTC) Bitcoin daily volume in the world’s most populous country is at an all-time-high with platforms like localbitcoins and Coincola reaping the benefits. The Chinese government is tolerating the OTC market for now but questions are mounting as to how long the sector will remain completely unregulated.
- BBVA Putting Shipping On The Blockchain: BBVA has formed a partnership with the Waves blockchain platform to launch a distributed ledger platform tied to the processing and handling of shipping document submissions. The product is already being tested and has reportedly reduced processing and handling times down to 2.5 hours from an astonishing 7-10 days. Examples like these demonstrate how blockchain technology is only beginning to change operations around the world.
- Tech Crunch Founder Bites Into Crypto: Michael Arringtong, founder of the acclaimed media company Tech Crunch is launching a $100 million cryptocurrency hedge fund that will use the Ripple token as its primary means of exchange. The fund will be named Arlington XRP Capital. Arlington is ecstatic about the move stating, “In the last several months, I’ve gone from crypto enthusiast to 100 percent crypto. I’ve only been looking at crypto deals. This is what I think I’ll be doing the rest of my career.”
- TD Ameritrade Joins The Bitcoin Future: TD Ameritrade, one of the largest brokers in the United States serving over 6.9 million retail investors, has announced they will offer access to the upcoming Bitcoin futures market. With increasing access to Bitcoin trading there is no doubt cryptocurrency has punctured the mainstream.
It was a busy week for regulators around the world. From South Korea to Japan to the United States, new task forces got to work, exchanges were approved, and regulations were put in place. Central Banks are no longer thinking about cryptocurrencies as a question of whether to regulate them but when and how.
- South Korea Investigating Regulations: The South Korean government is reportedly investigating ways to regulate and tax the local Bitcoin market, although at this point the Deputy Prime Minister has stated the government won’t include any Bitcoin specific legislation in the country’s upcoming 2018 tax bill. As Bitcoin continues to gain popularity in South Korea, many believe the nation will adopt similar legislation to Japan, including the lift on a consumption tax. Government agencies are reportedly also concerned about the market dominance of centralized exchanges, with Bithumb accounting for `70% of BTC volume in the country. Overall, the news seems to suggest that South Korea will continue to be one of the leading adopters of cryptocurrency, likely enacting regulation that mainly aims to safely foster future growth.
- U.S. Senate Clamping Down On Crypto: The U.S. Senate Judiciary committee plans to specifically add digital currency and digital exchanges into the broader definition of a financial institution under a new bill aiming to criminalize concealment of financial accounts. Dubbed S.1241, the committee aims to amend the definition to include, “An issuer, redeemer, or cashier of prepaid access devices, digital currency, or any digital exchanger or tumbler of digital currency.” The implications of the decision could have far reaching consequences in the way the U.S. plans to treat digital currency going forward. The inherent anonymity of crypto holdings could be called into question by future legislation, creating headaches for exchanges and crypto holders in the process.
- Bank of France Slams BTC: Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau declared Bitcoin wasn’t a currency or even a valid cryptocurrency at a conference this week. He remarked, “It is a speculative asset. Its value and extreme volatility have no economic basis, and they are nobody’s responsibility.” He went on to include warnings to investors regarding unsubstantiated gains and worrying volatility.
- Western Union Halts Cryptocurrency Transactions: International payment provider Western Union has decided to prohibit cryptocurrency-related transactions on its platform. The company reportedly had communication with cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, noting that it wouldn’t process a digital transaction because it violated internal rules. The move by Western Union may be seen as a defense against the encroaching competition posed by cryptocurrency and the borderless remittance it facilitates.
- SEC Begins ICO Smack Down: The SEC has issued an emergency asset freeze against ICO Plexcorp’s PlexCoin. The ICO has raised up to $15 million under the promise of a 13x increase in profits. Charges were filed against company founder Dominic Lacroix and partner Sabrina Paradis-Royer, accusing them of of violating antifraud and registration provisions. These mark the first formal charge coming from the SEC’s new cyber unit. Chief of the unit Robert Cohen boasted, “This first Cyber Unit case hits all of the characteristics of a full-fledged cyber scam and is exactly the kind of misconduct the unit will be pursuing… We acted quickly to protect retail investors from this initial coin offering false promises.”
- South Korea Launches Cryptocurrency Task Force: The South Korean government has created a “virtual currency countermeasure task force” with the goal of creating new regulations for cryptocurrencies. The nation had already set up a task force specifically dealing with financial regulators, whereas this second team is government wide and under the purview of the Ministry Of Justice. Ministers were quoted at the first meeting of this new task force, one remarking, “Virtual currency cannot be viewed as a financial product or money. While virtual currency trading is claimed to be safe and thus the future money, blockchain technology only guarantees secure transactions and does not guarantee value.” The regulations in discussion are focused around protecting consumers, with requirements like forcing exchanges to deposit client investments into regulated banks displaying the ways in which the new agency aims to enact legislation.
- UK Cracks Down On Bitcoin: The UK Treasury is working quickly to enact new cryptocurrency regulations by the end of the year. While specifics haven’t been announced, it’s expected that KYC (Know Your Customer), AML (anti-money laundering), and tax evasion related regulations will form the backbone of the policy. John Mann of the Treasury committee notes, “These new forms of exchange are expanding rapidly and we’ve got to make sure we don’t get left behind … I’m not convinced that the regulatory authorities are keeping up to speed,” further noting that concern lies in cryptocurrency being used for money laundering or terrorism. The uncharacteristic legislative expediency is a sign that governments are scrambling to keep up with the explosive growth of cryptocurrencies.
- New Bill Would Muddy Crypto Tax Landscape: 1031 exchanges take advantage of a tax law that broadly states that if one asset class is swapped for another asset class of the same kind, no tax is owed. Tax must still be paid when converting to cash, but otherwise asset owners are free to exchange one asset directly for another. Historically, these exchanges are generally used by large real estate developers, with intermediaries holding funds before transfers of assets take place. The IRS has stated the cryptocurrency is property and not currency, leading some to deduce that direct exchanges of one cryptocurrency for another should not constitute as a taxable event. A new proposal to the House and Senate tax bills amend 1031 rules in a manner that could severely restrict the breadth of these tax exemptions, virtually ensuring cryptocurrency wouldn’t be included under the instrument. The IRS has so far remained silent on the matter of 1031 exchanges as applied to crypto, but this tax loophole that some may look to take advantage of could seem be quashed by the heavy hand of the upcoming bills.
- Azerbaijan Says No To BTC As Means of Payment: Elman Rustamov of Azerbaijan’s Central Bank has stated that the entity does not recognize cryptocurrency as a legitimate form of payment, further clarifying that legislation is on the way. Mr. Rustamov did speak about the potential of blockchain technology in financial systems, noting, “The Central Bank intends to help in studying this technology and its future use in the financial and banking sector of Azerbaijan, and in the future in public services for the population […].” Deputy Chairman Alim Guliyev has remarked that the bank may explore the use of blockchains for payments and identity verification going forward. Azerbaijan joins a growing fray of countries rejecting cryptocurrency as payments but interested in the advantages of blockchain technology.
- Japanese Regulator Grants Four New Exchange Licenses: Japan’s Financial Services Agency has granted authorization for four new cryptocurrency exchanges to start operations as soon as this month. The Japanese agency remarks there are now 15 exchanges allowed to trade digital currency in the country under the definition of the current law. Of the newly approved companies, only Xtheta Corp is allowed to trade multi currencies, including Bitcoin Cash, Ripple, Litecoin, Ethereum and more, while the other three are limited to Bitcoin. The agency announced that 12 exchange applications had been rejected for their inability to meet requirements.
- Canada Considers Native Digital Currency: Canada’s Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions has released a report outlining the purported advantages and downsides to issuing government backed digital currencies, dubbed CBDC (central bank digital currency). The report explored the concept of whether or not a “cashless society” would be a “sound outcome.” The main benefits gleaned from the report focus on payments, financial inclusion, and stability, although it was levied that some of these points are less important in developed nations like Canada. Canada joins several other nations like China and India in researching the merit behind government backed cryptocurrency.
- NY Assemblyman Proposes Crypto Task Force: A new bill dubbed AO8783 has been proposed by New York State assemblymen to create a “digital currency task force” to monitor the effect of digital currencies on financial markets. This new bill was one of 4 introduced to the state regarding cryptocurrencies as government’s rush to bolster their regulatory efforts in the space.
- Israel Opens Doors To ICOs: The outgoing chairman of the Israel Securities Authority, Shmuel Hauser, discussed the future of ICOs in Israel at a conference. He remarked, “We will have to bring order to the market. Some countries decided to examine digital tokens on a case by case basis. A small number decided to ban them. We have decided to find out, with a team headed by the chief economist and the head of the corporations division, under which terms is it a security? Coin? Or some hybrid I call a security-coin … I believe that the topic of digital currencies and their offerings must receive a favorable regulatory response, maybe even daring somewhat, to give a chance for the option to develop an international financial center for security-coin from the type of ICOs.” Israel’s strong startup culture and history of rapidly adopting new technologies parlays well with the possibilities afforded by being open to ICOs.
- CoinBase Gains Small Win With IRS: Coinbase has scored a victory against the IRS in its ongoing legal battle regarding the disclosure of client records for the purpose of tax collection. With the agency originally seeking records on roughly 500k users, after a bevvy of legal fees and battling Coinbase has announced the number is now down to 14,000 users. Coinbase also remarked they’ll now have to disclose less data, though the details remain unclear. Coinbase released the following statement, “Coinbase started this process more than 12 months ago, and while today’s result is not the complete victory we hoped for, it does represent a substantial and unprecedented victory for the industry and the hundreds of thousands of customers that would have been unfairly targeted if it weren’t for our action. Although we are disappointed not to be able to entirely defeat the summons, we are proud to fight for our customers and in the result we were able to achieve as a small company against a large government agency.”
Cryptocurrency is undoubtedly booming. The total market cap has surpassed $350 billion, Bitcoin briefly crossed the $12k mark, recording artists are embracing Monero (which was once relegated to the dark web), and novel cryptocurrency markets are taking root in the shape of genetically unique virtual kittens.
Oh and you can get people to pay to breed with your crypto kitties.
This is the new economy.
People are weird.
— Simon Taylor (@sytaylor) December 3, 2017
There is no longer any reason to be shocked by cryptocurrencies’ rapid ascendance into mainstream parlance and trading. It’s difficult to say whether we are in the beginning, middle, or end of a bubble, but one thing is for sure — regardless of how powerful the seemingly delayed cryptocurrency market crash happens, cryptocurrencies have entered mainstream consciousness and are here to stay.
This past week furthered cryptocurrencies’ staying power, and even if it takes a silly cat game to prove it, get ready, because the cryptocurrency secret is very much out. Though it seems likely the bubble will eventually burst, cryptocurrency is becoming inextricably tied to the global economy. No matter how the market may swing, it seems rather likely there will still be CryptoKitties to buy far into the future.