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Litecoin Payments Startup That Won Trader Favor Abruptly Shuts Down

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Litecoin merchant processor LitePay is closing up shop.

Op Ed: Why Korea Could Be the First Cryptocurrency-Powered Nation

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Op Ed: Why Korea Could Bbe the First Cryptocurrency-Powered Nation

  • Korea has many of the pieces of the puzzle to become the first “Crypto-Powered Nation,” one that runs on blockchains and supports a crypto economy. Here’s what I learned during an intense two and a half days there in March 2018.

Some country out there is going to be the first “Crypto-Powered Nation.” That would be one that has widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies, serves as a global hotbed for crypto-innovation, runs enterprise-grade scalable blockchain infrastructure and has a balanced relationship with government.

South Korea could be one and it is one place that may be worth watching over the next few years. Here’s why I think so.

Cryptocurrency Awareness and Adoption Are Already Widespread

Some estimates put cryptocurrency ownership in the country as high as 33 percent of the adult population. The concept of digital asset ownership is mainstream. Granted, it was speculation, jealousy and competition that drove much of the initial interest in bitcoin. At one point, prices peaked at nearly 40 percent higher than foreign exchanges. The phenomenon is known as the "Kimchi premium.”

The end result is that the crypto-infrastructure is in place to handle a large number of customers and almost everyone in the country has heard of the concept. That’s a huge hurdle in the evolution toward daily, mainstream usage. When all is said and done, Korea is the third biggest cryptocurrency market in the world and you cannot become a Crypto-Nation if people don’t even know the technology exists.

Balanced Regulation From the Government Is Expected

Market observers have witnessed that rumors of cryptocurrency regulation from Korea can jolt prices severely upwards or downwards. The country’s on-againoff-again ban of ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) has left some people confused in the short term, but many Korean crypto-insiders are optimistic.

The current government, led by President Moon Jae-in, relies heavily on the support of the young adult population. Not surprisingly, this is the same demographic that is highly invested in crypto -assets. As one of the first (if not the first) generations to grow up in an era of relative prosperity, the Korean millennials can afford to take chances with their investments in ways that an older, more cost-conscious generation may not have been able to do.

As Henry Lee, Head of Growth at Seoul-based Icon (currently #23 on CoinMarketCap) said, “The government needs the young people to stay in power, and young adults love crypto. They are not going to mess that up.”

Growing Experience With Cryptocurrencies at Scale

Two things are happening in Korea that further drive advanced understanding of cryptocurrencies.  The first is the utilization of Korean crypto markets as a vehicle for getting money out of China.  The second is the existence of embargoes on North Korea. Both of these factors drive innovation at exchanges and service providers.

Despite the “official news to the contrary,” many observers of the Korean crypto-ecosystem see plenty of evidence that Korean markets are being used by Chinese citizens and businesses to get money out of China. Chinese citizens are notoriously prohibited from exporting more than $15,400 worth of cash. In Korea, I heard from various sources that Chinese businesses have been buying Korean businesses and then using them to move money as well. Some of these funds are then moved into cryptocurrency.

Then there is the North Korean embargo factor.

With the Trump administration imposing new sanctions on North Korea, the rumor is that aid to the embattled North is actually being funneled through crypto channels that cannot be tracked by traditional means or American watchdogs. Additionally, North Korea may be mining cryptocurrency on its own and may be in need of an avenue to get it out of the country. There is also evidence to suggest the North Koreans are targeting exchanges in order to steal cryptocurrencies as well.   

As Sonny Kwon, editor-in-chief of leading Korean blockchain publication TokenPost told me, “People in the blockchain space know that massive amounts of money are coming in from China, and possibly much [is] headed to North through hacking and money laundering.”

Between the money coming in and going out, Korean exchanges like Bithumb and the network of providers that support them are seeing a huge amount of activity. The end result is that they are being forced to innovate on security and scaling solutions. After all, not too many other exchanges are facing state-sponsored cyber threats. Koreans are.

It may be money laundering and cyber-theft that are driving innovation, but the solutions should pay huge dividends in other sectors down the road.  We’ve seen this happen with other industries like pornography where early innovation and utilization (e.g. how the use of video cassettes drove VCR purchases) drove subsequent growth and innovation in other verticals.

The in-country knowledge could ultimately trickle down to benefit other South Korean companies in the blockchain industry. This, in turn, would give them a competitive advantage by allowing these companies to test and refine a lot of these systems at enterprise scale within the country.

The Crypto-Ecosystem Is Strong And Growing

Last year, Metaps+, a digital couponing company successfully completed the first Korean-based ICO. Prior to that, others, like ICON which raised $45 million (at the time) in their ICO, had based their foundation in Zug, Switzerland (a.k.a “Crypto Valley”) and other locations. However, Metaps+ showed that a successful ICO could happen in Korea. Since then, its founder, Seungyeon Kim, has achieved a type of K-pop rockstar status in the Korean crypto-community for his willingness to take the risk in an uncertain regulatory environment. 

Admittedly, there have only been five ICOs in Korea in total, but the trail has been blazed. Now there are at least 50 pure blockchain startups (that’s more than are actually based in Switzerland’s Crypto Valley), four blockchain-dedicated publications, 50 blockchain-related events monthly, and 1000+ crypto-related groups on social networks services like Kakao. A recent conference in Seoul, TokenSky, attracted over 1,000 people, and a company called FoundationX has 10 “reverse ICOs” of existing Korean companies in its pipeline. None of these numbers are huge, but they are growing rapidly.

All of this innovation is happening in a market already known for its high degree of digital connectivity. Anyone who has struggled with losing cell phone coverage in a tunnel will appreciate that every subway car on the Seoul Metro system has not just one or two wi-fi routers, but four. Over 92 percent of Koreans are connected to the internet, and 71 percent have a smartphone (the fourth highest rate in the world). It is no surprise that in this mobile-first environment, gaming companies use Korea as a test bed for new products. The size of the mobile games market is second only to Japan. In short, Koreans are used to trying things out first when it comes to digital tech, and word spreads quickly

Finally, the Korean education system is producing the engineering talent to power blockchain innovation. A recent study placed the country second only to Singapore for its math and science scores. Over 68 percent of Koreans aged 25 to 34 have a bachelor’s degree, and six of the top 200 engineering schools in the world are in South Korea.

Jung-hee Ryu, a Ph.D with a successful exit of his own and now CEO of Seoul-based FuturePlay, one of the leading tech incubators in Seoul, remarked, “Korean universities are turning out some of the most talented blockchain engineers in the world, and an entire ecosystem is rapidly evolving to help them accelerate their time-to-market.’

I was in Seoul earlier this month to keynote at the Digital Marketing Summit, Korea’s largest marketing conference, with over 1,000 attendees. The topic was the future of marketing in a blockchain world.

When I've spoken at events in other countries, I ask how many in the crowd own bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency. Usually somewhere between 5 and 33 percent will raise their hands. In this audience, nearly everyone did. Korean marketers, business leaders and innovators are well past the initial euphoria. They are looking toward the future of how crypto -assets will be used and deployed at national scale.  

Combine all that with an intense culture of achievement, a drive for economic success and an increasingly global outlook as the country has vaulted to become one of the top 10 economies worldwide, and you have the recipe for a powerful cycle of innovation.

Korea May Not Be (But It Could Be)

I have absolutely no idea what the first “Crypto-powered Nation” will look like or when it will happen. All I am saying is that there a few key ingredients that will be components of a country that runs on blockchains and cryptocurrencies. From my perspective, many of the things that need to be there — experience at enterprise scale, government relationships, academic and technical talent and widespread awareness — are all present in South Korea.

That’s why I am keeping an eye on the market.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Nelson Mandela Golden Hands Collection Goes to Bitcoin Exchange

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Nelson Mandela’s hands were immortalized by how he changed the course of history, so maybe it’s destiny that solid gold casts of his hands will go to a bitcoin buyer. Ontario-based cryptocurrency exchange The Board of Arbitrade is buying what’s believed to be the last remaining set of gold artifacts comprised of Mr. Mandela’s hands for

The post Nelson Mandela Golden Hands Collection Goes to Bitcoin Exchange appeared first on CCN

AMD will get crushed in the race to be the ultimate chip maker for Ethereum miners, tech analyst says (AMD, NVDA)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

amd ryzen threadripper cpu

  • AMD has received up to 20% of its total revenues from selling graphics cards used for Ethereum mining.
  • Bitmain will put pressure on AMD, as the Chinese-based chipmaker is said to have developed its own ASIC, a graphics chip used for mining Ethereum, a Susquehanna analyst says.
  • The analyst downgraded AMD's shares and lowered its price target.
  • You can view AMD's stock price here.

AMD's heyday as the chip of choice for Ethereum miners is about to come to an end, warns a Susquehanna analyst.

The advent of a new application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) — a graphics chip used to mine Ethereum — developed by Chinese-based chipmaker Bitmain spells trouble for AMD because the increased competition threatens its market share.

"While this call is likely early (in front of needed GPU channel replenishment), the proliferation of Ethereum mining ASICs have the ability to impact ~20% of AMD's total company revenue," wrote Christopher Rolland, a Susquehanna analyst. 

AMD's total revenue exposure to GPU sales makes it especially vulnerable to competition, Rolland notes.

"While Bitmain is likely to be the largest ASIC vendor (currently 70-80% of Bitcoin mining ASICs) and the first to market with this product, we have learned of at least three other companies working on Ethereum ASICs, all at various stages of development," Rolland said.

Though the popularity and price of cryptocurrencies has fallen since their December highs, demand for graphics cards that help users mine Ethereum, bitcoin, and other digital currencies has risen, sparking a rise in prices for the sought-after chips, as well as shortages. 

Rolland still believes that AMD will have a "blow out" first quarter of 2018, bringing in $500 million in revenues. However, he believes as new chips come into market, AMD will feel the pressure.

He downgraded AMD shares to "Negative" and shifted his price target to $7.50 per share from $13.

The analyst also warned that Nvidia is subject to similar pressures, but it does not have the same fate. Nvidia has less revenue exposure to Ethereum-related GPU sales, Rolland said, adding Nvidia has a "stronger more durable gaming franchise which would help it work through this potential Ethereum-related unwind."

Though he did not change his rating on Nvidia, he did lower its price target to $200 a share from $215.

Read more about how AMD and Nvidia are getting a boost from Hollywood.

AMD stock price

SEE ALSO: JEFFERIES: AMD and Nvidia are set to benefit from the futuristic headsets in Steven Spielberg's 'Ready Player One'

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Facebook can still track you even if you delete your account — here's how to stop it

AMD will get crushed in the race to be the ultimate chip maker for Ethereum miners, tech analyst says (AMD, NVDA)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

amd ryzen threadripper cpu

  • AMD has received up to 20% of its total revenues from selling graphics cards used for Ethereum mining.
  • Bitmain will put pressure on AMD, as the Chinese-based chipmaker is said to have developed its own ASIC, a graphics chip used for mining Ethereum, a Susquehanna analyst says.
  • The analyst downgraded AMD's shares and lowered its price target.
  • You can view AMD's stock price here.

AMD's heyday as the chip of choice for Ethereum miners is about to come to an end, warns a Susquehanna analyst.

The advent of a new application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) — a graphics chip used to mine Ethereum — developed by Chinese-based chipmaker Bitmain spells trouble for AMD because the increased competition threatens its market share.

"While this call is likely early (in front of needed GPU channel replenishment), the proliferation of Ethereum mining ASICs have the ability to impact ~20% of AMD's total company revenue," wrote Christopher Rolland, a Susquehanna analyst. 

AMD's total revenue exposure to GPU sales makes it especially vulnerable to competition, Rolland notes.

"While Bitmain is likely to be the largest ASIC vendor (currently 70-80% of Bitcoin mining ASICs) and the first to market with this product, we have learned of at least three other companies working on Ethereum ASICs, all at various stages of development," Rolland said.

Though the popularity and price of cryptocurrencies has fallen since their December highs, demand for graphics cards that help users mine Ethereum, bitcoin, and other digital currencies has risen, sparking a rise in prices for the sought-after chips, as well as shortages. 

Rolland still believes that AMD will have a "blow out" first quarter of 2018, bringing in $500 million in revenues. However, he believes as new chips come into market, AMD will feel the pressure.

He downgraded AMD shares to "Negative" and shifted his price target to $7.50 per share from $13.

The analyst also warned that Nvidia is subject to similar pressures, but it does not have the same fate. Nvidia has less revenue exposure to Ethereum-related GPU sales, Rolland said, adding Nvidia has a "stronger more durable gaming franchise which would help it work through this potential Ethereum-related unwind."

Though he did not change his rating on Nvidia, he did lower its price target to $200 a share from $215.

Read more about how AMD and Nvidia are getting a boost from Hollywood.

AMD stock price

SEE ALSO: JEFFERIES: AMD and Nvidia are set to benefit from the futuristic headsets in Steven Spielberg's 'Ready Player One'

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Neo-Nazi groups let a journalist in their meetings and rallies — here's what he saw

‘We Got Too Excited’: Charlie Lee, Litecoin Foundation Apologize After LitePay Vanishes

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Litecoin creator Charlie Lee and the Litecoin Foundation have each apologized for failing to conduct due diligence on LTC-based payment processing startup LitePay, which has sparked allegations of conducting an exit scam due to its abrupt closure. As CCN reported, the Litecoin price had surged in mid-February on news that LitePay — which purported to

The post ‘We Got Too Excited’: Charlie Lee, Litecoin Foundation Apologize After LitePay Vanishes appeared first on CCN

Op Ed: A Quick-Start Token Sale Compliance Guide: What You Need to Know

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Op Ed: A Quick-Start Token Sale Compliance Guide: What You Need to Know

Compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) rules and with the economic sanctions administered by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) can be a daunting task for any business. When it comes to the fast-moving world of token sales and cryptocurrencies in general, much of the legal and regulatory landscape is yet to be settled, but the obligation to comply with AML and OFAC laws is clear. This quick start guide to AML and OFAC compliance aims to provide entrepreneurs and in-house counsel an early roadmap for planning and reaching their compliance goals as they think about kicking off a token sale.

This guide focuses on U.S. laws, but be aware that other countries also have laws in these two areas.

Steer Clear of Tainted Funds: Watch for Red Flags

It states the obvious, of course, to say steer clear of tainted funds. But whether you are starting a new cryptocurrency exchange business or selling tokens to raise money for your new project, it takes intentional focus and care to ensure that the funds moving into and through your business are not the product of illegal activity. With several recent notorious examples of theft, fraud and money laundering fresh in the minds of government regulators and investigators, it is even more imperative that entrepreneurs establish and use the right anti-money laundering procedures up front.

Whether your business model or planned token sale requires that you have a formal anti-money laundering program in place or not, you are always required to avoid conducting transactions involving criminal proceeds. Among others things, federal anti-money laundering laws prohibit the following types of financial transactions:

  • Concealment or Promotion Money Laundering, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1): This statute prohibits a transaction in the proceeds of crime in which a person knows that the property involved comes from some form of unlawful activity, even if that person does not know the precise nature of the underlying criminal activity. To be in violation of this law, there must be an intent on the part of the person conducting the transaction — most often proven through circumstantial evidence — to conceal the true nature, location, source, ownership or control of the funds, or to reinvest in or “promote” future criminal activity.
  • International Money Laundering, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2): This law applies even to “clean” funds that are not currently the proceeds of criminal activity but are sent internationally to “promote” certain categories of criminal activity.
  • Money Spending Statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1957: Applicable to transactions in criminal proceeds over $10,000, this law simply prohibits transactions where the participant (including currency exchangers, money transmitters, and brokers or dealers in securities or commodities) knows the funds are from some unlawful source.
  • Money Laundering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h): Two or more individuals who intend to conduct a transaction in criminal proceeds may be liable for any foreseeable offenses committed by their co-conspirators in furtherance of the scheme.

Not only are the above offenses subject to criminal or civil prosecution, but the proceeds of criminal activity, as well as any property “involved” in a money-laundering offense which may include such things as non-tainted funds in the same account, commissions or fees, websites or even an entire business are subject to criminal or civil forfeiture.

In this environment, then, is it enough, for example, to require a buyer of your tokens to represent to you in writing that the funds they are paying you with are “clean”? Maybe, but maybe not. If your buyer makes that representation but there are red flags around the transaction suggesting otherwise, those representations by themselves will not insulate you from liability.

As we discuss below, if your business model puts you in the category of being a money services business, you will need to take additional steps. If not, you will still want to make sure you know and understand your customer and their transaction; be on the lookout for transaction details that are not customary; and keep records of your due diligence.

You May Need to Register as a Money Services Business

Probably the most significant question you will need to answer in relation to your anti-money laundering obligations as you prepare to undertake a token sale is whether your sale amounts to “money transmitting” under federal law. Be aware that “money transmitters” are also highly regulated under each state’s laws, many of which require advance licensure; however, because state money transmitting laws are typically aimed at consumer protection rather than anti-money laundering, we do not address the issue of state regulation here other than to note that there is no uniform licensing scheme across the 50 states.

Under federal law, “financial institutions,” which include “money transmittersx” (a category of “money services businesses”), are regulated under the Bank Secrecy Act, 31 U.S.C. 5311, et seq., and are subject to a number of specific requirements that are defined and overseen by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). According to FinCEN, “money transmitting services” means:

the acceptance of currency, funds, or other value that substitutes for currency from one person and the transmission of currency, funds, or other value that substitutes for currency to another location or person by any means.

FinCEN issued guidance in 2013 making clear that it views its money-transmitting regulations as applying to “persons creating, obtaining, distributing, exchanging, accepting or transmitting virtual currencies.” With regard to token issuers using a decentralized network, FinCEN has concluded that anyone who qualifies as a virtual currency “exchanger” is a money transmitter.

Even more specifically, while not formal industry guidance, in a letter responding to a Member of Congress (that became public in early March but was issued on February 13, 2018), FinCEN expressed its view that initial coin offerings (“ICOs”) qualify as money transmitting, stating:

A developer that sells convertible virtual currency, including in the form of ICO coins or tokens, in exchange for another type of value that substitutes for currency is a money transmitter and must comply with AML/[Combating the Financing of Terrorism] requirements that apply to [MSBs].

Importantly, entities or individuals who do not follow these rules and that operate an unlicensed money transmitting business are subject to criminal prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 1960. Yet, to further complicate matters, FinCEN’s letter also noted that an ICO involving securities or derivatives might instead be subject to the authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission or Commodity Futures Trading Commission, each of which have separate although similar AML/CFT requirements.

Ultimately, whether you will need to register with FinCEN as a money transmitter is going to depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your token sale and business model, but you will want to consider this question carefully.

If You Are a Money Services Business, Special AML Requirements Apply

If you are a money transmitter and subject to FinCEN’s regulations, you are subject to a number of specific requirements. First, you must register as a money-transmitting business within 180 days from the date the business was established and maintain a list of any agents working with you. Most broadly, money transmitters are required to:

develop, implement and maintain an effective anti-money laundering program, reasonably designed to prevent the money services business from being used to facilitate money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities.

Additionally, you will be subject to a number of reporting and record-keeping requirements, particularly the requirement to file Suspicious Activity Reports, or SARs, for transactions over $2,000 that appear to involve funds from illicit activity; be designed to evade reporting requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act; or serve no apparent lawful or business purpose.

To meet AML requirements, money transmitters must have a formal AML compliance program that includes the following four elements: 1) written policies and procedures; 2) a designated AML compliance officer; 3) independent review and monitoring of the AML program; and 4) a training program for relevant personnel regarding their AML responsibilities.

Finally, while it may be possible to assign the responsibilities for your AML program to a founder, manager or employee with other duties if your business does not currently support a stand-alone function, keep in mind that it is critical that this function be resourced and, most importantly, free from the influence of the business or sales side of the organization.

Operating a money transmitting business without meeting these requirements established by the Bank Secrecy Act could subject both your business and the individuals involved in it to civil and criminal penalties.

Do You Have Foreign Partners or Corporate Customers? Take These Extra Steps

Many participants in the cryptocurrency and token sale marketplace are based outside of the United States. If you have what FinCEN refers to as foreign “agents” a term it uses to include “authorized delegates, foreign agents or counterparties, agents and sub-agents” your AML program must meet additional requirements.

For example, if you have a contractual arrangement to make your tokens available to a foreign company or its customers through the foreign company’s software platform, you must:

  • conduct due diligence on foreign agents and counterparties;
  • consider a number of particular risk factors and do risk-based monitoring of your agents and counterparties; and
  • develop and implement a policy for corrective action and termination for non-compliant entities.

While you may be able to contractually allocate the responsibility for developing these policies, procedures and internal controls to your agent or counterparty, you will remain liable to ensure that they are fully operational.

OFAC Compliance: An AML Program Is Not Enough

Every U.S. person and business is required to avoid engaging in financial transactions with certain individuals, entities and countries that are subject to U.S. economic sanctions. Accordingly, when you offer your tokens for sale in a public or private offering, it is your obligation to ensure that none of your purchasers are on the list of prohibited individuals or entities maintained by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). You also need to be sure that your customers and other business partners are not based in countries subject to broader economic sanctions, the list of which currently includes Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and the Crimean region of Ukraine.

Compliance with the economic sanctions programs administered by OFAC and compliance with the AML laws established under the Bank Secrecy Act are often considered in the same breath. And, while effective OFAC screening and AML programs will certainly have areas of overlap, namely a robust customer identification procedure, they are two separate and distinct programs and responsibilities and you should have separate procedures for each.

OFAC compliance involves screening the names of individuals or entities against a highly complex and often-changing list of sanctioned parties, countries and regions. Most companies make use of third-party servicers to conduct this screening on their behalf, but it is prudent to do some due diligence to ensure those service providers themselves have the sophistication required to capture any potential prohibited transactions.

Can you shortcut this process by simply having your token buyer represent they are not on the OFAC sanctions list? While such representations are helpful, they are not sufficient. Unlike the risk-based compliance expectations, with AML requirements, you are strictly liable for OFAC screening failures and OFAC can pursue even minor violations.

Nonetheless, should you be found to have violated economic sanctions laws, the strength of your OFAC compliance program, along with your state of mind and other factors, will be considered in the determination of any penalty.

Be Ready to Demonstrate Your AML and OFAC Compliance

As with any business, when operating in the cryptocurrency space, you should be prepared for questions from a regulator or investigator with jurisdiction over the activity. Whether you are a money transmitter with a formal written AML program or not, one of the first demands you are likely to receive in any federal or state inquiry is to produce a copy of your AML program and policies as well as your customer identification procedures and screening protocols.

Examiners or investigators will be looking at whether you have taken the time to recognize and identify risk factors and risk categories for the counterparties with whom you are doing business. And they will look to see whether you have developed procedures intended to mitigate those risks and avoid conducting transactions with or for blocked parties or illicit funds. If you are equipped with written AML guidance and OFAC screening processes, including a clear allocation of responsibility within your company for ensuring compliance, you will be off to a good start.

There Is Room for Innovation

Federal agencies involved in regulating and overseeing the marketplace for token sales recognize the value to our society of the emerging technologies behind this activity, even if they are scrambling to catch up with the technology on an institutional level. While the burden to a new company of meeting the legal and regulatory requirements for AML and OFAC compliance is not insignificant, prior planning in these areas will protect your investment of time and resources and create room for greater innovation.

This is an guest post by Laurel Loomis Rimon, Senior Counsel at O’Melveny & Myers LLP . View expressed are hers alone and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Media or Bitcoin Magazine. This article is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please do your own due diligence.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Bitcoin Drops Below $8K During Wider Crypto Market Slide

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin's price is back below $8,000, a move that comes amid a broader decline in the global cryptocurrency market. 

HBO’s Silicon Valley Gives Nod to Bitcoin in Opening Title Intro

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

It’s about time the network gave bitcoin a cameo in its tech-fueled hit comedy series. Silicon Valley, which is a show that is roughly based on co-creator Mike Judge’s time in the Valley during the eighties, added the logo of US-bitcoin exchange Coinbase to the intro, which seems to have a Jetsons vibe going for … Continued

The post HBO’s Silicon Valley Gives Nod to Bitcoin in Opening Title Intro appeared first on CCN

Delta Air Lines and the New England Patriots donated free flights to Florida high school students headed to the March for Our Lives protest (DAL)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Delta Boeing 757

  • Delta Air Lines donated three charter flights to the families and students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
  • New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft also donated the services of a team jet.
  • The Douglas High School students were headed to Washington, DC for the March for Our Lives rally.

Delta Air Lines and the National Football League's New England Patriots donated free flights over the weekend to help transport hundreds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and their families to the March for Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington, DC.

Delta confirmed that it donated three charter flights on Saturday to the students and families of the Parkland, Florida high school where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting last month.

In a statement to Business Insider, the Atlanta, Georgia-based airline said:

"As part of our commitment to supporting the communities we serve, Delta offered three round-trip charter flights at no charge on Saturday, March 24, to students and families from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School traveling between Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Washington, D.C."

The New England Patriots also gave the school's students a lift. Over the weekend, the Patriots offered up the services of one of its two Boeing 767 team jets.

New England Patriots JetAccording to ABC News, Patriots team owner Robert Kraft reached out to the school with the offer to the use the jet.

Once onboard the Patriots jet, the students and their families were greeted by a letter of support from Kraft which read:

"On behalf of the New England Patriots organization, I want to express our support as you travel to Washington for this weekend's March for Our Lives. In the wake of incredible tragedy, we have hurt for you, mourned with you and been inspired by you. It is an honor for us to now partner with you as you push for progress.

Your community is stirring our country towards a better future. That is the true mark of a patriot. Thank you for your leadership and inspiration. Best wishes as you prepare for takeoff on your journey."

In February, Delta Air Lines drew the ire of right-wing gun advocates after it ended a group discount for members of the National Rifle Association. The discount was for members of the NRA to attend its national convention. According to Delta, a total of 13 people used the NRA discount last year.

Contrary to some reports, Southwest Airlines confirmed to Business Insider that it "did not donate any flights for people traveling" to any gun protests this weekend. 

SEE ALSO: An Air Canada jet was forced to make an emergency landing after pilots reported smoke in the cockpit

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NOW WATCH: Goldman Sachs investment chief: Bitcoin is definitely a bubble, Ethereum even more so

Cboe Prods SEC on Bitcoin ETF Approval in New Letter

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

In a new letter, Cboe Global Markets president Chris Concannon addresses some of the SEC's concerns about bitcoin derivatives markets.

CRYPTO INSIDER: The biggest cryptocurrencies are near their lowest levels of the year

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

somersault flip beach falling

Welcome to Crypto Insider, Business Insider’s roundup of all the bitcoin and cryptocurrency news you need to know today. Sign up here to get this email delivered direct to your inbox.

Cryptocurrency prices are down slightly Monday afternoon, with many near their 2018 lows. Here are the current prices:

Bitcoin price today

SEE ALSO: Google is banning all bitcoin, ICO, and cryptocurrency ads starting in June

Join the conversation about this story »

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CRYPTO INSIDER: The biggest cryptocurrencies are near their lowest levels of the year

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

somersault flip beach falling

Welcome to Crypto Insider, Business Insider’s roundup of all the bitcoin and cryptocurrency news you need to know today. Sign up here to get this email delivered direct to your inbox.

Cryptocurrency prices are down slightly Monday afternoon, with many near their 2018 lows. Here are the current prices:

Bitcoin price today

SEE ALSO: Google is banning all bitcoin, ICO, and cryptocurrency ads starting in June

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: I quit cable for DirecTV Now and it's saving me over $1,000 a year — here's how I did it

Uber employees were reportedly panicking to give their new CEO a glitch-free ride before fatal self-driving crash

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

uber self driving car

  • Uber's self-driving vehicles were having trouble meeting the company's internal goals in the months before last week's fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona, according to the New York Times.
  • Employees were reportedly anxious about impressing CEO Dara Khosrowshahi with a test ride that was planned for April. 
  • Some were concerned when the company moved from having two employees in each self-driving vehicle to one.


Uber's self-driving vehicles were having trouble meeting the company's internal goals in the months before last week's fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona, according to the New York Times.

The vehicles, which drove autonomously but had backup drivers ready to intervene if necessary, reportedly had difficulty meeting a goal of 13 miles driven for every intervention from the backup driver. That number paled in comparison to Waymo and General Motors, which reported over 5,500 miles and 1,200 miles per intervention in California in 2017, respectively.

Uber's vehicles also reportedly struggled in construction zones and near tall vehicles.

Employees wanted to impress Dara Khosrowshahi

According to the Times, Uber employees were anxious to impress CEO Dara Khosrowshahi with a test ride he had planned to take in one of the company's self-driving vehicles in April.

Khosrowshahi had reportedly considered eliminating Uber's self-driving program when he took over the CEO position from Travis Kalanick in August. While he eventually determined that the program had long-term value, employees reportedly wanted to use his test ride as an opportunity to demonstrate the program's progress.

In the months before Khosrowshahi's planned visit, the company had increased the rate at which it accumulated test miles, moving from a total of one million test miles in September 2017 to over three million at the time of the accident.

Some employees had safety concerns

Around October, Uber reportedly took steps to get its self-driving program to the point where it could launch a ride-sharing service "as quickly as possible," and moved from having two employees in each vehicle to one. The move reportedly made some employees nervous and led them to tell managers it could lower the odds of the operator remaining aware of the vehicle's surroundings over long periods of time.

A Uber spokesperson told Business Insider that the company moved to having one employee in most vehicles "slowly" and that the second employee's role had been to collect feedback about the vehicle's performance, rather than to ensure its safety. The spokesperson also said that the company uses two employees "for tests in which detailed in-vehicle feedback is important."

The company's self-driving ambitions are in doubt

After the accident, a video released by law enforcement showed the operator looking away from the road in the moments before the accident. While local authorities first indicated that the accident may not be Uber's fault, some experts believe the video hinted at flaws in the technology Uber's self-driving vehicles use to interpret their surroundings.

Last week, Uber said it would stop self-driving tests in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto. The company had previously expressed a goal of launching an autonomous ride-hailing service by mid-2019, but it's unclear if that timeline will change.

SEE ALSO: Uber is more vulnerable than ever after its fatal self-driving car crash — but it could end up saving the company

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NOW WATCH: Goldman Sachs investment chief: Bitcoin is definitely a bubble, Ethereum even more so

Crimean Government Employees Fined for Mining Bitcoins at Work

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Two former Crimean government employees were fined 30,000 rubles each for using official resources to mine bitcoin.

Bitcoin is Gaining Legitimacy in Europe as Dutch Court Deems it Transferable Value

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Earlier this week, a Dutch court described bitcoin as a transferable value during a case that requested Koinz Trading BV to pay mining proceeds worth $5,000, or 0.591. The court explicitly stated that property rights apply to bitcoin, given that as a cryptocurrency, it is able to transfer value in a peer-to-peer manner. The court

The post Bitcoin is Gaining Legitimacy in Europe as Dutch Court Deems it Transferable Value appeared first on CCN

Promoted: ShoCard Hopes to Crack the Emerging Identity Management Problem

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Shocard

In case you hadn’t noticed, identity management is broken.


We have been looking for ways to prove that we are who we say we are quickly and safely for years, and it isn’t working. It’s one problem that the Cupertino, California-based blockchain technology startup ShoCard is hoping to solve.


Passwords are toxic, and two-factor authentication is a cumbersome bandage that doesn’t solve the underlying problem: Once we hand over our sensitive data to a third party, we no longer control it.


Some of the most prominent breaches in recent times show why that’s so dangerous. The 2015 attack on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) saw thieves steal the intimate personal details of 21.5 million Americans. Last year’s Equifax hackers stole the personal information of nearly 150 million people — that’s half of the adult U.S. population. Among that data were peoples’ names, birthdates, home addresses, social security numbers and, in some cases, drivers’ license information. It was a disaster.


We rely on companies like this to store our data and then challenge us with it because there has been no way of proving ourselves without them. It’s an age-old system that worked in an analog world, but it is hopelessly inadequate in 2018. It just doesn’t scale.


Companies like Google and Facebook have tried to solve that problem by letting sites authenticate users using the accounts they have. But this method still leaves users lacking control and a breach of any of these larger companies can still compromise user’s identity at an even larger scale, pointed out ShoCard CEO Armin Ebrahimi.


“If your account at Facebook is locked down or compromised, then you lose that ID,” he said. “That's because the enterprise owns it.”


In any case, your local bank, traffic cop or bartender won’t take your Facebook ID as proof that you can withdraw cash, drive or buy a cocktail.


ShoCard offers an alternative: Use phones and decentralized networks instead. Instead of taking their chances with a company’s leaky servers, users can keep their data encrypted on their mobile devices. They can show portions of their identity to whoever needs it while keeping their data to themselves the rest of the time.


How can a third party be sure that the data on a user’s phone is legitimate? That’s where the blockchain comes in.


Individuals enter their credentials into the app, including everything from a scan of their drivers’ license to their passport and even their biometric data. Others can add data too with their permission, such as the digital equivalent of an airline boarding pass. The app then hashes these credentials and digitally signs them using the individual’s private keys and stores a digital fingerprint of the data (rather than the personal data itself) on the blockchain.


When third parties want to authenticate a user, they request the data, along with a code and the user’s public key from the ShoCard app. They then verify it against the digital certificate on the blockchain to prove that the user owns it.


Low-friction interactions are essential, said Ebrahimi. Online services can display a barcode for the user to scan from a website. Proximity services such as an airport gate could have a Bluetooth device handy to connect with the user’s phone, or an app that can scan data from it. He envisions a time when users can authenticate themselves to enter an airport lounge without breaking stride.


Ebrahimi highlighted another benefit for users. They only give a third party the data that it needs from them. The bank might get their name and address. The airline gate might just get a name and passport number. The local bartender just finds out their age.

While users get convenience, Ebrahimi expects that third parties will enjoy lower fraud rates and customer interaction costs.


“Authentication is a very lengthy and expensive process, and very fraud-prone,” he pointed out.


Call centers authenticating users on the phone lose money for every minute they spend asking security questions such as a user’s birthdate and address.


“These are also facts that hackers can get hold of,” Ebrahimi added.


Using ShoCard, a call center agent would take the user’s account number and then ping the app to verify it against the hashed digest on the blockchain, ensuring that it isn’t fake.


Cracking the ID management problem is a tall order, but ShoCard is in a unique position. Ebrahimi has 30 years of experience in Silicon Valley, and the company already has $5.4 million in combined funding from AME Cloud Ventures, led by Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang, and Morado Ventures. In May, it hopes to raise another $20 million with its initial coin offering (ICO).

This promoted article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Inside Goldman Sachs' plan to move dealmaking beyond Wall Street and Silicon Valley

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Atlanta Georgia

David Dase knew moving to Atlanta wouldn't be easy.

The Goldman Sachs partner had spent much of his nearly 25 years at the firm orchestrating deals in the US's busiest financial hubs — New York and San Francisco — where the investment bank was entrenched in corporate boardrooms of the world's most important companies.

Atlanta, by comparison, was unmapped territory. The bank had a small presence of wealth managers and specialty lenders, but no bankers on the ground developing relationships with the region's extensive yet less visible roster of companies.

"You're starting from scratch," Dase told Business Insider. "It takes a lot of time and investment."

But Dase wasn't being banished from Goldman's power centers; on the contrary, he was being entrusted to lead the charge on a new initiative that Goldman has been telling investors will help generate $500 million in new investment-banking revenue.

Click here to read our BI Prime story on Goldman Sachs' plan to move dealmaking beyond Wall Street and Silicon Valley.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Goldman Sachs investment chief: Bitcoin is definitely a bubble, Ethereum even more so

Collector Courts Bitcoin Millionaires for Record-Setting Baseball Card Auction

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Cryptocurrency proponents and skeptics alike have compared the nascent asset class to digital baseball cards, so it makes sense that the world’s highest-grossing baseball card auction will accept Bitcoin as payment. The seller is Evan Mathis, a former lineman who played 13 seasons in the National Football League (NFL), and the item is a 1952

The post Collector Courts Bitcoin Millionaires for Record-Setting Baseball Card Auction appeared first on CCN

WELCOME TO ATLANTA: Inside Goldman Sachs' plan to move dealmaking beyond Wall Street and Silicon Valley (GS)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Atlanta Georgia

  • Last year, Goldman Sachs partner David Dase uprooted his family and moved to Atlanta to start a new investment banking office for the firm.
  • The move is part of a broader effort by the firm to penetrate regional business hubs, including Dallas, Seattle, and Toronto.
  • The initiative is a key component in achieving the firm's goal of covering more than 1,000 new companies and adding $500 million in new investment banking revenues.
  • Starting from scratch, Dase quickly enmeshed himself in the Atlanta community, and the firm is now covering 50 new companies in the region. 

David Dase knew moving to Atlanta wouldn't be easy.

The Goldman Sachs partner had spent much of his nearly 25 years at the firm orchestrating deals in America's busiest financial hubs — New York and San Francisco — where the investment bank was entrenched in corporate boardrooms of the world's most important companies. 

Atlanta, by comparison, was unmapped territory. The bank had a small presence of wealth managers and specialty lenders, but no bankers on the ground developing relationships with the region's extensive yet less visible roster of companies. 

"You're starting from scratch," Dase told Business Insider. "It takes a lot of time and investment."

But Dase wasn't being banished away from Goldman's power centers; to the contrary, he was being entrusted to lead the charge on a new initiative that Goldman has been telling investors will help generate $500 million in new investment banking revenues.

In December of 2016, the bank announced it was shaking up its approach to investment banking, opening up offices and deploying partners to previously undercovered regional hubs Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, and Toronto.

This gambit and others — like making additional senior hires and using tech to engage clients — is expected to increase Goldman's investment-banking client base 10% to more than 9,000 by 2020 and contribute $500 million of the $5 billion in new revenues the bank is chasing.

Dase, a veteran technology, media, and telecom investment banker, was tapped to build out the bank's presence in the booming Atlanta region — a job he readily accepted.

"I just thought it was fundamentally a really exciting opportunity to build a business in the Southeast and to take the Goldman platform and extend it," Dase said. "Getting immersed in the community seemed like a challenge and a lot of fun."

Why Atlanta?

It's just one of the locations where Goldman Sachs client coverage effortsGoldman is expanding its presence, but the opportunity in America's Southeast is clear: The region clocks in at a gross domestic product of $4.15 trillion, the largest of any of the eight US regions, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That's larger than any individual country in Europe, including Germany.

Florida and Georgia ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in state GDP growth in 2016, with South Carolina and Tennessee each cracking the top-15 as well

Beyond the household names like Coca-Cola, Delta, and The Home Depot, there are dozens of massive enterprises for Goldman to sink its claws into.

"There are over 75 S&P 500 companies in the Southeast. Many we have strong relationships with, but there are many, quite frankly, where our relationships aren’t as strong," Dase said.

The region is home to about 450 public companies with a market value in excess of $500 million, by Goldman Sachs' estimates. 

"We feel that by being in the region we will be able to significantly expand the number of companies we are covering," Dase said. "For companies where our relationships are not as strong, we want to get in front of them more frequently so we can improve these relationships over time."

Atlanta — home to the world's most travelled airport — is the business epicenter of the Southeast, and the ideal headquarters for Dase and his team to start advancing their coverage. 

Hala Moddelmog, who was president of Atlanta-based fast-food empires Church's Chicken in the 1990s and Arby's from 2010 to 2013, said she wasn't surprised when Goldman announced its expansion in Atlanta.

"I'm thrilled, but I wasn't surprised given all the growth that's going on in Atlanta," said Moddelmog, who's now the CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. "A lot of things have come together in the past few years to put us on a growth trajectory."

Yes, the city is home to 26 Fortune 1000 companies. But it's also become a financial technology hub — the Chamber says Georgia's fintech companies contribute $72 billion in annual revenues — as well as a popular location for large companies to expand their tech and digital operations. 

GE and Honeywell each chose Atlanta for their new digital headquarters in 2016, adding more than 1,000 new high-paying jobs between them. 

"We've really had a great last four to five years in terms of a few trends that have worked really well for us. And one of those trends is becoming more of a tech hub and really getting known for that," Moddelmog said. 

A key driver of Atlanta's attractiveness to tech companies is its higher-education reputation, especially for churning out skilled engineers. Georgia Tech graduates more engineers than MIT and Carnegie Mellon combined, and more women and black engineers than any other university, according to Moddelmog. 

This economic driver wasn't lost on Goldman Sachs.

"Part of the juice feeding the job growth in Atlanta and in the Southeast in general are the incredibly strong education institutions which are graduating students which are highly attractive to employers," Dase said. "I don't think companies would be investing so heavily in the Southeast  if there weren’t so many bright, young, eager, college-educated kids who had a desire to live in the these growth markets."

"He attends everything"

But, as Dase noted, he was effectively starting from scratch. With the breadth of opportunities in Atlanta and the broader Southeast, where do you begin?

David Dase

Relationships are paramount in investment banking, so Dase immediately hit the ground, meeting local business and education leaders, attending events, and getting enmeshed in the community. 

Whether it was taking part in a seminar with other area executives on artificial intelligence and crypto currencies, hanging out at a BBQ, or attending the opening of a new play, Dase made his presence felt, and he says he and the company were met with "an enormous receptivity."

His efforts didn't go unnoticed. 

Dase reached out to the Chamber to start networking shortly after he arrived, connecting with Moddelmog and others.

"He's out and about; he attends everything," Moddelmog said. "He has just really gone all-in to get to know people in the community."

She added: "I would hold Dave Dase up as the best example of somebody coming into the Atlanta market. He's done it exactly the way Atlanta likes to have their new CEOs come in."

Dase also regularly communicates with the regional heads in Dallas, Seattle, and Toronto, as well, to discuss what strategies and ideas are working. 

He's also in frequent contact with the rest of Goldman Sachs team in New York and across the country.

"We're not sitting here on an island by ourselves," Dase said.

So far, the initiative appears to be paying dividends.

Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein highlighted the client-coverage push in his annual investor letter this week, noting that it had resulted in over 75 new mandates across a variety of industry groups, and that the firm was 30% of the way toward reaching its goal of covering 1,000 new clients. 

Goldman Sachs' hasn't provided any specific revenue figures or deal examples that have stemmed from the regional offices, but Dase's team is hiring to add to five full-time bankers, "who are covering over 50 new companies and strengthening relationships with many of our existing clients," Dase said.

"Those are 50 companies we weren't covering before."

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Goldman Sachs investment chief: Bitcoin is definitely a bubble, Ethereum even more so

An exchange giant lays out its defense of a bitcoin product that could transform the cryptocurrency

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

traders cboe options

  • Cboe Global Markets president Chris Concannon addressed the SEC's concerns about a bitcoin exchange-traded fund in a letter out Monday.
  • A bitcoin ETF has long been viewed as a natural next step for bitcoin after the launch of futures.

The exchange behind one of the two markets for bitcoin futures in the US is trying to mollify regulators' concerns about an exchange-traded product tied to the cryptocurrency.

In a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission out Monday, Cboe Global Markets president Chris Concannon addressed a note penned by the agency in January, which questioned whether issues such as  illiquidity and fragmentation in bitcoin markets would serve as an improper basis for an exchange-traded fund.

“Until the questions identified above can be addressed satisfactorily, we do not believe that it is appropriate for fund sponsors to initiate registration of funds that intend to invest substantially in cryptocurrency and related products," Dalia Blass, the director of the agency's investment management, wrote in January.

Addressing the liquidity of both the bitcoin and bitcoin futures markets, Concannon noted that spot bitcoin exchanges have seen impressive turnover, on par with some traditional markets. He also noted that liquidity in bitcoin futures has been promising, despite being relatively muted since their inception. Here's Concannon:

"Looking specifically to bitcoin, the nascent futures markets are developing quickly and, while the current bitcoin futures trading volumes on Cboe Futures Exchange and CME may not currently be sufficient to support ETPs seeking 100% long or short exposure to bitcoin, Cboe expects these volumes to continue to grow and in the near future reach levels comparable to those of other commodity futures products at the time that they were included in ETPs."

As for market fragmentation, Concannon says it is an issue that other assets with their own ETFs face. 

"If you look at the currency or the gold market, it is probably more fragmented than crypto," he said during an interview with Business Insider. "There are a lot of venues to access currency markets."

Cboe has pioneered bitcoin's entrenchment into mainstream Wall Street, launching the first market for bitcoin futures in the US in December 2017. That followed an earlier attempt by Bats, an exchange acquired by Cboe in 2017, to trade a bitcoin-ETF from the Winklevoss twins. Such a product could serve as a powerful on ramp for retail investors to dive into the cryptocurrency, which soared to almost $20,000 in 2017.

A bitcoin ETF was viewed as a natural next step in bitcoin's maturation as an asset after the launch of futures. In response to regulatory pushback, however, a number of issuers - from VanEck to ProShares - have withdrawn their applications for a bitcoin fund. As many as 10 bitcoin-linked ETFs are sitting in regulatory limbo, waiting for approval, according to a recent note by JPMorgan. 

JPMorgan, which described a bitcoin fund as a "holy grail" for the cryptocurrency, said its impact could resemble the impact of the first gold-linked ETF.

After the launch of SPDR Gold Shares ETF in 2014, "retail access to gold has skyrocketed as new investors more easily turn to the gold market as a portfolio diversifier and as a foundational asset," JPMorgan said. 

The point of the letter by Cboe isn't to rush the SEC to make a decision, according to Concannon, but rather to "point out areas that can be satisfied" and advocate for the "development of the marketplace."

"This has been a priority for us since we approached the SEC almost a year ago with the Winklevoss brothers and their original bitcoin filing,” Concannon said.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: There's a surprising twist at the end of the 'synchronized global growth' story

Trapped Below $9K, Bitcoin Risks Downside Break

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin has been trading sideways in a narrow range over the last week, but a drop toward $8,000 may be on the way.

Alphacat Being the First NEP5 Token to Be Listed on HitBTC

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

This is a paid-for submitted press release. CCN does not endorse, nor is responsible for any material included below and isn’t responsible for any damages or losses connected with any products or services mentioned in the press release. CCN urges readers to conduct their own research with due diligence into the company, product or service mentioned

The post Alphacat Being the First NEP5 Token to Be Listed on HitBTC appeared first on CCN

2 reasons why the market is fundamentally misjudging the Bank of England’s next step

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

bank of england mark carney

  • The Bank of England hinted that it is set to hike interest rates in May, but there are signs it could change its mind.
  • A rate hike in May is, in the words of bond market guru Mohamed El-Erian "far from a done deal."
  • The wording of the committee's statement is far less explicit than that in the Bank of England's statement in September last year, the meeting prior to its November rate hike.
  • This suggests some reticence to hike on the bank's part.
  • The make up of the vote of bank's Monetary Policy Committee also raises concerns.

LONDON — As expected, the Bank of England left interest rates on hold on Thursday, but signalled — in the eyes of most commentators and many in the markets — that a rate hike at the next meeting of its MPC is all but guaranteed.

After hiking rates for the first time since the financial crisis last November,  the bank spent much of the rest of the year signalling that it will likely raise rates further in 2018. 

Most had expected hikes towards the end of the year, but an unusually upbeat MPC statement in February brought that horizon forward to May.

March's statement seems to confirm that, with two MPC members voting for an immediate hike, and the bank as a whole saying that "an ongoing tightening of monetary policy over the forecast period will be appropriate" going forward.

However, there are some signs that a move upwards from the current rate of 0.5% to 0.75% in May is, in the words of bond market guru Mohamed El-Erian "far from a done deal."

"Ignore the split rate vote; the real news is that the Committee has chosen not to signal an imminent rate rise as clearly as it did last year," Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at research house Pantheon Macroeconomics said in an email to clients shortly after the decision.

The wording of the committee's statement, Tombs says, is far less explicit than that in the Bank of England's statement in September last year, the meeting prior to its November rate hike.

"Back in September—the meeting before it hiked rates in November—the Committee said it would hike 'over the coming months'. Today, the Committee has not given any time-bound guidance," Tombs writes.

The main reason for that change of wording, Pantheon's note argues, is that recent economic data, while fairly solid, has not been as strong as the BoE had expected when it struck its hawkish tone back in February.

"The Committee’s confidence has been knocked by a “few surprises in recent economic data”, which we assume means the below-consensus PMIs, soft retail sales figures and February’s 2.7% CPI inflation rate, which was below the Committee’s 2.9% forecast," Tombs says.

That leads him to the conclusion that a "rate increase in May still is under active consideration, but the likelihood is nowhere near as high as the 80% chance priced-in by markets before this meeting."

As a result, Tombs forecasts that "activity and inflation data" will "surprise the Committee to the downside, ensuring that it waits until August to raise interest rates again."

Screen Shot 2018 03 22 at 14.41.53

Two dissenters

Another reason to suspect that the bank may not hike in May as expected is the makeup of Thursday's decision. The two members of the committee who dissented were Ian McCafferty and Michael Saunders, both widely known as the bank's most hawkish policymakers.

Saunders and McCafferty tend to move in tandem, and the last time the pair of them dissented to the upside was in June 2017, five months and three meetings before the rest of the MPC came on side. Since last year the bank has changed its meeting schedule, moving to just eight per year. 

The bank generally only changes policy on the day of an Inflation Report, as Governor Mark Carney holds a press conference on those days, giving the bank a greater ability to communicate its reasoning behind decisions to the markets and wider public.

With that borne in mind, should the MPC follow the pattern of waiting a quarter of its annual meetings to follow McCafferty and Saunders, it could be August — the first Inflation Report after May — before the BoE hikes, matching the forecast of Pantheon Macroeconomics. 

To be sure, this is not a scientific way of working out when the bank will hike, but it might just turn out to be true.

SEE ALSO: The Bank of England is making a fundamental misjudgment about the British economy

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Goldman Sachs investment chief: Bitcoin is definitely a bubble, Ethereum even more so

10 things you need to know in markets today

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney joins the rally during a

Good morning! Here's what you need to know in markets on Monday.

1. The officially designated Brexit campaign, Vote Leave, "cheated" during the European Union referendum and may have flouted campaign spending rules, a whistleblower has claimed. The allegation centres around the organisation’s links to another smaller campaign group – BeLeave – which it helped fund.

2. Apple CEO Tim Cook has weighed in on the Cambridge Analytica data scandal that Facebook has been grappling with for the past two weeks. The Apple CEO said the situation is "dire" and that he believed regulation is necessary during a public speech in China on Saturday — without specifically mentioning Facebook by name, according to a Bloomberg report.

3. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took out full-page ads in several British and American newspapers to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica scandal that has roiled the company over the past two weeks. "We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can't, we don't deserve it," says the ad, which ran in papers including The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.

4. The United States asked China in a letter last week to cut the tariff on US autos, buy more US-made semiconductors, and give US firms greater access to the Chinese financial sector, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources. Alarm over a possible trade war between the world's two largest economies has chilled financial markets as investors foresee dire consequences should trade barriers go up due to President Donald Trump's bid to cut the US deficit with China.

5. Fears of a full-blown trade war between the United States and China battered Asian shares again on Monday, keeping the safe haven yen near a 16-month peak as investors fretted over the fate of global growth. Japan's Nikkei is down 0.12% at the time of writing (6.22 a.m. BST/1.22 a.m. ET), the Hong Kong Hang Seng is down 0.48%, and China's Shanghai Composite is down 1.49%.

6. The European Union holds "grave suspicions" about the dominance of internet giant Google and has not ruled out breaking it up, according to a warning by the EU's antitrust chief Britain's Telegraph reported on Sunday. European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager reckons the threat to split Google into smaller companies must be kept open, the newspaper said.

7. House of Fraser has discussed securing funds from Alteri, an investor focusing on struggling retailers. The department store chain met Alteri to consider how the lender could provide funds to help it through difficult conditions, the Times reports.

8. Startups that raised hundreds of millions of dollars last year issuing their own digital coins are being "intentionally non-transparent" with their investors, according to a new report. Analysis carried out by ICORating for Business Insider found that many projects are operating in an "opaque" manner, with investors left in the dark about how the project is progressing.

9. Santander is on track to launch an international money transfer app in partnership with fintech startup Ripple in the next few months, the bank's UK CEO has confirmed. Nathan Bostock told the International Fintech conference in London: "This spring, if not one beats us to it, we will be the first large retail bank to carry out cross-border payments at scale with blockchain technology."

10. Ride-hailing firm Uber has agreed to sell its Southeast Asian business to bigger regional rival Grab, the firms said in a statement on Monday, marking the US company's second retreat from an Asian market. As part of the transaction, Uber will take a stake of 27.5% in the Southeast Asian company, Grab said in a statement.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: These are the watches worn by the smartest and most powerful men in the world

Cryptocurrency Market Slump Extends as Bitcoin Remains Below $8,500

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Since yesterday, March 25, the cryptocurrency market has struggled to rebound to the $350 billion region. Apart from some small cryptocurrencies like Ontology and Ethos, most cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have recorded a slight decline in value. Bitcoin and Ethereum Keep Yesterday’s Levels Since March 25, both Ethereum and bitcoin have struggled to record any major

The post Cryptocurrency Market Slump Extends as Bitcoin Remains Below $8,500 appeared first on CCN

Quebec Blogger Slams Government For Dissing Crypto Mining

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The Quebec government’s recent actions to disconnect cryptocurrency mining from the region has drawn criticism from Francois Remy, head of the digital desk at Les Affaires, a Quebec newspaper, in a recent blog. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has said the bitcoin miners planning to move to the region will not get cheap electricity from the

The post Quebec Blogger Slams Government For Dissing Crypto Mining appeared first on CCN

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