Saturday, January 18, 2020

FATF Holds Global Forum to Discuss Crypto Supervision


The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and over 50 delegations involved in crypto supervision recently gathered to discuss how to regulate crypto assets and related service providers. While examining three key areas, they stressed the importance of international cooperation, citing that cryptocurrencies are global products.

FATF-Led Discussion on Crypto Supervision
The Financial Action Task Force held a "supervisors' forum" in France last week to discuss crypto asset supervision. The aim of the forum was "to promote more effective supervision by national authorities" in the area of crypto assets and related service providers. The FATF is an intergovernmental organization with a focus on developing policies to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. Supervisors are designated authorities or non-public bodies with compliance responsibilities of each country.

According to the FATF, this event was the first opportunity for regulators to discuss how to implement new measures for crypto assets and related service providers since it finalized them in June 2019. Attendees included 135 representatives from over 50 delegations involved in virtual asset supervision, the FATF detailed, elaborating:

Supervisors play an important role in ensuring that regulated entities, such as banks and financial institutions, implement the FATF's standards to detect and prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.

3 Key Areas Discussed
The event's participants shared their knowledge and experience in supervising and regulating virtual assets and virtual asset service providers (VASPs). They discussed three main topics, starting with the lessons learned so far from countries that have already established a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and VASPs.

The second topic concerns common issues when drafting VASP laws and regulations. Representatives shared their approach to developing an AML/CFT regime for VASPs in their jurisdictions and outlined how they were implementing the FATF's recommendations. The third topic discussed was about the tools, skills, procedures, and technology needed to effectively supervise VASPs. The FATF remarked:

The importance of international cooperation was also highlighted, as virtual assets are inherently global products.

The supervisors and regulators identified a number of areas that need further action which they plan to discuss at the next FATF Plenary and other supervisors' meetings to be held in May.

Implementing the FATF Standards
The supervisors' forum is an initiative of the Chinese Presidency of the FATF to promote more effective supervision by national authorities. Two have been held so far, the first of which was held in November 2019 in Sanya, China. It focused on the effectiveness of supervision without discussing crypto assets.

The FATF's explanation from its crypto guidance.
The FATF issued guidance for crypto assets and VASPs in June 2019, with the support of the G20 countries. The money-laundering watchdog subsequently revised its assessment methodology. It sets out how the FATF will determine whether countries have successfully implemented its recommendations and are regulating the crypto sector. The FATF's rules apply both when cryptocurrencies are exchanged for fiat currencies and for other digital assets.

The challenge now is for countries and affected entities to effectively implement its recommendations, the FATF affirmed. By bringing together practitioners from around the world, the organization explained that it "is beginning to develop a global knowledge base on 'what works' in supervising virtual assets," adding:

This will help ensure a consistent global approach to supervision and will help the VASP sector adjust to the new regulatory environment.

A FATF meeting.
While acknowledging that implementing its requirements will be challenging for the crypto sector, the FATF believes that "it will ultimately increase trust in blockchain technology as the backbone behind a robust and viable means to transfer value." Noting that adopting its rules will "ensure transparency of virtual asset transactions and keep funds with links to crime and terrorism out of the cryptosphere," the money laundering watchdog declared:
Countries need to implement the FATF's measures, and soon … The FATF will evaluate next steps in June 2020.

EXcoin’s Mru Patel wants to bring blockchain together for social good


Blockchain technology has been focused on improving efficiency, reducing costs and improving speed—all of which translate to increased profitability for its users. However, in recent times, we've seen a rise in the use of blockchain for social good. The Global Blockchain Organization is one initiative, aiming to utilize the blockchain to create a better future. One of the founders, Mru Patel was at the Malta AI and Blockchain Summit where he spoke to CoinGeek's Stephanie Tower about GBO, the need for regulations and more.

The GBO will bring together various stakeholders, from regulators to banks and startups, and "create a standard regulated thing on basic values," he explained. These members will "shape the future of the blockchain through process, regulation and universal compliance towards blockchain for humanity."

The organization was launched in December 2019 in Oslo, Norway. It intends to work towards the adoption and utilization of blockchain in government, healthcare, energy, finance and infrastructure.

Patel stated, "The immediate impact we hope for is all about humanity—how to improve the lives people. At the end of the day we're giving to charities, we're building communities, we're going to raise a lot of funds."

Patel is also the President of EXcoin, a derivatives exchange for digital options trading. The platform allows its users to deposit and withdraw in crypto and offers trading in futures, options and CFDs. He has also been extensively involved in regulatory processes, especially concerning cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.

He believes that governments across the globe must try to understand blockchain a bit better, so as to make informed decisions on how to regulate it. Most of them only know blockchain as a technology that underpins Bitcoin. Others relate it to the many crypto-related scams that have occurred in recent times. However, it's much more than this and could ultimately transform how governments operate.

On the perceived tug of war between blockchain and regulators, he explained, "Majority of the governments are focusing mainly on the fintech space to track money laundering and related activities, also on taxation. In my view, majority of them are dragging their feet. I have a view that what they are actually doing is protecting their jobs, pensions and the cartels they are involved with."

Sunday, January 12, 2020

New York wants crypto companies to pay their own way


New York has a love/hate with cryptocurrency. It's the only state that requires companies in the industry to obtain a separate license, the BitLicense, to operate, while recognizing that digital currency is legitimate. There is even talk of the state issuing its own quasi-crypto, minus the decentralization, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo now believes that companies should take a more vested interest in their activity if they want to operate within the state's borders. Cuomo has proposed changes to New York's Financial Services Law (FSL) that would require those entities to cover all expenses related to regulation and licensing.

In Cuomo's State of the State (in pdf) plan, he explains that there are gaps in the oversight of companies licensed under the Bank Law and Insurance Law, and those covered by the FSL. Entities covered by either of the first two are obligated to provide payments to the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) to cover their regulatory costs, but this isn't the case for those covered by the FSL. The governor wants to amend the FSL in order to close these gaps.

While the plan doesn't specifically mention cryptocurrency businesses, they're regulated by the NYDFS and the FSL. This can only mean that they would be subject to the same regulations as any other entity under the FSL's guidance.

No mention is made about how much any costs would be, or when the plan might be put into action. Nor does it indicate if businesses already licensed would have to pay any retroactive fees, or if they would automatically be grandfathered into the policy. The governor's office is now accepting public comments on the proposals, with any input expected on or before January 27.

Several lawmakers in New York, along with a law professor from Cornell, have introduced a plan that would see a statewide digital currency become active. Dubbed "public Venmo," the project would introduce an electronic banking platform and a digital currency that would be available for use across the state.

According to Vice, Public Venmo is the brainchild of Senator Julia Salazar, Assemblyman Ron Kim and Cornell law professor Robert Hockett. Kim explains, "I believe that our proposal, the Inclusive Value Ledger, has the potential to be truly revolutionary," Kim said in a public statement. "The creation of a free public savings and payment platform that all New Yorkers can use, not only to pay for goods and services but also to transfer money directly to each other through, could fundamentally reshape New York into a fairer, healthier, wealthier, and more inclusive place for all."

As opposed to other digital currencies, Venmo wouldn't be completely decentralized. It would be issued, monitored and regulated by a central government-led entity that maintains a government-controlled master wallet.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Weekly crypto news roundup


2019 is securely in the history books, and 2020 is ready to bring a lot of positive change for the cryptocurrency and blockchain spaces. Regulation, perceptions and laws continue to migrate toward wider acceptance, even if the transition seems slow, and this year is going to be a pivotal shift for how crypto is received. Going from 2019 to 2020 means out with the old, in with the new, and this week, the transformation week between the two years, is helping to make that happen.

Despite crypto having been received well in Australia, an executive with the Reserve Bank of Australia sees BTC as a non-practical alternative to fiat. Anthony Richards admits that he has dabbled in BTC, but he doesn't believe it can take the place of regular currency. He's correct, as crypto was never meant to replace fiat, and alternatives such as BTC and ETH are not carrying the digital currency torch the way it had been intended.

Google recently banned MetaMask, an ETH wallet and decentralized web browser from the Play Store and Apple appears to be ready to follow suit. It updated its App Store policy and might force apps that offer decentralized app (DApp) browsing capabilities to pull their products. This includes the Coinbase DApp browser, which contains a MetaMask component, and the possibility isn't sitting well with anyone. The reason Google and Apple are giving for the removal of MetaMask is because it includes a crypto mining function; however, MetaMask has already denied that assertion. For Coinbase users, the only alternative would be to use the desktop version of the Coinbase Wallet.

South Korean crypto exchange Bithumb is having to dig deep into its pockets to cover a massive tax bill. The country's National Tax Service is looking for just under $69 million from the company in the form of foreign customers' withholding taxes on gains made from crypto investments. The tax bill comes as Vidente, the exchange's largest shareholder, acquired just over 34% of the exchange's parent company. Bithumb and Vidente are prepared to pay the bill to stay on the government's good side, but will contest the legitimacy of the claim, as well.

Bitcoin SV (BSV) continues to gain strength on a number of levels. Most notably, it has recently become attractive to more crypto miners, with several new pools joining the mix recently. One of the reasons for the switch is because trends are showing that mining BSV is more profitable than mining BTC. This became more pronounced after the Quasar upgrade last year, and will grow even more with the Genesis upgrade next month.

If letting an employee go for any reason results in bad blood, it's a good idea to upgrade protocols and security measures to ensure the former employee can't look for retribution. One startup out of France learned this lesson the hard way after a former employee, disgruntled at being let go for reasons that aren't entirely clear, broke into the company's network and stole 182 BTC—around $1.3 million. Knowing how the system worked, he was able to sidestep security measures that would have sounded the alarm, but someone still noticed the sudden massive loss in holdings and contacted the authorities. The theft was traced to the former employee, who will now have to answer for his actions in front of a judge.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Huobi Japan to raise another $4.6M in January 2020


Huobi Japan, the Japanese subsidiary of Singaporean crypto giant Huobi Group, is set to raise $4.6 million in January 2020. The exchange will raise the funding from Japanese financial services firm Tokai Tokyo Financial Holdings. The new funding comes just two months after the exchange raised another $4.6 million from FPG Corporation.

Tokai Tokyo signed a business alliance agreement with Huobi Japan which will see the two firms strengthen cooperation in the digital assets business. The financial services giant, which mainly deals in brokerage services, believes that blockchain and cryptos are about to explode in the Japanese market and it doesn't want to miss out.

In its press release, the company stated, "Here in Japan, the relevant ministerial ordinances are expected in force next spring. Therefore, we believe that the business dealing with crypto assets and blockchain will accelerate further."

Tokai Tokyo will promote new businesses in areas such as initial exchange offerings, crypto exchange, local currency issuance and the storage and management of cryptos. The firm will "consider expanding this business to partner regional banks in the future."

Huobi Japan was launched in January 2019. This was after Huobi Group acquired local crypto exchange BitTrade in September 2018, rebranding it into its Japanese subsidiary.

In October, the company raised ¥500 million ($4.6 million) through the issuance of new shares to FPG Corporation, a Japanese financial services group. The exchange pledged to channel the funds to expansion, staying true to their promise that they would 'aggressively scale up their platform.'

While Huobi Group has found great success in Japan, its push into the United States hasn't been as smooth. Last month, the exchange announced that it was set to freeze all U.S. accounts in a few weeks' time. The freezing followed months of gradual disabling of U.S. accounts as regulatory scrutiny mounted. Users were urged to withdraw their funds before November 13 or risk losing them.

Earlier this month, its U.S. subsidiary HBUS announced that it was halting operations. HBUS was around for just over 18 months before calling it quits. In more positive news however, Huobi has continued to expand into other territories including Thailand and Argentina.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Why Quantum Computing’s Threat to Crypto May Be Further out Than Previously Thought


According to one researcher, quantum computing faces more hurdles than many realize when it comes to achieving viability in breaking encryption. In a recent report Dr. Subhash Kak, Regents Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Oklahoma State University, notes that there are issues such as "noise" and error correction that render the buzz about quantum supremacy when it comes to Bitcoin, still largely theoretical.

Where Quantum Supremacy Falls Short
In essence "quantum supremacy" refers to the demonstration that a quantum computer can solve some problem classical computers can't. There's no doubt this has been done, but the important question for those in the crypto space centers on what kind of problem is being solved. While the development of quantum supremacy is a haunting specter indeed for hodlers worried about their private keys, there's yet little evidence the problems being solved by this technology have much utility in cracking encryption where cryptos are concerned.

"These companies are trying to build hardware that replicates the circuit model of classical computers. However, current experimental systems have less than 100 qubits. To achieve useful computational performance, you probably need machines with hundreds of thousands of qubits," states Dr. Subhash Kak in a recent article.

Though groups like D-wave boast 2000 qubits (quantum bits) the applications are different. D-wave's focus is on optimization via a process called quantum annealing which, according to Kak, is a "narrower approach to quantum computing … where qubits are used to speed up optimization problems." As such, D-wave's claims have garnered some criticism, with one recent report on the topic calling the D-wave system "skim milk" compared to other computers.

Noise and Error Correction
The real difficulty in achieving practical quantum code-cracking resides in the concepts of noise and error correction, according to Kak. The researcher details:

"For computers to function properly, they must correct all small random errors. In a quantum computer, such errors arise from the non-ideal circuit elements and the interaction of the qubits with the environment around them."

For these reasons the qubits can lose coherency in a fraction of a second and, therefore, the computation must be completed in even less time. If random errors – which are inevitable in any physical system – are not corrected, the computer's results will be worthless.

This error correction complicates things even more. The potential for noise-related errors necessitates the need for more qubit power. Theoretical physicist Mikhail Dyakonov describes the mind-boggling nature of the problem, saying:

"While a conventional computer with N bits at any given moment must be in one of its 2N possible states, the state of a quantum computer with N qubits is described by the values of the 2N quantum amplitudes, which are continuous parameters (ones that can take on any value, not just a 0 or a 1). This is the origin of the supposed power of the quantum computer, but it is also the reason for its great fragility and vulnerability.

So the number of continuous parameters describing the state of such a useful quantum computer at any given moment … is much, much greater than the number of subatomic particles in the observable universe.

In other words, the strength of practical quantum computing can also be seen as its Achilles heel. Because it can process so many variables, these seemingly endless variables also open the door for greater potential error. Resulting hardware and logistical considerations are not as often discussed as other issues, but according to the two researchers these areas are of critical importance.

Looking Past the Hype
Dyakonov, like Kak, points to the hype surrounding the field of quantum computing, which has been in development and a source of energized speculation for decades. While it is unclear exactly how far classified government and high-level scientific developments may have come by now, as far as the educated observer can tell, it seems there's a long way to go before the Bitcoin network may be in danger. At which point algorithmic upgrades have been suggested by many as a potential solution.

Still, like ongoing work in nuclear fusion, quantum computing is not to be ignored. An unforeseen breakthrough could theoretically happen at any time and change the game. Kak, for his part, remains skeptical: "As someone who has worked on quantum computing for many years, I believe that due to the inevitability of random errors in the hardware, useful quantum computers are unlikely to ever be built."

This week in tech: Asia shows the blockchain world how it’s done


More global giants continue to adopt the blockchain, setting the stage for what could be a momentous year in 2020 for the technology. Asia has continued to set the pace, with China, South Korea and India leading the pack.

This week, China's internet giant ByteDance launched a new partnership which will develop blockchain and AI solutions for its clients. Known mainly as the owner of video sharing app TikTok, ByteDance partnered with a state media conglomerate to launch a new company named Pengpai Audiovisual Technology Co.

Also in China, the country's judiciary revealed this week that the smart courts system has been quite a success. The courts are powered by blockchain and other technologies such as AI and cloud computing. According to a recent report, these smart courts settled over 3 million cases between March and October this year.

The race for a national digital currency is still on course, with Iran revealing its intentions this week. The country's president proposed the development of a Muslim crypto this week, aimed at checking the U.S. economic dominance. He called on Muslim nations to come together and back this crypto as they seek to strengthen financial and trade cooperation.

This week, Thailand announced that it would apply blockchain in the issuance of its electronic visa on arrival. The application of the technology will speed up the process, while enhancing transparency and security.

Over in East Asia, a leading telecom operator announced the launch of a blockchain-based currency to revitalize the local economy. South Korea's largest telecom company KT partnered with Busan city to launch the currency, which will be known as Dongbaekjeon. Busan, South Korea's second largest city after Seoul, believes the currency will "revitalize its local economy and ease the management burden of small business."

In South Asia, one of the largest consultancy companies released a blockchain development kit this week, aiming to accelerate the development of decentralized applications. Tata Consultancy Services, which is the largest Indian company by market capitalization, launched the kit to allow enterprises to build and deploy dApps in a simplified way. The company claims that developers who use their kit write smart contracts 40% faster than their peers.

In Hong Kong, the United Nations is turning to blockchain to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers. Through the International Organization for Migration, the U.N. launched a blockchain tool that will introduce transparency in the immigration sector. Hong Kong is home to nearly 400,000 migrants and over half this number has been exploited in one way or another.

Over in the U.S., chipmaker AMD this week joined a blockchain alliance which aims at promoting the technology in the gaming industry. AMD becomes the first major player to join the Blockchain Game Alliance. Still in the U.S., a Gartner report this week revealed that over 75% of major companies are integrating blockchain and IoT in their operations. According to the report, transparency and security are some of the key reasons for the continued uptake.

The week also saw some legal enforcement, with two Russian crypto miners charged for using government resources to mine. This came just a month after a Russian nuclear physicist had been sentenced to three years in jail for a similar crime.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Crypto bank SEBA expands to nine new jurisdictions


Cryptocurrency-focused banking startup SEBA Crypto AG has expanded into nine new jurisdictions, just months after it received a Swiss banking license. With its latest expansion, the startup aims to bridge the gap between digital currencies and the legacy banking system.

Based in the Zug crypto valley in Switzerland, SEBA aims to offer the crypto industry with the banking services that it has lacked for so long. It obtained a Swiss banking license in August and became fully operational a month ago.

In a statement shared with media houses, the company revealed that it had expanded into nine new jurisdictions. These are Hong Kong, Italy, Singapore, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, the U.K and Portugal.

For SEBA, it's all about bridging the gap between the traditional financial system and the new era of digital currencies. As CoinGeek has reported severally, crypto companies have struggled to access even the most basic banking services. For banks, it doesn't matter how big the company is or how much revenue the bank stands to lose, as has been seen with the Bitfinex banking debacle.

In its statement, SEBA criticized the great discrepancy that exists between legacy financial institutions and the crypto industry, stating, "More than 10 years after the invention of Bitcoin, there is still a tremendous gap between traditional banking on one side and decentralized finance on the other side."

SEBA provides several products to its clients, starting with the most basic bank account needs. It'll also allow its clients to tokenize all forms of assets, from real estate to investment products. It also offers an e-wallet alongside its SEBA card. Its services allow its clients to manage five cryptos currently, among them Ether, Litecoin and Stellar. They can easily exchange these cryptos into fiat on SEBA's platform, and vice versa.

As we reported previously, SEBA's promising future has pooled in investors, allowing it to raise $100 million in its most recent funding round. At the time, the startup's CEO Guido Buehler reiterated that its mission is "to become a market leader in the convergence of traditional finance with the crypto economy."

Indian Parliament member Dr. Subramanian Swamy has shared his view on cryptocurrency. Advocating for India to make the transition to crypto, he reportedly said, "cryptocurrency is inevitable." The lawmaker will chair a conference at the UN India's headquarters next week where issues surrounding cryptocurrency in the country will be discussed.

Indian Member of Parliament (MP) Dr. Subramanian Swamy has reportedly spoken about cryptocurrency following the statements made last week on digital currency by the governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP was nominated to Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India's parliament, by the President of India. According to Sarkaritel news portal, Dr. Swamy supports cryptocurrency adoption. He was quoted on Wednesday as saying:

Last week, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das revealed that the central bank had examined internally the prospect of issuing an RBI-backed digital rupee. "I think it is an area where the Reserve Bank will certainly look at seriously at an appropriate time," he confirmed. The RBI, however, has not warmed up to cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. Its banking restriction, enforced on the Indian cryptocurrency industry in July last year, is still in effect. The supreme court is expected to resume hearing the arguments against this ban in January.

Crypto Conference at UN India
Dr. Swamy will chair a closed-door conference at UN India's headquarters in New Delhi on Dec. 18. The event is co-organized by United Nations Technology Innovation Lab – UNTIL India and BEGIN India Think Tank. The aim of the conference is to deliberate on methods, technology and delivery mechanisms of digital currency that make nations, particularly law enforcement, "vulnerable in monitoring/ controlling/ stopping the invisible vaporization of fiat currency towards terror financing," the UN's website described.

"The scheduled conference on cryptocurrency organized by Mr. Deepak is most timely," Dr. Swamy was quoted by the news outlet as saying. "China is today even ahead of U.S. in its decision to begin a trial run in two cities for digital transactions." Deepak Kapoor is the founder of BEGIN India Think Tank. The MP elaborated:

I advocate that India as an established super power in software should accept to make the transition to cryptocurrency.

The conference will be attended by leaders from key Indian investigative agencies, law enforcement agencies, as well as state and central government IT departments. BEGIN India Think Tank focuses on addressing issues surrounding blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. The organization helps investigative agencies, law enforcement agencies, and banking institutions understand cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. Kapoor affirmed:

We are committed to addressing a range of issues around cryptocurrency, globally, starting in India.

"From its damaging negative aspects that contribute to undermining [the] dominance of central banks in a nation's economy to the overwhelmingly positive aspects of how policy should be formulated around the most secure technology till date which was essentially built to decimate the control of governments and central banks," he continued. "We must work to retain the safeguards."

Among topics that will be discussed at the conference is how to fight crypto-related crimes. "For this purpose, such conferences are necessary in a democracy that India is, and move to digital, orderly and tamper-proof transaction just as in the past, the world had moved from barter to precious metals to paper currency for transaction," Dr. Swamy detailed.

"The banking system is unable to track any financial transactions and law enforcement agencies are helplessly unable to deal with high-end cryptocurrency technology," Kapoor remarked. "Investigators have not yet even understood how to ascertain/ calculate the total value of siphoned off funds, leave alone locating and seizing it," he further asserted.

Despite various efforts by the Indian government and law enforcement agencies, BEGIN India's founder claims that "not a single case of cryptocurrency has yet been successfully solved, nor a fraction of the money recovered so far." He noted that "Alarmingly, with each passing day, larger amounts keep getting converted to cryptocurrency and vanishing into the thin-air invisible economy, thus weakening India's economy and hurting its GDP." Meanwhile, the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy has introduced a few courses teaching high ranking police officers about cryptocurrency.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Weiss Ratings Downgrades EOS to 'C-' Due to Centralization - How Other Coins Measure Up


Weiss Ratings has downgraded EOS once again, taking its ranking from a B to a C-. The group cites "failure to decentralize," "misallocation of resources," and a congested network as reasons for the fall in rank. "Weiss Crypto Ratings model is not based on opinion. It's driven by data," the group claims. In this article we'll look at EOS, as well as top coins by market cap to see how Weiss — and other voices in the space — view their progress.

The Weiss Rating System
The self-described "only ratings agency that combines the broadest coverage, strictest independence, complete objectivity, high ethics, and a commitment to safety," has moved EOS down to a C- rating. Weiss Crypto Ratings took to Twitter over the weekend to explain their reasoning. "We've had great respect for work and thinking that went into the EOS project. But the Weiss Crypto Ratings model is not based on opinion. It's driven by data," the group tweeted. "And that data has now caused a downgrade from B to C-. Here's why (full article to be published soon)."

The first reason given is a perceived failure to decentralize. Weiss notes that 0.01% of EOS token holders "control a whopping 68% of the voting power. So much for the claim that EOS is a major improvement over older cryptos like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH)," the group asserts. The second reason is a "misallocation of resources" that has resulted in network congestion, and frozen transactions for small token holders. "The issue of CPU, REX and the clogged network is too complex to explain in a simple Twitter format, so on this topic, see our article explaining EOS downgrade in detail, coming out soon," Weiss details.

Bitcoin Core
Weiss gives market cap leader Bitcoin Core (BTC) an overall rating of B+. Weak areas are "risk" and "momentum" and the coin receives a D grade in market performance. Adoption and technology both score well, getting an A. In a recent article published to the American Institute for Economic Research, Austrian economist and Bitcoin advocate Jeffrey A. Tucker seems to lend credence to the Weiss assessment on momentum, writing:

Consider the core data. Transactions per day are at 2016 levels. Exchange volume is at 2017 levels. Wallet use is at an all-time high but most new users come in through exchanges and keep their money there, which belies the hope of disintermediated money.

Ethereum also garners a B+ grade by the Weiss system, ranking "fair" and "excellent" in technology and adoption, respectively. A D- score in market performance counterbalances this positivity. While some in the crypto space would argue that there are serious scaling issues with Ethereum and question the technology and adoption score, Weiss nonetheless gives these an A, based on its ranking system.

XRP receives a B-, rated "very weak" in the momentum category and "weak" in the risk category. "Momentum," according to the Weiss system, "evaluates the upside potential an investor could benefit from." XRP's most highly scored aspect is adoption, categorized as "excellent." Centralization has been a big issue in the crypto space for critics of XRP, as some see the asset as being controlled directly by the company, and not a decentralized community.

Bitcoin Cash
Bitcoin Cash, whose community and tech seek to address some of the issues with BTC Tucker discusses in his article, gets an overall Weiss rating of C. Interestingly, no 90-day performance history is shown for BCH at press time, and this metric would ostensibly be needed to effectively establish risk and momentum, both of which Weiss rates as weak. In any case, BCH shines most brightly in the category of adoption, which is rated "good."

Monday, December 2, 2019

How the Upcoming Bitcoin Halving Compares to Previous Cycles


For those standing very close to the crypto charts, it might be easy to get discouraged by the gloomy nature of recent markets. However, new comparisons of the current halving cycle to those in the past have emerged and might put some wind back into the sails of traders, hodlers, and cryptocurrency enthusiasts in general.

Miners Unfazed as Halving Approaches
Though crypto prices took a big dip in November, with BTC falling 30% from a high of $9,486 to a bottom of around $6,575, hash rates on both the BTC and BCH chains have held relatively steady as the next block reward halving approaches. Data also points to miners hoarding coins in view of the upcoming subsidy reduction, as the event is generally viewed as price favorable. In combination with these factors, new analysis has emerged which might suggest that in spite of the recent bearish climate, things might be more on track than previously supposed.

Comparing Halving Cycles
The image above aligns the block reward halving points of three cycles (the latter half of pre-halving and the first half of post-halving), with the three cycles anchored at a common line of 100% of the cycle low. The first two cycles which are completed, and the pre-halving phase of the current cycle are displayed. Interestingly, the movements in the latter half cycles appear to follow a similar trend. As creator of the graphic, @Chartsbtc, states on their Twitter post:

Each cycle is 210,000 blocks (~4 years). This chart starts half way through the cycle and goes half way into the next cycle. This is my attempt to show the lows prior to halving and the peaks post halving but keep everything centered around the halving.

The graphic is compelling, and has many hoping for great moves price-wise in 2020 and beyond. Discussing the methodology of creating the graphic further, @Chartsbtc explains why the green price action line does not touch the 100% cycle low level: "The low was a intraday price and the chart only plots the closing prices to the nearest 105th block. I wish I actually had prices per block." They further note that viewers should "Keep in mind that each cycle peak will likely be lower than the prior one." Even so, should the trend repeat BTC could see a post-halving peak around $80,000. Still, this is all speculation, and other factors must be kept in mind.

Into 2020
With the Bitcoin Core halving estimated to be taking place in mid-May, 2020, and the Bitcoin Cash halving to likely occur a month earlier, speculation of course abounds. Other factors playing into market perception and possibly price, such as proliferating development surrounding the BCH chain, and a trend of businesses dropping BTC as a payment method due to fees and congestion (not to mention an overall shift in attitude in the BTC community from user to mere hodler), could also have unexpected affects. If the projections of the above halving data are correct, however, everyone may be in for an interesting ride in 2020.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

58% of German Banks Charge Negative Interest Rates


Germany's central bank, the Deutsche Bundesbank, has conducted a survey of banks charging negative interest rates on customer deposits. Some are charging retail customers as well as corporate clients. An independent price comparison portal shows which banks are currently charging for deposits and how much they are charging.

Central Bank Survey
A growing number of German banks are passing on the burden of negative interest rates to their customers as the European Central Bank (ECB) continues to maintain a negative interest rate policy (NIRP). The current ECB deposit rate is -0.5%, the lowest on record.

"Many banks in Germany have introduced negative rates on deposits," the Deutsche Bundesbank wrote in its November monthly report after conducting a survey of 220 banks at the end of September regarding their negative interest rate policies. The central bank believes that the surveyed banks constitute a representative sample of the overall sector, thereby allowing it to make qualified statements concerning the spread of negative interest rates on customer deposits in the German banking sector. The Financial Times summarized:

58% of the banks said they were levying negative rates on some corporate deposits and 23% said they were doing the same for retail depositors.

Even the country's largest banks have started charging their customers for deposits. Deutsche Bank CFO James von Moltke told analysts last month that his bank had stepped up its attempts to pass on the negative rate burden to corporate clients. "This is more difficult in the private bank business than in corporate or institutional deposits and we don't see an ability to adjust legal terms and conditions of our accounts on a broad-based basis," the CFO was quoted as saying. He added that his bank had also approached some retail clients with large deposits on the matter.

Similarly, Commerzbank CFO Stephan Engels revealed earlier this month that his bank had already been approaching wealthy retail customers holding deposits of more than 1 million euros ($1.11 million).

Which Banks Charge Negative Interest Rates
While the central bank did not provide a list of banks that are charging negative interest rates, German consumer price comparison platform Verivox has published several lists of banks that fall into this category. The platform claims to have examined the policies of over 800 German banks.

According to its current database, at least 21 banks have published their negative rate policies online and seven others are charging fees for money market accounts which are usually free. Further, the platform lists 20 other banks that the media have reported as charging for deposits but they have not published the information on their websites.

Verivox's list of 21 banks currently charging negative interest rates on customer deposits. was able to verify that a number of banks on the Verivox list do charge negative interest rates including Berliner Volksbank, Ethikbank, Skatbank, Sparda-Bank Berlin, Sparkasse Harburg-Buxtehude, Volksbank Eisenberg, and Volksbank Fürstenfeldbruck. Berliner Volksbank, one of the largest German cooperative banks, started charging -0.5% on accounts with at least 100,000 euros on Oct. 1, as previously reported.

Following the move by the ECB to lower the key interest rate to -0.5% in September, Skatbank announced its negative interest rate policy, emphasizing:

We can no longer economically accept responsibility for maintaining the ECB negative interest rate in full. So far, negative interest rates were only incurred for large-scale depositors. As a result of its actions, the ECB leaves us no other choice than to further restrict our deposit business.

Another German price comparison website, Biallo, claims to have found more than 150 German financial institutions that are charging negative interest rates. Founder Horst Biallo wrote, "A survey of just over 1,300 banks and savings banks shows that a good 150 financial institutions are now charging negative interest, 52 of which are private sector institutions." However, his list is not publicly available.

First Bank to Charge Small Savers Negative Rate
Among the 21 banks on Verivox's list is Volksbank Fürstenfeldbruck, a cooperative bank located west of Munich. The bank has recently been in the news for being the first German bank to pass on the cost of negative interest rates to even small savers.

The bank explained that it will collect a custody fee of -0.5% on instant access savings accounts, the Financial Times detailed. "New clients who also do other business with the bank, such as real estate financing or pension planning, will be exempt from the charges." The bank's website shows that accounts opened on Oct. 1 or later with deposits of 0.01 euro or more will be charged the fee. Inundated with inquiries about its new policy following media reports, the bank put up an explanation on its website, emphasizing that only new clients are affected. Verivox CEO Oliver Maier was quoted by the Financial Times on Tuesday as saying:

Negative interest rates have now reached the average saver.
What do you think of a growing number of German banks passing on the burden of negative interest rates to their customers? Let us know in the comments section below.