Brian Armstrong: Coinbase Custody Has $1 Billion of Crypto Under Management

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong says the exchange’s custody service received the $1 billion in the 12 months after its launch.

During an on-stage discussion at Consensus, Brian Armstrong, CEO of major United States cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, said that its custody service has already received $1 billion in crypto under management. Coindesk reported on Armstrong’s comments on Wednesday, May 15.

Panel moderator and Wall Street Journal reporter Paul Vigna asked Armstrong about the perspectives of institutional investments in the crypto industry. In response, the Coinbase CEO provided an example of his own company, noting that Coinbase Custody managed to get $1 billion in assets under management in just 12 months after its launch. He also mentioned that 70 institutions signed up to the service during that period.

Moreover, Armstrong believes that investments in the sphere will grow rapidly, as institutions want their funds to be active while in custody. The Coinbase CEO stated that institutions want their funds to stake, vote and do governance on-chain.

As for the most popular asset among the institutional investors, Armstrong thinks that bitcoin (BTC) is still at the top of the list. However, the interest in other coins is growing too, which is why Coinbase currently provides 30 altcoins for institutions, he noted.

Finally, Armstrong mentioned that Coinbase Pro — an upgraded trading platform for advanced users — currently has more than 60% of its trading volume coming from institutions. The company is also interested in the idea of a self-custody solution, and is discussing the matter with Israeli-based startup StarkWare.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, Coinbase officially launched its custody for institutional investors last July. Back then, the company revealed that it would enable its new institutional clients “to participate in the crypto ecosystem through proof of stake and distributed governance.”

Just yesterday, the U.S. exchange made a major announcement concerning the expansion of its services to 50 more jurisdictions, such as Brazil, South Africa and Taiwan, among others. Moreover, Coinbase expanded the trade of USD Coin (USDC) to customers in 85 jurisdictions.

US DoJ Charges Group of Individuals Who Stole $2.5 Mln in Crypto Via SIM Swapping

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that a group of hackers might face over 100 years in prison after stealing $2.5 million.

The United States Department of Justice released a fifteen-count indictment on May 9 that charges a hacking group labeled “The Community” with SIM swapping in order to steal cryptocurrencies.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider and his colleague from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Angie Salazar announced the charges in the Eastern District of Michigan. Per Salazar, the investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigations on two continents.

According to the indictment, five Americans and an Irishman are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Another three, who reportedly are the former employees of mobile phone providers, are charged in a criminal complaint with the wire fraud related to “The Community.”

As described in the document, the hacking group used SIM swapping — a type of identity theft attack that generally targets a weakness in two-factor authentication. The perpetrator usually gains control of a target's mobile phone by convincing or bribing the employee of the mobile provider to swap the phone number to a SIM card controlled by the hackers.

After successfully swapping the numbers of their victims, “The Community” managed to gain access to their various online accounts, including cryptocurrency exchange accounts and wallets. As a result of fraud, approximately $2.5 million worth of cryptocurrency was sent to wallets controlled by the hacking group. Attorney Schneider clarified that in this case, three mobile phone service provider employees purportedly helped swappers to steal money.

The charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison each. Meanwhile, a conviction of aggravated identity theft could add up to two years in prison for the defendants .

According to Irish news website The Journal, a 20-year-old man from Dublin was arrested in Ireland upon the request of the U.S. authorities and is currently awaiting extradition.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, in November 2018, a law enforcement group dedicated to fighting cybercrime released a report on SIM swapping, stating that it had become increasingly popular in California.

Meanwhile, in January, a 21-year old American was accused of stealing almost $24 million in crypto via SIM swapping. And in February, a New York resident was indicted in what constituted the jurisdiction’s first SIM-swapping prosecution.

Fee Has Successfully Stabilized DAI, MakerDAO President Says

MakerDAO leadership declares their DAI stable thanks to stability fee.

DAI stablecoin, which is pegged to the United States dollar, is now in a relatively stable position, according to the president and COO of MakerDAO, Steven Becker, in an Q&A session on May 2.

The transcript of the meeting, which focused on demand and supply imbalance, appeared on Reddit. Becker discussed the efficacy of the stability fee alongside MakerDAO’s head of community development Richard Brown and Vishesh Choudhry of the company's Foundation Risk Team.

According to Becker, DAI is now stable thanks to the community’s implementation of the stability fee. “Consider the peg is stable. However it is stable at a discount,” he added.

Becker reasoned that the fluctuations of the stablecoin’s rate are not necessarily the result of a supply/demand imbalance. He speculated that this phenomenon might be a reflection of the industry’s current regime.

Last week’s community vote was between a 2% and 3% increase, with the latter coming out ahead. Today, May 3, will witness an executive vote on that 3% increase.  If it passes, the stability fee will land at 19.5%.

Foundation Risk Team’s Choudhry noted that the fee is not especially burdensome. As the stability fee changes, the fulcrum point of bull/bear equilibrium shifts, making it a critical decision.

MakerDAO launched DAI in December 2017 as an ERC-20 token pegged at 1:1 with the U.S. dollar.  This exchange rate is maintained via over-collateralization with ether (ETH). However, for much of 2019 DAI has been below $1 and has even dropped below $0.95 periodically, according to CoinMarketCap.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, MakerDAO users have voted to increase the stability fee on several occasions this year. Still, the community is not fully convinced that the value of DAI has stopped fluctuating. If MakerDAO implements more substantive solutions, DAI could become crypto’s ‘default’ stablecoin.

Indian IT Giant Tech Mahindra to Use Samsung’s Nexledger Blockchain: Local Media

Samsung SDS reportedly will work with Indian IT giant Tech Mahindra in an attempt to enter the overseas blockchain market.

Samsung SDS has reportedly agreed to cooperate with Indian IT giant Tech Mahindra in an attempt to enter the overseas blockchain market, The Korea Times writes Sunday, April 14.

SDS, the systems integration arm of Korean tech behemoth Samsung, allegedly plans to expand the use of its Nexledger blockchain platform in India, the United States and Europe.

As per the agreement, the two companies will reportedly seek more business opportunities in the region. Moreover, Samsung SDS will cooperate with Tech Mahindra on further Nexledger updates.

Nexledger, a blockchain security platform launched in 2017, has since been used in finance, manufacturing, logistics and other areas. For instance, the solution was trialed by the Korea Customs Service in its export customs logistics services. Forty-eight different organizations, including public agencies, shipping and insurance companies, also joined the test.

More recently, Samsung SDS announced it is launching its own blockchain accelerator technology, Nexledger Accelerator, following a successful test with Hyperledger Fabric. The solution reportedly improves transaction processing speed.

In March, parent company Mahindra reportedly trained 70% of its employees to deal with new technologies, including blockchain, AI, Internet of Thingsand cybersecurity.

Moreover, Mahindra has previously used IBM blockchain technology in order to create a solution for discounting invoices between its auto division and suppliers. According to IBM, the company is also investigating the use of blockchain to track parts and improve auto recalls.

Bloomberg: SEC Required Two ETF Funds to Take Blockchain Off Their Tickers

The U.S. SEC reportedly encouraged some funds to change their ETF descriptions.

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reportedly required two funds to eliminate the word “blockchain” from their monikers, Bloomberg writes April 12, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The exchange-traded funds (ETFs) of both Amplify and Reality Shares reportedly mentioned blockchain in early filings. Per Bloomberg’s unarmed interlocutors, the two funds were encouraged to change their names at the last minute in 2018.

Despite eliminating the word “blockchain,” the funds’ tickers still refer to the technology. Ampilfy’s funds are traded as BLOK, while the product is described as “transformational data sharing ETF.” Reality Shares are using the title BLCN, depicting its product as “Nasdaq NexGen economy ETF.”

Moreover, Bloomberg claims that there were other blockchain-related funds who eventually changed their names following the SEC’s request.

Per the Investment Company Act of 1940, issuers are obliged not to use “materially deceptive or misleading” names. In 2001, the SEC adopted the Names Rule (Rule 35d) to clarify the guidelines. The funds are therefore required to ensure that at least 80 percent of assets coincide with the description in their monikers.

According to Bloomberg, the SEC is on high alert due to the growing number of ETFs launched by funds that offer to invest in a wide range of projects and services. The number of assets in these funds has nearly tripled between 2014 and 2018, and more than 10% of new ETFs in 2018 targeted a particular theme, the media out states.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, in early 2018 the SEC had warned that U.S. companies who change their name to include the word “blockchain” would soon face increased scrutiny from the regulators.

SEC chairman Jay Clayton recently noted that the crypto industry will stay in the regulator’s focus in the nearest future. He believes that there is a path for the industry to compliance with the federal securities laws.

Earlier in April, the SEC released guidance on determining whether digital assets constitute investment contracts. The agency also stated a new initial coin offering token from startup TurnKey was not a security.

IMF and World Bank Launch Quasi-Cryptocurrency in Exploration of Blockchain Tech

The IMF and the World Bank have launched a private blockchain and a quasi-coin to learn more about the technology.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have jointly launched a private blockchain and a so-dubbed quasi-cryptocurrency, the Financial Times (FT) reports on April 12.

According to the newspaper, the asset called “Learning Coin” will be accessible only within the IMF and World Bank. The coin has no money value and thus is not a real cryptocurrency, the FT underlines.

As the FT has learned, “Learning Coin” was launched in order to better understand the technologies that underlie crypto assets. Its app will serve as a hub where blogs, research, videos and presentations are stored.

During the test, the World Bank and IMF staff will earn coins for achieving certain educational milestones. The institutions will allow them to redeem the assets gained for some rewards, which will allow them to learn how coins can be used in real life.

Per the IMF, the banks and regulators across the world have to catch up with crypto technologies that are rapidly developing. The FT quotes the IMF as saying:

“The development of crypto-assets and distributed ledger technology is evolving rapidly, as is the amount of information (both neutral and vested) surrounding it. This is forcing central banks, regulators and financial institutions to recognize a growing knowledge gap between the legislators, policymakers, economists and the technology.”

Moreover, after the test, the World Bank and IMF reportedly might use blockchain to launch smart contracts, combat money laundering and enhance the overall level of transparency.

Earlier in April, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said that blockchain innovators are shaking up the traditional financial world and have a clear impact on incumbent players. She also noted that the potential of blockchain-based technologies and assets is embraced by regulators and central banks, who recognize its positive effect.

Meanwhile, a World Bank official expressed a more skeptical point of view. According to Aanchal Anand, a Land Administration Specialist in the bank’s Global Land and Geospatial Unit, there is too much hype over blockchain, which causes unrealistic expectations.

Oracle Exec: 50% Of Companies Will Use Blockchain Tech in Next Three Years

Frank Xiong from software development company Oracle estimates that 50 to 60 percent of companies will use blockchain tech in the next few years.

Blockchain technology could possibly be used by 50 percent of all companies within the next three years, the vice president of blockchain product development at software company Oracle said on Monday, April 8.

Frank Xiong participated in the Forbes CIO Summit in Half Moon Bay, California, where he estimated that 50 to 60 percent of companies will use blockchain technology in the next few years.

At the same time, Xiong believes that people have become much more realistic about what blockchain can affect in various business models:

“We’re past the stage that blockchain can cure everything, so people are becoming more realistic about what’s good for their business model."

According to Forbes, Oracle currently has more than 100 customers using its blockchain solution for supply chains. As Cointelegraph previously reported, the company launched a suite of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications based on its Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service in late October 2018. The offering purportedly enables customers to track products through supply chains, increase transparency, accelerate product delivery, and improve customer satisfaction.

More recently, Oracle partnered with a European-based fintech startup SDK.finance that offers a payment platform for banks and financial institutions. The company will use Oracle Blockchain Platform to improve its payments processes and remove intermediaries.

A recent survey conducted by Big Four auditing firm KPMG shows that high-profile executives are interested in blockchain, but mostly delay its adoption in their companies.

Blockchain Adoption Is Not a Priority for Finance Executives, KPMG Poll Shows

Major tax and finance executives stated that blockchain adoption is not a high priority in their companies, according to a poll by KPMG.

Most tax and finance executives do not consider adopting blockchain technology, according to a recent survey conducted by Big Four auditing firm KPMG. The results of the poll were shared with Cointelegraph on Tuesday, April 9.

A poll undertaken during a recent webcast, dubbed “Understanding Blockchain – It’s Not Just About Crypto,” was held in February 2019. KPMG asked around 450 tax and finance executives from different companies about blockchain and other technologies.

Generally speaking, the survey has shown that tax and finance executives are seeking different solutions to eliminate routine tasks from their teams’ operations. However, blockchain adoption is not a high priority, according to the results.

At least 60% of respondents claimed they would like to deploy blockchain in their companies to automate some repetitive tasks. Nonetheless, 67% were not using the technology at the time, while the other 27% were not sure whether their company was using it.

The participants also cited the key factors that impede blockchain implementation within their companies. 33% and 22% of respondents mentioned a lack of resources and funding, respectively. Other respondents named a lack of access to the technology decision-makers, along with the lack of tech capabilities.

Innovation principal and tax leader for blockchain at KPMG David R. Jarczyk thinks that blockchain might significantly improve the workflow of high-profile teams. While blockchain is doing the routine work, they can focus on analyzing data, he added.

“Blockchain is like a spreadsheet on steroids that can automate certain tasks, build greater transparency, speed and reliability, and provide a single source of transactional information,” Jarczyk concluded.

An earlier survey conducted by KPMG in late 2018 showed that almost half of the high-profile executives believe that blockchain will likely or very likely change the way their business is conducted within the next three years. 41% of respondents at the time said they are likely to use the technology in the future.

Another poll performed by the Global Blockchain Business Council revealed that 40% of institutional investors believe blockchain to be the most important innovation since the internet. Nonetheless, barely a third of them said that their firms would need to find a head of blockchain on their boards within the next five years.

Coinbase CEO Names Three Things Crypto Needs for Mass Adoption

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong believes that in order to attract more investors cryptocurrencies need to be stable, fast and user friendly.

Brian Armstrong, CEO of major United States cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, believes that crypto mass adoption mostly depends on volatility, scalability and usability. Armstrong made his claim during a live ask-me-anything (AMA) session on April 2.

Armstrong ran the 45-minute AMA on Tuesday, answering selected questions submitted by the crypto community. Addressing the first question, on the potential for mass crypto adoption, Coinbase’s CEO said that a cryptocurrency can achieve mass adoption by improving scalability and usability, while reducing volatility.

As per volatility, if the crypto markets keep swinging dramatically, it will be hard to get more traditional investors involved, Armstrong said. Thus the industry needs more stable prices, achieved, for example, via stablecoins, and more use cases to attract people, he concluded.

Armstrong further added that there are currently up to ten teams working on scalability solutions, such as the Lightning Network, to improve the speed of crypto transactions. Thanks to the development of these solutions, cryptocurrencies might reach 500 to 5000 transactions per second and start working at Visa and PayPal volumes.

Usability also needs to be improved, Armstrong continued. He argued that currently there are too many steps a user needs to make in order to invest in cryptocurrencies. Armstrong suggested crypto investment for retail investors should work much easily, using popular Chinese app WeChat as an example of usability.

Armstrong also commented on recent skepticism towards Coinbase in the community, evidently referring to the most recent #DeleteCoinbase movement as an example. The campaign was launched in early March as a response to Coinbase’s acquisition of a firm run by former spyware developers.

Answering another question, the entrepreneur said he loves Bitcoin (BTC) and wants it to succeed. However, he regrets being too involved in promoting BTC at some point in 2013-2014, thinking that the coin could become a scalable payment network for everyone. “I totally underestimated how controversial this idea might become in BTC community,” he confessed.

As some accused him of adding the value to the coin, Armstrong finally changed his mind to being agnostic to all of the coins and crypto protocols and support them all. Coinbase decided to support everyone instead of picking the winners, he said.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, Armstrong has repeatedly acknowledged his affection towards BTC. For instance, in a series of tweets commemorating on the coin’s 10th birthday this year, Armstrong wrote that BTC was his “first love.”

Hong Kong: Illicit Crypto Mining Operations Are Punishable by Fine or Imprisonment

Hong Kong’s financial watchdog secretary states that illicit crypto mining operations are subject to local trading law.

The secretary of Hong Kong’s Financial Services and the Treasury has stated that crypto mining operations are regulated by local trading law. His written response to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council was published on Wednesday, April 3.

The Council has solicited information about the risks and fraudulent activities related to cryptocurrencies and underlying activity, such as mining. Moreover, the officials are interested whether mining is regulated under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO) — a bill passed in 2012 that prescribes penalties for unfair trading practices in Hong Kong.

Secretary James Lau has responded that the sale of mining equipment and any other products related to virtual assets falls under the TDO. The unfair practices he mentions in this regard include false trade descriptions, misleading omissions, aggressive commercial practices and wrongly accepting payment, among others.

According to Lau, illicit mining activity can thus be subject to a $500,000 fine or five years in prison.

The secretary also mentions a particular fraud case, when Hong Kong police arrested three persons that allegedly lured 20 victims into investing over HK$3.7 million (around $471,400) in crypto-related equipment and services.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, a similar amount of funds — HK$3 million ($383,000) — was mentioned in a criminal case involving a purported Bitcoin millionaire (BTC) Wong Ching-kit. The 25-year-old businessman and his 20-year-old-colleague were arrested at their office in Hong Kong for conspiracy to defraud 20 investors by selling them mining machines.

Wong Ching-kit is wide known for a publicity stunt in Hong Kong’s relatively poor district Sham Shui Po in December 2018. The entrepreneur appeared in a video posted on his firm Epoch’s Facebook page, asking whether anyone believed that money could fall from the sky. Immediately after his question, stacks of bank notes reportedly amounting to HK$6,000 ($764) were thrown from a nearby rooftop. Following an incident, Wong was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct in public, but later released on bail.

Austria’s Largest Energy Provider Develops Blockchain Fridge With Bosch

Wien Energie has announced their new blockchain fridge, developed with Bosch, as part of a sustainable energy consumption experiment.

Austria’s largest energy provider, Wien Energie, has developed a blockchain-driven fridge in partnership with tech giant Bosch, Cointelegraph’s correspondent reported from the ANON Blockchain Summit Austria.

Wien Energie presented the new model during the crypto conference in Vienna on April 3. The official release claims that the decentralized technology is used in the construction of a refrigerator for the first time.

The main goal behind the project is to increase consumer interest in the sustainable consumption of energy. A blockchain solution in this case allows one to choose the source of the energy, be that a solar panel or a wind power plant. Each kilowatt used by the fridge can be traced to its origin, the release reads.

Moreover, the blockchain fridge can be fully operated via smartphone. A user is able to control the temperature of the fridge and freezer, check whether the door is properly closed, and trace the energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

According to the official statement, the model is not yet on sale. Wien Energie and Bosch will first test the blockchain fridge with three pilot customers in the coming months.

Wien Energie CEO Peter Gönitzer considers blockchain a great opportunity to reduce the unnecessary waste of energy, the release notes. According to him, the decentralized ecosystem could contribute to creating a transparent and user-friendly energy market.

Moreover, the Austrian company also plans to trial blockchain implementation in the energy sector on a larger scale. The firm has already partnered with blockchain interface company Riddle & Code to deploy decentralized infrastructure in an unnamed urban development area.

Per release, the concept has already been developed, and the trial will start within a few months with the participation of about 100 residents. The project, above all, is set to find out which smart energy tariffs will function in the area.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, Wien Energie announced in March that it is considering launching a charger for electric cars based on distributed ledger technology. The trial for the aforementioned project is also conducted together with Riddle & Code: the companies are testing an electric vehicle charging station with integrated secure machine identity in Vienna.

Mt. Gox Trustee Announces Creditors Received Decisions Over Rehabilitation Claims

The decisions over rehabilitation claims have been sent to customers of Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox.

Nobuaki Kobayashi, trustee of the notorious Japanese Bitcoin (BTC) exchange Mt. Gox, has announced Wednesday, April 3, that all creditors who had filed rehabilitation claims have received decisions.

In late March, Kobayashi had announced that the processing of filings had come to an end. According to the newly published paper dubbed “Questions & Answers regarding Approval or Disapproval,” the decisions have already been sent to users’ emails.

The document provides detailed instructions for the applicants who had previously filed rehabilitation claims. In case one disagrees with the decision, an application for the assessment of the claim can be filed with the court.

Kobayashi also warns that the timing and method of payment have not yet been determined, and that the details will be revealed later in a rehabilitation plan.

As Contelegraph previously wrote, roughly 24,000 creditors were purportedly affected by Mt. Gox’s 2011 hack and subsequent collapse in early 2014, which resulted in the loss of 850,000 BTC (valued at roughly $460 million at the time.)

Kobayashi, a Japanese lawyer who was appointed to oversee the civil reimbursement process, claimed that he liquidated almost 26 billion yen (about $230 million at the time) in Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) over four months as of early March 2018.

Due to these liquidations, the crypto community dubbed Kobayashi “Tokyo’s Bitcoin Whale,” as the transactions allegedly affected the crypto markets. In June 2018, when civil rehabilitation proceedings began, the liquidations were formally halted.

Crypto Exchange Binance to Launch Singapore Branch in April, CZ Says

Binance’s CEO Changpeng Zhao has revealed that a fiat-to-crypto exchange in Singapore will launch in April.

Changpeng Zhao (CZ), CEO of second-largest crypto exchange Binance, has announced that its branch in Singapore will open in April. A Cointelegraph correspondent reported on the development on April 4 from the Deconomy conference in Seoul.

CZ took part in Deconomy, which is being held in South Korea from April 4-5, at the panel dubbed “Centralized vs Decentralized.” During the panel, he revealed that Binance’s fiat-to-crypto exchange service in Singapore will be opened later this month, but has not provided any other details regarding the launch.

Another major announcement made at Deconomy is related to the launch of Binance DEX — a decentralized crypto exchange powered by Binance’s blockchain. According to CZ, the exchange’s mainnet will go live later in April, and the platform will reportedly support secure decentralized software and hardware wallets, including Binance’s own Trust Wallet.

As Cointelegraph previously wrote, Binance confirmed in January that its new offices will be located in Singapore and Malta. Prior to that, the company had opened a branch in Uganda.

Moreover, CZ had previously hinted about the creation of a crypto-fiat exchange in Argentina; however, this location has not yet been officially confirmed.

On April 3, Binance also revealed that its Trust Wallet is preparing a new staking feature, which is scheduled to launch in Q2 2019. Moreover, the exchange has added support for Tezos (XTZ) — currently the 19th largest currency by market cap, according to CoinMarketCap.

Brexit and April Fool’s Joke Possible Catalysts for Crypto Rally, Crypto Reporter Says

Hong Kong-based crypto reporter Eric Lam cites Brexit and a Bitcoin ETF joke as possible catalysts for the recent rally in crypto markets.

Hong Kong-based crypto reporter Eric Lam believes nobody in the crypto industry has a good theory to explain the recent recovery of crypto markets. Lam shared his stance with Bloomberg on April 3.

On Tuesday, April 2, shortly after the Asian markets opened, the price Bitcoin (BTC) unexpectedly rallied by 20 percent. Today the world’s top currency hit $5,000 for the first time since November 2018, while major altcoins have seen double-digit gains.

Lam has ironically linked the uprising to a crypto-related April Fool’s Day story, which claimed that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finally approved a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF). CNBC also mentioned this joke as a possible catalyst behind BTC rally.

The reporter also suggested that crypto investors might start buying coins as the market started showing signs of recovery, forcing the prices to grow further.

Moreover, Lam agrees with an earlier theory which claimed that some investors are changing pounds to Bitcoin ahead of Brexit, which is scheduled to happen in mid-April.

Lam also thinks that the surge can be related to algorithmic trading. As Bloomberg explained in another article dedicated to the so-called crypto Renaissance, the computer mechanisms were allegedly triggered by a mysterious 20,000 BTC order (around $100 million at the press time) that was spread around U.S.-based crypto exchanges Coinbase and Kraken and Luxembourg’s Bitstamp.

As of press time, Bitcoin is still making gains, trading at $5,238 according to CoinMarketCap.

Bloomberg: Bitcoin’s Recent Renaissance Could Be Linked to Algorithmic Trading

Algorithmic trading funds might have triggered the recent market recovery, Bloomberg reports.

The recent crypto market jump could be linked to algorithmic trading, Bloomberg writes on Wednesday, April 3.

Algorithmic trading — a method that uses automated software to detect trends and determine when trades should be made — has been on the rise in the last few months, according to Bloomberg. The industry has seen 17 new algo or quantitative funds launched since September, an amount that purportedly comprises 40 percent of crypto hedge funds started during this period.

While crypto funds in general lost around 72 percent due to the 2018 bear market, these algo funds reported on gains of between 3 percent and 10 percent per month during the so-dubbed crypto winter.

Bloomberg states that Bitcoin’s (BTC) unexpected 20 percent surge price on Tuesday, April 2, shortly after the Asian markets opened, might have been provoked by a $100 million trade made on three major exchanges.

As experts told Reuters, a 20,000 BTC order (around $100 million at press time) was spread across United States-based crypto exchanges Coinbase and Kraken, as well as Luxembourg’s Bitstamp. Triggered by the giant order, the bots could then start trading, forcing the prices and volumes to rise.

Some entrepreneurs quoted by Bloomberg think that algo trading will have a positive impact on the crypto industry. Wei Zhou, CFO of Malta-based crypto exchange Binance, says that they are going to be the new rock stars of the industry.

Meanwhile, others fear that algo trading can trigger market manipulation. Travis Kling, founder of the Los Angeles-based crypto hedge fund Ikigai, told Bloomberg that some of them could use fake orders to trick other traders.

Bloomberg has issued a series of articles and TV spots citing the possible reasons behind the visible market uprising. For instance, Bloomberg author Eric Lam recalled an April Fool’s Day story that claimed that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had finally approved a Bitcoin ETF as possibly affecting the crypto markets.

Another reason cited by Bloomberg is the upcoming question of Brexit, as some believe that investors are changing pounds to BTC in the wake of Britain’s divorce with the EU.

BTC Tests $5,000 Amid 2019’s First Major Crypto Market Recovery

Bitcoin is now hovering around $5,000, as the cryptocurrency markets are on their third day of gains.

Wednesday, April 3 — Bitcoin (BTC) has tested the $5,000 mark for the first time since November 2018, as crypto markets are on the rise for the third day in a row. While some major cryptocurrencies are seeing a mild surge in price, others boast double-digit gains.

Market visualization from Coin360

Market visualization from Coin360

BTC, which skyrocketed yesterday and gained over 14 percent in price over 24 hours, spent a few hours above the $5,000 mark earlier today. The world’s top coin peaked at $5,043 at some point, according to CoinMarketCap stats, before going back to $4,900. As of press time, BTC is trading sideways, hovering around $5,007.

Bitcoin’s market cap has gained over $1 billion compared to yesterday’s charts, when BTC was mostly trading around $4,700. Reaching around $88 billion during the night peak, BTC market cap currently totals around $87.4 billion.

Bitcoin 24-hour price chart

Bitcoin 24-hour price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ethereum (ETH), currently the world’s second-top cryptocurrency by market cap, enters April 3 in the green, with up to 10 percent gains in 24 hours. While the coin’s rate was hovering around $150 yesterday, today it is trading above $165. ETH’s market cap gained almost $2 billion in a day, climbing up to $17.6 billion at press time.

Ethereum 24-hour price chart

Ethereum 24-hour price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ripple (XRP), ranked as the third-top cryptocurrency, has also been on the rise for the third consecutive day. The coin, which is now trading at $0.35, saw over 5 percent gains within 24 hours. Its market cap is $1 billion larger than yesterday — over $14.7 billion.

Ripple 24-hour price chart

Ripple 24-hour price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

The total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies has also seen a significant increase in comparison to April 2, when it peaked at $163 billion. The highest point today has been at $176.9 billion, declining to around $173.8 billion at press time.

24-hour total market capitalization chart

24-hour total market capitalization chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

As for other altcoins, all major currencies except Maker (MKR) and Tezos (XTZ) are in the green and seeing moderate to visible gains in the last 24 hours. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) has jumped to over $280, showing gains of around 50 percent. Another major winner is Litecoin (LTC), gaining over 20 percent within a day and trading at $84.

Dogecoin (DOGE), recently promoted by Tesla’s Elon Musk as his favourite coin, has seen over a 30 percent rise in price following the entrepreneur’s tweet.

The major market recovery, which started late April 1, has been widely discussed both in the crypto community and financial world. Most of the crypto insiders state that there is no particular reason behind the leap, and that all of the explanations are currently speculatory.

For instance, Binance’s CEO Changpeng Zhao, most known as CZ, admits that he’s “clueless” about the real causes of what is happening, while Bloomberg author Eric Lam also believes that there is no definite answer.

However, Lam cites an April Fool’s Day story that claimed that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had finally approved a Bitcoin ETF as possibly affecting the crypto markets, and CNBC shares his stance.

Another reason cited by Bloomberg is, conversely, Brexit, as some believe that investors are changing pounds to BTC in the wake of Britain’s divorce with the EU. Some earlier forecasts also cited this theory.

Bloomberg also published an analysis today naming algorithmic hedge fund trading to the possible reasons behind the price surge.

Reuters mentions a mysterious order that could have been responsible for boosting crypto prices as well. According to the financial experts quoted by the news agency, the gain was probably triggered by a 20,000 BTC order (around $100 million as of press time) that was spread around U.S.-based crypto exchanges Coinbase and Kraken and Luxembourg’s Bitstamp.

US Blockchain Firm Partners with Sustainable Construction Firm to Design Data Centers

Blockchain Holdings Capital Ventures partnered with SG Blocks to develop decentralized data centers.

United States-based Blockchain Holdings Capital Ventures (BHCV) has partnered with SG Blocks, which uses cargo shipping containers in construction to develop its multi-container data centers, according to press release on April 1.

The blockchain company, which focuses on real estate, energy and technology companies, will be SG Blocks’ sole partner in designing decentralized data centers. The first prototype is expected to appear in Q4 2019.

BHCV eventually plans to open a distribution channel to scale data center production, of which the company is aiming to produce 150–200 by 2020. The majority of the centers will be fixed, but the company will also going to develop mobile ones. The latter will purportedly be cheaper to launch and more flexible. For instance, a mobile data center can be placed in remote areas in order to cut energy costs.

SG Blocks, founded in 2007, develops sustainable construction solutions using cargo shipping containers. Among its clients are Starbucks, Marriott, Taco Bell, Aman, Equinox and several branches of the U.S. military.

In other blockchain-related real estate news, three Swiss companies — Blockimmo, proptech company Elea Labs Ltd. and digital assets service firm Swiss Crypto Tokens Ltd. — recently conducted a blockchain-based real estate transaction of 3 million Swiss francs ($2.98 million). The deal consisted of 18 apartments and a restaurant.

In February, the County Auditors’ Association of Ohio formed a working group to study the use of blockchain for the effective transfer of property deeds. It will examine how blockchain can increase the efficiency and management of real estate transactions and the transfer of land titles across multiple counties.

Malta: Financial Regulator Approves First 14 Crypto Assets Agents

The Malta Financial Services Authority approves the first 14 crypto assets agents, which filed applications last fall.

The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) has approved its first 14 crypto assets agents that previously sought for a license, according to an official statement published today, April 2.

The approval comes five months after the Virtual Financial Assets Act (VFA), adopted by Maltese government last year, came into power. According to local newspaper the Times of Malta, over 250 applications were initially filed by lawyers, accounts and auditors. However, nearly two thirds of them failed to pass the official assessment process.

Only 28 of them finally succeeded to apply for a license, and 14 were approved with “minor details” to be fixed, the newspaper writes. The watchdog states that its representatives will now be assisting these crypto services providers under the VFA.

According to the MFSA, the agents are now obliged to evaluate their customers’ business plans and ensure they are properly prepared before submitting an application to the MFSA. Moreover, the agents have to perform due diligence with their clients, checking whether they comply with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing guidelines.

The regulator itself calls the decision an “important milestone in the MFSA’s effort at becoming a regulator of excellence” for the crypto industry. The officials believe that the decision will promote market integrity and public interest in crypto.

However, as Cointelegraph previously reported, Maltese banks are still cautious in opening banking accounts for local crypto companies. When the Times of Malta contacted a number of legal firms and financial companies earlier in March, they reportedly confirmed that banks were declining their applications to open accounts, saying that it was beyond their “risk appetite.”

Later, the country’s Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Silvio Schembri, told the newspaper that the banks were eventually waiting for the agents to obtain MFSA approval before offering them services.

As Maltese officials have publicly committed to creating a “blockchain island” in the country, a number of high-profile blockchain and crypto business have moved to Malta in search of a more crypto-friendly jurisdiction. Lately, several major cryptocurrency exchanges, including OKEx, Binance and BitBay, set up their operations in Malta.

BTC Hits $4,800 for the First Time in 2019, Top Crypto Markets See Double Digit Growth

Bitcoin briefly hits $4,800, stays at $4,600, while other top coins are all in the green amid a significant markets uprising.

Tuesday, April 2 — Bitcoin (BTC) has pushed over $4,500 for the first time this year, while top crypto markets are solidly in the green for the second day in a row, some seeing major 24-hour growth.

Market visualization

Market visualization from Coin360

The price of BTC skyrocketed, gaining more than 14 percent in the space of one hour early Tuesday. Hovering around $4,650 at press time, the coin peaked at $4,849 early on April 2, according to CoinMarketCap stats, before dropping slightly and trading sideways to press time.

In comparison to yesterday’s charts, when BTC’s price was hovering around $4,100, the market capitalization of the world’s top coin has gained almost $10 billion, totalling $82 billion by press time.

BTC is currently up about 13 percent over the past 24-hours.

Bitcoin 24-hour price chart

Bitcoin 24-hour price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ethereum (ETH), the second-ranked cryptocurrency by market cap, is also solidly in the green, seeing about 6 percent in gains on the day. The coin is now trading at $150 in comparison to yesterday’s $140, while its market cap is over $15.8 billion at press time.

Ethereum 24-hour price chart

Ethereum 24-hour price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ripple (XRP), currently the world’s third largest cryptocurrency, is also up 6 percent today, trading around $0.33 by press time. The coin’s market cap has gained about $900 million within a day, reaching $13.8 billion at the peak earlier today.

Ripple 24-hour price chart

Ripple 24-hour price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

The total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies has significantly increased during the sudden market surge today. While yesterday’s highest point was at $146 billion, today’s peak was at $163 billion, declining to $159.4 billion at press time.

24-hour total market capitalization chart

24-hour total market capitalization chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

As for other altcoins, all top 20 currencies except Tezos (XTZ), ranked 19th and down 4.4 percent, are currently in the green, with many seeing double digit growth on the day. Litecoin (LTC), Cardano (ADA), Tron (TRX) and Monero (XMR) have seen the most significant gains today, all growing over 10 percent, while other altcoins are up 5 to 10 percent to press time.

At the same time, Tether (USDT), the fiat-pegged stablecoin with the highest trade volume, has recently hit an all-time high by the number of daily transactions, according to blockchain data provider Coin Metrics.

As BTC’s price surged this morning, the industry is discussing a prediction made by crypto trader and investor Josh Rager of TokenBacon. In a tweet from Rager on March 31, he stated that the next BTC cycle should peak at $150,000 by 2023. Some are sceptical about the optimistic forecast, while others recall even more optimistic outlooks on BTC hitting $200,000 and more in the future.

In other crypto industry news, major American cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has recently expanded into cross-border payments. Its customers can now transfer funds to any user with a Coinbase account around the world using XRP and the exchange’s stablecoin, USDCoin (USDC), with no fee.

Meanwhile, a recent report published by SwissBanking claims that the fintech sector in Switzerland, including distributed ledger technology firms and crypto-related businesses,  continues to grow, while traditional financial institutions are stagnating.

Crypto Exchange HitBTC Appeals to Cryptography in Dispute With Altcoin BTCP

HitBTC continues its dispute with altcoin Bitcoin Private’s team after delisting the coin following a scheduled coinburn.

Cryptocurrency exchange HitBTC appealed to the specificity of its cryptography in an ongoing dispute with the team behind altcoin Bitcoin Private (BTCP). The post was published on HitBTC’s blog on Tuesday, March 26.

The dispute involves HitBTC’s delisting of the altcoin, whose team then accused the exchange of fraud.

HitBTC, currently ranked by CoinMarketCap as the world’s 15th largest exchange by adjusted daily trade volume, claims that the BTCP team had offered an “unsuitable” solution for moving its funds prior to a scheduled coinburn.

In the recent blog post — titled “Explanation of the situation with BTCP” — the exchange also states that the coin’s developers did not provide any code or documentation for specific transaction cryptography used in their blockchain. Moreover, HitBTC accuses BTCP of creating custodial risk and ecosystem instability.

Earlier this month — the day BTCP published its letter accusing the exchange of fraudulent activities — HitBTC revealed that BTCP had burnt a part of the funds still remaining in the exchange’s custody, on behalf of users. The exchange stated that it then compensated all resulting losses to its users.

In this week’s statement, the exchange claims that BTCP is still available for withdrawal from the platform and that its customers did not sustain any losses as a result of the coinburn.

The blog post does not, however, provide concrete responses to the previous allegations from the BTCP team, which accused HitBTC of an extortion attempt.

As Cointelegraph previously explained, BTCP was created in a fork from ZClassic (ZCL) and Bitcoin (BTC), with a notice of a future coinburn in its whitepaper. The event scheduled for mid-February 2019 was meant to delete all the coins that hadn’t been claimed or moved since the fork.

However, prior to the coinburn, HitBTC reportedly contacted BTCP requesting assistance to protect its users’ funds in a series of emails. The exchange further asked for 58,920 BTCP (about $17,600) to be given as compensation after the coinburn, due to expected losses.

BTCP reportedly insisted that addresses created after the fork would not be affected, therefore there would be no loss of funds. The altcoin’s team instead alleged that HitBTC secretly held 58,920 BTCP in a BTCP Segwit wallet and that the concerns over the coinburn were related to the exchange’s personal funds.

When the coinburn actually took place, according to the altcoin’s team, HitBTC threatened to pull BTCP support if the coin’s development team did not compensate the BTCP sum. In March, the coin was delisted from the exchange.

In early 2019, Proof of Keys’ organizer Trace Mayer had publicly suggested that HitBTC may be deliberately freezing withdrawals in the wake of the campaign. Mayer’s Proof of Keys event advocates a mass withdrawing of all funds from exchanges and other centralized third parties.

However, HitBTC dismissed the allegations, a company representative telling Cointelegraph: “These temporary, safety-related withdrawal freezings are a direct consequence of our international KYC and AML measures. These rules exist and apply to us and everybody, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.”

Japanese E-commerce Giant Rakuten to Launch Its Crypto Exchange in June

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten to launch its Rakuten Wallet in June following an approval from the financial regulator.

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten will launch its own cryptocurrency exchange, dubbed Rakuten Wallet, this June, Cointelegraph Japan reports today, March 29.

As per the official announcement from Rakuten, the exchange will start accepting applications for opening accounts on April 15. Rakuten Wallet is set to go live in June.

According to Rakuten, its trading platform will allow users to trade digital assets via a smartphone application. Opening an account will be free of charge and customers’ funds will be stored in a cold wallet, the press release notes.

The company finally received regulatory approval from Japanese financial market regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA) on March 25. The FSA granted Rakuten a license to operate a virtual currency exchange business in the country.  

At the same time, the e-commerce giant announced that its upcoming crypto exchange subsidiary was renamed to Rakuten Wallet.

The FSA recently greenlighted another local exchange, DeCurret, to start operating in April. As

Rakuten bought domestic crypto exchange Everybody’s Bitcoin for 265 million yen ($2.4 million at that time) in late August 2018. Simultaneously, the company hinted it was going to enter crypto exchange market.

Japan: 13 Banks Invest in SBI’s Ripple-Powered Blockchain Payment App

Several more Japanese banks join MoneyTap app from Ripple and SBI to provide interbanking transfers to their users.

Blockchain payment app MoneyTap, co-developed by Ripple and Japanese financial services giant SBI Holdings, has received investments from 13 local banks, according to an SBI press release published on March 28.

In the announcement, SBI Holdings informs that Kiraboshi Bank, Shinsei Bank and Hokuriku Bank, along with ten other local financial institutions, have joined their project as shareholders.

MoneyTap, which was designed to quickly transfer money via a mobile app using Ripple’s blockchain solution xCurrent, will reportedly receive investments from other Japanese financial institutions later this year. According to SBI Holdings, the banks using the solution are going to cooperate to enable domestic bank-to-bank transfers.

As per the press release, the goal of using MoneyTap is to create a remittance infrastructure that will operate 24 hours a day, allowing customers to send money from their domestic bank to any other institution — domestic or foreign — participating in the project.

In October 2018, Ripple and SBI Holdings officially launched MoneyTap. The project was initially joined by three Japanese banks – SBI Sumishin Net Bank, Suruga Bank and Resona Bank. However, the announcement stated that MoneyTap will eventually see a consortium of 61 Japanese banks — representative of more than 80 percent of all of Japan’s banking assets.

Prior to the app’s official launch, SBI Holdings received a license from Japanese regulators to handle electronic payments as an “Electronic Settlement Agency Service Provider.”

Remittance solutions designed by Ripple are used for both domestic and cross-border interbanking transactions. For instance, Spanish banking group Santander is using Ripple’s xCurrent for international money transfers in Spain, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Poland.

UAE Exchange and payment platform Unimoni are also using Ripple’s blockchain-based platform to complete real-time transactions to Thailand's Siam Commercial Bank.

Facebook Announces New Blockchain Jobs at Its California HQ

Facebook HQ in Menlo Park announces five new positions for its blockchain team, including technical ones.

Facebook’s HQ in Menlo Park, California, has opened five new positions in its blockchain department, according to listings posted today, March 29.

The new jobs were posted in the company’s LinkedIn account. According to the announcements, the company is now seeking a growth product manager, product manager, data scientist, software engineer and business operations manager to join its blockchain team.

The description of the positions also hints at the possible areas in which the firm may implement the technology:

“The blockchain team is a startup within Facebook and we're exploring lots of areas of interest across all facets of blockchain technology. Our ultimate goal is to help billions of people with access to things they don't have now - that could be things like healthcare, equitable financial services, or new ways to save or share information.”

Recently, the company opened a position for a senior lawyer with experience in both blockchain and payments. The person will be responsible for drafting and negotiating a wide variety of contracts related to its blockchain initiatives, along with advising clients on the various legal risks related to the tech.

Facebook is also reportedly seeking a product manager and mixed methods UX researcher to work in its office in Tel Aviv, Israel. The number of recently opened positions for blockchain department therefore surpasses 20.

As Cointelegraph reported in a dedicated analysis, Facebook’s stance on cryptocurrency has undergone a significant metamorphosis over the course of 2018. The company that previously banned crypto ads is reportedly considering launching a stablecoin for users of the messaging service WhatsApp, which it owns.

The formation of the tech giant’s blockchain team was first announced in May 2018. Back then David Marcus, the head of Facebook’s messaging app Messenger, announced that the social media site is exploring possible applications for the decentralized technology.

Exchange KuCoin Enables Credit Card Purchases of Crypto

Singapore-based exchange KuCoin partners with payment processor Simplex to allow users to purchase crypto with credit cards.

Singapore-based crypto exchange KuCoin has partnered with Israel-based payment processing company Simplex to let its users purchase crypto via credit card, an official announcement revealed on March 27.

The exchange has already added the service to its assets page, the announcement reports. Now users can purchase Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), Bitcoin Cash ABC (BCHABC) and Litecoin (LTC) for both dollars and euros. The service is reportedly available in more than 100 countries.

As the release notes, Simplex — which also has offices in the United Kingdom, U.S. and Lithuania — has already provided its “fraud-free” payment processing services to other companies, such as Shapeshift, the Litecoin Foundation, Xapo and Changelly.

As Cointelegraph previously wrote, KuCoin closed a Series A funding round worth $20 million in late November 2018. The round was led by IDG Capital, Matrix Partners and Neo Global Capital. The exchange reported that the funds would be used to release KuCoin’s 2.0 platform.

Earlier this year, Malta-based top cryptocurrency exchange Binance also added support for credit card purchases. Later the firm introduced credit card purchases in its official wallet, Trust. In both cases, the company also partnered with Simplex to provide credit and debit card purchases of XRP, BTC, BCH, LTC and ETH.

In March, major United States retailer Kroger started negotiating with the Morgan Creek Digital team, considering the deployment of the Lightning Network in its stores. The decision came shortly after the brand had stopped accepting Visa at some locations due to excessive fees.

Coinbase to Give Away Over $100 Million in XLM to Users Who Study Stellar Protocol

Coinbase U.S. users can earn up to $50 in XLM after passing a brief educational program on the Stellar protocol.

United States cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has announced that it is giving away 1 billion Stellar Lumens (XLM) (about $106 million) to users that are willing to study the Stellar protocol. The news was revealed in a Coinbase blog post published on Tuesday, March 26.

The move is part of Coinbase Earn, the exchange’s crypto-focused educational program. The company stated that this particular session of the program is its “biggest yet.” Each eligible U.S. user can gain up to $50 for using the program to study the Stellar protocol.

According to the Coinbase Earn website, the program developed in partnership with Stellar consists of five educational videos of up to three minutes each. After watching the videos and completing a set of corresponding quizzes, users reportedly will earn XLM tokens as a reward.

The company noted that it has already sent the first group of invitations to join the program to its U.S. customers. Users outside the U.S. are invited to sign up for a waitlist.

XLM is currently ranked 8th by market capitalization among the top-100 cryptocurrencies on CoinMarketCap. The coin’s market cap and price have seen a noticeable uprise following Coinbase’s announcement, with 24-hour gains of almost 7 percent. As of press time, XLM is trading at $0.106.

XLM price performance

XLM price performance. Source: CoinMarketCap

Earlier this month, Coinbase added support for XLM on its main retail investor platform. The cryptocurrency was available to the majority of customers, with the exception of Coinbase users in the United Kingdom or in the U.S. state of New York, at the time of writing. Prior to that, the company’s professional trading platform, Coinbase Pro, announced it was accepting XLM deposits.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, a massive XLM airdrop took place in November, 2018. Back then, cryptocurrency wallet provider Blockchain.com launched full support for the token, alongside giving away $125 million worth of XLM to its user base. The company itself marked the initiative as “the largest airdrop in the history of crypto and likely the largest consumer giveaway ever.”

Weiss Crypto Ratings Puts Bitcoin Aside EOS and XRP in Annual Outlook

Weiss Crypto Ratings puts Bitcoin in third place in its report dedicated to emerging trends in crypto markets for 2019.

Weiss Crypto Ratings has put Bitcoin (BTC) aside XRP and EOS in its report on emerging trends in crypto markets published Tuesday, March 26.

The report — dubbed “Dark Shadows with a Bright Future” —  is based on the analysis of 120 cryptocurrencies, and assigns letter grades to cryptocurrencies that have the best combination of adoption and technology.

XRP, the world's third largest coin by market capitalization according to CoinMarketCap, is ranked “A,” and per the report is the “best positioned” to compete with SWIFT — a global system for interbank transactions. EOS  also received an A grade as the leading cryptocurrency that is challenging Ethereum (ETH) in an attempt to become the “backbone of the new internet”.

BTC received an A grade for its Lightning Network upgrade and the ability to become a popular store of value for savers and investors. The world’s top currency is followed by Ethereum (A-) and Cardano (B+) that are highly valued due to their smart contract capabilities.

Weiss Crypto Ratings annual outlook

Weiss Crypto Ratings annual outlook. Source: weisscryptocurrencyratings.com

However, the results of another rating in the report dedicated to risk and reward factors are far from satisfying. According to Weiss Crypto Ratings, only four coins — EOS, XRP, BTC and Binance (BNB) — can be valued as B-, with none of the currencies getting an A.

Weiss Ratings founder, Martin D. Weiss, believes that despite the bear markets the best time to invest in cryptocurrencies is near:

"Despite lower prices since early 2018, our ratings model gives us hard evidence that a critical segment of the cryptocurrency industry has enjoyed remarkable growth in user transaction volume, network capacity, and network security [...] Therefore, for those willing to take the risk, the best time to invest could be very near."

Major crypto bulls expect a coming “Crypto Spring” to bring crypto price improvements. Tom Lee, Fundstrat’s co-founder and pro-crypto Wall Street analyst, thinks that the industry will see 9 incremental improvements in the landscape that could ultimately support higher prices. In February, supposed Bitcoin billionaire Zhao Dong said he believes higher valuations will return in 2020.

Crypto Exchange Coinbene Announces Ongoing Maintenance While Customers Suspect Hack

Crypto exchange Coinbene has announced ongoing maintenance without a preliminary notification.

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbene, ranked 16th on CoinMarketCap by adjusted volume, has announced it is undergoing maintenance on Tuesday, March 26, as the crypto industry discusses rumors that the exchange has been hacked.

The official Twitter account of Coinbene Global, @CoinBene, has responded to a user nicknamed Crypto James, who claims that his deposits have been pending for an hour and insists the exchange has suffered a hack, as the maintenance had not been previously announced.

Coinbene’s reply to his tweet reads:

“In order to enhance the user experience, CoinBene upgraded the platform wallet on March 26, 2019. During maintenance, it will affect related operations such as deposit and withdraw, trading will not be affected.”

In another tweet, Coinbene adds that the completion time of the maintenance will be announced separately. The exchange states that all withdrawals and deposits will be completed automatically after the maintenance concludes.

However, some insiders suggest that the maintenance announcement is a cover for a large hack that might involve up to $40 million stolen. Nick Saponaro, CIO of blockchain startup Diviproject, wrote on Twitter that the massive outgoing transactions from the platform shown on major statistics website for Ethereum, Etherscan, might serve as an evidence of an attack.

In a comment to Saponaro’s tweet, Twitter user Stephen Morrison noted that the funds appear to have been moved to an address commented on as “cold wallet.”

Nick Schteringard of Russian crypto media Forklog also mentioned “strange activity” on Coinbene in his Twitter. Schteringard cites users who claim that their wallets were hacked using two addresses. He also notes that a large portion of previously unknown MaximineCoin, or MXM, is involved in transactions. MXM has seen gains of more than 700% per this month, he writes.

On March 19, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published a report on crypto exchanges prepared by Bitwise Asset Management, creator of a crypto index fund. In the report, experts claimed that 95 percent of Bitcoin (BTC) trading volume reported by unregulated crypto exchanges were fake.

The SEC’s Bitwise report, inter alia, mentioned Coinbene as the largest BTC exchange in the world with $480 million in daily volumes. The authors believe that their activity is suspicious, especially due to the fact that trading timesteps frequently coincide and the amounts of buying and selling are almost similar.

Cointelegraph will update this story as more information is made available.

Central Bank of Korea Includes Research on CBDCs in Annual Report

South Korea’s central bank mentions CBDCs in its annual payment settlement report and announces a blockchain trial later in 2019.

South Korea’s central bank has included a summary of research on central bank digital currencies (CBDC) in its 2018 annual payment settlement report issued Tuesday, March 26.

The development of distributed ledger technologies (DLT) and crypto assets has fueled a debate over CBDCs, especially after Uruguay and Tunisia issued their own, the report reads.

The Korean central bank had also conducted its own research on CBDCs while it was considering launching one earlier in 2018 — an idea that was later put aside. The report included tests of blockchain-based solutions: generally speaking, the Korean experts believe that crypto assets can be widely used if their stability and efficiency are further improved.

The report focuses on the fact that CBDCs can be used not only for transactions between different financial institutions, but for micropayments as well, which might significantly impact both society and the economy.

The ability to trace transactions via distributed ledger and thus limit anonymity is one of the key advantages of a CBDC, according to the document. Moreover, the experts believe that blockchain-based CBDCs are more secure for settlement payments, because transactions cannot be cancelled after they are made. However, using a digital currency will not significantly reduce the time required for the transfer of funds, the report notes.

As to the impact on monetary policy and financial stability, the central bank of South Korea claims that CBDCs could possibly weaken the intermediary role of commercial banks. As some institutions will hold their deposits in CBDCs, the number of traditional deposits in other banks will inevitably decrease.

On the other hand, central banks will allocate more credits and thus gain a leading role in the case of their issuing CBDCs. The experts recommend carefully examining CBDCs prior to issuing them, as it might affect global financial markets in general.

As a conclusion, the Korean experts reiterate the central bank’s stance not to issue its own CBDC. However, the bank is planning to continue CBDC-related research, along with their stated goal of reducing the use of cash and closely monitoring digital currency trends. Moreover, the central bank has announced a securities settlement test based on blockchain technology that will be performed later this year.

The country’s central bank has previously issued a warning on CBDCs, stating that their issuance would result in mass withdrawals of funds from private institutions, squeezing liquidity and pushing up interest rates.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, a January report by the Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements found that 70 percent of central banks worldwide are conducting research into CBDC issuance. However, concrete plans for implementation and motivations vary depending on the context.

CME Group CEO Terry Duffy: No Bitcoin Deficit a Problem for Regulators

Terry Duffy, CEO of CME Group, says that Bitcoin’s finite amount is a challenge for regulators

Terry Duffy, CEO of leading United States derivative market CME Group, told Business Insider Monday, March 25, that Bitcoin’s finite amount is a challenge for regulators.

According to Duffy, the inability to run Bitcoin (BTC) on a deficit is challenging for regulation. He further explained:

"The governments can't run unless they can run on a deficit. I am trying to figure out why they would say, 'Sounds good to me, because I want to be responsible and run everything on even-for-even basis. I can't borrow against anything.'"

Therefore, a major selling point of most cryptocurrencies, a limited supply, is an obstacle to their further adoption by state entities, according to Duffy. He further added that regulators are still wary about cryptocurrencies, as they are still a relatively new financial instrument:

"I do believe that the regulators right now are a little careful about just rubber stamping anything as it relates to crypto. You are going to have to have an offering that the regulators are going to have to get comfortable. And I think it is hard to get comfortable with something that is so new like this.”

Moreover, Duffy thinks that stablecoins pegged to the U.S. dollar or euro will gain more traction, as they have some of the characteristics of traditional money.

Duffy thus reiterated his stance from a February interview with Bloomberg, when he said that major commercial banks are not likely to get involved in the market unless the governments worldwide start accepting cryptocurrencies.

Many crypto entrepreneurs and financial experts opt for stablecoins as the best use case of cryptocurrencies. For instance, the Winklevoss twins, who earlier launched their own dollar-backed stablecoin, the Gemini dollar (GUSD), believe that stablecoins and tokenized securities are the future of crypto innovation.

Winklevoss Capital Partner Sterling Witzke: Dollar Is Not Designed for the Internet, but Stablecoins Are

Winklevoss Capital partner Sterling Witzke spoke to Cointelegraph about the future of stablecoins, regulatory clarity in U.S. and a fair price for Bitcoin

Sterling Witzke has been working at Winklevoss Capital — a venture capital firm set up by the famous Winklevoss twins — for five years now. As a professional investor, she is very interested in financing early stage crypto and blockchain projects. She believes that stablecoins are perfectly designed for the needs of internet payments and will steadily gain popularity as the industry evolves.

We talked to Sterling Witzke about the future of fiat-pegged cryptocurrencies, the necessity of proper legal frameworks and the future of the maturing crypto industry.

Clarity is always good for an ecosystem

Ana Berman: How do you think, what will 2019 bring in terms of regulation? The question is related to the ads that Gemini recently launched, which said, in particular, “Crypto needs rules.” Don’t you think it undermines the whole idea of decentralization?

Sterling Witzke: The short answer is no. As you know from the slogans, Gemini is very pro-thoughtful regulation and believes that consumers in the crypto space deserve the same protection as consumers in other industries.

It's all about making fair outcomes for all. It doesn't undermine the original ethos of crypto to have regulations. The distinction comes with the companies that are built on top of the protocol. So, at the protocol level, it's absolutely correct that you don't need any more regulation and rules, because those are already built in.

You've got the math and the cryptography that dictates the rules on the protocol. The difference is that the applications and companies built on top of those protocols are run by humans, and we all know they are fallible. That's where the oversight comes into play.

AB: The United States Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC) has recently claimed that crypto will be its top examination priority in 2019. Do you believe the SEC will take some important steps this year?

SW: I hope so. I think that regulatory clarity, especially on things like security tokens versus utility tokens, is needed to get us towards mass adoption. I know there are several companies that were thinking about raising capital, but are now a bit hesitant because they just aren't quite sure how to operate in a gray area. Such firms want to ask for permission rather than forgiveness, which is our model also, and thus we appreciate that. But I think that clarity is always good for an ecosystem.

AB: Many entrepreneurs participate in crypto initiatives, like draft bills, round tables, etc. Is Winklevoss Capital interested in proposing some regulation or maybe discussing it with legislators?

SW: Tyler and Cameron are very involved and proactively working with regulators to help form the way that these rules are made, which I think is very important. We don't want government to come down with a heavy hand, as they might not understand the intricacies of the ecosystem.

I am not involved in the regulatory side, but Tyler and Cameron have been very active in the space for a long time. One of the most recent initiatives is the Virtual Commodities Association [VCA], which is a self-regulatory organization started by Gemini. I believe that its current executive director, Maria Filipakis, is actually from the the New York Department of Financial Services [DFS]. So, there is a lot of ongoing communication and collaboration with regulators to try to move this case forward.

Investors are dipping their toes in crypto, no one is taking the plunge

AB: As far as we know, Winklevoss Capital is mostly focused on the investments and the institutional side of the business. Do you believe there will be more Wall Street involvement in 2019? What do you expect in terms of institutional investments?

SW: I don't think that 2019 is necessarily the year. The end of 2017 was so crazy. People tend to think of the space as moving at lightning speed, but the underlying development doesn't move that fast. I think it takes a while for institutions to get comfortable. There needs to be a better custody, and any kind of healthy debt and credit markets to get those institutions really excited.

So, I don't think that I would make a prediction that 2019 is necessarily the year. I think that a lot of investors are thoughtfully dipping their toes in, but I don't really see anyone completely taking the plunge.

Crypto markets face healthy corrections, as any emerging industry

AB: CNBC’s Brian Kelly once compared crypto regulations to a ski track. Someone has to put a warning sign on a dangerous one, and the skier then decides whether to take risk or not. Do you think it is a relevant description of what’s going on?

SW: I think that is a nice sentiment. The majority of me believes in free markets and free will. Everyone should be able to invest in what they want to invest in. But the fact is that we have some responsibilities to protect people.

I grew up in South Dakota, for example, and crypto has not really made a splash in the Midwest, yet. In the end of 2017, I had lots of friends who bought Bitcoin at $18,000 or $19,000 and kind of lost their shirts. For such a new market, we need the same protections as we do with public equities. The precedent is already here, and there is really no difference.

AB: You just mentioned the bubble of December 2017. Do you think it was a necessary process — let’s say, a sign of development?

SW: One hundred percent. I think that lots of new industries need irrational exuberance to garner excitement and really get the word out there. Thousands more people now know of Bitcoin. That said, there's no reason why Bitcoin should have been $19,000.

That was all irrational exuberance, bubble — whatever you want to call it. You could maybe argue that this is an overly healthy correction, but I think that a healthy correction was 100 percent necessary. It's part of the traditional cycle of a new industry emerging.

It was necessary to move this base forward, because it got rid of a lot of bad actors. From the end of 2017 to the beginning of 2018, we saw every Joe Blow creating an ICO [initial coin offering] just to raise, in some instances, hundreds of millions of dollars, and then take off and drink a Mai Tai on the beach. But their investors lost everything. The people that are left and active in the space are really in it for the long term. They see the fundamental effect that blockchain will have globally for the next 100 years. These people are in the industry for the long term.

Bitcoin is a store of value, not a speculative asset

AB: What, in your opinion, is a fair price for Bitcoin?

SW: I won't make any price predictions, but I am happy where we are, because we're in a build phase in the ecosystem. I think that the speculators that drove the price up are now sitting on the sidelines. And again, the people that are left truly believe in an ecosystem and think of Bitcoin as a store of value rather than a speculative asset.

AB: So, the ongoing price correction, let’s say, when Bitcoin hovers around $3,500, is more or less a fair process, right?

SW: I think it's a fair process. And we'll probably be at these price levels for a while. There is a lot of underlying infrastructure work to be done with things like scalability, user experience, etc. Maybe not on the underlying infrastructure part, but on the top layer. People aren't going to use these applications if we can't make it foolproof and extremely easy to use.

Stablecoins are designed for internet payments

AB: As per recent studies, the era of ICO craziness is now over. Many believe the future is in tokenized assets and stablecoins. Do you share this stance?

SW: The short answer is yes. The dollar has been a great form of payment for a long time, but it was not designed for the internet age we are currently in. We need a stable currency that works with the blockchain and the internet. Fiat-pegged stablecoins bring us ability to purchase assets or to be paid dividends in assets that are not volatile.

The craziest example of using something like Bitcoin as a form of payment is the pizza that was bought for 10,000 BTC back in the day. At that time, it was $20, and now it is about $3 million. So, we need something like a fiat-backed stablecoin to be able to facilitate transactions on the blockchain. It's a currency designed for crypto.

That said, I'll give my plug for the Gemini dollar [GUSD]. The Gemini dollar is 100 percent backed by the U.S. dollar, and it's the only stablecoin that has actually released their banking partner, State Street, and are very upfront about that. State Street can say, “Yes, with 100 percent certainty we have 100 percent of the dollars that back GUSD.”

AB: Can you please tell us something about Winklevoss Capital’s blockchain plans for 2019?

SW: Winklevoss Capital invests in both blockchain and nonblockchain-related startups. So on the traditional venture capital side, we invest in early stage companies, both seed and Series A across industries. We've done a little bit of everything from e-commerce to IT hardware, and international logistics, and everything else.

On the blockchain side of things, we think about investing very similarly. We're not trying to be a hedge fund, we're not flipping public tokens. We sat out of the ICO craze, we've already discussed. We're looking for a really long-term companies and founders that are trying to build a company for the next decades. We're investing very patient capital with a seven to 10 years’ time horizon. We're focused very much on infrastructure. As I mentioned, we think that scalability solutions for things like smart contracts are really interesting.

There's so many interesting applications, like the ability to prove identity and bank the unbanked, which involves 2 billion people that don't have an official form of ID or can't get a bank account. If you think about 2 billion people coming online, not a single existing protocol can handle that.

You can also think of Bitcoin doing seven to 10 transactions a second, Ethereum doing 10 to 15, as a maximum — that's just not feasible. So, we're looking at solutions that can solve that problem.

Blockchain will be in focus next years

AB: Could you please name any particular companies you’ve already worked with or would like to invest into?

SW: Not yet, unfortunately. It's something that I'm actively looking for but have not found, yet. We have not made any investments in this space. I think it's an area of focus over the next year. I'm hopeful that more and more entrepreneurs will be focusing on that problem because it's massive.

There are so many applications for a blockchain in the U.S. and in developed countries — to make markets more efficient, to fix what I would call First World problems, etc. But, at the end of the day, when we're talking about addressing the bottom of the pyramid and applications for that, there is a huge quality of life difference that can be more impactful. I'm looking forward to more entrepreneurs focusing on those applications.

AB: Apart from the social application of blockchain, could you mention some areas that are interesting? What are the most promising industries for blockchain?

SW: I think that remittances are also interesting, but this is a social application as well. Gaming is an industry that is really promising. If you think about developers, they've been operating digital economies for a decade. Nobody understands the digital supply and demand economics better than gaming developers, and so that feels like a natural adaptation of blockchain — things like nonfunctional goods within games.

Imagine a kid that spends all his time developing this gaming character and another person that really loves playing a game like Fortnite, for example, but doesn't have the same amount of time to dedicate to it. In that case, the kid could sell the character to someone who's willing to pay. And, actually, that's a good use case for stablecoins — defensible goods within gaming.

AB: How many years do we need for mass adoption?

SW: Most likely, several. There is a lot that needs to happen to the underlying infrastructure, and an amazing amount of things that needs to happen to usability before the average consumer is really using applications.

The interview was conducted at the sidelines of the Crypto Finance Conference in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in January 2019. The panel Sterling Witzke took part in was called “From anarchy to adoption — are we selling out or really creating a better world?”