A long weekend looms, but before that, there’s a lot to digest.

Perhaps topping the list is the latest scuttlebutt around trade with China (see more below). Netflix earnings also rank high, with shares down 3% in pre-market trading after a Q4 revenue miss. Automaker Tesla is also in the news after announcing plans to shrink its workforce as it tries to lower product prices and improve its margins.

Amid optimism over China, markets in Europe and Asia all rose more than 1% early Friday, one of those few times when every index is in sync. U.S. stocks also had a positive tone before the opening bell, but whether that can last is a big question. Whichever way the market is going heading into the last hour today, it might be interesting to see if it reverses course if people flatten out their positions in a possible attempt to lessen up on risk ahead of the weekend. Then we’ll have to watch and see what kind of news comes out over the next three days, especially on the China front.

U.S. markets are closed Monday for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday holiday, and Market Update won’t publish that day.

China News Lifts Hopes, But Will It Last?

If investors needed any more evidence of how closely the market is tracking U.S./China negotiations, they arguably got it Thursday. Major indices woke up from a lethargic morning after The Wall Street Journal reported that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed lifting some or all tariffs to advance trade talks and win China’s support for longer-term reforms.

This is far from a done deal, and investors should consider taking it for what it is—likely a trial balloon that could face resistance from harder-line U.S. negotiators. The other thing to consider is that China news can work both ways. There continues to be a lot of rumor and innuendo, and on any given day either positive or negative tidings on the situation could lift or trip up the markets.

Remember, as recently as Thursday morning, moods were sullen as China’s government referred to proposed U.S. legislation against Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE as “hysteria.” At the same time, there was a report that the U.S. was considering new auto tariffs. In other words, things can change on a dime.

That’s one reason volatility remains high, though the Cboe Volatility Index—the market’s main fear indicator, retreated down to near 18 on Thursday from above 30 in the days after Christmas.

On Lookout For Potential Friday Profit Taking

With so much rumor in the air not only about China but also on the government shutdown and Brexit, caution could be the watchword going into the U.S. three-day holiday weekend. As we noted yesterday, recent Fridays have brought some profit taking, especially in weeks where the market has already booked some gains. This trend actually has a name: the “Friday effect.”  If things do remain steady toward the last hour today, the takeaway would probably be bullish. That’s because it could solidify thoughts that people are getting more comfortable with risk after months of “risk-off” trading.

Some risk-on sentiment appeared to show up late this week as 10-year Treasury note yields climbed to 2.75% by the end of the day Thursday, closing in on three-week highs posted earlier this week. Some of the more cyclical sectors drew investor interest Thursday, as well, with the sector leaderboard dominated by industrials, materials, and energy. The possibly softer tone in trade negotiations reported by The Wall Street Journal appeared to help those sectors, with some of the bellwether stocks like Caterpillar and Boeing getting a lift. Some analysts call these the canaries in the coal mine for optimism or pessimism about China tariffs.

Turning On Netflix

Most of the FAANGs, on the other hand, only posted small gains Thursday as investors awaited earnings from Netflix after the close. When the news did come, the Netflix movie appeared to have a bittersweet ending.

Yes, streaming subscriber numbers rose more than expected, climbing by 11.36 million in Q4, and the company’s Q4 earnings per share beat third-party consensus estimates. However, revenue just missed analysts’ expectations. Also, Netflix also continues to spend a lot of money, though it promised its cash burn would peak this year and then go down. Comcast and Disney also have streaming options, so competition is heating up.

In a conference call with analysts, Netflix executives said the company’s spending reflects its move toward more “owned” content and production. Netflix expects 8.9 million global subscribers in Q1, above a pre-earnings third-party consensus of 8.2 million. That growth, it said, is due to the success of original productions like Bird Box.

In one sense, the spending isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If Netflix continues to put its money into successful original productions, it’s arguable that the costs ultimately could pay off in more subscribers. Still, it seems like maybe Netflix has had such an incredible run in the market recently that a lot of the news is already out. The company released viewership numbers a while ago, so what else can it say? It may have run out of bullets on how to excite people, at least for now.

High-end retailer Tiffany is also in the news as it reported holiday results. The company guided toward the low end of its previously-disclosed earnings per share range, and comparable year-over-year sales fell 2% during the holiday season. Much of the company’s sales are related to tourism, so the spat between China and the U.S. might be a pressure point. However, shares bounced back in pre-market trading after being down earlier.

Back to Earth for Financials

Earlier this week, it was like old times as the financial sector helped lead the rally. On Thursday, it looked more like a rerun of 2018, with financials climbing about 0.5% but well down on the sector leaderboard. This came after Morgan Stanley’s (MS) disappointing earnings, though MS shares did claw back a little after dropping sharply early on. Most of the big banks suffered in Q4 from a tough trading environment, and MS arguably had the worst time.

However, the entire sector still faces a potential challenge. If interest rates remain flat, that means they don’t have the spread revenue coming in, conceivably making them more reliant on trading. The financial sector is having a decent start to 2019, but we’re still only a couple weeks in and the interest rate environment doesn’t look particularly favorable, at least not if you’re a bank trying to boost margins.

On the data watch today, University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment is arguably the biggest piece of economic news. Holiday shopping season, which originally had looked pretty impressive, now has some questions surrounding it after Macy’s and Nordstrom reported disappointing sales. The confidence number might help investors glean whether any retail blues might have stemmed from falling sentiment.

Figure 1: 50 And Up: For the first time in about a month, the S&P 500 Index (candlestick) caught up with its 50-day moving average (blue line). This six-month chart shows that it’s been rare for the SPX to be above its 50-day moving average over the last few months, so it might be interesting to see if it can sustain this position. Data Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices. Chart source: The thinkorswim® platform from TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.DATA SOURCE: S&P DOW JONES INDICES. CHART SOURCE: THE THINKORSWIM® PLATFORM FROM TD AMERITRADE.

Pony Up: With Ford earnings due next Wednesday, maybe it’s a good time to check in on one of the company’s flagships, the iconic Ford Mustang. This April marks the 55th anniversary of the car’s 1964 introduction, and it coincides with F planning to stop production of almost all small- and mid-size cars in the U.S., except for the Mustang. More than 10 million Ford “pony cars” have gone out the door since its debut, but not all is smooth revving in the corral. Mustang sales fell more than 7% in 2018, and are down nearly 40% from 2015, according to auto industry data. One issue is that Mustang sales historically pop when a new model comes out, and F hasn’t introduced a completely new Mustang in four years. Unfortunately for F, a new Mustang appears to be about two years out, automotive media outlets report. The Mustang was the best-selling sports coupe in the world last year, with more than 75,000 rolling out to U.S. customers and thousands more selling abroad. The company also might have a 700-horsepower Mustang in the works that could top 200 miles per hour, Road & Track reported.

Paint Splatters: It’s no secret that the U.S. housing market has been under pressure lately, but the weaker than expected preliminary Q4 results this week from paint maker Sherwin-Williams probably helped send additional shivers through some of the home builder and home improvement companies. In a side note, home construction company PulteGroup received a downgrade Thursday and shares fell, reflecting in part the slowing housing environment as homes grow more expensive. Often when home construction companies suffer, that helps pick up some of the home renovation companies like Lowe’s and Home Depot, the thought being that if people can’t afford a new home, maybe they’ll do a new kitchen or bathroom. However, painting comes with any home project, so it might make some market participants nervous to see Sherwin-Williams’ business hurting. Lowes and Home Depot report later this earnings season, but consider staying tuned for their insights now that Sherwin-Williams has raised concerns about perhaps more weakness in housing.

Technical Picture: Thursday’s late rally pushed the S&P 500 Index above its 50-day moving average of 2626. This week marks the first time in about a month that the S&P 500 has flirted or surpassed a major moving average, and that could potentially help the market from a chart perspective. On another note, the S&P 500 is approaching what technical traders call a “50% retracement” of the gap between its Q4 closing low and its 2018 closing high. The level to consider watching is around 2640, which would mean a 50% comeback from Dec. 24 when the market most recently bottomed. A close above 2640 might signal to some traders that the rally has more legs, and could mean some investors putting money back to work in the market. However, we’ll have to wait and see. Things have come pretty far, pretty fast, and there’s also the risk of profit-taking ahead of the long weekend.

This post credited to Forbes. Image source: Forbes

NEO appears to be losing ground in the popularity contest, at least lately. In the glory days of 2017, the “Chinese Ethereum” was a top 10 cryptocurrency with unstoppable potential. NEO was touted as being faster, better, and capable of handling way more transactions than other major networks. The hype surrounding the project was palpable.

Since its heyday in January 2018 when its market cap was over $10 billion, NEO has slipped to 18th place with a market cap around half that amount.

neo price
NEO, like other top cryptocurrency assets, had a rough 2018.

What’s happened to see it fall out of favor?

The crypto community may be losing interest in NEO, but its co-founder, Erik Zhang, isn’t losing any sleep.

In fact, ask him what NEO price is on any given day and, chances are, he hasn’t even checked.

“I don’t care about NEO’s price and market capitalization at all,” he told me.

I caught up with Zhang to find out what’s going on with NEO, why being compared to Ethereum irks him, and how his cat writes most of his code. Check it out.

Everyone’s heard of your charismatic co-founder Da Hongfei; he’s the face of NEO. Do you prefer to work behind the scenes? What is your main role at NEO?

erik zhang
Erik Zhang, NEO Co-Founder | Source: NEO.org

“Da Hongfei has done a great job in promoting NEO and made great contributions to the development of blockchain industry,” he says.

“Da had more exposure to the public whereas my contributions were more focused on the GitHub.”

Despite his reduced share of time in the spotlight, Zhang isn’t just the co-founder of NEO; he’s also a core developer. And he’s completely disinterested in the NEO price and the crypto market fluctuations in general.

His job, he reminds me, is to focus on building out NEO and strengthening the community.

“What’s the difference between the top 10 and the 18th?” he questions, “We are developing a blockchain project instead of playing a capital game. I just want to make this project even better.”

Is it accurate that NEO is often called the “Chinese Ethereum?” Do you mind that association or is this something that annoys you and the team?

Like a red rag to a bull, Zhang really begins to come into his own here. Somehow, I had the feeling that the constant comparison to Ethereum might be a sticking point.

The labeling is a hype. We never introduced NEO this way, and I’m personally against this labeling.

He goes onto explain that he has nothing against Ethereum, however; he even calls it a “great project.” But he reaffirms that the two blockchains are very different.

It’s easy to call WeChat the “Chinese WhatsApp” and Baidu the “Chinese Google,” but that’s probably where the similarities end. It’s pretty much watered down marketing for dummies in the West.

NEO may have been conceived in China, but Zhang explains that it’s a global project contributed to by developers throughout the world.

“Although it was initiated by two Chinese people, I believe that the founder’s nationality is not the nationality of the project.” And Zhang isn’t real keen on projects having a figurehead.

In my eyes, the founder is nothing but a mascot.

He then comes out with an extremely valid point on the NEO/Ethereum comparison:

Lastly, I have to say that the one that can defeat the Ethereum can never be another Ethereum.

So, what are the key differences between NEO and Ethereum at the technological level? And at a visionary level?

“NEO and Ethereum both have their own tokens. They can all run turing-complete smart contracts. But they also have a big difference. First, their consensus mechanisms are different. Ethereum uses a PoW algorithm, while NEO uses the dBFT algorithm,” he says.

“Second, their smart contract development languages are very different. Ethereum uses a domain-specific language called Solidity, while NEO uses general-purpose languages with a large number of developers, such as C#, Python, Java, Golang, JavaScript, etc.”

Even the smart contract features the two networks provide are different, Zhang explains:

The interfaces provided by Ethereum for smart contracts are relatively simple, and they are usually provided through the EVM instruction set. NEO provides a large number of powerful APIs for smart contracts, and they are provided in a way similar to virtual devices.

Beyond the technical differences, the greatest chasm lies between the vision of the two projects. Says Zhang:

Ethereum wants to be a world computer that cannot be stopped while NEO wants to serve the smart economy.

Da Hongfei said at Web Summit in Lisbon that NEO is ready for the “formal economy.” What does he mean by this and how is this the case?

NEO Team
The NEO Team | Source: Twitter

“In the past year, we have adhered to the principle of building NEO a compliance-ready blockchain. Although blockchain is treated differently in different countries, there’s no doubt that no country or region would turn away from blockchain technology,” he said.

From the perspective of social revolution, blockchain has to be well monitored for mass application and healthy development. We’ve seen the liquidity being facilitated by unhealthy development; however, it propagated a wrong way of usage.

“NEO’s vision of smart economy is composed of ‘smart contract,’ ‘digital identity,’ and ‘digital assets,’ of which ‘digital identity’ is a prerequisite for compliance and a feature of NEO,” he adds. “Digital identity is also the area NEO wishes to focus on to facilitate the development of the formal economy using blockchain technology.”

You can be forgiven for not digesting all that in one go. With so much focus on digital identity, what does that actually mean to the end user? What does all this translate to?

Regarding the importance of digital identity and privacy in blockchains for the mainstream, what applications are available to take NEO to the mainstream?

“NeoID is an important component which facilitates the development of digital identity.” He reinforces:

Blockchain has to be compliance-ready and associated with the real economy to achieve growth.

NEO has never wanted to disassociate itself with the real economy, according to its vision in the whitepaper. NEO plans to make the existing economy better. Zhang confirms:

What’s in NEO’s plan is to use blockchain to empower the real economy, and we firmly believe that NEO will build the future of smart economy.

Are you a believer in regulation despite the fact that ICOs and cryptocurrency exchanges are banned in China? Do you still think this is the right move?

“Although ICOs and exchanges are banned in China, the government still encourages the development of blockchain technology. I think it works positively. When the monitoring system is immature, it is a good idea to build compliance into blockchain technology.”

The situation is a little murky in China upon first glance. On the one hand, the government seems to be entirely hostile to crypto. It’s not an ICO incubator hub the likes of Switzerland or Malta.

However, it’s also not falling behind in the race to blockchainize its economy in any way. But does banning crypto trading and ICOs not damage Chinese-based crypto?

Just to double check, cryptocurrency is not illegal in China, however, trading is? Has this hurt NEO’s growth? How will NEO be able to get ready for a formal economy if trading cryptocurrency is banned in China?

china bitcoin cryptocurrency
Crypto traders in China and Russia are evading local restrictions on exchanges by trading OTC.

“Trading is not illegal,” Zhang corrects me, “exchanges are illegal. This won’t hurt NEO, or the damage to NEO is the same as any other projects. You cannot trade NEO or other tokens on Chinese exchanges. But you can legally trade NEO or other tokens in other countries.”

This is where he brings out a sucker punch to retail traders, the likes of which only a developer can, reiterating that the price of NEO is about as interesting to him as the latest tweet from a Kardashian.

Traders always think of ways, I don’t need to care about this at all, because I am not a trader myself.

What’s new with NEO at the moment? What’s coming up next?

“NEO’s goal is to have the ability to run large-scale commercial applications. To achieve this goal, we are doing two things. The first is to improve NEO’s infrastructure so that it has higher tps and a more reliable dBFT consensus algorithm.

“After half a year of development, the improved NEO consensus algorithm dBFT is about to be completed. dBFT will become the best consensus mechanism for blockchains.

“The second is to develop a distributed storage network, NeoFS, so that applications can store massive amounts of data. The development of the first release candidate (RC1) of NeoFS is expected to be completed in Q3 2019.

“In February, we will hold the second NEO DevCon in Seattle and will share more details about the progress.”

NEO DevCon
DevCon | Source: devcon.neo.org

What’s the importance of DevCon for NEO and for the industry? Can you tell us a bit about the event?

“The DevCon is strategically held to keep the community informed of our development progress. It also provides a chance to the people interested in blockchain to learn about the latest technological advances, interesting applications and discuss the possibilities of future changes with relevant experts and scholars.

“NEO DevCon will be held during Feb 16-17 in Seattle revolving around Layer2, consensus mechanism and distributed file storage system etc., with more topics to be decided. This time we also invited some speakers from Seattle-based tech giants to share their insights with us.

“By holding the DevCon, we hope to build more connections between blockchain and traditional large enterprises to facilitate a wider application of blockchain technology.”

Do you see this year’s event drawing as many people as your last event, given the fact that many companies like ConsenSys are laying people off?

“The NGD marketing team has been dedicated to the preparation of DevCon, and we are confident of the result. Our objective is not restricted to the blockchain industry alone; instead, we expect to incorporate blockchain technology into higher-dimensional scenarios and industries to serve large-scale business purposes,” he continues, adding:

It is worth mentioning that in the past six months, we had more than a dozen new talent join the team and witnessed a growth in technology communities. Our vision is clear and we always focused on technology development, so market volatility doesn’t have a big impact on the team’s development.

So, that being the case, would you still encourage developers to get into blockchain despite the slump?

“Of course! This is one of the things I officially do. Just as the Internet has brought people into the digital economy era, I believe that the blockchain will lead people into the era of the smart economy. The changes in the economic system will bring people a better life.

“I think this is something that deserves to be done. We need more talented developers to join in the innovation. It has nothing to do with the market situation.”

Let’s get back to NEO and your plans. Can you tell us anything about the hard fork? Can you give us some details or a timeline for that?

“NEO will have a major update next year, which is NEO 3.0. To upgrade to NEO 3.0, we need at least one hard fork.” he continues:

We might even propose to start a new blockchain network, then migrate all the old data to the new chain.

However, “These are still under discussion. As for the type of upgrade that will ultimately be chosen, it depends on the final technical implementation. But in either case, it will not be implemented until next year.”

So, no hard fork in the road ahead for NEO until 2020, but there’s still plenty to look forward to as the NEO community continues along its roadmap.

Moving back to the cryptocurrency industry in general, what’s going on? Did you anticipate the Bitcoin Cash hard fork having such an effect on the industry?

ethereum bitcoin
Erik Zhang believes Ethereum will overtake Bitcoin, sooner rather than later.

“Personally, I didn’t pay much attention to the market fluctuations nor did I notice the BCH hard fork. So it is difficult for me to answer this question,” he said. However, he added:

From what I’ve observed, an industry has to weed out underperforming projects to achieve growth.

He then goes on to drop an unexpected prediction:

In my opinion, Ethereum will sooner or later exceed Bitcoin and get the first position. But Ethereum will also face very fierce competition from other projects such as NEO.

Where do you see the future of cryptocurrency? Are traditional financial institutions right to fear it?

“As far as I know, many financial institutions are exploring the application of blockchain technology in financial scenarios,” however:

I don’t think traditional financial institutions can make any real achievements in the blockchain field. Because in my opinion, the nature of the blockchain is to reduce the cost of trust transfer through decentralization, and the nature of traditional financial institutions is to create trust through a centralized authority. These two ideas are contrary to each other and difficult to unify.

Any hard-line predictions for us?

“No, I’m not a wizard.” (He also doesn’t mince his words.)

Okay then, lastly, can you tell us something about yourself that no one knows?

“Remember, NEO’s code is written by Erik’s cat.”

This post credited to CCN. Featured Image from Shutterstock

Straight from the horse’s mouth. Despite multiple complications and the ongoing trade war between the US and China placing Tesla plans in doubt, today, the electronic car manufacturer began breaking ground on the construction of the first Tesla gigafactory outside of the US in Shanghai.

On Twitter this morning, the charismatic businessman enthused:

Looking forward to breaking ground on the @Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory today!

Elon Musk

@elonmusk

Looking forward to breaking ground on the @Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory today!

3,001 people are talking about this

Musk stood alongside the Shanghai mayor and other local government officials in a ceremony that marked history. This is the first ever wholly foreign-owned car plant in China (Reuters).

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Vincent@vincent13031925

Tesla CEO @elonmusk with Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong at Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory ground breaking ceremony.

1,182 people are talking about this

The first bulldozers began construction of the Tesla gigafactory today estimated to cost around $2 billion. Even amid a struggling Chinese economy and ongoing dispute with the US, this event alone marks a significant shift in the world’s biggest car market.

When is the Tesla Gigafactory in Shanghai Completed?

Tesla shareholders have seen the company’s share price rollercoaster over the last year, finally up some 0.4% overall after a tumultuous year.

trading view tesla
Tesla’s Stock Price. Chart from Tradingview.

They will be anxious to know when production of Tesla cars in China will begin. According to Musk, the company is:

Aiming to finish initial construction this summer, start Model 3 production end of year & reach high volume production next year.

Elon Musk

@elonmusk

Looking forward to breaking ground on the @Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory today!

Elon Musk

@elonmusk

Aiming to finish initial construction this summer, start Model 3 production end of year & reach high volume production next year

615 people are talking about this

Tesla Stock Price Up 1.46% Premarket

Tesla’s premarket stock price shows that investors are satisfied with the recent announcements by Elon Musk on Twitter. It’s currently up 1.1.46% premarket:

Tesla’s Premarket Stock Price. Chart by Marketwatch.

Trade War Hit Tesla Hard

Tesla’s ambitious plans for China have never been any secret. However, the company’s Chinese sales have been hit hard by the ongoing dispute between Washington and Beijing.

In July, China raised import tariffs on US cars by as much as 40 percent. They soon cut this back down to 15 percent at the start of this year in a “trade war ceasefire.”

Amid these increases, however, Tesla was forced to cut prices for its Model 3 last month for the third time in two months. The company also slashed the Model X and Model S prices by 12 and 26 percent respectively.

Musk and his team have always been positive about a trade war easing, though. Tesla went ahead and secured land for its Shanghai factory in October of last year for $140 million. Initial plans are to produce a volume of some half a million cars a year at the mega-facility.

Another Over-Promise?

Well, Musk is certainly known for his outlandish claims. Selling cars with features that they don’t actually haveand then removing them before they come out. He was called out on this by one of his Twitter followers:

Swappable batteries.  Solar roofs. Fully autonomous driving by 2016.  Ten thousand cars a week by the end of 2018. A new Shanghai factory in 2019.

Elon Musk

@elonmusk

Looking forward to breaking ground on the @Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory today!

Nixon’s Head@Nixons_Head_

Swappable batteries. Solar roofs. Fully autonomous driving by 2016. Ten thousand cars a week by the end of 2018. A new Shanghai factory in 2019. pic.twitter.com/0weRRXmN1u

View image on Twitter
See Nixon’s Head’s other Tweets

However, it seems that this time, Musk’s claims are grounded in fact. The Shanghai government gave Tesla the green light in December to start operations by Q3 2019 and the ceremony in Shanghai today was decorated with the highest government officials.

What Happens Next?

Until the factory opens, Tesla announced on Friday that it will start delivering Model 3 cars to China from March at the starting price of $72,000.

Once production is up and running in Shanghai, Tesla will be able to offer its models at a much more competitive price.

Removing problems of transport and tariffs, as well as access to cheaper labor in a market thirsty for electric cars, is a killer move for Tesla. According to Bloomberg, China requires around seven million electric or hybrid cars by 2025.

Locally produced cars will also allow Tesla to keep its European competitors such as Nio Inc at bay.

This post credited to ccn Featured image from Twitter.

According to a newly released report by the FT, the adoption of digital payment systems is increasing at such a rapid rate that the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) is concerned about the declining relevance of cash.

An increasing number of merchants at tourist spots have started to stop accepting cash, solely relying on applications such as Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay to process payments.

Growth of Mobile Payments Cannot be Restricted

In late 2018, concerned by the declining usage of cash and the struggle of local banks to facilitate the flow of the Chinese yuan in the Chinese economy, the central bank of China had to remind merchants that refusing to accept the yuan is illegal based on existing regulations.

The PBoC — which has also repeatedly warned about the “risks” of public cryptocurrency applications — said:

In recent years, there have been problems with the circulation of renminbi cash, and the people’s response has been intense. Consumers at tourist areas, restaurants, and retail merchants have had their cash refused, which has damaged the renminbi’s legal status and consumers’ right to choose between payment methods.

Even as early as 2017, local publications reported that more than 90 percent of sales in certain parts of China were processed using fintech applications as both merchants and individuals shifted away from cash, which can be highly inefficient at times.

The rapid increase in the adoption of digital payments has led the valuation of apps like Alipay to exceed those of major banks.

In June 2018, Alipay raised $14 billion at a valuation of $150 billion. As of January 2019, the valuation of Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest investment banks in the U.S., is valued at $63 billion, less than 42 percent of Alipay’s market valuation.

In China, Alipay and WeChat Pay are used to cover every type of operation relating to payments. Employees receive their salaries with the fintech applications, shop for groceries with digital payments, and in some locations, local markets also primarily accept Alipay and WeChat Pay.

Luckin Coffee, for instance, a coffee chain valued at $2.2 billion, was involved in a scandal for refusing to accept cash in its stores. One staff member of a Luckin Coffee said “all the franchised outlets of Luckin should order on our app and pay online,” based on FT’s report.

What Increase in Mobile Payments Mean For Cash

alipay crypto mobile payments
Digital payment platforms like Alipay are quickly making cash obsolete in China, and the anti-crypto central bank is concerned about this trend.

By nature, cash is anonymous. Contrary to popular belief, the digitalization of money into privately-operated crypto tokens or other types of digital currency could provide more control to governments and financial authorities in monitoring transactions and implementing sophisticated surveillance systems.

But, the move from cash to digital payments may lead businesses and individual users to alternative means of payments such as Bitcoin and other public cryptocurrency networks.

Already, major financial institutions such as ICEFidelity, and Nasdaq have begun to build a strong infrastructure supporting Bitcoin and other crypto assets, enabling custodial solutions and operating strictly regulated investment vehicles.

Banks, which millennials generally feel disconnected from as recent reports by Facebook Research and other organizations have suggested, have struggled to meet the demand of new generation users.

Consequently, SquareStripe, and online payment processors have been able to secure a large market share over the digital payments sector and over the long run, more individuals may shift from banks to innovative fintech platforms.

This post credited to ccn Images from Shutterstock

 

Chinese survey of 4,200 respondents has shown that 40 percent are willing to invest in crypto in the future, local Chinese crypto news outlet 8btc reports on Dec. 26.

PANews, whose Twitter describes the outlet a news source for sharing blockchain news across Asia, conducted the survey.

According to the answers gathered during the crypto-related survey, about half of all the respondents had heard of the following terms: cryptocurrency, digital currency or Bitcoin (BTC).

On the other hand, 63 percent of the respondents believe that there is no necessity for crypto as a means of payment. As well, only 22.2 percent of the surveyed individuals were aware of the concept of blockchain-powered tokens.

The Chinese government recently released its latest ranking of cryptocurrencies, which places Bitcoin in 18th place and EOS at the top. The second place is held by the third-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, Ethereum (ETH).

As Cointelegraph reported in mid-November, a Twitter survey conducted by former United States congressman Ron Paul — which counted 94,894 votes — favor Bitcoin over more traditional forms of money as a long-term investment.

Also, a more recent survey conducted by the German Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (Bitkomrevealedthat over-one third of big German businesses consider blockchain as revolutionary as the internet.

This post credited to cointelegraph Image source: Cointelegraph

Bitcoin was designed in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis as a way to take control over money away from central authorities such as governments, banks, and other traditional systems. The decentralized design could also prevent communist countries like China from establishing control over their citizen’s money.

However, the very technology powering crypto may be arming central authorities with even more control over the population and their money, which CoinShares Chief Strategy Officer Meltem Dimirors says may “slowly” be making her “dystopian nightmares” a “reality.”

Government Control Undermines Crypto’s Original Intention

In a tweet this morning, CoinShares Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Treasury Meltem Demirors shared her fears that recent moves by governments like Venezuela and China, could be bringing her “dystopian nightmares” closer to “reality.”

Related Reading | Venezuelan President Orders Banks to Adopt Petro

Demirors is referencing both Venezuela forcing its citizens to transact with the country’s native, oil-backed cryptocurrency token, and China’s plan to introduce its own digital currency that it will use to monitor and control the usage of its citizens.

China To Eliminate Cash, Control The Public Through Digital Currency

Not only will China begin using their own digital currency, but according to Fan Yifei, the deputy governor of China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), the new digital currency will also entirely replace cash. Without fiat paper currency Chinese citizens will have every transaction closely monitored and will be subject to the government’s control.

Former PBoC governor Zhou Xiaochuan set the project in motion before retiring earlier this year, as a means to avoid China relying on Bitcoin or other current cryptocurrency protocols. Since then, the PBoC has registered nearly 80 patents related to the native cryptocurrency they are developing.

Related Reading | China Could Destroy Bitcoin to Make an Ideological Statement

Patents suggest that both businesses and individuals alike will have to convert all of their yuan into the new native digital currency using a mobile wallet. Yifei published an article earlier in the year that outlined that banks would be required to submit a daily log of transactions, which would allow the Chinese government to keep tabs on every transaction every individual or business makes, even capping the amount of transactions any individual could make on a given day.

China’s control extends beyond their own native cryptocurrency as the country has outright banned cryptocurrency exchanges, events, and more.

China has even been said to have “strong motive” and “capabilities” to destroy Bitcoin entirely. In a frightening report, researchers from Princeton University and Florida International University called China the “most powerful potential adversary to Bitcoin.”

Since Bitcoin is in “ideological opposition” to China’s communist policy, the country could be motivated to attack it. Worse-yet, much of the Bitcoin network’s hash power is centralized in China due to the abundance of miners there taking advantage of low energy costs.

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Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou — or BeiShangGuang — has become the most concentrated area of ​​relevant blockchain legislation and policy in China, reports local finance publication Securities Daily Dec. 7.

The Chinese securities newspaper has analyzed blockchain-related policies introduced throughout the country in the recent years, and concluded that there are 32 blockchain-related policies within the country. Meanwhile, 11 projects are concentrated in three areas: Beijing , Shanghai  and Guangzhou. The publications states:

“Blockchain technology [is aimed] to serve the real economy, focusing on the balance between innovation, regulation and security, and clarifying the bottom line of financial stability and information security.”

China has adopted a split policy toward blockchain and cryptocurrencies, praising and adopting blockchain technology — China’s President Xi Jinping has publicly called blockchain a technological priority of the 21 century — while banningcryptocurrencies.

Last month, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) published a document, calling  to “accelerate” the development of standards for blockchain system applications across various domestic industries.

Also last month, a new blockchain alliance, involving 54 different companies, was established in Guangzhou city, aimed to promote and develop blockchain technology in the country.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has purportedly censored certain materials pertaining to cryptocurrencies. When Andreas Antonopoulos’  book “Mastering Bitcoin” appeared on China’s state-run TV channel, the title had been changed to “Blockchain: the Road to the Digitization of Assets,” and contained no references to Bitcoin (BTC).

The People’s Bank of China (PBoC), the Chinese central bank, had made several warnings against cryptocurrencies, calling them “bubbles” in financing and investment. Earlier this week, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Financial Work reminded the public that Security Token Offering (STOs) were considered illegal in the jurisdiction.

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From an influential trader’s take on Bitcoin to the popularity contest between Ethereum and Tron, here’s a look at some of the stories breaking in the world of crypto.

Bitcoin

Chinese crypto billionaire Zhao Dong says he expects Bitcoin to reach $50,000 in three years. As reported by 8BTC, the prominent Chinese OTC Bitcoin trader took to social media platform Weibo to analyze where BTC may be headed.

“In the bull market, I don’t persuade people to buy Bitcoin because it seems easy to make quick money but in fact, it is not. Now I start to talk people into buying Bitcoin.

Those who make truckloads of money do not have a very short-term speculative-driven investment mindset. Perhaps Bitcoin price will continue to drop even lower, and it may fall up to 50%. But it is still worth steadily acquiring coins every time it hits a new low. You possibly see a yield of 100 to 200% in 3 years.”

Ripple and XRP

A new episode of The Ripple Drop is out.

In this latest edition, Ripple looks at its development initiative Xpring and talks about XRP liquidity.

Stellar Lumens

Stellar Lumens has reached its highest rank on CoinMarketCap and CoinGecko.

With a market cap of $3 billion, XLM is now the fourth largest cryptocurrency, surpassing Bitcoin Cash, EOS and Litecoin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tron and Ethereum

Tron is boasting the most popular decentralized app in all of crypto. Data from DappRadar shows the most popular Tron DApp TRONbet has 1,178 active users.

Meanwhile, Ethereum’s most popular DApp IDEX has 861 active users in the last 24 hours.

EOS

The chief technology officer of EOS developer Block.one says he’s planning to create a new cryptocurrency.

On Telegram, Daniel Larimer said the new coin will be “immutable, non-programmable, and limited to a currency role.” Larimer has a long history in the world of crypto, and is the co-founder of the blockchain crypto network Steemit as well as the creator of DAO BitShares.

No word yet on whether Larimer will continue with his current role at Block.one.

Litecoin, Zilliqa, NKN, Horizen, BitShares

Binance has rewarded five more blockchain projects with its “gold label.”

The label is designed to highlight crypto platforms that keep their communities informed and updated on the latest developments.

More projects have officially joined the Gold Label Project and received verification from Binance Info: @zilliqa @LitecoinProject @NKN_ORG @horizenglobal@bitshares @loopringorg
Apply to join them and get verified: https://t.co/dx58GhB71I pic.twitter.com/lFe5h5dNsV

— Binance Info (@Binance_Info) November 30, 2018

 

This post credited to Daily HODL Image source: Daily HODL

Huaren Capital had entered the Philippines’ business territory to expand its crypto mining business. But the Chinese firm has found another purpose on the sideways.

The crypto giant plans to launch a digitized version of Philippino Peso called “Digital Peso” in the first half of 2019, reported Inquirer. The coin, whose per unit value would likely be pegged to 1 Peso, would be a base currency of a proposed two-way remittance corridor between China and the Philippines.

Jeff Wang, the president of Huren Capital, confirmed the report during a press meet held on Wednesday, stating that they were speaking with potential partner-banks as well as Philippines central bank for their project. However, he refused to reveal the names of the banks, but recognize their plan for carrying the potential of reducing international transaction fees for the world’s third top remittance receiving country.

“In China, they have electronic payments systems like Alipay and WeChat Pay, so the transfer of funds is effortless,” Wang explained through a translator. “We understand in the Philippines, many Filipino citizens don’t have a bank account, and when they transfer funds from one country to another or from one place to another, there’s always a high remittance fee incurred, so we are working towards reducing that kind of cost for the average Filipino citizen.”

The blockchain tycoon also recognized Chinese people working in the Philippines as their potential customers, stating that the opportunities would also be open for them as much as they are open for the Filipinos.

Government Support

Huaren Capital has established its headquarters in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, following a successful visit of Chinese President Xi Jin Ping to the country. Wang established that the host government was open to their blockchain initiatives in the state and decided to put their company in their special economic zone.

“The Philippines regards blockchain innovation as a national strategy, providing a large number of preferential policies and services to related companies, and solving the regulatory problems faced by the blockchain industry,” he explained.

According to Wang, they are now seeking a regulatory approval for their digital peso project from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Also, they expect to finalize their partnerships with the local banks at the start of 2019 while aiming a full-fledged launch before June.

“We hope that this will bring the Philippines to the forefront of e-commerce around the world,” he added.

The country maintains circa $33 billion of remittance inflows every year, according to a World Bank report.

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Huobi Group has created a Communist Party committee, making it the first blockchain based company to do so in China, the South China Morning Post reports.

The committee was created through a Huobi subsidiary called Beijing Lianhuo Information Service, which was registered as a business earlier this year, owned by Li Lin, the founder of Huobi. Lin praised the launch of the committee, referring to it as a milestone for the company, hailing the Communists party for its friendly policies towards the blockchain industry, where Huobi has several businesses operating out of mainland China.

“Under the cordial care of the Party Working Committee of Haidian, the party branch of the Beijing Lianhuo Information Service Ltd. was gloriously established,” Lin added.

A party official from the same district where Huobi’s blockchain operation is based, Cao Zhou warned the new branch on the role it has to play, stating:

“We must enhance the party’s political leadership, and carry out the party’s principles and policies in private enterprises.”

The laws of the Communist Party makes it compulsory for enterprises, particularly the state-owned companies, with at least three Communist Party members as employees, to set up a branch of the Party. While this directive doesn’t extend to private firms, a couple of privately held companies have begun launching party committees in recent times as they seek new ways to form deeper ties with the government. Huobi follows in the footsteps of other private firms that have created a committee, including Tencent and Alibaba Group.

The Chinese government has been friendly to blockchain while holding an anti-crypto stance. The Communist party had put a blanket ban on crypto earlier last year, leading to an exodus of cryptocurrency exchanges to neighboring Asian countries.

Huobi Group’s digital asset platform, of the same name, was one of such firms that fled China before settling into Singapore, where it now operates. The Communist Party also issued warnings to private venues and other relaxation sports in China, advising them not to take on crypto-related events.

Earlier this year, WeChat and Alipay were forced to close the accounts of cryptocurrency based merchants, due to a state order.

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