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

An arm of Tokyo-listed internet group Digital Garage is working with bitcoin infrastructure startup Blockstream to test the issuance of a Japanese yen-pegged stablecoin.

Crypto Garage, a Digital Garage subsidiary focusing on blockchain and crypto tech, announced Monday that it has launched a new platform dubbed SettleNet that would allow app development on Blockstream’s inter-exchange settlement network Liquid, including the issuance of stablecoins.

The initiative, slated to last for a year, is one of the first proof-of-concept trials authorized under a regulatory sandbox program managed by the Japanese government, Crypto Garage said.

The project aims to let participating members – specifically, crypto exchanges licensed in Japan at this stage – test the SettleNet platform to issue the stablecoin and to provide a settlement service between the stablecoin and crypto assets. Blockstream also participated in building the platform.

Crypto Garage said the JPY-pegged stablecoin would trade against Blockstream’s bitcoin-pegged token, Liquid Bitcoin (L-BTC), over its Liquid network. Liquid is a bitcoin sidechain project that went live in October. For the trial, transactions will be conducted in limited volume.

Atomic swaps will enable the tokens to be swapped “simultaneously,” said Crypto Garage.

The firm continued:

“This will enable rapid, secure and confidential transfer of the crypto assets while eradicating counterparty risk. In addition, SettleNet will provide the regulatory authorities with the functionality to monitor any unlawful trade, including money laundering.”

Digital Garage initially collaborated with Blockstream in November 2017 with an aim of fostering blockchain development in Japan. Blockstream CEO Adam Back had said at the time: “The Japanese market is ready for new business models that blockchain technologies can enable.”

Back in October, Japanese IT giant GMO Internet also announced the plans to issue a yen-pegged stablecoin called GMO Japanese Yen (GJY). The firm said at the time that GJY will be issued to Asian markets in the fiscal year of 2019 via Z.com, its crypto exchange subsidiary.

This post credited to Coindesk. Yen and bitcoin image via Shutterstock 

In the same way all economic movements have done throughout history, blockchain finance challenges our traditional conceptions of ‘value,’ and, in turn, our ideas about identity and freedom. The new digital economy is now being built by a worldwide community who share common goals of decentralization, transparency, and financial inclusion.

My first real job was at Bank One Corporation in the Research and Recovery department, taking pictures of checks saved on spools of microfilm and mailing them out to customers. Flash forward a couple of decades, and technology has obviated and remade my old job many times over. Now I work in the latest iteration of that cycle—cryptocurrency.

Copying checks was my first peek behind the curtain of the global financial system, and it felt empowering. Cryptocurrency—and the fascinating blockchain technology behind it—has the potential to bring that feeling of empowerment to so many others. However, it is still perplexing to the average consumer with most not understanding why it even has value, let alone how to use and secure it. With over half the world’s population online, less than one percent is said to own or use cryptocurrency, signaling that mainstream adoption is not yet within reach.

As teams continue to build the tools and platforms that will redefine the global economy, there are four simple truths we should all keep in mind: keep it transparent, accessible, secure, and human.

Transparency Will Redefine Global Finance

When you break down the barriers to entry for both traditional and blockchain-powered finance, the barriers for the latter currently seem higher. But blockchain financial products only seem more complex, simply because we are witness to its inner mechanics, which is unfamiliar to most because of intricate code and cryptography.

Traditional finance hides similarly complex processes behind easy to use banking apps and ATMs. We can deposit money in a local branch with real people, an interaction that feels familiar and safe. But all of these interactions carry a far greater cost to our financial lives—monthly fees, transaction costs, crippling interest rates, contracts, passive data collection, and, most worryingly, financial exclusion and corruption.

The 2008 financial crisis nearly sank the global economy. However, after ten years, most people are still mystified by terms like “Credit Default Swap” and “Mortgage-Backed Securities” with no idea what role banks and bankers played in the collapse. Banks have barriers made of glass, with the curtains voluntarily drawn.

Blockchain’s transparency, however, enables individuals and businesses to see—in real time—what is happening with every single transaction, investment, fund, and credit, and exactly where they are stored and sent. This transparency, when combined with open source tools, not only has the potential for enhancing technological innovation, but also for elucidating the underlying economic principles of blockchain based financial products.

Maker is one of the most popular and well-respected platforms in the ecosystem precisely for these reasons. Want a loan but don’t understand what a Collateralized Debt Position is? The MakerDAO CDP portal provides a concise explanation. Follow the steps to generate Dai currency and fully understand your interest rate and the terms of repayment. There is no negotiation or contract to sign. A person should not need to be a banker to understand how their loans work, and that is one of the reasons why platforms like Maker are so compelling.

Make Crypto-Finance Easier Than Traditional Finance

One of the greatest barriers to the mass adoption of any groundbreaking new technology is its accessibility—both through its purchase cost and its usability.

But blockchain is not inherently free to run or to use. To be an active user of the blockchain is to pay for it in some way, like through transaction fees. But utilities themselves should be free, otherwise, we sustain a barrier to entry that is too high. Users need to be free to experiment—to learn by doing. As blockchain businesses, we can make our consumer tools free, making cryptocurrency more accessible. Builders of crypto platforms and tools can easily finance themselves through mechanisms such as transactions fees, micropayments, or B2B models.

The process of buying, storing, and transacting in crypto also demands a steep learning curve, so usability and user experience cannot be underestimated. The UX has to be simple and elegant enough to parallel how simple and elegant the blockchain really is, to interact with it, and observe its core functions.

Developing solutions that are intuitive to use and can be integrated with existing technologies, such as mobile phones, will help the world become crypto literate and, by extension, drive its widespread use. In the developed world, 82 percent of adults have both a mobile phone and access to the internet. In developing economies, the number is 40 percent. We can put cryptocurrency in their hands through mobile apps or customized crypto-finance mobile services that are simple to use.

From Security to Safety

The inherent security and immutability of blockchain technology are what makes it superior to traditional finance. But, as some critics have pointed out, what constitutes “security” is subjective. Ethereum Foundation researcher and Casper Protocol project lead, Vlad Zamfir, has said it’s Ethereum’s secure properties that can make it unsafe for users. Immutable and irreversible, blockchain transactions are perilous for naive crypto holders. It’s said that without significant hand-holding, onboarding new cryptocurrency users is “ethically dangerous.”

We need to be those hand-holders. As we develop our blockchain tools, built-in security should be a priority, helping to break the current stigma of the cryptocurrency industry as the ‘Wild West’ of finance.

As we’ve seen time and time again—nothing is unhackable, there are bugs in every system, and various forms of malfeasance cannot be avoided. Fraud is rising in cryptocurrency, and cybercrime evolves as fast as blockchain technology, playing to the biggest weakness of new users—their inexperience. While we must all commit to proactively educating our new users, our core responsibility lies in safeguarding them as the first line of defence.

We can integrate the best security measures proven to mitigate risk, providing as many layers of protection as necessary. This includes hardware functionality, two-factor authentication, MetaMask compatibility, and never requiring users to enter private keys into their browser.

At the end of the day, if we want the average person to move toward crypto-finance and store their rainy-day fund in a crypto wallet, those funds should be respected by offering the best possible security.

Technology Is Inherently Human

Beyond all of these design concepts, it is important to remind ourselves that a blockchain—as a global, decentralized network—is made up of real people. If it’s destined to survive and reshape our global economy, diverse populations should consider the blockchain a place where they belong.

For blockchain to have anything resembling that sentiment, it’s necessary to understand that every node run, every transaction sent, and every contract executed, has its roots in a fundamental human impulse. It means that someone out there is just trying to buy a home, raise a child, get a job, or just relax at the end of the day.

The different ways people are drawn to crypto and blockchain are continuously growing as new use cases tap into the imagination of those who see beyond technical aspects, or beyond the investment opportunities that enticed early adopters. Serving and incorporating diverse and marginalized voices in the creation of this ecosystem is essential to its longevity and broader adoption.

Some rules are not meant to be broken. As the global economy slowly turns digital, hopefully, the teams at the forefront driving this transformation will create new rules which help place cryptocurrency in everyone’s pocket, as well as break some old rules that no longer serve us all.

This post credited to Cryptoslate. Image source: Cryptoslate

By CCN.com: Tron founder Justin Sun is out to prove that crypto is not a scam ― despite hyperbolic emotional protestations by haters that it is.

To this end, Sun hired a former SEC employee to be the first compliance director for Tron, a blockchain platform for supporting smart contracts and high throughput.

Sun believes that tailored regulation will promote the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies by stamping out con artists.

Justin Sun: I Fully Embrace Regulation

“We’re ready to fully embrace regulation here,” Sun told VentureBeat. “We’ve just hired our first head of compliance, who previously worked for the SEC for almost eight years.”

We want to make sure we’re fully regulated in not only the United States, but also China, Korea, and Japan in the future.

Blockchain is like a new operating system. We believe the world will need to embrace the blockchain. And we’re very optimistic about how it will be regulated.

The SEC, I think, also sees the blockchain as a good opportunity for innovation in the United States. I’m hoping that this year the SEC will license and regulate coin-based exchanges. This year will be the year of full regulation.

Sun made the remarks at the NiTron Summit in San Francisco on January 18. At the conference, Sun shared the stage with NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, where the two discussed the challenges of entrepreneurship.

Justin tweeted an amusing photo of himself with the retired NBA superstar holding a Tron mascot wearing a Los Angeles Lakers jersey.View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Justin Sun@justinsuntron

It was amazing to talk about our shared values. Let’s continue to wake up every day doing the things we love! @kobebryant #TRON #MambaMentality2,3869:10 AM – Jan 19, 2019 · Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater627 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

Justin Sun is only 28-years-old, but his ambitions are huge. He really wants blockchain and crypto to go mainstream.

One of the ways he hopes to do this is by launching the BitTorrent Token (BTT) on the Binance Launchpad. BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol that boasts 100 million users in 138 countries. Sun acquired BitTorrent for $126 million in July 2018.

The BitTorrent Token is a cryptocurrency linked to the BitTorrent file-sharing platform.

Former Exec Torches BitTorrent

BitTorrent was recently rocked by unflattering allegations from a former Tron executive, who trashed the project.

Two weeks ago, former chief strategy officer Simon Morris said there’s “no way” the Tron blockchain can handle BitTorrent’s high rate of transactions. On Reddit, Morris was dismissed as a disgruntled, incompetent former employee.

But that’s not the biggest scandal that Tron has suffered. In June 2018, CCN broke the news that Tron had plagiarized code from Ethereum and other projects and changed the file names to make it hard to identify the source of the code.

Sun has called the plagiarism scandal a “misunderstanding.”

CCN.com@CryptoCoinsNews

Exclusive: Researchers Allege Tron Plagiarized Code from other Crypto Projects https://www.ccn.com/exclusive-blockchain-researchers-allege-tron-copied-code-without-attribution/ …697:37 AM – Jun 22, 2018Twitter Ads info and privacyExclusive: Researchers Allege Tron Plagiarized Code from other ProjectsResearchers claim to have discovered multiple instances of code copied from other projects without attribution in the Tron codebase.ccn.com56 people are talking about this

Meanwhile, Sun brushed off these setbacks and is charging ahead because he believes 2019 will be a watershed year for the crypto industry. Specifically, he believes that video games will help bring blockchain into the mainstream and decentralize the Internet.

“The first application of the blockchain is for games,” Sun told VentureBeat. “Most people don’t know that.”

They’ve even said that blockchain doesn’t have any use for games. But if you look at the Tron blockchain, games are tremendous there.

We have three to five application uploads into the Tron network every day. That’s why I was talking about 2,000 apps this year in my speech. We see massive adoption.”

Sun: Games on Tron Give Control to Players

Sun says most of the blockchain games on the Tron network are democratized because they give rights back to the players.

“You can own your own custom characters,” Sun explains. “You can sell those custom characters to other players, or trade with each other. Meanwhile, developers feel inspiration because they can control their own games.”

In contrast, Sun says if you publish your video game on Android or iOS, it’s controlled by Google or Apple.

“They take their cut and they control your publishing,” Sun noted. “They can delete your game if they want to. But for Tron right now, you can build your traffic volumes and you don’t have to pay a middleman to distribute your game.”

This post credited to CCN. Image source: CCN

Stock market investment veteran and co-founder of $70 billion fund Mayo Van Otterloo, Jeremy Grantham, has pledged to spend 98 percent of his net worth – approximately $1 billion – on what he sees as a race against the ticking time bomb of humanity’s fragile deal with the environment.

Bloomberg reports that through his foundation, Grantham and his wife Hanne are currently spending more than $30 million a year to fund at least 38 non-profit organisations focused on dealing with the reality of climate change.

Is Humanity The Next Bubble?

Renowned for his prediction nous which saw him accurately predict the dotcom bubble and the 2008 global financial crisis Grantham’s latest prediction is that the next big crisis will be civilizational as against merely economic. In his view, the major unspoken problem being created by climate change is the fact that agriculture is being fundamentally threatened through creeping topsoil loss. According to him, humanity has a little under a century of good harvests left, which coupled with growing populations spells impending disaster.

Quoted by Bloomberg on his thoughts regarding the immediate and long term future of humanity he says:

Even without climate change, it would be somewhere between hard and impossible to feed 11.2 billion [without] recurrent waves of famine. If that’s the curve in the stock market, you know what to do: panic and go short.

To forestall such an occurrence, Grantham has become a busy political activist, getting involved in everything from the 2011 Keystone XL pipeline protest at the White House to left-wing political campaigning to sensitize people to the imminent danger of large-scale man-made climate change.

“Capitalism Needs Regulation”

Describing his initial political position as an “old, late-lamented Republican”, Grantham says that his moment of political awakening came with the U.S. presidential election in 2000 when he realised that “politics and climate became mixed up”.

Climate change activists in Israel. Pic: Shutterstock

Grantham describes his current political standing as a capitalist with a heavy dose of regulation. This he says, is because while capitalism “does a million things better than any other system,” without strong regulation, it is impossible to expect good behaviour from capitalists if such behaviour is not immediately profitable.

In his words:

You must not expect unnecessary good behavior from capitalists. […] I’m sorry, libertarians, it is the only way.

In true capitalist fashion, Grantham also intends to make money from his climate change awareness campaign. GMO launched the Climate Change Fund in April 2017 for the purpose of investing in organisations and commodities that will benefit from the growth of clean energy, green technology and energy efficiency.

Whether he will be successful or not remains to be seen. What seems clear though is that if there is anyone qualified to raise an alarm about the possibility of an impending ‘short’ on human existence, it would be Jeremy Grantham.

This post credited to CCN. Image source: CCN

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by adjusted trading volume, has taken another big step in its growth by launching a new fiat-to-crypto exchange. The exchange was opened on the self-governing island of Jersey, acting as the exchange’s first fiat-to-crypto outpost, with a focus on serving the UK and Europe.

The exchange is targeting traders in this area allowing them to trade bitcoin and ether against the British Pound and the Euro. The new exchange is being classified as its own entity, while still falling under the parent umbrella of Binance.

CZ Binance@cz_binance

You asked for it, we listened.

AND worked hard in the background for all this time!#BUIDL baby #BUIDLCoinDesk@coindesk@binance has launched a new fiat-to-crypto exchange on the self-governing British island of Jersey. http://ow.ly/Vwjp30nkyll 1,6355:48 PM – Jan 16, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy377 people are talking about this

It is a significant step for the major exchange, which in less than two short years has grown explosively to top the tree of crypto exchanges. It has virtually dominated the crypto-to-crypto market by having the highest trading volume and now intends to expand into fiat-to-crypto trading.

Binance’s Impressive History

The number of cryptocurrency-related businesses have flourished since the boom of 2017. But, what is rare to see is one of these businesses maintaining 2017-like growth.

Binance appears to be a cryptocurrency success story. Founded in early 2017 by Changpeng Zhao, Binance held an ICO in July of that year for its BNB token. The ICO raised $15 million, which promised discounts on trading fees. The move turned out to be a shrewd decision, taking advantage of the 2017 excitement around ICOs and allowed Zhao to retain equity in the company.

They also managed to take that early investment to grow the company and become a top three cryptocurrency exchange, all in only 143 days after launch. In the first six months of 2018, they also saw incredible growth as the exchange went from boasting two million users to having over 10 million. With that growth, the exchange predicted—and likely achieved—a tidy $1 billion in revenue.

Moving Along

Despite the extended bear market through 2018, Binance maintained its stature as a secure, liquid, and readily available cryptocurrency exchange. Now, the latest move of opening a fiat-to-crypto exchange seems to suggest that they have laid a stable enough foundation to continue building through the tough market.

It may be too early to see if this entrance by Binance—entering another market, with the usual accompaniment of regulatory scrutiny—will bring them further success.

This post credited to Cryptoslate. Image source: Cryptoslate

Canadianbanking group supports the idea of using blockchain technology as part of a digital ID system for residents, national news agency The Canadian Press reported via various local media outlets on Jan. 15.

Speaking during a presentation at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto, chief executive of the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) Neil Parmenter said it was necessary for untamperable solutions to form the basis of ID procedures relating to the banking and finance sectors going forward.

The comments come as Canada eyes the opportunities afforded by so-called open banking, a reenvisioning of the banking field that would allow third-party companies such as fintech startups to participate and share access to user data.

The country’s government launched a public consultation into the concept last week.

“Instantly verifying who someone is using multiple digital reference points is more secure than relying on a photocopy of a driver’s licence,” Parmenter said, noting:

“Because this digital network is connected, yet decentralized, the risk of compromising the system is reduced by eliminating ‘honeypots’ of data that hackers tend to target.”

The CBA originally sketched out plans for digital ID in a whitepaper in May last year. The document did not make specific reference to blockchain, but praised ID systems currently being rolled out in Estonia and India as instructive for Canada’s future preparations.

The Indian scheme, known as Aadhaar, has nonetheless attracted criticism, including from within cryptocurrency circles.

Canada, meanwhile, is also looking to employ blockchain a state level in other areas, the most recent of which involving customs formalities at borders.

This post credited to Cointelegraph. Image source: Cointelegraph

Business Insider recently sat down with Travis Scher, who heads Digital Currency Group’s investment branch, which has made investments into Coinbase, Circle, Ledger, and other preeminent blockchain startups, to talk about his Bitcoin industry predictions for 2019. Among other things, Scher revealed that he expects for Wall Street and institutions to foray into crypto in the coming 12 months.

Wall Street To Down The Bitcoin Pill

Speaking to Business Insider’s Madeline Shi, Scher, who has worked in the crypto sector since late-2015, laid out three predictions. First, Scher noted that he expects for 2019 to be a great year for the dichotomy between Wall Street hotshots and crypto assets,

He noted that while Wall Streeters have lagged behind the crypto trend for years on end, this will change in 2019.

Per previous reports from Ethereum World News, Dollar Vigilante, Jeff Berwick, told BlockTV, a video-centric crypto media outlet, that he expects for institutional adoption to spark the next Bitcoin bull run. Berwick, an evident skeptic of the traditional fiat system, noted that once institutions see adequate platforms to transact on, cryptocurrency prices will explode en bloc, as there are presumed trillions waiting on the sidelines. In short, Berwick noted that Wall Street-friendly platforms, like the proposed Bitcoin ETFsNasdaq’s “crypto 2.0” futures, among others, will “change the game completely.”

And these quips aren’t baseless speculation. While Bakkt, a multi-faceted digital asset platform partnered with the NYSE parent Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) recently saw its launch get pushed back to “early-2019,” the innovators behind the upstart are poised to tackle institutional participation head on. Per our previous reports, Bakkt, headquartered in New York, acquired “certain assets” and employees of Rosenthal Collins Group (RCG) to expand its risk management, compliance, and other pertinent back-end departments.

The specifics of the deal weren’t divulged, but the up-and-coming platform, which has been deemed one of the crypto space’s most important developments of 2019, recently saw a $182.5 million cheque fly its way from sixteen investors, which included Mike Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital, ICE, Microsoft’s venture arm, and San Francisco-based Pantera Capital.

Moreover, the municipal government of New York City, purportedly Microsoft, and an array of other corporate partners recently launched the Blockchain Center in the Big Apple to improve crypto education, to subsequently improve adoption.

Blockchain Gaming, Non-Fungible Tokens To Mount

Another prediction Scher touted was the arrival of blockchain-based gaming applications and non-fungible tokens. The DCG executive noted that he expects experimentation, along with the adoption of “big hits” in this budding subsector throughout 2019. He added that for the most part, venture capitalists have been ignoring this sector, due to games’ “hit-driven” nature. So, Scher beckoned venture investors to take a real look at this business, stating:

Venture capitalists should be paying attention to the ones that are building platforms and developer teams, companies that are not creating just one game but are building several developed business models that can succeed

This recent quip comes nearly at the same time that Kyle Samani, the managing partner of Multicoin Capital, claimed that during 2019, he awaits the launch of a number of “high profile blockchain products,” which are likely to attract a mass of customers, from both the institutional and retail realm.

Giving an example, he brought up Tari, an open-source venture built on Monero and backed by Riccardo Spagni. With Monero-based code, Tari will be able to facilitate the issuance and management of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), like entertainment tickets, loyalty points, and video game items — colossal markets that crypto could tap.

Samani isn’t the only astute industry insider to think that NFTs will push blockchain adoption. With the rise of in-game items, like skins in League of Legends and Fortnite’s V-Bucks, many pundits have agreed blockchain-based NFTs could skyrocket to the top as a viable way to mediate gaming trades/transactions.

Less Funding For Crypto Startups, Funds

Lastly, Scher drew attention to his third and final forecast, which was harrowing unlike the first two. The DCG top brass member explained that he expects funding for crypto ventures, including startups, projects, and funds, to slow during the first half of 2019, especially as hype exits this industry en-masse.

Scher explained that venture funds will be hesitant to make significant capital allocations towards this industry, citing the spectacular collapse of Bitcoin-backed hedge funds throughout 2018.

This post credited to Ethereum World News. Image source: Unsplash

Digital assets, such as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, should not be regulated by the SEC and should be left to the jurisdiction of the Commodity and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), according to Florida Congressman Darren Soto.

Congressman Calls for Better Classification of Digital Assets

Darren Soto, a Democratic party representative for Florida’s 9th district, has called for better classification of digital assets including Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In an interview with Cheddar on Jan. 10th, the congressman shared his views on the future of digital assets in the U.S, saying that more regulation was necessary in order to protect the market.

“Securities laws can be very intense and hurt the market unless it’s truly a security,” Soto said. “Overall, we hope to establish jurisdiction and classifications so we can bring confidence and clarity into the market.”

According to Soto, cryptocurrencies should not fall under the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Instead, digital assets should ideally be regulated by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the country’s main futures and options market regulator.

CFTC Chairman Says Crypto is ‘Here to Stay’, Federal Court Declares Virtual Currencies are Commodities
Related: CFTC Chairman Says Crypto is ‘Here to Stay’, Federal Court Declares Virtual Currencies are Commodities

Soto cited his experience in crafting bills regarding cryptocurrencies for his views. Back in December 2018, Soto introduced two crypto bills with Representative Warren Davidson of Ohio. The first one, “The Virtual Currency Consumer Protection Act of 2018,” calls for the CFTC to research price manipulation in cryptocurrencies and establishes when a crypto asset qualifies as a security, Cheddar reported.

The second bill, titled “The U.S. Virtual Currency Market and Regulatory Competitiveness Act of 2018,” issued policy recommendations that would better accommodate the crypto market in the U.S.

Federal Agencies Can’t Agree on Classification of Cryptocurrencies

Classifying cryptocurrencies has been one of the biggest problems the industry has had to deal with. Despite its many regulatory agencies operating on a federal level, the U.S. has had a hard time categorizing digital assets.

The IRS, the nation’s tax collection agency, recognizes cryptocurrencies as property for the purposes of federal taxes. The SEC does not differentiate between crypto and fiat currencies but considers initial coin offerings to be securities.

This discrepancy in the very definition of digital assets has been the root cause of the SEC’s inability to pass any crypto ETFs or introduce any meaningful regulation to the industry. However, as Cheddar pointed out, the SEC does not craft the laws it follows, so the recent initiatives from Congress might push the commission in the right direction. As said by Soto:

“There’ll be a role for the CFTC and FTC to play and we’ll be saving the SEC for true securities, knowing predominantly that these are commodities and currency transactions.”

He explained that the CFTC and the FTC had a “lighter touch” and could easily be tasked with regulating the majority of crypto transactions.

We are yet to see a response from the two agencies, but Soto’s call for more clarification and better classification bring new hope to the troubled industry.

This post credited to Cryptoslate. Image source: Cryptoslate

After a holiday hiatus, Ran NeuNer, the founder of OnChain Capital and the host of CNBC Africa’s “Crypto Trader” segment, brought on a number of leading crypto investors, who all did their best to forecast where Bitcoin (BTC) and this industry would be heading next.

Pomp Expects Sideways Price Action For Bitcoin 

When asked about if the worst of 2018/2019’s bear season is over, Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano, the founder of Morgan Creek Digital Assets and a former Snapchat and Facebook growth staffer, noted that Bitcoin likely doesn’t have much further to fall. This comment comes just weeks after Pompliano took to BlockTV to claim that there’s a chance BTC could re-test its $3,150 lows, before potentially falling even lower.

In the CNBC Africa segment, Pomp went on to add that while a bottom is likely inbound, there’s a low chance that BTC and other cryptocurrencies will embark on a drastic recovery during 2019. The decentralist, who has been overtly skeptical of banks, noted that instead of falling further, BTC may begin to range trade, potentially between $2,500 and $4,500 for much of 2019.

Pomp’s comments are interestingly similar to those touted by Fred Wilson, a pro-crypto venture capitalist that co-founded Union Square. Per previous reports from Ethereum World News, Wilson, who has become a respected figure in the Bitcoin, Silicon Valley, and traditional finance world alike, believes that crypto will find a long-term foothold during 2019.

Wilson didn’t stipulate where exactly cryptocurrencies would bottom but claimed that in the months to come, he expects for a fair share of “bullish runs” and influxes of “selling pressure” to push cryptocurrencies to retest their one-year lows. After Bitcoin finds some ground to stand on, the Union Square partner, who was presumably behind his firm’s investments in Coinbase and Polychain Capital, noted that he expects for this industry to enter its next bull season.

Tone Vays, a former institutional investor turned Bitcoin diehard, also recently echoed the idea that this market will find a long-term foothold during 2019, but was also vague about the precise timing and price points.

Crypto Fundamentals Still Strong

When asked about adoption, the Morgan Creek representative noted that all of Bitcoin’s underlying fundamentals are still going strong, echoing sentiment touted by Jameson Lopp of Casa. Pomp noted that this shows that “adoption has continued to increase even amid the bear market.”

Backing his comment, Pompliano explained that hashrate quadrupled (at 2018’s peak), while transaction count increased month-over-month from March until now. And, a collective $400 billion worth of value was settled on the Bitcoin network throughout 2018.

He went on to draw attention to the Lightning Network, which many believe will single-handily catalyze global adoption of cryptocurrencies, most notably Bitcoin. Pomp noted that the scaling solution is one of the fastest-growing protocols regarding scalability and usability. The in-house Morgan Creek crypto bull then noted that Lightning will be one of the big stories of 2019, along with the growth of a strong retail product and the arrival of institutional participation.

This post credited to Ethereum World News. Image souce: Flickr