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Bitcoin Enters Sixth Day of Stability as Analysts Predict Mixed Mood in Asian Markets

Cryptocurrencies have reassured investors over the last week, with Bitcoin dictating a calmer mood across major assets.

Monday, March 11: Bitcoin (BTC) led a broadly stable start to trading in cryptocurrency markets today, with the largest cryptocurrency barely moving over the weekend.

Market visualization

Market visualization from Coin360

Data from Coin360 and CoinMarketCap confirmed the continuing stability for Bitcoin and many major altcoins on Monday, with BTC/USD down around 0.15 percent to trade around $3,900.

The area just below the $4,000 price point has proven attractive for Bitcoin for the past five days, ever since it entered from trading closer to $3,700.

As Cointelegraph reported, cracking $4,000 has proven too difficult a test in recent times, with an earlier brief spell above those levels resulting in a climbdown which took Bitcoin nearer to $3,500.

Bitcoin 7-day price chart

Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

In what remains common practice, most altcoins that make up the top twenty cryptocurrencies by market cap repeated Bitcoin’s stability.

Ethereum (ETH), the largest altcoin, lost around 1 percent in the 24 hours to press time, still trading around $135, which it has done since March 5.

Ripple (XRP), Litecoin (LTC) and EOS (EOS) — the assets comprising the top five cryptocurrencies — produced similar behavior.

The top twenty exhibited only one exception to the trend in the form of Stellar’s Lumens token (XLM), which made daily gains in excess of 12 percent on the back of a partnership with solarisBank.

Stellar continues to stake its presence in the cryptocurrency consumer industry, late last year sealing a $125 million deal with wallet provider Blockchain, which will see its users receive an airdrop of XLM.

Stellar 7-day price chart

Stellar 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Further down CoinMarketCap’s table, Tezos (XTZ) also put in a strong performance, rising around 11 percent.

In traditional markets, analysts reported a mixed mood in Asia, after slowdown worries continued to impact on both United States and Chinese sentiment amid the trade talks.

As CNBC summarized, the Shanghai composite was nonetheless up just under 2 percent Monday, while the Shenzhen composite managed just under 4 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng also traded up, approaching 1 percent on the day. Japan’s Nikkei 225 finished its trading session up 0.5 percent.

U.S. markets were yet to open the week’s trading at press time.

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UN Panel Says North Korea Obtained $670 Million in Crypto and Fiat via Hacking: Report

A U.N. Security Council report states that North Korean hackers obtained $670 million in crypto and foreign fiat from 2015 to 2018

North Korea has reportedly amassed $670 million in fiat and cryptocurrencies by conducting hacking attacks, Asia-focused financial newspaper Nikkei Asian Review reports on Friday, March 8. The publication cites a U.N. Security Council report.

The report, prepared by a panel of experts, was presented to the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee ahead of its annual report. According to the documents obtained by Nikkei, the hackers attacked overseas financial institutions from 2015 to 2018 and purportedly used blockchain “to cover their tracks.”

As cited by Nikkei, the report states that the attack were allegedly conducted by a specialized corps within the North Korean military, forming part of country’s government policy. The experts believe that the corps is responsible for hacking Interpark, a South Korean e-commerce site, and luring $2.7 million in exchange for stolen data.

According to Nikkei, the experts came to the conclusion that virtual currencies helped North Korea to circumvent economic sanctions — as they are harder to trace and can be laundered multiple times — and obtain foreign currency. The authors of the report recommended that U.N. member nations share information on possible North Korean attacks with other governments to prevent them in the future.

Nikkei also alleges that blockchain has been previously used by a Hong Kong-based startup, Marine Chain, to circumvent sanctions against North Korea. As the newspaper writes, the company, which traded ships around the world via blockchain, was suspected of supplying cryptocurrencies to the North Korean government and shut down in September 2018.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, in 2018 a study revealed that hacker group “Lazarus,” reportedly funded by North Korea, has stolen $571 million from cryptocurrency exchanges since early 2017. Out of fourteen separate exchange breaches analyzed, five have been attributed to “Lazarus,” including the industry record-breaking $532 million NEM hack of Japan’s Coincheck in January, 2018.

Meanwhile, other countries sanctioned by the world community, such as Iran and Venezuela, also have reported seeing cryptocurrencies as an effective way to circumvent financial restrictions. For instance, four Iranian banks reportedly developed a gold-backed cryptocurrency called PayMon, and the country is allegedly negotiating with Switzerland, South Africa, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Austria, Germany and Bosnia to carry out financial transactions in cryptocurrency.

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2019 Will See Entry of More Institutional Players in Crypto, Says Asia Fintech PwC Leader

The fintech and crypto leader for Asia at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) believes that many institutional players will enter the crypto space in 2019.

Henri Arslanian, the Asia fintech and crypto leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Hong Kong, has predicted that many institutional players will enter the crypto industry in 2019. Arslanian made this claim during an interview with Bloomberg published on Dec. 24.

When asked about his outlook on crypto for the next year, Arslanian said that he thinks “there’s a lot of exciting things that the crypto ecosystem is looking forward to in 2019.” Arslain explained that he expects the next year to be different from 2018 because of the increasing regulatory clarity.

Arslanian also declared that he expects “many more big banks” to enter the space, some by launching their own solutions, others by partnering with or investing in crypto companies. This involvement, he explains, will bring in “institutional level expertise” which — according to him — is much needed in the industry.

PwC is an international network of companies that provide consulting and auditing services. The company — which has its headquarters in London — was founded in 1849 and is one of the “big four” accounting companies. Their Hong Kong office has accepted Bitcoin (BTC) as payment for its advisory services since late 2017.

There have been already some announcements by major institutions, seemingly backing Arslanian’s claims. As Cointelegraph reported earlier this month, Nasdaq — the world’s second-largest stock exchange — has confirmed its plans to launch Bitcoin futures in the first half of 2019.

Also, the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), operator of 23 exchanges including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), announced that they plan to launch their Bakkt digital asset platform on Jan. 24, 2019.

However, there have been recently reports this year that several Wall Street giants have postponed their plans to move into crypto amid the falling prices of cryptocurrencies.

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Overstock Subsidiary tZERO to Develop Smart Contract Token for Rare Metals Sale

Overstock subsidiary tZERO will develop a commodity sales token for an upcoming sale of cobalt.

Private equity firm GSR Capital has contracted Overstock.com Inc.’s subsidiary tZERO Group Inc. to develop a smart contract token for a sale of cobalt, according to a press release published Dec. 17.

tZERO and Hong Kong-based GRS Capital’s partnership is focused on developing an ecosystem in Asia for tokenized commodity purchase contracts that would purportedly improve the supply chain process of rare metals. Additionally, the parties are looking to launch a security token platform in the region, following compliance with relevant regulatory requirements.

Per the release, the token will be used for a sale of cobalt, and is expected to launch in 2019. The “first-of-its-kind cobalt offering” will include recurring tranches of electric vehicle battery-grade cobalt, with up to $200 million of the material to be available for sale.

Patrick Byrne, the Overstock CEO and tZERO executive chairman, stated that “smart contract automation of these transactions will significantly reduce overall costs while effectively improving transparency in rare earth metals purchases.” However, in order to complete the project the companies are delaying a previously announced equity investment until the end of February, 2019.

In August, Overstock and tZERO signed term sheets with GRS Capital to invest up to $374.55 million in exchange for common equity in tZERO and common equity in Overstock.com. Apart from that, GSR Capital will reportedly purchase $30 million in tZERO Security Tokens from Overstock.

In a letter to GRS Capital stock holders released on Dec. 16, Overstock notes that GRS Capital has signed a retainer agreement with tZERO that guarantees the cobalt offering is not delayed by the extension of the GRS Capital investment.

In late November, Byrne announced plans to reportedly sell his e-commerce business to fully devote the firm to blockchain projects. As reported by WSJ, Overstock’s blockchain-focused subsidiary Medici Ventures is the cause of visible losses for the company amounting to $22 million in 2017 and $39 million in the first nine months of 2018.

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UAE Exchange, Ripple to Launch Blockchain Remittances to Asia by Q1 2019

UAE Exchange has partnered with Ripple to launch blockchain-based cross-border remittances to Asia by Q1 2019.

United Arab Emirates-based UAE Exchange has partnered with Ripple to launch blockchain-based cross-border remittances to Asia by Q1 2019, Reuters reports Dec. 13.

According to the report, UAE Exchange, a part of payments and foreign exchange company Finablr, is among the key players in the Middle East region, which sees high levels of remittance inflows from expatriate workers. As Reuters notes, Asia was one of the largest recipients of the $613 billion in remittances estimated to have been sent globally in 2017.

While remittances are at present largely sent via foreign exchange branches, CEO of Finablr Promoth Manghat has said that blockchain-based alternatives hold “tremendous promise for the industry.” Aiming to bring the technology to the mainstream via UAE Exchange’s joint venture with Ripple, Manghat has said:

“We expect to go live with Ripple by Q1, 2019 with one or two Asian banks. This is for remittances to start with, from across the globe into Asia.”

UAE Exchange’s partnership with Ripple for cross-border payments dates back to February of this year, making the firm, according to Reuters, the “largest payments firm in the Middle East” to use RippleNet. Lenders in the region who have reportedly joined RippleNet include the National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah RAKB.AD and Kuwait Finance House.

As reported just yesterday, the UAE’s central bank is currently collaborating with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) to issue a cryptocurrency that will be accepted in cross-border inter-bank transactions between the two countries.

In early October, it was revealed that a digital currency pegged to the UAE’s fiat currency, the dirham, would soon have its own retail payment system open for Dubai consumers.

As of press time, Ripple’s native token XRP is trading at roughly $0.30, down just over one percent on the day, and over 12 percent on the week, according to Cointelegraph’s XRP Price Index.

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Thai Crypto Exchange Satang Plans to Raise $10 Million in Security Token Offering

Thailand-based crypto exchange Satang has set a goal to raise nearly $10 million in a coming Security Token Offering, the funds of which it will invest in developing a wallet.

Thai cryptocurrency exchange Satang Corp. plans to raise nearly $10 million in a security token offering (STO), despite the recent market meltdown, Asia-focused business publication Nikkei Asian Review reported Dec. 4.

Satang’s plans are reportedly supported by the Government of Thailand in a bid to make the country a blockchain center and develop a regulatory framework for digital currencies and blockchain. According to the exchange’s CEO Poramin Insom, the STO will be conducted in the first quarter of 2019.

Satang reportedly plans to use the $9.9 million it raises to develop an e-wallet that enables users to make payments, as well as establish Satang Shops in tourist centers like Phuket and Pattaya.

STOs in Thailand currency operate in a regulatory grey-zone, as the new financial product straddles two different regulatory classifications. Just last week, the deputy secretary of the Thai Securities and Exchanges Commission Tipsuda Thavaramara declared that Thai-related STOs launched in an international market break the law. Thavaramara reportedly “said the regulator will have to consider how to deal with STOs for issues such as share ownership, voting rights and dividend.”

In November, Insom reportedly helped deploy blockchain technology during a primary election in the country’s Democrat Party. Elections for a party leader were conducted on a blockchain-based mobile app, according to tech news outlet Built In reported Nov. 16. Data gathered from the app was stored in hashed files, that were subsequently stored on the Zcoin blockchain developed by Insom.

“I hope that other political parties or even the government not just in Thailand but in the region can look to using blockchain technology in enabling large scale e-voting or polling,” Poramin reportedly said.

Thailand’s Revenue Department is reportedly testing blockchain technology for tracking value-added tax (VAT) payments. According to Ekniti Nitithanprapas, director general of the Thai Revenue Department, the department “wants to use blockchain technology to prevent VAT refund fraud.” It also reportedly “set its sights on adopting machine learning and using artificial intelligence to learn and study tax-cheating practices” to ultimately “compel more people to enter the formal tax system.”

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Binance to Launch Its Own Blockchain ‘Binance Chain’ in ‘Coming Months’

Binance’s CEO has revealed the company’s plans to launch its own blockchain, “Binance Chain,” in the near future.

Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange by trading volumes, will launch its own blockchain “Binance Chain” in the “coming months,” as the company revealed in a tweet on Dec. 4.

The new Binance-backed blockchain aims to provide a basis for creating new cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offering (ICO) tokens, as the company said in the tweet:

“Binance is pushing for blockchain adoption and doing many things to help advancement of the industry. E.g. we will have the Binance chain ready in the coming months, on which millions of projects can easily issue tokens.”

According to Forbes, Binance announced their plans during a recent private event in Singapore hosted by Forbes Asia. Speaking at the “Decrypting Blockchain for Business” event, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) stated that the new plans actually indicate an old vision of crypto, which will expectedly lead to increasing its adoption on a global scale.

In order to reach a fundamental “payment adoption increase,” CZ said that the company will be “pushing really hard into that space,” since their “original intent” hasn’t taken off “for some reason.”

Forbes’ author Michael del Castillo, who unveiled the recent news, commented on Twitter that the he expects that there will be “millions of coins and thousands of blockchains.”

On Nov. 8, CZ revealed that Binance’s business was still “very stable,” despite the recent exchange volume drop of around 50 percent, as well as the significant slump of crypto markets this year. The Binance CEO stated that while Binance possessed just 10 percent of the trading volumes they had in January 2018, the volumes are still higher than those of “two or three years ago,” and the business is “still profitable.”

Recently,  Binance has launched its fiat-to-crypto exchange in Uganda, enabling its customers to purchase two major cryptocurrencies  — Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) — with local fiat currency Ugandan shillings (UGX).

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Blockchain Job Industry Sees Sustained Uptick Despite Volatile Crypto Markets

Data indicates that the blockchain job industry has seen a sustained uptrend in Asia, while cryptocurrency-specific applications appear to wax and wane with volatile markets, CNBC reports August 31.

Recruitment firm Robert Walters told CNBC that it has seen a 50 percent increase in the number of roles related to blockchain or cryptocurrencies in Asia since 2017, noting that developers skilled in Python language programming are among the most coveted of applicants.

Data from job search engine Indeed’s main Asian markets — comprising Australia, India, Singapore and Malaysia — reportedly reinforces that interest in blockchain and other crypto roles appears to have been more consistent among job-seekers than Bitcoin (BTC)-related positions. An Indeed spokeswoman told CNBC that:

“The situation in Asia seems to mirror the U.S. in that Bitcoin [job search] trends are much more volatile (and related to price volatility) and resulting media coverage while blockchain and cryptocurrency searches have seen a more consistent upwards trajectory.”

Indeed’s data reveals that Bitcoin job interest in Asia trended lower after the coin fell off from its all-time-price highs last December, while blockchain industry interest has sustained a strong uptrend.

TenX’s Julian Hosp confirmed his start-up’s experience that “”[when] crypto is doing well…we get huge inbound from people [who] feel, ‘I need to jump on this wave. And then when … crypto go[es] down — and we saw this at the very beginning [of 2018] and we’re seeing this right now — people [think], ‘Oh no, this is a dying industry, I shouldn’t go in there.’ So it’s completely emotional.”

Established financial firms, unlike crypto and blockchain startups, tell a slightly different story. Justin Chow, Asia head of business development at Cumberland, the crypto division of proprietary trading firm DRW, told CNBC that for capital markets professionals, price decline is “not a big issue.”

CNBC notes that in China — where a stringent government stance against cryptocurrencies is counterbalanced by an enthusiastic official endorsement of blockchain technology — regulatory climate is another major factor.

Wayne Zhu, a founding partner of the NEO Foundation’s venture capital arm, told CNBC that China’s strictly regulated capital market environment is pushing finance professionals into the crypto space: “people think, ‘Where [can I] actually close deals, [where can I] actually help companies to get money, to get liquidity and the money they need to grow [my] business?'”

Earlier this summer, Cointelegraph launched a job listings platform for applicants to seek opportunities within the blockchain, fintech and crypto industries.