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JP Morgan Exec: More Partnership Than Competition Between Banks and Crypto

JP Morgan Cryptocurrency Banks

A JP Morgan Chase executive has put forth an interesting compromise between cryptocurrency and the banking framework–two industries that have long been put at odds.

Speaking in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Mar. 20, JP Morgan’s Global Head of eCommerce Solutions Ron Karpovich made the claim that there is “more partnership instead of competition” between existing financial establishments and what has often been viewed as a banking disruptive market in cryptocurrency.

Karpovich’s comments for collaboration between the two industries comes just a month after his bank announced the development of the JPM Coin, a blockchain-based stablecoin that will function on J.P. Morgan’s internal payment network for clients. While some analysts at the time made the comparison to the role of XRP in Ripple’s payment protocol, Binance Research subsequently dispelled that notion. Instead, Binance’s team pointed out that JPM Coin will be limited in scope and more than likely only available for the use of JP Morgan clients as opposed to inter-bank operability.

Nonetheless, Karpovich’s comments appear to give an indication of reaching across the aisle, with the executive contending that blockchain-based payments will increase the utility of JP Morgan transfers. However, he also goes on to claim that cryptocurrency innovators and entrepreneurs should avoid shunning the banking industry all together, and that they will have to rely upon banks to move funds.

Karpovich told CNBC,

“Ultimately behind the scenes, they [crypto innovators] are going to have to use a bank to move funds. There’s more partnership instead of competition in that space. When it comes to margins and capabilities — payments is never something that grows in margin, nobody wants to pay for a payment. That’s one of the hardest parts of this process: you have limited resources in the capability to sell, so you need highly efficient and large players.”

The JP Morgan executive stressed the need for more efficient and cost-effective payments as the primary driver for innovation in the space of both banking fintech and blockchain-based cryptocurrencies. However, Karpovich finds blockchain somewhat poised to fade into the back-end of technology, as opposed to achieving mainstream adoption by forward-facing cryptocurrencies.

In the case of the JPM Coin, blockchain makes up a component of the technology that will ultimately be used by clients without them directly engaging in the process, as some believe will propel the adoption of cryptocurrency.

Karpovich also dispelled the idea that JP Morgan had contradicted its stance on crypto with the development of the JPM Coin, particularly given anti-Bitcoin comments from the bank’s CEO Jamie Dimon,

“I think there’s a difference between trading a cryptocurrency that’s in the market that’s ubiquitous versus using the technology to enhance your payments infrastructure. We look at the technology as being a means to doing things faster and cheaper: every CEO would like to make things faster and cheaper. So from that standpoint I think it represents a buy into the concept of using blockchain.”

Overall, Karpovich remains positive on the development of blockchain and blockchain-based payments as a field of interest for banks to develop upon.

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Switzerland’s Biggest Online Retailer Starts Accepting Payments in Bitcoin (BTC) and Altcoins

Digitec Galaxus AG, the biggest online retailer in Switzerland, has decided to enter the crypto space and has done so through the main door.

In an official press release published on its website a few hours ago, the e-commerce giant announced that as of today, customers will be able to pay for their purchases with Bitcoin (BTC) and a significant number of altcoins:

“As one of the first online shops in Switzerland, Digitec Galaxus now accepts cryptocurrencies: customers of the two online shops digitec and Galaxus can now use Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash ABC, Bitcoin Cash SV, Ethereum, Ripple (XRP), Binance Coin, Litecoin, TRON, NEO or OmiseGO to pay for all purchases with a total of over CHF 200.- or more”.

The firm was able to implement this new payment method thanks to a strategic alliance with the Swiss e-payments company Datatrans AG. This fintech, for its part, works together with Coinify (a crypto payment provider) to guarantee the instant conversion of crypto into traditional fiat currency.

Crypto Payments: Innovation is Always Good For Business

Despite not being wholly convinced of the advantages of blockchain technologies, Oliver Herren, Chief Innovation Officer at Digitec said that the company was willing to take that step a long time ago, but had to wait for the ecosystem to develop a bit to ensure a safe and innovative implementation:

“We’ve been wanting to do this for ages, but the effort it would have required has just always been too big. Now we’ve found a simple solution with Datatrans and Coinify. Thanks to our very own engineering team Spectre, the implementation has been a relatively effortless and straightforward matter”.

However, Claudio Schaad, leader of Team Spectre showed greater enthusiasm, explaining that the development team was really optimistic about the use of cryptocurrencies to expand their services:

The question of the hour was: what was the coolest, most impactful project they could come up with? They found their answer in a half-attempted but finally abandoned agile initiative: cryptocurrencies. The mystery-mongers at Spectre laughed and said: this fits us like a glove”

Mr. Herren explains that Digitec Galaxus AG would not be directly involved in the handling of cryptocurrencies. At the time of payment, customers send tokens that are immediately exchanged by Coinify into fiat, which is immediately transferred to the retailer. The process has a 15-minute payment window to minimize the risk associated with the volatility of the cryptocurrencies.

The payment option is enabled for all the 2.7 million products available for purchase on both Digitec’s website – geared towards consumer electronics – and Galaxus – an online warehouse for the general public.

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Crypto Winter Strikes Again, Leaves Gaping Hole In Bithumb’s Side

Crypto Startup Bithumb Slammed

Since getting hacked in the middle of 2018, Bithumb, South Korea’s largest crypto asset exchange, has been struggling. The so-called crypto winter, which started to bare its fangs late last year, has only exacerbated the startup’s qualms.

Bithumb’s situation purportedly came to a head just recently, with CoinDesk reporting that the company has unveiled plans to cut upwards of half of its staffers. Citing an unnamed executive from the company, which has plans to go live on the New York Stock Exchange through a reverse merger, the 300-man headcount will be cut to 150. It was explained that as the platform’s trading volume has decreased, Bithumb is enlisted “internal measures” to mitigate further economic damage.

A startup representative made it clear that the 160 purged from their roles won’t be left out to dry, however. He/she remarked that Bithumb’s former employees will have access to “assistance and training for job placement,” but wasn’t clear on what the details of said program would entail. It was added that Bithumb will continue to hire staffers for “various new businesses.”

While the South Korean firm has been suffering, the local crypto economy could soon see a revival on a monumental scale. Kakao, a leading social media giant in the region (44 million users in a nation of 51.5 million), is rumored to have plans to unveil a native cryptocurrency wallet for its Talk application, a popular instant messaging platform. This offering, which is purported to come alongside a blockchain platform named “Klaytn,” could spark a second wave of cryptocurrency adoption in the Asian nation, which has embraced blockchain with open arms.

Layoff After Layoff

Even if Bithumb is able to get back on its feet through an uptick in local adoption, it’s been mostly doom and gloom for many global startups.

Mere weeks ago, First Digital Assets Group (FDA), a blockchain application group based in Tel Aviv, was revealed to be dropping most employees from its payroll. As a part of this refresh, FDA will purportedly be totally purging its industry research division, One Alpha. The Israeli upstart will also be putting its K1, Stamina, Titan, and Knox ventures on the backburner, merging a majority of these subsidiaries’ facets with the parent group.

This is just the tip of the layoff iceberg though. ShapeShift laid off 37 staffers, with CEO Erik Voorhees explaining that his firm expanding into alternative opportunities, like KeepKey and CoinCap, too quick. Bitmain was rumored to have cut over 1,000 employees, cutting of a number of its facets and even Jihan Wu to stay afloat. And the NEM Foundation, the organization that heads development of the XEM digital asset, cut 60% of its monthly burn rate, presumably cutting a few dozen of its 150-strong employee base.

Funnily enough, some see these layoffs as mandatory. Travis Kling, the CIO of Ikigai, explained that prior to Bitcoin rallying again, the industry needs more layoffs, exchange collapses, stringent regulation, and cries that “crypto is dead.”


Photo by Mike Kotsch on Unsplash

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VanEck’s Bitcoin (BTC) ETF Receives Scathing Comments, What’s The Deal?

Bitcoin Has No “Intrinsic Value”: American Investors Weigh In

Since a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) was proposed in the U.S. markets, pundits have lauded it as the single thing that could bring the cryptocurrency market from “immature” to “mature.” Others have also touted such a vehicle as the rocketship that would bring BTC to the moon, so to speak.

Yet, members of the non-crypto public aren’t too sold on the entire idea. Per a list of comments posted on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) webpage, specifically in regards to VanEck, SolidX, and the CBOE’s rule change, most are skeptical of what value cryptocurrency provides.

Sam Ahn of Hana Trading released a six-page, nine-point tear down of Bitcoin and the proposed ETF product, which would open the floodgates to BTC. While Ahn’s points were drawn-out, a clear theme of anti-mining, Satoshi Nakamoto cynicism, and “BTC doesn’t have intrinsic value” was apparent. The investor remarked that not only is Satoshi’s magnum opus hard for him to process, but that the cryptocurrency isn’t like gold as in “a string of 64-digits, with about 17 leading zeroes” (hash) cannot be likened to a physical item used in electronics, jewelry, and as a value store.

While many cryptocurrency diehards would deem Ahn’s comments moot, this was just the tip of the iceberg. Another respondent, Dina Pinto, remarked that she believes that BTC doesn’t deserve a “serious product,” as she sees the nascent market surrounding the digital asset as “volatile and manipulated by the very few [that use it].” Pinto adds that the leading crypto has “no real use case.”

Another commenter, one Sarah Malone of unknown affiliation, echoed the aforementioned comments to a tee, explaining that there is no value in BTC becoming a tradable financial product, let alone a medium of exchange.

Finally, one other played the “blockchain not Bitcoin” card, remarking that cryptocurrencies lack viability in many’s day-to-day, while ledgers hold immense value.

What all the aforementioned critics seem to be forgetting is Bitcoin’s value proposition in nations stricken with capital controls, hyperinflation, authoritarianism, among other societal shortcomings. This, of course, is because they are viewing BTC from the lens of an American citizen, many of which aren’t (currently) subject to irresponsible government and fiscal planners.

But in the end, the opinions of U.S. citizens is what is important in this case, as the product will be accessible to some of those stakeholders .

The Silver Lining

Yet, there was a silver lining. One user, going by Sami Santos, published an eight-point comment on March 12th that outlined the merits of Bitcoin, and why it needs a fund tracking it. Santos stuck to the normal Bitcoin advocate script, explaining that it is fast, cost-effective, unconfiscatable, and private (not exactly, but it’s pseudonymous).

The investor went on to explain that blockchain can mitigate corruption and money laundering, Bitcoin can be a “weapon” against financial inequity and inflation, and as a medium to bolster innovation of technologies.

In this case, Santos was Bitcoin’s sole knight in the crusade for an ETF product, which would entirely legitimize this asset. But will the SEC listen to him, or those who were a tad sardonic?

Photo by Anna Popović on Unsplash

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Former CFTC Chair Calls For More Cryptocurrency Regulations

CFTC Cryptocurrency Regulation 2019

A report published by the Brookings Institution and authored by Harvard University fellow Timothy Massad calls for improved regulation of cryptocurrency.

Massad, who served as chairman of the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) during President Barack Obama’s administration, outlined the need for regulations on digital currencies, including their use in illicit activity, as well as providing a way to reduce the risk of cyber attacks.

In the report, Massad explains that the current landscape of cryptocurrency leaves the market open for fraud due to the absence of traditional market standards imposed on securities and derivatives, a feature which only serves to hurt investors via the lack of protection. Massad also targeted cryptocurrency exchanges and their lack of oversight, which has led to repeated instances of fraud, market manipulation and conflicts in interest. He then stressed the need for regulations imposed on exchanges in order minimize operational risk while putting into place measures to safeguard investors.

“Crypto exchanges are not required to have systems to prevent fraud and manipulation, nor are there rules to prevent or minimize conflicts of interest. Crypto exchanges can engage in proprietary trading against their customers, something the New York Stock Exchange cannot do. Regulations to minimize operational risk and ensure system safeguards are needed, just as with securities and derivatives intermediaries.”

The 60 page report also took a shot at the shortcomings of Bitcoin, namely the failure of cryptocurrency to fulfill its original intention. Instead of providing trust, Massad wrote that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have created “regulatory distraction” which has contributed to an even greater problem in lack of accountability,

The hype surrounding Bitcoin and other crypto-assets has contributed to regulatory distraction. Bitcoin’s creators promised it would solve the “trust problem” and reduce our reliance on centralized financial intermediaries. However, it has not reduced our reliance on financial intermediaries or eroded the power of our largest institutions. Indeed, crypto-assets have created new financial intermediaries that are less accountable than the big banks.

The former CFTC Chairman called upon the powers of the U.S. Congress to address the issues related to crypto market fraud and the looming problem cybersecurity and potential illicit use through digital assets. As for handling the lack of regulation in cryptocurrency exchanges, Massad is not alone in advocating for reform.

The Winklevoss Twins, who recently made headlines for their comments about Facebook’s stablecoin, have been a driving force for cryptocurrency regulation through their crypto exchange Gemini. While the twins have previously been denied in their attempt to create the first U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission approved Bitcoin ETF, they believe self-policed and self-generated regulation to be the surest path to enticing institutional investment.

However, some community members have continued to embrace the lack of regulation for the cryptocurrency industry. While diminished oversight does allow for manipulation and fraud, it also prevents coin projects from making concessions in their decentralization, thereby fulfilling the original promise of crypto as an alternative to government-run fiat. In addition, the fear is that greater regulation will make the industry no different than that of the traditional financial markets, including the uneven influence imposed by established banking players.

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Fundstrat Expects Emerging Markets Rally To Spark Bitcoin Boom, Potentially Pushing BTC to $20k

Emerging Market Rally To Aid Bitcoin

For some reason or another, investor sentiment has begun to turn decidedly positive in the cryptocurrency market. Tom Lee, the co-founder and head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors, added to this influx of hopium-laced messages through a piece of analysis he pushed to his Twitter following, many of which are embroiled in all things Bitcoin.

Lee explained that from this perspective of his New York-based advisory outfit, emerging markets, whose value is captured through the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, pulled down BTC over 2018. More specifically, this specific index fell by 27% over 2018, as Bitcoin lost 70%.

While there’s an argument that the seemingly related performance of the two markets is just an untimely coincidence, Fundstrat seems to be arguing that cryptocurrencies are more emerging than traditional, hence the correlation.

And with the American advisory expecting for emerging markets to outperform U.S. equities over 2019, it fully expects for Bitcoin to post a solid performance over the coming months.

In fact, Lee writes that if BTC “catches up” to macro markets, it could reach as high as $10,000 or $20,000.

What Else Is Tom Lee Bullish About?

Although the forecasted performance of emerging markets is a catalyst that Lee is most excited about, he has also recently drawn attention to a number of trends that could set the stage for a Bitcoin rally.

Per reports from this outlet posted last week, the investor has looked to the slightly foreboding performance of the U.S. dollar as a potential tailwind for the leading cryptocurrency. In an interview with CNBC, he went on to draw attention to technicals, touching on the ever-important 200-week moving average. BTC has purportedly begun to trade right around the 200 MA, signaling a potential breakout.

Fundstrat’s de-facto figurehead even touched a bit on the adoption that cryptocurrency has seen in the hyperinflation-hit Venezuela, where locals are finding a true use case for a deflationary, decentralized, and uncensorable asset in Bitcoin and altcoins.

Even if all these macro trends, technicals, and fundamentals end up not resulting in fruitful bouts of buying pressure, Lee seems to be sure that Bitcoin will survive. Some how, some way. In an interview with Fox Business, he noted that BTC has experienced 70% pullbacks previously, and survived, even thrived. To many, this cycle isn’t likely going to be anything different.

Photo by André François McKenzie on Unsplash

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Citi Once Had Plans To Launch A (Centralized) Crypto Asset, But Failed To Execute

Wall Street Mainstay Pulls Out Of Crypto Plan

In an exclusive report from CoinDesk, it was revealed that Citigroup, one of the world’s largest financial institutions, was revealed to have once pulled out of a plan to launch its own crypto asset. The thing is though, such a venture purportedly started in 2015.

Gulru Atak, one of Citi’s global heads of innovation, told the outlet that Citi’s research and development team, who have centered their efforts around “making meaningful improvements in the existing rails,” once established a project called “Citicoin.” The digital asset, which was nothing more than a proof of concept created by Citi’s Dublin innovators, was once internally touted as a way to bolster global, digital-based payments.

But, after weighing the costs of the prototype, Citi pulled the rug out from under the project, as it determined that there were better ways to “improve the existing [payment] rails.”

Instead of offering its own cryptocurrency, which would likely be centralized beyond compare, the New York-headquartered firm is looking into integrate blockchain into legacy systems, removing the need for a coin that may just complicate things. Atak remarked in closing:

“[CitiConnect’s goal] was purely to integrate into a blockchain-enabled system on our client’s end and make it connect to our legacy payment processes real-time… “

Details of Citicoin are hard to come across. But, many have drawn lines between the experiment and newfangled product from JP Morgan.

JP Morgan Only Doubles Down

Down the street from Citi, the financial pillar has begun a pilot for what is best known as JPM Coin, a U.S. dollar-backed stablecoin based on a private version of the Ethereum blockchain. As reported by Ethereum World News when the news broke, the ledger-based token will first be used for a
“tiny fraction” of the institution’s $6 trillion in daily corporate transactions. The bank’s fintech team hopes that this venture will reduce costs.

Eventually, overt Bitcoin critic Jamie Dimon wishes for JPM Coin to be harnessed in the day-to-day, telling investors that it could one day be an asset heavily utilized by the consumer audience. In other words, Dimon and his cronies intend to see JPM Coin used in everything from buying a coffee to international billion-dollar payments.

So if Citi dropped Citicoin, why is JP Morgan going ahead with JPM Coin?

Well, the answer to this isn’t all too clear, but there has been speculation about this subject matter. What many have drawn attention to is the fact that since 2015, blockchain technologies have advanced monumentally, making centralized cryptocurrencies all the more valuable.

Anyhow, all this only underscores the level of institutional interest in this embryonic innovation. But will it be centralized and decentralized cryptocurrencies that garner adoption in the end? For now, no one is all too sure.


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Bitcoin (BTC) Advocate Mike Novogratz Still High on Hopium, And That’s Ok

Galaxy Digital’s Novo Still Hyped For Bitcoin Rally

Since making a full-on foray into this space in 2016-2017, Mike Novogratz has quickly become a leading voice in this space. And while the bear market has deterred many investors, Novogratz, a Goldman Sachs partner turned founder of crypto-centric Galaxy Digital, has kept his head rather high. Case in point, as Bitcoin (BTC) fell each and every month, his comments have remained optimistic.

While he has received some flak for his seeming permabullishness, the investor only doubled-down on his buoyant sentiment in a recent tweet.

In response to a “bull” or “bear” Twitter poll from none other than Changpeng Zhao of Binance, Novogratz, who once claimed that upwards of 20% of his net worth was in Ethereum and Bitcoin, responded with neither. The cryptocurrency insider remarked that from his point of view, the market looks “pretty sideways,” but is finding a base for sure.

And with that, he added that more likely than not, BTC’s next move will be one to the upside, rather than a harrowing drop to lower lows as some cynics suggest.

Zhao responded with “good info,” presumably agreeing with the theory that Bitcoin is leaning bullish at current.

Why Some Are (Rightfully) Bullish On BTC

So why is Novo bullish? And more importantly, is his optimism warranted?

Well, as reported by Ethereum World News on previous dates, the Galaxy Digital head’s sentiment has much to do with instituional involvement in this budding space.

In another one of his crypto-related tweets, which are somewhat scant in current conditions, the former Wall Street hotshot explained that there’s tons of institutional “activity under the hood,” adding that investors should “stay the course.” While Novogratz seems to be implying that lots of underlying developments aren’t public knowledge, there is a handful of recent news pieces that show that institutional players are here.

Just last week, Fidelity Investments, a Boston-based, renowned financial services provider, revealed that it had soft-launched its Digital Asset Services division, which is currently offering Bitcoin custody and trade execution for a select list of clients. In an interview with The Block, Tom Jessop, the head of Digital Asset Services, claimed that 20% of 450 institutions it interviewed were interested in cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin.

The fact that university endowments, like Michigan’s $12 billion fund, and pension plans, like two in Virginia State, U.S., have begun to delve into diverting funds into this market only accentuates that institutions see potential in this asset class.

While this doesn’t mean that cryptocurrencies must move higher, the fact that such heavyweights in the investment realm are throwing some money here should be a promising sign. And it seems like that is exactly what Novogratz is touching on.

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

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Stellar XLM/USD Above $0.1130: Latest Updates Regarding XRP’s Competitor

XLM Now

XLM Now

The 8th largest cryptocoin by market capitalization [current – $2.1 bln] is one of the only in the green as today’s market performance with 3.65% in the green leading the BTC market by 4.00%.

Source: coinmarketcap

The aforementioned value movement marks out a monthly [30 days of trading] gain of 36.144 percent with the positive April crypto trending tending to go higher. Breaking above the monthly declining trend-line opened gates for further increase at least for the days ahead.

Jed McCaleb [after selling the famous exchange Mt. Gox] put his efforts and sought to develop a cryptocurrency which would have the main focus value transactionary. The move led to the creation of Ripple lab and that to the crypto XRP [third largest coin by market cap]. In 2013 he left his position in the firm and one year after Mr. McCaleb initiated Stellar Development Foundation.

Mainly focusing on money remittance – the team behind Stellar XLM are trying to develop the most advanced infrastructure for money transferring to that of cross-border level.

In an official blog post published on March 13, the Coinbase team explained that although they are genuinely passionate about the idea (which had a lot of support from the community), XLM trading will be available in all states except New York and other very specific places. The popular american exchange also said that most of its efforts to list more tokens happened because its users actively requested an expansion of said services, something they took quite seriously.

To continue its fruitful path, the Stellar Development Foundation recently announced the revitalization of its executive staff, starting with a new CEO. The Stellar Development Foundation team agreed to hire Denelle Dixon to be the new commander of the project. Former CEO Jed McCaleb was quite enthusiastic about this change and was positive that Ms. Dixon would play a crucial role in consolidating Stellar’s vision, just as she did during her presence in Mozilla.

Featured Image: descryptive.com/

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Crypto is Breaking Out, But Bitcoin (BTC) Still Needs To Surmount $4,400

Crypto Breaks 1Yr+ Downtrend

Over recent weeks, the crypto market has embarked on a stellar rally. While some have described the price action as a “bull trap” or something of a similar nature, some evidence is pointing towards the fact that this market may be on the verge of a long-term rally, or at least a long bout of sideways movement underscored by a bullish trendline. The fact that Bitcoin (BTC) recently surpassed $4,000 has only somewhat cemented this theory.

Nik Patel, a popular content creator in this space, recently took to Twitter to lay out his thoughts on the market. Citing the recent movement seen in the value of all digital assets, he noted that this sum has finally broken out of a 15-month downtrend resistance line, and is holding well above a short-term uptrend.

Patel, much like many other crypto traders, then touched on the volume profile, explaining that the steadily rising increase has him slightly enthused. And with that, he concluded that more likely than not, bears are currently in a stage of disbelief, potentially setting a precedent for a further move to the upside. He adds that this ticker’s daily chart “does look bullish for the market.”

But, it isn’t exactly that cut and dried. Firstly, the cryptocurrency market capitalization (CMC) still remains under its 200-day moving average, which has acted as a pseudo-resistance in this bear market and a pseudo-support in 2017’s rally. To surmount this level, CMC would need to surpass ~$145 billion or so, currently 10% above current levels.

In a separate tweet, Patel touches on this, explaining that yes, we won’t be seeing all-time highs soon and that this budding market remains rangebound despite the casual trendline break.

Bitcoin Needs $4,400

In his most recent blog post, he touched on Bitcoin specifically, explaining what levels traders of the flagship cryptocurrency should watch in the near future. He notes that while there was a “bullish continuation” of last week’s positive-leaning momentum, and that BTC is holding above some key short-term supports, traders would be remiss to call for the moon.

Patel explains that Bitcoin needs to close above $4,400 on solid volume to confirm that it is not rangebound, setting the stage for a further move to the upside. But, considering that BTC topped out its last rally at around $4,200 or $4,300, there may be some key resistance levels in the region to move past.

Filb Filb, a preeminent trader, made a comment of a similar nature just recently. He explained that above $4,400 has a huge void in volume, and Bitcoin could thus move drastically higher from there if that auspicious level is reached.

Title Image Courtesy of Descryptive.com Via Unsplash

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