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Cardano price dips after smart contract launch, Walmart working with Litecoin is fake news, Coinbase raises $2B from junk-bond sale: Hodler’s Digest, Sept. 12-18

Coming every Saturday, Hodlers Digest will help you track every single important news story that happened this week. The best (and worst) quotes, adoption and regulation highlights, leading coins, predictions and much more a week on Cointelegraph in one link.

Top Stories This Week

Cardano launches smart contracts after successful hard fork

After years of anticipation, Charles Hoskinsons brainchild, Cardano, finally launched its smart contract functionality via the Alonzo hard fork on Monday. Youd think the result of this would be some bullish price action for ADA but, alas, its price dropped 10% following the rollout.

While Cardano was keen to celebrate the milestone, it also emphasized in a blog post that its still in the early days of the project, adding that now is when the mission truly begins.

The team also urged its community to not be overzealous in boarding the hype train just yet, and to be patient with the smart contract functionality in its formative stages:

There are high expectations resting on this upgrade. Some unreasonably so. Cardano watchers may be expecting a sophisticated ecosystem of consumer-ready DApps available immediately after the upgrade. Expectations need to be managed here.

 

Fake news: Litecoin price surges 35% following Walmart adoption hoax

While real news made the price of ADA drop, fake news made the price of Litecoin (LTC) pump this week.

Numerous publications reported Monday that Walmart planned to have a pay with Litecoin option for its e-commerce websites starting on Oct. 1 as part of a partnership with the Litecoin Foundation. Following the spread of the fake report, the price of LTC surged 35% before sharply falling within hours.

A spokesperson from Walmart confirmed that the news was fake within an hour, while the Litecoin Foundation’s director of marketing, Jay Milla, also told Cointelegraph that the announcement did not come from Litcecoin’s side of things.

The Litecoin Foundation has yet to enter into a partnership with Walmart, said Milla.

 

Vitalik Buterin makes list of Time magazines 100 most influential people in 2021

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of this year, joining the likes of Naomi Osaka, Britney Spears, Xi Jinping and Elon Musk.

Buterin was featured in the Innovators section of the Time 100 list, with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian authoring his profile. Ohanian highlighted Buterins work in building the Ethereum network and encouraging the development of decentralized apps and NFTs.

No one person couldve possibly come up with all of the uses for Ethereum, but it did take one persons idea to get it started, Ohanian said. From there, a new world has opened up, and given rise to new ways of leveraging blockchain technology.

 

Coinbase increases junk-bond offering to $2B after investors swarm

After seeing enormous demand for its $1.5 billion junk-bond offering that was announced on Monday, Coinbase reportedly increased the size of the sale to $2 billion.

According to a report from The Economic Times, there was at least $7 billion worth of orders that were placed in competition for seven- and 10-year bonds offering interest rates of 3.375% and 3.625%, respectively.

Coinbase stated on Monday that the raised funds will be put towards continued investments in product developments and potential investments in or acquisitions of other companies, products, or technologies in the future.

The funds might also come in handy when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, comes knocking on the door with a lawsuit if the USD coin lending program is actually launched.

 

US lawmakers propose adding digital assets to wash sale rule and raising capital gains tax

Reports surfaced this week that Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives proposed tax initiatives that could swipe some extra profits from the gains of certain high-income crypto users.

According to a document released by the House Committee on Ways and Means on Monday, the proposal would increase the tax rate on long-term capital gains from the existing 20% to 25%.

On the same day, President Joe Biden said he planned to nominate acting chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Rostin Behnam, to assume the role permanently, while also naming Kristin Johnson and Christy Goldsmith Romero to fill two other vacant commissioner seats.

In a private meeting held on Sept. 8 between Fidelity Digital Assets President Tom Jessop, six of the firms executives and several SEC officials, the executives outlined a number of reasons why the enforcer should finally approve the Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded fund.

These examples included increased demand for digital assets, the prevalence of similar funds in other countries, and the rise of Bitcoin adoption all of which sound like reasons that would fall on deaf ears for the SEC.

 

 

Winners and Losers

 

 

At the end of the week, Bitcoin is at $46,951, Ether at $3,376 and XRP at $1.07. The total market cap is at $2.11 trillion, according to CoinMarketCap.

Among the biggest 100 cryptocurrencies, the top three altcoin gainers of the week are Curve DAO Token (CRV) at 41.73%, Hedera Hashgraph (HBAR) at 41.16% and Avalanche (AVAX) at 33.23%.

The top three altcoin losers of the week are Arweave (AR) at -19.24%, Solana (SOL) at -21.27% and Revain (REV) at -17.11%.

For more info on crypto prices, make sure to read Cointelegraphs market analysis.

 

 

Most Memorable Quotations

 

Many platforms have dozens or hundreds of tokens on them. While each tokens legal status depends on its own facts and circumstances, the probability is quite remote that, with 50, 100, or 1,000 tokens, any given platform has zero securities.

Gary Gensler, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman

 

One can even see an inscription about the regulators obligations on the banknotes, while cryptocurrency is not backed by anything.

Behzod Khamraev, Central Bank of Uzbekistan deputy chairman

 

Advocates say crypto markets are all about financial inclusion, but the people who are most economically vulnerable are the ones who are most likely to have to withdraw their money the fastest when the market drops. […] High, unpredictable fees can make crypto trading really dangerous for people who arent rich.

Elizabeth Warren, U.S. senator

 

Rising valuations across asset classes, massive price swings in cryptoassets and event-driven risks observed in 1H21 amid elevated trading volumes raise questions about increased risk-taking behaviour and possible market exuberance.

The European Securities and Markets Authority

 

Its a no-brainer that your crypto earnings are taxable like other income and should be declared in the Income Tax Returns. As of now, it is not clear whether the GST would be applied on the amount of cryptocurrency bought or on the transaction fees paid by the user.

Nischal Shetty, WazirX CEO

 

If a person has assets in Bitcoin and makes high profits, there will be no tax. This is done obviously to encourage foreign investment.

Javier Argueta, legal adviser to El Salvadors president, Nayib Bukele

 

While it might be helpful for the SEC to provide advisory guidance to companies, it has no obligation to do so.

Marc Powers, former SEC Division of Enforcement officer

 

In a situation where the relevant taxation infrastructure is not sufficiently established, the deferral of taxation on virtual assets is not an option, but an inevitable situation.

Noh Woong-rae, South Korea National Assembly member

 

Prediction of the Week

 

New Bitcoin price model suggests BTC won’t go below $39K again

Analyst William Clemente came up with a new metric for Bitcoin price boundary forecasts, posting the tool on Twitter this week. Called the Illiquid Supply Floor, the chart merges PlanBs stock-to-flow metric and on-chain Bitcoin supply data from Glassnode. The result? A chart showing Bitcoins current price against the backdrop of possible upper and lower price range boundaries.

Bitcoins price rallied this week, showing recovery after the asset took a sizable dive down to the $43,000 range during the week of Sept. 7.

According to Clementes chart, the $39,000 price range could be the current bottom limit for Bitcoins price should it drop once again, given a price floor based on Bitcoins real-time scarcity Clementes description of the lower limit on the chart.

FUD of the Week

 

Solana and Arbitrum knocked offline, while Ethereum evades attack

The recent Solana-rama was temporarily brought to a halt this week after the supposed ETH killer suffered a denial-of-service disruption for around 45 minutes.

Twitter account Solana Status explained that a large increase in transaction load to 400,000 per second overwhelmed the network, creating the denial-of-service and causing the network to start forking. The incident appears to have slightly damped enthusiasm in SOL, as the price is down 26% over the past seven days.

Ethereum layer-two rollup network Arbitrum One also reported its sequencer had gone offline for roughly 45 minutes this week, while Ethereum was also the subject of an unsuccessful node attack from an unknown identity.

 

OpenSea exec used the platforms influence to pump his own NFTs

Earlier this week, OpenSea head of product Nathan Chastain was named and shamed after he was outed for hyping NFTs he purchased and then featuring them on the homepage of the popular marketplace.

While being bullish on NFTs is nothing new, getting caught for tokenized insider trading is and Nathan Chastain is estimated to have earned at least 18.875 Ether (ETH), $65,700 at time of writing, from his antics.

OpenSea officially confirmed the accusations on Wednesday, noting that it was incredibly disappointing, and emphasized that the behavior did not represent the firms values. Chastain then proceeded to hand in his resignation the following day with his tail between his legs.

 

Protesters burn Bitcoin ATM as part of demonstration against El Salvador president

Anti-Bitcoiners and protesters of El Savador President Nayib Bukeles policies destroyed a BTC ATM in the nations capital city on Wednesday.

Local news outlets shared images of the ATM burning in San Salvador within a crowd of journalists and protesters. The booth hosting the BTC ATM was defaced with anti-BTC graffiti and a sign saying democracy is not for sale.

Despite maintaining a strong approval rating, Bukele appears to have caused a stir with his forceful approach to politics. There have now been multiple protests in El Salvador regarding adoption of BTC, with activists taking the streets as early as July to voice their concerns.

 

Best Cointelegraph Features

Finding a new home: Bitcoin miners settling down after China exodus

Countries vie for cryptocurrency miner business as Chinese miners move to greener pastures. Here’s where they are ending up.

El Salvador’s Bitcoin day: The first of many or a one-off?

Thanks to El Salvadors daring move, digital money looms large on global policymakers radars.

Fidenza: Tyler Hobbs wrote software that generates art worth millions

I started wondering if I could write a program that would create a painting.

Bitcoin is great, but real crypto innovation has moved elsewhere

Bitcoin will always be the boss, but the real innovative and groundbreaking developments are happening in layer-2 solutions, DAOs, NFTs with utility and the emerging Metaverse.

Something is brewing, and those with finely tuned noses can smell it. As traders have come to expect, Bitcoin (BTC) is doing “Bitcoin things” by bouncing around between the usual “key” support and resistance levels, and to be honest, it’s all starting to feel a bit boomerish.

Bitcoin’s long-awaited “moon” depended on institutional investor buy-in, breaking the previous all-time high at $19,000, and a set of other firmly held beliefs. Well, all that happened, and the run to $64,900 exceeded many investors’ wildest dreams. But despite this, the entire BTC situation just feels predictable and boring if you are of the opinion that the top-ranked cryptocurrency will eventually top out around $100,000 in the current bull market.

So, back to what else is brewing…

Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) are hot, nonfungible tokens (NFTs) are hot, play-to-earn gaming is hot and the Metaverse is hot.

This is where the real heads are right now — speculating, building, pondering, networking and doing shit that actually matters. And what is unique about those who are really putting in work in the trenches of crypto is that this grassroots approach and bottom-up building trend is leading to some of the space’s most groundbreaking projects.

Take Dom Hofmann’s “Loot” project as an example, or the recent Good Bridging and BridgeLoot drops in the Avalanche ecosystem.

Rather than putting on a suit, throwing together some c-suite-friendly presentation and chasing after venture capital dollars, Loot was minted for free by interested participants willing to pay the gas costs, and the community ascribed value to the NFTs via OpenSea sales.

The value of new ideas was agreed upon by a flurry of discussions in Discord, and anyone with an idea was free to launch their own derivative contract where Loot holders could then replicate the minting and listing cycle again.

Will Papper’s airdrop of 10,000 Adventure Gold (AGLD) to Loot NFT holders, soon became worth over $50,000 and catapulted the entire project to stardom and into the history books. It was essentially the “YFI” of NFTs, some would say.

There’s a seismic shift at hand

What’s unique and intriguing about Loot is that it has set the precedent for what is becoming a new drop model in the space. The process involves creating a product (whether it be an NFT or a protocol), mentioning it to an interested community, and allowing them to mint tokens for free within the 7,777 to 10,000 supply range. After that, creators let the community, speculators, believers and OpenSea do the rest.

Hofmann encouraged the entire fam to do what they wanted with the project — he essentially said, “This is yours! Go and build, my children!” The anon genius behind the Good Bridging (GB) token drop also did the same but with even less guidance.

Basically, 16,000 early users of Avalanche’s Ethereum-to-Avalanche bridge got an 895 GB token airdrop, which at its peak price of $2.60 per GB was worth about $2,300. Not too shabby, eh?

To add to this, GB holders who didn’t immediately liquidate the drop were eligible to mint a gasless BridgeLoot NFT as a reward, and a few hours later, the Avalanche-based NFT marketplace Snowflake verified and listed BridgeLoot, where many holders listed their NFTs for 20 to 100 AVAX.

From a markets perspective, money chases after money. Investors chase after liquidity, and that's part of what drives price action within markets.

We see this happening with all the layer-one incentive launches where hundreds of millions of dollars are shifting from ETH to Fantom, or ETH to Arbitrum, or ETH to AVAX, or ETH to LUNA, or ETH and USDC to Web3-based decentralized exchanges like dYdX and GMX.

The point is that crypto is driven by liquidity and trends. The whole Loot phenomenon let the cat out of the bag and enlightened builders on a feature that has always been present but only recently uncovered.

Bottom-up fundraises, NFTs with utility in the Metaverse, DAOs and the great liquidity suck into layer-2 ecosystem are here to stay.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.

100 years ago, Henry Ford proposed ‘energy currency’ to replace gold

Bitcoin appears to meet the definition of an energy-backed currency proposed by the famed American inventor during the interbellum period.

In 1921, American industrialist Henry Ford proposed the creation of an “energy currency” that could form the basis of a new monetary system — offering striking similarities to the peer-to-peer electronic cash system outlined in Satoshi Nakamoto’s 2008 Bitcoin (BTC) whitepaper. 

Front page of the New York Tribune dated Sunday, December 4, 1921. Source: Library of Congress

Bitcoin as an energy currency

On Dec. 4, 1921, the New York Tribune published an article outlining Ford’s vision of replacing gold with an energy currency that he believed could break the banking elites’ grip on global wealth and put an end to wars. He intended to do this by building “the world’s greatest power plant” and creating a new currency system based on “units of power.”

Ford, who founded Ford Motor Company in 1903, told the publication:

“Under the energy currency system the standard would be a certain amount of energy exerted for one hour that would be equal to one dollar. It’s simply a case of thinking and calculating in terms different from those laid down to us by the international banking group to which we have grown so accustomed that we think there is no other desirable standard.”

The specifics around currency values “will be worked out when Congress cares to hear about it,” he said.

Although Ford was never able to advance his vision of a fully-backed currency, Bitcoin has seemingly vindicated the idea a century later. Since 2009, more than 18.8 million BTC have been created through an energy-intensive mining process that requires computers to solve increasingly complex math problems. This proof-of-work mining process has drawn heavy criticism over its alleged environmental impact — a short-sighted claim that ignores Bitcoin’s abilily to accelerate the shift to renewable energy.

Related: Satoshi Nakamoto statue goes up in Budapest

Replacing gold, ending wars

On the relation between gold and war, Ford explained:

“The essential evil of gold in its relation to war is the fact that it can be controlled. Break the control and you stop war.”

Some of Bitcoin’s most ardent supports believe the cryptocurrency’s sound money principles could eliminate war by reducing the state’s ability to fund conflict through inflation. While a gold standard makes it harder for governments to inflate their currency, “international bankers,” as Ford explained, controlled the bulk of the bullion supply. This process of controlling and accumulating precious commodities allowed financial elites to create an active market for money, which thrived during wartime.

The remnants of the gold standard were abandoned in 1971 by U.S. President Richard Nixon, who said his government would temporarily suspend convertibility between dollars and bullion. The so-called quasi-gold standard would last until 1973, with all definitions linking the dollar to bullion removed by 1976. However, in effect, the gold standard system was eliminated by the British government in 1931, with the U.S. following suit two years later.

Related: Bitcoin set to replace gold, says Bloomberg strategist on Bretton Woods’ 50th anniversary

The New York Tribune article circulated on Reddit’s r/CryptoCurrency page on Saturday, where it received considerable upvotes. While Satoshi Nakamoto never mentioned Henry Ford in online forum posts, some Reddit users speculated that Bitcoin’s creator may have been influenced by the late industrialist. Others jokingly said Satoshi was actually Ford’s reincarnate, given the latter’s apparent belief in reincarnation.

California named ‘most crypto ready’ US state

Measures such as Google searches, Bitcoin ATM installations and the number of crypto-focused bills were used to tabulate the crypto-ready index.

California has emerged as the most crypto-ready jurisdiction in the United States thanks to the proliferation of cryptocurrency ATMs and growing interest in digital assets among the state’s population, according to new industry research from review site Crypto Head. 

With a score of 5.72 out of 10, California edged out New Jersey (5.44), Texas (5.28), Florida (5.03) and New York (4.29) in the crypto-ready index. The state’s point total was also 2.54 points higher than the national average.

The results were tabulated using metrics such as crypto-related Google searches, the presence of Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrency ATMs and the number of blockchain-related bills passed in each state. California ranked first in crypto-related Google searches per 100,000 and in the number of crypto ATMs. These positive factors offset the lack of crypto-focused legislation in the state.

By comparison, New York has passed eight crypto-focused bills but was 33rd in terms of crypto ATM installations. New Jersey has the highest number of crypto ATM installations per 10,000 square miles and scored third-highest for searches per 100,000 people. Texas and Florida also scored well with respect to ATMs and overall searches.

Related: Mayoral candidate pledges to make NYC 'most cryptocurrency-friendly city in the nation'

Despite regulatory uncertainty and a looming infrastructure bill that could affect key segments of the blockchain economy, the United States continues to be a global leader in cryptocurrency adoption. In 2020, BTC trade volumes in the U.S. exceeded those of Europe, Nigeria and China combined. For the same year, Americans booked $4.1 billion in realized profits on their crypto trades, far exceeding any other country. The U.S. also leads the globe in Bitcoin ATMs, accounting for a whopping 86.4% of total installations, according to industry sources.

Related: CFTC renewed: What Biden’s new agency picks hold for crypto regulation

Crypto’s success in the United States largely stems from its status as an investable asset class. As such, other adoption metrics don’t rank nearly as high. In August, financial comparison website Finder ranked the U.S. 26th out of 27 countries in terms of crypto ownership among residents. Emerging markets that depend more heavily on remittances — such as those in Southeast Asia and Latin America — ranked much higher.

Bitcoin jumps toward $49K amid fears 5%-plus inflation is here to stay

The rush to so-called safe-haven cryptocurrency appears despite concerns that the Federal Reserve would taper its $120 billion a month asset purchasing program.

Bitcoin (BTC) inched higher on Sept. 18 as the focus shifted to the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) policy meeting in the wake of lower inflation numbers last Tuesday.

The BTC/USD exchange rate approached $49,000 on the Coinbase exchange, hitting $48,825 before turning lower on interim profit-taking sentiment. Nonetheless, the move uphill raised expectations that the pair would hit $50,000, a psychological resistance target, in the coming sessions.

Inflation fears boost Bitcoin demand

The Bitcoin markets received a boost from fears of persistently higher inflation, despite a softer consumer price index (CPI) report released on Sept. 13.

Data showed that the U.S. CPI rose 5.3% year-over-year in August, compared to 5.4% in the previous month. The market received mixed reactions to these numbers, with some cheering that core inflation came out lower than expectations while others pointing that inflation was still at ridiculously high levels —with 5.3% being one of the highest numbers in more than a decade for CPI.

"I like to look at inflation data in a median sense (so rather than having one crazy category drive it all, we look at the center of the distribution, across 82 categories, equally weighted)," said Jens Nordvig, the founder of data analytics firm Exante Data. He added:

"On [median] metric, [inflation] number was not low."

More bullish cues for Bitcoin appeared as TD Securities analysts noted the Federal Reserve might delay the planned tapering of its $120 billion monthly asset purchase policy after the softer-than-expected inflation report.

Additionally, Anthony "Pomp" Pompliano, Partner at Pomp Investments, warned that a sustained 5% inflation would have Americans watch their savings evaporate.

"The only way to protect yourself in this environment is to make sure you are invested," Pomp said in a note to clients.

"The more invested in markets, regardless of whether it is equities, real estate, crypto, etc., the better off you will be."

Dollar goes up in tandem

As it happened, the BTC/USD exchange rate jumped 4.85% on the day of the inflation data release.

The pair moved up another 2.17% on Wednesday, with its prices closing above $48,000. Its prices started consolidating sideways in the next two sessions, only to move further towards $49,000 on Saturday.

Surprisingly, the US dollar index (DXY) also moved higher like Bitcoin, iterating that macro investors shifted the capital to assets they deemed as their safe-haven following the inflation report. The index, which measures the dollar against a basket of top foreign currencies, surged 0.41% on Friday to 93.246, its highest level in September.

Bitcoin and the US dollar index rise following mixed inflation outlook. Source: TradingView.com

More cues for Bitcoin and the dollar markets should be expected from next week's FOMC meeting.

Related: Bitcoin struggles at $40K after ‘most confusing’ Jerome Powell press conference

The Fed officials agree that they would start unwinding their loose monetary policies by the end of this year. But the nonfarm payroll (NFP) report earlier this month showed that the U.S. labor market had not recovered fully.

That would prompt the Fed to hold its tapering plans, and any further delay could entail both Bitcoin strength and dollar-weakness.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.

American CryptoFed DAO seeks US SEC consent for stable utility tokens

The Wyoming-based digital asset company has filed Form 10 and Form S-1 for registering and trading Locke and Ducat tokens.

American CryptoFed DAO, a Wyoming-based decentralized autonomous organization, has filed two forms with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, to launch two variants of inter-dependent stablecoins named Locke and Ducat.

According to CryptoFed’s Form 10 submission, the tokens are awaiting their registration as utility tokens hosted on the in-house CryptoFed blockchain. However, SEC’s Form 10 is used to register securities for potential trading on U.S. exchanges and is thus not intended for so-called utility listings. 

The form submission entitles CryptoFed to automatically be recognized as a DAO in the U.S. after 60 days from the initial filing date, regardless of any outstanding SEC comments.

CryptoFed’s filing suggests that Ducat is both an inflation- and deflation-protected stablecoin that can be used for daily transactions and as a store of value. Locke is a governance token that will be used for stabilizing Ducat and creating rules for the ecosystem.

According to CryptoFed CEO Marian Orr, Locke tokens will be distributed to municipalities, merchants, banks, crypto exchanges and other participants in the DAO. Drawing comparison to the existing financial system, Orr said:

“The CryptoFed uses the part and parcel of buying and selling between Locke and Ducat to stabilize Ducat through ongoing open market operations similar to those of the Fed.”

CryptoFed is also filing Form S-1 to register Locke and Ducat tokens to make them tradeable and transferable. Running parallel to this SEC review on the Form S-1 filing, CryptoFed will also file Form S-8, which will grant the company “restricted and untradeable Locke tokens to more than 500 persons.”

Until the approval of Form S-1, both Locke and Ducat tokens will remain restricted, untradeable and non-transferable.

Related: SEC chair doubles down, tells crypto firms 'come in and talk to us'

On Sept. 13, SEC Chair Gary Gensler urged crypto projects with securities to ensure investor protection by registering their firms with the authorities.

Gensler envisioned a working policy framework for cryptocurrencies and believed that crypto can be a “catalyst for change” for the financial sector. “To the extent that there are securities on these trading platforms, under our laws they have to register with the Commission unless they qualify for an exemption,” he said. 

As Cointelegraph reported in August, Gensler has identified the need for more robust crypto regulations in the United States. At the time, he listed seven crypto-related policy changes currently being examined by the SEC, including matters concerning token offerings, stablecoins and decentralized finance more generally. 

CFTC renewed: What Biden’s new agency picks hold for crypto regulation

The three officials tapped by the Biden administration for CFTC roles come with promising crypto credentials, but can they live up to the promise?

On Sept. 14, United States President Joe Biden revealed his picks to fill two vacant seats at the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). In addition, the president nominated Rostin Behnam, who has run the derivatives regulator as acting chairman since January, to assume the office on the permanent basis.

The appointments are unlikely to face serious obstacles on their way to confirmation, as nominees will have to secure a simple majority vote in a Senate currently controlled by Democrats. What can the crypto industry expect of the CFTC if Behnam assumes permanent chairmanship and Kristin Johnson and Christy Goldsmith Romero join the agency as commissioners?

Bringing the commission up to strength

In 2015, the CFTC came forward and defined Bitcoin (BTC) and other digital currencies as commodities under the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act, joining the ranks of U.S. government agencies engaged in the regulation of the cryptocurrency space. The agency also asserted jurisdiction in cases when “a virtual currency is used in a derivatives contract, or if there is fraud or manipulation involving a virtual currency traded in interstate commerce.”

The CFTC, which is designed to be five-strong when fully staffed, has been down to acting chairman and two commissioners this year. Heath Tarbert, the former chairman, departed in March, and Brian Quintenz stepped down at the end of August. Furthermore, Dan Berkovitz, one of the remaining commissioners, has announced his intention to leave on Oct. 15.

Nominations come amid the Biden administration being criticized for taking its time to fill vacant positions in several key regulatory agencies, including the CFTC. If confirmed, the new additions to the agency will give Democrats a 3-1 majority on the panel.

From acting to permanent chairman

Acting Chairman Behnam has been with the CFTC since July 2017 when he had been sworn in as a commissioner. Serving under the crypto-friendly Chairman Giancarlo, Behnam has spoken favorably of digital currencies and their transformative potential on several occasions.

For one, speaking at a regulatory summit in 2018, Behnam opined that cryptocurrencies — or virtual currencies in the CFTC parlance — were set to become “part of the economic practices of any country, anywhere,” aptly observing that “some places, small economies, may become dependent on virtual assets for survival.” Finally, Behnam acknowledged limits to regulators’ reach if digital currencies continue to proliferate:

“These currencies will be outside traditional monetary intermediaries, like government, banks, investors, ministries, or international organizations."

More recently, the acting CFTC boss talked about the need for maintaining a constructive conversation between policymakers and innovators in the field of financial technology and how it is urgent for keeping U.S. innovation at home. In remarks in March 2020 regarding a crypto-related Commission action, Behnam stated:

“I have long advocated for a more inclusive conversation regarding the advent of financial technology, believing that a thorough examination and discussion of the technology within our current legal and regulatory framework will best serve technologists, market participants, and customers.”

It sounds like what the industry is longing for, doesn’t it? Yet, it would be premature to base expectations of the derivatives regulator’s future policies on these declarations alone. After all, like any U.S. financial regulator whose statutory goal is market participants’ protection in the first place, the CFTC can always be expected to err on the side of caution when innovation is perceived to be at odds with consumer safety.

Commenting on the recent settlement between BitMEX with both the CFTC and FinCEN, Behnam noted: “The CFTC will take prompt action when activities impacting CFTC jurisdictional markets raise customer and consumer protection concerns.”

New commissioners

Biden’s two picks for the vacant CFTC commissioner seats are Emory University law professor Kristin Johnson and Christy Goldsmith Romero, the current special inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a federal law enforcement agency that deals with financial crimes related to the U.S. government’s bailout program.

Professor Kristin Johnson's recent work focuses on the implications of emerging financial technologies including distributed digital ledger technology (DLT) and artificial intelligence (AI) for financial regulation. Prior to her academic appointments at Emory and, before that, Tulane, she worked in corporate finance, most notably as assistant general counsel and vice president at JP Morgan.

In her capacity as the TARP Inspector General, Christy Goldsmith Romero investigates financial institution crime related to bailouts executed under the program. In this role, she works closely with the SEC, an agency where she previously served as senior counsel in the enforcement division.

Great expectations

On the surface, the trio appears to be a winning combination of an innovation-friendly chairman, a legal scholar with a deep understanding of cutting-edge financial technology and an expert financial crime investigator.

Daniel Davis, a partner at law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and former general counsel for the CFTC, believes that each of Biden’s picks has the potential to bring positive changes for crypto regulation. Acting Chairman Behnam, if he assumes the office permanently, will be in an excellent position to move the regulatory conversation forward.

Related: Slow to start: Crypto regulators lagging behind blockchain industry

In addition to that, Ms. Johnson and Ms. Goldsmith Romero each bring excellent crypto-related credentials to their potential roles as commissioners. Davis further noted regarding the two nominees:

“Both have taught law school courses related to crypto. Ms. Johnson has also written extensively on topics such as financial services regulation and how decentralized finance (DeFi) could fit within the current regulatory structure with some innovative ideas. One would expect that crypto-related issues would form an important part of their respective agendas if confirmed.”

In this light, it is indeed tempting to view the prospective CFTC reinforcements with optimism, but with some reservations. For one, as the example of the current SEC boss Gary Gensler shows, being knowledgeable about digital finance and teaching blockchain classes at a top university does not necessarily translate into becoming the crypto industry’s ally when the person assumes a high office at a regulatory agency.

El Salvador ranks third in global Bitcoin ATM installations, data finds

The Salvadorian government has installed over 200 ATMs in September after adopting Bitcoin as a legal tender.

El Salvador now hosts the third-largest network of crypto ATMs after the United States and Canada, amounting to 70% of all crypto ATMs in South America.

According to data from Coin ATM Radar, El Salvador has exceeded United Kingdom’s crypto ATM count after deploying 205 crypto ATMs to date to facilitate local Bitcoin transactions and BTC to U.S. dollar conversions. 

Comparing this to Statista data from August 16, it becomes evident that El Salvador has successfully installed 201 ATMs in just one month. Beforehand, the country ranked 43rd on the list with just four functional crypto ATMs.

President Nayib Bukele had previously stated that Bitcoin’s adoption would be initially supported by  a network of 200 ATMs and 50 branches. The Salvadorean government has partnered with an in-house cryptocurrency wallet provider named Chivo to power the BTC wallets and ATM usage in the country.

Crypto ATM installations are at an all-time high around the world with 27,664 active machines, and 2,790 new machines being added in September. The increase in El Salvador’s ATM installation drive aligns with the recent presidential order that requires all businesses to accept payment in Bitcoin. However, the merchants retain the option to convert Bitcoin payments to USD before withdrawing their earnings.

While other jurisdictions are yet to decide on Bitcoin’s use case as a mainstream asset, an average of 63.7 ATMs continue to get installed globally every day. Genesis coin remains a leading crypto ATM manufacturer with a market share of 40.7%, while General Bytes and BitAccess represent 22.7% and 12.7% of the market, respectively.

Related: Protesters burn Bitcoin ATM as part of demonstration against El Salvador president

El Salvador’s Bitcoin adoption has seen some resistance from locals, which recently led to the burning of a Chivo-supported Bitcoin machine. Those protesting adoption of Bitcoin highlighted concerns regarding uncertainty, price fluctuation and lack of exposure to the crypto market.

The Chivo kiosk is the government’s first attempt to create an infrastructure for BTC and U.S. dollar conversions. Currently, El Salvador uses both Bitcoin and the U.S. dollar as legal tender.

Evolve or die: How smart contracts are shifting the crypto sector’s balance of power

Smart contract capabilities are rendering old-school megalithic crypto projects obsolete as blockchains evolve beyond just being a medium of exchange.

One of the familiar themes seen in previous crypto market cycles is the shifting market caps, popularity and ranking of the top 10 projects that see significant gains during bull phases, only to fade into obscurity during the bear markets. For many of these projects, they follow a recognizable boom-to-bust cycle and never return to their previous glory. 

During the 2017–2018 bull market and initial coin offering (ICO) boom, which was driven by Ethereum network-based projects, all manner of small smart contract-oriented projects rallied thousands of percentage  to unexpected highs.

During this time, projects like Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), Monero (XMR) and ZCash (ZEC) also rotated in and out of the top 10 ranking, but to this day, investors still argue about which project actually presents a “useful” use case.

While all of these tokens are still unicorn-level projects with billion-dollar valuations, these large-cap megaliths have fallen far from their previous glory and now struggle to stay relevant in the current ecosystem.

Let’s take a look at a few of the current projects that threaten to unseat these dinosaur tokens from their perch.

Dollar-pegged stablecoins take the stage as the most “transactable” currency

Bitcoin’s (BTC) original use case stipulated that it would simplify the process of conducting transactions, but the network’s “slow” transaction time and the cost associated with sending funds makes it a better store of value than a medium of exchange when the other blockchain networks are considered as options.

Terra (LUNA), a protocol focused on creating a global payment structure through the use of fiat-pegged stablecoins, has emerged as a possible solution to the issues faced when trying to use the top proof-of-work (PoW) projects as payment currencies.

The main token used for transacting value on Terra aside from LUNA is TerraUSD (UST), a U.S. dollar-pegged algorithmic stablecoin that forms the basis of Terra’s decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem. The market cap of UST has steadily been increasing throughout 2021 as activity and the number of users in the ecosystem increased.

UST supply changes. Source: SmartStake

The recent addition of Ether (ETH) as a collateral choice for minting UST on Anchor protocol has given token holders a way of accessing the value in their Ether without having to sell and create a taxable event.

This opens the possibility for other tokens such as BTC to be utilized as collateral to mint UST that can be used in everyday purchases.

As it stands, the borrowing APR for UST on Anchor stands at 25.85%, while the distribution APR is at 40.67%, meaning users who borrow UST against their LUNA or Ether actually earn a yield while borrowing against their tokens.

From privacy coins to privacy protocols

Privacy is also a cornerstone characteristic of the cryptocurrency sector and privacy-focused projects like XMR and ZEC offer obfuscation technologies that support covert or what, for a time, were thought to be untraceable transactions.

Unfortunately, regulatory concerns have made it more challenging for users to access these tokens, as many exchanges have delisted them for fear of drawing the ire of regulators and the overall demand among crypto users has declined alongside their availability.

Their lack of smart contract capabilities has also limited what these protocols are capable of and, so far, users do not appear to be too excited about utilizing Wrapped Monero (WXMR) for use in DeFi, as the token loses its privacy capabilities in the process.

These limitations have led to the development of privacy-focused protocols such as the Secret Network, which allows users to create and use decentralized applications (DApps) in a privacy-preserving environment.

Privacy features are not common among smart contract capable platforms in the crypto ecosystem, which makes Secret something of an experimental case in the ever-evolving Web 3.0 landscape.

Decentralized applications on the Secret Network. Source: Secret

Secret is also part of the Cosmos ecosystem which means it can utilize the Inter-blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol to seamlessly interact with other protocols in the ecosystem.

The network’s native SCRT can be used as the value transfer medium on the platform as well as to interact with protocols that operate on the network, including Secret DeFi applications and the network's NFT offering, Secret Heroes.

New enterprise solutions aren’t better but they come without controversy

One of the ways cryptocurrency projects sought to differentiate themselves from the “medium of exchange” label was to offer enterprise solutions as a way to help corporations navigate the transition to a blockchain-based infrastructure.

XRP and Stellar (XLM) are two of the veteran protocols that fit this bill, but continual controversy and slow development has resulted in these early movers now playing catch up with newer networks that also don’t have the legal controversy that has followed Ripple for years.

Hedera Hashgraph has emerged as a competitor in this field and data shows that the network is capable of processing more than 10,000 transactions per second (TPS), with an average transaction fee of $0.0001 and a time to finality of 3-5 seconds.

These statistics are comparable to both XRP and XLM, which have indicated that their ledgers reach consensus on all outstanding transactions every 3-5 seconds with an average transaction cost of 0.00001 XRP/XLM.

Hedera is also smart contract capable, meaning users can create both fungible and nonfungible tokens, and developers can build decentralized applications to accompany the network’s decentralized file storage services.

For each sector (stablecoins, privacy and enterprise solutions), the main difference between the old-school and next-generation projects has been the introduction of smart contract capabilities and plans to develop within the side-chain and DeFi sectors where the top protocols exist. This gives newer projects additional utility, allowing them to meet the demand of investors and developers, thus increasing their token values and market caps as a result.

With smart contracts, the ability to interact with the growing DeFi landscape comes built-in, whereas the legacy tokens like LTC, XMR and BCH require special wrapping services which insert middlemen and thus insert additional fees, rigor and risk into the process.

Newer protocols have also embraced the more eco-friendly proof-of-stake consensus model that aligns with the larger global shift toward environmental awareness and sustainability. A plus is that holders can also stake their tokens directly on the network for a yield.

It remains to be seen if the slow march of time will eventually lead to a capital migration from older large cap projects to the newer generation protocols or if these legacy blue-chips will find a way to evolve and survive into the future.

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The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.

Bitcoin is ‘playing mind games’ as its price coils into a tighter range

Analysts highlight the formation of a bull flag on the Bitcoin chart and suggest that the price could continue to consolidate until a major catalyst moves the market.

The general mood across the cryptocurrency market is one of anticipation on Sept. 17 as the price of Bitcoin has traded in an increasingly tighter range over the past couple of days and looks to be coiling in preparation for a move one way or another. 

Data from Cointelegraph Markets Pro and TradingView shows that the price of Bitcoin (BTC) has oscillated between $47,150 and $48,150 in trading on Friday as the lack of any major developments or headline-grabbing stories has led to a relatively flat day in the markets.

BTC/USDT 1-day chart. Source: TradingView

A recent report from Delphi Digital suggested that last week’s sudden drop in Bitcoin price caught the market off-guard and led to a significant drop in market sentiment from greed to fear, and BTC's price performance over the past week has been been a response to that as traders cautiously re-engage the markets. 

Fear & Greed index and 7-day moving average. Source: Delphi Digital

Here’s what analysts and traders are saying about the recent price action from BTC and what to keep an eye on as the market heads into the weekend.

Bull flag forms on the 4-hour chart

A positive take on Bitcoin’s price action was provided by the pseudonymous Twitter user 'Pentoshi', who posted the following tweet highlighting the formation of a bull flag on the 4-hour chart and a subsequent retest of a major support and resistance level at $46,800.

As mentioned by Pentoshi, there are several upcoming developments that could lead to further bullish momentum in the market, chief of which is the growing list of Bitcoin ETF applications that must be ruled on by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Pentoshi also suggested that should a breakout occur that manages to recapture the point of balance (PoB) at $49,380, that could be a signal that the market is about to go on a run, making it an important level to keep an eye on.

Bitcoin is "playing mind games" with the market

Further insight into Bitcoin’s price action on lower time-frame charts was provided by crypto Twitter trader 'Crypto_Ed_NL', who described the recent moves from Bitcoin as “playing mind games” with the market.

As highlighted in the chart provided, the price of BTC is consolidating below $48,000 now and has yet to provide signs of continuation, indicating caution for traders as a breakout higher is not a guarantee.

That being said, Crypto_Ed_NL doesn’t think that this latest price pullback is “how we start a bigger move down,” hinting at the possibility of a potential move higher in the near future.

Related: Next stop $85K for Bitcoin as analysts predict ‘explosive’ Q4 for BTC price action

Bitcoin on track to close at a higher weekly low

Analysis of Bitcoin’s price action on the higher weekly time-frame chart was provided by cryptocurrency analyst and pseudonymous Twitter user 'Rekt Capital', who indicated that Bitcoin is on track to having a favorable weekly close with a new weekly higher low if can manage to stay above $46,300.

There is a well-defined support and resistance level near $48,930 that was the source of the current struggle to break out higher, and for now, BTC looks as though it will continue to consolidate in its current range.

The overall cryptocurrency market cap now stands at $2.129 trillion and Bitcoin’s dominance rate is 42.1%.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.