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Blockchain Bites: XRP’s Rally, Chainalysis’ $1B Valuation, Bitcoin’s Volatility in Perspective

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The U.S. government is using Circle’s USDC to bypass Venezuelan blockades. Chainalaysis is looking to raise $100 million in fresh capital at a $1 billion valuation. Billions of dollars from institutional players are flowing into Coinbase. And VanEck found that bitcoin is less volatile than a quarter of S&P500 stocks, reigniting the case for a bitcoin ETF. 

Top shelf

Injecting “stability”
An unnamed U.S. government agency has enlisted dollar-backed stablecoin provider Circle and P2P payments startup Airtm to support Venezuelan politician Juan Guaidó’s bid for office. The plan is to distribute relief funds to medical workers and other Venezuelan locals, bypassing restrictions set up by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who was re-elected in a 2018 election, by converting U.S. seized funds into Circle’s USDC product and dispersed via Airtm’s mobile phone network. “This is, in a sense, a way to bypass the state-controlled banking system and just directly distribute to people,” Circle’s Jeremy Allaire said, adding this is likely the first U.S. foreign policy objective utilizing a cryptographic stablecoin.

Private eyes
Chainalysis expects to raise $100 million venture capital at a $1 billion valuation in a fast-approaching Series C. Led by VC newcomer Addition with participation expected from Accel, Benchmark and Ribbit, the round could propel the blockchain analysis startup to unicorn status (a rarity for crypto). Several governments, banks, regulators and crypto firms rely on Chainalysis technology, seen in the company’s financial status: The firm increased its customer base 65% from Q3 2019 to Q3 2020. In other blockchain sleuthing news, analytics firm Coinfirm found government agents frequently leave behind “substantial” amounts of forked cryptos in seized wallets. Finally, CipherTrace has filed for two patents related to sniffing out privacy-preserving monero (XMR) transactions. 

Open banking
The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a national bank regulator led by former Coinbase counsel Brian Books, has proposed a rule that would forbid banks to blacklist legal, but unsavory businesses – potentially including crypto firms. Under the proposed rule, banks could deny financial services to customers only on the basis of “quantitative, risk-based standards established in advance,” not in response to political pressures. Crypto firms have long struggled to obtain or keep bank accounts in the U.S., with only a handful of friendly providers – namely, Silvergate Bank, Signature Bank, and Metropolitan Commercial Bank. The proposal is open for public comment through Jan. 4.

$20B BTC
Coinbase now custodies $20 billion in institutional assets, an exchange executive claims. Brett Tejpaul said the institutional assets business was under $6 billion when he joined the firm in April and has grown by $14 billion under his watch. Notably, Tejpaul pointed to Coinbase’s Tagomi acquisition in May as a boost. “It radically transformed our ability to cater to institutional clients that want to use smart order routing and algorithmic execution,” he said. The veteran banker also said that adding JPMorgan Chase as its banking partner and Deloitte as its auditor has given Coinbase more compliance credibility. The firm is now measuring new capital coming in for bitcoin in the billions, Tejpaul said.

CBDCs not crypto?
China Construction Bank (CCB), the world’s second-largest bank, has suspended the upcoming listing of a $3 billion bond issuance that was intended to be tradable for bitcoin and U.S. dollars. The bank was sponsoring the issuance of the Longbond debt securities, set to be traded via the Fusang digital asset exchange. Now the program is being re-evaluated. In other news out of China, the city of Suzhou will hold the second lottery of the country’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) next month (this time with additional features like smart touch payments.) This follows on China’s President Xi Jinping comments at the G20 that CBDCs are to be embraced by developed nations.

Quick bites

  • YER ORANGES:  Sean Ono Lennon, musician and younger son of Beatles legend John Lennon, appeared on the Orange Pill Podcast on Sunday to say bitcoin is a tool for empowerment and among a few optimistic developments for “the future and humanity in general.”
  • UP & RUNNING: KuCoin, the Singapore-headquartered digital asset exchange that was hacked to the tune of $281 million in September, said it has restored the deposit and withdrawal services of all tokens as of Sunday.
  • DOMAIN BREACH: Cryptocurrency trading platform liquid.com and crypto mining firm NiceHash were two of at least six firms that had control of their domains briefly transferred to malicious actors last week after employees at GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain registrar, were tricked by fraudsters.
  • YOU GOTTA BE GERKIN ME?! Popular decentralized finance protocol Pickle Finance was hacked on Saturday, draining $19.7 million in DAI, a decentralized stablecoin pegged to the U.S. dollar, from Pickle’s latest arbitraging smart contract.
  • MOVING IMAGE: A programmable painting of Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin set records this weekend when “EthBoy” sold for 260 ETH (ETH, +12.69%). The painting utilizes new cryptographic tooling to refashion itself everyday based on a bevy of market and community data.

Market intel

Leveraged buyers
Some BTC traders may have become overleveraged during the recent rally above $18,000, according to one key metric. The average level of the “funding rate” across major exchanges has risen sharply from 0.023% to a five-month high of 0.087% in the past 48 hours, according to data source Glassnode. The funding rate reflects the cost of holding long positions – measured by the premium derivative plays pay over spot prices. A higher number indicates excessively bullish, and therefore overbought, conditions. In such situations, a pullback or consolidation can trigger an unwinding of longs, leading to a deeper drop and a pick up in price volatility.

XRP pumps
XRP, the native asset of the XRP ledger, is riding 16-month highs. On Saturday the third-largest crypto by market cap climbed to $0.437564, the highest price since July 2019, according to the CoinDesk 20. It has continued to rise, with minor contractions, since. Now above the $0.50 level, XRP has appreciated over 120% since the start of the year.

At stake

Volatility, market data and ETFs
A new analysis from VanEck, a major investment management firm, found that bitcoin is less volatile than the S&P’s benchmark stock index.

The report, published Nov. 20, compared BTC to the companies listed on the S&P 500, finding the cryptocurrency was less volatile than 22% of these stocks over the past three months.

“Historically, bitcoin has been discussed in the news and among investors as a nascent and volatile asset outside of the traditional stock and capital markets,” the report reads. VanEck attributed this volatility to bitcoin’s relatively small total market size, regulatory blockers and limited participation from traditional asset managers.

But bitcoin’s volatility is not an aberration, as over the 90-day period measured ending Nov. 13 some 112 stocks experienced as much or more price volatility. Further, over the past year, 29% of S&P stocks were more volatile than bitcoin.

As CoinDesk Director of Research Noelle Acheson noted in a September newsletter, volatility is frequently and erroneously conflated with risk.

“Volatility is a metric, a number, a measurement. Risk is an ambiguous concept,” she writes, adding that volatility can be an attractive attribute for a well-weighted portfolio.

In Acheson’s analysis, she found bitcoin volatility is often correlated with the asset’s price direction: That is, when the price comes down, so usually does the volatility.

In comparison, the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), which measures the S&P 500 implied volatility, tends to move inversely to the S&P 500. “The average 60-day correlation between the two for the month of August was -0.84, an almost perfect negative association. Using bitcoin’s 30-day realized volatility as a proxy for a bitcoin VIX, we get an average 60-day correlation for August of 0.45. A very different scenario,” she found.

What’s more, bitcoin’s volatility is more measurable than traditional markets, as the crypto trades 24/7 freely across the world. More data points means more data to analyze.

It’s for these reasons, bitcoin’s similar volatility and market information, that many feel comfortable for agitating for a BTC exchange-traded fund. As reported, U.S. regulators have been hesitant to accept crypto ETF products, often citing a lack of cohesive market data.

But a sober look at the real market conditions may point the other way.

VanEck ends its report saying: “While there are no U.S. bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) available today, we believe such products may show similar volatility characteristics – based on the comparison above – as many stocks in well-known indices and ETFs, such as the S&P 500 and related products.”

Food for thought

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Bitcoin Mining Stocks Jump 49% in Less Than One Month after Poor Figures Recorded in May

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Bitcoin mining stocks have performed much better than Bitcoin has in the last one year. These stocks are rising despite China’s crackdown.

The three largest Bitcoin mining stocks are rising, following crashes seen across these companies’ valuations last month. These stocks have pulled in considerable weight over the last month, regardless of souring Bitcoin mining sentiments palpable across different geographic regions.

According to a recent report, the three companies include Riot Blockchain Inc (NASDAQ: RIOT), Canaan Inc (NASDAQ: CAN), and Marathon Patent Group (NASDAQ: MARA). Since May 21, Riot Blockchain has jumped 63% from $2.08 billion to $3.4 billion. Marathon also increased by 55% to its current $2.98 billion valuation. All three companies have increased an average of 49% in less than a month.

While these increases may spell progress for the crypto sector, extreme volatility may also be a concern. Between February and April, bitcoin mining firms maintained significant market caps after rising considerably. However, the month of April and early May saw some reversal. Again, by the end of May, their stocks began to rise. The instability is also more seen with a company like Riot Blockchain. Last year, RIOT had a valuation of less than $200 million. By February this year, the company’s market cap had hit $6.12 billion.

Bitcoin Mining Stocks and BTC

At the moment, Bitcoin mining stocks are considerably more promising than the asset itself. Over the past 12 months, stock prices for Riot Blockchain, Hive, Marathon, and Canaan have brought mouth-watering returns to holders. Marathon, which has spiked the highest, comes at 3,119%. In the same timeframe, Bitcoin has increased by an impressive but still much lower 334%.

Recently, China renewed its fight against Bitcoin mining and has come down heavy on operators. Last week, China’s Xinjiang province ordered all Bitcoin miners to immediately suspend operations. The Changji Prefecture Government in the province also sent a circular to subordinate government arms in the Zhundong Economic Technological development park. Specifically, the circular required the park to completely discontinue all mining and other undertakings related to crypto. This is considered a big blow on the country’s crypto clime as the park is considered a major hub.

Back in March, the Inner Mongolia region of Northern China also made a similar move. Its decision was said to be an effort to reduce energy consumption. Basically, Inner Mongolia was supporting energy efficiency demands set by Beijing. Regardless, many crypto community members suggest that the energy efficiency reasons are a ruse to hamper Bitcoin’s growth in the country.

The general effect of the mining ban is significant. Since the ban, large mining pools with Chinese clients have lost a significant chunk of their hash rates. According to BTC.com data, mining pools such as AntPool, BTC.com, Poolin, and F2Pool lost between 11% and 30% of their hash rates within 24 hours of the announcement. Binance and Huobi pools also lost 10% in the same time frame. However, pools outside China, including Foundry USA and Slushpool saw little to no changes.

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Tolu is a cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiast based in Lagos. He likes to demystify crypto stories to the bare basics so that anyone anywhere can understand without too much background knowledge.
When he’s not neck-deep in crypto stories, Tolu enjoys music, loves to sing and is an avid movie lover.



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US Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Antitrust Bills That May Reform Top Tech Giants

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Apart from the two bills focused on Amazon and Apple, the other three include the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act, Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act and Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act. 

House lawmakers have released bipartisan antitrust that may affect tech giants like Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ: AMZN), Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB), and Google LLC(NASDAQ: GOOGL). The bills came after the four tech companies were investigated over antitrust issues. At the time, the result of the investigation revealed that the tech companies hold monopoly power. In conclusion, the panel said antitrust laws needs review to address competition challenges in the digital space. 

New Bills May Affect Dominant Tech Companies

Now, these bills, which consist of five packages, are to challenge dominant platforms over mergers. Also, the five package bills will prohibit the companies from owning businesses that show obvious conflicts of interest. 

Two of the bills focus on Amazon and Apple. These tech firms own marketplaces that include their personal products and apps, which compete with other merchants or developers that utilize and rely on their marketplaces to offer services to consumers. These tech companies create platforms for other businesses and then compete with the same businesses that they provide marketplace services to. The two bills are the Platform Anti-Monopoly Act, which has been renamed the American Choice and Innovation Online Act, and the Ending Platform Monopolies Act. The former was sponsored by the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust Chairman Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I. Vice-Chair Pramilia Jayapal sponsored the latter. 

Earlier this week, the CEO of the Chamber of Progress, Adam Kovacevich, commented on these two bills. Kovacevich said that the approval of the bills would result in consumers losing out on over a dozen popular features. The CEO noted that rules against discrimination would disallow Google from providing results on the most popular results for businesses in users’ locations. Also, Amazon will no longer offer Prime free shipping. At the same time, the conflict of interest and non-discrimination provisions will stop Facebook users from easily cross-posting to Instagram. In addition, Apple will not continue its Find My apps pre-install that helps users locate lost items conveniently.

Before the signing of these bills into law by the president, the Senate must first approve it. Before then, the bills will need to gain support from the Judiciary Committee. 

Antitrust Bills

Apart from the two bills focused on Amazon and Apple, the other three include the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act, Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act and Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act. 

The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act will make dominant platforms involved in mergers prove that their actions comply with the law. Eventually, dominant tech companies will reduce their acquisitions. As for the proposed ACCESS bill, these tech firms would order dominant platforms to maintain stipulated standards of data portability and interoperability. As such, consumers will find it easier to transfer their data to other platforms. The Merger Filing Fee Modernization bills seek to raise funds for the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice. 

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Ibukun is a crypto/finance writer interested in passing relevant information, using non-complex words to reach all kinds of audience. Apart from writing, she likes to see movies, cook, and explore restaurants in the city of Lagos, where she resides.



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Didi Set to Make US Stock Market Debut, Files for IPO

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Anticipated to be one of the biggest tech IPOs of 2021, Didi IPO could fetch the company a $100 billion valuation while raising $10 billion.

Didi Chuxing, founded in 2012 by Cheng Wei, filed for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) under its formal name Xiaoju Kuaizhi Inc. It has become a market leader in the mobility technology industry in a short time, having acquired its biggest competitor, Uber’s China unit, in 2016. In return, Uber now has a 12.8% stake in Didi. Other high-profile investors include tech giants SoftBank Group Corp with a 21.5% stake in the company, and Tencent Holdings Ltd, which holds 6.8% of the company. Despite constant competition in the ride-hailing industry, Didi has managed to stay dominant through its continuous expansion in providing related services using top-notch technology.

Like other industries disrupted by the pandemic, Didi, too, suffered huge losses estimated at $1.6 billion for 2020. Its net profit contracted by almost 10% between 2019 and 2020, thanks to the pandemic that reduced passengers and affected business across countries. However, the first quarter of 2021 brought good news as it saw an astounding 107% growth and doubling of revenue, earning a profit of $30 million. Like major tech startups, Didi has seen losses in its 8 years of existence, however, it still reins the country’s ride-hailing industry.

Didi Chuxing has its operations in 15 countries across Africa, South America, Asia and Europe, including China, although a vast customer base comprises the Chinese population. In addition to providing app-based transportation facilities, Didi also offers food delivery, financial and automobile services. The Beijing based company has also worked in partnership with BYD Co. Ltd., a Chinese automobile manufacturer, to develop electric cars, specifically engineered for their ride-hailing business. Not just that, the company has also been a part of the strategic partnership with Guangzhou Automobile Industry Group to design, develop and manufacture autonomous electric vehicles.

In the Founder’s Letter submitted alongside the filing, CEO Cheng owned the company’s mistakes and failings, notably the rape and deaths of two female passengers and the plight of drivers who face unfair treatment. The letter mentions the solutions adopted to overcome the shortcomings that include redesigning over 200 app features, installation of safety-enhancing mechanisms and devices and the establishment of a SWAT Team that would respond to all safety incidents on a real-time basis.

With such a revaluation and improvement of existing services, Didi is all set to take advantage of the vast investment market in the US With the Covid effects diminishing and the universal rollout of vaccinations, the ride-hailing services have already hit the market like never before and Didi plans to make the most of it through the strategic use of its IPO proceeds. More than a quarter will go towards developing technological competencies while an equal share will be put on international expansion efforts. Roughly 20% of the proceeds will be used to develop new offerings, and the rest will be put to use for corporate activities.

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan are chosen as the lead underwriters for the IPO.

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