As crypto prices plummeted over the course of 2018 the level of difficulty in minting new digital coins remained high even as profitability dropped. Photo: iStock
Bitcoin mining has been labeled as an 'undesirable industry' by China's National Development and Reform Commission, which plans to abolish mining farms. Photo: iStock

Crypto markets have largely held gains made in last week’s big move that sent Bitcoin barreling past US$5,000. Total capitalization reached a new 2019 high on Thursday when it surpassed $186 billion, although it has since pulled back. Market movements appear to be been driven by technical, rather than fundamental, signals at the moment.

In China, Bitcoin mining has been labeled as an “undesirable industry” by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission, which plans to abolish the mining farms that have sprung up in recent years. The market, however, remained unfazed by this latest Beijing clampdown on all things crypto. In fact, many industry observers are seeing this as a positive move for the wider crypto ecosystem as it will diminish the control China has over the mining process, and, goes the argument, decentralize it even further.

It may seem bad timing but Chinese mining rig manufacturer Bitmain Technologies has just unveiled the specifications for its latest Antminer 17 series. The machines are faster and more powerful than their predecessors and are needed as the mining process becomes computationally tougher over time. With the latest clampdown on mining farms it is very likely that companies will seek friendlier shores overseas to set up operations. Canada has been a preferred destination due to its favorable energy prices and crypto friendly government. 

China’s constant battle with crypto appears not to have hampered the public’s appetite for Bitcoin. Data from cnLedger reveals that Chinese traders have been buying up Bitcoin over the counter (OTC) in large quantities recently. This is the only way it can be done in the People’s Republic which has banned any form of trading, exchanges, chat groups and all forms of crypto. The levels have been so high that the premium for Tether, a supposed dollar-pegged stablecoin, has risen in China to over a dollar. Many are attributing this buying spree to the latest market surge which has seen Bitcoin reach new four-month highs.

In Japan, crypto exchange Liquid announced it had raised capital from investors at a valuation of more than $1 billion. It aims to use this to expand into new markets and offer new services, one of which could be a securities tokens platform. A third round of investment is now in process and those participating in previous rounds include IDG Capital, which owns exchange KuCoin, and Coinbase. Liquid, which says it has approximately 340 staff, has offices in Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.

South Korea’s largest crypto exchange, Bithumb, has not managed to escape the market bears during the year-long downtrend. The company posted a net loss of $180 million for 2018 but also says in the same period recorded an increase in sales of 17.5%, or about $343 million, according to the Korea Times. Bithumb has suffered a number of security breaches resulting in the theft of crypto-currency in recent months, which will have shaken consumer confidence in the exchange.

Authorities in Singapore have reportedly charged two company directors for their involvement in a crypto-currency scam. The offenses, related to OneCoin, came under Singapore’s Multi-Level Marketing and Pyramid Selling (Prohibition) Act. The pair was charged with promoting the scam and the Monetary Authority of Singapore has listed OneCoin on its Investor Alert List.

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