Digital asset markets have been grinding higher again as Bitcoin hit a 13-month high of US$9,800 on Friday. Which means that, so far, there appears to have been no negative market impact from the launch of Facebook’s highly centralized and controlled crypto effort, Libra. Also on Friday, crypto sector market capitalization reached a new 2019 high of just north of $295 billion, its highest level since July last year.
The Facebook Libra project has been dominating blockchain news this week, which is somewhat ironic since the social media giant’s cryptocurrency project not be further from the ethos of traditional decentralized and peer-to-peer digital assets. On June 18, Facebook released details about the project, which is a stable cryptocurrency reportedly backed by a basket of financial assets and running on a blockchain platform owned by Facebook and a consortium of other tech corporations.
Libra has already attracted the attention and indeed wrath of some US politicians who have called for a hearing into what US Senate Banking Committee member, Senator Sherrod Brown, called “a risky new cryptocurrency” that is run “out of a Swiss bank account.” Banking Committee Chairwoman Maxine Water is calling for a halt on the development of the currency, something she describes as Facebook’s “unchecked expansion” into people’s lives.
Facebook of course is not the only web company venturing into crypto. Japan’s largest messaging app, Line, is close to obtaining a license for a crypto exchange which may launch as early as this month. In addition to Japan, the Line app is wildly popular in Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand. A Bloomberg report says the firm has not, to date, been that profitable with its core business messaging services and, with the Bitcoin price knocking toward $10k, it is hoping the timing could prove right for a new crypto exchange launch in Japan.
The Governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, Elvira Nabiullina, has reportedly told local media that the bank is now studying the possibility of launching its own cryptocurrency. Russian news agency TASS reported that she does not consider the national currency a “private asset” so a digital version would not be either. Nabiullina also, however, questioned whether society would be ready to give up cash. Some nations such as Singapore are already well on the way to digitization of money, but Russia still seems keen to keep its bank notes. Nabiullina added that cash provides a level of privacy and anonymity that a state-controlled cryptocurrency cannot.
South Korea’s antitrust regulator, the Fair Trade Commission, has told five crypto exchanges to change their terms of service to make them accept liability for cyber attacks, system malfunctions or human error. One of the country’s and world’s largest exchanges, Bithumb, made the adjustments after receiving the recommendation from the FTC in April last year. Previously the five exchanges had told users they would not be held accountable for losses of digital assets. The move is the latest by South Korean authorities to ensure more protection for crypto traders and investors.
Last week’s massive protests in Hong Kong certainly grabbed the attention of mainstream media but there was, of course, also a crypto angle. Escalating political tensions have sent Hong Kong’s wealthy seeking safer climes for their finances, and Bitcoin has been one of them. The demand for Bitcoin has sent Hong Kong prices higher than other global market prices, with the price difference reaching as much as $160 per Bitcoin on some local exchanges. The implementation of the proposed extradition law would also grant Beijing the power to freeze assets so crypto became clear safety net for many looking for alternatives, which only furthers the case for those who call Bitcoin the new gold safe haven asset.
Major Japanese manufacturers are reportedly set to use blockchain technology in a data sharing pact aimed at improving efficiency. Corporations such as Mitsubishi Electric and Yaskawa Electric have previously closely guarded their production data for fear of competitors. The new initiative will give company bosses the option of what to share, with whom, and whether to charge a fee for it. Japanese Internet of Things group, Industrial Value Chain Initiative, will oversee the project which is expected to begin early next year. The project aims to lift Japan’s manufacturing sector as a whole through collaboration and data sharing.