FILE PHOTO: Broken representation of the Bitcoin virtual currency, placed on a monitor that displays stock graph and binary codes, are seen in this illustration picture, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
TOKYO/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Bitcoin extended its sharp tumble of the past 24 hours, skidding more than seven percent on Wednesday in a rapid downturn in fortunes as investors were spooked by fears regulators might clamp down on an asset whose value has skyrocketed in the past year.
The price of the world’s biggest and best known cryptocurrency fell to as low as $10,567 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, not far from its six-week nadir of $10,162 touched the previous day. The session’s high was $11,794.07.
It led the fall in cryptocurrencies, although others such as Ethereum and Ripple, have also slid sharply this week after reports South Korea and China could ban trading, sparking worries of a wider regulatory crackdown.
“Cryptocurrencies could be capped in the current quarter ahead of G20 meeting in March, where policymakers could discuss tighter regulations,” said Shuhei Fujise, chief analyst at Alt Design.
At its lows on Tuesday, bitcoin had fallen 25 percent in the session, its biggest daily decline in four months. It was a far cry from its peak close to $20,000 in December, when the virtual currency had risen nearly 2000 percent over the year.
Tuesday’s decline followed reports that South Korea’s finance minister had said banning trading in cryptocurrencies was still an option and that the government plans a set of measures to clamp down on the “irrational” cryptocurrency investment craze.
Separately, a senior Chinese central banker said authorities should ban centralised trading of virtual currencies as well as individuals and businesses that provide related services.
“Bitcoin is deciding whether this is the moment to crash and burn,” said Steven Englander, head of strategy at New York-based Rafiki Capital.
“My conjecture is that cryptocurrency holders are trying to decide whether to abandon bitcoin because its limitations mean it will be superseded by better products or bet that it can thrive despite them.”
Makoto Sakuma, analyst at Tokyo-based NLI Research Institute, said trading volumes had been low despite the volatility.
“I would say the strong rally in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies we saw last year is over,” he said.
“But while the rally phase is over, I don’t think it is right to say bitcoin is finished.”
Bitcoin futures maturing on Wednesday on the Cboe Global Markets Inc’s Cboe Futures Exchange were at $10,740, with 1,586 contracts traded, after having opened at $10,850. The open interest was 2,895 contracts. The Cboe 14 March 2018 contract was quoted at $11,130.
The futures are cash-settled contracts based on the auction price of bitcoin in U.S. dollars on the Gemini Exchange, which is owned and operated by virtual currency entrepreneurs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
The MVIS CryptoCompare Ripple Index, which covers the performance of a digital assets portfolio which invests in Ripple (XRP), a cryptocurrency developed by Ripple Labs, dropped 15 percent to $7,298 on Wednesday.
That equity index has seen a 66 percent slide in its value since the start of the year. Ripple itself was quoted at $1.15 on website CoinMarketCap, down from a high of $3.81 on Jan 4.
“The run-up in bitcoin created a mystique of one-way trading which is being shaken but the pricing requires faith that there will always be demand,” Englander wrote.
“This is far from guaranteed given the existence of alternatives with better characteristics.”
Reporting by Hideyuki Sano in TOKYO; Writing by Vidya Ranganathan; Editing by Shri Navaratnam
EXCLUSIVE: G20 financial heads to urge crypto-asset monitoring to safeguard financial stability
Cryptocurrencies are seen on a website that tracks the value of initial coin offerings (ICO) in this illustration photo taken September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The world’s financial leaders will call on international standard-setting bodies on March 20 for stronger monitoring of crypto-assets and to assess the need for a multilateral response as such assets could at some point threaten financial stability.
The call appears in a draft communique prepared for the meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s 20 biggest economies in Buenos Aires on March 19-20, seen by Reuters.
The financial leaders will say the technological innovation behind crypto-currencies has the potential to improve the efficiency and inclusiveness of the financial system.
“Crypto currencies, however, raise issues with respect to consumer and investor protection, tax evasion, money laundering and terrorist financing. At some point they could have financial stability implications,” the draft communique adds.
“We agree that international standard setting bodies strengthen their monitoring of crypto-assets and their risks… and assess whether multilateral responses may be needed.”
Regulators globally have raised the alarm over cryptocurrencies, saying they may aid money laundering and terrorist financing, hurt consumers and undermine trust in the global financial system.
Japan was the first country to adopt a national system to oversee cryptocurrency trading. It carried out checks on several exchanges this year after the theft of $530 million from one exchange, Coincheck Inc, in January.
France and Germany have said they will make joint proposals to regulate the bitcoin cryptocurrency market.
The head of the European Union’s watchdog said a short-term strategy could be to focus on applying anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules, warning consumers of the risk of trading in cryptocurrencies and preventing banks from holding them.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said last week that many online trading platforms for cryptocurrencies should be registered with the regulator and subject to additional rules, in a further sign regulators are cracking down on the digital currency sector.
In a statement, the SEC said these “potentially unlawful” platforms may be giving investors an unearned sense of safety by labeling themselves as “exchanges.” The regulator said these platforms need to register with the SEC as a regulated national securities exchange or as an alternate trading system, or ATS.
Virtual currencies have existed for years but speculation in them has recently ballooned – along with scams promising investors returns of over 1,000 percent in weeks.
In a time of volatile markets, hackers are also active in the sector.
Bitcoin, the best known virtual currency, lost over half its value earlier this year after surging more than 1,300 percent last year.
Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Hugh Lawson
Singapore explores rules to protect investors in cryptocurrencies
Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture, February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore’s central bank is assessing whether additional regulations are required to protect investors in cryptocurrencies, an official said in a speech released on Thursday.
The city-state – which is aiming to be a hub for financial technology and so-called initial coin offerings in Asia – does not regulate virtual currencies and last year called for the public to exercise“extreme caution” over investment in cryptocurrencies.
Its central bank does regulate activities involving virtual currencies if they pose specific risks. For example, it imposes anti-money laundering requirements on intermediaries providing virtual currency services.
“We are assessing if additional regulations are required for investor protection,” Ong Chong Tee, deputy managing director (Financial Supervision), Monetary Authority of Singapore said.
Other countries such as South Korea, where trading in cryptocurrencies is more popular, are looking at ways to regulate that activity.
Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and John Geddie; Editing by Kim Coghill
Cryptocurrency traders to launch lawsuit against Coincheck on Thursday – lawyer
Cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck’s signboard is pictured in front of a building where their office is located in Tokyo, Japan February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
TOKYO (Reuters) – A group of cryptocurrency traders will file a lawsuit against Coincheck Inc on Thursday over last month’s theft of $530 million (£382 million) in digital money from the Tokyo-based exchange, a lawyer representing the claimants said.
The ten traders will file the claim at the Tokyo District Court over Coincheck’s freezing of cryptocurrency withdrawals, Hiromu Mochizuki, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told Reuters.
The traders will request that Coincheck allows them to withdraw cryptocurrencies to “wallets” – folders used for storing digital money – outside the exchange, Mochizuki said. The group may launch a second lawsuit at the end of the month to claim for damages over the heist, he added.
Coincheck representatives did not immediately respond to phone and emailed requests for comment.
The Coincheck incident highlighted the risks in trading an asset that policymakers are struggling to regulate, and has renewed the focus on Japan’s framework for overseeing these exchanges.
The Tokyo-based exchange, which froze all withdrawals of yen and digital currencies following the theft, resumed yen-withdrawals from Tuesday, according to posts on Twitter.
Coincheck said on Friday it would allow customers to withdraw yen after confirming the integrity of its system security. It added it would keep restrictions on cryptocurrency withdrawals until it could guarantee the secure resumption of its operations.
Coincheck is set to file on Tuesday a report with regulators on the heist, the safety of its systems, and measures it will take to prevent a repeat.
Reporting by Thomas WilsonEditing by Shri Navaratnam