Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex has introduced margin trading for stablecoin Tether (USDT), according to a blog post published Dec. 21.

Bitfinex has launched margin trading for the USDT/USD pair, which would purportedly lead to more efficient price discovery and enable users to hedge the exposure taken on stablecoins. Along with a dedicated lending market, USDT will be available as collateral for margin positions, the post further reads.

While stablecoin margin trading is currently limited to USDT/USD, the exchange is planning to introduce margin trading for some other stablecoin pairings once sufficient liquidity is reached.

Earlier in December, Bitfinex and its spin-off Ethfinex added support for four new major USD-backed stablecoins, including USDC, True USD (TUSD), Paxos (PAX) and the Gemini dollar (GUSD). The four coins joined the already supported Ethereum-backed coin DAI and the industry stalwart, USDT, all to be traded against the U.S. dollar.

In late November, Bitfinex became the subject of probe by the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) in connection with alleged cryptocurrency market manipulation. The agency focused its investigation on whether or not USDT was used to artificially inflate Bitcoin (BTC) prices during last year’s meteoric rise.

The DoJ was reportedly looking into how Tether issues its new tokens and why the majority of USDT enters the market through Bitfinex, in the context of a broader enquiry into whether “market tricks” partially inflated crypto prices in recent years.

The DoJ’s allegedly intensified probe into activity on Bitfinex adds to prior investigations into possible misconduct. Both Bitfinex and Tether received subpoenas from U.S. regulators for undisclosed reasons back in December 2017, which purportedly relates to insistent doubt over Tether’s claims that USDT is backed one-to-one by the U.S. dollar.

The drastic decrease in crypto mining profitability has hit graphics processing unit (GPU) producers like Taiwan-based Nvidia hard. In Q4 2018, the firm experienced a massive sell-off of its shares, cutting the stock price by 54 percent and making it the worst performer in the S&P 500, CNBC reports on Dec. 21.

From 2016 to September 2018, Nvidia’s market value markedly increased from $14 billion to $175 billion as demand for its GPUs in artificial intelligence (AI) and cryptocurrency mining grew. In May, the firm reported its profits from crypto mining for the first time while forecasting a two-thirds drop in sales to miners for Q2.

Nvidia initially forecasted insignificant crypto mining-related sales in Q3, while the quarterly report in November revealed that GPU sales for blockchain-related applications had all but disappeared. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said that the company’s “near-term results reflect excess channel inventory post the cryptocurrency boom, which will be corrected.”

The disappearance of crypto-related sales has left the company with a “crypto hangover,” according to Huang. The cryptocurrency frenzy drove up prices for Nvidia’s GPUs, but once that demand disappeared, prices did not decrease quickly enough to attract customers who were waiting for more affordable cards.

In addition to the decrease in crypto mining sales, Nvidia’s data center segment failed to meet Wall Street expectations, even though revenue grew by 58 percent, per CNBC. Today, Nvidia stock is down 4.09 percent, closing at $129.57.

Chip stocks overall have performed poorly this year. The PHLX Semiconductor Index, which tracks major hardware producers like Nvidia and Advanced Micro Systems (AMD) is down 20.37 percent over the last three months. AMD’s share price is down 45.42 percent over the same period.

The post-mining boom hardware glut has seen a notable drop in prices. AMD’s popular Radeon RX580 graphics processing unit (GPU), which has been widely used by crypto miners, is now being sold for $180, down 67 percent from a peak average price around $550 in February 2018.

Decreased profitability in the current bear market has caused some miners to leave the business. Some mining firms in China have been selling off dated hardware that has reached its shutdown price by the kilogram in order to mitigate their losses. According to local reports, earnings from mining are no longer enough to cover electricity and other associated costs.

Over the past two months, despite the expectations of increased sales during the Christmas season, major retailers such as Target and Walmart have continued to record large losses.

Since November 9, the share price of Walmart has dropped from $105 to $87, by more than 17 percent, a steep loss for the largest retailer in the US market valued at $253 billion.

walmart stock
6-Month Price Chart of Walmart, Data From Google Finance

Other retailers like Target and Costco have recorded losses in the range of 20 percent to 30 percent, with Target suffering a 30.3 percent loss from $87.6 to $61 within a two-month span.

Worse Than Walmart For UK Retailers

According to a report released by FT, analysts are anticipating a massive sell-off in January and potential full-blown bankruptcies.

The report comes in a time in which the Office for National Statistics has shown a 1.4 percent monthly increase in sales for UK retailers with two days before Christmas.

However, while sales figures are high, Richard Lim, the chief executive of Retail Economics, said that the profit margins of retailers tend to drop during holiday seasons with large discounts.

Lim stated that the increase in sales are keeping retailers afloat in both the US and UK stock markets, but in January, both major and small retailers will experience the impact of Christmas discounts and perks provided to consumers.

“Pre-Christmas discounting is damaging for margins and I think we will see the effect of that in January,” Lim said.

Mike Ashley, the head of Sports Direct, went as far to say that retailers were “smashed to pieces” in the pre-Christmas season, informing investors about a likely market carnage in the first quarter of 2019 following a brutal Christmas season for most retailers.

Amidst the intensifying trade war between the US and China that has caused major stock markets in the likes of South Korea, Japan, China, and the US to struggle, and the uncertainty surrounding Britain’s plans to leave the European Union, one retail executive said that consumers have become more cautious in spending.

The executive, who asked to remain anonymous, said:

People see the headlines about no deal, and [Bank of England governor] Mark Carney talking about house prices falling 30 per cent, and they start to think: ‘do I really want to be loading up my credit card right now?’

Overall Bad Time For Investors

Throughout the fourth quarter of 2018, analysts have said that retailers are expected to demonstrate a steep decline in value due to the threats posed by Amazon, Alibaba, and the e-commerce sector on traditional retail.

However, the bloodbath in the US stock market has also taken a toll on e-commerce platforms and retailers. Since September, Amazon has lost 31.15 percent of its market cap as its share price plunged from $2,000 to $1,377.

6-Month Price Chart of Amazon, Data From Google Finance

With the Dow Jones below 23,000 points and several prominent analysts seeing a potential decline below 20,000 points, the US market is at risk of entering a bear market.

A bear market is generally considered as a 20 percent decline from an asset or a market’s all-time high. As of December, the Dow Jones is down 18 percent from its ATH reached on October 3.

Despite the market downturn in digital asset values, cryptocurrency automated teller machines (ATMs) are still in vogue. According to a tweet from cryptocurrency analytics firm DataLight, the number of crypto ATMs doubled in 2018 from 2,025 ATMs in 2017 to 4,051 ATMs, signaling an increase in the adoption of cryptocurrencies in general, despite the slump in price.

November will go down as a month investors won’t forget in a hurry, as bitcoin, along with the rest of the cryptocurrency market, experienced a massive slump in prices. Bitcoin, the dominant cryptocurrency, fell to $3,750 in November, as the market witnessed massive selloffs that would have bitcoin touch nearly $3,000 in December.

Data from Coin ATM Radar shows that while 68 bitcoin ATMs were closed in November, 209 new machines were also installed by operators all across the world. Bitcoin of America led the way, introducing 16 new ATMs, followed closely by CoinFlip Bitcoin ATMs and Localcoin, who installed 10 and 7 new ATMs, respectively.

While the U.S. remains the dominant country with 70 new installations, Peru, Albania and South Korea had their first bitcoin ATMs installed in November, the data from Coin ATM Radar revealed.

Bitcoin ATMs have also been a target of criminals. Security researchers at Trend Micro discovered malware that targets a service vulnerability in bitcoin ATMs, selling for $25,000, in an underground forum.

A senior researcher at Trend Micro, Fernando Mercês, commented on the vulnerability in his report, criticizing bitcoin ATMs for their lack of security standards, which make them easy to hack.

“Unlike regular ATMs, there is no single set of verification or security standards for Bitcoin ATMs. For example, instead of requiring an ATM, credit, or debit card for transactions, a Bitcoin ATM involves the use of mobile numbers and ID cards for user identity verification.”

They might not be as secure as traditional ATMs, but they are still finding meaningful uses cases across the world.

Bitcoin ATMs and Cannabis

While providing an easy avenue to trade bitcoin, these crypto ATMs have also created a channel for pot companies that are experiencing banking restrictions.

Bitcoin ATMs have made it easier for pot companies to receive payments from customers, thereby reducing their dependencies on cash. Cannabis cryptocurrency PotCoin also partnered with bitcoin ATM provider GENERAL BYTES (GB), making use of GB’s network of crypto ATMs to ease the transaction process for cannabis vendors.

Virtual Crypto Technologies also developed a proprietary crypto payment solution for cannabis dispensaries that enables them to exchange pot for bitcoin using a QR code placed on the shop’s point-of-sale interface.

Yesterday, an auction was held by cryptocurrency and blockchain artist @cryptograffiti for a piece titled “black swan,” which the artist made using “fiat and counterfeit detector pen ink.” The artist, who became involved with bitcoin in 2013, held the auction on a website where users could only bid via Lightning Network micropayments, with the first person to bid the smallest amount being the winner.

Cryptograffiti and Bitcoin Magazine would like to take this opportunity to announce the winner of the auction. Congratulations Twitter user @BTC_Spot!

The winning price was the first of several 1 millisatoshi bids (one hundred billionth of one bitcoin). At the time of writing, the US-dollar denominated value of the bid is approximately $0.000000037.

The auction marks a significant event for Lightning’s use among the Bitcoin community. It even served as a learning lesson for those who participated.

“Many others were unaware that sub-satoshi payments were possible via LN,” the artist told Bitcoin Magazine.

Fully concluded, the auction attracted 77 bids to the tune of 182,252 satoshis (0.00182252 BTC). Cryptograffiti pointed out that 14 bidders connected to his Lightning node the day before the auction after he sent out a tweet hinting at the event.

The Inspiration

As he explains in a Twitter thread, Cryptograffiti created “black swan” for two reasons. The first, to poke fun at mainstream media’s focus on the less relevant aspects of Bitcoin like its price, instead of the groundbreaking technology being built. The title itself is a seemingly playful nod to the black swan event theory, an event that is unexpected yet has paradigm-shifting ramifications.

He also created the piece to help spread awareness about the Lightning Network.

“The promise of micropayments was instrumental in my becoming an artist in the space,” he says. He continues to explain that it was in 2012 when he first recognized the impact micropayments could have for artists. He even began attaching public facing wallets to his street art in 2013 as a way to allow for tips.

The Setup

To his own admission, the artist was not technically skilled in setting up the payment processor. He reached out for assistance to Twitter user @notgrubles, who he states was a crucial player in getting the auction off the ground.

With @notgrubles’ help, the artist chose c-lightning, a standard compliant implementation of the Lightning Network protocol, and, using this, they set up nanotip. Nanotip is a web server built on Lightning Charge, a Blockstream-designed software package that makes it simple to build apps on Lightning.

“In addition to nanotip/Lightning Charge, I bought a CasaHODL node, set up BTCPayServer with Zap, and integrated Globee for merch payments,” the artist added.

“As a non-programmer, I still don’t have a firm grasp on everything, but I know more than I did before making black swan and I’m excited to see great strides being made in UX!”

When it comes to bitcoin mining, Canada is a natural.

A temperate climate helps to keep mining equipment cool, and plentiful renewable energy from hydroelectric dams gives Canadian provinces like British Columbia a natural advantage with cheaper electricity costs.

B.C. is sitting on a large surplus of hydroelectric energy, as depleted resources have resulted in the closures of many pulp and paper mills and traditional mines. The power surplus is also a result of the success of alternative energy and energy conservation initiatives.

Consequently, the B.C. government’s energy arm, BC Hydro, is actively looking for new businesses, including bitcoin miners, to take up the slack and help revive stricken resource towns, and it has proposed a discounted energy rate as an incentive.

BC Hydro, a B.C. government Crown corporation, is a leader in green energy programs in Canada.

Scott Howard, CEO of Toronto-based Full Stack Capital, told Bitcoin Magazine that he is encouraged by the B.C. proposal and that the province is a leader in alternative and green energy programs.

“BC Hydro and B.C. in general set the pace for public sector innovation in Canada. This is good news both for energy conservation and for bitcoin mining’s environmental footprint.”

He added, “Bitcoin mining as a base load strengthens the power grid. Effective power generation and distribution requires a stable base load that digital mining can provide.”

BC Hydro’s business development manager, Dina Matterson, said at an energy conference recently that half of the new inquiries the Crown corporation is getting are from the crypto-mining industry, and it is estimated that the inquiries could drum up 5,000 megawatts in new energy demand.

Matterson said they will be submitting a proposal in early 2019 to the British Columbia Utilities Commission, which regulates BC Hydro, for a “load attraction rate,” an initial discount on electricity for new corporate customers, including cryptocurrency companies.

“This rate would help BC Hydro compete with clean jurisdictions that have lower power rates than us,” she told the conference participants. “We need to get in the game.”

The B.C. government hopes to connect the lumber, pulp and paper, and traditional mining companies, which have invested in generating substations and transmission lines, with new bitcoin mining startups that would rent these power utilities at reduced rates.

For example, bitcoin miners in Ocean Falls, B.C., are successfully using previously abandoned power-generating stations and transmission lines, and a new bitcoin mine is under development in Houston, B.C., a once-thriving lumber town.

To date, BC Hydro has provided bitcoin miners with six megawatts of power, although the utility believes there are many more crypto miners operating in the province.

B.C.’s attempt to lure cryptocurrency entrepreneurs to make use of its abandoned infrastructure and surplus power resonates with global trends that signal an uptick in cryptocurrency mining.

A recent report from the University of Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance flagged the exponential increase in crypto-mining operations around the world in 2018.

China remains the top country to host mining farms, but the U.S. and Canada have witnessed a rapid growth of mining-farm openings over the past year, often associated with the availability of cheap hydroelectric power, says the report.

Ameer Rosic, CEO of Toronto-based Blockgeeks, is enthusiastic about the future of bitcoin mining, especially in the Canadian setting, telling Bitcoin Magazine:

“Since the beginning Canada has been at the forefront of Bitcoin. I think the timing couldn’t be better for Canada to attract more bitcoin miners. B.C. has very affordable electricity and the cost of ASICs has decreased tremendously. This is a golden opportunity to stimulate local economies and put Canada as a leading player in the bitcoin mining space.”

The United Kingdom tax collection service published its first detailed tax legislation for private cryptocurrency holders Dec. 19 following a lengthy consultation period.

Its new policy paper, “Cryptoassets for Individuals,” sets out likely tax obligations for private investors who buy, sell, get paid in and even lose cryptocurrency.

Capping months of uncertainty among U.K. taxpayers over what they need and need not report to authorities about their holdings, the latest information is officially endorsed by tax collection agency HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Specifically, individuals will be liable to pay either Capital Gains Tax (CGT) or Income Tax (IT) depending on the type of cryptocurrency transactions they are involved in.

In the case of receiving payment from an employer in cryptocurrency, employees would also have to pay social security contributions known as National Insurance (NI).

“The tax treatment of cryptoassets continues to develop due to the evolving nature of the underlying technology and the areas in which cryptoassets are used,” HMRC writes introducing the paper.

“As such, HMRC will look at the facts of each case and apply the relevant tax provisions according to what has actually taken place (rather than by reference to terminology). Our views may evolve further as the sector develops.”

The paper does not give information about businesses’ obligations, which authorities say will appear later.

Among the notable features of the HMRC’s position are tax liability in the case of loss or theft of cryptocurrency, for example through hacking of a wallet.

In such cases, the victim “still owns the assets and has a right to recover them,” it says, meaning CGT obligations remain until it becomes apparent they are forever inaccessible.

“Those who do not receive cryptoassets they pay for may not be able to claim a capital loss,” the paper adds.

“Those who pay for and receive cryptoassets, may be able to make a negligible value claim to HMRC if they turn out to be worthless.”

The U.K. had come under fire in the preceding months over various plans for cryptocurrency regulation which may see a ban on certain types of associated instruments such as Bitcoin futures.

A recent survey revealed high rates of ownership and interest in cryptocurrency, along with a strong belief in its future growth prospects.

Bitcoin (BTC) tumbled to 15-month lows earlier today, dashing hopes of a rally signaled by current extreme oversold conditions.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization fell to $3,200 on Bitstamp at 00:15 UTC – the lowest level since September 2017.

BTC was trapped in a five-day-long narrowing price range 24 hours ago and showed signs that it might break upwards with a strong move toward the crucial resistance at $3,633.

These bullish expectations were based largely on a premise that the sellers are facing exhaustion, as indicated by the 14-week relative strength index (RSI), having engineered a 49 percent price drop in the last four weeks.

Further, evidence of bargain hunting had emerged earlier this week in the form of a three-day inverted hammer candle.

Even so, BTC dived out of the narrowing price range in U.S. trading hours yesterday, killing the prospects of a short-term inverted hammer bullish reversal above $3,633.

BTC’s persistent failure to produce a notable price bounce despite extreme oversold conditions indicates that the bearish sentiment is very strong. As a result, a convincing break below the 200-week moving average (MA) support of $3,170 cannot be ruled out.

At press time, BTC is changing hands at $3,250 on Bitstamp, representing a 2 percent decline on a 24-hour basis.

4-hour chart

The symmetrical triangle breakdown seen in the 4-hour chart indicates a resumption of the sell-off from the Nov. 29 high of $4,410.

The stacking order of the 50-candle moving average (MA), below the 100-candle MA, below the 200-candle SMA, is a classic bear indicator. The RSI has also fallen back into bearish territory below 50.00.

BTC, therefore, risks falling to the psychological level of $3,000. On the way lower, it may encounter support at $3,179 (200-week MA).

Daily chart

As seen above, BTC has charted lower price highs (marked by arrows) along the downward sloping 10-day exponential moving average (EMA). Notably, BTC persistently failed to close above that EMA hurdle at the end of the last month.

Hence, the 10-day EMA, currently at $3,465, is the level to beat for the bulls.

View

  • The range breakdown on the hourly chart may have opened the doors for a deeper drop to $3,000.
  • The 14-week RSI remains below 30.00, marking oversold conditions. Recent price action, however, indicates that the market is paying little heed to the indicator.
  • A UTC close above the 10-day EMA of $3,465, if confirmed, could be considered a sign of short-term bullish reversal.

The Supreme Court of Greece has ruled in support of a decision to extradite the alleged former operator of now-defunct crypto exchange BTC-e Alexander Vinnik to France. A “correspondent at the scene” from major Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported the news Dec. 19.

As previously reported, 39-year old Russian national Vinnik, a.k.a “Mr. Bitcoin,” was first indicted by United States authorities and detained in Greece on July 25, 2017, on criminal charges of fraud and allegedly laundering up to $4 billion in Bitcoin (BTC) via BTC-e.

Russia and France have since both sought the defendant’s extradition in regard to a further series of fraud allegations. When a Thessaloniki court ruled in support of Vinnik’s extradition to France this summer, the defendant had appealed against the decision at the country’s highest judiciary.

TASS today reports that the Supreme Court discussed Vinnik’s extradition to France on Nov. 19, but had initially postponed the ruling to Nov. 29.

Since his detention back in 2017, Vinnik has been held in a Greek prison, and announced a hunger strike in late November in protest against the “arbitrariness” of the Greek judges. TASS today cites the defendant as claiming that:

“I have been fasting for 24 days already. Yesterday the last time I was weighed [in prison], I lost 8 kg according to the documents. But they did not immediately start weighing me, only on the third day. So I lost 9 kg exactly.”

Vinnik has reportedly stated he will only stop his hunger strike if he is extradited to Russia.

As previously reported, Vinnik’s legal representatives allegedly consider that his extradition to France will result in his further extradition to the U.S. Following the closure of BTC-e in July 2017, the U.S. has been seeking a penalty of $110 million from BTC-e and another $12 million from Vinnik for his alleged role in the exchange’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML) violations.

TASS today states that a decision over the conflicting extradition requests will likely be settled by the Greek Ministry of Justice, or possibly even the country’s leadership.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a comment this July accusing the Greek authorities of “continu[ing] to complicate relations with Russia,” and requesting that Russia’s extradition request be given priority over that of France.

Top crypto exchange Binance’s philanthropic arm, the Binance Charity Foundation (BCF), has opened a new fundraising channel on its blockchain-powered donation platform.

The new program is conducted in support of terminally ill patients and disadvantaged children in Malta and Gozo. The news was shared with Cointelegraph in a press release Dec. 19.

Dubbed the “2018 L-Istrina Campaign,” the new channel will raise funds in aid of national charity, The Malta Community Chest Fund (MCCFF), which works to improve the lives of Maltese and Gozitan individuals and families affected by sickness, disability, or economic vulnerability. The Foundation’s provision encompasses medical assistance, advisory services, financing, social assistance and care packages.

Based on MCCFF’s outreach to 15,000 beneficiaries in 2017, the new fundraising channel is targeting an equivalent number for this initiative. Recorded on the blockchain, donations to the fund are fully traceable.

The MCCFF has further pledged to release monthly updates disclosing the number of beneficiaries to date, the form of assistance they have been offered, and a breakdown of expenditure across the campaign’s various support categories.

According to the press release, Binance, as well as decentralized internet project TRON, have each committed to donate $100,000 in cryptocurrency to the fund. The total sum of donations will be reportedly announced during a 12-hour internationally-televised L-Istrina charity telethon, at an as yet undisclosed date.

Changpeng Zhao (CZ), CEO and founder of Binance, has commented that “with blockchain technologies, we can solve the transparency problem in charity,” thereby generating more trust and participation in charitable initiatives.

President of Malta, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, has responded positively to the blockchain-powered donation platform, saying it can allow companies in the space to express their “sound corporate social responsibility values, and to effectively show how the innovative technology of blockchain can be used for the social good.”

Binance unveiled its charity donation platform BCF this October, with an initial fundraising initiative for victims of the floods and landslides in Eastern Uganda. The platform supports donations in Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and the exchange’s native token, Binance Coin (BNB). At the time of the platform’s launch, the TRON Foundation pledged a donation of $3 million to BCF.

This September, Ripple launched its own formal social impact program, dubbed “Ripple for Good,” which pools $25 million from the firm together with $80 million in donations to invest in projects focused on education and financial inclusion.

Other major charitable initiatives in the crypto space this year have included the non-profit initiative GiveCrypto.org, which was launched by CEO of crypto exchange Coinbase Brian Armstrong this June.

Binance is currently the world’s largest crypto exchange, seeing over $1.1 billion in trade volume in the 24 hours before press time.