Joseph Lubin, co-founder of major cryptocurrency Ethereum (ETH), declared that he is “calling the cryptobottom of 2018” in a tweet Dec. 21.

According to Lubin, the crypto market’s bottom “is marked by an epic amount of fear, uncertainty, and doubt,” specifically from industry media and social commentators, which he refers to as “our friends in the 4th and crypto-5th estates.”

Continuing in a Twitter thread, the founder of Ethereum blockchain-focused software firm ConsenSys then evidently addressed his firms recently reported major layoffs:

“ConsenSys remains healthy and is engaging in a rebalancing of priorities and activities which started about nine months ago.”

He stated that Consensys continues investing in projects — in its role as a blockchain tech incubator and venture firm — and hiring for internal projects that “remain core to our forward looking-business.”

In the same thread, Lubin complained about “an epic amount of conjecture and preemptive paranoia” concerning “situations journalists and bloggers don’t have real data for, actual insight into, or understanding of.”

Concluding, Lubin reiterated his optimism about the future of ConsenSys and Ethereum, stating:

“The sky is not falling. From my perspective the future looks very bright. […] Peaking [sic] into 2019, if you could see the landscape through my eyes, you’d have to wear shades.”

Reports surfaced this week — citing sources familiar with the matter — that ConsenSys is spinning out startups it previously backed, some of them without financial support. The sources reported that the number of employees to be laid off could be anywhere between 50 and 60 percent of ConsenSys’ 1,200 person workforce.

This past week, Cointelegraph reported that in comparison to more significant job cuts in various industries globally, the current slump in the cryptocurrency markets and ensuring job cuts in associated companies seem relatively benign.

In September, Ethereum’s other co-founder Vitalik Buterin had pointed out that there is no chance that the cryptocurrency and blockchain space will see “1,000-times growth” again.

Sunday, Dec. 23 — all of the top 20 cryptocurrencies are seeing moderate gains, with Bitcoin’s (BTC) price going above $4,000 again, according to CoinMarketCap data.

Market visualization

Market visualization from Coin360

At press time, Bitcoin is up nearly four percent on the day, trading at $4,050. Looking at its weekly chart, the current price is lower than the Friday’s high of almost $4,200; but the cryptocurrency is still trading significantly up from $3,294 — the point at which it started this week.

Bitcoin 7-day price chart

Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ripple (XRP) — the second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization — has gained over five percent on the day, trading at $0.374 as of press time.

On the weekly chart, the current price is significantly higher than $0.292, the price at which XRP started the week. However, the current price is slightly lower than the high of $0.389 reached on Wednesday.

Ripple 7-day price chart

Ripple 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ethereum (ETH) remains the third largest cryptocurrency by market cap, seeing a 15 percent value increase over the last 24 hours. At press time, ETH is trading at $128, having started the day at $111 and hitting an intra-day high of $133.

On the weekly chart, the current price is notably higher than $87, which was the value of ETH on Monday.

Ethereum 7-day chart

Ethereum 7-day chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Among the top 20 cryptocurrencies, some are reporting more significant growth rates. Namely, NEO has gained 12 percent, and EOS is also up nearly 12 percent. Cardano (ADA), Litecoin (LTC), IOTA and Ethereum Classic (ETC) are all up almost 10 percent.

The combined market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies has surged to over $135 billion at press time. This places the current market cap near its weekly high of over $137 billion, after having started the week at just $104 billion.

As Cointelegraph reported recently, co-founder of Ethereum, Joseph Lubin, declared on Twitter that he is “calling the cryptobottom of 2018.” He further added that from his perspective “the future looks very bright.”

Earlier this week, two United States congressmen introduced a bipartisan bill titled “Token Taxonomy Act,” which proposes to exempt crypto assets from being considered securities.

A team that includes representatives from the Bank of Israel has issued a formal request for information about Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), published on its website Dec. 18.

The request — the goal of which is, as per the title, the “Regulatory Coordination of Virtual Assets”— states that “the regulators of the Israeli financial system believe that there is room to renew and strengthen cooperation and coordination among all regulators and the public” regarding DLT.

Besides the country’s central bank, the team reportedly includes representatives from the country’s Securities Authority, the Ministries of Finance and Justice, the Tax Authority, the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority and various other local regulatory bodies.

The document asks for information pertaining to barriers to the development of the local DLT industry. The text inquires explicitly about problems encountered by local DLT companies, fundraisers, investors and consumers dealing with virtual assets as examples.

Moreover, the request inquires about the risks inherent in the use of virtual assets and the opportunities of DLT in the finance industry. Lastly, the statement also asks how DLT can help address issues regarding Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and terrorism financing.

As per the statement, interested parties are invited to submit relevant information until Dec. 31, 2018.

As Cointelegraph reported at the beginning of November, an Israeli study group exploring digital currency options has recommended that the country’s central bank not issue its own cryptocurrency.

At the beginning of December, Ehud Barak, a former Israeli Prime Minister, compared digital currencies to Ponzi schemes. He reportedly stated that “he would never invest” in crypto as “Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies [are] a Ponzi scheme.”

The Chinese fintech incubation zone located in the Guangdong province has officially started its operations, Chinese news outlet Chinese Software Developer Network (CSDN) reports Dec. 21.

According to the article, the zone — which officially opened Dec. 20 — has a total area of 120 square kilometers and already hosts the headquarters of over 20 companies. The zone and its administration will reportedly offer the companies project financing, office space and policy guidelines, and will overall “promote the transformation and application of technological achievements.”

CSDN notes that the Guangdong financial high-tech zone will “focus on the major needs and major pain points of the financial [industries] encouraging blockchain and other technologies in finance, manufacturing, trade.” The zone will begin with fostering pilot projects, and then will move forward in order to “culvative a group of blockchain financial technology enterprises and innovation teams.”

In November, the “Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao Dawan District Blockchain Alliance” had been established to promote innovation and sustain the development of blockchain tech. CSDN mentions the three districts as areas for expanding the use of the technology.

China, which has long been cracking down on cryptocurrency by banning both domestic and foreign exchanges, and even crypto-related social accounts, seems to be heavily investing in blockchain technology. As Cointelegraph reported this week, a media copyright protection alliance has been created in Beijing to provide copyright protection employing blockchain technology.

Also in December, Shenzhen, a major city in the Guangdong Province and home to the first economic special zone in China, announced that it will use blockchain technology for electronic tax invoices.

American global telecommunications conglomerate Comcast aims to make its blockchain initiative Blockgraph commercially available in 2019, according to a press release published Dec. 21.

“Comcast is currently working with NBCUniversal to test Blockgraph’s capabilities with plans of incorporating it into its addressable offering in early 2019,” states the release.

Comcast is a global media company founded in 2001, that provides cable television, Internet and telecoms services. Comcast is purportedly the second largest broadcasting company in the world in terms of revenue and largest TV company in the United States. The company’s consolidated revenue for the third quarter of 2018 was $22.1 billion.

According to Comcast, its Cable Advertising division initiated the next phase of its Blockgraph platform — a product designed to secure personal data and share information —  which will subsequently lead to the project’s launch in 2019. Comcast is working on the project with other industry players like mass media conglomerate Viacom and advertising sales firm Spectrum Reach, among others.

Blockgraph will purportedly provide an “identity layer” for the TV industry, by means of which media companies can share non-identifiable audience data. The peer-to-peer platform aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of TV marketing and advertising. President of Spectrum Reach David Kline commented:

“It’s imperative that the use of data prioritizes the privacy of consumers’ personal information. Blockgraph’s technology offers enhanced security and privacy protections by allowing all players within the TV ecosystem to directly share insights derived from anonymized and aggregated information.”

Comcast has been maligned in the American media for being a de facto monopoly in many regions, and has even been called the “Worst Company in America” by some publications. Earlier today, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit against Comcast Corporation/Xfinity, alleging that it has charged customers more than it promised, in addition to charging for unordered services and products.

In addition to its own products, Comcast has supported other blockchain development projects. In March, New York-based blockchain startup Blockdaemon closed a $3 million venture capital seed round led by the telecoms giant. The funds were set to be used to “enhance infrastructure options, and to help customers run multi-tenant networks across all sorts of different blockchains.”

United States lawmakers have introduced a bill to levy further sanctions on Iranian financial institutions and the development and use of the national digital currency. HR 7321 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Mike Gallagher on Dec. 17.

In a bid to combat money laundering and terrorism-related activities, the “Blocking Iran Illicit Finance Act” calls for sanctions on the Iranian financial sector and on the development and use of the national cryptocurrency.

The act specifically prohibits transactions, financing or other dealings related to an Iranian digital currency, and would also introduce sanctions on foreign individuals engaged in the sale, supply, holding or transfer of the digital currency.

The act also calls for a report to Congress on the government of Iran’s progress in developing a sovereign digital currency. A corresponding bill was introduced in the Senate by former presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz on Dec. 13.

The U.S. government introduced sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program in 2005, while the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act in 2010. The sanctions affected the financial sector of the country, barring financial institutions of Iran from directly accessing the U.S. financial system.

The sanctions were lifted in 2015 after the country agreed to dial down its nuclear program to meet standards set out by International Atomic Energy Agency in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

However, in May 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that America would withdraw from the JCPOA that was brokered under his predecessor President Barack Obama. Sanctions were subsequently reintroduced.

Many Iranians have turn to cryptocurrency as a way to skirt sanctions. In May, Mohammad Reza Pourebrahimi, the head of the Iranian Parliamentary Commission for Economic Affairs, referred to cryptocurrencies as a promising way for Iran to avoid U.S. dollar transactions, as well as a possibly replace the SWIFT interbank payment system.

As Cointelegraph reported earlier in December, Iranians are turning to Bitcoin (BTC) mining due to economic difficulties. Despite the recent crash in crypto markets and fluctuations in the national rial currency caused by sanctions, Iranian people are still reportedly managing to gain profits from mining Bitcoin.

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.

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.

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.