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.

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.

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.

There are thousands of pump-and-dump groups on popular messaging apps, a study conducted by the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) revealed Dec. 18.

Pump-and-dump is the fraudulent practice of perpetrators encouraging unwitting investors to buy an asset to inflate its price artificially, and then selling it when the price gets high enough.

This practice is not new, Cointelegraph having reported last year about Telegram groups organizing pump-and-dumps. The newly published data, however, “suggest that [the pump-and-dump] phenomenon is widespread and often quite profitable.”

According to an article on the study, published by Bloomberg Dec. 19, the researchers have identified 4,818 pump-and-dump attempts between January and July this year, studying data scraped from messaging platforms Telegram and Discord.

The academics admit that while the pump-and-dump schemes reviewed by them were conducted in a similar manner to those that already took place in the past, “the recent explosion of nearly 2,000 cryptocurrencies in a largely unregulated environment has greatly expanded the scope for abuse.”

The paper notes that “pumping obscure coins (with low volume) is much more profitable than pumping the dominant coins in the ecosystem,” but at the same time “Bitcoin is not immune from the pump-and-dump phenomenon.” The report has managed to identify 76 Bitcoin (BTC) pump-and-dump groups on Telegram and six on Discord.

As Cointelegraph reported this month, two bills addressing crypto market manipulation, dubbed “The Virtual Currency Consumer Protection Act of 2018” and “The U.S. Virtual Currency Market and Regulatory Competitiveness Act of 2018,” compiled in mid-November, are set to go before the United States House of Representatives.

The world’s second-largest stock exchange, NASDAQ, said in November that its market surveillance technology can “stamp out manipulation” in crypto markets. The first NASDAQ’s crypto client who adopted its surveillance system is Gemini, the crypto exchange owned by the Winklevoss twins.

A research report by the Hong Kong Exchange (HKEX) argued that fintech firms using cryptocurrency should be subjected “to the governance by the Securities Law”.

HKEX Finds Risks In Large-Scale Deployment of Blockchain In Securities Industry

The stock exchange of Hong Kong, Asia’s third-largest operator by market cap, published a report on fintech applications and related regulatory framework. Focusing on blockchain and AI applications in the securities industry, the paper explored how they could be integrated into trading, clearing, settlement, and regulation, in a feasible way.

The exchange’s Chief China Economist’s Office and Innovation Lab discussed how blockchain is regulated differently in different jurisdictions and found that the “principle of consistency requires that […] the issuance of digital currencies and digital funds must be governed under the existing securities regulatory framework”.

“The public fund-raising activities of shares issuance by issuers — which do so with merely a prospectus published on the Internet but without any underwriter nor compliance with the IPO registration procedures or strict disclosure requirements — must be rectified by subjecting them to the governance by the Securities Law.”

The report also found challenges for blockchain in private equity markets from a legal compliance perspective as e-certificates of ownership need to be approved by regulators as well as legal departments.

“To recognize equity rights and other corporate operations, regulators may need the help of multiple centers to enable related authoritative entities to participate in the blockchain for exercising their respective responsibilities and at the same time to enable information transparency and timely sharing.”

The authors also show concern about the risks of a large scale deployment of blockchain in the securities industry.

“As each node has a ledger of the whole chain, any successful hacking will not only expose data of the hacked node to theft but also expose all data in the full ledger to potential replication.”

As to the applications of blockchain in the securities industry, the document explained that its distributed, decentralized, encrypted, extensible, and programmable nature, have the potential of being used in post-trade clearing and settlement, as well as asset rehypothecation and in the private equity market.

Hong Kong Stock Exchange was recently on the news after Bitmain, one of the largest players in the crypto mining industry, filing for an initial public offering on the exchange and disclosing $2.5 billion revenue in 2017 alone, as well as gross profit of $1.2 billion and cryptocurrency holdings of approximately $105 million in cash.

Nordic banking giant Nordea Bank is allegedly implicated in a multi-million money laundering scandal. Reportedly, the case is related to another recent money laundering scheme involving Denmark’s Danske Bank.


NORDEA IN HOT WATER 

Banking giant Nordea Bank, headquartered in Helsinki, is alleged to have accepted criminally-sourced funds from banks located in Lithuania and Estonia.

The giant confirmed that it’s aware of the report on Tuesday October 16th:

We are aware of the report, and at Nordea we work closely with the relevant authorities in the countries in which we operate, including the Nordic Financial Intelligence Units.

According to Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT, some 365 individual accounts at the bank have allegedly received payments from shell companies amounting to 150 million euros. What is more, the media, which claims to have access to the report, outlines that part of those payments came from the Estonian branch of Danske Bank.

Danske Bank

Bitcoinist reported earlier in October that Denmark’s Danske Bank found itself at the center of a tremendous Russian money laundering scandal, alleging that it has illegitimately processed some $235 billion.

AND YET, CRYPTOCURRENCIES PRESENT A THREAT?

Danske Bank reportedly laundered more money than the entire cryptocurrency market capitalization alone. That’s one bank at one location.

According to the report mentioned above, Nordea is also at the center of yet another 150 million money laundering scandal. This is the same bank which banned all of its 31,000 employees from trading Bitcoin $6446.93 -0.11% because of its “high risks.”

Back in February, another major Dutch bank – Rabobank, was also fined for accepting at least $369 million in illegal proceeds from drug trafficking and other activity from the period between 2009 and 2012.

Rabobank also warned against the risks of Bitcoin. Quickly after that, the bank took a major U-turn and announced that it plans to offer a cryptocurrency wallet.

Coincheck NEM laundered

The obvious conclusions aside, it’s important to note that multiple international governmental institutions have already spoken up on the risks of cryptocurrencies associated with illicit activities.

A report from the Financial Services and Treasury of Hong Kong on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment revealed that cryptocurrencies are widely left out of organized crime.

The National Crime Agency of the UK, in its National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing report of 2017 also outlined that the risks of cryptocurrencies used for money laundering is “relatively low.”

Crypto exchange Coinbase is shutting down its institutional-investor focused index fund product, a spokesperson told CoinDesk.

The spokesperson told CoinDesk that the Coinbase Index Fund – first launched earlier this year – will be formally closed by the end of the month, with customers instead directed to the recently-announced Coinbase Bundle product instead. The news was first reported Thursday by The Block.

The spokesperson said:

“After assessing demand from retail, accredited and institutional investors, Coinbase has decided to shut down Coinbase Index Fund. We will focus on providing diversified exposure to all investors through Coinbase Bundle.”

Unlike the index fund, the bundle is open to all Coinbase customers, with no accreditation required. The minimum required investment is only $25 as well, compared to $250,000 for the fund.

“We’ve decided to refocus the resources devoted to managing the Coinbase Index Fund to other parts of the business,” the spokesperson concluded.

The Coinbase Index Fund was first announced in March, though it did not go live until mid-June, when product lead Rueben Bramanathan wrote that institutional investors could invest anywhere from $250,000 to $20 million into the product.

At launch, the fund exposed U.S.-based investors to bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum, ethereum classic and litecoin, which were weighted by market capitalization.

Coinbase also announced its intention to add further assets to the fund should they be listed on any of its trading platforms as well.

The confirmation comes a day after Coinbase announced it was adding the 0x Protocol token (ZRX) to its professional trading platform, Coinbase Pro. The exchange only allowed deposits of the token until Friday morning, and launched full trading later in the day.

That being said, retail investors cannot yet access or trade ZRX through coinbase.com or its mobile apps. Coinbase said Thursday that the token would be added to these platforms at some future point.

A recent study from Juniper Research states that the cryptocurrency market could “implode” and that transaction volumes are decreasing, Bloomberg reported Oct. 9.

In a report dubbed “The Future of Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin & Altcoin Trends & Challenges 2018-2023” Juniper assessed the challenges of digital currencies, with a focus on technical, social and regulatory concerns. The survey also analyzed such issues like regulatory developments across the market, exchange failure, hacker attacks, and blockchain forking and their impact on crypto volatility.

Per Juniper, daily transaction volumes with Bitcoin (BTC) have dropped from an average of around 360,000 a day in the end of 2017 to 230,000 in September 2018. Regarding daily transaction values, they saw a downward trend from over $3.7 billion to less than $670 million in the same period.

In the first quarter of the current year, crypto transactions on the market as a whole reportedly amounted to slightly over $1.4 trillion, while in 2017 the figure was less than $1.7 trillion. By the second quarter, transaction values fell by 75 percent, with total market capitalization down under $355 billion. Juniper stated:

“Based on activity during the first half of Q3, Juniper estimates a further 47 percent quarter-on-quarter drop in transaction values in that quarter […] In short, given our concerns around both the innate valuation of Bitcoin, and of the operating practices of many exchanges, we feel that the industry is on the brink of an implosion.”

Juniper’s research echoes a recent analysis conducted by Diar, where the firm stated that in the third quarter of 2018, San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase’s U.S. dollar volumes hit a 1-year low.

In the same period, crypto mining revenues have already surpassed results in 2017, but miners themselves see little profit, according to Diar. Mining is gradually becoming profitable only for “big guns” as electricity fees are constantly increasing. Diar assessments show that miners paying retail electricity prices have shifted towards unprofitability for the first time this September.

One of the world’s largest cryptocurrency and bitcoin mining companies, Bitman’s Antpool, has entered into a sponsorship agreement with popular NBA team Houston Rockets.

A Step Towards Expansion

The partnership signed by both outfits is for the 2018-2019 professional season and will stand out as one of the significant moves by the China-based company towards achieving its expansion goals into the Houston area. At the same time, this joins in the increasing number of similar awareness and publicity programs being experienced by cryptocurrency in recent times, especially in associating with the sporting industry.

According to AntPool overseas operations manager Haijiao Li, there is no better way for his company to continue with its momentum in expanding to the U.S. than partnering with the Houston Rockets. He describes the NBA outfit as most popular team in China — Chinese Hall of Famer Yao Ming played for the Rockets — and a legendary basketball club with global recognition.

“We’re excited to work with AntPool as a conduit in the U.S. for their ever-growing business,” added Rockets vice president of corporate development John Croley. “The Rockets are always looking to stay ahead ofthe curve with technology both on and off the court and AntPool’s prowess with crypto currency makes for agreat partnership.

It is obvious knowledge that the crypto industry is still trying to find its way into the mainstream. This phenomenon requires a lot of awareness and proper education in order to encourage reasonable adoption. Efforts such as these are becoming more popular in the industry and also seem to be delivering expected results.

An Important Development For Crypto

Bitmain Antpool Houston Rockets
Source: Bitmain

Li acknowledges the increasing number of mainstream cryptocurrency partnerships as an important step towards the conversion of consumers to adopt and understand bitcoin and other digital assets.

“As the cryptocurrency industry around the globe continues to evolve and develop, it is going to be more and more important for companies like AntPool to lead the conversation and conversion of consumers to adopt and understand digital currencies. It is an exciting time, and we welcome Rockets fans and those traveling to Houston to visit our showcase at Toyota Center and learn more about the technology that will change the world.”

Prior to this time, CCN reported similar partnerships by other cryptocurrency companies with a number of sporting outfits both in the field of baseball and football, among other sports. The reason for such partnerships is easy to understand based on the volume of audience that professional sports teams attract. This same philosophy is being applied by companies that partner with celebrities in the entertainment industry.

If there is one thing that the cryptocurrency industry needs now, it is awareness and proper education. Therefore, while individual companies make efforts for their own publicity and expansion, the overall positive impact that they have on the industry at large cannot be overemphasized.