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Barclays Considers Possibility of Cryptocurrency Trading Desk as Institutional Interest Grows

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Barclays Plc is weighing the possibility of launching its own cryptocurrency trading desk, a move that would likely boost institutional adoption of the digital asset class. Though the bank later clarified that a crypto trading operation is not currently being developed, it did acknowledge that it had opened dialogue with clients.

Gauging Client Interest

Bloomberg reported Monday that Barclays is currently gauging institutional demand for cryptocurrency to determine if the new business model is feasible. Quoting unnamed sources, the report indicated that a preliminary assessment had been undertaken, although it is unclear what it revealed. The same source also said that a crypto-trading operation would require approval from CEO Tim Throsby and possibly Jes Staley, who also serves as a company CEO.

A spokesperson at the British bank later issued the following statement:

“We constantly monitor developments in the digital currency space and will continue to have a dialog with our clients on their needs and intentions in this market.”

Gauging Institutional Demand

Barclays is the United Kingdom’s second-largest bank by assets and its venture into crypto would likely spur wider adoption within institutional circles. For many, institutional capital is necessary to overcome liquidity constraints currently plaguing the market. For traders, ‘liquidity constraints’ generate extreme fluctuations in prices, which makes it difficult to gauge supply/demand characteristics in the market.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will become the first major bank to set up a virtual currency trading desk. The new business venture is expected to be up and running by the end of June, if not earlier, according to reports that first circulated in December. While Goldman will almost assuredly make markets in bitcoin, it’s unclear what other cryptocurrencies will be supported. Not surprisingly, Goldman strategists believe most digital assets are headed for zero, an opinion shared by the likes of Vitalik Buterin and others.

We’ve seen what ‘institutional demand’ can do for cryptocurrencies. The market enjoyed unprecedented gains in November and December amid news that major exchanges CBOE and CME Group were planning to launch bitcoin futures. Now, CBOE is championing bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in its effort to democratize cryptocurrency.

Though initial uptake in bitcoin futures was tepid, this is expected to change as investors more averse to risk look for safer ways to enter the market. Futures are attractive to those who want exposure to bitcoin but do not want to own the cryptocurrency outright. Futures offer a regulated environment for trading bitcoin-based products without having to rely on unregulated exchanges and the threat of cyber theft that comes with them.

There’s enough evidence out there to suggest that many institutional investors are planning to venture into cryptocurrency (including George Soros). A survey carried out in November by Triad and Datatrek Research revealed that more than a third (36%) of institutional investors were considering buying bitcoin while 19% already did. Additionally, 41% of respondents said they thought bitcoin had similar store-of-value characteristics as gold.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 602 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Ethereum

Ethereum Hard Fork to Launch on Testnet in Early October

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Ethereum core developers have been feverishly working on Constantinople, which is the next upgrade of the network. According to a recent Ethereum Core Devs Meeting, devs will be ready for the hard fork release soon, and the hard fork of testnet Ropsten has been scheduled to launch on around Oct. 9. It could serve as a boon for the ETH price, which despite its recent rally could use another catalyst.

The Constantinople upgrade is phase-two of Metropolis, the first phase of which was the Byzantium fork. It’s expected to bolster efficiency and slash costs on the Ethereum blockchain. The widely watched as Casper technology, which is tied to increasing the scalability of the network, is planned during Constantinople.

The goal of the devs was to launch Constantinople ahead of Devcon 4, which is scheduled to unfold in Prague Oct. 30-Nov. 2. But they weren’t willing to do so if it “makes things unsafe” or “pushes people too hard,” according to the call. Dimitry, who was on the call, suggested it would be “a couple of months at least” before Ethereum forks onto proof-of-work chain Ropsten, pointing to the upcoming dev conference as the reason for the delay in progress.

Other devs chimed in, saying the timeline was “overly cautious” considering that Ropsten is a testnet. The devs tossed around the idea of creating a new testnet to replace Ropsten, but that was rebuffed. Ethereum Co-Founder Vitalik Buterin said on the call: “I’d argue that consensus issues on Ropsten happening from time to time is good because it trains an ecosystem of participants on how to react to them.”

The majority ruled, and the developers agreed to test the hard fork on Ropsten in the coming weeks, ultimately landing on the date of early October because there is a break in developer conference activity that week. They’re targeting Oct. 9 and will set the actual block number in a couple of weeks when it’s closer to being released to clients.

Block Mining Times

As for the release of Constantinople, the call host pointed to test cases at year-end 2018, either November or December, after which time the conversation turned to avoid launching the mainnet amid “crazy” block times. Average block mining times are currently hovering at a stable 15 seconds and Buterin doesn’t expect them to “get crazy within two months.”

He referred to last year’s Byzantium upgrade, saying the “general pattern is a doubling at the beginning every 17 days.” As a result, there would likely be a “more than three months of safety,” Buterin said. A wildcard, however, is Byzantium had the “backdrop of a rapidly increasing ETH price and hashrate” whereas now we don’t. As a result, it could take less time.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 60 rated postsGerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. She owns some BTC and ETH.




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SBI’s Ripple-Backed ‘MoneyTap’ Set to Launch Soon

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One of Japan’s largest financial institutions will soon launch a new consumer payments application backed by Ripple’s technology, signaling an important milestone in the quest to bring blockchain adoption mainstream.

Introducing MoneyTap

SBI Ripple Asia, a joint venture of SBI Holdings and the San Francisco-based Ripple, Inc. is preparing to launch the ‘MoneyTap’ mobile application on Android and iOS.

MoneyTap is the first major consumer-oriented application launched on the Ripple protocol in Japan. The app enables consumers with domestic bank accounts to send money instantly 24 hours a day, seven days a week using a QR code, phone number or bank account.

The new platform is powered by Ripple’s xCurrent, a solution that allows banks to instantly settle cross-border payments. Sources have yet to confirm whether XRP, the cryptocurrency launched by Ripple, can be used on MoneyTap.

As Hacked reported back in March, initial roll-out of the app will be accepted by several financial institutions, including SBI Net Sumishin Bank, Suruga Bank and Resona Bank. These firms are part of a larger consortium of financiers that represent more than 80% of Japan’s banking assets.

Ripple to Expand Commercial Application

In addition to MoneyTap, Ripple is planning to launch a commercial application of its cryptocurrency-focused product as early as next month, according to Sagar Sarbhai, who heads the firm’s Asia-Pacific and Middle East regulatory department. According to Sarbhai, the new product will be focused on xRapid, which offers low-cost liquidity for payment providers and other financial institutions.

“I am very confident that in the next one month or so you will see some good news coming in where we launch the product live in production,” Sarbhai said of xRapid in an interview with CNBC.

The xRapid technology relies on XRP to bridge currencies, which allows payment providers to process faster cross-border transactions.

Despite facing multiple lawsuits alleging XRP is a security, Ripple is riding a tidal wave of momentum from several high-profile partnerships with leading payment providers. Chief among them are American Express, Western Union, Money Gram and Santander. Ripple also has partnerships with more than 120 banks and financial institutions, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Although not tied to XRP directly, these developments add value to Ripple’s blockchain technology, which could spearhead wider adoption at the currency level.

XRP, which was little changed Monday morning, is trading at a fraction of its all-time high. One unit of XRP is currently valued at just over $0.28, according to CoinMarketCap. The coin reached $3.29 on Jan. 3, according to CryptoCompare.com.

XRP has a total capitalization of $11.2 billion, placing it fourth among active cryptocurrencies in terms of value.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 602 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Fundstrat, Circle and Genesis Trading Execs Offer Market Insight

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Long-suffering crypto investors are finally getting some relief today, with the broader market gains surprisingly being led by Ethereum. The combined market cap is steadily approaching $200 billion while bitcoin’s dominance is back below 56%. Whether or not the market rally has legs and it’s the start of the bull run that strategists have been forecasting remains to be seen, but for now, the double-digit gains in many altcoins, not the least of which includes ETH, which is boasting an 18% increase, is a welcome sign.

Trading Dynamic

Ethereum Classic is hosting its 2018 summit in South Korea featuring one of the bitcoin bulls, Tom Lee, in addition to other industry leaders including Matt Beck of Grayscale Investments, Circle’s Jack Liu and Genesis Global Trading chief Michael Moro, all of whom offered their observations on the trading dynamic.

Source: ETC Summit/YouTube

If you need more proof that the crypto market remains in the nascent stages, consider that today 90-95% of the market is controlled by individual investors, not institutions, which is unusual for other asset classes such as commodities, as Genesis’ Moro pointed out. But that doesn’t mean that institutions aren’t placing bets.

Circle’s Liu pointed to a landscape in which early crypto investors who have amassed a portfolio may be looking to cash out at some point in time, while new investors who may have taken longer to be convinced to enter are there for the long haul. “You’re seeing quite traditional VCs/institutional investors take long-term bets on longer tail coins,” said Liu.

Bitcoin miners are also in the spotlight, given that the bitcoin price has managed to hold the $6,000 level despite the latest bout of selling, which is deemed the breakeven point for creating new coins. It’s a repeat of the dynamic of 2015 when the bitcoin price was similarly able to hold at 1x mining costs. Fundstrat’s Lee pointed out that contrary to popular belief, miners are not the ones unloading during the market downdraft.

“I think in a way miners are actually acting as a stabilizer. They’re not actually worsening what’s happening in crypto,” Lee said.

Based on anecdotal conversations with miners, Fundstrat gleaned that BTC miners are very aware of ROI tied to creating more coins. As a result, they’re more inclined to hold during the down times and sell when prices are higher.

Meanwhile, as the crypto market heads into the final stretch of 2018, institutional capital is the right custody solution away from entering the space. In the interim, crypto investing just requires more patience. “I think the next FANG is crypto. You need to just buy the quality projects and $1,000 will turn into … it’s probably going to be more than 1000x from here,” said Lee.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.6 stars on average, based on 60 rated postsGerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. She owns some BTC and ETH.




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