(Edited by James Rubin and Greg Ahlstrand)
Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:
Market moves: Bitcoin slumps to below $48,000, as December’s options expiration nears
Technician’s take (Editor’s note): Technician’s Take is taking a hiatus for the holidays. In its place, First Mover Asia is publishing CoinDesk reporter Sanadali Handagama’s interview with European Parliament member Eva Kaili. The discussion covered MiCA, the current regulatory frenzy over stablecoins, Web 3 and, of course, Facebook’s diem.
Catch the latest episodes of CoinDesk TV for insightful interviews with crypto industry leaders and analysis.
Bitcoin (BTC): $47,701 -6.2%
Ether (ETH): $3,813 -5.7%
S&P 500: $4,786 -0.1%
DJIA: 36,398 +0.2%
Nasdaq: $15,781 -0.5%
Gold: $1,807 -0.2%
Bitcoin, the oldest cryptocurrency, dropped by more than 6% to under $48,000 during the U.S. trading day on Tuesday, despite continued muted spot market activities.
While the spot trading volume of bitcoin remained mostly unchanged from a day ago, its price turbulence came as the market headed into monthly options expiration.
A total of 129,800 option contracts worth more than $6 billion are set to expire on Friday, according to data provided by Skew. As CoinDesk reported previously, data shows that bitcoin tends to move toward the “max pain” point in the lead-up to an expiration and sees a solid directional move in days after settlement.
This price move trend usually comes from spot market manipulations by option sellers (mostly institutional traders) to push the spot price closer to the strike price at which the highest number of open options contracts expire worthlessly. That creates maximum losses – so-called max pain – for option buyers. The max pain point for Friday’s option expiration is $48,000, according to Cayman Islands-based crypto financial services firm Blofin.
Q&A – Eva Kaili
The View From Brussels: How the EU Plans to Regulate Crypto: European Parliament member Eva Kaili says Facebook’s libra announcement in 2019 catalyzed lawmakers into action on digital assets. (By CoinDesk reporter Sandali Handagama)
The European Union (EU) wants to regulate the digital asset industry; there are a number of bloc-wide initiatives already underway. The most comprehensive is a 168-page “Markets in Crypto-Assets” (MiCA) that would create an EU-level licensing framework for crypto issuers and service providers.
But crypto regulations are only one part of a larger Web 3 governance strategy for the political and economic union of 27 nations.
This feature is part of CoinDesk’s “Policy Week,” a forum for discussing how regulators are reckoning with crypto (and vice versa).
According to Eva Kaili, a member of the European Parliament, the new proposals for digital assets, data and artificial intelligence (AI) were inspired by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of 2016, which sought to strengthen consumers’ control over how their data is used by companies that are allowed to operate in the EU.
For digital assets in particular, the catalyst was Facebook’s 2019 plans to create its own stablecoin, libra (now diem), a digital token backed by a basket of currencies and assets, Kaili said. She added that regulatory clarity for digital finance is key to fostering innovation and protecting citizens’ freedom and sovereignty from being exploited by Big Tech.
Kaili is a Greek politician, a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament; she was elected in 2014. Kaili has advocated for innovation-friendly regulations for distributed ledger technology (DLT) applications and decentralized finance (DeFi).
CoinDesk got a chance to speak to Kaili about her views on MiCA, the current regulatory frenzy over stablecoins, Web 3 and, of course, Facebook’s diem.
The following has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
CoinDesk: There are a number of regulatory initiatives in progress in the EU that will directly impact the crypto space in the coming years. Which are the most important, in your opinion?
Kaili: The upcoming regulatory initiatives are designed to provide legal certainty and to test these new technologies in collaboration with traditional players and stakeholders. It will hopefully be completed by the end of 2022.
The first framework is Markets in Crypto-Assets, or MiCA. It’s part of the EU’s digital finance strategy, and it tries to deal in a holistic manner with the crypto ecosystem to establish clear and new licensing requirements that are passport-able. And this means we were trying to pave the way [by] initiating a robust regulatory response, as we did with GDPR.
MiCA will allow firms to operate across the EU, and also set stronger consumer protection standards. It also sets out rules for digital asset issuance and public offerings, and has some specific requirements relating to stablecoins. It lays out additional requirements for the big, systemically important stablecoins, too. MiCA is going through its first readings [in the parliament], so it has some way to go. There have been no consultations between the EU parliament and council yet.
Then you have the pilot regime for market infrastructures based on DLT. I am a rapporteur [the person who gives reports] on that one. I would say it’s not only an ambitious project but also a much anticipated sandbox project. It’s quite unique for the EU because it’s aiming to test new business models deploying DLT in the EU financial infrastructure, and the provisions will translate into a huge testing environment that will operate in a uniform manner across the EU, just like what MiCA is trying to do for crypto assets. It would offer concrete testing outcomes, and then this would feed the future policymaking and regulatory adaptation. So when you are exiting the sandbox, you are participating in creating the regulatory framework to follow. It has gone through the EU Council and parliament first readings, and it seems to go through these negotiations quite smoothly.
CoinDesk: A lot of EU regulators are showing concern over stablecoins, and MiCA is considerably focused on regulating stablecoins in particular. Why is that?
Kaili: Back in 2019, the discussions around Facebook’s stablecoin, libra, now called diem, led us to accelerate legislative initiatives and to explore what could happen if we have global currencies coming from not just central banks but also from private players. Certain stablecoins could work on a global level, and have a global reach. They are what the EU calls significant e-money tokens. They are addressed by MiCA because they could indeed raise concerns regarding the EU monetary policy, stability and sovereignty. But this is not just an EU concern.
Since several countries are now exploring central bank digital currencies including China and Russia, I would say that global stablecoins can have unprecedented effects on all economies because of the connectedness of the financial system. And also consider that for the first time in more than a century, the U.S. dollar supremacy is being challenged. The rise of cryptocurrencies and stablecoins may be forcing us to rethink what a currency is, who regulates it and what it means if it’s not controlled by the national government.
Then, we have this political dimension that we have to take under consideration. Even if we don’t want to admit it, we have to have central bank digital currencies because it’s a matter of geopolitical dominance. It can also become a matter of monetary sovereignty, especially when you don’t have like-minded countries deploying similar platforms and marketplaces.
Read More: DeFi Is Like Nothing Regulators Have Seen Before. How Should They Tackle It? | David Z. Morris
We have to also consider the private players. I think we will very quickly see a digital euro – maybe we’re already late, but I believe if we had stablecoins from Facebook without a central bank digital currency, then the risk would be bigger. But I also think it’s going to be very interesting to consider the flip side. When you have Russia, China, U.S. and Europe launching their own digital currencies, what would that mean for the diem and other private stablecoins?
CoinDesk: Do you feel there’s anything missing in these frameworks, particularly with MiCA?
Kaili: One of the challenges we have is a lack of clear definitions to understand exactly what is not covered by the MiCA.
The problem that we see, and I believe it will have to be addressed by us in the future, is that the decentralized finance, or DeFi, business model does not fit into the MiCA framework as no single entity can be identified in DeFi projects and they do not fall under the definitions used in centralized finance.
There, we have an issue because decentralization has great benefits, but also some significant risks. Crypto adopters cannot turn to the authorities in case of fraud or cyberattacks or if they accidentally lose their funds. If decentralized systems don’t have a clear definition, then we have to definitely address it to give the industry that legal certainty. We also have to support the cryptocurrency exchanges to be able to provide this consumer protection, also for themselves not to face issues that would make it impossible to operate in Europe, and also to help them [learn] what transparency is for us and the governance standards that would protect consumer funds against these attacks and malfunctions within their responsibilities. So these are the main concerns around the MiCA framework.
CoinDesk: How does the EU’s approach to digital asset regulation compare to other jurisdictions around the world?
Kaili: First of all, the nature of the European Union is different. We have 27 different member states with different legal and tax systems that are not harmonized. So we are trying to adopt a unique approach to policymaking with MiCA. We are allowing room to test the technology, we are interacting with stakeholders, and we are trying to establish concrete proposals to create legal certainty, clarity, at least in this first big step that we are taking. When we talk about technology that is developed in a more, let’s say, free way, in the U.S. or Asia, I would say that a lack of standards or legal certainty has its own challenges. You see what’s happening with El Salvador with the government suddenly legalizing bitcoin. You see what happened with China, for example. China had the highest concentration of bitcoin miners and then suddenly changed [its] approach. Then the U.S. [Securities and Exchange Commission], which is reportedly investigating DeFi platforms and the parties behind them. It’s an unclear investigation.
I think the U.S. might be taking a slightly hostile approach. So we try to see what we don’t want to have in Europe. We are more careful. We don’t speed up too much.
We did have some problems initially. We started by trying to fit new things and innovations in old boxes, so we struggled a little. But now, we are trying to create hybrid boxes so we don’t expect innovation to fit our old boxes. We are creating new boxes and allowing them to keep evolving without feeling that it is a hostile environment. This is how I feel, but it also depends on the specific cases. I’m working a lot in the crypto space. So at least I can speak for the crypto space and say that our approach is innovation friendly, mainly.
CoinDesk: It seems as if the apprehension over Facebook’s libra has revealed some greater concerns about the influence of Big Tech in the EU. In the EU at least, as you said, regulating digital assets is not just about digital asset disruption in particular but part of a larger digital strategy concerning the internet, data and financial sovereignty. Is this a fair assessment?
Kaili: We understand that whoever owns or holds data now holds a lot of power and that you can generate great value from data, and this applies to the crypto space, too, as it generates transaction data. As part of the digital strategy, and parallel to MiCA, we are also working on the Digital Services Act, the Digital Markets Act and the Artificial Intelligence Act. For the first time, after several decades, we are using the internet to regulate the internet along with the access to data and the parties that are using this data. So I think that a well-regulated, data-driven financial sector also needs a well-regulated data economy. Data is now a commodity, but many consumers do not understand exactly how it is a commodity. For example, consumers can consent to sharing their data while they can’t control how that data is being used.
I think there is a risk that the greater sharing of data could lead also to customers with certain characteristics to be excluded from markets or from borrowing money. For example, if businesses have access to more data through open finance, this could lead to more personalized pricing of insurance policies, which is an absolute no-go in Europe. This increased individualizing of risk is likely to affect more vulnerable or low-income consumers. If you have predictive [artificial intelligence], for instance, it could lead to calculating credit scores, or insurance premiums for citizens to exclude them or to include them. This could violate our fundamental principles and rights. So we need to have some objectives when we design our strategy to protect fair pricing practices.
I would say there is a great need to have efficient data legislation, and we have to understand the process of how to extract the value of data for the public good and at the same time balance it with innovation. I’d say the data legislation file will arrive in January. This means we will make more data available to European companies, we will make sure that they will have to open up and share some data with startups and researchers, which is not the case at this point. We hope to achieve the portability harmonization of data across the EU, similar to what we’re trying to achieve in the crypto space. It’s the same principles for every sector that we have to also include in the financial sector.
CoinDesk: What you’re saying is it’s important to find a way to make sure that consumer data isn’t siloed by one or two big companies?
Kaili: I don’t believe we should not have big companies. I just believe we should understand their business models and make sure that we set certain rules when we open up to new players. We should have more competition. This will increase and improve the quality of the services. And this would ensure a level playing field for newcomers. But these big players, they’re not really located in the EU, at least, the significant ones that we all understand we’re talking about.
CoinDesk: But wouldn’t this potential carveout of Big Tech go against the EU objective of tech neutrality you mentioned earlier that gives citizens the freedom to decide which tech they want to use to serve them best?
Kaili: I would use the word “reciprocity.” To overcome this problem, you have to set your principles and standards. If a company follows those principles, it should be able to enter your market. If not, they shouldn’t.
This is addressed in the Artificial Intelligence Act that is under the EU parliament microscope. It lays out standards for bigger players, the more risky applications, even if they’re not based in the EU. It means that if you want to access this market, you have to respect the outcome of these principles Europe wants to protect. So if we consider that something they do is harmful, it could be completely banned. This usually applies to businesses that use facial recognition, health-care tech or weaponized AI. Whoever wants to enter the EU market, they have to follow the same rules, even if they come from other countries.
When we created GDPR, everybody thought it would fail. Now it seems like it was not just welcome, but it actually led the way for like-minded countries to improve the quality of services and make sure users feel protected and safe online, and ensuring people’s rights online. So I think we’re going to follow the same path. And we have a lot of work to do to strike a good balance to protect the well-being of citizens, and avoid becoming protectionist.
9:30 p.m. HGT/SGT (1:30 p.m. UTC): U.S. trade in goods, advance report (Nov.)
11 p.m. HGT/SGT (1 p.m. UTC): Pending home sales index (Nov.)
What’s going on in the crypto markets? “First Mover” discussed the near- and long-term bitcoin and altcoin outlook with guest Andriy Velykyy of Allbridge. Also, what does the new year hold for global crypto adoption, and does Ukraine have a future as a major crypto hub? Plus, “First Mover” covered the year in crypto policy and regulation: much discussed and much more to do in 2022.
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Today’s crypto explainer: How to Use Ethereum
Other voices: Crypto lobbying is going ballistic (The Economist)
Said and heard
“The crypto industry is late to the game. With the exception of a few well-established trade groups, and some firms that saw the importance of having a seat at the federal table before it became painfully obvious, crypto companies have largely avoided engagement with Washington.” (Rob Garver for CoinDesk’s Policy Week series) ... ”In the tech industry, 2021 was a year of profits and pivots. Thanks in part to the pandemic and the digitization of our lives, all of the big tech companies got bigger. Facebook changed its name to Meta, Jeff Bezos went to space, Jack Dorsey left Twitter and Silicon Valley fell harder for crypto.” (Kevin Roose writing in The New York Times)
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