First Mover Asia: The Renminbi Rises; Cryptos Suffer Another Lost Weekend

The value of RMB payments gained over 10% compared to December amid an inauspicious test of the digital yuan at the Winter Olympics. Bitcoin and major altcoins tumbled as tensions continued mounting on the Ukraine border.

AccessTimeIconFeb 20, 2022 at 11:55 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 5:23 p.m. UTC
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Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:

Insights: The renminbi is on the rise; the eCNY face-plants at the Winter Olympics. Cryptos tumble over the weekend.

Technician's take: BTC momentum signals remain negative, indicating consistent selling pressure over the past month.

Catch the latest episodes of CoinDesk TV for insightful interviews with crypto industry leaders and analysis.


Bitcoin (BTC): $38,724 -3.3%

Ether (ETH): $2,649 -3.8%

Top Gainers

Asset Ticker Returns Sector
Solana SOL +1.0% Smart Contract Platform

Top Losers

Asset Ticker Returns Sector
Polygon MATIC −5.7% Smart Contract Platform
Internet Computer ICP −5.6% Computing
Cardano ADA −5.4% Smart Contract Platform


S&P 500: 4,348 -0.7%

DJIA: 34,079 -0.6%

Nasdaq: 13,548 -1.3%

Gold: $1,897 -.07%

Weekend market moves

Bitcoin tumbled below $40,000 in the early weekend hours and kept dipping amid rising tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border and continued inflationary fears. Ether and almost all other major cryptos also dropped.

A possible exploit of OpenSea, the leading NFT platform, may have further frightened investors away from crypto.

All these factors may have "led investors to risk-off from crypto," said Joe DiPasquale, the CEO of fund manager BitBull Capital.

At the time of publication, bitcoin was trading at around $38,700, a 3.3% drop over the past 24 hours and its lowest level since Feb. 3. Ether, the second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, was changing hands at slightly over $2,600, off nearly 4% and its lowest point since the first week of the month.

The declines came as U.S. intelligence reported that Russia had already decided to invade Ukraine. On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN's State of the Union talk show that “everything leading up to the actual invasion appears to be taking place. All of these false-flag operations, all these provocations to create justifications — all that is already in train.” Meanwhile, investors were gearing for the first of what is expected to be several Federal Reserve interest rate hikes.

Separately, in a late Saturday tweet, OpenSea CEO Devin Finzer wrote that “32 users thus far have signed a malicious payload from an attacker, and some of their NFTs were stolen.” Finzer suggested that a fraudulent website may be to blame. OpenSea said in a separate tweet that it was investigating the incident.

DiPasquale sees the next Bitcoin support line at about $35,000.

He noted that Solana was the only altcoin among the top 20 by market cap on the CoinDesk price page to rise over the weekend, reflecting "some strength from investors due to being a Proof of Stake protocol." But DiPasquale called that increase "simply price recovery" because Solana had fallen more sharply than Bitcoin and other altcoins. "While Bitcoin is largely flat for February, Solana is still down, so its recovery simply returns it closer to parity of gains and losses for other crypto assets."


PetroYuan, Digital Yuan, More Like One Big Yawn!

As last week came to a close in Asia, Chinese state media reported that China’s currency, the renminbi, was on the rise. Citing data from SWIFT, traditional finance's closed ledger for interbank fund transfer, China media said the value of RMB payments increased by 10.85% compared with December. Now, the RMB accounts for 3.2% of all transactions worldwide, up from 2% in November. Meanwhile, Britain’s pound accounts for 6.3% of global transactions.

In many ways, this is the capstone of two other RMB-related stories from the week: a reiteration of an announcement that gas producer Gazprom Neft will accept the RMB instead of dollars for fueling Russian airplanes at China’s airports, and China’s central bank digital currency (CBDC), the eCNY, made its Winter Olympics debut inside the games’ closed loop.

But neither of these stories are as earth-shattering as Beijing might have hoped.

Inbound flights into China sank to around 500 per week from 10,000 pre-coronavirus pandemic; only a fraction of these are from Russia. Oil is still priced globally in U.S. dollars (USD).

As for the eCNY, the Olympics were supposed to be its coming-out party, where foreign tourists would exchange their greenbacks or euros for some sweet reminbi issued on a digital ledger. But the borders are still closed. No foreign tourists are invited. Locals that were able to attend the games used eCNY at venues — cash was barred — while the few foreigners in attendance used Visa, the official credit card partner of the games.

Foreigners at the games, as The Wall Street Journal reported, preferred to use Visa. “What’s the difference from using my Visa card then?” one asked when they were told they could load their foreign currency onto a plastic eCNY card or hardware wallet. And for the more remote venues that didn’t have a eCNY reader before they were sealed off from the outside world as part of the Olympic bubble, it was back to AliPay or WeChat Pay, the favorite payment mechanism for many in China.

All of this is a micro example of a macro problem for China. When it comes to digital currency, the USD is still king. In 2020, Chainalysis reported that $50 billion in capital flowed out from China in crypto and mostly in dollar-pegged tether.

As Bloomberg commodity strategist Mike McGlone has pointed out, the best thing for the dollar is crypto.

“Despite the shrinking U.S. portion of the world’s GDP, the dollar increasingly dominates, notably in the digital ecosystem,” McGlone wrote in April 2021. “There appears to be little to stop the most consistent trends in crypto assets: rising trading volume and the proliferation of stablecoins tracking the dollar.”

And these stablecoins currently have a market cap of $183 billion, according to CoinGecko, with tether dominating by a large margin. You have to scroll down to the eighteenth position to find a non-USD or gold stablecoin, and that’s tether paired with the euro with a measly market cap of $234 million.

Despite Beijing’s digital dreams, the eCNY will be a tough sell on the market because of capital controls on the yuan. This is why China is only marketing it domestically now.

The few yuan that are allowed to leave the country have a specific pathway to the outside world via Hong Kong’s vast "offshore" RMB liquidity pools where they end up being converted to the freely convertible Hong Kong dollar, the original "stablecoin" with its USD peg.

Tim Draper had a simpler take on it, which he shared on a podcast in May 2020.

“I wouldn’t want to take Chinese digital currency anymore than I’d want to take renminbi,” he said. “If you digitize [the] renminbi, you are still stuck with most of the problems that you have with current political currency, with fiat currency.”

Technician's take

Bitcoin weekly chart shows support/resistance with RSI on bottom (Damanick Dantes/CoinDesk, TradingView)
Bitcoin weekly chart shows support/resistance with RSI on bottom (Damanick Dantes/CoinDesk, TradingView)

Bitcoin (BTC) remains in its short-term downtrend begun in November, currently off 40% from its all-time high near $69,000. The cryptocurrency tested initial support at $40,000 on Friday, although stronger support is seen at $30,000, which was roughly the bottom of 2021's sell-off.

Momentum signals remain negative, indicating consistent selling pressure over the past month. Further, BTC was unable to break above its 40-week moving average at $45,724, which presents a bearish bias.

Still, the relative strength index (RSI) on the weekly chart is rising from its most oversold level since March 2020. That could keep short-term buyers active so long as the $30,000 support level holds.

If the $28,000-$30,000 range is broken, prices could experience additional downside, similar to the 80% peak-to-trough decline during the 2018 bear market.

Important events

8:15 a.m. HKT/SGT (12:15 a.m. UTC): Markit Economics/France manufacturing purchasing managers index (Feb. preliminary)

8:30 a.m. HKT/SGT (12:30 a.m. UTC): Markit Economics/Germany manufacturing purchasing managers index (Feb. preliminary)

9 a.m. HKT/SGT (1 a.m. UTC): Markit Economics/Eurozone manufacturing purchasing managers index (Feb. preliminary)

11:50 p.m. HKT/SGT (3:50 UTC): Japan corporate service price index (Jan. YoY)

CoinDesk TV

In case you missed it, here is the most recent episode of "First Mover" on CoinDesk TV:

Live from ETHDenver, "First Mover" host Christine Lee had highlights from the big Ethereum conference, including an interview with Polkadot lead developer Shawn Tabrizi. Also, Bitstamp USA CEO Bobby Zagotta joined Christine and co-host Lawrence Lewitinn to discuss crypto markets and lessons learned from major exchange hacks. Zagotta was also joined by Immortals CEO Jordan Sherman to discuss their new esports partnership. Plus, Sergey Gorbunov of Axelar discussed the new funding round that gave them unicorn status.


OpenSea Investigating ‘Exploit Rumors’ as Users Complain of Missing NFTs: Emails purporting to be from the NFT marketplace about a planned smart contract migration may have been a phishing attack.

Vitalik Buterin Calls Canada's Use of Banks to Stifle Protestors 'Dangerous': Decentralized systems are not about lawlessness but rather a return to rule of law, the Ethereum founder said in an interview at ETHDenver.

Market Wrap: Bitcoin and Altcoins Dip Amid Russia, Ukraine Uncertainty: BTC is down 5% over the past week as investors reduce their exposure to risk.

Court Orders Freeze of Canadian 'Freedom Convoy' Crypto Fundraising: The funds in over 120 crypto addresses were ordered frozen by a special injunction by an Ontario court.

Longer reads

Getting Beyond the Good-Bad NFT Debate: Non-fungible tokens represent a step-change in online property rights and are key to the next stage of the internet.

Today's crypto explainer: What Is DeFi?

Said and heard

"Our leadership, engineering, and security teams are communicating with affected users to gather details. We continue to believe that this is a phishing attack that originated outside of (OpenSea/Twitter) ... "Maybe crypto’s total market cap settling somewhere between $1.5 trillion and $3.0 trillion for the last year or so changed minds at BlackRock. Maybe it was Jump Trading finally diving into crypto in September. Maybe enough Zoomers pestered their high-net-worth parents about cryptocurrencies at dinner tables until it hit a tipping point. Whatever the catalyst, I think the news is far more important than people are giving it credit for. BlackRock wouldn’t explore something if there wasn’t demand for it." (CoinDesk columnist George Kaloudis) ... “Everything leading up to the actual invasion appears to be taking place. All of these false-flag operations, all these provocations to create justifications — all that is already in train.” (U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken/CNN’s “State of the Union)


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CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Damanick Dantes

Damanick was a crypto market analyst at CoinDesk where he wrote the daily Market Wrap and provided technical analysis. He is a Chartered Market Technician designation holder and member of the CMT Association. Damanick is also a portfolio strategist and does not invest in digital assets.

James Rubin

James Rubin was CoinDesk's U.S. news editor based on the West Coast.

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