Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:
Prices: Bitcoin snaps its four-day rally; ether and other cryptos are lower.
Insights: A muted Korea Blockchain Week fails to tackle the industry's recent troubles or challenge its panelists.
●Bitcoin (BTC): $23,238 −2.6%
●Ether (ETH): $1,710 −4.2%
●S&P 500 daily close: 4,122.47 −0.4%
●Gold: $1,810 per troy ounce +1.3%
●Ten-year Treasury yield daily close: 2.80% +0.03
Bitcoin, ether and gold prices are taken at approximately 4pm New York time. Bitcoin is the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (XBX); Ether is the CoinDesk Ether Price Index (ETX); Gold is the COMEX spot price. Information about CoinDesk Indices can be found at coindesk.com/indices.
Bitcoin and Other Cryptos Return to Red
By James Rubin
Bitcoin's four-day surge was nice while it lasted.
The largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization was recently trading just above $23,200, down more than 2% over the past 24 hours and far removed from its temporary perch nearly $1,000 higher earlier Monday. Investors are apparently hunkered down waiting for the Wednesday morning release of July's Consumer Price Index (CPI) in the U.S.
Analysts widely expect the CPI to drop to a still hefty 8.7% after hitting a four-decade high of 9.1% in June, suggesting that while inflation is slowing it remains problematic enough for the U.S. Federal Reserve to likely approve a third consecutive 75 basis point interest rate hike.
Ether, the second-largest crypto by market cap behind bitcoin, was recently changing hands at about $1,700, down approximately 4% from the previous day and well off a euphoric, two-month high about $1,800 early Monday. Other major cryptos were well-red on Tuesday with FILE and KSM recently tumbling more than 11% and 9%, respectively.
"You've seen quite a bit of stability in some of the price action, a bit of a rally off some of the recent lows," Don Kaufman, co-founder of TheoTrade, told CoinDesk TV's "All About Bitcoin" show.
But Kaufman also highlighted a decline in implied volatility, a bad sign for near-term pricing.
"Although there's been a little bit of decoupling between Nasdaq and the crypto marketplace, the interesting irony of that happens to be that that's going to come raging back, and the very catalysts to spark that? Possibly tomorrow morning's CPI."
Crypto prices Tuesday tracked equity markets, which also fell, although more moderately than most tokens. The tech-focused Nasdaq was off more than a percentage point and the S&P 500, which has a strong tech component, was down a few fractions of a point. Investors returned at least temporarily to the risk-averse strategies they have followed for much of the past year. Gold, a traditional safe haven asset, ticked slightly higher and has risen more than 3% over the past month.
Markets have suffered jitters this week amid disappointing earnings from a number of tech giants, including chipmakers Nvidia (NVDA) and Micron Technology (MU). An unexpectedly high CPI could send markets further downward, suggesting the U.S. economy will continue to battle turbulence.
Later in the day, Coinbase said trading activity for its second quarter had plunged almost 30% from its first quarter and that revenue had missed the average analyst estimate. "It was a rough quarter for most companies in the crypto space," Coinbase President and Chief Operating Officer Emilie Choi told Bloomberg TV. We had some big episodic events in the quarter so some of those asset prices shrunk, which impacts the assets on platform and other numbers."
The crypto exchange has been buffeted by the same headwinds afflicting the rest of the digital asset industry, prompting the firm to lay off about 20% of its workforce as part of cost-cutting initiatives. More recently, a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware by shareholder Donald Kocher on behalf of Coinbase Global Inc. alleges the company’s leadership made “false and misleading statements” in the firm’s public filings ahead of its direct listing in April 2021.
Other crypto news was more upbeat with crypto intelligence firm Messari announcing plans for $25 million funding round at a $300 million valuation and analytics platform Merkle Science and Maker DAO, a decentralized autonomous organization that provides capital and operational support to "creators," closing $19 million and $20 million capital rounds, respectively. And South Korean blockchain protocol Klaytn announced that it had committed $20 million over four years to support blockchain development and funding at two of the country's universities.
Still, TheoTrade's Kaufman said pessimistically that bitcoin could fall into the teens, highlighting the "huge cost of carry" built into the asset. Kaufman said that rising interest rates affect miners and others in the crypto marketplace who use loans and other debt instruments "to carry their crypto."
"A 75 basis point hike is unfathomably large to a crypto mining facility," he said. "They're going to be paying like double digits."
Kaufman added: "It's difficult at this point to be wildly bullish in terms of day-to-day price action in bitcoin, until we get the Fed turning the table to maybe some dovish comments, and we can [be] quite a distance away from that."
Trouble in Cryptoland? Not at South Korea's Mega Blockchain Week
By Sam Reynolds
The speeches and panels at Korea Blockchain Week ended Tuesday afternoon. The mega event has been a welcome return to personal interaction but proven to be short on drama even as crypto in South Korea reaches an inflection point.
Retail investor’s appetite for tokens continues to be strong, even as the market anxiously waits to see what comes of the warpath Korean prosecutors appear to be on.
Korea Blockchain Week has operated in a parallel world. There wasn’t a discussion about lessons learned and rebuilding post-Terra. It’s as if nothing bad ever happened in crypto.
Perhaps the muted atmosphere is a product of how the panels were structured. Most interviewers have been venture capitalists or, in the case of Binance founder’s Changpeng Zhao’s session, the company’s head of Asia. The people asking the questions have vested interests in seeing the industry succeed. They have been reluctant to challenge the interviewees. There was no pushback or the type of fireworks that leads to new thinking and innovation.
Korea Blockchain Week's approach did an incredible disservice to those in attendance, giving them an inaccurate impression of the state of the industry.
Consider: A panel titled “The Next Generation of Finance on Blockchain,” featuring Dylan Macalinao, failed to mention the Macalinao brothers’ hijinks – faking most of a decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem – and what it meant for the future of Solana or other layer 1 blockchains with anonymous developers. In the narrative of the conference, this $7.5 billion Solana scheme never happened. Macalinao, who was scheduled to present in person, didn’t even show up, instead joining virtually on a crackly internet connection from an undisclosed location.
The questions and answers were all bromides and platitudes anyway. The discussion centered on regulatory clarity, building better user interfaces for DeFi and how to bring in more retail participants – hardly hard-hitting topics from Doo Wan Nam, the chief operating officer of venture fund Stable Node.
Zhao’s session was more of the same. During his allotted 30 minutes, he told moderator Leon Foong, head of APAC at Binance, about how great Binance’s know-your-customer (KYC) system is and how the company is collecting licenses worldwide. Not exactly gripping material, especially when Binance finds itself in a debate over ownership of an India-based exchange that’s target of a money laundering investigation launched by local authorities.
Echo chambers have hurt the crypto industry before. Think about how Three Arrows Capital went from one of the industry’s most celebrated stakeholders to the possible downfall of many crypto infrastructure players seemingly overnight.
Sometimes uncomfortable questions need to be asked. The best conferences can’t be all celebratory.
"First Mover" unpacked the top developing stories in crypto, including fallout from the U.S. ban of mixer Tornado Cash, and the push to keep the existing proof-of-work Ethereum blockchain after Ethereum moves to proof-of-stake. Guests included William Callahan, Blockchain Intelligence Group director and former DEA agent, along with MyEtherWallet COO Brian Norton.
Coinbase Shares Drop as Crypto Winter Takes Toll on Exchange's Trading Volume: The company faced earnings headwinds, although prices have stabilized recently and the company just struck a deal with BlackRock.
MicroStrategy Explored Options From Art to Real Estate Before Bitcoin Buys, New CEO Says: The software company now owns nearly $3 billion worth of bitcoin.
Someone Is Trolling Celebs by Sending ETH From Tornado Cash: An anonymous crypto user transferred small amounts of ether from a sanctioned address to stars and prominent crypto figures on Tuesday.
Citi: Ethereum’s Merge Will Have Several Consequences for the Blockchain: Ethereum will probably become deflationary as token issuance decreases while the burn mechanism is maintained, the bank said.
CleanSpark Raises Year-End Hashrate Guidance, Sets 2023 Outlook: The miner suffered a $29.3 million loss for the fiscal quarter, partly driven by the previously disclosed decision to sell its energy assets.
Ethereum Is Getting Cheaper to Use, Even Before the Merge: Fees and on-chain use are leveling out.
Other voices: Coinbase may have a savior in BlackRock, but crypto concerns remain (CNN)
Said and heard
But the impact and even intent seem even broader than that: Tornado Cash developer Roman Semenov claimed Tuesday his Github code repository account had been suspended. Semenov has not personally been sanctioned by OFAC, and he plays no direct role in the Tornado Cash service. Instead, he has coordinated the creation of code that can be run by other people to form a decentralized network. Writing on Twitter, Semenov nailed the key question raised by his reported suspension: “Is writing open-source code illegal now?” (CoinDesk columnist David Z. Morris)
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