Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:
Prices: Bitcoin seesaws and then stays below $28K; DOGE soars to its highest levels since December, while other cryptos are mixed.
Insights: Will Indonesia's CBDC offer an alternative to Visa and Mastercard?
Bitcoin's Seesawing Day
On a day of unverified rumors and soaring DOGE, bitcoin couldn't decide if it liked the air above $28,000 or below.
The largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization was recently trading at about $27,680, down slightly more than a percentage point over the past 24 hours as investors did what they have done regularly for much of the past few months: make sense of disparate, sometimes unflattering but always interesting information. BTC spent Monday's first few hours (UTC) lingering below $28,000 before rising above the threshold through much of the midday and then tumbling again.
BTC has clung tenaciously to handholds around this level since mid March despite a near banking meltdown that engulfed two crypto-friendly banks, and amid generally more favorable conditions for digital assets. "The current situation for bitcoin is pretty positive, that's the reality on the ground," crypto trader and author Glen Goodman told CoinDesk TV's "First Mover" program.
Goodman noted that the "injection of new money into the economy" as a backstop by a "panicking" U.S. Federal Reserve to address the banking crisis boosted investor liquidity for certain stocks and cryptos. "People are feeling brave enough now with this new liquidity to get back into what they consider big, profitable companies like Microsoft, like Apple and likewise, in the crypto market, they're going for what are considered the safer cryptos, which are bitcoin and [ether]."
Ether was recently trading just over $1,800, up slightly from a day earlier after seesawing above and below this level. Other major cryptos were mixed. Popular meme coin DOGE was an exception to the more modest price shifts as it rose more than 35% to top 10 cents for the first time since December after Elon Musk's Twitter replaced the social-media platform's familiar blue bird atop its homepage with the cryptocurrency's iconic Shiba Inu dog logo (DOGE was recently up 25%). Musk has been an outspoken DOGE advocate, suggesting the meme coin may offer better payments functionality than bitcoin.
Meanwhile, crypto markets were mulling an unverified rumor that an Interpol Red Notice had been issued for the Binance cryptocurrency exchange's founder and CEO, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao. “A Red Notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action,” according to the Interpol website. Neither Binance nor Interpol responded to a CoinDesk request for comment, although The Block reported the exchange had denied the rumor in an email to the publication. Binance's BNB token was recently down 0.3%.
The CoinDesk Market Index, a measure of crypto markets overall performance, fell 0.6%.
U.S. equity indexes were mixed, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq inching down but the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) rising – all by a few fractions of a percentage point. In early trading in Asian markets, the Hang Seng fell 0.6% but the Nikkei was up 0.3%.
In a separate interview with CoinDesk TV's "First Mover" program, Coinbase Head of Institutional Research David Duong noted that OPEC's unexpected decision to cut oil production could send inflation higher again, spurring investor interest in bitcoin because of the crypto's ability to hold value.
"What we've seen from OPEC definitely increases the chances that inflation could actually somewhat spark higher and therefore presents a macro opportunity for bitcoin as well," Duong said. "We've already seen to some extent that bitcoin has been acting as an alternative to the traditional financial system, given what happened with SVB [Silicon Valley Bank] and the turmoil in the banking system."
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Is Indonesia's CBDC Ready for a More Prominent Role?
American credit card companies have significant control over the world’s commerce pipelines. Indonesia, with tourism playing a significant role in the economy, wants to change that.
Earlier this month, the country’s president, Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi (many Indonesians only have one name), said he wants the country to lessen its reliance on Visa and Mastercard in the name of national security.
Indonesia is one of the few countries that declined to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Between arms and oil sales, Jokowi has faced difficult choices in navigating relationships with both Russia and the United States, particularly as he must address the need to buy more oil to offset a staggering jump in energy costs as well as an American desire to ally countries in the region together to contain China.
Tourist hotspot Bali, a favorite destination for Russian winter tourists, is feeling the economic pinch of the war despite being tens of thousands of kilometers away from the conflict zone.
“Many Russian tourists who were visiting Bali could not pay for hotels and had to be kicked out of hotels because their credit cards could not be used," Erwin Haryono, executive director of communications at Bank Indonesia, said to CNBC Indonesia in March.
Sanctions that Indonesia isn’t a party to prevent Visa and Mastercard from helping settle payments between Russian banks and Indonesian hotels, although the transaction wasn’t in U.S. dollars.
“We have to remember the sanctions from the U.S. to Russia, Visa and Mastercard could be a problem," Jokowi said at the opening of the Business Matching of Domestic Products, as cited by CNN Indonesia.
In response, the government has highlighted some domestic alternatives to being completely reliant on foreign payment rails.
Jokowi wants Indonesia to be able to issue financial services such as credit cards independently, and has encouraged local and central governments to promote the use of the Domestic Government Credit Card (Kartu Kredit Pemerintah Domestik) and international Quick Response Code Indonesian Standard (QRIS).
The Domestic Government Credit Card and the International Standard of Indonesian Quick Response Code system were developed by Bank Indonesia under the coordination of Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.
These Domestic Government Credit Card and Indonesian QR code systems are just payment rails, which could process a CBDC like the digital rupiah just as easily as any other fiat-issued currency.
Mir knocked out of orbit
Indonesia isn’t the first country to try to claim some financial sovereignty from Visa and Mastercard’s payment rails.
Russia, at the center of U.S. sanctions, has tried to market its homegrown credit card competitor, Mir (named after the space station), as an alternative to Visa and Mastercard.
But as Bloomberg reported last year, even countries that are friendly to Moscow are wary about allowing their banks to process and settle transactions from the card because of the threat of retaliatory sanctions from the U.S.
Turkey, another popular tourist destination for Russians, but also a NATO member, stopped accepting the card in the middle of 2022. Vietnam, which is seeking to upgrade its relations with the U.S. to counter an aggressive China, had its banks abandon relationships with Mir. Thailand is also out.
Mir is still used in Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Venezuela, and perhaps Iran.
Indonesia's ambassador to Moscow said in January that it was still “considering” the question.
Mir’s failure might give Indonesia a chance to promote its payment networks around ASEAN. Governments and central banks globally, even in countries neutral on the Ukraine war, were no doubt nervous about aligning with Russia – but Indonesia doesn’t have that political baggage.
12:30 p.m. HKT/SGT(4:30 a.m. UTC): Reserve Bank of Australia interest rate decision and statement
5 p.m. HKT/SGT(9 a.m. UTC): Eurostat producer price index (Feb/MoM/YoY)
Bitcoin (BTC) has been testing the $30,000 mark, trading between $27,500 and $28,900 over the weekend. "First Mover" dove into markets with "The Crypto Trader" author Glen Goodman. Meanwhile, crypto markets have displayed resilience in the face of the recent upheaval in the U.S. banking system, with bitcoin in particular outperforming, according to Coinbase. Coinbase Institutional Head of Research David Duong weighed in. Polygon co-founder Sandeep Nailwal and Policy 4.0 CEO and founder Tanvi Ratna also joined the conversation.
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