This Is Where People Are Buying Bitcoin All Over the World; Who Wants to Be Bitcoin’s Watchdog?

Jan 12, 2018

First Read

Hits & Takes
JLN Staff

Unsurprisingly, yesterday’s STAC panel on cryptocurrency, moderated by Bcause‘s Sean Ristau, looked to be the best attended. The lack of regulatory certainty is the biggest challenge in crypto, as no one is sure yet whether it is going to be considered a security or cash (SEC Chairman Jay Clayton has said “virtual currencies are unlike any commodity that the CFTC has dealt with in the past, and….pose challenges for the SEC as well.”) Clayton and CFTC Chairman Chris Giancarlo are scheduled to speak with the Senate on the matter next month. The CFTC has cleared the way for the Cboe’s new cryptocurrency futures, but even the futures – let alone the underlying – are still difficult to access. There are tax issues as well, as the IRS currently treats crypto as property rather than currency, and taxes gains. Derivatives on crypto, in particular options, do help limit the wild volatility we have seen in the underlying, however.~SR

Today, Cboe traded 2191 bitcoin futures and CME Group 448 as of 8 AM, CST. ~JJL

Takeaways from the STAC panel on Chicago startups, moderated by 3Points Communications founder Drew Mauck, were: 1. There is a significant legal difference between a board of directors and a board of advisors. A board of directors is your boss, and they can remove the CEO/entrepreneur if they so choose. That’s not the case with an advisory board, which is less formal, and, as its name suggests, is just there to advise. 2. Make sure you communicate to potential investors the problem you are solving, the solution, who or what your market is, and how much you need…and be sure to have a product technologist as part of your team. 3. Don’t make your pitch, “We’re the Uber of X.”~SR

From the corporate responsibility and inclusion fireside chat at STAC with Silvia Davi, Thesys Technologies’ head of global marketing and communication, and Patsy Doerr, Thomson Reuters’ global head of corporate responsibility and inclusion: In the next handful of years, there will be a giant transfer of wealth to women and millennials. Women and millennials are much more likely to make investment decisions based on ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors. Also, 10 years ago about five percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were women. That number has barely budged.~SD

There will not be a The Spread video riff for this week.~JJL


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These are the best-run cities in the world
World Economic Forum
They’re innovative, smart and forward-looking. They attract people, businesses and investment.
These are just some of the reasons that London, New York, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul are the seven best-run cities in the world, according to The Universe of City Indices 2017.

**Hard to believe Chicago, with its junk bond rating, did not make the list.~JK


Japan girl band gives voice to cryptocurrencies; Kasotsuka Shojo sings the praises of decentralised public blockchains
Leo Lewis in Tokyo – FT
As cryptocurrency fever has spread across the globe, some nations have embraced it, some have regulated it and some have descended upon it with an outright ban.

***** Whatever happened to girls just want to have fun?~JJL
***** What lyrics rhyme with cryptocurrency?~JK


Ex-financial regulator wishes he invested in bitcoin back when he was telling everyone to be careful
Berkeley Lovelace Jr. – CNBC
Former financial regulator Bart Chilton wishes he had invested in bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies back when he was telling everyone to be careful; Chilton says it’s still the “Wild West” outside the regulated futures market, but added the massive price fluctuations have since “mellowed out.”

**** Bart Chilton also wishes he had curly hair. As the Rolling Stones sang, “You can’t always get what you want.”~JJL


Employers Want Workers to Help Colleagues in Crisis; Mental health first aid courses encourage employees to take better care of each other
Rebecca Greenfield and John Tozzi – Bloomberg
In a glass conference room in midtown Manhattan, a few dozen employees from Beacon Health Options are taking turns asking each other an incredibly awkward question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” There’s a right way to ask and a wrong way, and they’re here to learn the difference.

***** Life is better when you have family, friends and colleagues who are there for you.~JJL


Thursday’s Top Three
Our most read story of the day on Thursday was the Financial Times’ London loses oil futures listings as Mifid II bites, leading to the question, who said there will be no regulatory arbitrage? Second went to HFM’s story Mr. MF Global collapse himself Jon Corzine, in Jon Corzine hires co-CIO ahead of Wall Street return. Third went to Spencer Doar’s JLN piece Blockbuster – CME looks to increase back month activity in ag futures. Have a great weekend everyone.


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Lead Stories

This Is Where People Are Buying Bitcoin All Over the World
Camila Russo, Blacki Migliozzi and Cedric Sam – Blomberg
Digital currencies are going through an unprecedented boom. Bitcoin has skyrocketed more than 1,600 percent in the past year. The total cryptocurrency market has grown to more than $600 billion. While several other coins have surged and taken market share away from bitcoin, dominance of the first decentralized cryptocurrency is still felt across the market, as it’s the main currency traded against other digital assets.

Who Wants to Be Bitcoin’s Watchdog?; The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has raised its hand. Some think it’s going too fast.
Robert Schmidt and Benjamin Bain – Bloomberg
At a meeting with staff of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission late last year, Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo ticked off a list of the watchdog agency’s achievements. Among them: It emerged as the federal overseer of digital currencies like bitcoin. For better or worse, Giancarlo added.

FIA Tech Launches Secure Lockbox For Indirect Clearing Data
FIA Tech is pleased to announce the expansion of its Owner & Controller Repository (OCR) service to securely and confidentially store data for firms offering indirect clearing services under MIFID II. The new Indirect Clearing Lockbox capability allows indirect clearers to store their client account data securely to be accessed by their clearing member only in a default scenario, ensuring clients have the full protection of new segregated clearing models provided for under MIFID II.

FIA Tech Goes Live with MiFID II Position Limits Databank and Spot Month Calendar
FIA Tech is pleased to announce the expansion of its Position Limits Databank service to encompass position limits for commodity derivatives as set by European regulators under MiFID II. The enhanced position limits service went live as planned ahead of the launch of MiFID II on January 3 2018.

Robert Jackson and Hester Peirce Sworn In as SEC Commissioners
Robert J. Jackson Jr. and Hester M. Peirce were sworn into office as SEC Commissioners this morning by SEC Chairman Jay Clayton. Mr. Jackson and Ms. Peirce were nominated to the SEC by President Donald Trump, and their nominations were confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 21. Both new commissioners participated in today’s inaugural meeting of the SEC’s Fixed Income Market Structure Advisory Committee.

Cryptocurrencies Steal Volatility Away From Stocks; Earnings drive fluctuations in equities, but there are no such yardsticks for bitcoin — only the waxing and waning of enthusiasm for a potentially revolutionary asset class.
Dean Curnutt – Bloomberg
What drives volatility? In equities these days, it turns out, not much. With just 6.8 percent realized volatility in the S&P 500 Index, 2017 marked the least volatile year since 1964. Low correlation among stocks, muted inflation variability and market-friendly central bank policies all played a role. But that hasn’t stopped investors from asking, “Who ate the vol?”

Lobbying Doesn’t Help Companies or Their Shareholders; There’s a cost when businesses focus more on Washington than on innovation.
Tyler Cowen – Bloomberg
Does business really get its way in Washington? And does business lobbying cement the control of the wealthiest 1 percent over the U.S. economy? Many people think so, but a recent comprehensive study throws cold water on those notions.

**** Alex, I will take “What is rent seeking?” for $100.~JJL

A Wall St. Executive’s Downfall Seemed Sudden. It Was Years in the Making.
Kate Kelly and Andrew Ross Sorkin – NY Times
Late last year, Morgan Stanley got a tip: Reporters were asking about allegations that a high-profile executive, the former congressman Harold E. Ford Jr., had harassed a female journalist. Morgan Stanley conducted a quick investigation, interviewing the accuser and Mr. Ford, who denied the allegations. According to Morgan Stanley officials briefed on the internal process, the Wall Street bank concluded that it was a he-said, she-said situation and didn’t find proof of harassment.

T. Boone Pickens Calls It Quits on Energy Trading; The oilman and investment manager cites deteriorating health and poor returns; fund will move toward a family-office structure
Alison Sider, Ryan Dezember and Juliet Chung – WSJ
T. Boone Pickens, a famous oilman and investment manager, said he is closing the energy-focused hedge fund he has run for the last two decades as his health declines.

JPMorgan’s Equity Traders Took a $143 Million Loss on a Single Client
Hugh Son and Jennifer Surane – Bloomberg
JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s equities business took a big hit from Steinhoff International Holdings NV last quarter. The bank recognized a $143 million mark-to-market loss on a margin loan to a single customer in its stock-trading unit, the New York-based firm said Friday in a statement. The bank didn’t identify the client or say what caused the loss. The writedown was tied to Steinhoff, the South African retailer engulfed in an accounting scandal, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Playing Whack-a-Mole With Bitcoin; Crypto-currencies can always pop up elsewhere, but Korea-style regulatory threats still hurt.
Lionel Laurent – Bloomberg
Trying to bring the hammer down on bitcoin is like playing Whack-A-Mole. It tends to just pop up somewhere else. Still, regulatory action, while not fatal, does make life a little less easy for the crypto-faithful.

Banking Giants Step Up Pre-Brexit Frankfurt Hires
Gavin Finch and Steven Arons – Bloomberg
Wall Street scouts for local staff after ‘point of no return’; Banks said to block-book school places for London expats’ kids
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley are on a hiring drive in Frankfurt as global investment banks race to establish new headquarters inside the European Union in time for Brexit.

Three Anonymous Guys Wiped $3 Billion Off South Africa Stocks in Four Days
Renee Bonorchis – Bloomberg
Viceroy Research spurs panic on which company could be next; Those behind Viceroy claim anonymity helps in fighting abuse
The name is enough to spread mayhem among South African traders. And all Viceroy Research is willing to disclose is that they’re three people working out of New York to protect investors.

Exchanges, OTC and Clearing

Nasdaq’s Nordic bond market sees record year; The volume of corporate bonds listed on Nasdaq Nordic markets grew 9% in 2017.
Hayley McDowell – The Trade
Nasdaq’s Nordic bond markets reached a new record in 2017, signalling a continued strong interest in corporate bonds across the region.

Deutsche Boerse Group: Business Indicators For December 2017
Deutsche Boerse
Attached please find a summary of Deutsche Bˆrse Group’s business indicators for December 2017. These statistics contain the latest trading volumes of the cash and derivatives market as well as key figures from MD+S and Deutsche Boerse’s subsidiary Clearstream.

Shenzhen Stock Exchange: Strengthening The Construction Of The System Of Rules And Addressing The Weak Links In The System
To further implement strict regulation in an all-round way in accordance with laws, and improve the rule of laws safeguarding the reform and development of the capital market, recently Shenzhen Stock Exchange (“SZSE”) has sorted out the business rules and regulations for the 13th time, and released the 9th catalogue of abolished business rules and regulations, making an end to a total of 16 rules and regulations. After the abolishment, there are 171 business rules and regulations issued by SZSE currently in effect.

Malawi Stock Exchange Weekly Trading Report
Malawi Stock Exchange

FTSE Mondo Visione Exchanges Index Breaks 50,000 For First Time
The FTSE Mondo Visione Exchanges Index burst through the 50,000 point mark on Wednesday setting an all time closing-high of 50,177 up from 49,853.4 the day before. The long standing closing all-time high of 48,486.38 was sent on 6 December 2007 just months after the onset of the financial crisis.


Open Banking: Here’s what fintech startups think of delays after HSBC, Barclays and more given deadline extension from CMA
Lynsey Barber – City AM
Entrepreneurs at fintech startups have been left little surprised after more than half of the UK’s banks revealed they would miss a deadline for Open Banking – but how they implement it is of more concern.

MoneyGram Signs Deal to Work With Currency Startup Ripple; Money-transfer company will run a pilot program testing XRP, a digital currency
Paul Vigna and Peter Rudegeair – WSJ
MoneyGram International Inc. signed on to run a pilot program testing XRP, a digital currency created by San Francisco startup Ripple, in its payments network, the companies said Thursday.

The technology behind bitcoin is only halfway through its evolution
Frank Chaparro – Business Insider
The hype around bitcoin, and its underpinning blockchain technology, is real. But we are still a ways off from blockchain reaching full maturity.

The big bitcoin question: What is it good for, and where?; Price volatility, processing time and fees may make it ill-suited as a store of value or means of transaction in economies like the U.S.
Ryan Vlastelica – MarketWatch
One of the most notable things about the digital currency bitcoin is that while there is great excitement over the technology it is built on, there is no consensus on what function it may be best suited for filling. Furthermore, the most popular ideas are quite disparate, even contradictory, and they each suggest different things about where it should trade.

Dropbox Files for IPO Three Years After $10 Billion Private Valuation; Web-storage company stands to be one of the largest tech IPOs in 2018
Eliot Brown and Jay Greene – WSJ
Web-storage company Dropbox Inc. has filed confidentially to go public, in what stands to be one of the largest tech IPOs in the past few years, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.


Senators from 12 states seek offshore drilling exemptions like Florida’s
Valerie Volcovici – Reuters
Twenty-two Democratic U.S. senators from 12 states on Thursday joined the chorus of local representatives seeking exemptions from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s newly proposed offshore drilling plan, after his surprise move on Tuesday to shield Florida.

Commentary: How Blockchain Could Replace Social Security Numbers
Frederic Kerrest – Fortune
In the wake of the Equifax breach and countless others compromising Americans’ privacy, one thing has become clear: It’s time to get rid of Social Security numbers.

Trump’s Wall Street Journal interview is incoherent and bizarre; “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un,” he says, and we all wonder what he means by “probably.”
Dylan Matthews – VOX
The president of the United States gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal about his diplomatic efforts to contain the North Korea nuclear program, his proposal for a border wall with Mexico (and having Mexico pay for it), the process of renegotiating NAFTA with Canada and Mexico, and his relationship with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

University Tax Flunks the First Amendment Test; The levy on investment income overwhelmingly targets liberal institutions. The key to overturning it will be convincing the courts.
Noah Feldman – Bloomberg
The new federal tax on the investment income of universities with endowments of more than $500,000 per student is terrible policy, raising minimal revenue while imposing costs on financial aid.


Transparency warning for data warehouses and rating agencies; Europe’s regulator also tells data warehouses that fees are too opaque
Philip Stafford and Caroline Binham – FT
The fees charged by rating agencies and data warehouses in Europe to customers are too opaque and could be preventing fair competition in the market, a key regulator warned on Thursday.

Green-Power Bitcoin Miner Weighs IPO and Pleads for Regulation
Jonathan Tirone – Bloomberg
HydroMiner in Austria considers going public on U.K.’s AIM; Company builds plug-and-play mining containers for hydropower
An Austrian cryptocurrency miner that mints bitcoins with green energy is weighing an initial public offering to fund an expansion outside its home country.

CFTC Chairman Giancarlo to Keynote at the ABA Business Law Section Derivatives and Futures Committee Meeting 2018

Podcast: CFTC Talks EP026: St. Louis Federal Reserve Chris Neely
This week on CFTC Talks, we have on St. Louis Federal Reserve’s, Chris Neely, author of “

FCA warns on illegal binary options providers
Hannah Murphy – FT
The UK financial sector watchdog has named almost 100 firms it says may be illegally offering binary options to British consumers, in its first move against the sector since it took on responsibility for supervising the high-risk trading providers earlier this month.

Cool Down Cryptocurrencies With Regulation, Not Rate Hikes; Officials can prevent a bubble without a monetary policy that slows the rest of the economy.
Conor Sen – Bloomberg
As the crypto mania continues to spread into financial markets, now at “real companies” like Eastman Kodak and Seagate Technology, policymakers are going to grow more concerned about broader implications for financial markets and the real economy.

Investing and Trading

Wall Street skeptical of Kodak’s stock rally after crypto reveal
Kevin Dugan – NY Post
Wall Street gave Eastman Kodak some negative exposure on Thursday as investors bet that a huge two-day rally in the company’s shares would collapse.

A Wall Street consultancy eviscerated crypto in a massive report ó and it should strike fear into the heart of every bitcoin bull
Frank Chaparro – Business Insider
A Wall Street consultancy is predicting a massive crash in the cryptocurrency market this year. Quinlan & Associates put out a report Thursday titled “Fool’s Gold: Unearthing The World of Cryptocurrency” in which they outline a case for bitcoin dropping to $1,800 by December 2018.

Why Is South Korea Spooking the Global Bitcoin Market?
Su-Hyun Lee and Raymond Zhong – NY Times
The world of Bitcoin ó rarely free of wild ups and downs of late ó has been rattled this week by word that South Korea is preparing a ban on trading in virtual currencies. The question is how real that threat might be.

What’s $27 Billion to Wall Street? An Alarming Drop in Revenue
Emily Flitter and Kate Kelly – NY Times
Twenty-seven billion dollars has gone missing on Wall Street. For more than a decade, the world’s top investment banks practically minted money from the buying and selling of bonds, currencies and other complex securities. For many banks, the business became their lifeblood.

‘It’s going to be a nightmare’: Some bitcoin investors are in for a rocky tax season
Brian Fung – Washington Post
Sean McAuliffe doesn’t have much background in investing, aside from a couple of retirement accounts. But over the Thanksgiving holiday, as the price of bitcoin blew past $8,000 in a months-long rally, the 54-year-old construction manager decided to take the plunge. Like many Americans, he’d read enough about bitcoin on the Internet to feel confident buying a stake in the digital currency and several similar ventures.

One corner of the stock market sees even crazier trading than bitcoin
Frank Chaparro – Business Insider
Bitcoin, the red-hot cryptocurrency, is known for its spine-tingling volatility. Its wild price swings have gripped the attention of Wall Street and make most moves in US equities look trivial. But there’s one area of the stock market where trading is even crazier than bitcoin, where big trades can have a sizeable impact on the price of a stock, according to Don Ross, CEO of PDQ Enterprises, operator of CODA Markets, a Chicago-based dark pool.


BlackRock Crosses $6 Trillion in Assets; Tax Law Bolsters Profit
Sabrina Willmer – Bloomberg
Law may help asset managers at expense of wealth advisors; Legislation is ‘significantly positive’ for BlackRock, peers
The BlackRock offices in New York. Photographer: Craig Warga/Bloomberg
BlackRock Inc. crossed the $6 trillion asset mark and is already seeing benefits from the new U.S. tax law.

JPMorgan Trading Revenue Hit By Steinhoff’s Troubles
Ben Eisen and Emily Glazer – WSJ
A margin loan tied to Steinhoff International Holdings N.V. eroded JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s equity trading revenue in the final three months of the year.

JPMorgan profit beats on higher interest rates; debt trading down
Sweta Singh, David Henry – Reuters
JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), the biggest U.S. bank by assets, reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Friday as gains in net interest income offset a slowdown in trading revenue.

BlackRock profit beats as ETFs attract more investment
Diptendu Lahiri, Trevor Hunnicutt -Reuters
BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) on Friday reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, as investors flooded into the world’s biggest asset manager’s exchange-traded funds (ETFs).


Bitcoin Crackdown Has China Stocks Playing Down Crypto Links
Bloomberg News
China avoiding crypto-driven ‘stir-frying’ of shares: XuFunds; Firms include Hangzhou Sunyard and Dalian Yi Qiao Sea Cucumber
At least a dozen Chinese listed companies have issued statements this week playing down links to blockchain technology amid signs regulators are trying to limit the kind of speculative surges seen in other markets.

North Korean caught secretly mining bitcoin rival
James MacSmith – NY Post
North Korean hackers are secretly mining a cryptocurrency rival to bitcoin as Kim Jong Un aims to cash in on the booming virtual cash economy and skirt the sanctions that are crippling his regime.

China’s blockchain fever gets hotter even as regulator queries price surge
Reuters Staff
China’s blockchain-related companies extended their bullish run on Friday, as punters brushed aside concerns raised by regulators about the rationality of stock price surges this week.

Chinese bitcoin miners eye sites in energy-rich Canada
Allison Lampert, Alexandra Harney, Brenda Goh – Reuters
China’s Bitmain Technologies is eyeing bitcoin mining sites in Quebec, a company spokesman told Reuters, as expectations of a potential Chinese crackdown on cryptocurrency mining make the energy-rich Canadian province an attractive alternative.


Brexit exposes our reliance on the City; A report by London’s mayor shows what effect leaving the EU will have on financial services and the price we’ll all pay
Philip Collins – The Times
The hills around Davos in Switzerland are where Thomas Mann set The Magic Mountain. It is a novel in which the lead character, freed from the mundane concerns of his urban life, learns hard truths about the world in the vigorous Alpine air. It is a playful, scarcely credible narrative which abounds in references to Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

Brussels raises prospect of longer Brexit transition; EU ambassadors discuss possibility, and price, of longer period to seal trade deal
Alex Barker in Sofia – FT
The EU has begun debating the price for prolonging Britain’s Brexit transition beyond December 2020, with Brussels, Paris and Berlin attempting to maximise their bargaining power should trade talks drag on for several years.

Barclays CEO Urges Theresa May to Cut Taxes Post-Brexit
Gavin Finch – Bloomberg
Staley tells prime minister U.K. banks too heavily regulated; May met bankers including Staley, Cryan and Weber Thursday
Barclays Plc Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley called on U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to cut taxes and relax regulations on British banks after Brexit, according to a person familiar with his comments.

Banking Giants Step Up Pre-Brexit Frankfurt Hires
Gavin Finch and Steven Arons – Bloomberg
Wall Street scouts for local staff after ‘point of no return’; Banks said to block-book school places for London expats’ kids
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley are on a hiring drive in Frankfurt as global investment banks race to establish new headquarters inside the European Union in time for Brexit.


Opinion: Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are just the Beanie Babies of the moment; Investment manias get everyone marching ó and then the music stops
Vitaliy Katsenelson – MarketWatch
If you invested in the stocks back in 1999, it is hard to observe the bitcoin mania and not experience the feeling that you’ve seen this movie before and know how it will end ó in losses and tears.

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