Bitcoin continues to hover near last week's post-ICO-ban lows having given up the rebound gains on headlines proclaiming China plans to shut local Bitcoin exchanges - a problem since the country accounts for 23% of global trading. However, the China's 3 biggest exchanges have still not received anything official with regard the ban and Russia's finance minister has outspokenly proclaimed "there's not point in banning" crptocurrencies.
Confusion remains the biggest factor weighing on cryptocurrencies for now...
As we detailed previously, China reportedly plans to ban trading of bitcoin and other virtual currencies on domestic exchanges, dealing another blow to the $150 billion cryptocurrency market after the country outlawed initial coin offerings last week.
Bloomberg reports the ban will only apply to trading of cryptocurrencies on exchanges, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the information is private. Authorities don’t have plans to stop over-the-counter transactions, the people said. China’s central bank said it couldn’t immediately comment.
While Beijing’s motivation for the exchange ban is unclear, it comes amid a broad clampdown on financial risk in the run-up to a key Communist Party leadership reshuffle next month.
“There has been a general tightening of the screw on regulating financial and monetary conditions,” said Mark McFarland, chief economist at Union Bancaire Privee SA HK in Hong Kong. “All of these things suggest a longer term process of tightening scrutiny of activities that aren’t in the normal sort of monetary realm.”
However, as Bloomberg reports, OKCoin, BTC China and Huobi, the country’s three biggest bitcoin exchanges, said on Monday that they hadn’t received any regulatory notices concerning bans on cryptocurrency trading.
All three venues reported transactions on Monday, with bitcoin rising 7.6 percent on OKCoin as of 5:09 p.m. local time.
The exchange ban is unlikely to have a major impact on the prices of cryptocurrencies globally because venues outside China will continue trading, according to FBG Capital’s Zhou. The country’s role in the bitcoin market had already started shrinking in recent months as authorities tightened regulation. At one point, exchanges in China accounted for more than 90 percent of the world’s bitcoin transactions.
“Whenever you start to hear about Hong Kong taxi drivers becoming millionaires from buying bitcoin, you start to think this is not necessarily driven by fundamentals,” he said.
“So you will get quite substantial pullbacks at some point.”
Furthermore, Chinese officials are even talking back the ICO ban as "temporary." As CoinTelegraph reports, during an interview with state-owned national television network CCTV-13, Hu Bing, a researcher at the Institute of Finance and Banking, a Chinese government-supported academic research organization, claimed that the government’s ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs) is only temporary.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and its Institute of Finance and Banking are affiliated with the State Council of the People's Republic of China, the chief administrative authority of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese Institute of Finance and its researchers are considered to be a government institution and government officials.
In his interview with CCTV translated by Box Mining, Bing explained that the suspension on ICOsand the government’s declaration of ICOs as an illegal fundraising method are only temporary, until local financial regulators introduce necessary regulatory frameworks and policies for both ICO investors and projects.
More importantly, Bing emphasized that the Chinese cryptocurrency community must understand that the government has not “forbidden” ICOs but instead “paused” them, demonstrating the government’s intention to resume ICOs in the near future. Bing also noted that the Chinese government and its financial regulators are currently considering the potential of allowing ICOs to raise money in a controlled environment, through a licensing program.
Essentially, if the government decides to legalize and regulate the ICO market, its licensing program would structure similarly to the BitLicense program of New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDF), which requires companies to obtain a license from the state in order to operate and serve people of New York.
Additionally, CoinDesk reports that Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said his department will regulate the use of cryptocurrencies in the country by the end of 2017.
Siluanov offered insight into the government's plans to oversee Russia's domestic cryptocurrency market during an appearance at the Moscow Financial Forum last Friday. Echoing previous statements by members of the Russian government, Siluanov said banning cryptocurrencies does not make sense and that the ministry will likely treat digital monies similarly to securities, Reuters reports.
According to Wordnews, Siluanov said:
"The state certainly understands that cryptocurrencies are a reality, there is no point in prohibiting them. It is possible to regulate them, so the Finance Ministry will draw up a bill by the end of the year."
His comments add to those coming from other quarters of the Russian government, offering yet another window into what could be a completed policy move by the end of the year.
Finally, as institutional investors pile into the cryptocurrency space, CoinDesk reports that they may be altering the underlying dynamics of the market itself.
By virtue of buying in, institutional investors are pushing prices up, and that's likely to continue as these investors place bets in a way that furthers an already bullish cycle many have labeled a bubble. Bearing mountains of cash and a mindset unlike retail investors, crypto hedge funds are being directed to invest all (or most) of their cash. And without sophisticated mechanisms for shorting cryptocurrencies, retail investors have limited options and excessive risk in betting on price decreases. Matthew Goetz, co-founder of new cryptocurrency fund BlockTower Capital, affirmed the impact of this buying pressure is likely to continue to mean the cryptocurrency market doesn't behave like those of more mature assets. Goetz told CoinDesk:
"As more capital comes in the space, from a market structure standpoint, whether it's funds or some other structure, that will likely be a bullish catalyst for prices."
And Goetz, who worked for more than a decade at Goldman Sachs, has no doubt the more capital will come.
"I think the space is going to continue to get more competitive, because people are seeing the opportunity set," he said.
The bullish comments were echoed by Thomas Kineshanko, co-founder of Protos Cryptocurrency Asset Management, who believes the mechanisms at play are working to push cryptocurrency prices skyward even more.
"Given the total market cap of cryptocurrency of say $150 billion on any given day, and then you add say a billion dollars, prices are going to rise. So yes, the money coming in to the market is going to raise prices – as long as there's not any major sell-off," Kineshanko told CoinDesk.