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Crypto firm Celsius pauses all transfers, withdrawals as markets tumble

A representations of cryptocurrencies in this illustration taken, January 24, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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June 13 (Reuters) – Cryptocurrency lending firm Celsius Network will pause withdrawals and transfers between accounts due to “extreme market conditions”, the company said on Monday, in the latest sign of pressure in the crypto industry.

Bitcoin extended earlier declines after Celsius’s announcement, falling more than 6% to as low as $24,888, an 18-month low. Ether , the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, dropped more than 8% to $1,303, its lowest since March 2021.

“We are taking this necessary action … in order to stabilize liquidity and operations while we take steps to preserve and protect assets,” the company said in a blog post.

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“Furthermore, customers will continue to accrue rewards during the pause in line with our commitment to our customers.”

Celsius Network, which raised $750 million in funding late last year, is a significant player in crypto lending. It offers interest-bearing products to customers who deposit their cryptocurrencies with the company, and lends out crypto currencies to earn a return.

As of May 17, the company had processed $8.2 billion worth of loans and had $11.8 billion in assets, according to its website.

It said in August last year that it had more than $20 billion in assets.

While crypto lending has become increasingly big business, the sector has come under regulatory scrutiny, particularly in the U.S. read more

Crypto markets have been under pressure in recent months, falling alongside other so-called risk assets as interest rates have risen around the world.

Price falls have also both been caused by and contributed to the collapse of some crypto projects. Most notable was the fall of stablecoin TerraUSD, which last month broke its dollar peg and collapsed in value, rocking the crypto industry. read more

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Reporting by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan in Bengaluru and Alun John in Hong Kong; Editing by Bradley Perrett

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CFTC eyes potential oversight of cryptocurrencies, carbon trading – commissioner

HOUSTON, June 8 (Reuters) – Cryptocurrency developers and U.S. lawmakers are moving toward putting the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in charge of regulating digital currencies, said CFTC Commissioner Summer Mersinger.

The designation would expand the CFTC’s mandate to oversee agricultural, energy and financial options markets and pave the way for the agency to regulate other digital assets such as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.

Separately, the CFTC is considering how carbon trading markets operate, with a view toward their use in hedging and risk management.

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Mersinger, one of five commissioners on the independent board that oversees commodity and financial futures markets, was speaking on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Reuters Commodities Trading USA conference in Houston.

Major crypto companies have backed the CFTC and on Tuesday U.S. senators Cynthia Lummis, Republican of Wyoming, and Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, filed a bill that would make CFTC the industry’s main overseer.

“You’re seeing the industry coalesce around the CFTC becoming the primary regulator,” said Mersinger.

Lawmakers have not decided which agency would oversee cryptocurrencies but the proposed Lummis-Gillibrand bill offers a starting point for Congressional debate. read more

The CFTC has begun its own review of a potential role over cryptocurrencies, with staff looking for opportunities in areas such as spot-market crypto trading “where we could have some expanded role making,” Mersinger said. She cautioned that the agency historically has not regulated spot markets and its reviews are preliminary.

“We’re still a strong regulator but our registrants have a lot of flexibility,” she said. “They have been very interested in that approach versus the top-down way of some other financial regulators,” she said.

Carbon trading is another area where the CFTC has an interest. Its regulation now is largely policed by industry groups and voluntary on the part of participants.

“We have interest in that space but we don’t regulate that space,” Mersinger said. One consideration is what changes may be needed for the voluntary markets to work properly, she added.

In 2020, when U.S. oil futures prices turned negative for the first time on fears of a lack of physical storage amid collapsing demand, CFTC issued an advisory warning of the risks that not enough people took seriously, she said.

One lesson it learned was that there was a need for broader inter-agency collaboration and discussion of contract settlement terms with the exchanges and traders, she said.

“At the end of the day, storage wasn’t as big an issue” as feared, but it was not well communicated, she said.

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Reporting by Gary McWilliams and Arathy Somasekhar; Editing by Richard Chang

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Bitcoin drops 6.9% to below $30,000

June 1 (Reuters) – Bitcoin, the world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrency, dropped 6.9% to $29,555.35 at 22:03 GMT on Wednesday, losing $2,262.81 from its previous closing price.

It was down 38.9% from the year’s high of $48,234 on March 28.

Ether , the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, dropped 7.52% to $1,794.68, losing $145.87 from its previous close.

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Reporting by Shubhendu Deshmukh and Rachna Manojkumar Dhanrajani in Bengaluru

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Bitcoin surges nearly 8% to $31,780

May 30 (Reuters) – Bitcoin rose 7.93 % to $31,780.51 at 2200 GMT on Monday, up $2,334.8 from its previous close.

The world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrency is up 25.1% from the year’s low of $25,401.05 on May 12.

Ether , the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, rose 9.8 % to $1,989.38 on Monday, adding $177.54 to its previous close.

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Reporting by Ann Maria Shibu in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio

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Bitcoin’s 2021 gains wiped out in stablecoin rout

HONG KONG, May 12 (Reuters) – Cryptocurrencies extended their sell-off on Thursday, with Bitcoin falling to its lowest levels in 16 months as a stampede out of so-called stablecoins sent shockwaves around broader markets.

The latest blow to Bitcoin and its smaller rival Ether , which has shed more than half its market value so far this year, came from a meltdown this week in TerraUSD, also one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin dropped to a low of $25,401.05, its lowest level since Dec. 28, 2020. In the past eight sessions, it has lost a third of its value, or $13,000, and is down more than 45% so far this year read more

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From a peak of $69,000 in November 2021, it has lost nearly two-thirds of its value.

TerraUSD, also known as “UST”, slipped below its 1:1 peg to the dollar this week, roiling cryptocurrency markets already under pressure alongside tumbling stock markets. read more

“The collapse of the Peg in TerraUSD has had some nasty and predictable spillovers. We have seen broad liquidation in BTC, ETH and most ALT coins,” said Richard Usher, head of OTC trading at BCB Group, adding that the moves are reminiscent of the bank runs during the 2008 financial crisis.

Stablecoins are digital tokens pegged to the value of traditional assets, such as the U.S. dollar. They are popular in times of turmoil in crypto markets and are often used by traders to move funds around and speculate on other cryptocurrencies.

On Thursday, TerraUSD was quoted around 50 cents, according to CoinGecko price data.

A representation of cryptocurrency Bitcoin is seen in this illustration taken August 6, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Unlike most stablecoins which are backed by reserves, TerraUSD is an algorithmic, or “decentralised”, stablecoin. It was supposed to maintain its peg via a complex mechanism which involved swapping it with another free-floating token.

But even reserve-backed stablecoins, which say they have sufficient assets to maintain their pegs, were showing signs of stress on Thursday.

Major stablecoin Tether slipped below its dollar peg, hitting as low as 98 cents around 0732 GMT on Thursday, according to CoinGecko. USD Coin was trading at around $1.04 while Binance USD was at $1.07 – a significant breakout of its usual range.

“The Terra incident is causing an industry-based panic, as Terra is the world’s third-biggest stable coin,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a senior analyst at Swissquote Bank. But TerraUSD “couldn’t hold its promise to maintain a stable value in terms of U.S. dollars.”

Market players are still assessing the fallout of the collapse of TerraUSD to identify whether major companies or investors have been badly hurt. That would be a possible clue to wider contagion.

Ether , the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, tumbled nearly 15% on Thursday to $1,700, its lowest since June 2021.

Unlike previous sell-offs in broad financial markets, when cryptocurrencies have been largely untouched, the selling pressure in these assets this time has undermined the broader argument that they are dependable stores of value amid market volatility.

Bitcoin
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Reporting by Alun John and Elizabeth Howcroft in London; Additional reporting by Samuel Indyk; Writing by Saikat Chatterjee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Bradley Perrett and Kim Coghill

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Panama passes bill to permit use of crypto assets

A representation of cryptocurrency Bitcoin is seen in this illustration taken August 6, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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PANAMA CITY, April 28 (Reuters) – Lawmakers in Panama’s National Assembly on Thursday approved a bill to regulate the use and commercialization of crypto assets in the Central American country renowned as a hub of offshore financial services.

The bill opens the door to private and public use of crypto assets, and will make it possible for people to pay their taxes with cryptocurrencies. Experts warned it could heighten Panama’s reputation as a place lacking financial transparency.

The legislation is broader in scope than measures passed by El Salvador, which last year made bitcoin legal tender, said independent lawmaker and promoter of the bill Gabriel Silva.

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“We’re seeing the emergence of many different types of crypto assets like works of art,” he said. “That’s why we didn’t want to limit ourselves only to cryptocurrencies.”

The bill covers the trading and use of crypto assets, issuance of digital securities, new payment systems and the tokenization of precious metals. Tokenization is when rights to an asset are converted into digital formats.

Under the new legislation, Panamanians may use crypto assets as means of payment for any civil or commercial operation not prohibited by law in the country.

Panama is on the European Union’s list of tax havens, and Romain Dromard, chief executive officer at financial investment advisory firm K&B Family Office, said the crypto bill would not help it appear more transparent.

“Panama was already in a bad position and these payment methods skip the due diligence processes that international organizations are asking Panama to embrace,” he said.

The bill, which now passes to President Laurentino Cortizo to be signed, was approved in the assembly with 38 votes in favor, two abstentions and no votes against.

Belisario Castillo Saenz, chief executive officer of tokenization firm FeƤnor Corp, argued that crypto assets could help the unbanked, given that internet penetration is high in Panama but only one in four people have bank accounts.

The bill could also make banks that have created barriers to using cryptocurrencies more cooperative, said Jose Fabrega of CryptoSPA, a hub for crypto and blockchain services.

Still, K&B’s Dromard said the role banks will play under the new rules is unclear and forecast that it will take years for traditional institutions to use the assets.

In addition, small and medium businesses would not be able to switch to such highly volatile assets, he argued.

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Reporting by Elida Moreno and Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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Payments company Bolt to buy Wyre in cryptocurrency push

Bitcoin cryptocurrency representation is pictured on a keyboard in front of binary code in this illustration taken September 24, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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April 7 (Reuters) – Online checkout company Bolt Financial Inc said on Thursday it is buying cryptocurrency infrastructure provider Wyre Payments Inc in a bid to enable digital-currency payments on its platform.

The company did not disclose the terms of the deal, but a Wall Street Journal report earlier in the day said it was valued at $1.5 billion. (https://on.wsj.com/3xeWbhE)

San Francisco-based Bolt was last valued at $11 billion after a funding round in January. It provides online retailers and shoppers a checkout service for payments.

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The company, which counts apparel retailers Forever 21, Juicy Couture and Lucky Brand among its customers, expects to close the deal by the end of the year.

Founded in 2013, Wyre provides payments infrastructure for cryptocurrencies.

Since last year, the crypto market has seen a surge of investor interest with large venture investors, celebrities and blue-chip companies doubling down on crypto investments.

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Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath

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Biden orders government to study digital dollar, other cryptocurrency risks

WASHINGTON, March 9 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday requiring the government to assess the risks and benefits of creating a central bank digital dollar, as well as other cryptocurrency issues, the White House said.

Bitcoin surged on the news as the administration’s holistic and deliberative approach calmed market fears about an immediate regulatory crackdown on cryptocurrencies. In midday trading, bitcoin rose 9.1% to $42,280, on track for its largest percentage gain since Feb. 28. read more

Biden’s order will require the Treasury Department, the Commerce Department and other key agencies to prepare reports on “the future of money” and the role cryptocurrencies will play.

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Wide-ranging oversight of the cryptocurrency market, which surged past $3 trillion in November, is essential to ensure U.S. national security, financial stability and U.S. competitiveness, and stave off the growing threat of cyber crime, administration officials said.

Analysts view the long-awaited executive order as a stark acknowledgement of the growing importance of cryptocurrencies and their potential consequences for the U.S. and global financial systems. read more

“The growth in cryptocurrencies has been explosive,” Daleep Singh, deputy national security adviser for economics, said in an interview with CNN.

Cryptocurrencies and digital assets can affect how people access banking, whether consumers are safe and protected from volatility, and the primacy of the U.S. dollar in the global economy, he said.

The executive order is part of an effort to promote responsible innovation but mitigates the risk to consumers, investors and businesses, Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, and Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser, said in a statement.

“We are clear-eyed that ‘financial innovation’ of the past has too often not benefited working families, while exacerbating inequality and increasing systemic financial risk,” they said.

One key objective is to redress inefficiencies in the current U.S. payments system and boost financial inclusion, especially of poor Americans, about 5% of whom do not currently have bank accounts due to high fees, one official said.

Another key measure directs the government to assess the technological infrastructure needed for a potential U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) – an electronic version of dollar bills in your pocket.

But it could take years to develop and introduce a “digital dollar,” administration officials cautioned on Wednesday, noting that the Federal Reserve in January had referred the issue to Congress. read more

Administration officials said the United States was taking great care to decide whether – and how – tomove forward with developing a digital dollar, given the dollar’s role as the world’s primary reserve currency.

“We’ve got to be very, very deliberate about that analysis because the implications of our moving in this direction are profound for the country that issues the world’s primary reserve currency,” one of the officials said.

The order also encourages the Federal Reserve to continue research and development efforts.

Nine countries have launched central bank digital currencies, and 16 others – including China – have begun development of such digital assets, according to the Atlantic Council, leading some in Washington to worry that the dollar could lose some of its dominance to China.

The U.S. dollar remains underpinned by key fundamentals, including a commitment to transparency, the rule of law and the full independence of the Federal Reserve, the official said.

“The dollar’s role has been and will continue to be crucial to the stability of the international monetary system as a whole. Foreign central bank digital currencies and their introduction by themselves do not threaten this dominance,” the official said.

Asked whether China could develop a competitive advantage if it moved sooner, one administration official said U.S. officials would monitor developments with an eye to maintaining the centrality of the dollar in the global economy.

The order asks for over a dozen reports, including by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to assess issues raised by cryptocurrencies, including systemic risk and consumer protection.

One key objective is to redress inefficiencies in the current U.S. payments system and boost financial inclusion, especially of poor Americans, about 5% of whom do not currently have bank accounts due to high fees, an official said.

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Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Katanga Johnson; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Michelle Price, Simon Cameron-Moore and Mark Porter

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Biden to order studies on regulating, issuing cryptocurrency -source

WASHINGTON, March 7 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to sign a long-awaited executive order this week directing the Justice Department, Treasury and other agencies to study the legal and economic ramifications of creating a U.S. central bank digital currency, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The White House last year said it was considering a wide-ranging oversight of the cryptocurrency market – including an executive order – to deal with growing threat of ransomware and other cyber crime.

Biden’s order sets an 180-day deadline for a series of reports on “the future of money” and the role that cryptocurrencies will play in the evolving landscape.

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“We could see a significant shift in policy in 180 days. This is a likely step toward creation of a central bank digital currency,” the source said, citing significant momentum behind such a move within the Biden administration.

However the reports being ordered could still raise concerns about such a move, or conclude that it would require congressional approval, the source cautioned.

The Biden order, likely to come on Wednesday, comes amid heightened concern about the use of cryptocurrencies by Russian elites to circumvent Western sanctions that have cut Russia off from large portions of the global economy, and moves by China and other economies to create their own cryptocurrencies.

The timing of the order was first reported by Bloomberg.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on Monday warned financial institutions to watch out for potential attempts by Russian entities to evade sanctions imposed by Washington over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. read more

Biden’s order will ask the Justice Department to look at whether a new law is needed to create a new currency, with the the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Commission and other agencies to study the impact on consumers.

Other studies will be ordered on the impact of a cryptocurrency on competitiveness, the market and technical infrastructure needed, and the environmental impact of bitcoin mining, the source said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last year warned about an “explosion of risk” from digital markets, including the misuse of cryptocurrencies, but said new financial technologies could also help fight crime and reduce inequality.

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Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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EXCLUSIVE North Korea grows nuclear, missiles programs, profits from cyberattacks -U.N. report

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5 (Reuters) – North Korea continued to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs during the past year and cyberattacks on cryptocurrency exchanges were an important revenue source for Pyongyang, according to an excerpt of a confidential United Nations report seen on Saturday by Reuters.

The annual report by independent sanctions monitors was submitted on Friday evening to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee.

“Although no nuclear tests or launches of ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) were reported, DPRK continued to develop its capability for production of nuclear fissile materials,” the experts wrote.

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North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It has long-been banned from conducting nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by the U.N. Security Council.

“Maintenance and development of DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile infrastructure continued, and DPRK continued to seek material, technology and know-how for these programs overseas, including through cyber means and joint scientific research,” the report said.

Since 2006, North Korea has been subject to U.N. sanctions, which the Security Council has strengthened over the years in an effort to target funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The sanctions monitors noted that there had been a “marked acceleration” of missile testing by Pyongyang.

The United States and others said on Friday that North Korea had carried out nine ballistic missile launches in January, adding it was the largest number in a single month in the history of the country’s weapons of mass destruction and missile programs.

“DPRK demonstrated increased capabilities for rapid deployment, wide mobility (including at sea), and improved resilience of its missile forces,” the sanctions monitors said.

North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CYBERATTACKS, ILLICIT TRADE

The monitors said “cyberattacks, particularly on cryptocurrency assets, remain an important revenue source” for North Korea and that they had received information that North Korean hackers continued to target financial institutions, cryptocurrency firms and exchanges.

“According to a member state, DPRK cyberactors stole more than $50 million between 2020 and mid-2021 from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges in North America, Europe and Asia,” the report said.

The monitors also cited a report last month by cybersecurity firm Chainalysis that said North Korea launched at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms that extracted nearly $400 million worth of digital assets last year.

In 2019, the U.N. sanctions monitors reported that North Korea had generated an estimated $2 billion for its weapons of mass destruction programs using widespread and increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.

The latest report said North Korea’s strict blockade in response to the COVID-19 pandemic meant “illicit trade, including in luxury goods, has largely ceased.”

Over the years the U.N. Security Council has banned North Korean exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capped imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

“Although maritime exports from DPRK of coal increased in the second half of 2021, they were still at relatively low levels,” the monitors said.

“The quantity of illicit imports of refined petroleum increased sharply in the same period, but at a much lower level than in previous years,” the report said. “Direct delivery by non-DPRK tankers to DPRK has ceased, probably in response to COVID-19 measures: instead, only DPRK tankers delivered oil.”

North Korea’s humanitarian situation “continues to worsen,” the report said. The monitors said that was probably due to the COVID-19 blockade, but that a lack of information from North Korea meant it was difficult to determine how much U.N. sanctions were unintentionally harming civilians.

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Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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