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Tom Rodgers
Tom Rodgers Head of Research
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ETC Group Crypto Minutes Week #33

Argentina's President says he hasn't ruled out adopting cryptocurrency to curb 50% inflation, Microsoft and EY double down on Ethereum, and crypto unicorn Bitpanda triples valuation to $4bn, proving that strong regulatory compliance brings the biggest institutional cheques to the table.

Argentina President: We've not ruled out adopting crypto to beat 50% inflation

The President of Argentina has not ruled out adopting cryptocurrency, he said in a televised interview this week.

Alberto Fern?ndez said that while cryptocurrency was a sensitive issue, in his view, digital assets could help to curb inflation in the South American country.

Fern?ndez was speaking to Filo.news editorial director Julio Leiva. The full interview is available on Youtube here.

The discussion about the operation of cryptocurrencies is global, and I must confess that it is a matter of caution. But there is no denying it, perhaps it is the way forward (for Argentina). [translated from Spanish] Alberto Fernández, 11 August 2021

Annual inflation has topped 50% this year, well above the government's 29% target.

Argentina's runaway inflation has made consumer prices soar, damaging the economy, drastically cutting spending power, forcing struggling businesses to close and hurting savers and investors.

While the IMF carries no current statistics for Argentina, the countr's official INDEC agency said in July 2021 that consumer prices climbed 25.3% in the first half of the year, and were 50.2% higher than in 2020. That makes Argentine inflation one of the four worst in the world, after Sudan, Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

Taming inflation is key to restoring economic stability after three years of recession, heading off social upheaval as poverty levels rise and for the Peronist government to avoid painful defeat in midterm elections at the end of the year. Hernan Nessi, South America correspondent, Reuters

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) analyst Alberto Ramos said that price rises had come despite soft domestic demand, high unemployment and depressed real wages.

High inflation remains one of the key macroeconomic challenges facing the government, and a significant political liability for the government coalition. Alberto Ramos, Latin American research lead, Goldman Sachs

In separate comments on 10 August 2021, Miguel Pesce, president of the Central Bank of the Argentine Republic (BCRA), said that while Bitcoin does not constitute an asset in his view, the bank was preparing to regulate cryptocurrencies where they intersect with payments systems and the exchange market.

Pesce was speaking at the opening of the Digital Finance Forum, organized by the Argentine Institute of Finance Executives (IAEF). At the same event, Pesce categorically ruled out creating a Central Bank Digital Currency, which has happened in China with the e-CNY and is being actively explored in Europe, the UK and the US.

Latin America remains one of the largest regions for cryptocurrency adoption. In a world first in June 2021, El Salvador made Bitcoin legal tender.

Microsoft doubles down on enterprise Ethereum

In a newly-published research paper, Microsoft said it was using the Ethereum blockchain for combating online piracy. The 11-page paper outlines the system - called Argus - and notes how it uses smart contracts and cryptographically provable security to prevent copyright theft. Cointelegraph was first to report the news, on 16 August 2021.

We see this as a distributed system problem. In the implementation, we overcome a set of unavoidable obstacles to ensure security despite full transparency. Microsoft, Argus: A Fully Transparent Incentive System for Anti-Piracy Campaigns

The world's second-largest public company, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has a market cap currently larger than the entire cryptoasset sector at $2.2 trillion.

In December 2020, Microsoft said it had adopted Ethereum to solve complex business challenges around gaming royalties for its Xbox platform.

EY partnered Microsoft for that particular announcement. It's perhaps no surprise given that the Big Four audit firm has invested heavily in Ethereum in recent years. Its developers began releasing zero-knowledge protocols into the public domain in June 2019, and just last month, published an open-source layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum called Nightfall 3. That codebase uses a technology called zk-Optimistic rollups to aggregate transactions into groups, vastly reducing the often high fees needed to process Ethereum transactions.

In March 2020, EY debuted Baseline , another Ethereum-centred project with Microsoft, a package of public domain blockchain tools allowing enterprises to build and deploy procurement on Ethereum using offchain storage, zero-knowledge proofs and distributed identify, so that businesses do not have to store sensitive information on the blockchain itself. The protocol supports smart contracts and tokenisation standards, which means purchase orders and receivables can be tokenised and integrated into the DeFi ecosystem.

The use of Ethereum by the world's largest tech companies is testament to its revolutionary architecture, and wide-scale adoption across industry. Amazon Web Services, the most profitable and fastest-growing division of of Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announced the general availability of Ethereum on Amazon Managed Blockchain in March 2021.

Crypto unicorn Bitpanda raises $263m for $4.1bn valuation

Austrian cryptocurrency broker Bitpanda, the latest company in the space to reach unicorn status, has tripled in value with its latest funding round, Reuters reported on 17 August.

The retail-focused Vienna-headquartered exchange claims 3 million users worldwide, and is a platform where people can trade fractional stocks, crypto and commodities in one place.

Founded in 2014, it is now one of the fastest-growing fintechs in Europe, with over 500 employees.

The funding round was led by Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel's Valar Ventures, a VC fund that has invested heavily in European fintech. Its portfolio companies include German neobank N26, Spotify and British AI tech developer Deepmind.

This proves that a strong regulatory focus in crypto brings the biggest institutional cheques to the table.

Bitpanda has succeeded where other cryptocurrency brokers have failed, because of its commitment to regulatory compliance. The venue is licenced as a MiFID II investment firm and as a PSD2 payment institution, and is AMLD5 compliant, as well as being registered as a Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) with the Austrian Financial Market Authority and France's Autorit? des March?s Financiers.

The Financial Action Task Force, the world's leading anti-money laundering intergovernmental organisation, brought in guidelines for digital asset markets in 2020. In its second 12-month review, it noted that the crypto sector had made great strides to institute strong KYC and AML reporting in line with its controversial 'Travel Rule'. 58 out of 126 jurisdictions have implemented revised FATF standards into their national law, it said.

The report finds that many jurisdictions have continued to make progress in implementing the revised FATF Standards. While the supervision of VASPs and implementation of AML/CFT obligations by VASPs is generally emerging, there is evidence of progress. Financial Action Task Force, 5 July 2021

Among the other investors in the current Bitpanda round were famed British hedge fund manager Alan Howard, whose $13bn hedge fund Brevan Howard began to invest in digital assets in March this year.

Bitpanda is not currently seeking to go public, Reuters said, quoting chief executive officer Eric Demuth, but added that sources suggested when it did occur, it was likely to be via a direct listing, following the likes of Coinbase (NASDAQ:COIN), Wise(LSE:WISE) and Robinhood (NASDAQ:HOOD).

We will take our time in that regard. We are profitable for five years now, every year. Eric Demuth, CEO, Bitpanda

Markets

BTC/USD

Bitcoin had a steady 7-day trading session after the euphoria of the past couple of weeks. Bullish sentiment remains strong and the cryptoasset appears ready to make the next leg up to test $50,000 for the first time since its record-breaking climb to $60,000 and beyond earlier this year. The low point of the week's trading came in a brief 4.2% dip to $43,653.88, but that level was quickly snapped up. BTC now looks to be in an ascending triangle, with the top of the range at $48,112.80 some 5.5% higher than at the start of the week.

BTC/USD graph
Data as of 17 Aug 2021 | Source: TradingView

ETH/USD

Ethereum's trading week was consistent, if unspectacular, but the programmable money blockchain continued its unbroken winning run that began around 20 July 2021. A double bottom formed right on the $3,000 line, creating the low point of this week's trading activity, at $2,984.55, just 3.7% below the week's starting price. That, however, was quickly rejected before ETH resumed its upward climb. Ether moved as high as 7.6% above its beginning point to hit $3,338.04, but backslid a little to $3,222.61, adding a total of 3.9% across the week.

ETH/USD graph
Data as of 17 Aug 2021 | Source: TradingView

LTC/USD

This week Litecoin hit its highest point in more than two months, as positive sentiment continues to filter through to the payments blockchain. From a starting point of $163.53, LTC climbed a total of 15.5% to reach the heady heights of $188.89. That's not the near-20% jump we witnessed last week, but it is a strong double-digit showing for a protocol that has seen adoption for its fast, cheap cross-border payments spike in the past six months. Now all eyes are on what happens if and when Litecoin retests the psychologically-important $200-level.

LTC/USD graph
Data as of 17 Aug 2021 | Source: TradingView

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