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Central Bank Digital Currencies and Their Role in the Financial System

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Central bank digital currencies are a digital representation of a country’s fiat currency. They are effectively a government-issued cryptocurrency designed to replace the traditional, physical form of fiat currencies.

The term CBDC is broad because its implementation involves several critical decisions on the part of an issuing central bank. The primary decision is whether a CBDC should be a general-purpose in that it’s available to be used by the general population. If not, then the issuing authority may decide to make it available for “wholesale” transactions, which means the CBDC is only used for settlements between banks. Finally, a CBDC could also only be used among central banks.

In its research paper covering CBDCs in-depth, the Bank for International Settlements, or BIS, defines these categories using a Venn diagram called the “money flower,” shown below. The gray area represents various types of CBDCs, while Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies are deemed to be private digital tokens.

The money flower: A taxonomy of money

What’s the background of CBDCs?

According to the BIS, the idea of CBDCs has been around for many years, predating Bitcoin by over two decades. However, the concept has gained prominence over recent years. This has been mainly due to advances in the fintech arena, including developments in blockchain technology, allowing the issuance of digital tokens that represent a store of value. 

Furthermore, the move toward CBDCs supports the general trend of a more cashless society. In countries such as South Korea, China and Sweden, cash is well on its way to becoming a redundant means of payment.

What are the benefits of CBDCs?

CBDCs offer many comparable benefits to cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. Hours of operation for banks limit the availability of transactions, whereas CBDCs could be available to transact on a 24/7 basis. Banks could decrease their reliance on clearinghouses, which would save costs.

Like cryptocurrencies, CBDCs could be available to anyone who has a smartphone, helping to improve financial inclusion, particularly to people in rural areas without access to physical banking infrastructure such as ATMs. Countries such as Kenya have already seen an improvement in financial inclusion due to the popularity of M-Pesa, a cashless payment app based on SMS.

There are other benefits in using CBDCs beyond the general advantages of digital currencies. Central banks spend money to print money, with the average cost of minting a one-dollar bill racking up around $0.077 per note. Digital currencies are cheap or sometimes even free to produce once the underlying code is there.

Central banks could also implement monetary policy directly using a CBDC. This may mean paying interest on the token itself rather than on bank deposits. 

Finally, governments could find it easier to distribute cash to citizens, using CBDCs. For example, COVID-19 led to a crisis that prompted the United States government to issue Economic Impact Payments in the form of checks and debit cards, which are prone to theft and fraudulent use. With a CBDC, the government could issue relief funds directly.

What are the risks of CBDCs?

Along with various benefits, CBDCs also come with some considerable risks on the part of central banks, governments and individual citizens.

Perhaps the biggest risk is cybersecurity. China’s efforts in testing a CBDC have already been hijacked by scammers, which is alarming because the full version hasn’t been officially launched yet. The risks of a network attack or creating new loopholes for fraud or money laundering are a real concern for any central bank looking to launch a CBDC. 

On the flip side of this risk is privacy. The greater visibility a government has into who is using a CBDC, the more the cybersecurity risks can be reduced. However, if citizens believe that using a CBDC may mean the government could overstep the boundaries of privacy rights, it may not gain adoption.

Finally, while governments could use a CBDC to implement monetary policy, the new possibilities that this opens could also create some degree of risk. For example, using a CBDC to charge negative interest rates in a time of crisis could fundamentally change economic paradigms, making it too costly for citizens to store their wealth in the new digital cash.

Which central banks are close to issuing their own digital currencies?

Although many central banks use some form of digital money as reserves or settlement account balance, no central bank has yet issued any general CBDC. However, several banks are already in various stages of research and development, including the five major currencies of the world — the U.S. dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen, the British pound and the Chinese yuan.

In May, a U.S. thinktank published a white paper outlining the aims of the “digital dollar.” Since then, events have been making significant headway. 

The most recent news from Japan is that the central bank has appointed its leading economist to head up a team researching a yen-based CBDC, while the Bank of England has appointed Accenture for its own CBDC development. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank appears to be leaning toward a retail CBDC, and given the fact it would operate across 19 countries, this makes it the biggest project at the moment. 

However, China has been undoubtedly leading the pack, having hit several headlines for months with plans for its CBDC launch. The latest is that the government is planning to target the financial dominance of domestic payment firms, Alibaba and Tencent.

The Philippines has also confirmed that it has been looking into issuing its own digital currency, while Thailand is already in the test phase.

How the U.S. government is applying a new view of crypto, and how new bills are laying the groundwork

In late July, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a memo giving the green light to all federally charted banks to offer cryptocurrency custodial services. This effectively allows hundreds of OCC-member banks to integrate crypto services. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insurance for crypto holdings is also now within the realms of possibility.

Banks now only need to implement the necessary software, hardware and security policies to be ready to start processing cryptocurrencies, which could also include a CBDC.

A week after the memo, Brian Brooks, the acting comptroller of the currency, vocalized his support for a blockchain-based CBDC as an upgrade to the current U.S. banking system. Most recently, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard confirmed that the Boston Federal Reserve Bank will work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on CBDC research.

The COVID-19 relief effort is acting as a catalyst for the introduction of “digital dollars” as referenced in the Automatic Boost to Communities Act introduced by the U.S. Congress. This came after the introduction of a bill in March dubbed the Cryptocurrency Act 2020, which attempts to clarify the responsibility for regulating digital assets by federal agencies.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Marshall Hayner is the CEO and co-founder of Metal (MetalPay, Proton and MetalX). Marshall is an expert in the regulatory aspects of cryptocurrencies and was recently among the founding members of a cryptocurrency bill that was presented to Congress. In addition, Marshall started the first Facebook-integrated Bitcoin wallet called QuickCoin in 2014, but he has worked on numerous digital currency projects including Dogecoin, Stellar, Block.io, ChangeTip and the Bitcoin Fair.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/central-bank-digital-currencies-and-their-role-in-the-financial-system

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Has the Bitcoin bull run started yet?

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Bitcoin has hit a new ATH of 19,865 as of November 30, 2020, however, it hasn’t hit $20,000 yet. This calls for a celebration as the highs set in 2017 were finally reached after 1080 days.

So, what to expect next?

Long term, bitcoin is bullish without a shadow of a doubt. However, the short term is what matters the most. Let’s take a look at two reasons why it might not be safe for you to long your BTC bag yet.

Bitcoin whale inflow to exchanges:

Source: CryptoQuant

This metric shows that inflows by whales into exchanges haven’t stopped. Whales depositing BTCs back to exchanges indicates that they are planning to take profits. Taking profit means they have to sell and this would mean for the price to drop, ergo bearish.

Other similar stats that show profit-taking time has saturated include – supply in profit, a metric similar to SOPR. This metric shows that 100% of the supply is in profit, which obvious considering the new ATH was broken yesterday.

Bitcoin whale outflow

Source: Whalemap

This metric shows that the whales aren’t withdrawing their BTC holdings from exchanges, which is also short term bearish.

So, should I long or short?

Neither. The point where bitcoin is right now is the best place to take profits. Buying here would be a risky bet.

Whales withdraw bitcoins from exchanges when they plan on holding it for a long time. For example, holdings since 2018 bear market to June 2019. If the whales feel like they can accumulate more, they can easily buy low and sell high, to only accumulate more during the pullback.

Moreover, the hourly map of unspent bitcoin shows massive accumulation since early November. So, it is logical to take profits at new ATHs, which could go up to $20,700 and even $22,000. The pullback, however, could range from $16,100 to $15,800.

Source: https://eng.ambcrypto.com/has-bitcoin-bull-run-started-yet

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Ethereum Prices Return to $620 Resistance on ETH 2.0 Launch Day

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Today marks the long-awaited genesis of Phase 0 in the Ethereum 2.0 upgrade roadmap which stretches ahead for the next couple of years. According to the Beacon Chain countdown, there is now less than seven hours to go before the genesis event spawns the first block on the new chain.

The Beacon Chain explorer reports that there is currently 872,000 ETH staked which equates to approximately $525,000 at today’s prices.

No Native Scaling For a Year

The excitement over the launch is palpable but many are still unaware that the new blockchain will not actually function as anything other than providing staking rewards to validators. All of the smart contracts, dApps, and transactions will continue as usual on the original ETH 1.0 chain.

Researchers at Messari Crypto pointed out;

“When the Beacon Chain launches tomorrow, outside of bootstrapping a network of proof of stake validators, it will have little functionality.”

This also means that there will still be issues with high gas prices when the existing network comes under heavy load which is bound to happen over the next year if DeFi momentum continues and the space evolves even more.

Phase 1 will introduce scaling through sharding, which will introduce 64 parallel side chains to take the load off the main chain and increase throughput. This is unlikely to occur for at least another year from today, and even then ETH 1.0 and 2.0 will operate independently until Phase 1.5 merges them together sometime in 2022.

Either way, the Ethereum community is hyped up over the event which is the culmination of five years of research and development for the world’s largest smart contract and decentralized application network. In his latest Bankless newsletter, David Hoffman aptly said;

“We were born too late to explore the globe, too early to explore the galaxy, but we were born at the perfect moment to explore the infinite whitespace of Ethereum 2.0.”

Ethereum Prices at Resistance

Ethereum prices have returned to their June 2018 price high of $620 just hours before the launch. This level appears to have formed a double top and heavy resistance zone as it did in early 2018. A next leg up could take prices to $800 where further resistance lies, but on the downside, support can be found at around $520.

At the time of press, ETH prices had retreated a little to trade at $605 but the momentum and potential is still with it.

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Source: https://cryptopotato.com/ethereum-prices-return-to-620-resistance-on-eth-2-0-launch-day/

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USDC issuer Centre lands Wall Street veteran David Puth as CEO

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Centre Consortium, the company behind USD Coin, has hired former State Street and JPMorgan executive David Puth as its new chief executive officer, or CEO. 

Centre made the announcement early Tuesday in a Medium post that praised Puth for his leadership credentials. The new hire will help Centre expand its global partnerships across the fintech, crypto, and the traditional financial services industry.

Puth said that he is excited to be joining Centre “at this critical time in the industry,” adding:

“The growth of USDC over the course of 2020 is indicative of what I expect will be the path for Centre business activities and that of future Centre-supported stablecoins.”

Prior to joining Centre, Puth served in several leadership capacities at R3, CLS Group, State Street, and JPMorgan.

Puth is one of many Wall Street veterans trickling into digital asset management as blockchain adoption continues to spread beyond the early-adopter phase. A similar trend is occurring on the investor side, with major institutions expressing interest in Bitcoin and other digital assets.

Centre’s USD Coin was developed by Circle and Coinbase to aid in crypto adoption. With a market cap of just under $3 billion, USDC is the second-largest stablecoin behind Tether.

Stablecoins are likely to serve an ever-growing function as blockchain and traditional finance continue to merge. Centre says it maintains “full reserves of the equivalent fiat currency” that is used to back the USDC stablecoin.

At press time, the total market capitalization of all stablecoins was just under $25.3 billion.

Beyond stablecoins, Centre says digital assets and blockchains are “heralding the most significant transformation of the international monetary system since the formation of the Bretton Woods system more than 75 years ago.” 

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/usdc-issuer-centre-lands-wall-street-veteran-david-puth-as-ceo

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