Blockchain This Week – Crypto ATH and ETF, CBDC Trials, NFT Auctions

Bitcoin Reaches Yet Another Unprecedented Height

Earlier today, the world’s foremost cryptocurrency briefly touched the US $56,563. At the time of writing, the price is still cruising at $55,749.25. It precedes a week of steady rise from just under 50K at the beginning of the week. While many are surprised by the sudden meteoric spectacle of Bitcoin, some experts opine that the institutional investors’ increased interest coupled with a rush to buy crypto as a hedge against inflation is potentially contributing to this upward trend.

Update: Within an hour of publishing this post, the price of Bitcoin shot past 57K and reached an all-time-high of $57,492.

Ether Follows With Its Own All-Time-High

The world’s second-largest crypto by market share, Ether, also reached a new ATH of $2,036.55 earlier in the day. It is the first time in history that Ether has crossed the 2K mark. Alongside, its market capitalization also topped at US $230.7 billion. At the time of writing, one Ether was worth $2,027.16. It appears that Ether is riding on the coattails of Bitcoin. Institutional interest in Bitcoin and increased adoption of DeFi are widely considered as the reasons for this feat.

Canada’s First Bitcoin ETF Scores High on Its First Day of Trading

Canada’s first publicly traded Bitcoin exchange traded fund (ETF) started trading on the country’s exchanges this week. On the first day, a whopping US $165 million worth of its shares were exchanged. This fund, managed by Purpose Investments, got a green light from Canadian regulators last week.

Second Bitcoin ETF Goes Live

Just a day after Purpose Investments’ ETF, Evolve launched its Bitcoin ETF on Toronto Stock Exchange. Evolve ETF becomes the second ETF that got the regulatory approvals to enable its investors to hold Bitcoin.

NYDIG Seeks US SEC’s Approval for Bitcoin ETF

While Canada is championing Bitcoin investments such as ETF, its North American neighbor is still balking. But NYDIG, the crypto arm of Asset Management group Stone Ridge hopes to gain the financial regulator’s blessings. It is seeking approval from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to launch a Bitcoin ETF. SEC has a history of rejecting several applications for a Bitcoin ETF since 2017. But, lately, it is presumably warming up to the idea, and three firms, including NYDIG, have applied for the license to trade.

Successful First Reading of Crypto Tax Bill at Russia’s State Duma

Lawmakers in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly, reviewed the proposed crypto taxation laws. It is the first reading of the bill and was approved by the assembly. According to the suggested legislation, cryptocurrencies would be considered as property for tax purposes. The crypto users would also be compelled to present receipts for crypto transactions higher than US $8,184 (600,000 rubles) per year.

MicroStrategy’s Growing Bitcoin Strategy

It would seem like the business intelligence firm MicroStrategy is giving up on fiat money while being bullish on crypto. For the last few weeks, it has been regularly in the news for its growing investment in Bitcoin. This week, it has offered US $600 million in senior convertible notes in a bid to buy more Bitcoin. Furthermore, MicroStrategy plans to give the initial buyers of the notes an option to purchase additional bonds worth US $90 million.  

China’s CBDC Wallet

First, the Postal Savings Bank of China has reportedly created a hardware wallet for holding digital yuan. The card is biometrics-enabled that facilitates user identity verification using fingerprint sensors. Those participating in the Beijing CBDC pilots will be able to use this wallet for healthcare services.

Sweden’s CBDC Pilot Extended Till 2022

Second, Sweden’s Riksbank plans to extend its CBDC pilot for another year. Initiated in 2020, the digital currency project of Sweden’s central bank aims to develop a technical solution for e-krona.

South Africa’s Second CBDC Trial

Finally, South Africa announced the country’s second CBDC trial – Project Khokha 2. This pilot will explore a wholesale CBDC and a wholesale settlement token proposed for interbank use.

Bahamas Expand Its CBDC Reach With Mastercard

Mastercard has partnered with Island Pay, the exclusive payment platform for the Bahamian Sand Dollar. Consequently, the digital sovereign currency of the Bahamas can be loaded into a prepaid Mastercard and then used to pay for goods and services. As a result, Sand Dollar can now be used as a payment option anywhere Mastercard is accepted.

Israeli Crypto Securities Exchange Get a Regulatory Nod 

Simetria, a startup based out of Israel, announced that its request to run a digital securities exchange had been approved by the country’s regulator agency – the Israel Securities Authority. The firm aims to launch the platform in May 2021. It will enable accredited investors to invest in the tokenized securities.

Dubai Free Zone to Accept Crypto Payments

The KIKLABB free trade zone in Mina Rashid, Dubai, now enables payments via Bitcoin, Ether, and Tether stablecoin for trade licenses and visas. KIKLABB is the first UAE entity owned by the government that allows crypto payments.

Swiss Canton Now Allows Tax Payments in Crypto

Zug, the Swiss canton, dubbed as the ‘crypto valley,’ has commenced accepting tax payments in Bitcoin or Ether. The crypto financial services firm, Bitcoin Suisse, will be converting the crypto to Swiss francs and delivering them to the canton.

Christie’s to Accept Ether Payments for Digital Artwork

The British auction house Christie’s announced an upcoming sale event of the work by digital artist Mike ‘Beeple’ Winkelmann. It has also confirmed that art connoisseurs can buy the art with Ether. The artwork, named EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, is a collage of pieces of art Winkelmann has posted online since 2007. The buyers will also get a unique NFT encrypted with his signature. The auction will commence from Feb 25, and the starting bid is US $100.

Music Album Tokenized on Ethereum

DJ Justin David Blau, a.k.a, 3LAU, has teamed up with Blockchain platform Origin to tokenize and auction his Ultraviolet album. 3LAU stated in his tweet that it would be the first time in music history that an entire album has been tokenized on Blockchain. The 33 winners of the bid will receive a platinum vinyl NFT. These tokens can be redeemed for limited edition physical vinyl or for accessing unreleased tracks of the artist. 

A Spiderman NFT’s Supersale

This week, Marvel comics artists landed on the cryptoverse. A tokenized Spiderman drawing by artist Adam Kubert was sold for 12.75 Ether (US $25,000.) It was one of the 25 unique artworks from the Marvel Universe that are being sold on the Ethereum-based Portion.io.

Verge Suffers Block Reorganization

Verge, a privacy-focused crypto network, endured a massive block reorganization earlier this week. Around 560,000 blocks were reportedly removed, wiping away 200 days of Verge’s transaction history. Verge’s development team worked with the miners to rush a quick fix to the problem and promised ‘business as usual’ within 13 hours of the attack. Accordingly, they repaired their block explorer and resynced with the right chain. The platform was fully operational within 24 hours.

DDoS Attack on EXMO 

The crypto exchange, EXMO, suffered a DDoS attack earlier this week that knocked it offline. But, it rebounded quickly and was operational within a few hours of the assault. The massive attack, in the words of the firm’s spokesperson, impacted the complete network infrastructure, including website, APIs, and price charts.

A Crypto City in Making

Blockchains LLC, a Blockchain technology and investment firm, is planning to build a crypto-driven smart city in the state of Nevada, US. CEO Jeff Berns revealed his proposal to the state in an interview. He is asking Nevada to let companies like his form local governments on the 67,000 acres of land they own. Additionally, he envisions a city where people purchase goods and services with digital currency and would log their entire online footprint on Blockchain.

Texas Mining Rigs Go Down

The Arctic blast that has swamped the state of Texas, US, has knocked out several of the Bitcoin mining farms located in the Lone Star state. Reportedly, some rigs stopped functioning due to power outages, while others started selling the electricity back to the strained power grids of the state at a premium.

Bill Gates’s Neutral View on Bitcoin

While entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk are becoming Bitcoin evangelists, Microsoft co-founder and notable philanthropist Bill Gates is taking a different stand. In an interview, Gates commented that since he does not own or short Bitcoin, he has taken a neutral view on the cryptocurrency. Since the price can go up and down just based on mania, there is no way to predict how it will progress, he added.

And Finally, From Selling Tea to Mining Bitcoin – a Chinese Company’s Implausible Pivot

Urban Tea Inc., a premier retailer of specialty tea and baked goods based in Hunan, China, announced an unlikely pivot in business this week. It is dipping its toes in the crypto mining business. According to a press announcement, the tea company has hired two new executives, who will be at the helm of its crypto venture. Fengdan Zhou will be the chief operating officer leading the firm’s Blockchain and Bitcoin business plan. Yunfei Song, who is embarking as an independent director, will guide the company’s Blockchain development strategy.

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