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First Mover Asia: Bitcoin Tests $25K Before Retreating; S. Korea Play-to-Earn Ban Unlikely to End Soon

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Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:

Prices: Bitcoin tested $25K before dropping in weekend trading; ether falls on Sunday.

Insights: South Korea play-to-earn ban remains a fixture for now.

Catch the latest episodes of CoinDesk TV for insightful interviews with crypto industry leaders and analysis. And sign up for First Mover, our daily newsletter putting the latest moves in crypto markets in context.

Prices

Bitcoin (BTC): $24,404 −0.5%

Ether (ETH): $1,958 −1.6%

S&P 500 daily close: 4,280.15 +1.7%

Gold: $1,816 per troy ounce +0.9%

Ten-year Treasury yield daily close: 2.85% −0.04

Bitcoin, ether and gold prices are taken at approximately 4pm New York time. Bitcoin is the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (XBX); Ether is the CoinDesk Ether Price Index (ETX); Gold is the COMEX spot price. Information about CoinDesk Indices can be found at coindesk.com/indices.

Bitcoin Tests $25K Again; Ether Declines

By James Rubin

Bitcoin pushed bravely closer to $25,000 for the third time in four days before retreating nearer more familiar ground.

The largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization was recently trading at about $24,400, roughly flat over the past 24 hours and slightly lower than where it started the weekend, although investors remained cautiously optimistic about recent economic indicators showing inflation waning and a lower likelihood of recession. Bitcoin has climbed the past three weeks to change hands toward the upper end of a $20,000 to $24,000 range.

“BTC’s resilience above $20,000 did see bulls pushing for more upside, especially after a successful retest of that range,” Joe DiPasquale, CEO of crypto fund manager BitBull Capital, wrote CoinDesk. “However, we are yet to witness the breakout above $25,000, which could see BTC moving quickly toward the $29,000-$30,000 range.”

Ether was recently down about 1.6% over the previous day to trade at about $1,950. The second-largest crypto by market cap behind bitcoin has been lately gaining ground at an even faster pace than bitcoin and topped $2,000 for a second consecutive day on Saturday before declining. Ether’s surge has come as the hotly anticipated Merge, which will transform the Ethereum protocol from proof-of-work to a faster, less energy-sapping model looms closer. Ethereum completed its third and final test environment network (testnet) merge, Goerli last Wednesday.

Most other altcoins were in the red in late weekend trading with OP and QUICK off about 8% and 7%, respectively, although popular meme coin SHIB was up over 30% and DOGE jumped more than 10%.

Equity markets

Crypto gains have largely tracked stocks, which have also been regaining ground in recent weeks after a dismal first seven months. The tech-focused Nasdaq and S&P 500, which has a heavy tech component, closed Friday up 2.1% and 1.7%, respectively, as investors continued to savor Wednesday’s unexpectedly favorable consumer price index (CPI) showing July prices rising at a lower rate than the previous month. Markets are hopeful the data will allow the U.S. central bank to ratchet back its next interest rate hike to 50 basis points, a less aggressive approach than it has been following.

The Nasdaq and S&P have risen four consecutive weeks, their longest weekly upturn since last November. The Nasdaq has gained 20% since June to escape its lengthiest bear market run since 2008.

Crypto news

Meanwhile, crypto industry news was mixed on Friday. India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED), a government agency that is responsible for probing financial crimes, froze assets worth 3.7 billion rupees ($46.4 million) at crypto exchange Vauld, it said in a statement. The U.S. Commodities Futures and Trading Commission (CFTC) accused an Ohio man of running a $12 million bitcoin Ponzi scheme, filing a cease-and-desist order over allegations he scammed investors interested in digital assets.

But the mood was upbeat at Canada’s largest blockchain conference last week amid a keynote address by Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, a hackathon and panels.

DiPasquale noted warily that current macroeconomic uncertainties will continue to cloud bitcoin’s future pricing. “It may be too early to think that the macroeconomic woes are behind us,” he said. “This month’s closing and the entirety of September will be key for the crypto market on account of a few factors, including the next [Federal Open Market Committee] as well as the anticipated Ethereum Merge. If both BTC and ETH can manage to retain their gains and consolidate until the end of September, we could see a bigger rally leading into Q4.”

Biggest Gainers

Asset Ticker Returns DACS Sector
Shiba Inu SHIB +38.1% Currency
Dogecoin DOGE +10.9% Currency
Gala GALA +6.3% Entertainment

Biggest Losers

Asset Ticker Returns DACS Sector
Chainlink LINK −3.5% Computing
Polkadot DOT −2.7% Smart Contract Platform
Solana SOL −1.8% Smart Contract Platform

Insights

S. Korea Play-to-Earn Bans Likely to Remain in Place

By Sam Reynolds

Walking the halls of Korea Blockchain Week, it would be hard to miss the advertising for play-to-earn games. Dozens of companies attended the conference to show off new play-to-earn games that they hope will be the next Axie Infinity.

There’s only one problem: Technically these games are illegal in South Korea.

As CoinDesk has reported before, converting game tokens into cash – a staple of GameFi – has been banned in South Korea for longer than blockchain has existed. Article 32 of South Korea’s Gaming Industry Promotion Act banning the monetization of gaming tokens that became law in 2004 as the arcade game Seatalk (바다이야기) swept the nation. There’s also Article 28 of the Act, which prohibits speculative acts, gambling and free gifts in-game.

South Korean authorities have used the laws to order Apple’s App Store and Google Pay store to remove Play-to-Earn games.

While some stakeholders expect a reversal of this ban under the crypto-friendly Yoon Suk-Yeol administration, this hasn’t been signaled to the industry. In Seoul, CoinDesk gaming company sources who are familiar with regulatory affairs said the regulatory guidance they’ve received from authorities remains the status quo. There’s no indication, they said, that change is coming.

If something were to happen it would be incremental. Regulators in-country, still spooked by the 1997 Asian financial crisis, tend to be conservative and prefer to move slowly.

Slow change?

“Play-to-earn also comes in many different forms and If the lift of the ban happens, I think it will be partial,” Oleg Smagin, a senior crypto finance manager at Seoul-based Post Voyager, a GameFi service developer, told CoinDesk. “For example, the government can start by allowing free-to-play [non-fungible token] games with play-to-earn elements, especially as big South Korean gaming studios believe that introducing non-fungible tokens in the games is less risky compared to launching fully crypto-backed games with a fungible asset as a currency.”

Smagin also thinks the government would look at the track record of success these play-to-earn titles have had overseas when making its decision.

As the South Korean government is doing that, it will no undoubtedly consider how other regulators are approaching GameFi, and its $8.5 billion market cap, when determining its next steps.

In Thailand, the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission urged investors to be cautious citing the high volatility of the tokens and hacking risk. But those two risk factors are old news to anyone remotely familiar with cryptocurrency.

The real question that might be debated in the next few years is if these GameFi NFTs and tokens are securities.

Important events

Stronghold Digital Mining second quarter earnings

10 a.m. HKT/SGT(2 a.m. UTC): China National Bureau of Labor Statistics press conference

10 a.m. HKT/SGT(2 a.m. UTC): China retail sales (July)

CoinDesk TV

In case you missed it, here is the most recent episode of “First Mover/” on CoinDesk TV:

Netherlands Arrests Suspected Tornado Cash Developer; Miner Chandler Guo on Forking Ethereum

In a blow to privacy advocates fighting to protect decentralized finance, the Netherlands has arrested a suspected developer of Tornado Cash, the automated crypto mixing service sanctioned by the U.S. government. Tor Bair, founder of Secret Foundation, weighed in on the privacy vs. security debate. Also joining “First Mover,” was prominent Ethereum miner Chandler Guo, who discussed his plans to fork the blockchain. Plus, Marc Chandler of Bannockburn Global provided his crypto markets analysis.

Headlines

Crypto Entrepreneurs Bankman-Fried, Sun in Talks to Buy Majority of Huobi Global Exchange: Report: The deal could be one of the biggest ever in the crypto industry.

Netherlands Arrests Suspected Developer of Sanctioned Crypto-Mixing Service Tornado Cash: The country’s Fiscal Information and Investigation Service hasn’t ruled out making more arrests.

Crypto Exchange Binance Recovers $450K Stolen From DeFi Protocol Curve.Finance: The world’s largest exchange is working with law enforcement to return the funds.

The Investor’s Definitive Guide to Proof-of-Work and Proof-of-Stake (Abridged): It’s not really about which is better, it’s about trade-offs.

Institutional Investors Are Increasingly Using Crypto Options Trading to Hedge Their Bets in Bear Market: Options trading volume has risen on crypto exchanges, and even miners are using options strategies to muddle through the current, uncertain environment.

Longer reads

Let Ugly Ducklings Grow: Why Crypto Needs a Safe Harbor: Too much much regulation may hinder the development of viable decentralized models.

Other voices: Public Pension Systems Join Those Stung by Crypto Crash (The Wall Street Journal)

Said and heard

“I can’t argue that this pace [of market gains] is going to continue. Whether we are in recession now or are going to be in one in the third or fourth quarter, you know economic growth is going to slow.” (Laffer Tengler Investments Chief Investment Officer Nancy Tengler/The Wall Street Journal)…”We have noticed a configuration issue of the Honzon protocol which affects aUSD. We are passing an urgent vote to pause operations on Acala, while we investigate and mitigate the issue. We will report back as we return to normal network operation.” (@AcalaNetwork/Twitter)

CORRECT (Aug. 15, 2022, 1:35 UTC): Bitcoin’s price neared $25,000 three of the last four days.

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Source coindesk.com

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