11/18/16

Bitcoin Tipping Platform ChangeTip Shuts Down After Two Years in Business & $3.5 Million in VC Funding

San Francisco-based bitcoin tipping platform, ChangeTip, announced today it will be ceasing operations by the end of this month.

Nick Sullivan, CEO and Founder, explained in his Reddit post how the firm has been struggling to find a viable business model, after the ChangeTip's development team was acquired by Airbnb:
“In the spring of 2016, ChangeTip’s employees were acqui-hired by Airbnb, where most of us work today. Since then, we’ve been searching for the best outcome for ChangeTip, and unfortunately the only remaining option is to shut it down.”
According to Sullivan's post, tipping on ChangeTip will be turned off at the end of November, and existing users will only be allowed to withdraw funds. Alternatively, users can opt to donate their BTC balances to several charities.

While the innovative startup kicked off with a $750,000 capital infusion via a partnership between Blockchain Capital & Flight.vc, in May of 2014, and a $3.5 million seed funding round in December of 2014, which saw participation from prominent VC firms like Pantera Capital and 500 Startups, management has been unable to find a way to monetize the practice of BTC tipping.

Since launching, ChangeTip has acquired more than 100,000 active users. Mr. Sullivan mentioned in his closing letter that more than 350,000 tips have been sent by its users over the last two years.

11/14/16

FX Broker XM.com Announces Usain Bolt as Official Ambassador



Cyprus-based Forex broker XM.com announced today that 9-time Olympic medalist Usain Bolt will be the firm’s Official Ambassador for the next three years, "I’m happy to be entering into a partnership with XM. XM and I have similar brand values and aim to be the best at what we do. Their reputation has helped them to become an industry leader,” said Bolt.



Chris Anthony Zacharia, Director of Marketing at XM Group, likened XM’s robust trading environment & execution speeds to Bolt’s phenomenal performance on the track:
“We have put endless resources to build our trading infrastructure to offer the trading speed we have today. I cannot describe what it means to have Usain as our brand ambassador.”
XM is licensed in Cyrpus, Britain, Germany and Spain.

Bitcoin Trading Surges 20 Percent to €1 Million in Europe on LocalBitcoins

While global volumes on P2P trading site LocalBitcoins.com dipped for the first time in four weeks, turnover in Europe last week has shot up to an all-time high of 1,080,184 euros. This figure is +20 percent higher than the previous record of €854,624, recorded during the week of 2016-11-05.



LocalBitcoins turnover in Australia last week came very close to a new record as well, registering $1,141,374 Australian dollars; slightly lower than the all-time high of 1,142,916, which was recorded in December of 2015.



Although new all-time highs weren’t recorded in the usual countries - Russia and Venezuela - last week, turnover in both nations remained at elevated level. In fact, last week, volume in Venezuela came in at 4,015,475 Venezuelan bolivars worth of Bitcoin trades; the second-highest reading to date.



Charts courtesy of Coin.dance

11/11/16

SEC Hits Israeli Binary Options Broker EZTD with $1.7 Million Fine

The U.S. SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) has levied a hefty monetary penalty against Israeli Binary Options broker EZTD. The SEC said in their statement that EZTD must pay a fine of $1.7 million for misleading American investors about the profitability of trading the exotic instruments; $200,000 in penalties; $1.5 million in forfeited revenues from US customers.

The agency also stated that EZTD was not registered as a securities dealer in the United States. EZTD was also accused to failing to disclose that investors were taking on big risks by entering into trades where EZTD was the counterparty, which means that all client losses went into the pockets of the brokerage, “not only did the firm fail to register the binary options or register as a broker-dealer to legally sell the investment to U.S. investors in the first place, but it failed to disclose on its trading platforms that there was significantly greater potential for investors to lose rather than earn money,” said the SEC.

Additionally, The SEC stated that EZTD lured investors into taking risks by claiming that their platform was “an extremely lucrative avenue for individuals who are looking to see an increase in income.”

According to SEC’s findings, less than 3 percent of EZTD’s 4000 US-based customers turned a profit. Stephanie Avakian, Deputy Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, explained that EZTD did not disclose that the odds were stacked against the client, “EZTD’s revenues were largely derived from customer trading losses, yet EZTD emphasized the profitability of trading in binary options,” she added.

In addition to fining EZTD, the SEC issued an investor alert on the dangers of unregistered Binary Options brokers.

European regulators have also issued multiple warnings over the last few months on unlicensed Forex and Binary Options brokers, with Dutch Minister of Finance, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, looking to ban the advertising of Binary Options in the Netherlands, along with other “toxic” investment products.

11/10/16

Mexican Peso Hovering Around All-Time Lows Following Trump Win

While most currencies, including equities, reversed course after the election was over, the Mexican peso has not followed suit. The USD/MXN exchange rate spiked 14% percent in the space of four hours on election night to an all-time high of 20.78!



This is the biggest drop in the peso since the currency crisis in 1994, when newly inaugurated President of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, announced that the Mexican central bank would be devaluing the currency about 15 percent.

Trump’s comments during the campaign regarding the dismantling of NAFTA agreements between the United States and Mexico, in addition to taxing migrants’ remittances back to Mexico to raise money for a mega-wall on the southern border, have sparked fears among analysts about the future prospects of the Mexican economy and currency.

Gabriela Siller, an analyst at Mexican bank BASE, said that very hard times are in store for the Mexican economy, according to a Reuters report.

Trump’s victory speech had a much softer tone and the Mexican peso pared some of the losses, dropping down to 19.8. However, USD/MXN spiked again today and the pair is now trading just underneath the all-time high, grinding away near 20.50!

11/8/16

Stocks Crash 550 Points as Trump Gains Lead in Florida with 93.7% of the Votes Counted

Equities are in free fall as Donald Trump is gaining momentum in Florida, a key battleground state of vital importance to both presidential candidates, with 93.76 percent of the vote already counted and a total of 129 electoral votes, according to the election map.


Source: Yahoo


At press time, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down about 500 points already in the overnight trading session.




The EUR/USD has shot up 176+ pips (+1.61 percent) and the GBP/USD has jumped 120 pips (+1.07 percent).




Like the euro and the pound, gold is also up quite sharply: +$43, which translates to a 3.38 percent appreciation in the space of only two hours!!




Retail Forex Broker FXCM Posts $61 Million Net Revenue in Q3



Retail foreign exchange broker FXCM released its Q3 results today. The New York-based firm reported a total turnover of $305 billion from 177,949 retail trading accounts during the month of October. This figure was about 6 percent lower than last month’s reading and about 9 percent lower than October of last year.

Average daily retail turnover on FXCM stands at $14.5 billion - 538, 098 trades per day - for the month of October.

Institutional volume figures for October came in at $24 billion, a 17 percent drop compared to September and about 29 percent lower than October of 2015, "An average of 37,709 institutional client trades per day in October 2016, 9% lower than September 2016 and 32% higher than October 2015," states the release.

FXCM’s U.S. GAAP net revenues clocked in at $61.4 million, with U.S. GAAP net loss from operations coming in at $35.8 million. A large portion of the loss came from a $27 million hit related to embedded derivatives associated with the loan FXCM received from Leucadia in the aftermath of the SNB debacle, on January 15, 2015.

The brokerage posted solid growth of customer deposits in the third quarter:
“Solid growth in customer equity to $725 million — up 10% from June 30, 2016 and up 6% from December 31, 2015.”
Operating cash for FXCM currently stands at $227.6 million, with a $90 million regulatory surplus that was recorded at the end of September.

Indian PM Narendra Modi Abolishes 500 & 1000 Rupee Banknotes in a Bid to Fight Terrorism and Corruption

In a televised broadcast to the nation on Tuesday, Indian PM Narendra Modi announced that 500 and 1000 Indian rupee notes will not be legal tender as of midnight, calling the notes “just worthless piece of paper.”

The move is aimed at mitigating corruption and invalidating counterfeit currency notes that are being used by terrorist, "Black money and corruption are the biggest obstacles in eradicating poverty," said Modi.

In his speech, Modi explained that counterfeit Rs 500 notes are widely used by militants to fund terrorist activity, "Terrorism is a frightening thing ... But have you ever thought about how these terrorists get their money? Enemies from across the border have run their operations using fake currency notes. This has been going on for years," explained Modi.

The Indian Prime Minister said in his speech that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes can be exchanged at bank branches and post offices from November 10th to December 30th. Modi also mentioned that new notes in denominations Rs 2000 and Rs 500 will be introduced as replacements.



Indian banks will be closed on Wednesday for the switchover. Modi urged Indians to be patient with the government as these measures are aimed at improving the economic and social fabric of Indian society:

“In country’s history, there comes a moment when people will want to participate in the nation building and reconstruction. Very few such moments come in life.”
The surprise announcement has spurred anxious Indians to start taking out cash at ATMs across the country. Photos of long lines at ATMs in India are pouring into Twitter:

11/7/16

Global Turnover on LocalBitcoins Surges to All-Time High of $16.6 Million; 3rd Consecutive Record

Global Bitcoin trading volumes on LocalBitcoins during the first week of November came in at $16,672,105 - an all-time high and a 3rd consecutive record.



While turnover spiked in most countries, new weekly all-time highs were printed in Europe, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, United States and Venezuela.

Volume in Europe came in at 854,624 euros, just a bit higher than the previous record for the week ending on 2016-10-15, which came in at 831,846 euros.



The spike in LocalBitcoins volume in Pakistan is much more pronounced than the one in Europe, clocking in at 10,847,895 Pakistani rupees for the first week of November - about 30 percent higher than volumes recorded during the last week of October.



LocalBitcoins volumes printed a record for the first week of October in the Russian Federation, but the remaining three weeks did not produce a new all-time high, although turnover was still very high. However, the first week of November shows that a new all-time high was recorded in Russia at 264,274,574 Russian rubles.



Unlike the steadily growing weekly turnover figures in Russia, Europe and the United States, LocalBitcoins activity in Saudi Arabia has not been consistent at all. The chart provided by Coin.dance shows sporadic bursts in activity, followed by sharp drops. The volume figure shows an all-time high of 67,824 Saudi riyals worth of Bitcoin trades for the first week of November in Saudi Arabia, which is much higher than all readings during the month of October.



The biggest share of P2P trading on LocalBitcoins takes place in the United States. Last week’s data shows a new record of $8,516,653. This figure represents 51 percent of all volume on LocalBitcoins for that week!



LocalBitcoins volume data coming out of Venezuela shows that there is an increasing interest in the digital currency in the country. During first week of November, Coin.dance charts show that 4,269,676 Venezulean bolivars worth of Bitcoin trades took place on LocalBitcoins in Venezuela. This figure is 30+ percent higher than the previous all-time high at the end of October, which was 2,997,495 bolivars.



With the implosion of the Venezuelan currency on the black market - which currently trades at 1756 bolivars per dollar, according to dolartoday.com - the figures on LocalBitcoins over the next several weeks may be much higher as Venezuelans seek out ways to escape hyperinflation.

Charts by Coin.dance

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Swiss Bank BCGE Launches ForXchange, an FX Marketplace for Large Businesses

Swiss universal banking institution BCGE has announced the launch of the business-oriented Forex trading platform, ForXchange.

The new offering will allow business clients to execute FX spot, swap trades and FX forwards transactions on 14 currency pairs, “They can execute spot, forward and swap trades, in real time, or enter limit orders,” says BCGE. ForXchange clients will also be able to trade precious metals: gold, silver, platinum and palladium.

The release states:
“It provides access to currency and precious metals markets, offering clients the best price, free of charge via BCGE Netbanking.”
BCGE explains that the service is geared towards large businesses with foreign subsidiaries, where currency conversions are needed to facilitate operations. BCGE currently offers various banking services to over 18,000 companies and businesses. Unlike traditional FX brokers that operate only five days a week, the ForXchange service will also allow trades to take place several hours after the retail FX markets close on Friday:
“Operating hours are extensive: six days out of seven, as soon as a currency market is open, from Sunday evening at 11 pm to Friday night at midnight.”
BCGE partnered Geneva-based financial IT firm Olfa Soft Company and their subsidiary, Olfa Trade, to develop the ForXchange service.

11/6/16

Clinton FBI News Shocks Equity & Currency Markets; Big Gaps on Euro, Pound and Yen on Sunday Night

Currency markets and equities were rocked on Sunday night on news that the FBI will not be recommending charges against Hillary Clinton after reviewing newly discovered emails. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up about 200 points in pre-market trading, while the EUR/USD opened down about 80 pips (-0.71 percent).



At press time, the EUR/USD has recovered about 50 pips. The GBP/USD pair opened with a 65-pip gap (-0.51 percent), while the biggest gap recorded was on the USD/JPY, which opened higher by about 93 pips (+0.95 percent). Since the open, the USD/JPY managed to rally another 50 pips, for a total of 143 pips in the last 3 hours.



The USD/CAD opened about 50 pips lower (-0.42 percent), however, most of the gap has now been closed, with the pair currently hovering around 1.3384 - 17 pips below Sunday’s close of 1.34016.



11/5/16

SuchFlex's Distributed Computing App to Incentivize Operators of Full Bitcoin Nodes

San Francisco-based SuchFlex, which launched its Distributed Computing Desktop App in August of this year, added a new option to its mining app at the end of October that allows users to run a variety of full Bitcoin nodes (Core, Unlimited, Classic, XT).

With the Bitcoin full node program, SuchFlex is looking to reward its user base, which numbers in the thousands, for helping the Bitcoin network become more resilient and robust. While the reward mechanism isn’t activated yet, SuchFlex users who are running a particular kind of node will be incentivised in the near future:
“By running a Bitcoin Full-Node, you allow Bitcoin to continue to grow. In the coming weeks, Suchflex will add the ability to “tip” or donate to further incentivize volunteers to run Full-Nodes.”


Bitcoin miners are rewarded handsomely for securing the network, however, Bitcoin’s blockchain was not designed with a built-in reward mechanism for full node operators. It was assumed that volunteers, techies and enthusiasts would be doing this, and they have, but additional full nodes are needed.

According to data gathered by Bitnodes, on March 14, 2016, there were about 8095 nodes on the Bitcoin network, today, there are only about 5435 nodes!! While Bitcoin’s hashrate has been growing at a steady pace this year, the amount of nodes on the network has not!

Map source: bitnodes.21.co


The other issue is the concentration of nodes in certain geographical areas. Bitnodes metrics show that over the last 24h; 27.95 percent of nodes are located in the US; 17.17 percent are in Germany; 8.3 percent are situated in France, with the Netherlands, Canada and UK housing 14.55 percent of all nodes. Interestingly, China, where some of the biggest Bitcoin mining pools are domiciled due to low power costs, seems to only have 183 nodes (3.37% of all nodes)!

Map source: bitnodes.21.co


SuchFlex’s full node incentive program, if successful, has the potential to not only boost the amount of nodes, but may also solve the geographical distribution problem.

The SuchFlex app also allows users to profit from their hardware by mining various digital currencies (Storj, Digibyte) with their GPUs, hard drives and processors. The app had a very user-friendly GUI and takes out much of the technical complexity associated with the configuration of crypto-currency mining software.

Users can even point their resources to Boinc science projects and the SuchFlex app will mine Gridcoin in the background - a digital currency minted via Boinc scientific computations - and distribute the rewards at the end of the week in dollars, Bitcoin or PayPal.

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11/4/16

Egyptian Pound Drops Almost 50% on De-pegging from U.S. Dollar; National Bank of Egypt Accepts IMF Loan Conditions



The National Bank of Egypt allowed the Egyptian pound to float on Thursday in a bid to to shutter the thriving black market for U.S. dollars in the country. While returning the Egyptian currency markets back to normal was one of the objectives, the move was also needed to fulfill one of the conditions of a three-year, $12-billion Extended Fund Facility from the IMF, which was agreed upon in August of this year.

Along with the free-floating of the Egyptian pound, the central bank also raised interest rates by 300 basis points (3 percent) to keep inflation in check, “Inflation rates already soared; this is history and we’re working on limiting this,” said Tarek Amer, Governor of the National Bank of Egypt.

At press time, the Egyptian pound has dropped by close to 50 percent against the greenback; on Wednesday, 1 dollar would buy about 8.88 Egyptian pounds; on Thursday, 1 dollar bought 13.7 pounds; today, the USD/EGP rate is hovering around 15.55:

Chart source: XE.com


Just like Nigeria, Egypt has been experiencing acute dollar shortages for the last several years. The ousting of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February, 2011, has left the tourism industry - which was a major source of foreign currency inflows into Egypt - in shambles.



The unstable political situation has also scared off foreign investors, which has further exacerbated the dollar shortage in Egypt.

The IMF and Egyptian authorities are hoping the loan program, along with a competitive exchange rate, will set the stage for more foreign capital inflows and a gradually improving economic environment.

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde praised the Egyptian authorities for taking the necessary steps, "The way in which it is handled is welcomed and it's a decision clearly that the Egyptian authorities have matured and deliberated and are putting in place for the Egyptian economy and for the Egyptian currency," she told Reuters, in an interview at the IMF economic conference in Washington, on Thursday.

However, many Egyptians who have been dealing with rising prices and government-imposed rationing of food and medical items, don’t seem to share Lagarde’s enthusiasm.

According to a WSJ report, Ahmed Fathi, a cab driver and father of two, is worried about the plunging Egyptian pound and what impact the devaluation will have on his finances, “What matters to me is how much will this affect my expenses, because it has been stretched to the maximum,” he says.

The currency devaluation did have a positive effects on the Egyptian stock market (EGX30), which spiked to a high of 9231.07.



AMP Futures Announces Support for MetaTrader 5 and MultiCharts 10 Beta 2

AMP Futures, a Chicago-based Futures Commission Merchant (FCM) & Forex broker, announced it has added support for trading platforms MetaTrader5 (MT5) and MultiCharts 10 Beta 2.

MetaTrader5:

The MT5 integration was announced today and all AMP Futures clients will be able to make use of the rich library of indicators and trading robots available for the MetaTrader family of platforms, "The Web Platform provides even more possibilities and allows you to work from any web browser and any device," said AMP.

The new MT5 platform is superior to the older, more popular MT4 in several ways; 6 new order types vs 4; depth of market and time&sales are only available on the newer MT5; MT5 has support for Futures, Stocks, Options and Bonds, while MT4 only supports Forex and CFDs trading.

As part of the launch, the company also released a set of 18 tutorial videos on their YouTube channel for the MT5 platform.

MultiCharts:

Yesterday, AMP Futures also added support for MultiCharts .NET 10.0 Beta 2, which was officially released by the developers on September 19, 2016. The new version features support for 4K resolution and a completely redesigned GUI. The new platform also supports Monte-Carlo statistical modeling.