Dutch Pirate Party Pays €11,250 Election Fee With Bitcoin

The Dutch Pirate Party (DPP), along with three other parties, has picked up 19 declarations of support from the Netherlands' 20 electoral districts for the upcoming election for the House of Representatives, scheduled to take place on March 15, 2017.

According to Rotterdam-based news organization AD.nl, the DPP paid the required election registration fee (€11,250) with bitcoin!

The DPP is now the first political party in the Netherlands to complete such a transaction with a digital currency.

While Dutch authorities do not directly accept digital currencies, Michael Dulfer, board member of the Dutch Electoral Council, said DPP’s bitcoin payment was converted to euros at an online cryptocurrency exchange.

Bitcoin being accepted by politicians and political parties is nothing new. In 2015, U.S. Senator Rand Paul accepted bitcoin donations in amounts worth up to $100 for his presidential campaign.

And in December of last year, Russian presidential candidate Alexey Navalny raised more than 22 bitcoin in campaign contributions.

New Zealand Unemployment Rate Jumps to 5.2%; NZD Tanks Against the U.S. Dollar

The New Zealand dollar sold-off sharply as Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) released its employment data for Q4 of 2016, which showed the unemployment rate rising to 5.2 percent. An increase of 0.3 percent compared to the unemployment rate for Q3 of 2016, which was 4.9 percent.

Chart: http://www.stats.govt.nz/

Mark Gordon, labour and income statistics manager at SNZ, explained that a lot of new workers entered the labour force in the last quarter of 2016, "But while the number of people in employment has risen, so has the number of unemployed people.," he adds.

In their press release, Statistics New Zealand also mentioned the uptick in the labour force participation rate to an all-time high of 70.5 percent.
“The retail trade, accommodation, and food services industry was the largest contributor to employment growth over the latest quarter. This was followed closely by the construction and the professional services industries.”
Despite the uptick in the labour force participation rate, the currency markets did not take kindly to the rise in the unemployment rate.

At press time, the New Zealand dollar is down close to 0.75 percent against the U.S. dollar:

NZD flag photo credit: Christoph Strässler

Cryptocurrency Exchange Gemini Unveils “Zero-confirmation pre-credited Bitcoin deposits”

New York-based cryptocurrency exchange Gemini has announced a new feature called “zero-confirmation pre-credited Bitcoin deposits,” which is aimed at alleviating the delays associated with increasing confirmation times on the Bitcoin network.

“Due to Bitcoin’s increasing transaction volume but fixed network capacity, it’s taking much longer for transactions to get mined into a block and included in the Blockchain,” writes Eric Winer, VP of engineering at Gemini.

In his blog post, Winer explained that Gemini has developed proprietary algorithms that determine the likelihood of a client’s bitcoin deposit being confirmed at some point in the future, and then pre-crediting the digital funds in the client’s account before the confirmations have actually taken place on Bitcoin’s blockchain:
“If your transaction passes our criteria (which may take a few minutes), we’ll pre-credit the amount of your deposit and make it available for trading immediately. Our tests show that around two out of three deposits meet the criteria for being pre-credited.”
Although bitcoin deposits may be credited to clients’ accounts instantly, Gemini’s standard 3-confirmation threshold will still need to be completed before clients can withdraw any USD or other cryptocurrency that was purchased with the pre-credited bitcoin.

The zero-confirmation deposits will be especially useful for speculators looking to time the markets and make rapid investments decisions on breaking news.

The pre-credited bitcoin deposit option was modeled on Gemini’s “Instant ACH” transfer, which was launched in March of 2016 and functions the exact same way.

Along with the launching of the zero-confirmation bitcoin depositing feature, Gemini also announced that some changes have been made to their Instant ACH deposit option, although specifics were not provided.

Forex Broker Tickmill Partners with Autochartist; All Clients to Get Free Actionable Trading Signals

Tickmill, a Forex broker regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in Britain, announced today a partnership with pattern recognition platform, Autochartist. The new collaboration will give Tickmill clients the ability to get concrete trading signals and live trading alerts in any language.

In today’s email communique to all clients, Tickmill said:
“You can now receive free actionable trading signals right at your fingertips! We offer the Autochartist technical analysis tool to all our clients, without any restrictions.”
In a statement, Tickmill CEO Duncan Anderson explained that giving unlimited access to Autochartist tools is a great way to reward the loyalty of all Tickmill clients, “The addition of Autochartist to our current extensive range of trading tools is another significant milestone for Tickmill and we look forward to adding more in the near future.,” he adds.

As of today, Tickmill traders can access Autochartist via MT4 plugin or a web app.

Wall Street and European Stock Markets Nosedive; Brazil's IBOVESPA Crashes 2.62%

World stock markets finished lower on Monday as fear and uncertainty continued to spread regarding Trump’s 90-day immigration ban on seven Muslim-majority countries.

Tech company stocks like Google (-2.5%) and Facebook (-0.91%) were hit particularly hard today due to looming executive orders on the H1-B visa program by the Trump administration, which reportedly requires more detailed statistics on who uses the program.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded as low as 19,870.84 on the day as the market dived by 157 points following the open. The index recovered some of the losses towards the end of the trading session and closed at 19,971 - a decline of 122.65 points (-0.61% on the day):

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq indices posted similar declines, with the S&P 500 closing lower by 13.70 points (-0.60% on the day) and the Nasdaq Composite closing down 47.07 points (-0.83% on the day).

Some of the biggest losses took place on overseas markets like the FTSE 100, EURO STOXX 50 and CAC 40, which posted declines of 0.92%, 1.23% and 1.14%, respectively.

The biggest plunge occurred on Brazil’s IBOVESPA index, which crashed by 2.62% to settle at 64,301.73 - a drop of 1,732.25 points!

Bitcoin Trading Surges to All-Time Highs in Colombia Despite Stable Peso

Despite the stability of the Colombian peso last year against the dollar, which traded between 0.00032 and 0.00034 for most of 2016, the popularity of alternative financial assets such as bitcoin has continued to climb among tech-savvy Colombian citizens throughout 2016, and into the first month of 2017.

Chart from XE.com

Last week, trading volumes on P2P digital currency marketplace LocalBitcoins hit an all-time high in Colombia, according to data compiled by Coin.dance. A total of 366,874,426 Colombian pesos worth of bitcoin trades took place in Colombia! At current exchange rates, this figure amounts to $124,737.

While this figure may not seem overly impressive compared to turnover in traditional currency markets, it is an impressive amount when compared against trading volumes in Colombia from January of 2016, when 163,446,631 pesos worth of bitcoin trades took place during the entire month on LocalBitcoins!!

In the last week of January, 2017, a new all time high was also recorded in the amount of actual bitcoin changing hands on LocalBitcoins in Colombia: 139 BTC for the week ending on 2017-01-28; 485 BTC for the entire month of January. These figures dwarf weekly readings observed throughout 2015, when weekly volumes would rarely exceed 50 BTC.

Colombia is one of the few countries where bitcoin trading has grown while the national currency has been relatively stable. Bitcoin volumes have also risen dramatically in neighboring Venezuela as the bolivar entered a hyper-inflationary collapse in the second half of 2016.

Colombian Central Bank Leaves Benchmark Interest Rate Unchanged; Colombian Peso Remains Stable Against U.S. Dollar

Banco de la República, the central bank of Colombia, announced on Friday it will be leaving benchmark interest rates at 7.5 percent. The decision to leave interest rates unchanged was approved by four members from the Board of Directors, while the remaining three members voted for a 25-basis-point cut.

Changes in consumer and core inflation, which decreased to 5.75% and 5.60%, was one of a few factors that played into the central bank’s decision to leave rates unchanged. In the press release, the central bank also mentioned that the economic metrics of Colombia’s trading partners have improved more than expected:
“The new figures of global economic activity for the end of 2016 indicate that the average growth of Colombia’s trading partners would have been higher than estimated a quarter ago. With this, it is likely that the recovery of external demand in 2017 be slightly higher than forecast three months ago.”
With the increase in interest rates in the United States, the Colombian peso is one of the few Latin American currencies that has gained ground against the dollar in the last months of 2016, “International long-term interest rates increased, and the country's terms of trade continue to recover. In this context, the peso has appreciated versus the US dollar.,” said Banco de la República.

The COP/USD pair was trading as high as 0.000337, on December 14, 2016:

Chart source: XE.com

The central bank said Colombia’s economy was performing better in the fourth quarter when compared to the third quarter, however, the bank went on to explain that “low dynamism” was still present in Q4 of 2016.

While Banco de la República highlighted some positive developments in the Colombian economy towards the end of 2016, the central bank remains concerned about the state of global trade and financial stability, particularly about “global interest rates and the evolution of the US dollar.”

Furthermore, the Colombian central bank said the current account deficit projection for 2016 was higher than previous forecasts. The updated figure for 2016 has increased to 12.6 billion (4.5% of GDP).

US Stock Futures Open Lower in Pre-Market Trading as Investors Digest Effects of Trump's Immigration Ban on American Companies

U.S. equity markets opened lower in pre-market trading on Sunday. E-mini DOW futures opened lower by 42 points (- 0.21%). The DOW traded as low as 19,936 on Sunday - a drop of more than 70 points when measured against the market close on Friday, while S&P 500 E-mini futures started trading lower by approximately 7 points (-0.31%).

Currency markets opened on Sunday with minor gaps. The biggest gap was on the EUR/USD pair, which opened higher by 23 pips at 1.07205.

American equity markets were driven lower on Sunday night as investors began to digest the economic implications of President Trump’s executive orders on halting immigration from several Muslim countries.

The unexpected ban unleashed chaos at airports across the United States over the weekend, with multiple protests taking place at airports in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas and Detroit.

Trump’s executive orders have have drawn fierce opposition from many civil rights groups like the ACLU, which filed a legal challenge against the immigration ban. Many Silicon Valley tech companies also voiced concerns over how these new policies will affect employees that are currently traveling abroad.

Google issued a statement over the weekend:
“We’re concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that create barriers to bringing great talent to the U.S.”
In a post on LinkedIn, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated how beneficial immigration is to his company and the United States, “As an immigrant and as a CEO, I’ve both experienced and seen the positive impact that immigration has on our company, for the country, and for the world. We will continue to advocate on this important topic,” writes Nadella.

Paxful Brings Bitcoin to the Masses with the "Virtual Bitcoin Kiosk" Program

Paxful, a Delaware-based online marketplace that allows users to buy and sell bitcoin directly from each other via multiple online/legacy payments methods, has announced the launch of their new Virtual Bitcoin Kiosk program.

With the new program - called BitSeed - Paxful affiliates are able to earn a 2 percent commission by embedding a simple widget, which allows anyone to purchase the digital currency by completing a short 5-step process, on any website or social media platform:
“The widget provided by Paxful can be embedded within any website, blog, YouTube channel, mobile app, email subscriber list, or even a Facebook page, instantly allowing anybody to have their own customized bitcoin kiosk.”
Ray Youssef, co-founder of Paxful, framed the new initiative as an elegant method for non-techies and newcomers to the virtual currency space to acquire bitcoin, "We have spent a year and a half learning the game inside and out and factoring in every little place where a first time buyer can get stuck and giving them a way to finish,” explains Youssef.

The new BitSeed widget is very practical for users looking to quickly convert their gift cards to bitcoin, “We noticed that most of the existing services have been tailored for individuals who have access to banking systems, though when it came to purchasing bitcoins through other means – such as gift cards, debit cards, cash deposits etc – the options were somewhat limited,” the Paxfull team said on their blog.

According to data compiled by Coin.dance, more than 50% of the trades on Paxful are done via gift card:

BitSeed widget users also get to a customize their links:

The Paxful marketplace features over 300 different payment methods, and supports most gift cards issued by major retailers. To provide some additional incentive, Paxful has offered to giveaway 10 BTC ($9000 at current exchange rates) to the top BitSeed widget users by February 10, 2017.

Venezuelan Police Bust Bitcoin Mining Farm for Stealing Electricity; Authorities Claim Operators Linked to Polish Organized Crime Syndicate

Venezuelan police have usted a massive bitcoin mining operation in the state of Carabobo for stealing electricity. The investigation was carried out by the Organized Crime Bureau of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB).

According to PNB statements made on Friday, the bitcoin mining devices - numbering 11,000 - were operational in a warehouse located in the industrial area of Los Guayos. Photographs of the mining devices reveal that the group was using the PicoStocks 100TH model, developed by PicoStocks using boards made by the BioInfoBank Institute, a non-profit R&D group based in Poland.

The mining farm was overseen by two Venezuelans: 51-year-old Eusebio Gómez Henríquez and 31-year-old Andrés Alejandro Carrero Martínez. Investigators have alleged that the duo is part of an international crime organization based in Poland, which is involved in “money laundering, computer crime, financing terrorism, electronic theft and exchange fraud, through the production of such a virtual device in various parts of the country.”

The investigation was initiated when officers from another PNB division began to noticed large crates being delivered to the warehouse. As the investigation continued, authorities realized the mysterious crates contained bitcoin mining devices.

To evade detection by authorities, Venezuelan police said cryptocurrency mining operators often disguise their mining farms as data centers and other internet-related businesses. According to the press release, the PNB is currently conducting several other investigations into digital currency mining farms in Venezuela.

Bitcoin mining has become a very lucrative business in Venezuela due to the extremely low electricity prices. Power costs in Venezuela between 0.01-0.02 USD per kilowatt hour - a figure unheard of in the rest of the world. Even China, where electricity prices average about 0.11 USD per kilowatt hour in 2015, according to data gathered by Statista, is expensive compared to Venezuela.

France's Financial Watchdog (AMF) Tells Banc De Binary Clients to Shut Down All Accounts

France's financial regulator, the AMF, issued a news bulletin yesterday regarding CySEC-regulated binary options brokerage Banc De Binary, urging all existing clients to close their accounts as soon as possible.

The AMF’s warning comes two weeks after Banc De Binary decided to renounce its license with financial authorities in Cyprus, who issued their own statement on January 11, 2017, saying the firm is no longer allowed to conduct business in Cyprus.

The CySEC announcement reads:
“As stated in the renouncement letter of the Company, which provided investment services via the domain eu.bancdebinary.com, its authorization with Νumber 188/13 lapses as from 15th of January 2017.“
France recently passed a new set of rules that prohibit the advertising of risky financial instruments (CFDs and FX binary options) to the French public. And the AMF has taken a lead role in the enforcement of the new regulations, in addition to collaborating with financial authorities in other countries - particularly the CySEC - to identify financial outfits in violations of the new statutes.

The AMF’s bulletin on Band De Binary states:
“The Autorité des Marchés Financiers is actively engaged in combating the dangers for individual investors of speculative trading on the Internet. It works regularly with the Cypriot regulator to develop controls and sanctions for companies operating under authorisations granted in that country.”
Along with renouncing its CIF license in Cyprus, Banc De Binary has also stopped serving customers based in the United States.

Image credit: By Banc De Binary [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Mexican Peso Gains Against U.S. Dollar as Mexican Billionaire Carlos Slims Holds Press Conference

The Mexican peso closed 1.5% higher against the U.S. dollar on Friday. Despite increasingly hostile rhetoric between Mexican and U.S. authorities over illegal immigration and the highly controversial border wall, the peso had one of its best days against the greenback since the start of the year.

Today’s appreciation in the peso was mainly a result of a press conference held in Mexico City by Mexican billionaire, Carlos Slim, who said the Mexican government needs to be strong in the upcoming negotiations with the Trump administration.

Slim, a Mexican business magnate who is well known for being the richest person in the world between 2010 and 2013, called Trump a “great negotiator,” adding that he had a great amount of negotiating leverage due to the size of the American economy.

However, the Mexican businessman also mentioned that Mexico needs to focus on developing its domestic economy and that any excessive tariffs imposed by the Trump administration would be borne by U.S. consumers.

While the U.S. president has criticized Carlos Slim during his campaign for making donations to the Clinton Foundation, Trump met with Carlos Slim at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, last year. Trump said in one of his tweets:
"Yes, it is true - Carlos Slim, the great businessman from Mexico, called me about getting together for a meeting. We met, HE IS A GREAT GUY!"
The Mexican peso finished the off the week with a 3% gain against the dollar.

Bitfinex Hacker Transfers 876 Bitcoin ($800,000) Into Various Addresses on the Bitcoin Network; First Move Since August

The hacker responsible for stealing $70 million worth of bitcoin from Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange, Bitfinex, has started to move the ill gotten coins to various addresses on the Bitcoin network.

Over the past two days, the thief has moved approximately 876.82 BTC ($806,674.4 at today’s exchange rate) in a 196 different transactions, according to transaction data compiled by blockchain enthusiast, Chris Ellis.

Bitfinex has responded on Twitter by offering a sizable bounty to anyone with information that results in the recovery of the stolen funds.

The crafty maneuvers of the Bitfinex hacker is also being tracked by blockchain forensics & compliance firms like Luxembourg-based Scorechain, which also alerted Bitfinex on the movement of the stolen coins.

In a blog post in October of 2016, Bitfinex risk manager Giancarlo Devasini offered an “enormous bug bounty” to the hacker - payable in a privacy-centric cryptocurrency like Monero/Dash - in exchange for returning most of the stolen bitcoin, but no one has come forth so far.

Western Union Shares Drop 2.44% as Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, Cancels Meeting With President Trump Over Border Wall Dispute

Western Union shares opened sharply lower on Thursday, trading as low as $19.25 during the first hour of the NYSE open. The precipitous drop was largely driven by uncertainty surrounding President Trump's promise to block remittances if Mexican authorities refuse to pay for the border wall.

Investors are now starting to seriously consider the very real possibility of a ban on remittance flows to Mexico by U.S. President Donald Trump and the knock-on effect this will have on Western Union's bottom line. WU shares began trading today $19.71 - 1.84% lower than yesterday's close at $20.08!

Relations between the Trump administration and the Mexican government took a nosedive today when Mexico’s President, Enrique Peña Nieto, canceled a meeting that was scheduled for next week, “This morning we informed the White House that I will not attend the scheduled work meeting for next Tuesday with @POTUS,” tweeted President Nieto.

Responding to Nieto's abrupt cancelation, US President Trump sent out his own tweets that criticized Mexican authorities for not going along with his plans for the border wall, as well as pointing out how Mexico has unfairly benefited from NAFTA over the years:

And during his speech to House and Senate GOP lawmakers today, Trump said:
"Unless Mexico will treat the US fairly, with respect, such a meeting is fruitless, and I want to go a different route. I have no choice."
While President Trump has not made any definitive statements on cutting off cash flows to Mexico since his election on November 8, he did say during his campaign that Mexico’s refusal to pay for the wall would be grounds for blocking billion of dollars in annual remittance payments sent by Mexican immigrants in the U.S.

Remittance figures for Mexico during November, 2016, show just how seriously Mexican migrants have taken Trump’s rhetoric on blocking remittances.

In the aftermath of Trump’s election, migrants sent a record $2.4 billion back to Mexico in November - 24.7% higher than than November of 2015 - according to data from the Mexican central bank.

Western Union shares recouped some of the initial losses in afternoon trading, closing at $19.59 (-2.44% for the day).

President Trump's Speech on Immigration at the Department of Homeland Security Sends Mexican Peso Soaring Against Dollar

The Mexican peso strengthened against the US dollar by almost 1.77 percent in the minutes following President Trump’s speech at the Department of Homeland Security.

In his speech, Trump said he signed two executive orders today that will curb illegal immigration and stem the flow of illegal cash and narcotics to and from Mexico, “A strong and healthy economy in Mexico is very good for the United States,” said President Trump.

Trump’s executive orders also call for the building of a wall, as well as the termination of the practice of catch-and-release at the southern border:
“The secretary of DHS, working with myself and my staff, will begin immediate construction of a border wall. This will also help Mexico by deterring illegal immigration from Central America and by disruption violent cartel networks.”
Additionally, Trump’s executive actions call for beefing up border patrol with 5000 new officers and tripling the amount of ICE agents. A crackdown is also planned for so-called ‘sanctuary’ cities like New York, San Francisco, Washington, Chicago, Boston and Miami.

According to the President's speech, a new division at the DHS will be dedicated to supporting the victims of illegal immigrant crime.

While his speech focused mostly on dealing with stemming the flow of illegal immigrants and the construction of the wall, President Trump also outlined the potential economic benefits of his new policies for Mexico. “Starting right now, we’ll improve the safety in both of our countries. It’s going to be very, very good for Mexico,” said President Trump.

Turkish Central Bank Raises Interest Rates; Lira Tanks More Than 2% Against US Dollar

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Turkish central bank - lead by Governor Murat Cetinkaya and five other members - shocked currency markets today by raising overnight lending interest rates from 8.5 percent to 9.25 percent. News of the decision sent the Turkish lira crashing 2.25% against the dollar in the space of just five minutes!

The USD/TRY currency pair shot up to a daily high of 3.8286. The lira pared most of the initial losses in the hours following the announcement, however, at press time, Turkey’s currency is still trading 1 percent lower on the day.

The Turkish central bank also left the borrowing rate and one-week repo rate at 7.25 percent and 8 percent respectively.

Additionally, the MPC made the decision to raise the Late Liquidity Window Interest Rates, which commercial lenders are forced to borrow at, from 10 percent to 11 percent.

While the bank’s press release claims the Turkish economy is on a “partial recovery,” due to increased exports to the EU, the MPC also said the lira’s precipitous drop has lead to increased concerns regarding inflation:
“Yet, excessive fluctuations in exchange rates since the previous meeting have increased the upside risks regarding the inflation outlook.”
Furthermore, the Turkish central bank said further interest rate hikes will be necessary if excessive currency volatility returns:
“Inflation expectations, pricing behavior and other factors affecting inflation will be closely monitored and, if needed, further monetary tightening will be delivered. Moreover, necessary liquidity measures will be taken in case of unhealthy pricing behavior in the foreign exchange market that cannot be justified by economic fundamentals.”
Turkish monetary authorities, along with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have tried to stabilize the crashing Turkish lira over the last few months via several unorthodox means, including calling on patriotic Turks to purchase lira with foreign currencies.

Since the start of 2017, the lira’s exchange rate against the greenback has stabilized between 3.74 and 3.825, but it remains to be seen if this stability can be maintained throughout the rest of the year.

US Dollar Index Dumps as Trump's Treasury Secretary Nominee (Steve Mnuchin) Says 'Strong Dollar' Not Always Good For America

The US Dollar Index was rocked into the close of the NY trading session as President Trump’s Treasury Secretary Nominee, Steve Mnuchin, told the Senate that a strong dollar may not always be beneficial to the economy.

According to a Bloomberg report, Mnuchin wrote:
“The strength of the dollar has historically been tied to the strength of the U.S. economy and the faith that investors have in doing business in America. From time to time, an excessively strong dollar may have negative short-term implication.”
Mnuchin’s remarks sent the Dollar Index tumbling down to a low of 99.94 - a price not seen since December 8, 2016. The Dollar Index recovered a bit during the final minutes of the trading day, closing at 99.99.

The unexpected news also hit several Forex pairs quite hard, with the biggest drop taking place on the USD/JPY pair, which dropped 0.43% in the last 30 minutes of the NY trading session.

Top 3 Chinese Bitcoin Exchanges Start Charging Trading Fees to Curb Market Volatility & Manipulation

The top three Chinese (OKCoin, Huobi, BTCChina) bitcoin exchanges halted margin trading last week in a bid to appease PBoC regulators. Over the weekend, OKCoin and Huobi also announced new trading fees of 0.2 per cent. BTCChina said the fees were aimed at reducing excessive volatility:
“To further curb market manipulation and extreme volatility, BTCChina will start charging fees for bitcoin and litecoin trading from 12:00 p.m. (noon) UTC+8 on Tuesday, January 24th.”
Furthermore, BTCChina clarified that the trading fees will apply to both market makers and market takers. The new fee schedule applies to two digital currencies:

Similar policies were implemented by OKCoin and Huobi on Sunday. Today, Chinese digital currency exchange Yunbi, which accounts for 0.85% of daily bitcoin turnover, according to data from coinmarketcap.com, also announced a 0.2% trading fee for bitcoin trading pairs.

The Yunbi bulletin states:
“To further prevent speculation and sharp fluctuations of Bitcoin prices. Yunbi will start charging Bitcoin trading fee from January 24, 2017 at 12:00 noon (UTC+8).”
Unlike BTCChina’s fee schedule, Yunbi said it will only charge fees on bitcoin pairs, excluding litecoin and other blockchain assets.

Trump Inaugural Speech Has Little Effect On Dollar & Equities; Mexican Peso Posts 1.66% Gain Against the Greenback

The US Dollar Index ended down 0.33% on the day - closing at 100.77 - as President Trump’s inaugural speech focused mainly on populist rhetoric and protectionist trade policies.

President Trump said in his speech:
“Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”
The greenback ended the day lower against most currencies; down 0.36% against the euro; down 0.23% against the British pound; down 0.20% against the Japanese yen. Interestingly, the Mexican peso, which has dropped approximately 19% against the greenback since the election of Donald Trump on November 8, gained 1.66% against the dollar today, closing at 21.5903.

The dollar remained almost unchanged against the Canadian & Australian currencies. While the greenback lost some ground, U.S. equities performed well. The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted a 0.48% gain and S&P 500 futures climbed 0.22% on Friday.

Bitcoin remained mostly unchanged throughout the day, hovering around $900 on American, European and Chinese exchanges.

Mizuho Bank Integrates Thomson Reuters' Forex Trading Platform

Mizuho Financial Group, Inc, the third largest financial institution in Japan, announced today the integration of the Thomson Reuters FX platform (FXT).

The Thomson Reuters Forex trading desktop features the widest variety of currency pairs and currency trading instruments like FX swaps and Options, “Users also gain access to new order types such as Peg, TWAP and Icebergs, thus providing greater flexibility and choice in execution,” said the Thomson Reuter.

And Yosuke Takahashi from the International Forex Department at Mizuho Bank also mentioned the importance of the wide variety of order types on the FXT Platform, in his statement:
“The biggest advantage of FXT for dealers is the availability of more ordering methods. The diversification of ordering methods leads to the improvement of operating functions and also translates into more opportunities for trading profits."
The new integration will connect Mizuho’s Japanese traders with a global community of FX specialists and counterparties, which number in the thousands.

Image of the FXT platform courtesy of Sam Grant from Thompson Reuters

Michael Go, Head of FX Market Development at the Asian Pacific division of Thomson Reuters, explained that FXT will give Mizuho traders access to greater pool of liquidity in the global currency marketplace, “We are proud of Mizuho’s selection of FXT, which highlights Thomson Reuters achievements and progress in the foreign exchange space,” he adds.

While the dollar and the euro are still the top currencies in the global Forex market in terms of total annual volume, the Japanese yen is the third most popular currency by turnover, according to the most recent Triennial Central Bank Survey of foreign exchange and OTC derivatives markets in 2016.

Two of China's Largest Bitcoin Exchange, OKCoin and Huobi, Suspend Margin Trading at the Request of PBoC Regulators

OKCoin.cn, the largest Chinese bitcoin marketplace by volume, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com, announced today that all margin trading is being suspended. OKCoin said the decision to halt lending facilities came at the request of PBoC regulators.

Furthermore, existing margin positions will be wound down gradually, “Users with loans that have already taken place will not be asked to forcibly repay the debt. After voluntarily repaying previous loans, users will not be able to apply for new loans,” writes OKCoin.

According to some traders on OKCoin, the leverage cap applies only to spot markets, with futures leverage remaining at 20x.

And OKCoin wasn’t the only Chinese bitcoin exchange to halt leveraged trading today. Huobi, the third largest bitcoin trading venue in China, released a statement on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, saying PBoC regulators have asked for the stopping of all leveraged trading.

While BTCC, the second largest Chinese exchange, suspended bitcoin margin loan trading last Friday, the exchange’s Twitter timeline is full of tweets denouncing speculative theories and news articles:

Canadian Dollar Plunges Against the Greenback; Bank of Canada Governor Says Uncertain US Trade Policy a Risk to Canadian Economy

The Canadian dollar started off 2017 by appreciating against the greenback, however, today’s speech by Stephen Poloz, Governor of the Bank of Canada, caused the Canadian currency to drop 1.7% against the US dollar in the space of a few hours. The USD/CAD Forex pair hit a high of 1.3273 for the day.

This was the largest sell-off Canadian dollar since the start of 2017.

While the Canadian central bank announced that overnight rates would remain at 0.5 per cent - which was forecast by most analysts and expected by market participants - Poloz’s remarks about the unknown risks to the Canadian economy due to President-elect Trump’s radical approach to US trade policy, sent the Canadian dollar crashing.

Stephen Poloz said in his Monetary Policy Report press conference:
“The uncertainty we face as forecasters and policy-makers remains undiminished. The Monetary Policy Report outlines a number of risks to our projection in both directions. In our discussions, Governing Council was particularly concerned about the ramifications of US trade policy, because it is so fundamental to the Canadian economy. But we cannot capture these in our projections because they are simply unknown at this point.”
This sentiment was also present in the overnight rate press release, which was released ahead of the Governor’s speech, where the Bank of Canada states:
“Uncertainty about the global outlook is undiminished, particularly with respect to policies in the United States.”
Additionally, Canada’s central bank head said a US corporate tax cut may negatively impact Canadian exports, which would translate to less investments in the country.
“First, a corporate tax cut in the United States could adversely affect Canadian export competitiveness.”

Cryptocurrency Exchange Coinbase Granted BitLicense in New York

Coinbase, a San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange, today becomes the fifth digital currency business to obtain a BitLicense in the state of New York. Maria T. Vullo, Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), made the announcement today.

"Through the creation and promotion of strong state-based regulation, DFS continues New York’s long record of being responsive to technological innovation,” she said.

According to the DFS press release, Coinbase underwent a comprehensive review of its anti-money laundering and cyber security policies before getting approved for the new license.

Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, said:
“We're thrilled to have obtained the BitLicense and look forward to expanding our business in New York.”
To date, a total of five firms have received BitLicenses in New York from the DFS: Coinbase, XRP II, Circle Internet Financial, Gemini and itBit.

Juan Suarez, a member of the Coinbase legal department, explained in a post on the Coinbase blog that cooperation between financial regulators and bitcoin firms is needed for the continued growth of the industry, “We believe the long-term success of virtual currency and blockchain technologies will require productive partnerships between industry and government,” he writes.

Theresa May's Brexit Speech Sends Pound Rocketing Higher Against US Dollar by 3.4%

Yesterday’s crash in the British pound has been completely erased today as British Prime Minister Theresa May struck a friendly tone in her Brexit speech, “We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe,” she said.

The British PM called for a “new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union.”

May’s speech sent the pound skyrocketing against the dollar, completely erasing the 1.5% drop from Sunday. At press time, the British pound has gained approximately 3.4% against the greenback, hitting a daily high of 1.2414!

In her speech, Theresa May outlined a 12-step strategy for maintaining UK stability and successfully persevering the economic ties between the United Kingdom and the EU, in a post-Brexit environment.

-Certainty and clarity on all negotiations.
-Full control of UK laws, no more influence from the EU courts.
-Strengthen the ties between the four nations of the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland)
-Maintain common travel area with Ireland.
-Control of immigration.
-Reciprocating rights for European & British citizens in the UK and the EU.
-Preserving & translating EU worker rights in the UK.
-Robust Free Trade Agreements with various EU member states.
-New FTAs with countries outside the EU
-Collaboration with EU on technological innovation
-Cooperation with the EU in fight against terrorism and cross-border crime
-An orderly Brexit process

The details of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU are still being worked on, and Theresa May explained in today’s speech that her cabinet will put the Brexit deal to a vote in Parliament:
“I can confirm today that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force.”
While May’s address struck a conciliatory tone, the British PM also made it clear that the right balance must be struck on the Brexit deal, “No deal for Britain would be better than a bad deal for Britain,” she stated.

British Pound Sinks 1.5% Against Dollar on Sunday as Theresa May Seeks "Hard Brexit"

The British pound opened down approximately 1.5% against the dollar in early trading, Sunday. At it’s lowest, the pound was trading at 1.1995 against the greenback, before gaining some ground in the hours following the opening of the Australian currency markets.

The precipitous fall in the pound was spurred by press reports that suggest Theresa May is looking to leave the EU single market and customs union - a major point of contention in the Brexit negotiations - in order to regain full control over UK immigration policy.

The British MP is scheduled to give a speech at London’s Lancaster House, on Tuesday, in which she will make the case for a clean breakaway from the European Union and a more united Britain.

“So the country is coming together. Now we need to put an end to the division and the language associated with it – Leaver and Remainer and all the accompanying insults – and unite to make a success of Brexit and build a truly Global Britain,” May is expected to say on Tuesday, according to a Sunday Telegraph report.

Many financial firms based in the UK have made it clear they plan to move to Ireland and the EU if Brexit negotiation fail to preserve single market and passporting rights for British firms.

LMAX, a London-based and FCA-regulated FX marketplace, issued a statement in October, 2016, saying the firm plans to leave the UK in 2017 if Brexit negotiations break down:
“LMAX Exchange will begin regulatory filings in Ireland in January 2017, if no UK Government assurances are received.”
Statements by firms like LMAX regarding the repercussions of a “full Brexit” are very much at odds with some parts of the MP’s planned speech on Tuesday, “Business isn’t calling to reverse the result, but planning to make a success of it,” May will say.

Bitcoin Adoption Grows in Russia; Head of Bank of Russia, Olga Skorobogatova, Says Bitcoin To Be Regulated, Not Banned

The future of digital currencies in Russia remained uncertain for most of 2016, but recent comments by the Olga Skorobogatova, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Russia, have shed some light on how Russian financial regulators feel about cryptocurrencies.

In an interview at the 2017 Gaidar Forum, Skorobogatova told the press that there are no plans to impose any bans on the usage of Bitcoin within the Russian Federation at the present time:
“As to Bitcoin, which is a private currency, it has became clear that things are not as simple and as it is written in books and magazines. The position of the regulatory agencies is that we would not like to specifically prohibit it, but we would like to first understand it, and then build a regulatory framework.”
Skorobogatova’s remarks are in sharp contrast to other Russian officials like Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseev, who has made repeated attempts over the last two years to pass legislation that would impose stiff prison sentences on bitcoin users within Russia.

But despite the opposition from some regulators, bitcoin usage and popularity within the Russian Federation has grown substantially in 2016. More recently, St. Petersburg-based fitness chain, NanoFitness, began accepting the digital currency at several of their fitness studios in St. Petersburg and Tyumen.

Bitcoin sign posted at the door of NanoFitness

And in December, 2016, Russian presidential candidate and fierce Putin critic, Alexey Navalny, started accepting bitcoin donations - in addition to PayPal and Yandex.Money - for his campaign in the 2018 election. As of today, Navalny’s bitcoin donation address has received approximately 22.6 BTC ($18,758/1,117,976.8 Russian rubles) in donations.

Leonid Volkov, who heads Navalny's presidential campaign, said in a tweet that bitcoin donations represent 15% of all donations received so far.

Chinese Bitcoin Exchange BTCC Halts Leveraged Trading as PBoC Inspections Continue

Following the surprise inspections of China’s largest bitcoin exchanges (BTCC, Huobi, OKCoin) by financial regulators from the PBoC over the last few days, which sent the price of the digital currency plunging to $720, BTCC has announced the suspension of all margin trading & lending until further notice:

In an interview with Chinese fintech news outlet Sina.com, CEO of BTCC, Bobby Lee, explained that all Chinese digital currency trading venues operate in the “grey areas” of Chinese financial regulation.

Lee also said inspectors from the PBoC showed great interest in the inner workings of BTCC during their onsite inspection, “PBoC also asked BTCC to prepare a report on the details of the exchange operations,” he adds.

Other major Chinese exchanges have also hinted at limiting leveraged bitcoin trading. Huobi, the third largest bitcoin exchange by volume on China, said leveraged trading may be limited if market conditions warrant it:

OKCoin, the largest Chinese exchange by volume, has also temporarily reduced leveraged trading to 1x, according to 8btc.

TOR-Based, P2P Digital Currency Exchange Bitsquare Seeks to Rebrand Due to Legal Complications

Bitsquare, a peer-to-peer digital currency exchange that uses the TOR network to anonymize transactions, announced today it will be rebranding due to legal complications related to the name itself. Mihail Mihalov, communications manager at Bitsquare, said the difficulties arose when the Bitsquare development team attempted to legally establish the Bitsquare name, but learned that someone else had already registered a similar brand:
“The team recently initiated brand registration, but as it often happens, the name was opposed. It turns out, though to no one’s surprise, our project is not the first one to come up with the term “square” in its name.”
“To avoid a lengthy and expensive legal process, we will have to find another name,” writes Mihalov.

Lead developer and founder of the Bitsquare project, Manfred Karrer, has turned to the Bitsquare community for help in finding a suitable alternative. Karrer has offered a 0.5 bitcoin ($400 at current exchange rates) reward to the party responsible for composing the best name.

The contest will run through February 20, 2016, and the winner will be selected by the Bitsquare team. So far, more than 30 unique entries have been submitted on the official contest forum thread.

While the Bitsquare platform is one of the few bitcoin trading venues where participants are not required to undergo any KYC/AML checks to freely engage in any type of fiat-to-bitcoin transaction, trading activity on Bitsquare has been subdued for most of 2016.

However, turnover picked up in the first week of 2017 in Europe, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, according to data on Coin.dance.

FXCM Posts Declines in Retail and Institutional FX Volumes for December of 2016

New York-based FX broker, FXCM Inc, has reported today a 33% drop in retail trade volume for the month of December. According to the press release, retail trading turnover came in at $235 billion, which is “33% lower than November 2016 and 27% lower than December 2015.”

FXCM also revealed that total retail turnover for 2016 was $3.5 trillion - an 8% drop when compared against figures for 2015.

Average daily volume was also down in December: $11.2 billion, 24% lower when compared to figures from December of 2015.

Institutional metrics:

Just like the downward trend in retail volumes, turnover on FXCM originating from institutional clients was also lower during the last month of 2016. Institutional volume on FXCM for December came in at $25 billion, about 31% lower than December of 2015.

Total institutional volume for all of 2016 was $527 billion - only 1% lower than total turnover for 2015. However, the average daily volume in December was much lower:
“Average institutional trading volume(2) per day of $1.2 billion in December 2016, 8% lower than November 2016 and 25% lower than December 2015.”
While FXCM did see an overall decline in institutional FX volumes in December, the average amount of institutional client trades per day for December, 2016, increased by double digits when compared to averages from December of 2015:
"An average of 34,649 institutional client trades per day in December 2016, 3% lower than November 2016 and 18% higher than December 2015."
At press time, FXCM shares are trading in a tight range around $7.34, up approximately 7.28% since the start of 2017.

European Cryptocurrency Marketplace Bitstamp Integrates the Ripple Digital Token

European digital currency exchange Bitstamp has kicked off 2017 with the integration of a new blockchain asset, Ripple (XRP). Bitstamp said in the release that traders will be have access to two markets: XRP/USD and XRP/EUR.

Trading on both pairs will official begin on the January 17, with no trading fees until February 10, 2017. Bitstamp explained that fees will be gradually raised by 25% on a monthly basis until midnight on May 1, 2017, when fees on XRP pairs will be the same as BTC pairs.

Just like American exchange Coinbase, which recently held a Twitter poll to determine which digital currency to add, Bitstamp management also looked at multiple cryptocurrencies before settling on Ripple.

Nejc Kodrič, CEO at Bitstamp, explains:
“After evaluating a number of digital currencies for inclusion on our exchange, it soon became clear that customer demand for XRP was particularly strong.”
Miguel Vias, Head of XRP Markets, said traders and investors on Bitstamp will now have access to a innovative digital asset that is linked to the legacy banking system:
"Ripple's adoption with banks puts XRP in pole position to become a global settlement asset, which translates to more liquidity for Bitstamp, and more value for institutional and individual investors."