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Competition for global crypto derivatives market dominance heats up

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At the start of October, the crypto market was faced with extremely tumultuous financial conditions, thanks in large part to the recent filings against BitMEX, which saw the company’s top brass being indicted by the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission on several charges. Not only that, but just a few days before the BitMEX scandal came to light, cryptocurrency exchange KuCoin was hacked to the tune of over $275 million on Sept. 26.

In the midst of all this, the crypto derivatives market also witnessed a major development in the form of Binance overtaking Huobi and OKEx to become the largest crypto derivatives exchange by volume for the month of September, with the platform recording a total trade volume of $164.8 billion for the month.

The data, released by U.K.-based crypto analytics firm CryptoCompare, took into consideration the trading volume of the aforementioned exchanges and found that Binance drew in a total of $8 billion more in trade volume than its closest competitor, Huobi, which raked in $156.3 billion during the same time period, while OKEx drew in around $155.7 billion.

Binance and OKEx demonstrated relatively similar derivatives volumes during July and August; however, it’s worth noting that during this same time window, Huobi had quite a margin on both its closest rivals. This then poses the question of how Binance was able to make such strides in just one month to overtake Huobi and OKEx so quickly. Providing his thoughts on the subject, Jay Hao, CEO of OKEx, told Cointelegraph:

“Binance held a $1.6 million trading competition on its futures exchange to mark its one year anniversary in September. This may have led to the sudden rapid spike in volume and also explain why the OI is so low compared to OKEx, as traders did not open long positions but were competing for their share of the prize pool.”

What fueled Binance Future’s rise?

According to a Binance spokesperson, one of the key drivers that helped spur the recent market performance was user feedback, especially in regard to the less-than-ideal trading experiences that many customers had previously faced on other derivatives exchanges: “They told us about system outages or instability, interfaces that weren’t user-friendly, and that all the exchanges then were only offering incentives for market makers, which created a lopsided environment that disadvantaged market takers.”

Another event that may have bolstered market confidence in Binance’s derivatives arm was Black Thursday, or March 12, a day that greatly impacted both traditional and crypto markets. While many other derivatives exchanges encountered significant outages, Binance offered uninterrupted service to its customers, thereby potentially cementing confidence in the platform.

Lastly, during the course of summer this year, a number of users moved from Bitcoin to various altcoins and DeFi-based derivatives. During this transitional phase, Binance Futures expanded its offerings pool. The Binance spokesperson noted: “There’s also better awareness on how we balance Bitcoin and altcoins; altcoin futures volumes make up around 40% on Binance. We think we understand and reflect market conditions well.”

OKEx stages a comeback

While September saw Binance lead the derivatives roost, heading into October, OKEx is leading all Bitcoin futures exchanges in terms of Bitcoin futures open interest. In its most basic sense, open interest signifies the total number of outstanding derivative contracts — be it options or futures — that are yet to be settled. From a more technical standpoint, open interest serves as an indicator of options trading activity and whether or not the total amount of money coming into the derivatives market is increasing.

On Oct. 4, OKEx’s 24-hour trading volume was over the $1.3 billion mark, dwarfing the $1.23 billion trade volume of its closest competitor, Binance Futures. Additionally, as can be seen from the chart above, open interest on OKEx is the highest by a wide margin, with the other five exchanges performing similarly to one another.

Such positive statistical data seems to suggest that BTC futures and options sentiment has remained quite strong, despite the recent BitMEX lawsuit and KuCoin hack. Not only that, but OKEx’s futures open interest has risen from $850 million to $930 million since the start of October, something that is potentially indicative of a bull run in the near future. Providing his insights on the subject, Hao told Cointelegraph:

“Trading volume is a very important metric but it is not the only metric to keep in mind when assessing the overall health and popularity of an exchange. OKEx has been laser-focused on DeFi lately as well and this move from Binance in derivatives is a signal for us that we cannot take our attention from our flagship product.”

U.K. ban on local derivatives market could hurt

On Oct. 11, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority — the country’s principal finance regulator — issued a blanket ban prohibiting crypto service providers from selling derivatives and exchange-traded notes to retail investors. While the U.K. derivatives market may not be large in comparison to others, the fact that a prominent regulator such as the FCA continues to claim that “cryptoassets are causing harm to consumers and markets” is rather alarming for the industry.

The government agency is still alleging that digital assets have no inherent value — an argument that has been used against crypto since its inception. Moreover, another reason for the ban is the “extreme volatile nature” of crypto, which seems like another unjust evaluation considering the same can be said about many traditional stock options. The FCA claims that retail investors “do not understand enough about the derivatives market,” so there is no real need for them to invest in such offerings.

That being said, it is worth remembering that when the ban was proposed in July last year, it generated a total of 527 responses from various companies that sell derivatives as well as crypto exchanges, law firms, trade bodies and other entities. In a 55-page report released by the FCA, a staggering 97% of respondents are shown to have opposed the proposal.



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Fool’s gold? Peter Schiff’s bank under investigation in tax evasion probe

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This morning, millionaire broker and noted Bitcoin skeptic Peter Schiff awoke to find his bank under renewed scrutiny due to an international criminal investigation. 

According to reporting from Australian newspaper The Age and The New York Times, the J5 — a joint task force of tax authorities from major Western governments convened in the wake of the bombshell publication of the Panama Papers — have placed “hundreds” of accounts at Schiff’s Puerto Rico-based Euro Pacific Bank under investigation for tax evasion and other financial crimes. 

The reports detail what appears to be a comically inept organization responsible for harboring the fortunes of a cast of shady businessmen and criminals. Employees hired after a quick Google search screening were tasked with attracting clients such as Simon Antequetil, the noted Australian fraudster and tax avoidance maestro.

The reports also shed light on how Euro Pacific may have tainted public holdings of Schiff’s favorite asset: gold. 

Former Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigator John Chevis discovered in 2017 that West Australian government-owned Perth Mint had a relationship with Euro Pacific. 

“I was very surprised,” Chevis told The Age. “I think there’s a significant risk that some of the gold held within the Perth Mint by customers of the Euro Pacific Bank may be held beneficially for criminals in other parts of the world.”

In an interview with The Age last month, Schiff denied wrongdoing on the part of Euro Pacific, saying the bank “turns down far more accounts than we approve because our compliance is so rigorous”. 

“It’s got nothing to do with reality,” he said of the allegations.

He later stormed out of the interview.

But nestled amid the reports is a key detail which may shed some light on why Schiff has been such a virulent critic of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. 

From The Age:

“The bank’s security was also a problem […] at one point, Russians tried to extort the bank for a ransom of 1000 bitcoins, worth millions of dollars.”

While Schiff was criticizing Bitcoin as early as 2013, the attempted extortion scheme might explain why he’s been particularly vocal as of late, most notably in a Twitter spat with Gemini co-founder Tyler Winklevoss.

Schiff has also demonstrated a history of paranoia regarding hacks, especially cryptocurrency-related hacks. In July, Schiff augured that the hack of multiple Twitter accounts by an American teenager might be a “harbinger” for a Bitcoin hack, and in April he tweeted about “the potential for improvements in technology to hack the blockchain and counterfeit Bitcoin.”

Despite Schiff’s concerns over the potential hacking of the Bitcoin blockchain, there is no equivalent in the digital asset world to iron pyrite. Unless we count BSV.





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Bitcoin May Plunge in Q4 Due to a Tax-Induced Selling Frenzy

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  • Bitcoin’s price action as of late has done little to offer investors with any tangible insights into where it may trend next
  • Analysts have been largely noting that the cryptocurrency’s outlook is being dimmed by turbulence within the stock market, which may persist until after the elections
  • Many traders do believe that the rest of Q4 will be a bullish month for BTC, as this may be when it can decouple from the stock market and garner some independent momentum
  • One analyst explained that he believes downside is imminent in the quarter ahead, noting that whales will have to cash out some of their crypto to cover taxes, which could spark a selloff

Bitcoin and the entire crypto market have lacked momentum throughout the past few days and weeks.

This has largely come about due to the turbulence within the stock market, with bulls and bears being unable to spark any short-term trends as the stock market consolidates.

This sideways trading pattern may not last for too much longer. One analyst noted that BTC might see a selloff induced by whales selling their crypto to cover taxes.

He notes that this sentiment is being reflected while looking towards options market makers.

Bitcoin Lacks Momentum as Stock Market Continues Consolidating 

The stock market hasn’t been able to form any clear trend as of late, with investors widely awaiting more insights into a phase 2 stimulus package that has yet to be agreed upon by Congress and the White House.

As the election also draws closer, investors are potentially awaiting its results before opening fresh positions.

This has caused Bitcoin to see a similar bout of lackluster price action. Both bulls and bears have largely reached an impasse and have been unable to spark any short-term trend.

At the time of writing, Bitcoin is trading up marginally at its current price of $11,400. This is around the price at which it has been trading throughout the past week.

Analyst: BTC Likely to See Tax-Induced Selloff Later in Q4

One analyst offered a bearish outlook on Bitcoin and the crypto market in Q4, noting that he expects it to see a selloff induced by whales taking out money to cover taxes.

“Its hard to for me to imagine a Q4 pump mega. All whales selling in order to prep to tax. Unless you’re telling me that the majority of crypto are in tax havens such as SG and HK. Sentiments shared amongst options market makers who are pricing monthly IV at 30%+,” he explained.

Image Courtesy of Theta Seek.

If the options market makers prove to be correct, then it could be a turbulent coming few months for Bitcoin.

Featured image from Unsplash.
Charts from TradingView.





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Bitcoin’s Taproot is ready to go, but it’s unlikely to be included in the next release

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The Bitcoin Improvement Proposals 340 through 342 were merged into the Bitcoin codebase on Thursday, signaling that the anticipated Taproot upgrade is ready.

Taproot and the associated technology of Schnorr signatures are considered to be the most important upgrade for Bitcoin in the past year. It is primarily a privacy improvement for complex spending conditions on Bitcoin like multisig transactions, time locks and other conditions based on Bitcoin Script.

As Cointelegraph reported previously, Taproot hides every additional spending condition beyond the one that was activated. For example, a transaction might be executed immediately if all four multisig signers agree, or it could require a certain amount of time to pass before funds are unlocke if only three out of four signers are present. Normally, an outsider is able to identify every possible condition, but with Taproot they will see only the one that was eve triggered.

Furthermore, thanks to Schnorr signatures, a pure multisig transaction can be made indistinguishable from normal transfers. It is worth addressing that Taproot makes no changes to mixing protocols like CoinJoin, which will remain easily distinguishable.

While the initial code for Taproot was submitted for review in January, some complications primarily related to Schnorr signatures required an extensive amount of refinement.

The proposals have now been fully reviewed by Bitcoin core developers and are ready to be included in a client release. Pieter Wuille, the lead developer for Taproot, told Cointelegraph that “it’s all done, except activation.”

Cointelegraph previously reported that consensus for activation may require some time to be reached. The process could potentially last for years, though Taproot is generally considered much less controversial than previous upgrades like SegWit.

The process starts as soon as the activation code is included in Bitcoin Core, allowing miners to signal approval for its inclusion. But Taproot seems to have come slightly at the wrong time for immediate activation.

Jonas Nick, researcher at Blockstream and Bitcoin core developer, told Cointelegraph that “Taproot is not ready for activation yet.”

He explained that activation logic is generally not included in a major release, referring to the upcoming 0.21 version. The codebase reached “feature freeze” on Thursday, with the base Taproot code making it just in time. Nevertheless, nly bug fixes will be added from now on. Explaining why developers are cautious, Nick said:

“Major releases can contain changes to dependencies and interfaces (e.g. RPC). Users should be able to run softfork activation logic without the additional work required to be compatible with a new major version.”

The logic to activate Taproot on mainnet is likely to be included in a future minor version, but in the meantime, Nick said that “Taproot could be activated on something like signet or testnet if someone produced the code for that,” as the raw implementation is already present.





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