Union Bank of Nigeria PLC, Nigeria’s sixth largest bank by assets has issued a general notice informing its customers that henceforth all accounts linked to cryptocurrency trading activities will be monitored and may be subject to restrictions going forward.

Originally owned by Barclays Bank before becoming locally owned in 1979, the bank is one of the oldest in Nigeria, with a history going back over 100 years, and it is ranked as Africa’s 14th largest bank as well as the world’s 556th largest bank.

The pronouncement comes at a time when the Nigerian cryptocurrency ecosystem is in the news for a potential government regulatory framework promised by the main opposition candidate in next year’s elections. A few days ago, CCN reported that Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) promised in his campaign policy document that comprehensive cryptocurrency and blockchain regulation would be a key policy focus of his government if he becomes president in 2019.

Union Bank Announcement and Consumer Backlash

The notice, which went out to hundreds of thousands of depositors on Tuesday said:

Source: Nairaland

“Dear Customer,
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has advised that cryptocurrency is not a legal tender in Nigeria and has cautioned against transacting in them.
In order to guarantee the security of our customers’ funds, Union Bank will monitor accounts being used for cryptocurrency transactions and may impose restrictions including closure of such accounts.
We appreciate your patronage and we are committed to providing you with simpler, smarter banking services that best protect your interest and guarantee the security of your funds.”

Responding to questions from customers on Twitter later on, the bank further stated:

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@UNIONBANK_NG is this truly from you?

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Dear Customer

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has advised that cryptocurrency is not a legal tender in Nigeria and has cautioned against transacting in them.

For more information on this, kindly refer to their website https://www.cbn.gov.ng

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It is important to note that while the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has indeed issued several statements disavowing cryptocurrencies as legal tender in Nigeria, it has also never recommended any regulatory action against holders or users of cryptocurrency, instead only saying that they transact with crypto “at their own risk”. Indeed, a number of Nigerian Fintech startups are making use of cryptocurrency to facilitate payments, and most banks in the country have chosen not to carry out action against cryptocurrency-related accounts.

The reaction to the announcement by its customers on Nigerian and international social media platforms has been unanimously condemnatory, with many suggesting that the over 100 year-old bank which began its existence as a British colonial trade financier in 1909 is out of touch and geared toward a past era.

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@UNIONBANK_NG is this truly from you?

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Aroluyo Ayodeji@aroluyoa

Is union bank even a bank.
Bank of pensionairs I guess. I rather dig hole and hide my money than transact with this yeye bank 😡


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Some users pointed out that the CBN has never in fact recommended any such action, and others simply stated that the bank will lose their business if it does not revise its stance.

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@UNIONBANK_NG is this truly from you?

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Like seriously? I have been in several meetings where CBN has always been present. They have never asked individuals not to trade crypto. Only you banks were told not to trade with our money in your bank. Time for many believers to ditch you @UNIONBANK_NG


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@UNIONBANK_NG is this truly from you?

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@UNIONBANK_NG Unionbank_Ng just lost me as a customer. I don’t have time to be begging anyone for my own hard earned money.


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As CCN reported earlier this week, despite the regulatory ambiguity on the subject cryptocurrency in Nigeria, Nigerians are among the world’s most prolific peer-to-peer bitcoin traders, driven by instability of the Naira, which shed 85 percent of its value between 2015 and 2017.

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On November 28, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged by 617 points, recording its biggest rally since March. Following the unexpected rebound of the U.S. stock market, the crypto market increased in valuation, by more than $23 billion.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell announced on Wednesday that interest rates have declined to a neutral level, reflecting the performance of the market and the U.S. economy over the past several months.

Powell said:

“Interest rates are still low by historical standards, and they remain just below the broad range of estimates of the level that would be neutral for the economy — that is, neither speeding up nor slowing down growth.”

Investors Happy

U.S. President Donald Trump has been vocal about his opposition against rising Federal Reserve interest rates and has attributed the recent sell-off of the market to the fed rate hike.

According to SlateStone Wealth executive Rober Pavlik, the pullback of the Federal reserve interest rate is what the investors in the U.S. market were waiting for, and as soon as chairman Jerome Powell’s statement was released, the U.S. stock market bounced by a large margin.

“[Pwell’s comments are] exactly what the market was expecting to hear. Obviously it has to do with the market reaction to his previous comments. He had to walk that back,” Pavlik said.

Throughout the past two weeks, reflecting the performance of the U.S. stock market, the cryptocurrency market suffered a steep decline, losing more than $90 billion of its valuation at one point.

5-day performance of the Dow Jones, data provided by Google Finance

Some analysts attributed the decline in the valuation of the crypto market to the in-fighting between Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Cash SV, while some argued that the CME and CBOE Bitcoin futures market largely impacted the price trend of Bitcoin (BTC).

A small portion of investors in the crypto market theorized that the abrupt decline in the confidence towards U.S. stock markets also led investors to liquidate high-risk assets like cryptocurrenies, as investors feared a stock market crash and headed to the exits.

As the U.S. stock market recovered, the cryptocurrency market recovered by more than $23 billion, with Bitcoin recording its largest single-day price surge since April, when the price of Bitcoin increased from the $6,000 region to $8,000 within a matter of minutes.

Where is the Cryptocurrency Market Going

With extreme volatility in the range between $3,000 to $5,000, technical analysts in the cryptocurrency market generally believe that a pullback to the low region of $3,000 still remains a possibility.

The recovery of Bitcoin from $3,300 to $4,300 in the past two days demonstrated decent momentum, but it was not strong enough to conclusively decare that the bottom of Bitcoin is established.

While there exists no direct correlation between crypto and the U.S. stock market, a prosperous U.S. economy throughout the months to come could lead to more investors entering the cryptocurrency market, especially considering the January launch of the Bakkt futures market by ICE and the New York Stock Exchange.

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Readers may remember the SamSam ransomware attack, which cost everyday computer users a total of at least $6 million in BTC, as reported back in August.

Today the US Treasury announced that it had uncovered the names of two Iranians who helped turn the bitcoins acquired in the scam into Iranian currency for the attackers. Their names are Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan. It is now illegal for any US person or business to do business with these two individuals, even if they travel to a country outside of Iran. As a result of the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, it is illegal to do business in Iran anyhow, but these individuals specifically have earned a place on the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals list, and thus even when sanctions are eventually removed, they, in particular, are off-limits for any American.

For the first time, the Treasury also designated the Bitcoin addresses used by the Iranians, which were 149w62rY42aZBox8fGcmqNsXUzSStKeq8C and 1AjZPMsnmpdK2Rv9KQNfMurTXinscVro9V and were used over 7,000 times collectively since 2013. The first address noted has received more than 10,000 BTC altogether. Treasury does not apparently understand the nature and ease of creating new addresses, but the rest of the sanctions apply in any case.

Do Not Send or Receive Bitcoins To or From These Addresses

Regardless of whether a transaction is denominated in a digital currency or traditional fiat currency, OFAC compliance obligations are the same.

To wit: US persons are advised not to have any coins going to or from these addresses, or any addresses owned or controlled by Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan.

Treasury is specifically concerned with US exchanges and persons transacting with Iranians now that the sanctions have been put in place. They say they will “aggressively” crack down on the efforts of Iran and other countries to acquire US dollars and subvert banking blockades through the use of digital currencies. It notes that some US-based exchanges were participant in previous actions of the scammers, but has not announced any further enforcement on those grounds.

Not much is known about the individuals in question besides their transaction histories. The fact that they were using these addresses two years before the ransomware went live in 2015 indicates that they were probably exchanging coins prior to that. Their primary involvement seems to have been the exchanging of Bitcoin for Iranian fiat, called the Rial (currently worth about $0.000024).

The government is amping up its efforts against Iran, noting in its own press release:

Today’s action marks the fourth round of U.S. sanctions targeting the Iranian regime this month. Under this Administration, in less than two years, OFAC has sanctioned more than 900 individuals, entities, aircraft, and vessels, including for a range of activities related to Iran’s support for terrorism, ballistic missile program, weapons proliferation, cyberattacks, transnational criminal activity, censorship, and human rights abuses. This marks the highest-ever level of U.S. economic pressure targeting the Iranian regime. This sanctions pressure campaign is designed to blunt the broad spectrum of the Iranian regime’s malign activities and compel the regime to change its behavior.

Ransomware activity seems to have died down in the past several months, likely due to anti-virus software catching up to the methods used to insert it.

Following the first writing of this article, the Department of Justice issued indictments of two other Iranian men, Faramarz Shahi Savandi and Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri for having launched the ransomware attack itself, lending truth to the understanding that the men discussed in this article are merely the fence used by the actual scammers for the ill-begotten bitcoins.

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Steemit, a decentralized sharing system and distributed app designed to rewards content creators with crypto, will be laying off a massive chunk of its staff.

The company announced that it is cutting off 70% of its workforce, citing “the weakness of the cryptocurrency market, the fiat returns on our automated selling of STEEM diminishing, and the growing costs of running full Steem nodes.”

The team members who are remaining will shift their focus to reducing the costs of running and operating their servers by reducing the size of the Steemit blockchain, to also bring a reduction to their level of dependence on the Amazon AWS.

In the press release, Ned Scott, founder, and CEO of Steemit, wrote:

“We still believe that Steem can be by far the best, and lowest cost, blockchain protocol for applications and that the improvements that will result from this new direction will make it far better for application sustainability. However, to ensure that we can continue to improve Steem, we need to first get costs under control to remain economically sustainable.”

Founded in March 2016, Steemit.com was one of the first decentralized applications to be launched, and it allowed users of the platform to submit content and get paid for their work. The Steemit coin (STEEM), which was started by the platform as a payment method, has also been hit hard, losing about 96% of its value since hitting an all-time high. It currently trades at $0.37, per CCN Price Index.

The idea of decentralized apps has been affected by the current volatile state of the crypto market, and Steem is just the attest of decentralized apps to be feeling the brunt of this bear market.

Another app which has been affected a great deal is Civil, a decentralized app which promised to pay journalists for the work they do. A wide array of companies developed payment programs for their writers based on the Civil platform. However, considering the fall of the cryptocurrency market, these organizations have been forced to pull back their endorsements.

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The government of the United Arab Emirates has unveiled two national initiatives focusing on strengthening the position of the country globally in emerging technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence.

One of the programs that were launched during the second UAE Government Annual Meetings which took place in the capital Abu Dhabi was the AI and Blockchain Guide initiative, as initially reported by the Emirates News Agency. With this program, the goal is to offer a standardized definition of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence at the federal level.

The AI and Blockchain Guide, which will be offered to all the smart local entities across the seven emirates, will also focus on familiarizing the relevant authorities with the two technologies. This is important because the adoption of the two technologies will involve individuals drawn from across many sectors, some of who may not be technologically adept:

“The UAE is keen to adopt AI and Blockchain technologies in all the economic, health, educational and other vital sectors. It seeks to boost cooperation and forge partnerships between the various government, federal and local entities, international companies and startups in a bid to find effective and innovative solutions and make a positive impact,” UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, said.

Government Transactions on the Blockchain

According to the Emirates News Agency, the UAE aims to ensure that by 2021 half of its government’s transactions are conducted on a blockchain platform. The UAE has also set an ambitious goal of becoming the global leader with regards to AI adoption by 2031.

The other initiative that was launched is the National Programme for AI and Blockchain Capacity Building. The goal of the program which will be carried out in partnership with the higher education ministry is to provide scholarships and operate educational programs in the areas of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence. This will include rolling out educational programs that run for short periods of time for Emiratis in various professional levels.

The National Programme for AI and Blockchain Capacity Building will also identify the sectors and sub-sectors that will face job losses as a result of the adoption of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence and work towards reducing the number of workers in these fields. Additionally, the initiative will seek to retrain the affected workers allowing them to find alternative employment opportunities.

Private Sector Involvement

Besides the government, the private sector has also made contributions to the development and adoption of blockchain technology in the UAE. Early last year, leading healthcare firm NMC Healthcare partnered with UAE Telecom to store patient records on the blockchain within the Emirates.

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Blockchain initiatives in the UAE have, however, not been restricted to the national level as the various emirates have also unveiled their respective projects. This includes Dubai which has partnered with IBM on a blockchain-based trade finance pilot among other initiatives.

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Within the past 24 hours, the crypto market has added $19 billion to its valuation as the price of Bitcoin (BTC) surged to $4,300.

After dropping to the low $3,000 region, Bitcoin engaged in an unexpected price rally, rising by more than 15 percent on a single day.

The newly established momentum of Bitcoin allowed the rest of the cryptocurrency market to recover. Major digital assets like Stellar (XLM), Cardano (ADA), Monero (XMR), and TRON (TRX) recorded gains in the range of 7 to 25 percent.

TRON’s 33% Price Surge

In a 24-hour span, the price of TRX spiked 33 percent from $0.012 to $0.016, recording the largest daily gain out of all major cryptocurrencies.

The sudden increase in the price of TRX is said to have been triggered by the integration of TRON by BitTorrent, the world’s most widely utilized torrent client.

In July, TRON officially acquired BitTorrent and its network that serves more than 100 million active users. Through the acquisition, TRON almost immediately gained access to an active global user base that is difficult to secure for any startup.

At the time, Justin Sun, the founder of TRON, said that BitTorrent will move its operations to TRON’s San Francisco office and the company will begin to leverage the torrent client.

On November 27, TRON announced that TRON is accepted as one of the main payment methods of BitTorrent as a part of a larger initiative to increase the use of TRX on online platforms.

Sun said:

“BitTorrent joins a growing list of online companies whose products and services accept TRX as payment. With BitTorrent’s over 100 million users, the move helps increase the use of TRX in online marketplaces while giving consumers more options to unlock value from BitTorrent’s premium products.”

The announcement of TRON and BitTorrent came in a period during which extremely oversold conditions in the cryptocurrency market started to enable both major and small market cryptocurrencies to engage in minor corrective rallies.

The synergy between the market’s corrective rally and the announcement led the price of TRON to spike by a large margin.

Overall in a Better Place

TRX was able to demonstrate such a large short-term price movement because the cryptocurrency market is in a better position than it was last week.

The strong movement of Bitcoin allowed the dominant cryptocurrency to establish a bottom in the low $3,000 region. As Alex Kruger, an economist and cryptocurrency trader, said:

“I do not think ‘the’ bottom is in. Just ‘a’ bottom. Not changing my short-term outlook. Double bottom on extreme volume after bitcoin reaching most oversold levels in history. Look at RSI. And the dots, which represent my main oversold signal (proprietary), only triggered once before, ever, marking the 2015 bottom (did dipped once after on a one-day flash crash).”

In the short-term, if the volume and momentum of Bitcoin can be sustained, the cryptocurrency market is expected to extend its positive movement throughout the month’s end.

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It would seem that tech entrepreneurs like James Ju aren’t put off by the current state of the cryptocurrency market, so much so that he has rounded up a group of investors to fund his latest venture of opening a crypto exchange.

Ju, who worked as the Chief Technical Officer at Huobi, recently announced that he would be launching a cryptocurrency exchange by the end the year. The exchange, which will be called BHEX, raised $15 million in equity from a wide array of institutions (such as OKEx and Huobi, Ju’s former employers). The exchange also ran a token round, which attracted high profile funds including DHVC, Dfund, BlockVC and Genesis Capital.

According to its press release, the founding members of the crypto trading platform BHEX bring extensive experience from “first-tier technology and financial companies” including Google, Alibaba, and others.

Ju explained that the Blue Helix technology would be open-source, once development is completed. With this technology, BHEX will be able to create a community-managed custody and clearing managed system.

BHEX is touted as a next-generation digital asset trading platform, which would be powered by the decentralized asset custody and clearing technology developed by Blue Helix, a company Ju also controls. The exchange is establishing offices in Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The digital asset platform will provide crypto-to-crypto trading, as well as over-the-counter (OTC) options and pairs of fiat currencies. Fiat to crypto option in Yuan (CNY) will be available, and this is seen as a major advantage to Chinese crypto enthusiasts who are banned from trading within the borders of their country.

A former executive at Huobi, Ju was instrumental in the redesigning and upgrade of Huobi’s crypto trading system, streamlining the processes and making it easier for traders to use, propelling the exchange to the world’s largest exchange by trade volume. On leaving Huobi, Ju was hired as Vice President of Technology at X Financial, a financial service provider that is listed on the NYSE. Not satisfied with his achievement in the crypto sector, Ju left X Financial to start Blue Helix, a crypto-based firm which aimed to develop a new digital asset custody and trading system.

Ju’s team at Huobi also included Tyler Wu, the current Global Managing Director at BHEX. At Huobi, Wu served as the Managing Director of the company in Singapore.

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Nasdaq — the world’s second-largest stock exchange — plans to roll out bitcoin futures in the first quarter of 2019 through a partnership with investment management firm VanEck.

Gabor Gurbacs, VanEck’s director of digital asset strategy, said the companies will launch a variety of bitcoin derivatives in early-2019, including a “regulated crypto 2.0 futures-type contract.”

Gurbacs made the announcement during the Consensus: Invest conference in New York on November 27, CNBC reported.

‘Transparent and Regulated’

In a follow-up tweet, Gurbacs said Nasdaq and VanEck will unveil “transparent, regulated and surveilled digital asset products, such as bitcoin futures contracts.”

Nasdaq has been working with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to make sure it fully complies with any lingering regulatory concerns the country’s main swaps regulator has.

Gurbacs confirmed that VanEck also “ran a few extra miles working with the CFTC to bring about new standards for custody and surveillance.”

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@Nasdaq and VanEck’s @MVISIndices announces #index #partnership and intention to bring to market transparent, regulated and surveilled #DigitalAssets products, such as #Bitcoin futures contracts. More info to come. Share & follow us. #crypto #futures #SMARTS #ConsensusInvest


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The CFTC, which regulates bitcoin as a commodity, has so far approved just two crypto futures products: one from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), and another from the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE)

ICE Will Launch Bitcoin Futures In Q1

Meanwhile, Nasdaq’s rival ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) — the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange — is also charging ahead with its own plans to launch a physically-settled bitcoin futures product in the first quarter of 2019.

Bakkt, a cryptocurrency exchange built by ICE, plans to roll out its bitcoin futures market on January 24, after scrapping the original launch date of Dec. 12, 2018.

As CCN reported, ICE cited an unforeseen increase in demand for its futures product, the Bakkt Bitcoin (USD) Daily Futures Contract, for the delay.

VanEck: SEC Will Approve Bitcoin ETF Soon

Separately, VanEck is still trying to win approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission to launch the first-ever bitcoin ETF.

In August 2018, the SEC rejected nine bitcoin ETF applications, dashing the hopes of crypto evangelists like the Winklevoss twins, who have repeatedly failed to win SEC approval.

In its order rejecting the latest round of bitcoin ETFs, the SEC said the applicants failed to demonstrate how they could prevent fraud and market manipulation.

Despite the recent SEC rejections, VanEck’s Gabor Gurbacs said he believes SEC approval is around the corner, as CCN reported.

“We are the closest that we can be,” Gurbacs told Fox Business. “It is very clear to me that America wants a bitcoin ETF and we are here to build it.”

Despite the recent market slump, Gurbacs is supremely confident about the long-term future of the crypto industry. “I say bitcoin is digital gold, and we should not dismiss a potential opportunity for the next financial system,” he said.

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Modern Terminals, the second largest container terminal operator in Hong Kong, has joined the TradeLens project, a blockchain-enabled technological solution developed by Maersk and IBM.

The TradeLens ecosystem – writes Modern Terminals in its press release – seeks to digitize and streamline processes in the global supply chain to deliver higher efficiency and lower cost. It includes more than 20 port operators and terminals around the globe, factoring circa 234 docks on five continents, including Port of Valencia, PSA Singapore, Patrick Terminals, Port of Halifax, Port of Bilbao, PortBase, PortConnect and the Port of Philadelphia.

Wider Economic Saving

The inefficiencies in the traditional supply chain have incurred losses worth billions of dollars in the past decade, Liaison found.

Before TradeLens, a majority of the ports as mentioned above were working principally with paper records, open to damages, manipulation, and outright lostness. Container ships still carry documents for immediate verification that obstructed the flow of their supply chain, eventually causing shipment delays and errors via manual filing.

“It does not seem like much, but it is,” Peter Levesque, Group Managing Director of Modern Terminals, told SCMP. “Without blockchain, you’re going on faith that what’s on the document is what’s in the container.”

The TradeLens solution claims that their trial run reduced the shipment time by 40 percent, leading to an overall economic saving for the supply chain participants. The use of digital ledger has enabled the participants to broadcast the status of a container in a supply chain in real-time, such that records become immutable and available at the same time.

“The potential from offering a neutral, open digital platform for safe and easy ways of exchanging information is huge, and all players across the supply chain stand to benefit,” Maersk’s chief commercial officer Vincent Clerc had stated in January.

Trial Runs

Modern Terminals also joins the TradeLens group of ports as a Network Member to evaluate the same: the platform’s performance in the real-time. Based on the outcomes, each port would offer its suggestions about whether TradeLens could be improved any further.

“This initiative will generate tremendous savings for our industry over time while enhancing global supply chain security,” said Levesque. “That is the Holy Grail – one place to see the whole [supply chain] in one spot.”

Maersk and IBM are not the only companies that are tapping blockchain to improve supply chain management. Crimson Logic, a Singapore-based company, is also developing a blockchain solution called Global eTrade Services to do pretty much the same thing TradeLens is doing.

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Throughout the past 24 hours, the price of Bitcoin (BTC) dropped from $4,065 to $3,600, reversing a short-term corrective rally.

The dominant cryptocurrency has been on a steep downtrend for several weeks but on November 26, for a brief of time, Bitcoin seemed to be initiating a corrective rally after reaching a new yearly low at around $3,400.

Temporarily, Bitcoin spiked to $4,000, engaging in a 17 percent increase in price within a 24-hour period. However, the price of the asset began to fell back to the lower region of $3,000.

What is Bitcoin up to?

The cryptocurrency market is struggling to sustain any sort of momentum in an attempt to create a trend reversal. Sell pressure on major digital assets is increasing and buy pressure is declining, which has led both Bitcoin and Ethereum to drop by more than 40 percent in the past two weeks.

“Bitcoin failing to complete the bull flag and to hold the neckline of the IH&S. Lack of buy pressure and $3,800 range looking weak. Expecting more downside: $3,400 as first target,” cryptocurrency trader Crypto Rand said on November 26.

Since Monday, the price of BTC has moved closer to the $3,400 support level and based on the movement of BTC in the past 12 hours, it is likely that BTC will drop below the level in the days to come, especially if it fails to maintain stability above the $4,000 mark.

Ripple (XRP), EOS, Stellar (XLM) and other major cryptocurrencies are in a worse position than BTC and ETH because of their low daily volumes. Currently, the volume of ETH remains larger than that of XRP, XLM, and BCH combined.

When the price of an asset falls substantially without a huge spike in volume, it represents a free fall without much sell pressure. Which means as big sell volumes begin to the hit the market, the price of the asset could be vulnerable to additional sell-offs in the near future.

The volume of BTC is decent at $6.5 billion and the volume of ETH is also relatively high. But, the volume of other major cryptocurrencies are lower than where they were from August to November, a period in which BTC demonstrated its lowest level of volatility in recent history.

Alex Krüger, a cryptocurrency trader and economist, said:

“Before the crash BTC had been growing exponentially. Will BTC ever resume exponential growth? Maybe not. Maybe only temporarily. Many assets don’t grow exponentially. What if bitcoin has matured and starts behaving as a currency or most commodities?”

One Positive: Swiss ETP

The newly introduced crypto exchange-traded product (ETP) in Switzerland offered by Amun and the Swiss Stock Exchange, has began to appeal to a large group of traders in the region.

It has become the biggest ETP in Switzerland with the highest trading volume, portraying an immense interest from local investors towards crypto.

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