The Fed has concerns about Facebook’s Libra – Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies slump

While stock markets are holding all-time highs on the back of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s speech last night, the cryptocurrency market has moved in the opposite direction.

Bitcoin is off around 2% to trade below $11,800 after yesterday’s comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.

Speaking to the House Financial Services Committee, Powell stated that:

“Libra raises serious concerns regarding privacy, money laundering, consumer protection, financial stability. These are concerns that should be thoroughly and publicly addressed.”

That’s the opposite of what the market wanted to hear. Traders were betting that Libra would work to allay institutional fears surrounding cryptocurrency. It is intended to be a stable cryptocurrency (tethered to a basket of fiat currency), overseen by a not-for-profit, and governed by a panel of industry big names including finance giants like MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal.

It seems that central bankers don’t see that this makes much of a difference.

Security concerns continue to hound Bitcoin

Criminality has always been one of the banes of cryptocurrency. The anonymous nature of transactions makes it useful for money laundering. On top of that, because crypto is usually stored in virtual wallets or on cryptocurrency exchanges, it is a prime target for hackers. The world’s biggest crypto exchanges have lost millions in Bitcoin and its peers over the past few months.

While many in the cryptocurrency community have claimed Libra isn’t a real crypto, parallels were always going to be drawn between the two. Libra could have opened doors for Bitcoin and the like, instead it could bring the regulators down upon digital currencies.

Powell has called for the project to be paused until regulators are satisfied that their main concerns have been addressed. Regulators have long-circled the cryptocurrency market, and the threat of action has been a key drag on crypto prices.

Libra could have sped up the process. There’s a chance this might work out for the best – regulation was always going to come, so maybe tackling the issue headlong could remove a barrier to the mainstream for BTC and its fellow altcoins.

But the fact remains that Powell’s attitude towards Libra is a fundamental punch to the speculative rally Bitcoin is currently undergoing. Adoption looks to be a long way off, and opposition to Libra means the best chance the crypto market has of mass adoption has already stumbled.

Bitcoin mining difficulty surges as miners follow the bulls

Just like traders, miners are piling back into Bitcoin as the price continues to surge. After coming off the boil once hitting a year-to-date high on June 26th, BTC has rebounded and is within striking distance of the key $14,000 handle.

The huge appreciation seen in Bitcoin has not gone unnoticed in the mining community. Miners earn newly-minted Bitcoin as rewards when they process transactions – using computational power to solve complex proof-of-work algorithms to verify transactions and record the data as a new block on the chain.

Competition for those rewards is heating up. Multiple miners work on the same bundle of transactions, but only the first to correctly complete the algorithm in the ‘block header’ adds their block to the chain and earns the reward. This is shown by the biggest two-week rise in mining difficulty in 12 months.

Difficulty is adjusted every two weeks to make sure that new blocks are added to the chain at a consistent rate. This is done every 2016 blocks – at a rate of 10 minutes per block this should take two weeks to discover the next 2016. If more blocks than that are added during the previous two-week period then the difficulty is increased to bring the rate of discovery back down.

Because of this, Bitcoins are always produced at more-or-less the same rate. No matter how popular BTC mining becomes again, the market isn’t facing an increase in supply – if prices are going to fall, it won’t be because of increased mining activity.

How does this affect the BTC outlook?

The increased mining difficulty does nothing to change market fundamentals, but it does signal increased confidence that at least some of the huge gains recorded during the recent rally can be consolidated.

Whether or not a break above $14,000 and a move towards the all-time high near $20,000 is on the cards, the signs are that the market expects to leave 2019’s $3,300 lows far behind.

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