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US Mortgage Lender UWM Will No Longer Accept Bitcoin Payments

United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM) – a leading mortgage provider in the USA – has decided to stop allowing its customers to settle payments in cryptocurrencies, citing “regulatory uncertainty” in the industry as a reason.

Change of Heart

In August, the Michigan-based wholesale lender – United Wholesale Mortgage – announced that clients could pay for home loans in Bitcoin and thus became the first major US mortgage lender to adopt digital assets as a payment method. Later on, it added Ethereum and Dogecoin as options, too.

“We’re proud to be the first mortgage lender to successfully pilot this technology and further demonstrate that we’re innovating for the long term,” Mat Ishbia – President and CEO of UWM – said back then.

According to a CNBC report, though, UWM has suspended its cryptocurrency offering after only two months. Ishbia revealed that during this period, the customer demand was not on the necessary level as there was only one mortgage payment in September and five more in October settled in crypto:

“There was not enough demand at the end of the day to really push the envelope too hard.”

The lack of a regulatory framework on cryptocurrencies is another reason why the firm stopped accepting them as a means of payment.

“Due to the current combination of incremental costs and regulatory uncertainty in the crypto space, we’ve concluded we aren’t going to extend beyond the pilot at this time,” Ishbia stated.

Subsequently, the executive assured that his company will follow the developments in the digital asset space. If crypto “becomes more mainstream,” UWM could once again provide such a payment method as they “know how to do it now,” he concluded.

Mat Ishbia, Source: uwm.com

Is Crypto Legislation That Urgent?

While many experts urged the US financial watchdogs to implement regulations on the digital asset industry, some opined that the situation should stay the way it is.

Such is Elon Musk’s opinion, for example. Last month, Tesla’s CEO advised the American government not to regulate cryptocurrencies as otherwise, the authorities could hamper their development. He went further, saying that doing nothing would be the best-case scenario:

“I would say, do nothing. I would actually say, just let it fly.”

While the crypto community awaits more regulatory developments from various watchdogs, US officials have provided encouraging news. Fed Chair Jerome Powell and SEC chief Gary Gensler recently reassured that the country has no intentions to ban digital assets, only to regulate them.

Over $5 Billion In BTC Paid In Top 10 Ransomware Variants, Says U.S. Treasury

Ransomware attacks in the U.S. have been on a rise since late 2020, but it is particularly booming in 2021. This year, hackers have hit numerous U.S. companies in large-scale hacks. One such attack on pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline led to temporary fuel supply shortages on the U.S. East Coast. Hackers also targeted an Iowa-based agricultural company, sparking fears of disruptions to grain harvesting in the Midwest. Schools, insurance companies, and police departments have also suffered from these attacks.

Related Reading | Questions Linger As FBI Recovers Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Crypto Funds

In response to this, the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), charged with safeguarding the financial system from illicit use, released a Financial Trend Analysis. FinCEN published the report on Friday, October 15, 2021.

The report analyzed the considerable growth in ransomware payments in the first six months of 2021 and the relative difference from last year.

Ransomware Attacks In The U.S.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen recently noted, “Ransomware and cyber-attacks are victimizing businesses large and small across America and are a direct threat to our economy.” According to the report, FinCEN analysis of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) filed during the first half of 2021 indicates that it is an increasing threat to the U.S.

Between January 1 and June 30, 2021, 635 SARs were filed, and 458 transactions were reported. This was 30% more than the total of 487 SARs filed for the entire 2020. The total value of suspected ransomware payments during the first half of 2021 was $590 million, more than the $416 million reported for the whole of 2020.

Source: FinCEN Financial Trend Analysis

The U.S. Treasury Department said the average amount of reported ransomware transactions per month in 2021 was $102.3 million. FinCEN identified bitcoin (BTC) as the most common payment method in reported transactions. Approximately $5.2 billion in outgoing BTC payments tied to the top 10 variants over the past three years. It noted that USD figures cited in this analysis are based on the value of BTC when the transactions occurred.

BTC trading at over $60.7K | Source: BTCUSD on TradingView.com

If the trends keep up, hackers could make more from ransomware this year than they did in the previous ten years combined.

The U.S. Government’s Response

The U.S. government has been working to clamp down on attacks from hackers. The Biden administration has made the government’s cybersecurity response a top priority following a series of attacks this year that threatened the U.S. energy and food supplies.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced the launch of a National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team to go after the exchanges that expedite crime-related transactions, like ransomware demands.

Related Reading | U.S. Recovers Millions Paid In Bitcoin For Pipeline Ransomware

In September, Wall Street Journal reported that the Biden administration was “preparing an array of actions, including sanctions, to make it harder for hackers to use digital currency.”

Also last month, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned crypto exchange SUEX OTC, S.R.O. (SUEX) for facilitating financial transactions for ransomware actors. This action was the department’s first such move against a virtual currency exchange over ransomware activity.

Coinciding with the release of the report, the Treasury Department released virtual currency guidance. The guidance said, “the virtual currency industry, including technology companies, exchangers, administrators, miners, wallet providers, and users, plays an increasingly critical role in preventing sanctioned persons from exploiting virtual currencies to evade sanctions and undermine U.S. foreign policy and national security interests.”

Featured image by Bitcoin News, Chart from TradingView.com

Bitcoin ETF Check, What’s Next For BTC

The approval of a Bitcoin Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) in the U.S. has come true. Different actors in the crypto space have tried to receive the greenlight from that country’s regulator (SEC) for little less than a decade.

Related Reading | Bitcoin ETF Receives Approval from SEC, Marking Historic Day for Crypto

Major achievement for the crypto industry, there is a sensation of euphoria in the market with Bitcoin reaching a 24-hour high of around $63,000. There has been some retracement since that peak, but BTC’s price continues to trade north of $61,000, at the time of writing.

BTC with minor losses in the daily chart. Source: BTCUSD Tradingview

Investment firm QCP Capital commented on the BTC ETF approval. As reported by NewsBTC, the investment products will track the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Bitcoin futures. Thus, some have argued that it’ll be a poorly execute product to benefit Wall Street and institutions. QCP Capital said:

The approval of a Bitcoin ETF is a positive development. Whatever the case may be, a progressive step from the regulator is good for Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency market at large.

Opposite to the opinion of those against the Bitcoin ETF approval, QCP Capital believes this product will “sideline institutional” investors due to its characteristics. Thus, the U.S. retail sector could become the predominant player.

Related Reading | Bitcoin “Supertrend” Begins As Buy Signals Stack On All Major Timeframes

A BTC ETF based on CME futures will most likely trade at a premium related to Bitcoin’s spot price. Therefore, institutional investors could have little incentive to trade this investment product in step of simply buying CME contracts.  QCP Capital said:

We are not sure if these futures-based ETFs will be able to draw enough new money to trigger an exponential move higher like the one we saw in Q4 2020.

The market could experience a new inflow of capital, as expected from traders and operators, as investors move “out of Gold ETFs into Bitcoin”. It remains to be seen if this move will be able to sustain a rally.

After The Bitcoin ETF, Is Ethereum Next In Line?

In addition to the potential lack of sufficient flows to hold BTC’s current levels, operators seem to have price in the Bitcoin ETF approval, QCP Capital added. There have been rumors going around for the past two weeks with the SEC Chair himself Gary Gensler hinting at this positive possibility.

This could contribute with a potential retracement and trigger a “buy the rumor, sell the news event”. In the future, QCP Capital expects an Ethereum ETF with similar characteristics to be approved as the CME offers ETH based products. The firm said:

(…) this also means that until other coins have a futures contract, the US will only be limited to Bitcoin and Ethereum ETFs for the time being.

Other variables might come in to play to change market dynamics: a growth in CME BTC futures trading volume, a focus on other crypto related issues, the firm said, the increase in Bitcoin based instruments to generate yield.

However, one of the most important variables might be the potential decline in the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC). A favorite tool amongst institutions to gain BTC exposure, an ETF could render it obsolete. Thus, the crypto market could face some uncertainty.

Related Reading | Bitcoin Returns To $60K, What’s Holding Off From New ATHs?

As seen below, the GBTC has been trading at an important discount since March 2021. QCP Capital added the following:

What could happen for GBTC in the future is a possible takeover and delisting. We are not sure what market impact this might have but it would be worth keeping an eye on what happens with the largest private Bitcoins treasury with 680,000 BTC.

Source: Skew via QCP Capital

Bakkt Goes Public: to Be Listed on New York Stock Exchange

Several months after initially outlining plans to become a publicly-traded firm, Bakkt has announced that the event will take place on Monday – October 18th. Thus, Bakkt will join the likes of Coinbase as a cryptocurrency-related company having its shares traded on giant stock exchanges.

CryptoPotato reported at the start of this year Bakkt’s intentions to go public through a merger with VPC Impact Acquisitions Holdings.
The two parties indeed merged shortly after clearing the way for ICE’s Bitcoin futures platform to have its shares traded on a US exchange with an estimated enterprise valuation of $2.1 billion.
The company published a press release earlier this week confirming that it has completed all negotiations.
Bakkt’s shares of Class A common stock and warrants will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, October 18th, 2021, under the ticker symbols BKKT and BKKT WS.

“Today marks a special day for Bakkt. Closing the business combination provides us with the necessary capital to continue to do what we do best, which is to innovate. We are thrilled to enter the next chapter, and we look forward to propelling our growth initiatives and advancing our mission of connecting the digital economy.” – commented the CEO Gavin Michael.

According to the publication, Bakkt has earned gross proceeds of roughly $450 million through the business merger. The company plans to utilize the funds to finance investments in “the platform’s capabilities and marketing efforts, and accelerating current and future partnerships.”
Thus Bakkt will join Coinbase, which became the first giant crypto company to go public. As reported in April this year, COIN started trading on Nasdaq and the company’s valuation at the time exceeded $100 billion.

After Breaking $60k, Is Bitcoin Set for Correction Before New ATH? BTC Price Analysis

BTC has been showing strength lately, driven by anticipation of the futures-backed ETF and potential launch early next week. It closed at $61.6k with more than double the daily average volume on Coinbase, showing strong spot buying.

Possible Correction for BTC?

Although near-term price action has been very bullish with a strong breakout above $52.9k in the last 2 weeks, we need to approach the BTC ETF launch with caution. The risk of a near-term pullback is increasing because BTC has rallied 58% in just a few weeks in anticipation of the BTC ETF news.

Chart by TradingView

In traditional markets, stocks tend to sell off leading up to or on the day of the anticipated announcement as traders take profit. Bitcoin is not immune to the “buy the rumor, sell the news” pattern as we have seen plenty of sell-offs, especially more recently with El Salvador’s adoption of BTC as legal tender.

The overall trend in fundamentals, technicals, and on-chain metrics remains firmly bullish looking at the mid to long-term view for BTC, but it’s important to be mindful of the near-term risks.

Open interest, funding rates, and the estimated leverage ratio are slightly elevated as BTC rallied significantly in the last few weeks. Although these levels are not as extreme as the ones in March to May 2021, there is always a risk of a liquidation event which could trigger a near-term pullback, especially if the BTC ETF turns into a sell the news event.

Chart by TradingView

A sell-the-news event is actually healthy for the larger market structure because it helps make the rally towards all-time highs and higher more sustainable. Bull markets have multiple shake-outs, where the structure is formed, making the overall rally more sustainable.

In case this happens, near technical support is currently between $57.1k to $52.9k, previous levels of resistance now support. It is critical for BTC to hold these levels, form a higher low, and push back higher to reclaim $60k and retest previous all-time highs at $64.8k.

This looks like the most probable outcome as on-chain metrics continue to show no signs of aggressive distribution from long-term holders. This is a very bullish signal and indicates they are not interested in selling BTC even at $60k.

BTC miners continue to hold, maintaining reserves, indicating they still expect higher prices later this year. Spot exchange reserves are starting to trend lower for the past few days, as strong spot buying pushed BTC higher.

Long-Term Picture Bullish for Bitcoin Price

Although near-term caution should be taken after a large rally in BTC, the mid to long-term trend remains fully bullish and suggests any near-term sell-off is likely to be accumulated by strong hands, forming a higher low, leading to bullish continuation.

We continue to see signals of the risk on trade returning, a macro bullish catalyst for BTC for the cycle. The SPX has likely formed a double bottom, showing bullish divergence, and now reclaiming key technical levels. The dollar remains below resistance, with money continuing to flow out of long-term bonds, a sign of money rotating back into risk assets such as stocks and Bitcoin.

Despite a possible near-term correction, the strengthening fundamentals, technicals, on-chain, and macro conditions continue to favor BTC looking at the bull market cycle.

Over 160 projects will launch on Terra (LUNA) early next year

Terraform Labs, the South Korean company behind the blockchain project Terra (LUNA), continues focusing on advancing the developer activity on the network.

Meanwhile, the true impact of the network’s cardinal upgrade, dubbed Columbus-5, is yet to unravel, as the launch of Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol and Wormhole support for Terra approaches.

160 more projects on Terra

Columbus-5 successfully launched in late September and, according to the network’s developers, Terra’s ecosystem is on the verge of an explosive expansion.

Terra’s ecosystem sprint into the end of the year is gonna be a sight to behold.

Bonus — IBC and Wormhole go live next week pic.twitter.com/YWBXja46p4

— Terra (UST) Powered by LUNA (@terra_money) October 14, 2021

“Now that Columbus-5 is live, more than 60 projects are preparing to launch in the next six to eight weeks and more than 100 have recently announced plans for the end of the year or early 2022,” Do Kwon, co-founder and CEO of Terraform Labs, told AsiaMarkets.

In the interview, Kwon continued explaining how the upgrade, which opened up countless avenues for the ecosystem’s expansion, is about to boost Terra’s stablecoin use case while putting upward pressure on the native token’s value.

“More projects on Terra diversify and amplify the demand for UST, accelerating the expansion of the stablecoin supply and accruing value to LUNA holders,” Kwon said.

What’s in the stars for UST?

Terra’s native stablecoin, UST, is currently the fifth-largest stablecoin by market cap.

While leveraging Terra’s utility token, LUNA, the algorithmic stablecoin maintains a nearly equal value to the US dollar.

“Regulatory action against centralized stablecoin incumbents like USD Coin (USDC) and Tether (USDT) has reinvigorated the emphasis for a decentralized stablecoin in crypto like UST,” Kwon pointed out.

“As custodial stablecoin models do not scale well and serve as hubs of risk in a decentralized financial stack, we expect increased adoption of decentralized stablecoins to increase in the coming months and years,” he clarified.

IBC and Wormhole

The integration of Inter-Blockchain Communication (IBC) protocol, is set to open Terra up to a myriad of dapps in the Cosmos (ATOM) ecosystem while enabling UST to seamlessly hop between chains.

IBC facilitates sovereign chains to connect and communicate with each other, allowing the transfer of tokens between Cosmos and other IBC-compatible blockchains.

“Similarly, Wormhole is a cross-chain bridge to Solana (SOL), Ethereum (ETH), and Binance Smart Chain (BSC), that enables Terra assets like UST to be seamlessly ported to some of the largest chains by TVL and users in the entire industry,” Kwon added, underscoring the importance of the coming bridge, which is expected to significantly reduce friction for UST moving from one blockchain to another.

“We fully expect the demand for UST in cross-chain environments to accelerate the expansion of the UST supply further, potentially reaching the $10 billion market cap mark by year’s end,” he added, offering an ambitious outlook, considering the stablecoin’s current $2,74 billion market cap.

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