Largest Japanese Consulting Firm to Launch New Cryptocurrency Index

Leading Japanese consulting firm Nomura Research Institute (NRI) partnered with cryptocurrency investment solution provider Intelligence Unit (IU) to launch a tradable cryptocurrency index.

According to a press release published on Jan. 29, the new index’s name is NRI/IO Crypto-Asset Index and it is meant for use by financial institutions. The index also draws data from crypto index platform MVIS and major cryptocurrency data platform CryptoCompare.

The dedicated website explains that the index is meant to cover global crypto markets in U.S. dollars and Japanese yen by tracking the largest cryptocurrencies. The index was designed for Japanese institutional investors with consideration for local availability and custody solutions.

A tradable index tracking five top cryptos

The NRI/IO Crypto-Asset Index is rebalanced monthly and tracks the performance of a pre-defined basket of crypto assets and will be tradable in dollars and yen on NRI’s platform. The index includes Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC) and XRP. IU CEO Akihiro Niimi commented on the launch:

“Strong demand from institutional investors is contributing to the growth of crypto-asset funds, and well-diversified products like index funds are attractive as alternative investments.”

Backtested performance statistics shown on the website claim that the year-to-date performance is 33.91%, the one-year performance is 104.86% and the three-year return is 2,211.26%. 

NRI is an affiliate of Japanese financial services giant Nomura Holdings, which has embraced blockchain technology and offers several services related to crypto assets. In October 2019, Nomura Holdings and popular Japanese messaging app Line announced a final capital alliance agreement focused on blockchain technology. 

In May 2018, Nomura rolled out cryptocurrency custodial services at its banks. The custody service aimed to address a perceived shortage of “safekeeping solutions” which were preventing traditional asset managers from building investment vehicles in the crypto ecosystem, according to Nomura. 

Crypto derivatives are on the rise

As cryptocurrencies become ever-more-widely recognized as an asset class, an increasing number of firms are developing derivatives giving exposure to their price fluctuations. As Cointelegraph reported last week, Swiss cryptocurrency financial firm Amun AG launched an exchange-traded product giving investors inverse exposure to Bitcoin on leading Swiss Exchange SIX.

Still, while many claim that there is a clear demand for cryptocurrency derivatives, recent statistics may show otherwise. As Cointelegraph reported earlier today, little more than a month after their launch, Bitcoin options contracts on the Intercontinental Exchange’s digital asset platform Bakkt appear to have seen sluggish uptake, with no new trades occurring over the past 11 days.

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City of Zermatt Switzerland Now Accepts Tax Payments in Bitcoin

The municipality of Zermatt, Switzerland — home to the iconic Matterhorn — is now the second location in Switzerland where taxpayers are officially allowed to pay their taxes in Bitcoin (BTC).

In order to unlock the new tax payment option, the authorities of the Zermatt have partnered with Switzerland’s major crypto financial services company Bitcoin Suisse.

Bitcoin Suisse to convert Bitcoin into Swiss francs 

According to an announcement by Bitcoin Suisse, Zermatt started accepting Bitcoin as a means of payment for local taxes and transactions on Jan. 28, 2020.

By partnering with Bitcoin Suisse, the authorities of Zermatt are now able to convert taxpayers’ Bitcoin into Swiss francs through Bitcoin Suisse which then transfers the amount in fiat currency to the municipality’s bank account.

Taxpayers are able to pay online or via Bitcoin Suisse’s point-of-sale device

Specifically, local taxpayers will be able to pay their taxes in Bitcoin via a point-of-sale tool installed in the Zermatt town hall or an online payment portal. However, in order to pay taxes with Bitcoin online, the taxpayers will have to apply directly to the Zermatt Tax Office for a crypto payment solution, the announcement notes.

Romy Biner-Hauser, the mayor of Zermatt, outlined that the new tax payment option aims to meet increased demand for Bitcoin-based tax payments:

“An innovative, pioneering spirit is one of the trademarks of Zermatt, which is why we are happy to support residents in providing them with the solutions they require.”

The city of Zug became the first in Switzerland to accept Bitcoin payments in 2016, Bitcoin Suisse said. As reported by Cointelegraph, the capital of Switzerland’s “Crypto Valley” began accepting Bitcoin payments for certain city services such as public utilities in May 2016. The payment was reportedly capped at 200 francs worth of Bitcoin.

While Switzerland continues to expand its crypto-financial services industry in terms of Bitcoin-powered tax payments, some global authorities have recently deemed such an option too risky due to Bitcoin’s high volatility. 

On Jan. 8, lawmakers in the United States’ New Hampshire state legislature retracted a bill that would have allowed state agencies to accept crypto as payment for taxes. According to lawmakers the initiative was “inexpedient to legislate” as Bitcoin’s price is not stable.

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A Month After Launch, Bakkt Bitcoin Options Volumes Are Lackluster

Little more than a month after their launch, Bitcoin (BTC) options contracts on the Intercontinental Exchange’s digital asset platform Bakkt appear to have seen sluggish uptake.

The latest available reports for the contract, Jan. 24 and Jan. 27, reveal that 11 days have elapsed since the last trade.

Traders bide their time

As reported, Bakkt launched its new BTC options contract in early December, shortly after rolling out a cash-settled Bitcoin (BTC) futures offering in November. 

Options are derivatives that are designed  to provide traders with additional flexibility hedge against an asset’s price swings in either direction: thus an options contract offers them the chance to purchase either a right to buy (a call option) or sell (a put option) the given asset at a specified “strike price” determined on or before the contract’s expiration date.

Both the new options contract and cash-settled futures followed upon Bakkt’s existing physically delivered Bakkt Bitcoin (USD) Monthly Futures contract — a pioneering product that was the first in the industry to give futures traders direct exposure to the underlying cryptocurrency. 

As reported, the physically-settled futures contract had met with underwhelming volumes in its early days — a fact that was immediately unfavorably compared with the fiat-settled BTC futures on CME, which first went to market in December 2017.

Yet uptake for the product eventually picked up, in correlation with a period of volatility in Bitcoin’s spot market valuation at the time (late October-November 2019). 

Aside from Bakkt, market participants including Malta-based cryptocurrency exchange OKEx and CME have both launched or plan to launch Bitcoin options contracts this year.

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Bitcoin’s Best Q1 Since 2013 to ‘Escalate’ If $9.5K Is Broken: Trader

Bitcoin (BTC) investors have already made more on their holdings this quarter than any Q1 since 2014, as data shows a sustained influx of institutional interest.

According to findings from statistics resource Skew Markets, Bitcoin’s gains so far in 2020 amount to just under 30%. In no other quarter in the past six years did markets perform that strongly. 

2020 thrashes downbeat Q1 trend

By contrast, Q1 tends to be an underwhelming period for Bitcoiners. 2014 saw 39% losses, while 2015 and 2016 saw BTC/USD drop by 24% and 3% respectively.

Only 2017 and 2019 managed to produce positive moves, but at around 11%, neither comes close to this year. 2011 and 2013 were the years Q1 returns were strongest, at 165% and 570%, according to Bitinfocharts’ price index.

Bitcoin quarterly returns

Bitcoin quarterly returns. Source: Skew Markets

The impressive stats come amid renewed faith in Bitcoin’s long-term potential. As Cointelegraph reported, Bitcoin futures data suggests institutions truly are engaging with the cryptocurrency on a new level as more products hit the market. 

Aggregate open interest across futures products is now higher than ever, with Skew recording a total of around $3.7 billion as of Jan. 28. Volume across Bitcoin markets is also on the increase.

“Volume tells all,” trader Scott Melker summarized as he hailed encouraging progress for BTC price versus volume in 2020.

Conversely, regular consumers appear little interested in Bitcoin’s recent price rise over $9,000 — Google search requests remain flat

Is BTC approaching “greed correction”?

That higher price is also subject to speculation from commentators. In an analysis on Tuesday, trader Tone Vays demanded the $9,000 level hold for at least several days before he considers a bull market in effect.

Another indicator, the Bitcoin Fear & Greed Index, which charts Bitcoin’s likely price trajectory based on investor sentiment, is flashing bearish. 

Currently, with a score of 57, the metric is slanted towards suggesting the market is “due for a correction.”

Bitcoin Fear & Greed Index

Bitcoin Fear & Greed Index. Source:

How much the potential losses would total meanwhile remains a subject of speculation in itself. Bitcoin’s January performance has already turned some analysts decidedly bullish, with several recently telling Cointelegraph that previous lows of $6,000 would not return. 

For regular Cointelegraph contributor filbfilb, by contrast, only one major resistance barrier remains to further highs after Bitcoin beat resistance provided by its 200-day moving average (MA).

“200 dma found the support. Next level is the old resistance at $9,555 daily close above there and things could escalate,” he told subscribers of his Telegram trading channel on Tuesday.

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Bitcoin Price Rallies to Set a 2020 High Near $9.5K — Is $10K Next?

Bitcoin (BTC) price has rallied to $9,439 and bulls have again shown that they have no intention of letting the crypto market’s most valuable asset stay below the $9K mark. 

Bitcoin daily price chart. Source: Coin360

Earlier in the day Bitcoin’s price dropped below $9,000 to a daily low at $8,879, which led some analysts to issue dismayed calls for a revisit and consolidation around the $8,300 to $8,500 range. 

While the thought of a pullback was the least desired scenario amongst traders, it seems perfectly reasonable given Bitcoin’s robust rally from $8,200 at the start of this week. 

Previously Cointelegraph contributor Michaël van de Poppe explained that after key overhead resistance levels are broken, assets often need to retrace to the support before resuming an uptrend. Thus, as shown by the Crypto Fear and Greed Index, today’s move below $9,000 had not weighed too heavily on trading sentiment.

Bitcoin’s Fear and Greed Index. Source:

The hourly chart shows that the most recent surge to $9,439 was propelled by a high volume spike and the following sell volume candle shows that the 3.4% move triggered a block of sell orders from traders anticipating that $9,500 would present staunch resistance.

BTC USD 1-hour chart. Source: TradingView

Since working its way up from $6,400 on Dec. 18, 2019, Bitcoin has done a good job of flipping strong resistance to new levels of support. Most recently $8,600 was flipped to support, and today’s move may have turned $9,200 to a new level of support. 

Now that a 2020 higher-high has been set, traders will be watching to see if bulls push higher to flip $9,400 to support which would set a good foundation for Bitcoin to make a fresh attempt at $9,600 and $9,948. 

BTC USD 6-hour chart. Source: TradingView

At the time of writing both the 4 and 6-hour timeframe are showing a tweezer top candlestick pattern which typically hints at a price reversal. The relative strength index (RSI) has also reversed course dropping lower in the overbought region. 

In the event that traders book profit and Bitcoin price experiences a mild correction, we will watch to see if the underlying supports at $9,100, $8,900, $8,650 hold up. 

BTC USD 6-hour chart. Source: TradingView

Currently, Bitcoin price has popped above the upper Bollinger Band arm right near the tweezer top. After strong upside moves, it’s not unusual for the price to retrace to the moving average of the Bollinger Band indicator.

If $9,100 and $8,900 fail to function as support, traders might look for a bounce at this moving average which is aligned with the $8,650 support. 

Bitcoin daily price chart. Source: Coin360

The overall cryptocurrency market cap now stands at $256.2 billion and Bitcoin’s dominance rate is 66.3%. Notable gainers amongst altcoins were Cardano (ADA) with a 9.70% gain, Ethereum Classic (ETC) which rallied 10.18%, and IOTA (MIOTA) which notched a 15.92% gain.

Keep track of top crypto markets in real time here

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UK High Court Orders Freeze on $1M of Bitcoin in Ransomware Case

A United Kingdom High Court ordered a proprietary injunction on Bitcoin (BTC) obtained through a ransomware attack on a Canadian insurance company. A proprietary injunction is an order which prevents a person from dealing with their own assets when it is subject of a proprietary claim.

On Jan. 17, the UK High Court released documents concerning a ransomware attack, in which over 1,000 computers of the insurance company were rendered unusable through the use of malware that encrypted files, making them unaccessible. The unidentified attackers demanded $1.2 million in Bitcoin in exchange for decrypting the data.

The firm’s insurer covered the client’s losses from cybercrime and agreed with the hackers to pay $950,000 in Bitcoin to decrypt the files, and received a tool to unlock them 24 hours after making the payment.

Still, the company needed 10 days to restore all of its systems, including 20 servers and 1,000 desktop computers.

Bitfinex asked to hand over account data

The company’s insurer hired blockchain major analytics firm Chainalysis to track the ransom. The analysis revealed that most of the Bitcoin, 96 BTC had been immediately laundered through crypto exchange Bitfinex. The court required Bitfinex to provide any information concerning the holder of the account that received the ransom by Dec. 18, 2019.

When Cointelegraph contacted Bitfinex, the firm did not clarify the status of the ransomers’ Bitcoin or what data was handed over to the court, stating:

“Bitfinex has robust systems in place to allow it to assist law enforcement authorities and litigants in cases such as this. In this case we have assisted the Claimant to trace the stolen Bitcoin and we understand the focus of the Claimant’s attention is no longer on the Bitfinex platform. It now appears Bitfinex is an entirely innocent party mixed up in this wrongdoing.”

According to a Jan. 25 report from New Money Review, the case is still ongoing. Darragh Connell, the insurance company’s legal representative, said, “Return hearings of the interim injunction will be heard again in due course before Mr Justice Bryan who has reserved the case to himself […] As this is only the interim stage, my client’s claim will need be determined after a trial in the Commercial Court in London.”

Ransomware attacks are a major cybersecurity threat and are becoming increasingly advanced. As Cointelegraph reported in early December 2019, Texas-based data center provider CyrusOne paid a $600,000 ransom in BTC in such an attack.

In June 2019, hackers managed to infect the systems of the city council of Riviera Beach with ransomware and encrypt government files. Florida agreed to pay $600,000 worth of Bitcoin to the hackers.

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Draft of India’s National DLT Strategy Calls for State-Run Digital Rupee

A draft of India’s national strategy on blockchain and distributed ledger technology suggests a central bank digital currency (CBDC), the digital Indian rupee, and a national blockchain.

The National Institute for Smart Governance (NISG), a non-profit public body incorporated by the government of India, has published a draft document on the country’s national blockchain strategy. Issued on Dec. 30, the document appears to have been published recently as major local publications such as The Economic Times of India reported on the draft strategy on Jan. 28.

Digital rupee should be issued on a national blockchain of India

In the document, the NISG has proposed the Central Bank Digital Rupee (CBDR), a digital currency issued on a national permissioned blockchain. NISG  “strongly recommended” that the CBDR be issued by India’s government and the country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India. The document reads:

“As an alternative to Public Blockchains that operate with native cryptocurrency, like Ethereum, it is strongly recommended that Government of India along with RBI come out with a Central Bank Digital INR (CBDR) administered over a Public Permissioned Blockchain that processes transactions through a Turing Complete Virtual Machine allowing decentralized applications to run on its platform.”

Light touch regulatory approach is needed to address an existing lack of clarity

The NISG also outlined the existing legal challenges for the industry in India associated with lack of regulatory clarity. As such, the body urged Indian authorities to develop and promote regulatory clarity in the industry by publishing official statements instead of making public statements:

“Public statements, whether through the press or formal speeches, are helpful but are not official statements of application by the agency. If an agency intends to enforce its laws in new and innovative ways, it must first notify industry stakeholders of its intent to do so and the way in which existing law applies.”

Additionally, the company recommended adopting a “light touch regulatory approach” at the initial stages of the blockchain industry’s development in India. According to the NISG, existing regulation in India is “too restrictive” and does not take into account the potential of emerging technologies.

India’s central bank said it hasn’t banned crypto

The news comes a few days after the central bank of India said that virtual currencies are not banned in the country, elaborating that instead, regulated entities are banned from offering crypto assets in the country. As reported, the RBI banned Indian banks from providing crypto-related services in the country in 2018.

The RBI made its statement amid ongoing court hearings against the central bank at the Indian Supreme Court, as an consortium of crypto firms and experts attempts to have the ban repealed.

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Oil Giant Saudi Aramco Buys Into Blockchain Trading Platform Vakt

Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Saudi Aramco, has bought into the blockchain-based oil trading company Vakt, Reuters reports on Jan. 28.

Saudi Aramco’s Energy Ventures branch has bought $5 million in new shares, according to Vakt’s press release. The investment will be used to develop the platform, with a focus on expansion into the Asian market.

In addition to investment, the oil conglomerate’s trading subsidiary Aramco Trading is set to use the Vakt platform. The platform is currently live in the North Sea Brent, Forties, Oseberg, Ekofisk and Troll crude oil markets, where it reports to have a high market share. Aramco Trading will add its trading volumes to the blockchain-based platform.

Potential to streamline and modernize oil trading 

The Vakt platform focuses on post-trade processing for physical energy transactions. It provides a smooth process from trade entry to settlement by eliminating paper-based processes and manual accounting practices. Hans Middelthon, managing director of SAEV Europe said, “VAKT has demonstrated that their platform has the potential to digitize what is currently a very manual process.”

The use of blockchain ensures a “single source of truth” for both buyers and sellers, which is stored on an immutable and distributed ledger, according to Vakt. 

Vakt launched its trading platform in December 2018 with an initial limitation on North Sea markets. The company was created in 2017 by a consortium of industry leaders that included Shell and BP, which were also the first users of the platform. 

Since then, the platform onboarded more industry giants such as Chevron, Total and India’s Reliance Industries. 

Saudi Aramco — the largest oil company in the world in terms of production — has previously invested in blockchain firms via its venture subsidiary. In May 2019, the firm participated in a $6 million funding round for American blockchain startup Data Gumbo Corp.

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BTC Price Back at $9,000 But No, Coronavirus Isn’t ‘Good for Bitcoin’

Bitcoin (BTC) may be gaining thanks to “economic fear” over coronavirus — but only up to a point, analysts are concluding as the disease spreads. 

The cryptocurrency hovered at around $9,000 on Tuesday, capping 4% gains for the week in which coronavirus sent China into partial lockdown. 

Coronavirus uncertainty creeps into markets

Fears are now surfacing about the impact on Chinese economic growth, while global signals also suggest investors are more cautious about the short term. 

For Cointelegraph Markets analyst Mati Greenspan, the sentiment is already palpable. Uploading a chart of United States bond yields, he noted one-month performance delivered higher returns than the longer seven-year options.

“It means investors are expecting trouble in the short term,” he explained in comments. 

Such economic uncertainty and unease on markets have often sparked increased bullish action for Bitcoin. As Cointelegraph noted, the Iran crisis earlier this month was just the latest geopolitical event that appeared to buoy the Bitcoin price.

While Greenspan noted Bitcoin remained a highly non-correlated asset, mainstream media claims that Bitcoin was defying traditional markets and gaining purely on the back of coronavirus were widely panned. 

A report by the Financial Times with the headline “Coronavirus is good for Bitcoin” came in for particular criticism. Notably, the report cited two random Twitter accounts dedicated to altcoin XRP as sources.

As Cointelegraph reported, Bitcoin has long exhibited increasingly strong technical fundamentals, which preceded recent price moves. 

Vays: virus would “hurt” BTC in epidemic scenario

Discussing the impact of coronavirus, trader Tone Vays nonetheless stopped short of agreeing with the idea that the disease could perpetually fuel further gains. 

If it were to spread internationally, for example, panicked investors would likely reduce speculative activity, meaning less interest in non-traditional assets such as Bitcoin. 

On the latest episode of his Trading Bitcoin YouTube series, Vays told viewers:

“The coronavirus does bring some economic fear, so the fear that the coronavirus could start to spread is certainly helping the rise of Bitcoin versus hurting the rise of Bitcoin.”

Vays also noted that Bitcoin would need to stay above $9,000 for several days to cement its recent bullish gains.

Google search data for “coronavirus” and “Bitcoin”

Google search data for “coronavirus” and “Bitcoin.” Source: Google Trends

Meanwhile, data from Google Trends appears to underscore the lack of correlation between the crisis and Bitcoin, with search interest in the latter remaining comparatively flat throughout the past month.

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Bitcoin Price Breaks Through Key Resistance as Traders Target $9.2K

Bitcoin daily price chart. Source: Coin360

Bitcoin (BTC) bulls appear to have found a second wind which allowed them to push the price above $9,000 to a daily high at $9,150.  As discussed in an earlier analysis, bulls had been fighting to hold the price above $8,800 throughout the day and multiple attempts at knocking out the $9K mark were held back at $8,963 and $8,985. 

BTC USD 6-hour chart. Source: TradingView

Traders will watch to see if Bitcoin to can sustain above $9,118.85 in order to flip the $9,100 to $9,200 zone to support and set a daily higher high. Above $9,200 traders will look to $9,500, $9,600, $9,963 and $10,538 as the next targets for Bitcoin price. 

Since Jan. 24 Bitcoin has rallied 11.31%, meaning an eventual pullback could see the price revisit $8,900 and $8,700. At the time of writing the moving average convergence divergence (MACD is on the verge of crossing above the signal line on the daily time frame and the histogram has nearly shifted from negative to positive as it approaches 0. 

BTC USD daily chart. Source: TradingView

The relative strength index is also bullish with a reading of 66 but the indicator is not yet overbought suggesting bulls could push the price higher. As mentioned previously, during strong rallies Bitcoin price can continue surging higher regardless of multiple indicators flashing overbought readings so traders are advised to keep a close eye on trading volume, the Chaikin Money Flow oscillator and also be wary if a double top candlestick pattern forms as this would be an early sign of a short term reversal. 

Bitcoin daily price chart. Source: Coin360

The overall cryptocurrency market cap now stands at $250.3 billion and Bitcoin’s dominance rate is 66.1%. A number of altcoins also mirrored Bitcoin’s gains. Cardano (ADA) rallied 8.05%, Bitcoin SV (BSV) has held on to an 8.54% gain and Litecoin (LTC) rallied 7.49%.

Keep track of top crypto markets in real time here

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