The invasion of Ukraine has sent shockwaves through the global markets — and has inadvertently thrust crypto into the limelight.
Happy Sunday! Here's a look back at the crypto stories you may have missed over the past seven days.
The invasion of Ukraine has sent shockwaves through the global markets — and has inadvertently thrust crypto into the limelight. Wall Street fell on Monday as the West launched a barrage of sanctions against Russia, but Bitcoin bucked the trend and surged 15%. Wednesday brought a brief rise to $45,000, but the world's biggest cryptocurrency later erased all of these gains for the week as fighting escalated.
Crypto also showed it can be a force for good. Figures from Merkle Science suggest that digital assets worth $83.57 million were donated to Ukraine in the week to March 4. The funds have been used to provide food and medicine to civilians fleeing their homes — and to buy equipment for the military. A substantial uptick in donations came on Wednesday when a senior Ukrainian politician unveiled plans to perform an airdrop to reward contributors… but those plans were later canceled.
But there are challenges, too. Some Western politicians are concerned that cryptocurrencies could be used to evade sanctions and blunt their effectiveness. Experts believe this is unlikely to happen on a mass scale, not least because the crypto markets are relatively thin.
And there's a bigger challenge on the horizon. Crypto exchanges are resisting calls for them to ban all Russian users from their platforms. Saturday saw Visa, Mastercard and PayPal suspend operations in the country — making transactions much harder for everyday consumers. This presents an issue for major trading platforms built on the idea of offering financial freedom to the masses. But should this ideological standpoint take priority over an ever-worsening conflict?
Five things we learned this week
1. Floki Inu has had a rap on the knuckles from U.K. regulators. An ad campaign that ran last year cannot run again in its current form. According to the Advertising Standards Authority, the billboards — which declared "MISSED DOGE? GET FLOKI" — trivialized investment and "exploited consumers' fears of missing out." The project argued that it had sought approval for the ad before it started appearing on London buses and trains, and wasn't told that disclaimers about capital gains tax had to be added.
2. Samson Mow is leaving Blockstream. The prominent Bitcoiner says he's now going to focus on "nation-state Bitcoin adoption" — indicating that he's determined to get more countries to follow in El Salvador's footsteps. Mow believes a number of nations are interested in embracing crypto, especially as high levels of inflation inflict pain on consumers worldwide.
3. The Fed still plans to increase interest rates this month. Despite speculation that the U.S. central bank might delay the tightening of monetary policy because of the uncertainty sparked by the invasion of Ukraine, Jerome Powell says the Fed will push ahead with a rate hike in March. Although this could be a bearish development for stocks and BTC alike, investors have been pricing this in for months.
4. NFT sales are sliding. Sales in February were down by more than 30% when compared with the month before. To make matters worse, the SEC is examining whether NFTs are being used to raise money like traditional securities. Nonetheless, big brands are continuing to embrace collectibles — with Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment becoming launch partners in a new marketplace co-founded by Bob Dylan's son.
5. OpenSea is banning NFT collectors in Iran. The world's biggest NFT marketplace abruptly pulled the plug on the accounts of creators and collectors in Iran — leaving them unable to access their tokens. Some claimed that the ban wasn't communicated to them in advance — and had initially believed they had been hacked.
The week ahead
Here are just a few burning questions:
— Will crypto exchanges have to perform a U-turn and ban all Russian users?
— Will the Biden administration increase regulatory scrutiny on trading platforms to make sure they're complying with sanctions?
— Will Bitcoin become closely correlated with stocks once again as the Ukraine invasion continues?
Three essential reads on CoinMarketCap Alexandria
— Crypto During a Crisis - How Is Bitcoin Helping Ukraine? After 13 years, is Bitcoin finally demonstrating its best use case during dramatic events? Find out how Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are currently being beneficial to Ukraine.
— Crypto Adoption in Pakistan Is Growing Rapidly Despite Ban: Despite high inflation rates and mass adoption of crypto in the country, Pakistani authorities are still not sure how to deal with one of the biggest asset classes.
— Is Crypto a Decentralized Pyramid Scheme? An asset that has no intrinsic value and is operating on the basis of faith alone. No, not the US Dollar! We are talking about cryptocurrency here. Is it a pyramid scheme?
Listen to this!
— The CoinMarketRecap podcast comes out every Friday. Joining us to discuss the Ukraine invasion is OANDA's senior markets analyst Edward Moya, and Chainalysis co-head of public policy Salman Banaei.
— And over on YouTube, check out our top tips on protecting NFTs.