CoinLoan Weekly: Continued rise, split sentiment, revolutionary CBDCs

Price dynamics

BTC price

After a dash past $21,000 on Monday, January 16, BTC traded firmly above the level, approached $21,500, and dipped to a 7-day low of $20,532.91 on Wednesday, January 18. It then got trapped at roughly $20,800 for a day before a dramatic upswing — on Saturday, January 21, BTC soared and reached a high of $23,282.40. Over the next two days, it moved slightly, staying just below $23,000.

So far, BTC has gained nearly 40% since the beginning of the year against an improving macroeconomic backdrop. On Monday, January 23, additional support came from a bullish NASDAQ and the first day of Genesis bankruptcy court proceedings, which eased fears of a new contagion. Since Friday, January 20, The Crypto Fear & Greed Index has been in the neutral zone at around 50, confirming a growing bullish sentiment. The Bitcoin mining difficulty also grew by over 10% on Sunday, January 22, reaching an all-time high and indicating increased activity.

As of this writing, BTC is changing hands at $22,859.85, with no 24-hour change and a 7-day gain of +9.5%.

BTC price chart. Source: CoinGecko
BTC price chart. Source: CoinGecko

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ETH price

For ETH, the week started with a jump to over $1,575, and the coin rose above $1,590 twice on Tuesday, January 17. Having hit a low of $1,511.31 the next day, it briefly languished below $1,550 and shot up on Friday and Saturday (January 20-21). The weekend began on a high note — with a 7-day high of $1,664.78. ETH then tumbled slightly and traded lower than $1,650, save for an uptick on Sunday, January 22.

So far in 2023, Ether's climb has mirrored BTC's gains. Yet some analysts suspect looming trend exhaustion. For example, Michael Van de Poppe tweeted that the coin "probably will continue towards $1,700-1,730 before rejecting." As the Shanghai update approaches, developers have launched a testing environment — shadow fork — to test the withdrawal conditions for staked ETH. Meanwhile, Vitalik Buterin has shared an incomplete guide to stealth addresses — a possible solution to Ethereum's privacy challenge.

As of now, ETH is worth $1,626.72, with a 24-hour loss of -1% and a 7-day climb of +4.9%.

ETH price chart. Source: CoinGecko
ETH price chart. Source: CoinGecko

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XRP price

Following a spike beyond $0.40, XRP returned to teetering around $0.39 and hit a 7-day low of $0.375430 on Wednesday, January 18. Bouncing back quickly, it rose above $0.39 by the end of Thursday, January 19. Saturday, January 21, took it to over $0.41, and the token traded around $0.40 the next day. On Monday, January 23, it surged to a high of $0.427731.

The XRP market cap has exceeded $20 billion for the first time since September 2022. Commenting on the legal tussle with the SEC, Brad Garlinghouse has stated that the odds of a settlement are slim to none. In an interview for CNBC last week, the CEO said it would require the SEC's acknowledgment of XRP's non-security status. Meanwhile, CTO David Schwartz claimed it fits the definition of a commodity — instead of deriving value from "anyone else's legal obligations to XRP holders," it is "a raw good that trades in commerce." Ripple expects a ruling on the lawsuit in the first half of 2023.

At press time, XRP is trading at $0.427843, with a 24-hour rise of +4.9% and a substantial 7-day increase of +11.2%.

XRP price chart. Source: CoinGecko
XRP price chart. Source: CoinGecko

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Cryptocurrency news

As BTC approaches $23,000, crypto sentiment appears divided

Last week, Bitcoin returned to its pre-FTX levels. Yet with $23,000 in sight, market experts see a split between skeptics and those confident that a bottom has been passed. Some analysts warn of a potential bull trap, and their cautious sentiment has echoed across social media.

While 2022 was not all bleak, Bitcoin spent the year far from its all-time peak of around $69,000 in November 2021. Meanwhile, rising interest rates and high-profile black swans — for example, Three Arrows Capital (3AC) and FTX — continuously walloped digital assets.

In stark contrast, this January has brought the best start of the year since the pre-pandemic months of 2020. Although the coin is roughly 67% below the historical peak, it has also gained over 37% over the past two months. Ether's result is similar; it is now 66.4% below the all-time high with a 38.2% 60-day gain.

The latest rally has come amid an improving macro backdrop, with the first signs of inflation cooling in the December CPI report. This change has given investors hope that the Fed will abandon its ruthless 75-basis-point hikes — a hawkish policy designed to tame surging prices.

Those skeptical of the rally predict a crash bound to burn misguided traders. On January 15, more than 18,000 users voted for the bull trap scenario in a Twitter poll conducted by the Bitcoin account. An influencer and crypto analyst, il Capo Of Crypto, tweeted in the same vein, claiming the rally "clearly looks manipulated," and the bull trap could prove to be the biggest in history.

Bank of America analysts believe CBDCs may revolutionize global finance

A new research report by Bank of America analysts reveals the growing appeal of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) for regulators worldwide. Compared to May 2020, the number of central institutions exploring the opportunities has more than tripled, rising from 35 to at least 114 — 58% of all countries. Furthermore, these states account for 95% of global GDP.

The report compares the potential pros and cons of issuing and non-issuing CBDCs, outlines various distribution models, and provides multiple case studies. The authors express a bullish view of distributed ledger technology, concluding that digital currencies "appear inevitable." Together, they underpin a "natural evolution of today's monetary and payment systems."

Benefits of CBDC adoption

The potential upsides of adoption include removing intermediaries, settling transactions in real time, enhancing transparency, and lowering costs. Currently, banks hold funds (an estimated $4 trillion) in corresponding banks to remove settlement risks, which the authors regard as inefficient use of capital.

Furthermore, the requirement to pre-fund accounts at correspondent banks prevents less capitalized providers from launching cross-border payments. This results in the latter being "ten times" more expensive than domestic transfers. In particular, "20% of euro-denominated cross-border payments require the involvement of 5+ correspondent banks."

For the unbanked population — 1.4 billion people worldwide — CBDC wallets could offer a way to fulfill basic financial needs, establish credit histories, and avoid payday loans, which trap borrowers in debt. In the US, a CBDC requiring a bank account and smartphone might expand the banked population by 3.2% — to 96.7% of households. Without the second requirement, it could grow to 98%.

CBDCs vs. stablecoins

The researchers note that the proliferation of stablecoins, if left unregulated and unchecked, may inhibit monetary control by central banks and their ability to curb inflation. While coexistence is possible, "the potential for CBDCs to displace stablecoins largely depends on the former being interoperable with blockchains and blockchain-based applications." Meanwhile, the design and programmability of CBDCs "will likely determine the level of future stablecoin adoption and usage."

Potential risks

According to the report, the most significant caveat is the likely competition between commercial and central banks. If clients of the former transfer their savings into the central bank, CBDCs might blur the lines between the two tiers, making it difficult to lend and borrow customers' funds.

Moreover, without special safeguards, bank runs could become more frequent. Looking ahead, the analysts warn against "piecemeal" policy rollouts, predicting gaffes and general controversy.

Convincing citizens to embrace CBDCs is another challenge due to privacy concerns. Here, the report proposes a solution that reconciles anonymity with the right to trace suspicious transactions. Its authors suggest that central banks or governments should be allowed to monitor CBDC transfers "if there are indications of criminal activity, tax evasion, money laundering or terrorism financing."

That said, the researchers suppose any invasions of privacy, whether perceived or legitimate, may trigger reconsideration of the related policies. Moreover, they may eventually fuel the demand for CBDCs that offer enhanced legal protections.