Crypto Review 2021: Full of Uncertainty and Volatility
The COVID-19 variants Delta and Omicron is still continuing to hit the trading market, bringing uncertainty throughout 2021. In addition, the cryptocurrencies trading market has also experienced high volatility over the past twelve months. This feature will let readers go through key milestones and reviews of major events before the end of this year.
Bitcoin breaks All-Time-High
Investors have acknowledged the volatility among various tokens trading this year, but the fluctuation also pushed major cryptos to an all-time high, breaking serval records for the first time.
The price of Bitcoin reached the all-time-high (ATH) of $68.789K on Nov. 10, according to the data provided by CoinMarketCap. Experts indicated that there were serval bullish factors before the Proshares Bitcoin ETF, pushing the price to the relative ATH.
Bitcoin Future ETF approved in the U.S.
In October, the first Bitcoin future ETF- ProShares finally started trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) after a lengthy wait for approval of Bitcoin future ETF from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), followed by VanEck’s bitcoin future ETF on Chicago Board Options Exchange in November.
Thanks to SEC Chairmen Gary Gensler’s pro-crypto stance, the bullish sentiment continued for serval weeks before the recent drop in December. The market expects more Bitcoin future-related derivatives financial products and bitcoin-linked ETF products to roll out under Gensler’s leadership.
El Salvador first to adopt Bitcoin for legal tender
Favourable news not only came from ProShares Bitcoin future ETF. The crypto industry also embraced a new era when Central America's El Salvador passed a law in June to accept Bitcoin as payment for goods or services. In September, it officially became the first country to start accepting Bitcoin as fiat money along with the U.S. dollar.
To further raise awareness and increase cryptocurrency adoption, President Nayib Bukele’s administration airdropped the digital currency to the public, encouraging them to use the crypto wallet - Chivo. Besides, the administration speeded up the rollout by installing over a hundred crypto ATMs to build the first Bitcoin City. Furthermore, the country will use the profit generated from the cryptocurrency to build new schools.
Bukele emphasised the benefit of adopting Bitcoin that help overseas workers save transactions fees for remittance. In addition, the process of crypto mining would be environmental-friendly enough, supported by volcanic-generated electricity in the country.
Yet, many citizens have still doubted the sustainability of crypto adoption; even international financial institutions, like the IMF, warned of the instability of Bitcoin adoption in the country. Nevertheless, more and more firms, like Starbucks and McDonald’s, were accepting Bitcoin as the payment method in this country.
New milestone for the development of CBDC
This year, the development of central bank digital currency (CBDC) also pursued a significant milestone. In October, Nigeria rolled out its e-Naria and became the first African country to adopt CBDC. President Buhari believes e-Naria would help the country boost the economy’s growth and GDP by $29 billion over the next decade.
A retail CBDC is one of the digital forms of money that is issued by the central bank and can be compared to physical banknotes. Retail CBDC can be used in financial transactions both online and offline.
In Asia, as the Beijing Winter Olympic is approaching, China intends to escalate the influence of e-CNY or digital yuan before the games begin in Feb 2022. In November, the central bank of China announced that the number of e-CNY wallet registration had reached 140 million, which has risen six times more over the past four months. Reportedly, Chinese authorities actively requested more enterprises to accept its digital currency, such as McDonald.
China enlarges crackdowns on crypto mining
Prior to BTC reaching an ATH, the primary token slumped to the relative lowest point this year at $29.807K on July 20. The price was subject to a series of sentiments of “fear, uncertainty and doubt” (FUD) and the performance of bear sentiment among foreign oppression among regulators worldwide.
In June, the Chinese Communist Party-led government continued a series of legal actions against crypto mining activities. Reportedly, more than 90% of crypto mining capacity has been shut down after several major mining facilities in China have been disconnected without electricity provision. These actions were described as a crackdown against the crypto sector. The legal actions forced the hash rate in China to drop significantly, resulting in an exodus of Chinese crypto miners emigrating to overseas countries, such as Kazakhstan, the U.S. or Russia.
The crackdown continued throughout the year, including baring crypto as payment tools. The Chinese central bank called all crypto-related transactions illegal and was unable to enjoy the same legal status as legal tender. Serval crypto data platforms were also unable to access the Chinese market, including CoinMarketCap, CoinGecko and TradingView.
Yet, the general hash rate of Bitcoin seems to have returned to normal and recovered by even hitting an all-time high in December.
“Person of the year”: Elon Musk
Intensified oppressions against the crypto activities among regulators was not the only factor affecting the crypto market; individual influence also escalated the uncertainty of cryptos’ fluctuation.
In early December, Time magazine named Elon Musk “Person of the Year”. Musk’s multiple identities include the CEO of Tesla, Chief Engineer of SpaceX, strengthening his influence across various sectors and industries.
In addition, his soft power also reflects the crypto sector as a strong opinion leader. As a big fan of Bitcoin and Dogecoin, Musk offered an option for customers to purchase Tesla by accepting Bitcoin and considering adding Dogecoin. However, Musk decided to stop this plan through Tesla later, due to environmental concerns during crypto mining. His swinging stance towards crypto payment resulted in massive criticism and has been blamed by the public after the slump of Bitcoin’s price.
Nevertheless, Musk also urged the U.S. government not to be involved in regulating crypto. Subject to the influence of Musk’s speech, the price of Bitcoin has slumped to the relative low point at $29.8K on July 20, according to CoinMarketCap.
Bloomberg reported how the price of Bitcoin developed in 2021.
Tightening regulations over crypto exchanges
Despite the crackdowns over crypto miners, crypto exchanges were also suffering from suppression by financial regulators worldwide. Zhao Chnagpeng-led crypto trading platform Binance was one of the exchanges targeted by global financial regulators, including the UK, the Netherland, and Singapore. These moves forced C.Z. to express his willingness to step down as the CEO and a few months later, the crypto exchange platform hired more senior management to strengthen its legal power to meet compliance obligations.
On the other hand, in October, Meta (initially called Facebook) brought a new concept of combining technology and the future of the metaverse. In December, the social media giant further announced that the company lifted the ban of a policy towards crypto advertisement.
The metaverse primary refers to the concept of virtual space that enables users access to virtual reality, “augmented reality and other technologies,” according to the introduction of the New York Post.
Serval key enterprises in the industry sector look up to Meta for further innovation and development, including Grayscale and Morgan Stanley. On the contrary, Elon Musk was not convinced of the benefit of the metaverse; he said, “I don’t see someone strapping a frigging screen to their face all day and not wanting to ever leave,” Musk also criticised that Web3 would be “more like marketing than reality.”
In 2021, non-fungible tokens (NFT) have drawn heavy public attention. The most eye-catching and the biggest sale of an NFT so far came from an auction of Beeple’s “Everydays: the First 5,000 days” in March, sold for an eye-popping $69.3 million. The auction has pursued a new wave of innovations across various sectors, like politics, academics, also promoted by enterprises and sponsorships.
In addition, many well-known opinion leaders, including Andy Murray, U.S. filmmaker Kevin Smith participated in the NFT market. Stakeholders of NFTs expect the market would be much more active in the coming year.
Outlook ahead 2022
Stepping forward into 2022, Huong Hauduc, General Counsel, digital asset prime brokerage and exchange BEQUANT, believes the stance of China and the U.S. will still influence the crypto market development, he said:
“China’s actions, whether this is continuing to crack down on crypto or loosening its grip on the digital assets space, will be a key indicator for future regulation across the world. The U.S. appears to be moving at a federal level, with mayors accepting salaries in Bitcoin and miners taking advantage of cheaper energy, but it remains to be seen if they take the bold actions of its allies in South America and see Bitcoin or other coins, such as Tether, as legal tender.”
On the other hand, Hauduc suggests “the voice calling for crypto regulation, whether it be for tighter consumer protection or just clarity of the rules for institutions, are getting much louder.”
Over the past 12 months, experts have observed that “institutions signal a change in their preferences and start favouring digital assets over gold as a reserve asset,” Loukas Lagoudis, Executive Director at crypto/digital assets hedge fund ARK36, commented. To compare with specific crypto coins, Ethereum is expected to “continue to gain ground against Bitcoin, at least in the medium term, as its importance for institutional investors will continue to grow,” Lagoudis added.
It is projected that “the sustained adoption of digital assets by institutional investors and their further integration into the legacy financial systems will be the main drivers of growth of the crypto space in the next year,” Lagoudis said.
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