Cryptocurrency miners shut work in China

Reuters
Cryptocurrency miners, including HashCow and BTC.TOP, have halted all or part of their China operations after Beijing intensified a crackdown on bitcoin mining and trading.
Reuters

Cryptocurrency miners, including HashCow and BTC.TOP, have halted all or part of their China operations after Beijing intensified a crackdown on bitcoin mining and trading, hammering digital currencies amid heightened global regulatory scrutiny.

A State Council committee led by Vice Premier Liu He announced the crackdown late on Friday as part of efforts to fend off financial risks. It was the first time China's Cabinet has targeted virtual currency mining, a sizable business in the world's second-biggest economy that some estimates say accounts for as much as 70 percent of the global crypto supply.

Cryptocurrency exchange Huobi on Monday suspended both crypto-mining and some trading services to new clients from China's mainland, adding it will instead focus on overseas businesses.

BTC.TOP, a crypto mining pool, also announced the suspension of its China business citing regulatory risks, while crypto miner HashCow said it would halt buying new bitcoin mining rigs.

Crypto miners use increasingly powerful, specially designed computer equipment, or rigs, to verify virtual coin transactions in a process which produces newly minted crypto currencies such as bitcoin.

"Crypto mining consumes a lot of energy, which runs counter to China's carbon neutrality goals," said Chen Jiahe, chief investment officer of Beijing-based family office Novem Arcae Technologies.

The crackdown is part of China's stepped-up drive to curb speculative crypto trading, he added.

Regulating the industry

Bitcoin took a beating after the latest Chinese move, and is now down nearly 50 percent from it's all-time high. It shed as much as 17 percent on Sunday, before paring some losses and was last trading steady in Asia. Elsewhere, Ether fell to a two-month low on Sunday, down 60 percent from a record peak hit just 12 days ago.

Investor protection and money laundering are particular concerns of global financial regulators who are grappling with whether and how they should regulate the cryptocurrency industry.

The latest shakeout in digital currencies also stems from tighter scrutiny in the United States. Last Thursday, US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said they pose risks to financial stability, and indicating that greater regulation of the increasingly popular electronic currency may be warranted.

"Huobi always strives to abide by the evolving policies and regulations of each jurisdiction," Huobi said in a statement to Reuters.

BTC.TOP founder Jiang Zhuoer said in a micro blog post via Weibo that its mining business will no longer be open to China's mainland, while HashCow said it would suspend new businesses in China in a notice to clients. BTC.TOP and HashCow could not be immediately reached for comment

Chen of Novem Arcae said the crypto craze, if not curbed, could turn into froth similar to the Dutch tulipmania in the 17th century – regarded as the first financial bubble in recorded history. "The only difference is that after the tulip bubble burst, there were still some beautiful flowers left," Chen said. "But when the virtual currency bubble bursts, what would be left are merely some computer codes."

(Reuters)

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