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MARKETS DAILY: Basketball’s First Celebrity Token Shoots for Monday Launch

After years of discussion, Monday may mark the first time accredited investors can buy tokenized shares of a high-profile professional athlete's contract. Markets Daily is back with the latest on the NBA's Spencer Dinwiddie story and what it could mean for entertainers of all stripes.

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Adam B. Levine: On today’s episode, our news roundup, the first tokenized pro basketball player, and Fidelity’s 2019 bitcoin reflections.

Adam: It’s JANUARY 10, 2020, and you’re listening to Markets Daily, I’m Adam B. Levine, editor of Podcasts here at CoinDesk, along with our senior markets reporter, Brad Keoun, to give you a concise daily briefing on crypto markets and some of the most important news developments in the sector over the past 24 hours.

Brad: Bitcoin up slightly today after two straight day of losses, currently around $7,900.

CoinDesk’s Omkar Godbole reporting the market is seeing price resistance around the psychological level of $8,000, and technical indicators are looking a bit more bearish than earlier in the week

Adam: Turning to the news, today marks the deadline for crypto exchanges and custodians to adopt tough new anti-money laundering rules.

CoinDesk’s Ian Allison notes that this could be a double-edged sword for the industry, driving up compliance costs and perhaps pushing away some customers, but potentially engendering more trust and confidence in cryptocurrencies among European banks and investors.

Brad: And in what appears to be a related development, the Dutch crypto-derivatives exchange Deribit announced it will move its headquarters to Panama to escape tough new industry rules coming from European regulators.

According to Deribit officials, new anti-money-laundering rules would require customers to provide an extensive amount of information, which makes the barriers to entry for the majority of traders too high, both from a regulatory and cost perspective.

Deribit officials wrote in a blog post that they think crypto markets should be freely available to most.

Adam: And Tether appears to have received a minor reprieve in court, at least on one front.

Plaintiffs have withdrawn a class-action lawsuit filed in November in Washington state that accused Tether and its affiliated Bitfinex exchange of issuing inaccurate information and monopolizing the bitcoin market.

UPDATE: The suit was re-filed in the Southern District of New York a day later with an additional plaintiff. The article has been updated.

Bitfinex had denied the accusation, saying it would contest any nuisance settlements

A Bitfinex spokesman declined to comment on the latest development

Brad: A new report from the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs says that North Korean hackers are now using the messaging app Telegram to steal crypto

According to the report, the Lazarus Group, a cybercrime group with links to North Korea, uses Telegram to deliver malware that gets downloaded on a victim’s computer and then sends sensitive data to hackers

Channels then direct users to fake cryptocurrency companies

Adam: In Russia, a government-owned nuclear power plant is now renting out space to crypto miners

The Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation has opened a crypto mining farm near a nuclear plant some 200 miles northwest of Moscow.

The government entitty won’t mine bitcoin for its own account, but it will sell electricity to heavy users and reng space for their equipment

Brad: And our final story today is a real stinker

A Luxembourg-based company announced this week that it will launch a cryptocurrency backed by sardines

CoinDesk found a booth run by the company MY Sardines at this week’s CES 2020 consumer electronics show in Las Vegas

The company says it’s working with a French sardine supplier called Pearl of the Gods

The company will purchase the sardine tins in September and then use the ethereum blockchain to distribute digital tokens that can be redeemed for the sardine cans at any time in the next 10 years

And you thought that Tether story smelled fishy, Adam

Adam: Turning to todays featured story, 26 year old NBA guard Spencer Dinwiddie is launching what we think is the first tokenized security offering tied to a NBA star

In October, Coindesk Reported:

After his plan met resistance from the National Basketball Association, the project underwent a number of changes which for the most part simplified it. The Atheletic reported:

Forbes reports on the details of the token being launched Monday:

What was a fringe idea even just two years ago is on the verge of going mainstream, and the NBA doesn’t even seem that concerned.

Even if you’re not a sports fan, this is exciting. The conversation around these sorts of celebrity tokenizations started way back in 2014 and it’s taken us six years, more than half the time since bitcoin launched to get to this first real test of the concept. And to be clear, it’s definitely not what we envisioned in those early days as the weight of organizational momentum at the NBA and government security requirements from the SEC squeeze the idea into something which only the richest among us can participate in, and even then only a maximum of 90 individuals can possibly own one of these tokens.

But, as it launches on Monday, whether or not it’s successful, it is undoubtedly significant. In the race to tokenize the world, this could be an important tipping point, more on this story as it develops.

Adam: And now, for today’s spotlight, we’re looking at the giant U.S. money manager Fidelity’s reflections on bitcoin in 2019, and what appears to have been a banner year for the world’s oldest and largest cryptocurrency

Brad: Among large U.S. financial institutions, the giant money manager Fidelity has probably been the most publicly committed to crypto assets, jumping in with both feet while most banks and other firms await clarity on industry rules from regulators

And of course Fidelity has been a leader for a couple decades in the money management industry;

The boston-based company, led by Abby Johnson, one of the world’s richest women, now manages about $2.5 trillion for clients, and administers another $4 trillion or so for its customers

Well Ria Bhutoria is director of research for the firm’s crypto unit, Fidelity Digital Assets, and she published a long blog post Thursday outlining her reflections on bitcoin for 2019

She writes that in just a few years, bitcoin’s story has evolved criticially to recognize what she calls the true potential of its network - a new type of value transfer system, a tool for freedom, a savings technology and possibly more uses that we have yet to discover

Its potential cannot be ignored, she says

She notes that trading and investment on incumbent, regulated platforms is growing

Key performance indicators like hash rate are improving

And cumulative miner revenue surpassed $15 billion

She cites the introduction of futures contracts that can be settled via delivery of bitcoin as a major step forward

One exchange, Bakkt, introduced options trading in December, and the rival exchange CME is set to follow with its own options menu starting on Monday

It’s also noteworthy that the popular merchant payment app Square has openly embraced bitcoin, especially with the support of CEO Jack Dorsey, who also has invested in Lightning Labs, which is working to develop key parts of the infrastructure of fast-growing crypto markets

New large-scale bitcoin-mining operations are coming online, attracting millions of dollars of capital from deep-pocketed investors, she notes

Bhutoria concludes by saying that bitcoin continues to boast a dominant position in the crypto market, with growing usage and adoption

She adds that bitcoin has "unapologetically maintained its core properties as a border-less, censorship and seizure resistant, decentralized value storage and transfer system"

In short, Adam, these are all positive signs for bitcoin in her opinion, and she sees increasing adoption over the coming year, with continuing maturation of the network and its infrastructure