Ether cryptocurrency, a victim of blockchain success

Ether has slid 20 percent in value, taking a further hit from comments made by Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, which powers the cryptocurrency. (AFP)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Ether cryptocurrency, a victim of blockchain success

  • Ether has slid 20 percent in value, taking a further hit from comments made by Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, which powers the cryptocurrency
  • Buterin has previously spoken about ‘scalability’ probably being the number one challenge facing the sector

LONDON: For all the attention afforded bitcoin, it is its rival ether that is hitting the headlines, with the popularity of its blockchain technology Ethereum driving concerns that have sent investors fleeing.
Virtual currencies have struggled across the board this month after US investment banking giant Goldman Sachs pulled back from its plans to open a trading desk for bitcoin, damaging sentiment for the entire sector.
Ether has slid 20 percent in value, taking a further hit from comments made by Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, which powers the cryptocurrency.
Earlier this month, the 24-year-old Russian-Canadian programmer told Bloomberg that “the (Ethereum) blockchain space is getting to the point where there’s a ceiling in sight.”
A blockchain is essentially a ledger for recording transactions, which is both open to all who use it but extremely secure, and has enabled the rise of cryptocurrency trading.
A multimillionaire thanks to Ethereum, Buterin has previously spoken about “scalability” probably being the number one challenge facing the sector.
Unlike bitcoin’s blockchain, which carries out transactions involving only the cryptocurrency, Ethereum can host different virtual tokens and also enable certain digital applications and so-called smart contracts.
Such programs can for example automatically trigger payments without the use of a third party when pre-defined conditions are met, such as winning a sports bet.
Ethereum is also home to two-thirds of initial coin offerings (ICOs), essentially a fundraising tool for companies which issue the tokens against cryptocurrencies much like issuing shares on a stock market.
An explosion in the number of ICOs in 2017, two years after ether’s launch, resulted in the cryptocurrency’s price rocketing 160 times in value over a 12-month period.
The craze surrounding ICOs has also caused congestion to Ethereum’s network, contributing to ether’s price collapse beginning in January.
“The more it’s demanded, the more likely you are to clog the network,” said Jerome de Tychey, president of Asseth, an association promoting the use of Ethereum.
A clogged Ethereum results in higher charges for clients wanting their transactions prioritized — and average fees briefly hit a record $5.50 in July according to bitinfocharts.com. Generally, though, fees fluctuate around a few cents.
Delays to a planned overhaul of Ethereum’s scalability have meanwhile likely discouraged some investors from using the blockchain, according to de Tychey.
Naeem Aslam, an analyst at traders Think Markets, said Buterin “isn’t doing the job which he is supposed to do” — that is, to make companies “trust the technology and provide them (with) what they need.”
The plunge in the value of ether has indeed been dramatic. Since the start of August, it has lost more than half its value.
Going back to May, the drop is 75 percent, with the total value of the virtual currency tumbling to about $23 billion from $82.5 billion.
Yet the huge drop has only taken ether back to its value of a little over a year ago, at some $220 for one token.
Another factor weighing on ether’s price has been the success of ICOs. The companies which raised funding in ether with ICOs now need to sell to them to cover operating expenses in fiat currencies.
According to sector analysts Diar the companies that raised funding before the price boom at the end of last year have sold off some 20 percent of their ether holdings since April, weighing on its price.


Oil rises after US Navy destroys Iranian drone

Updated 19 July 2019
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Oil rises after US Navy destroys Iranian drone

  • The International Energy Agency is revising its 2019 global oil demand growth forecast to 1.1 million barrels per day
  • Speculators have exited options positions that could have provided exposure to higher prices in the next several years

TOKYO: Oil prices rose more than 1 percent on Friday after the US Navy destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, a major chokepoint for global crude flows, again raising tensions in the Middle East.
Brent crude futures were up 82 cents, or 1.3 percent, at $62.75 by 0100 GMT. They closed down 2.7 percent on Thursday, falling for a fourth day.
West Texas Intermediate crude futures firmed 61 cents, or 1.1 percent, at 55.91. They fell 2.6 percent in the previous session.
The United States said on Thursday that a US Navy ship had “destroyed” an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz after the aircraft threatened the vessel, but Iran said it had no information about losing a drone.
The move comes after Britain pledged to defend its shipping interests in the region, while US Central Command chief General Kenneth McKenzie said the United States would work “aggressively” to enable free passage after recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.
Still, the longer-term outlook for oil has grown increasingly bearish.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is reducing its 2019 oil demand forecast due to a slowing global economy amid a US-China trade spat, its executive director said on Thursday.
The IEA is revising its 2019 global oil demand growth forecast to 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) and may cut it again if the global economy and especially China shows further weakness, Fatih Birol said.
“China is experiencing its slowest economic growth in the last three decades, so are some of the advanced economies ... if the global economy performs even poorer than we assume, then we may even look at our numbers once again in the next months to come,” Birol told Reuters in an interview.
Last year, the IEA predicted that 2019 oil demand would grow by 1.5 million bpd but had already cut the growth forecast to 1.2 million bpd in June this year.
Speculators have exited options positions that could have provided exposure to higher prices in the next several years, market participants said on Thursday.
US offshore oil and gas production has continued to return to service since Hurricane Barry passed through the Gulf of Mexico last week, triggering platform evacuations and output cuts.
Royal Dutch Shell, a top Gulf producer, said Wednesday it had resumed about 80 percent of its average daily production in the region.