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Weekend Roundup: Up Up and Away

BTC continued its positive momentum. Also, WazirX is escalating its feud with Binance, South Korea wants to track crypto transactions, and more.

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Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies climbed over the weekend, with the world's largest cryptocurrency grazing US$24,000 before paring gains.

At the time of writing, Bitcoin (BTC) is exchanging hands at US$23,628.90 (+1.98%) while Ethereum (ETH) is trading at US$1,636.07 (+2.57%). Major altcoins such as BNB, Polkadot (DOT), and Avalanche (AVAX) have also been trading in green within the same period.

BTC 24-Hour Chart. Data: CoinMarketCap

The crypto market has been enjoying a sustained period of positive momentum in recent weeks, with both BTC and smaller cap coins breaking resistance to continue their ascent. Cryptocurrencies seem to have put the disastrous events of 2022 behind them, and investors have also been encouraged by the expectation that the Federal Reserve will only raise interest rates by just 25 bps at the next FOMC meeting. If BTC can break the US$25,000 resistance level, then investors can expect a clear path towards US$30,000.

Elsewhere, the broader financial markets are also recording positive gains, with the S&P500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbing 0.25% and 0.95% respectively on Friday to cap off a winning week. However, while both the crypto and financial markets are displaying signs of optimism, investors should still remain cautious about the CPI data slated to be released on February 14.

"Firstly, momentum to the topside needs to fade - and we think that with the big bad FOMC looming in a week's time, the market would be a little more cautious," said QCP Capital in its note on Friday.

"With that said, the upcoming FOMC on 1 Feb is just a statement followed by a Powell press conference - and the market has been signalling to the Fed that talk is cheap. Which means we once again have to fall back on CPI to show us the way," it added.

WazirX escalates feud with Binance

India-based cryptocurrency exchange WazirX has escalated its dispute with Binance, with WaxzirX co founder Nischal Shetty refusing to retract public statements claiming that Binance had purchased the exchange.

Last week, according to emails obtained by Coindesk, Binance sent WazirX a demand letter requiring the exchange to publish a pre-written “clarificatory statement” to retract Shetty’s previous statements that Binance owned WazirX. It also requested WazirX to erase all mentions of Binance in its terms of service.

However, WazirX responded by saying that letter was “unethical” and was an an attempt to use “media pressure and threats to force Zanmai (the entity behind WazirX) into issuing false and misleading statements as ‘clarifications.’”

The dispute first began in 2019, when Binance announced in a blogpost that it had acquired WazirX. However CEO Changpeng Zhao later clarified that the deal was never closed and Binance never acquired any shares of Zanmai Lab, with the exchange only acquiring "certain assets and intellectual property of WazirX".

This resulted in WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty tweeting that while Binance does not hold any equity in Zanmai Labs, WazirX was acquired by Binance. Shetty also claimed that Binance owns WazirX’s domain name, root access to AWS servers, crypto assets and crypto profits.

South Korea to track crypto transactions

South Korea is planning to track cryptocurrency transactions, in a bid to curb money laundering activities and recover funds linked to illicit sources.

According to local media outlet khgames, the country's Ministry of Justice is set to introduce a "Virtual Currency Tracking System”, which can be used to "monitor transaction history, extract information related to transactions and check the source of funds before and after remittance".

Last week, South Korea's Supreme Court ordered Bithumb, the country's largest cryptocurrency exchange, to pay damages amounting to KRW 251.4 million (US$202,400) to users who suffered losses during the exchange's service outage.

North Korea's Lazarus attempts to launder stolen funds

North Korea's Lazarus Group has emerged from the shadows again, with the hacking syndicate attempting to launder 17,278 Ether (approximately US$27 million) worth of stolen funds from the Harmony Horizon Bridge attack it carried out in June last year.

According to on-chain data uncovered by blockchain sleuth ZachXBT, the hackers transferred tokens to six different exchanges, with some managing to freeze the stolen funds. The development comes just days after the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) confirmed that Lazarus and fellow North Korean hacking group APT38 were responsible for siphoning US$100 million from Harmony.

Widely believed to be supported by the North Korean government, Lazarus has been operating upwards of a decade and is responsible for infamous cyber attack incidents including the attack on Sony Pictures in 2014 and the spread of WannaCry ransomware in 2017. In recent times, the cyber threat group has been targeting the crypto industry, and is also responsible for the US$650 million heist from NFT game Axie Infinity's Ronin Bridge.

Yuga Labs co founder steps down

Wylie Aronow, the co founder of Yuga Labs, is reportedly taking a leave of absence from work to prioritize his health after a congestive heart failure diagnosis.

Aronow, who goes by the pseudonym "Gordon Goner", said in a tweet on Sunday that he decided to step away as his condition is "progressing pretty fast".  

"What’s next? I’ll stay on as a board member and strategic advisor. My confidence in Yuga’s future and @cryptogarga’s leadership are unwavering. Daniel Alegre (@dalegre) soon joining only makes me more bullish," Aronow said.

Yuga Labs is the team behind Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and CryptoPunks. Last week, the company said in a court filing  that it does not have “copyright registrations” for the 10,000 BAYC images. The documents as part of the ongoing lawsuit between Yuga and artist Ryder Ripps.

Read more: Ryder Ripps’ Bored Apes Raise Existential Questions for NFTs

Trading Volume

According to data from CoinMarketCap, the global crypto market cap stands at US$1.08 trillion, a 1.52% increase since yesterday. The total crypto market volume over the last 24 hours is US$50.26 billion, a 27.99% increase.

Fear & Greed Index

Risk appetites in crypto continue to surge – the Crypto Fear and Greed Index currently stands at 61, indicating “greed."

The index uses 5-6 measurements to assess the current sentiment of the market and then rates that level of emotion on a scale of 1-100 – 1 is extreme fear and 100 is extreme greed.