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North Korea’s Coal Trade in Doubt

 1 min read / 

A fleet of coal-carrying ships is returning to North Korea, as China’s recent ban on imports of its coal sees its first concrete results.#

Editor’s Remarks: China’s ban on North Korean coal came into force in February, almost immediately in response to Kim Jong Un’s repeated missile tests that put the international community on edge. The move cut off the hermit kingdom’s most important export from its most important trade partner and yet was kept rather hushed – not followed by any further harsh words from the Chinese ministries, for example. The the ships’ decision to return back after more than a month therefore suggests that North Korea has firmly received the message (tacitly or by other channels) that China is toughening up on its provocations, backed up by the tentative solidarity over the issue between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at their recent meeting.

##What to watch: Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, Donald Trump, Rex Tillerson, Coal Prices

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Cryptocurrencies

Introducing Bitcoin: What You Need to Know

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Bitcoin

Bitcoin is the largest and first cryptocurrency, with a market capitalisation of just under US$119m (at the time of writing). It was invented by an unknown person, or group, working under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto and released in 2009. Bitcoin was the first decentralised peer-to-peer currency, which could be exchanged with anyone, irrespective of their location, provided the receiver had a bitcoin wallet (all bitcoins are stored in digital wallets).

Using Bitcoin

Sending or receiving bitcoin logs a digital record of this on the bitcoin blockchain. Unlike with banks, bitcoin transactions are verified by users (miners), who are rewarded for processing transactions in bitcoin. There are no middlemen: if I want to send some bitcoin to a friend, I can do so via my bitcoin wallet and pay a small transaction fee. Rather than having a bank account, bitcoin wallets can be downloaded and used without any need to verify your identity. Some see this as a blessing, while others a curse – more on this here. Additionally, if I mistype the wallet ID of the person I wish to send bitcoin to, there is no way to reverse this transaction, something a conventional bank could do. However, in using bitcoin, I can withhold personal information in a way that would not be possible with banks (who require proof of your address and identification).

 

The supply of Bitcoin is fixed at 21 million BTC, and each can be divided into a hundredth of a millionth of a bitcoin (0.00000001 BTC). Some claim a capped supply makes bitcoin a valuable investment, as over time the supply of bitcoin will only increase fractionally, eventually stopping. Others question the core value of bitcoin as a currency, largely due to its volatility. Having a currency that changes in value so frequently undermines stability, and day-to-day people need stability.

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Cryptocurrencies

What Is a Cryptocurrency, Put Simply?

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Cryptocurrency

A cryptocurrency is a decentralised digital asset, which is exchangeable between users on a peer-to-peer transaction system (transactions are recorded on a blockchain). When I use my credit card, I am effectively using a digital currency (no notes or coins change hands) but what makes a cryptocurrency different to a digital currency is that it operates on a decentralised blockchain. No central authority holds all transaction information (like at a bank), instead, every owner of a cryptocurrency owns a copy of the blockchain; this is downloaded and stored locally on your computer when you download the relevant cryptocurrency wallet (what cryptocurrencies are stored in).

What this means is that my transaction is not processed by some centralised authority, like a bank or PayPal, but instead is verified by several users using cryptographic algorithms. Once my transaction has gone through, there is no way it can be changed (there are a few exceptions), so the blockchain (where all these transactions are logged) is immutable, it cannot be edited. And because each user has a copy of the blockchain, if there was ever to be a mistake (or an attempt to hack the blockchain), the system would pick up on this.

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency to be released (on January 3rd, 2009). The Bitcoin Foundation claims it was created in response to fiat currency (backed by central banks) being a historically bad store of value. Inflation and the power of central banks meant people’s wealth could easily be eroded. But whether bitcoin is a legitimate store of wealth, given its high volatility, is highly contested.

But cryptocurrencies don’t stop at bitcoin; they come in with an array of different features. Some stand to replace central banks, while others work directly with them. The technology behind the blockchain has a myriad of uses, and different companies are competing to solve a different problem.

The Market Mogul’s Cryptocurrency Weekly Round-Up

 

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Cryptocurrencies

What Is Ethereum?

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Ethereum

Ethereum is a platform which enables developers to create decentralised (peer-to-peer) applications. While bitcoin enables peer-to-peer transactions, storing this information in the blockchain, the Ethereum platform stores computer programmes. These programmes are written, uploaded to the platform and carried out by a decentralised network of computers.

An example of such a program could be: if account A has a balance of B, and today is 11th June 2018, then transfer C ether to account D – if not, don’t do anything. This programme is known as a smart contract.

Smart contracts enable trust on automated systems; I can write a programme that makes sure my ether is only sent when some criteria are met. In practice, this could take the form of an investor only wishing to invest if the company is able to deliver within some time frame. An investor could create a smart contract which required him/her to pay-in only if predetermined conditions of their contract are met – for example, reaching a company milestone.

Ethereum’s Cryptocurrency

Ether (ETH) is used to compensate those who supply the computing power, which allows the programmes to be executed. Ether is a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin, but its primary purpose is to compensate those who power the platform. While ether can be used as a means of exchange, like bitcoin, this is not its only role.

Ethereum Applications

Ethereum enables developers to use a generalised blockchain to create decentralised applications (more sophisticated computer programmes), taking advantage of the smart contract built into the platform.

One example of this is 4G Capital, a company using the Ethereum platform to bring microfinance to small businesses in Africa. Borrowers are educated in how to use the decentralised application and smart contracts, ensuring they meet their obligations to investors.  

The Market Mogul’s Cryptocurrency Weekly Round-Up

The cryptocurrency space is fast-paced and analysis is often over complicated, we at The Market Mogul want to offer a helping hand.

Each week, our round-up will provide 3 articles, hand picked by our editorial team, as well as the top sources we’re reading from across the web, delivering concise analysis straight to your inbox.

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