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Bitcoin Worth Millions Stolen Days Before US Exchange Opens

Bitcoins worth millions stolen, re-think before you invest in cryptocurrency!

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FILE - A bitcoin logo is displayed at the Inside Bitcoins conference and trade show in New York.

A bitcoin mining company in Slovenia has been hacked for the possible theft of tens of millions of dollars, just days before the virtual currency, which hit a record above $15,000 on Thursday, is due to start trading on major U.S. exchanges.

NiceHash, a company that mines bitcoins on behalf of customers, said it is investigating a security breach and will stop operating for 24 hours while it verifies how many bitcoins were taken.

Research company Coindesk said that a wallet address referred to by NiceHash users indicates that about 4,700 bitcoins had been stolen. At Thursday’s record price of about $15,000, that puts the value at over $70 million.

There was no immediate response from NiceHash to an emailed request for more details.

“The incident has been reported to the relevant authorities and law enforcement and we are cooperating with them as a matter of urgency,” it said. The statement urged users to change their online passwords.

Slovenian police are investigating the case together with authorities in other states, spokesman Bostjan Lindav said, without providing details.

The hack will put a spotlight on the security of bitcoin just as the trading community prepares for the currency to start trading on two established U.S. exchanges. Futures for bitcoin will start trading on the Chicago Board Options Exchange on Sunday evening and on crosstown rival CME Group’s platforms later in the month.

That has increased the sense among some investors that bitcoin is gaining in mainstream legitimacy after several countries, like China, tried to stifle the virtual currency.

As a result, the price of bitcoin has jumped in the past year, particularly so in recent weeks. On Thursday it surged to over $15,000, up $1,300 in less than a day, according to Coindesk. At the start of the year, one bitcoin was worth less than $1,000.

Bitcoin is the world’s most popular virtual currency. Such currencies are not tied to a bank or government and allow users to spend money anonymously. They are basically lines of computer code that are digitally signed each time they are traded.

A debate is raging on the merits of such currencies. Some say they serve merely to facilitate money laundering and illicit, anonymous payments. Others say they can be helpful methods of payment, such as in crisis situations where national currencies have collapsed.

Miners of bitcoins and other virtual currencies help keep the systems honest by having their computers keep a global running tally of transactions. That prevents cheaters from spending the same digital coin twice.

Online security is a vital concern for such dealings.

In Japan, following the failure of a bitcoin exchange called Mt. Gox, new laws were enacted to regulate bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Mt. Gox shut down in February 2014, saying it lost about 850,000 bitcoins, possibly to hackers.

Ali Zerdin in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Carlo Piovano in London contributes to this story.(VOA)

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Rupee Depreciation Against Dollar Leads to Sharp Rise in Crude Prices

The rupee lost heavily towards the end of the week - over 70 paise in the last three trading session.

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The currency losing against the dollar and rising crude oil prices was a double whammy for the bond markets. Pixabay

In a choppy week’s trade, the Indian currency weakened against the US dollar to close above the 71 a dollar mark on Friday, owing to a sharp rise in crude oil prices, turmoil in the equity markets and uncertainty around the US-China trade relations.

In what could translate into further trouble for the domestic currency, analysts see an upward move of 6 to 7 per cent in the Brent crude prices in the coming week.

The rupee lost heavily towards the end of the week – over 70 paise in the last three trading session – as traders reacted to the sanction on Venezuela and production cut by OPEC and Saudi Arabia.

Sajal Gupta, Head Fx & Rates Edelweiss, said “technically … crude now looks set for another 6-7 per cent rise” which would mean that the rupee was likely to depreciate further in the coming sessions. “And if Rs 71.80 per dollar is broken, we can head towards Rs 72.50 mark.”

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The rupee lost heavily towards the end of the week – over 70 paise in the last three trading session. Pixabay

Among other factors impacting the currency, Gupta said, with crude and dollar index giving breakout, rupee would remain under pressure. Trade deficit data released on Friday post market was also not very encouraging with monthly deficit touching almost 15 billion dollars.

“Political tensions would also remain heightened with key leaders vowing strong retaliation in wake of the biggest terror attack in the Kashmir valley.”

Explaining the factors which has caused volatility, Anindya Banerjee of Kotak said the currency markets largely depend on the capital flows … and right now the fear of a possible retaliation by the government in response to the Pulwama attack is having an affect.

“The context of the whole event is also important because (Lok Sabha) elections are around the corner,” Banerjee said.

Also, the currency losing against the dollar and rising crude oil prices was a double whammy for the bond markets, he added.

On the global front, discussing the factors affecting the currency, Banerjee said, the Chinese economy was very fragile right now and moreover investors were looking for developments in the US-China trade talks.

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India on Friday revoked the Most Favoured Nation Status (MNS) of Pakistan which has led to decline in equite markets for 6 straight years. Pixabay

However, Gurang Somaiya, currency analyst, Motilal Oswal, felt that the rupee was protected from any major weakness as “Foreign Institutional Investment (FII’s) came around good”, especially in February.

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According to data from the bourses, FII has seen inflows worth Rs 1,096 crore in February.

India on Friday revoked the Most Favoured Nation Status (MNS) of Pakistan and has warned that more stern actions will follow the attack in Pulwama. Additionally, equity markets have declined for 6 straight sessions showing weak investor sentiments. (IANS)