July 16, 2018 / 8:02 AM / 4 months ago

Global regulators start monitoring crypto assets

LONDON (Reuters) - Global regulators have published a framework for “vigilantly” monitoring risks from crypto assets like bitcoin BTC=BTSP and ether, even though they don’t pose a major risk to financial stability for now.

FILE PHOTO: Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture, February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Wild swings in crypto asset prices have prompted central bankers to warn investors they could lose every penny. It is unclear at times which financial rules, if any, apply to the sector or if there is legal authority to regulate it.

Start ups have begun issuing new digital currencies via initial coin offerings (ICOs), raising concern among regulators over investor protection.

The aim of the new framework is to spot any financial stability risks early enough to take action.

The Financial Stability Board (FSB), which coordinates financial regulation for the Group of 20 Economies (G20), said the framework focuses on how risks from crypto asset markets could spread to other parts of the financial system.

“Monitoring the size and growth of crypto-asset markets is critical to understanding the potential size of wealth effects, should valuations fall,” the FSB said in a statement on Monday.

“The use of leverage, and financial institution exposures to crypto-asset markets are important metrics of transmission of crypto-asset risks to the broader financial system.”

The aim of the new framework is to spot any financial stability risks early enough to take action.

But the FSB cautioned that data is still patchy at times in a rapidly developing market that can be fragmented and opaque. It would assess whether the framework will need extra data at a later stage.

Moves to formally monitor the sector forms part of a compromise in March between G20 members like France, who wanted more radical action, and other countries who preferred treading lightly for now.

The FSB framework also includes trading volumes, pricing, clearing and margining for derivatives linked to crypto assets, such as the bitcoin futures launched by CME Group (CME.O) last December.

Crypto assets in general and crypto asset trading platforms do not pose global financial stability risks, but they raise other significant concerns, including consumer and investor protection, market integrity and money laundering/terrorism financing, the FSB said.

It said its affiliate, the Basel Committee, which writes bank capital standards, is conducting an “initial stocktake” of banks’ exposures to crypto assets.

The committee is also looking at whether regulators are forcing lenders to set aside capital against holdings of crypto assets, and considering whether to rewrite its rules to explicitly require such holdings to be covered.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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