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Regulator unveils plan to monitor cryptocurrencies

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A Bitcoin (virtual currency) paper wallet with QR codes and a coin are seen in an illustration picture taken at La Maison du Bitcoin in Paris, France, May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

GENEVA (AFP) – A financial regulator yesterday unveiled a strategy to monitor whether cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin pose a threat to world economic stability.

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The plan follows on from a concerted drive by central banks and regulatory bodies to keep cryptocurrencies at bay.

In a statement, the Financial Stability Board (FSB), which oversees regulation among G20 economies, said it believes “crypto-assets do not pose a material risk to global financial stability at this time.”

But, the FSB added, the speed at which cryptocurrencies are spreading, the lack of solid data on their use and uncertainty over which rules apply in the sector should spur major economies to redouble their scrutiny.

“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.

The framework also calls of an examination of whether cryptocurrencies are evolving from a method of paying for goods and services into a securities product, which individuals are holdings as a savings device instead of a stock or a bond.

The FSB also underscored “the scarcity of reliable data on banks’ holdings of crypto-assets.”

That point serves as a chilling reminder of the 2008 financial crisis, which was made worse by the fact that some banks did not know their level of exposure to securities backed by junk mortgages, even after those mortgages started to fail.

The FSB said an affiliate called the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision was “conducting an initial stocktake on the materiality of banks’ direct and indirect exposures to crypto-assets.”

It warned that the exposure of financial institutions to cryptocurrencies will serve as a key measurement of the “risks to the broader financial system.”

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