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Bitcoin Approaches Year Low as Japan Cracks Down on Venues

Bitcoin approached its lowest price for the year after Japanese regulators hit six of the country’s biggest cryptocurrency trading venues with business-improvement orders.

The crackdown surprised investors, ending what was about to be the first winning week since early June for the largest digital coin and for the 10 most-liquid tokens. The MVIS CryptoCompare Digital Assets 10 Index tumbled as much as 11 percent on Friday. The gauge already fell in five of the past six weeks.

Some of the targets of Japan’s regulator were quick to react. Bitflyer Inc. said it would stop accepting new customers and also review identity verification for some existing users after it received an order from Japan’s Financial Services Agency. The FSA called for improved measures at all the exchanges against money laundering. The companies must submit their plans by July 23.

“The market is still trading on low volumes and has yet to break out of its current downtrend, leaving itself susceptible to sell-offs,” said Ryan Rabaglia, head trader with cryptocurrency dealing firm Octagon Strategy Ltd. in Hong Kong, in an email. “Although the market reacted negatively, I view this as a positive for the industry as a whole.”

QUOINE, Bitbank, BTCBOX, BITPoint Japan and Tech Bureau were the other exchanges penalized by the FSA. While Japan created a regulatory framework for exchanges last year that proved a lure for bourses, the $500 million heist in January at Coincheck Inc. prompted the country’s regulators to increase scrutiny of the industry.

“The market is quite soft, with liquidity lower across the board, especially compared to recent quarters,” said Tiantian Zhang Kullander, a partner of Amber AI Group, a crypto hedge fund. “The FSA punishing operators, the BIS report and the Bithumb hack are all affecting sentiment.”

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