**Thanks for stopping by for our weekly recap of major headlines in bitcoin and fintech news. **The end of 2016 isn’t far off, and December has already packed in some big headlines. Circle announced a move away from usage as a bitcoin wallet, and a Danish firm’s report predicts the price could triple in 2017. Plus, exciting developments in Malaysia are making bitcoin easier to buy, sell, and use. Read about these headlines and more, in our weekly news recap!
Adapting and moving forwardIn such a diverse space, changes in direction are only inevitable as companies adapt in ways that best suit their mission and goals. That could mean directly interacting with bitcoin (the currency), or using the technology that powers it in a specific way. On that note, payment solutions provider Circle has announced a major change: a [move away from letting customers buy and sell bitcoin](https://support.circle.com/hc/en-us/articles/217972003). [A CoinJournal article](http://coinjournal.net/circle-pivots-away-bitcoin-blockchain-doubles-digital-currency/) cited lack of growth and progress for bitcoin as primary reasons for this. Circle also introduced Spark, an open source project that CEO, Jeremy Allaire, and Co-Founder, Sean Neville, [describe as](https://blog.circle.com/2016/12/06/spark-new-markets-app-messaging-and-bitcoin-changes/), “a set of protocol additions that provides a way for digital wallets to exchange value using blockchains, including Bitcoin, as settlement layers.”
In contrast to Circle, our CEO, Peter Smith, reaffirmed our decision to stay focused on bitcoin. Our team recently rolled out the capability to buy bitcoin in the Blockchain Wallet, which is now available in 34 countries across Europe. Excitingly, we were also recognized as one of the Virgin Media Business Disruptor 10 for our pioneering role as the world’s most popular bitcoin wallet.
Prospects for 2017
While many successes are unfolding for bitcoin, existing challenges like governmental regulation and scaling decisions present some potentially big roadblocks for the degree and speed of its growth. Looking back, the price began 2016 hovering within the $400 range. Fast forward to December 2016, and we’re seeing numbers in the $700 range and speculation that its value is likely to surge even further.
A recent Time Money article references a report from Saxo Bank that suggests the Trump administration’s spending will cause a flurry of negative side effects including skyrocketing inflation rates. And as a result, the chaos in the mainstream sector could highlight the appeal of bitcoin. Saxo Bank researchers speculate the price could “easily triple over the next year going from the current $700 level to +$2,100.” Independent investor, Tuur Demeester, shared his thoughts on the price, and thinks “scalability bottlenecks” may cause some resistance in the short and medium-term, but he remains optimistic about 2017.
Of course, predictions are never certain, but the infrastructure and community built around bitcoin has been a major factor for its persistence. An article on Finance Magnates draws this contrast between bitcoin and ethereum, and also correlates the ethereum blockchain’s 36% market cap decline since July to increased focus on “cyber attacks and development issues.”
Around the World: Vietnam, Malaysia, ItalyOn a global outlook, the Vietnamese government announced a plan to [legalize and regulate bitcoin](https://cointelegraph.com/news/vietnam-to-legalize-regulate-bitcoin) as a way to help curb criminal activity and protect Vietnamese bitcoin users. This is an opposite move from the [bitcoin ban](http://www.thehindu.com/business/vietnam-bans-bitcoin/article5736019.ece) that took place in Vietnam in 2014, which unsurprisingly did not prove effective in deterring locals from using the cryptocurrency.
Many governments have yet to reveal where they stand on the use of bitcoin, but startups and entrepreneurs are hard at work building solutions that will meet the local demand. With the tightening of capital controls in Malaysia, startups like Coins.my are making it easier for Malaysians and expats to buy, sell, and pay for utility bills with bitcoin.
Like we see with headlines shared week-after-week, government instability and declining economies tend to leave citizens looking for alternative ways to protect their wealth. In Italy, locals voted anoverwhelming No on a referendum proposed by Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, who has since announced his resignation. Italy is now faced with the task of rebuilding its fragile economy and electoral process, as the country prepares for a new election, hopefully by summer 2017. We’ll wait and see what effect these events will have on bitcoin, if any. With six operating exchanges and a network of eight ATMs, Italians certainly have a decent selection of alternative options available.
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