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Crypto conference shows bitcoin is getting more exciting again

New York

AS LITTLE as six months ago, bitcoin was moribund, with prices languishing at a fifth of its record high, disappointing a mass of cryptocurrency enthusiasts who had grown use to extreme - and often upward - moves in the virtual currency.

But this week's Asia Blockchain Summit in Taipei highlighted how volatility is back, reviving the excitement around crypto trading.

"Bitcoin is fun, but it's a hell of a lot more fun at 100 times leverage," said Arthur Hayes, the founder and chief executive officer of the exchange BitMEX. "That's what people want to see in crypto, they want that high volatility," he said. "At the end of the day, we're all in the entertainment business of traders."

The Taipei conference was the second annual iteration of an Asia forum that brings investors together with startups, financial services providers, academics and others to engage on the blockchain technology that powers digital coins.

"We're surfing a wave here that's very linked to the price of bitcoin and probably has taken a couple of months to filter through," said attendee Vincent Alibert of ZVChain, a business-to-business blockchain project.

"We don't see any more of these revolutionary ICO pitches," he said, referring to initial coin offerings, which have generally lost favour after many tokens lost more than 90 per cent of their value.

Despite the buzz, there were some sceptics present. One of bitcoin's most prominent detractors, New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini, spoke at the conference to reiterate his argument that "there's massive, massive amounts of price manipulation" in cryptocurrencies.

He cited a lack of security and scalability, along with concentration of crypto ownership among his concerns with the industry. BLOOMBERG