Coinbase set to launch licensed Bitcoin exchange in the US

The move follows plans for a regulated Bitcoin exchange by the Winklevoss twins

Bitcoin wallet provider Coinbase will launch the first U.S. licensed exchange for the digital currency on Monday, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

While pointing to a "Lunar" teaser website with a clock counting down to 9 a.m. Eastern Time Monday, Coinbase's Twitter account also posted a link to documentation for Coinbase Exchange, calling them "API docs for our new project."

The move by Coinbase follows plans announced last week for Gemini, a regulated Bitcoin exchange in New York that is backed by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, and reflects a movement to get financial authorities behind Bitcoin amid continued price declines, hacking and criminal cases as well as the collapse of mammoth Japan-based exchange MtGox 11 months ago.

That would go against Bitcoin's founding philosophy as an unregulated, anonymous currency, but if Bitcoin's latest price movements are any indication, traders don't seem to mind. Bitcoin jumped over US$30 on Monday, touching a high of $290 on tracking site CoinDesk. It hit $177 earlier this month, its lowest in over a year.

The Coinbase founders have regulatory approval in half of U.S. states including jurisdictions with big cities in New York and California, according to the Journal. The API (application programmer interface) documents show that the exchange will have no trading fees during a promotional period, after which it will charge 0.25 percent.

Coinbase already claims 2.2 million consumer wallets, 38,000 merchants and 7,000 developer apps. Last week, it announced it had raised $75 million from investors including The New York Stock Exchange, calling it the first time financial institutions made a major investment in a Bitcoin firm.

"2015 will be the year when institutional investors began moving into Bitcoin in large numbers," Jeff Garzik, a Bitcoin developer, said via email.

"Buying and trading bitcoins in the United States has always been a hassle, with many using overseas exchanges. Buying local is always more efficient, involves fewer fees, and is more likely to be compliant with the laws of your jurisdiction. These two exchanges will make Bitcoin more accessible to a huge target market."

Coinbase did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

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