Bitcoin surged over 5% in Wednesday morning trading in Asia to breach the US$28,000 resistance level, leading a rally of the top 10 non-stablecoin cryptocurrencies except XRP. Bitcoin’s jump followed the Tuesday evening launch of EDX Markets, a cryptocurrency exchange backed by major Wall Street players such as Citadel Securities, Fidelity and Charles Schwab. Meanwhile, the U.S. equity futures edged lower as investors waited for the Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s Wednesday testimony to Congress, with economic data on Tuesday pointing to a recovery in the U.S. housing market.

Bitcoin leads crypto rally

Bitcoin jumped 5.65% over the last 24 hours to US$28,285 at 07:30 a.m. in Hong Kong, moving up 9.36% for the past seven days, according to data from CoinMarketCap. The world’s largest cryptocurrency breached the US$28,000 mark early Wednesday for the first time since May 30.

Ether also gained 2.94% to US$1,788 and added 3% for the week. Most top 10 non-stablecoin tokens traded higher in the past 24 hours as Bitcoin spearheaded the rally, with the exception of XRP, which dipped 0.34% over the same period.

EDX Markets, a New Jersey-based crypto exchange, officially launched on Tuesday. Its investors include Fidelity Investment, an asset manager overseeing more than US$4 trillion in assets, and will offer Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin trading services.

The launch of EDX Markets echoes BlackRock’s Bitcoin exchange-traded fund filing last week, which indicates institutional interest in cryptocurrencies despite the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s crackdown on the industry.

“The SEC’s probability of approving the Blackrock Bitcoin ETF is high,” said Markus Thielen, head of crypto research at digital asset service platform Matrixport, in an email. “The ETF might be approved by September/October 2023 and will attract US$10 billion within three months and US$20 billion within six months — materially supporting Bitcoin prices.”

Adding to the signals of institutional adoption, German investment bank Deutsche Bank has reportedly applied for a license from German regulators to offer custody services for digital assets including cryptocurrencies, according to Bloomberg on Tuesday.

On the regulatory front, the U.K.’s Financial Services and Markets Bill, which proposes cryptocurrency regulation in the country, was approved by the Parliament’s upper house on Sunday, signaling that the bill is now in its final stage before being enacted into law. 

“[The bill] could essentially recognize cryptocurrencies as a regulated activity and stablecoins as a means of payment,” said investment fund Ark36 Chief Executive Officer Anto Paroian in an email. “If the bill is accepted and put into law, this could propel the cryptocurrency industry as a whole into a more mature and respected position within the global financial landscape while putting Britain on the map as a potential global hub for crypto.”

The total cryptocurrency market cap rose 3.70% to US$1.11 trillion in the last 24 hours, while crypto trading volume rose 47.78% to US$38.63 billion, according to CoinMarketCap data.

NFT transactions rise across markets

The indexes are proxy measures of the performance of the global NFT market. They are managed by CryptoSlam, a sister company of Forkast.News under the Forkast.Labs umbrella.

In the non-fungible token (NFT) market, the Forkast 500 NFT index rose 1.34% in the 24 hours to 10:00 a.m. in Hong Kong but was still down 1.10% for the week.

NFT transactions on Ethereum dipped 0.81% in the past 24 hours to US$13.84 million, according to CryptoSlam data. Transactions on the Bitcoin, Solana and Polygon blockchains also logged gains for the past 24 hours.

Azuki topped the 24-hour transactions on the Ethereum blockchain, which rose 3.33% to 1.21 million, while Bored Ape Yacht Clubs (BAYC) transactions gained 37.05% to US$1.15 million.

“[The launch of EDX markets and Deutsche Bank applying for digital asset custody service license indicate] the future of crypto is beginning to take shape. This has implications for the NFT markets, though in the short term, not enough to reverse the recent market trends,” said Yehudah Petscher, NFT strategist at Forkast Labs, the parent company of Forkast.News.

The collaboration between Nike’s Web3 platform .SWOOSH and the online video game Fortnite was unveiled on Tuesday. The partnership introduced “Airphoria”, a Nike-themed game world, into Fortnite, where players can play to earn digital sneakers and outfits as in-game accessories. However, the collaboration did not introduce NFTs to Fortnite as some had expected.

“While many were hopeful that NFTs would arrive in Fortnite directly, there are some NFT tie-ins, as gamers who link their Nike account to their Fortnite account will receive an NFT that provides access to a future .SWOOSH NFT drop, along with an achievement on Nike’s .SWOOSH platform,” said Petscher.

“A secondary market for these digital collectible shoes still isn’t live, but it’s expected to launch at any time, and we’ll get to see how sales compare to other web2 facing mediums like Reddit Avatars,” Petscher added.

Yuga Labs, the developer of BAYC, announced on Wednesday that HV-MTL Forge, a game based on the BAYC-related HV-MTL NFT collection, would be launched on June 29, triggering a surge of HV-MTL transactions, which rose 287.07% in the past 24 hours to US$360,129, according to CryptoSlam data.

Meanwhile, in Asia, a group of Rohingya photographers issued an NFT collection “Rohingyatographer” on the Ethereum blockchain on Tuesday. The collection features 50 photographs of Rohingya people’s life to commemorate Refugee Week, which will be open for auction on OpenSea from June 20 to June 27.

U.S. futures flat 

U.S. stock futures traded flat to lower as of 11:15 a.m. in Hong Kong. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures and the S&P 500 futures both inched 0.01% lower, while Nasdaq futures dipped 0.03%. 

The three major U.S. stock indexes closed lower on Tuesday as investors wait for the Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s semi-annual report to the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, which will provide further insights into the Fed’s next move on interest rates.

Although the Fed paused the interest rate hikes on June 14, it projects the interest rate to reach 5.6% in 2023, indicating two more rate hikes within the year.

Adding to investors’ caution, the U.S. transportation giant FedEx Corp. provided a worse-than-expected outlook in its fourth quarter report released Tuesday, citing “continued demand weakness,” according to Bloomberg.

On the economic data front, the U.S. housing starts — which measures new home constructions — reached 1.63 million in May, an increase of over 20% from April, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The data is well beyond the analysts’ expectation of a 0.1% decrease, according to CNN on Tuesday, and points to strong demand in the U.S. housing market.

U.S. interest rates are now between 5% and 5.25%, the highest since 2006. The Federal Reserve’s next meeting on rates is July 26. The CME FedWatch Tool predicts a 23.1% chance the Fed will keep rates unchanged in July, and a 76.9% chance for another 25-basis-point rate hike, up from 74.4% on Tuesday.

(Updates with NFT and Equities section.)