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Ethereum and the entire crypto market is consolidating today following some recent turbulence.Bulls stepped up after the entire market saw a massive selloff yesterday and absorbed the influx of selling pressure, allowing BTC to rocket past $40,000 and ETH to move higher.Today, the market has consolidated and drifted slightly lower, although bulls still seem to be poised to catalyze further upside.One trader is now noting that Ethereum could be well-positioned to see upside in the near-term, adding that its outlook is growing strong by the day. Ethereum has been struggling to gain any immense momentum as it navigated towards the mid-$1,200 region, with the selling pressure here proving to be significant.Each move towards $1,300 has sparked rejections, and its price has been moving in close tandem with Bitcoin’s.
Cryptocurrencies could grow fivefold by 2025 into a $3 trillion market, under new projections from Bakkt Holdings, the digital-asset financial firm.Bakkt published the estimate as part of an investor presentation released Monday in connection with its new plan to go public via a merger with Victory Park Capital, a special-purpose acquisition company. Bakkt is majority-owned by Intercontinental Exchange Inc., which also owns the New York Stock Exchange. The deal would give Bakkt an enterprise value of about $2.1 billion, according to a press release.The underlying assumptions behind the transaction show just how bullish investors, entrepreneurs and financial executives have become over the past year on the fast-paced digital-asset industry, especially after prices for bitcoin (BTC, +11.08%), the largest cryptocurrency, quadrupled in 2020.Just last week, the industry’s total market capitalization surpassed $1 trillion for the first time, though a swoon over the past few days in prices for bitcoin and other digital assets has since trimmed the total value to about $931 billion, according to the website CoinGecko.Bakkt currently runs a market for cryptocurrency derivatives including bitcoin futures, but in March the company plans to release a new consumer application that could allow users to manage digital assets and use them for spending and peer-to-peer payments alongside cash and rewards miles.“It’s these shifts that we are leveraging for the benefit of both customer and merchants, truly unlocking a massive market by empowering the monetization of digital assets,” Gavin Michael, former head of technology for Citigroup’s global consumer bank, told investors Monday on a conference call, according to a transcript.In the investor presentation, Bakkt estimated its revenue, net of transaction-related expenses, could grow by an average 75% per year to $515 million by 2025. The company is expected to turn cash-flow positive by 2023.According to one slide in the investor presentation, Bakkt operates in a “massive serviceable addressable market” that was worth about $1.6 trillion in 2020, including $564 billion for the “notional value” of cryptocurrency.By 2025, the presentation estimates, the company’s overall target market would increase to $5.1 trillion, including $3 trillion of cryptocurrency.Trading volumes and active addresses for bitcoin have now surpassed their previous all-time highs during the last crypto bull run in 2017, and the data has given some analysts confidence the bull market for bitcoin is not over yet."At its highest point last week, over 1.3 million bitcoin addresses were active in a single day," the on-chain data analytics firm wrote in its weekly market report on Jan. 11. "This continued spike indicates an impressive level of new adoption and activity for bitcoin, and suggests that the number of market participants in the network may be higher than ever before."Bitcoin's price was traded at $34,011.89, according to CoinDesk's BPI, down 11.10% in the past 24 hours.Some said that the latest market sell-off was due to some short-term profit-taking by institutional investors, after prices went too high in the past week.Many have said bitcoin's bull run since 2020 has been largely led by traditional institutions in North America, evidenced by the significant growth on the bitcoin's futures market on the CME, which mainly serves institutional investors.Bitcoin continues to trade in the opposite direction to the Dollar Index in a reflection of the cryptocurrency’s maturation as a macro asset like gold.The top cryptocurrency by market value slumped to $32,400 early on Monday, having set record highs above $41,800 on Friday.The crash came alongside a bounce in the Dollar Index (DXY), which tracks the greenback’s value against major currencies. The DXY has jumped to two-week highs near 90.50, extending a two-day winning streak. The index reached a 33-month low of 89.21 on Jan. 6, according to TradingView.Since the major markets crash in March, bitcoin (BTC, +10%) and the index have trended in opposite directions, with bitcoin witnessing consolidation or correction during DXY’s temporary recovery rallies.“Bitcoin’s value increased as the money supply and inflation expectations grew. At the same time, the dollar depreciated to multi-year lows, resulting in an inverse correlation between the government-backed fiat and decentralized digital asset,” Kaiko Research noted in its December market report.Bitcoin’s price fell from $12,000 to $10,000 in early September and remained sidelined for the rest of the month as the dollar index bounced from 91.75 to 94.75. Similar action was observed in June 2020.The cryptocurrency’s rally resumed in October as the foreign exchange markets began selling the dollar on expectations of additional U.S. fiscal stimulus. A steep drop in the DXY accompanied the cryptocurrency’s meteoric rise from $15,000 to above $41,000 seen over the past two months or so.The inverse correlation isn’t surprising, given that publicly listed companies such as MicroStrategy are buying bitcoin to preserve the inflation-adjusted value of their treasury assets, mainly cash (USD).“What we’re trying to do is preserve our treasury; the purchasing power of the cash is debasing rapidly,” MicroStrategy’s CEO Michael Saylor told CoinDesk in November.The dollar’s latest bounce looks to have been fueled by a rise in U.S. Treasury yields.Bitcoin is not the only asset falling alongside the dollar’s recovery rally. Gold, the classic inflation hedge, declined to a one-month low of $1,817 early Monday. The yellow metal peaked at a multi-week high of $1,959 last week as the DXY found a temporary bottom.It remains to be seen if a continued rally for the dollar, if any, will fuel a deeper drop in bitcoin.At press time, bitcoin is trading near $33,520, representing a 15% drop on a 24-hour basis.One of the fun things about jigsaw puzzles, for those of you that haven’t tried them, is the satisfying snap of pieces fitting together to reveal part of a picture. Another is watching the whole picture emerge as more pieces are joined.In July of last year, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) said national banks could custody crypto assets. That was a pretty big deal because, should national banks start to offer this service, investors could in theory ask their habitual institution to custody all their holdings, be they stocks, bonds or crypto. So much easier. A major barrier to crypto investment removed.In September, the OCC said banks could provide services to stablecoin issuers, such as holding reserves. Banks had been doing this for some time, but in an uncertain regulatory environment. Now they had official approval to do so. Stablecoins backed one-to-one by fiat held in bank reserves are not deemed a risk in one of the most regulated industries in the U.S.And then this week the federal banking regulator published an interpretive letter saying that national banks and federal savings associations can use public blockchains to store and validate payments. It effectively awards blockchains the status of “payment network.”Do you see the picture emerging? It’s not just about expanding the range of products banks can offer clients. It’s not just about offering better payment services. It’s about the convergence between traditional and crypto markets. It’s also about the role of the dollar in the economies of tomorrow.Let’s look at why this emerging picture is worth your attention:It is good news for crypto markets: a nudge to traditional banks to offer support for blockchain infrastructure and even facilitate crypto transactions. This makes crypto investments easier for traditional investors, which will bring more money into the industry, which will encourage more infrastructure development, and so on in a virtuous circle that will end up offering opportunity to an ever-wider user base. If investors can pay for crypto assets with stablecoins issued by their bank, through their bank and have the assets automatically dropped into their bank custody account, then why not put part of your portfolio in a systemic hedge instrument? Barriers are removed.It is good for traditional markets because it is likely to encourage the emergence of a new type of lower-cost and more transparent settlement system. In spite of substantial improvement over the past decade or so, traditional settlement is still hampered by reconciliation needs. Using stablecoins does not necessarily fix this (the issues are more legal than technological), but it does open the door to an alternative process that may be worth deeper investigation and which may tie in with a future market of tokenized traditional assets, new types of assets that we have not yet even begun to design and everything in between.It is good for the banking sector, potentially opening the door to new types of financial products as well as payment and collateral services. With banking margins squeezed by ever-onerous compliance costs and low interest rates that are unlikely to increase any time soon, the need to diversify revenue streams and extract more value from existing clients is becoming increasingly imperative for a systemically important part of our economy.It is good for financial innovation. Banks can use stablecoins but they can also issue them, potentially with bells and whistles and functionalities attached. JPM Coin, issued by investment bank JPMorgan, is now live and used to make global wholesale payments. Others will follow, each with its own functionality and target customer base. And if they become interoperable, we’ll have a swarm of programmable tokens that can boost liquidity in previously overlooked economic segments while lowering costs for, as well as encouraging, new types of transactions.It is good for liquidity. Apart from the potential diversity within and use cases for programmable stablecoins mentioned above, more crypto dollars sloshing around a system that allows for interchangeable settlement tokens is likely to allow for better optimization of capital.
It is good for the global economy. More efficient cross-border settlements will be good for trade, lowering the costs of documentation and compliance and maybe finally giving blockchain supply chain and trade finance apps the transactional piece they’ve been missing. Better payment systems boost economic activity.It is good for the U.S. dollar. With the U.S. leading the charge on this, it is likely that dollar-backed stablecoins will become the de facto global settlement token, further consolidating the dollar’s hegemony. More dependence on the dollar could make the global economy more vulnerable, especially with a limitless supply of the currency flooding the market. But blockchain-based systems allow for the rapid iteration of payment token innovation, and human ingenuity is likely to find a way to compensate for weaknesses and vulnerabilities when necessary.The jigsaw puzzle metaphor I introduced at the beginning reminds me of one of my favorite philosophies: “Just when you think you have life’s puzzle all figured out, someone hands you another piece.”The crypto markets are like that. Just when you think you understand the potential impact of bitcoin (BTC, +8.26%) and other decentralized value tokens, you find out that this story is not just about a new type of market. It’s also about traditional markets and how they evolve.While there are many hurdles yet to overcome, and many more pieces of legislation and regulatory guidance needed, we are getting a glimpse of what the finance of tomorrow could look like. And blockchains and crypto assets play a meaningful role in the emerging picture, which depicts so much more than rising prices and portfolio allocations. It sketches a new way of transacting, something that eventually will affect all of us. Everyone knows that all bubbles pop when a needle appears on the scene. It’s hard to imagine anything as messy and noisy as an insurrection being compared to something as small and sharp as a needle, so let’s mix metaphors and go with the sudden appearance of a “bump in the road.”But that didn’t happen – the main U.S. stock markets continued to go up, and call options saw their fourth-highest volume day on record. So, either traditional U.S. markets are not in a bubble or we have not yet had that bump.Yet, if it’s not 10-year yields edging over 1% for the first time since March … If it’s not a greater likelihood of corporate tax increases or antitrust legislation … If it’s not, heck, the realization that political polarization has pushed faith in the democratic process to a generational low, then what will that bump look like? I shudder to think.The optimist in me likes to think that the strength of the market in the face of greater political turmoil than I’ve ever seen, demonstrates unbending trust that the U.S. democratic institutions will hold, no matter what. That’s touching. But it doesn’t feel true.To confuse things further, crypto assets also had an extraordinary week, with BTC and ETH (+10.62%) throwing up returns of over 34% and 60%, respectively.As I type, the BTC price is again flirting with $40,000, double what it was three weeks ago. Could this also be a bubble?The difference between the movements in BTC and ETH is that they have strong fundamental drivers behind them. These include the multiple “bumps in the road” that we referred to above, and the growing awareness from institutional investors that these assets were designed to operate separately from the traditional economy, with different incentives and accounting mechanisms.That said, a short-term correction from these levels would not be surprising (although demand may be such that it doesn’t happen). And if traditional markets crash, it is likely we will see crypto assets head down as well in the rush to liquidity. But, looking further ahead, the underlying fundamentals have never been stronger.The Stone Ridge investor letter is a must-read – one of the most eloquent and insightful (not to mention amusing and moving) pieces I’ve read in a long time, on the nature of money and why bitcoin matters.Investor Bill Miller, whose flagship mutual fund in 2020 beat the S&P 500 Index for the straight second year, said he believes bitcoin could replace cash and markets are underpricing inflation risk. And then there’s this: “Warren Buffett famously called bitcoin rat poison. He may well be right. Bitcoin could be rat poison, and the rat could be cash.”He also pointed out, in a separate interview, that bitcoin “gets less risky the higher it goes.”Skybridge Capital, the hedge-fund investing firm headed by Anthony Scaramucci, confirmed its launch of a new bitcoin fund Monday and said its exposure to bitcoin has already reached $310 million.According to Michael Sonnenshein, former managing director and now CEO of digital asset manager Grayscale Investments (owned by DCG, also the parent of CoinDesk), a broader range of institutional investors, including pensions and endowments, is starting to participate in the company’s crypto asset funds. This is the best quote I’ve seen on why even skeptics should be investing in bitcoin, via Lionel Laurent and Mark Gilbert in Bloomberg: “Bitcoin is the perfect vehicle for exploiting mankind’s infinite stupidity,” says Julian Rimmer, a sales trader at Investec Plc. “A small percentage of one’s portfolio must be held in this ‘asset’ because gullibility never goes out of fashion.”JPMorgan’s Global Markets Strategy team has published a note that puts a long-term theoretical price target on BTC of $146,000, assuming BTC’s volatility converges to that of gold. Merryn Somerset Webb, editor-in-chief of MoneyWeek, said in an op-ed for the Financial Times that she will put some money into bitcoin, but confesses that her “go-to inflation hedge will remain gold for the simple reason that it isn’t new.”The CFA Institute Research Foundation, part of the global association for investment professionals, has published a 64-page guide to crypto asset investing. “Cryptoassets: The Guide to Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Cryptocurrency for Investment Professionals” was written by Matt Hougan and David Lawant, respectively CIO and analyst at crypto fund manager Bitwise. TAKEAWAY: This publication is significant since the CFA Institute is a respected source of continuing fund management education. Their promotion of a guide not only validates cryptocurrencies and tokens as worth considering for portfolios; it also puts a well-written and thorough information document in front of the association’s almost 200,000 members.Cryptocurrency exchange Bakkt, backed by NYSE parent Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), is in advanced talks to go public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings, according to Bloomberg. TAKEAWAY: That the first large crypto SPAC is an infrastructure play highlights the difference between now and 2017. Back then it was about shiny new tokens and “decentralized protocols.” Now infrastructure dominates new funding.The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) is now the largest bitcoin futures exchange in terms of open interest in the world. TAKEAWAY: This is indicative of the growth of institutional interest in crypto markets – the CME is one of the few U.S.-regulated crypto derivatives exchanges, and is therefore the venue for most U.S. institutional activity in bitcoin futures. The growth is spectacular, given that the exchange started Q4 in fifth place (see our Quarterly Review for more on this.) Bitwise Asset Management revealed that its AUM has increased five-fold to $500 million, up from $100 million reported in late Octobers. TAKEAWAY: More evidence, if any was needed, of growing institutional interest. Most of the increase came from the multi-asset fund, which shows that investors are starting to think beyond bitcoin.Crypto custodian BitGo has expanded its Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) project, which converts bitcoin into an Ethereum-based token, to the Tron network. Previously only available on the Ethereum network, WBTC converts bitcoin into a bitcoin-backed token on a different blockchain. BitGo has also enabled Wrapped Ether (WETH) on Tron. TAKEAWAY: This expands the yield potential of BTC, as well as its potential attractiveness to professional investors. WBTC tracks the value of BTC, but can also be used in decentralized finance applications, some of which offer yields of over 10%.The ban announced in October by the U.K’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on the sale of derivatives and exchange-traded notes (ETNs) to retail investors went into effect this week. TAKEAWAY: This is unlikely to have a material impact initially as professional investors can still access these products, and retail investors can still buy crypto assets. It is a clear indication, however, of how much investment independence the FCA thinks retail investors should have, even with ample information.The spread between the six-month implied volatility for ETH and BTC has risen to a record high of 46%. TAKEAWAY: This tells us that the market is expecting higher volatility for ETH relative to BTC, which in a bull market implies higher returns.You might have seen that CoinDesk (yes, us) has acquired TradeBlock, the industry’s leading crypto index provider. TAKEAWAY: This gives us access to deeper data sets on market movements, as well as robust indices for crypto asset prices. It will also allow us to better serve the professional investor audience, combining information, insight and data.Energy consumption from Bitcoin mining is massive, and people are taking notice. The increases have been scaling fast, with mining energy usage quickly surpassing the totals of small countries. And many see this ever-increasing carbon footprint as a threat to climate change.But it’s no threat. In fact, increasing energy usage might save the plant. In the early days of Bitcoin mining, you could mine with a laptop in your home. Simply set up a rig and let it run, and while it might get a little warm in the room and the energy bill might spike a bit, an early miner could be profitable. Back then, miners were only competing with other hobbyists or very small-time facilities.But gone are the days when a single person could set up a rig in their house and competitively mine for Bitcoin. Today, in order to mine competitively, you need to be quick, big and powerful. This means having the most state-of-the-art hardware at scale to run algorithms the fastest. Massive data centers with thousands of rigs have now populated the competitive landscape of mining. Those with the highest-performing hardware, the most efficient software, the most well-run operations and the cheapest electricity will edge out the competition. Such high energy production, which is required to stay competitive, means that mining operations have to keep low energy costs a priority in their operations. Because crypto mining isn’t tied to a location, many mining operations are seeking out regions to build data centers that offer cheap, and ideally renewable, energy sources. Currently, sustainable energy sources like hydro and wind are not only the cleanest but the most cost effective for mining operations to take advantage of. Mining operations also look for locations that have excess energy to spare.But when a massive amount of energy goes in, a massive amount of energy needs to come out. It’s a simple law of thermodynamics: All that energy being consumed can’t be destroyed, so it has to go somewhere. That excess comes in the form of heat, a byproduct of mining operations. The heat produced from computing is so substantial that data centers need to be concerned not only with hardware but with cooling systems as well.So far, heat has just been a byproduct that needed to be cooled and dispersed. But now Bitcoin miners are asking: What if something good could be done with that excess heat? How can heat generated by mining operations be recycled or reused, providing a sustainable, clean source of energy? Can data centers heat homes, for example, or greenhouses, or replace heat sources for certain industries? What about in colder climates where heat is scarce? There’s a new partnership in Northern Sweden looking for answers to those very questions.Seeking to make their region more sustainable, the Boden Business Agency is looking to partner with energy-intensive industries to create synergies between the two, and our company, Genesis Mining, has stepped in to offer computing power. The partnership also includes the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) and the Luleå University of Technology.Nordic countries have already attracted mining operations due to the sustainable and cheap energy sources available. But there’s now an opportunity for mining operations to give back in the form of providing excess heat to greenhouses to grow food, making the local economy more productive and sustainable. According to Mattias Vesterlund, a senior researcher at RISE, “A 1 MW data center would have the ability to strengthen the local self-sufficiency up to 8 percent with products that are competitive on the market.”Genesis Mining is providing a 600 kW air-cooled data center container, which will feed heat to a 300-square-meter greenhouse through a specially-built air duct system. The heat would keep the greenhouse at a comfortable 25°C (77°F) year round, in a region where temperatures can fall as low as -30°C (-22°F). The project looks to focus on growing fruits and vegetables, but data center heat can be used for fish, insect and algae farming, as well as provide heat for fruit and vegetable drying.This would provide the local farming economy with the chance to increase food production. It would not only make local producers more sustainable, but it would reduce the dependence on imports, all while meeting regional energy efficiency targets.The project is also a social one that’s bringing together local farmers, municipalities, scientists and the IT industry. Mining operations are solving local problems of sustainable food production scalability, and local farms are giving mining operations ways to recycle their waste and offset their carbon footprint.These partnerships will also further the vision of decentralization that crypto mining values so much. With offering sustainable green energy in the form of data center heat, it’s offering a use case for the decentralization of energy production. And by seeing more of these projects pop up, it’s forcing mining operations to reassess their role in giving back, as they already have ready ways of providing sustainable energy to the communities around them.A connected greenhouse may seem a small scale initiative for now, but it’s setting the foundation for large scale implications. Could Bitcoin mining operations someday help heat villages, support food industries or even power whole cities? The opportunities look viable.In the meantime, don’t fault Bitcoin for its energy usage. Encourage it, because it may be the path to a more sustainable future.2020 was unforgettable, especially for Bitcoin. To help memorialize this year for our readers, we asked our network of contributors to reflect on Bitcoin’s price action, technological development, community growth and more in 2020, and to reflect on what all of this might mean for 2021. These writers responded with a collection of thoughtful and thought-provoking articles. Click here to read all of the stories from our End Of Year 2020 Series.The short, 12-year history of Bitcoin is filled with exciting times. From the immaculate conception birthed through Satoshi Nakamoto to the extreme polarity between face-melting pumps, catastrophic corrections, infamous exchange hacks and internal Bitcoin civil wars; not many years were as exhilarating for Bitcoiners as 2020 was. As the infamous Bitcoin crowd has “Paul Revere’d” for years, it seems “the institutions” are finally coming. The new demand over the coming years will propel Bitcoin to become the next world reserve currency.As we approach the end of 2020, over 5 percent of the total supply of bitcoin is held as a treasury reserve asset on the balance sheet of 20-plus public and private companies, a trend that began to materialize this year. As we approach the end of 2020, over 5 percent of the total supply of bitcoin is held as a treasury reserve asset on the balance sheet of 20-plus public and private companies, a trend that began to materialize this year. Over the same period, the M1 money stock of USD — a metric used by economists to quantify the amount of money in circulation in a particular country — increased by over 60 percent. The reckless monetary and fiscal policy instituted by central banks and governments as a global response to COVID-19 catapulted bitcoin into the limelight as a potential, new store of value.This direct liquidity injection of USD into the United States and the broader global economy is known as quantitative easing (QE) or “printing money.” The Fed’s commitment to increase the money supply at will distorts price signals, reduces real wages, increases wealth inequality and ultimately destroys the free market. Savers are punished as their time and wealth is plundered out from under them through the cancerous process of inflation. Although the dollar’s global reserve currency status creates inherent demand, it does not seem this trend of monetary debasement can continue long into the future. The case for a currency with a hard-capped supply that cannot be manipulated at will by governments and institutions has never been stronger.In steps the Bitcoin Bull Bull Bull, Gigachad Michael Saylor. Saylor, one of the longest-standing CEOs of a publicly-traded tech company, became the Bitcoin rookie of the year this year after purchasing nearly $1.3 billion worth of Bitcoin (about 70,000) with the balance sheet of his company, MicroStrategy. He is not the only one spotting this trend.
Bitcoin hit a fresh all-time high Friday as investors continued to scoop up some of its limited supply. The ether futures market also hit records as derivatives traders check out the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization.Think back to 2017. Crypto was everywhere. The celebrities hawking ICOs included DJ Khaled, “Floyd Crypto Mayweather” and longtime blockchain enthusiast Paris Hilton. The most watched comedy on television, “Big Bang Theory,” named an episode “The Bitcoin Entanglement.” Long Island Iced Tea made the world’s most natural pivot, rebranding itself as Long Blockchain Corp. (The stock jumped 200%.).And now? Crickets. Even though the price of bitcoin seems to break a new record every five minutes, erupting from $4K to $40K in less than a year, for some reason this bull run feels different – not as mainstream, not as talked about, not as Paris Hilton-y. So is it really different? There are many ways to measure a bull cycle. The most obvious is by looking at the price, another is to look at things like the frequency of “bitcoin” in Google searches and a third is to evaluate the technical and fundamental metrics – smart analyses from the Nic Carters and Willy Woos of the world. But then there’s the qualitative side. I wanted to find out how the bull run looks – how it feels – from the perspective of OG bitcoin hodlers. And if this cycle is different, why? And where are we headed?
Bitcoin (BTC) trading around $39,304 as of 21:00 UTC (4 p.m. ET). Gaining 0.64% over the previous 24 hours.Despite bitcoin’s 20% crash on Monday, some options traders are betting on a continued price rally in coming weeks.At the press time price of $35,580, bitcoin (BTC, +5.55%) is up nearly 16% from the low of $30,305 observed on Monday. Even so, the number one cryptocurrency by market value is still well short of the weekend highs above $40,000.Some traders, though, have been buying Jan. 29 expiry call options at the $52,000, $64,000 and $72,000 strike prices on the Deribit exchange.A call option gives the buyer the right but not the obligation to buy the underlying asset at a predetermined price on or before a specific date. A call option is a bullish bet, while a put option is a bearish bet. One options contract represents the right to buy or sell one bitcoin on Deribit. A total of 4,000 contracts have been bought at the $52,000 strike in the past 24 hours, according to data provided by Swiss-based data analytics platform Laevitas. The $64,000 and $72,000 strike call options show buying volume of 3,250 and 2,000, respectively.Theoretically, the purchase of the $52,000 strike call is a bet that bitcoin would rise above that level on or before Jan. 29, making the option “in-the-money.”Currently, the three contracts are out-of-the-money (OTM), with the spot price well below these strike prices, and are trading at 0.045, 0.0260 and 0.0190 BTC, respectively.The deep OTM options are relatively cheap and tend to gain significant value if the price rally materializes, yielding big returns on small investments. As such, seasoned traders with bullish price expectations often buy call options at higher strike prices.Therefore, the latest call option purchases at the $52,000, $64,000, and $72,000 strikes indicate bullish market sentiment. Other option market indicators are making a similar call. The one-, three- and six-month put-call skews, which measure the cost of puts relative to calls, remain entrenched into the negative territory. That’s a sign of call options, or bullish bets, drawing higher demand than puts.According to analysts, on-chain fundamentals remain strong and the path of least resistance is to the higher side. “Don’t let short-term $BTC price action distract you. Fundamentals are strong, the network is healthy. Zoom out and HODL,” Rafael Schultze-Kraft, CTO at the blockchain analytics firm Glassnode, tweeted. However, the cryptocurrency may have a tough time charting a quick move to fresh record highs above the peak of $41,962 reached on Saturday, given the U.S. Dollar Index is witnessing a recovery rally, weakening bitcoin and gold’s appeal in the markets.I won’t do that again. Money Reimagined goes on break for three weeks and what happens? Bitcoin soars 82%. More than 54,000 Americans die of COVID-19. And, oh yeah, an insurrection happens in Washington, D.C.On the second, the numbers speak for themselves: a heartbreaking failure of human organization. On the third, I’m too gobsmacked to speak anyway. So, today we discuss the first. I want to show how bitcoin’s volatility is not a problem for its long-term viability, as some critics claim.You’ll note a new format to parts of the newsletter. More changes to come in the weeks ahead. Let us know what you think of the bullet point format and other changes. Also, the first 2021 episode of our “Money Reimagined” podcast is out. This one, featuring Matthew Davie of Kiva and Alpen Sheth of Mercy Corps, looks at the charity organizations’ efforts to drive financial inclusion through grassroots empowerment, and whether or not crypto will succeed in breaking down a U.S.-dominated “philanthropy industrial complex.”Bitcoin’s year-end moves weren’t all in one direction. In the 24 hours between New York daybreak on Sunday, Jan. 3, and Monday, Jan. 4, it plunged 18%, from a high of $34,341 to a low of $28,154, only to recover all that within the next 36 hours and to reach $40,755 just before this newsletter went out. Such wild swings are fodder for nocoiners like Jacob Silverman, who declared in The New Republic “that bitcoin, unlike gold, is worthless.”Seems reasonable, right? How can something of such mercurial value act as a medium of exchange, store of value and unit of account – the three functions of money?It’s a duplicitous argument. Bitcoin could never have birthed with immediate price stability. If it’s to fulfill its “digital gold” use case, it must go on a journey, from misunderstood, unappreciated concept to widespread acceptance. That takes time. Along the way, it will rise in value. But, as speculators buy and sell, it will do so in fits and starts.How long will this process take? Well, how long did gold take to become a widely accepted store of value? This hilarious video, portraying a vendor rejecting a customer’s offer of gold, “the currency of the future,” instead of a chicken to buy five rat skins and some tepid lemonade, suggests what it was up against:Patience please. Bitcoin is not yet digital gold. It is becoming digital gold.This is why the recent rash of high-profile price forecasts matters: $146,000, says JPMorgan; $318,000, says Citibank; $400,000 says Guggenheim. They’re not time-fixed price targets for a stock that will later grow further in value. They are stabs at a fair value once bitcoin attains that needed establishment status.It’s also why the second part of crypto pioneer Wences Casares’ oft-cited binary framing – that bitcoin could go to $1 million but could also go to zero – still holds. That’s looking less and less likely, but if advocates can’t get past widespread no-coiner mistrust, bitcoin will fail to achieve its potential.Satoshi’s resolution of the Byzantine Generals’ dilemma gives bitcoin the potential to be a benchmark of digital scarcity, one that’s badly needed for a global economy that’s increasingly digitized and internet-based. But to become that universal standard it must go through a narrative-driven cultural process of awareness. Most important, people need to appreciate that the most important aspect of bitcoin’s security model is not really its tech but the growing size of its network – in other words, the self-fulfilling nature of its acceptance.Only if and when that process reaches critical mass can we then start to apply this widely accepted, digitally scarce store of value to new forms of monetary utility – perhaps as a settlement layer for lightweight Lightning payments, perhaps as programmable collateral to replace sovereign debt as the foundation of the global bond market, or both.We have a long way to go before we get there. For now, just enjoy the ride.
Bitcoin’s 24-hour range: $36,579-$41,962 (CoinDesk 20).BTC below the 10-hour but above the 50-hour moving average on the hourly chart, a sideways signal for market technicians. We are here to help you take advantage of these things. The top three stablecoins – tether (USDT), U.S. dollar coin (USDC) and dai (DAI) – collectively have a market capitalization of $28 billion, much of which consists of tether – $22,916,992,958, according to CoinGecko.On Jan. 1, ether futures open interest, or OI, on major derivatives venues was at $2 billion. On Thursday, OI had ballooned 85% to a record $3.7 billion according to aggregator Skew. Binance was leading the way with $820 million in OI, over 20% of the total ether futures market.“This time is different” is a dangerous phrase, as Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff reminded us after the 2008 housing crisis. But when comparing the 2017 bitcoin boom with the current one, there are lots of indications this one is different.The previous one was characterized as a FOMO event as hordes of retail investors, fearful of being left behind, rushed, not only into bitcoin but into countless ill-conceived and often illegal ICOs. It was a Main Street rally. Sadly, in keeping with the “dumb money” depictions Wall Street traders often use of such hype-chasing investors, many bought high and sold low, losing their shirts when the market collapsed in early 2018. The winners at such times, Wall Street will tell you, are the “smart money” big guys who buy early and sell at the top. This feels much more like a Wall Street rally. Powerful institutions and big-name investors – from BlackRock’s Larry Fink to Bill Miller of Miller Value Partners and Guggenheim Partners’ Scott Minerd – have either invested in or at least talked about bitcoin’s potential. There’s even on-chain data to back up the thesis. Coin Metrics’ measure of “whale” bitcoin addresses, those holding more than 1,000 BTC, shows their number falling in 2017 as little guys were buying, but rising solidly as the price rose in 2020 and into the new year.Of course, the whales of 2017 weren’t exactly Wall Streeters. Many were also retail investors. In that case, the “smart money” were those who grokked crypto and blockchain early on and knew that mania of that time was going too fast too early. Time will tell whether the Wall Street newcomers are the new smarts or whether they, too, have been played.Two other big bombshells items dropped out of Washington during the break:On Dec. 18, the Treasury Department proposed that its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) require crypto exchanges to store customer information – KYC/AML requirements – for transfers to unhosted, or self-custodied, wallets of more than $3,000 and to file “Currency Transaction Reports” for transactions aggregating more than $10,000 per day.On Jan.4, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced it would allow banks to use public blockchain-based stablecoins to manage payments.The first was roundly condemned by the crypto community as an attack on privacy and innovation. The second was hailed as a breakthrough for the crypto economy.But were these seemingly contradictory initiatives uncoordinated? A look at the Twitter conversation suggests something more might be at play.On Dec. 21, monetary economist and CoinDesk columnist JP Koning made an observation others had missed: The FinCEN proposal applies not just to regular cryptocurrency exchanges but also to any dealing in central bank digital currencies. On Jan. 4, Jeremy Allaire, CEO of Circle, the main issuer of the USDC stablecoin, raved about the OCC ruling’s power to transform global payments. And Policy 4.0 CEO Tanvi Ratna pointed out that bringing banks into the stablecoin business means more, not less regulation, and that regulation will have international reach.Here’s where my mind went: The FinCEN rule is as much about putting U.S. financial surveillance capability onto exchanges of fiat-denominated digital currencies as it is about controlling bitcoin transactions. The OCC rule is perpetuating global demand for dollars because the most-sought after domination in stablecoins is USD as central bank digital currencies threaten to undermine the dollar’s dominance. What crypto commentators view as a confounding good cop/bad cop routine against them might actually be a coordinated geopolitical play by Washington. Together these rules could help the U.S. maintain its singular power, as the world’s reserve currency issuer, to monitor and regulate global monetary movements, even as China and other countries are trying to use digital currency technology to bypass the U.S.-regulated banking system.Parallel to our ongoing coverage of the wild bitcoin rally, CoinDesk had a string of stories this past week that suggested Ethereum is also in boom mode, including renewed activity in Ethereum-based decentralized finance.Will Foxley reported that, in a bid to revive a commitment to transaction privacy that regulators had previously forced it to abandon, crypto exchange ShapeShift Is Going Full DeFi to Lose KYC Rules.Muyao Shen reported that once-dominant DeFi governance token, Maker’s MKR, had surged to two-year high.Omkar Godbole explained why the ether price was surging to its highest levels since January 2018.Muyao Shen also reported that users of Kraken’s new staking service were now investing more than $1 billion worth of cryptocurrencies, with more than a third of that in ether as part of the first phase in Ethereum’s big move to a proof-of-stake blockchain. Traders have already recorded 25% of last year’s entire bitcoin options volume.After a record-setting $2 billion traded Monday, total volume for bitcoin (BTC, +7.97%) options on Deribit in the past two weeks reached $14.5 billion Tuesday morning.In 2020, all bitcoin options trading on Deribit totaled just less than $57 billion.Contributing to its wild growth in the past month, the Panama-based exchange now offers traders sky-high bets of bitcoin reaching $100,000, $200,000 or even $300,000 by December.At the end of December 2020, Deribit investor and Three Arrows Capital CEO Su Zu predicted in 2021, "Options markets volume to become over 50% of all crypto derivatives markets." Perpetual cryptocurrency futures markets reported over $190 billion in the past 24 hours, according to CoinGecko.Concurrent with soaring volume, bitcoin's implied volatility is surging, according to data from Skew. The one-month gauge currently above 135%, its highest level since March 2020 just after bitcoin's crash below $4,000. Ether (ETH, +9.64%) options, although a significantly smaller market, are experiencing similar growth with a record $264 million traded on Jan. 4, per data from Skew, a more than 2,700% increase from three months ago.Deribit routinely accounts for over 85% of daily options volume, per Skew data, with OKEx typically the second largest bitcoin options market representing around 5% of daily volume.Outside of derivatives markets, all cryptocurrency trading volumes across the board are soaring, with spot markets reaching record levels, even passing 2017's peak, per CoinDesk Research.While a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) would be a long-term positive, in the short term it could hurt the price of the leading cryptocurrency as it would draw institutional money from the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), currently the only way for some on Wall Street to gain exposure to bitcoin, JPMorgan analysts wrote in a report.Optimism over the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approving a bitcoin (BTC, +5.19%) ETF this year has grown due to the likelihood of a new commissioner being appointed this year, the report notes.But that change would give competition to GBTC, which benefits from being the only game in town. (Grayscale is owned by Digital Currency Group, the parent company of CoinDesk.)Due to regulatory and other restrictions, some financial institutions and funds can't directly own bitcoin or even buy shares directly from Grayscale. To get in on the bitcoin action, they have little choice but to buy GBTC shares on the secondary market at a premium. With an ETF, that premium would shrink, reducing the attractiveness of GBTC shares.A shrinking GBTC premium would also diminish the allure of a popular trade, the analysts wrote. Right now, some institutional investors buy GBTC at net asset value with the intent of selling after the mandatory six-month lockup period expires to capitalize on that premium. Should the premium drop due to the coming introduction of an ETF, it would diminish the popularity of buying GBTC at NAV for that purpose.The JPMorgan analysts estimate the GBTC premium monetization trade could account for around 15% of outstanding GBTC stock.The prospect of a bitcoin ETF and the resulting diminishing GBTC premium could also lead some institutional investors who bought in in the second half of last year to sell when their six-month lock-up expires, further putting downward pressure on GBTC premiums, the analysts wrote.There is a constant war of ideas being fought between gold bugs, like Peter Schiff, and supporters of bitcoin. In order to accurately compare and contrast gold and bitcoin, we will need to weigh each asset against the various attributes that make a given form of money good money. We will also need to dive into monetary history in order to understand what happens when the prevailing money during a given point in time is confronted by superior money.The topics we will be covering in this article include the following: the history of money, stock-to-flow ratio, shipping and transaction costs, storage costs, censorship resistance, settlement time, efficacy of a blockchain versus a clearing house and the ease of validating the underlying asset. Some additional items of historical relevance to our topic will also be used to support our findings. These items include Executive Order 6102 as well as the costs paid by Madrid to Moscow in order to transport gold from Spain to Russia during the Spanish Civil War. Finally, we will estimate the hypothetical cost for Venezuela to repatriate its gold from England based on the historical precedent indicated above. This final point will tie together some of the various difficulties of transacting in gold at scale. But first, we need to cover two key monetary principles: Gresham’s law and Thier’s law.Gresham’s law is named after Thomas Gresham. Gresham was an English merchant and financier under the House of Tudor during the 16th Century. Gresham’s law states, in short, that “bad money drives out good money.” His observation appears to stem from a period of English history known as The Great Debasement (1544 to 1551). Henry VIII had sought to increase revenue for the Crown and began a process of removing the gold and silver content of the coins that were in circulation. This process inevitably led to the hoarding of coins with the higher gold and silver content while the coins with the lower gold and silver content were spent into circulation. This process caused problems in the economy and led to a lack of confidence in the monarchy itself.Eventually, trading partners from neighboring countries refused to accept English money and the policy was reversed altogether by Elizabeth I around the year 1560. The important point here is that the coins with the higher gold and silver content disappeared from circulation and only the debased coins were used for buying and selling, thereby causing problems with exchange, until sound money was restored. In essence, people valued the coins that contained the higher percentage of scarce metals to the coins that did not.One key factor to keep in mind here is that the coins being debased were required by law to be used due to English legal tender laws. This factor will come into play when we discuss Thier’s law next.Gresham’s Law is important because it gave way to something known as Thier’s law. The main difference between Gresham’s law and Thier’s law is that Gresham’s law references a situation where citizens are forced to use a given money due to legal tender laws whereas Thier’s law applies to an environment where alternative forms of money are available to compete against the domestic money. An example of the application of Thier’s law would include the Weimar hyperinflation of 1923 where the German mark lost so much value that people would no longer accept it in exchange for goods and services. Argentina also provides a decent example in recent times because the U.S. dollar is heavily used and accepted there due to the continual debasement of the peso. Argentinians prefer to accept dollars when the option presents itself.Now that we understand how Thier’s law is applied, we will next observe what happens when Thier’s law is applied to a phase shift. For purposes of this article, a phase shift signifies the replacement of a longstanding form of money with a superior form, as we will see in the case of silver in 19th century India.A gold standard occurs when a large number of countries adopt a standard economic unit of account that is based on a fixed quantity of gold. This type of monetary arrangement makes the process of settling international accounts much more efficient due to the removal of the foreign exchange layer. By the end of the 19th Century, many of the major world powers, such as England, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United States were on a gold standard. Despite this arrangement, nations like China and India remained on a silver standard. We will use the case of India to illustrate the deleterious effects of remaining on a silver standard (in effect using softer money) in the face of a switch to gold (harder money).During the latter stages of the 19th Century the ratio of gold to silver increased in gold’s favor which meant that an increasingly larger quantity of silver was required to purchase the same amount of gold. During this time, India was part of the British Empire and was required to pay regular expenditures, called “home charges,” to England. These home charges were essentially like a modern tax. As a consequence of the declining value of silver relative to gold, the cost of these regular expenditures to England, due to England being on a gold standard, continued to increase, which required higher amounts of taxation in India. This increased taxation led to social unrest and, by 1898, India had essentially been forced to abandon silver altogether in favor of the gold standard, since gold would have been the only money accepted after a point. This provides us with yet another example of Thier’s law.Another point worth mentioning is that during this time, India was on a silver standard and it was being exploited by foreign speculators who were selling gold for silver in their own countries and then repurchasing gold in India at a significant discount. For example, if one unit of gold trades for 15 units of silver in England, but only eight units of silver in India, an arbitrage opportunity for profit exists. In England, 15 units of silver would be purchased in exchange for one unit of gold and then transported to India where it would be sold for one and seven-eighth units of gold. A speculator could repeat this process until all the gold was removed from circulation within the Indian economy.In our example above, we observed how the less abundant commodity, gold, managed to exploit the more abundant commodity, silver. Due to Thier’s law, gold eventually became the only money accepted in India, which is probably why we can easily observe the appreciation for gold that Indians have today. The relative abundance of silver compared to that of gold made gold more valuable in the international marketplace during the 19th century.One of the main properties of good money is scarcity. Plan B has managed to quantify the relationships between gold, silver and bitcoin through his stock-to-flow model. Understanding these relationships allow us to better forecast which form of money will eventually be dominant. Stock to flow measures the relationship between the stock of an asset (in the case of gold, the amount that has already been mined) with the corresponding yearly increases in supply of that asset (quantity of annual production). The higher the stock-to-flow ratio for a given asset, the more difficult it is to increase the supply of that asset. Currently, the stock-to-flow ratios for silver, gold and bitcoin are as follows: 33.3 for silver, 58.3 for gold and 56 for bitcoin. However, an important aspect of these figures must be kept in mind. Silver and gold have very stable stock to flow ratios, but the ratio for bitcoin increases significantly every four years due to the Halving event, where the annual production is reduced by half. As a result, the stock-to-flow ratio for bitcoin is set to increase to roughly 113 after the 2024 halving, essentially doubling that of gold.So, how does Thier’s law apply here moving forward? Using historical precedent, we can observe that silver replaced more abundant metals, such as copper and iron, as money in places like ancient Rome… and then was itself replaced by the less abundant gold in the 19th century. During these phase transitions, the less abundant asset would likely have been demanded for payment of goods and services while the more abundant asset would be rejected until use of the more abundant asset ceased altogether in favor of the less abundant. Our forecast is that bitcoin will replace gold as money at some point in the not-so-distant future as the global reserve asset based on this historic precedent provided above. We are also aware that gold has already been demonetized in favor of paper, and now, digital currency. However, experiments with paper money are nothing new (see medieval China for an example) and digital money is merely an extension of paper money. Thier’s law applies through space and time and eventually people will stop accepting bad money in favor of good money, such as bitcoin. We already see this next phase transition occurring in places like Venezuela and Argentina today.Scarcity is not the only facet where bitcoin is superior to gold, however. As we will see next, bitcoin tends to perform better than gold with respect to many of the other attributes that make a given money good money.Now that we have defined Gresham’s law and provided historical examples of its application, we will now move on to compare and contrast gold and bitcoin based on some additional criteria. These additional criteria will be used to complete our analysis.For shipping smaller amounts, but by no means small amounts in terms of value, 100 ounces of gold will be used as our benchmark. One hundred ounces of gold can be shipped for roughly $315. The comparable dollar value in bitcoin could be sent for roughly $8 using a SegWit address.For shipping larger amounts, such as remittances between sovereigns, we will need to use the only modern example we have. During the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Spain transported 400 tons of gold to Moscow and the Soviets charged the Spaniards a 3.3 percent fee. If we use that 3.3 percent fee for our example, it would cost an estimated $32,997,989 to transport $1 billion in gold today. By comparison, a $1 billion bitcoin transaction moved for $690 in 2019, far below our estimate for a comparable gold transaction. In fact, another $1 billion transaction was completed just recently, at the beginning of November.From our analysis above, we can conclude that it is much cheaper to transfer bitcoin between parties than it would be for gold.For storage of smaller amounts, 100 ounces of gold would require $451 per year to custody while the equivalent value of bitcoin, in dollar terms, could be stored for the cost of a Ledger Nano S at $59.99.For storage of larger amounts, $1 billion in gold would cost $2,900,000 per year, while the Ledger Nano S would still suffice in this case for bitcoin. However, if one would like some form of custodial service for their bitcoin due to the large value, Casa offers its most comprehensive plan for $420 per month.Gold must pass through a third party whenever it is shipped, whether being shipped domestically or internationally. Transporting large quantities of gold on your own is also a liability due to potential theft. Gold will typically have to be declared when crossing international borders and a customs duty may also be imposed. The key takeaway is that the gatekeepers (customs, in this case) can halt movement of gold, thus making transactions outside of a given jurisdiction difficult. During a recent confiscation in India, $46,000 of gold was seized despite the smugglers hiding it in their rectums.
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