The Bitcoin Valuation Delusion

Summary

Some people seem to believe that Bitcoin might be worthless, we discuss their arguments.

If there was value in Bitcoin, how would we know?

Shared delusions, are they useful?

The case for Bitcoin having no value at all

(Hans Hauge) If you’ve read anything I’ve written so far, you know that I’m long Bitcoin (BTC-USD). However, that doesn’t mean I’ve turned a blind eye to the crowd that says it’s all an illusion, that Bitcoin is intrinsically worthless.

Let’s take a look at who is making these arguments, and what they’re saying.

Jamie Dimon – J.P. Morgan Chase CEO

In September of 2017, Jamie Dimon said:

It’s worse than tulips bulbs, it won’t end well.

And:

There will be no real non controlled currency in the world. There’s no government that’s going to put up with it for long.

So, if I understand correctly, Mr. Dimon’s argument is that every government in the world will soon block all cryptocurrencies. Therefore, Bitcoin is doomed.

Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway

In May, 2018, Warren Buffet said that Bitcoin was:

probably rat poison squared.

And Charlie Munger said:

To me, it’s just dementia. It’s like somebody else is trading turds and you decide you can’t be left out.

If I understand correctly, Mr. Buffet believes that Bitcoin is super tasty but very poisonous, like a Big Mac times itself, and Charlie Munger is trying to say that the Bitcoin market is pure FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out. Therefore, Bitcoin is doomed.

Putting these ideas to the test

I hope you are a data driven person like me. I believe there’s no better way to have a clear understanding when people’s tempers are raging than to just look at data and slowly and carefully think about what makes sense.

Let’s start with Jamie Dimon’s argument that all governments in the world will ban Bitcoin. How does this argument stack up? Let’s look at what’s going on in the three largest economies in the world.

All governments to ban Bitcoin?

When governments move too quickly to ban new technology, the country they represent ends up getting left behind. Coinbase for example, has 20 million users and has traded over 150 billion dollars of cryptocurrencies to date. This kind of economic activity is creating jobs and driving innovation.

Will governments regulate cryptocurrency exchanges? Of course, and they already are.

Will every government in the world ban cryptocurrency outright? I’m not convinced it’s going to happen, especially with what we’re seeing in the US and Japan so far.

Final thoughts on J.P. Morgan

Mr. Dimon’s comments would make more sense if they were, I don’t know, maybe trying to patent Bitcoin’s technology and make their own version. But, that would be kind of unethical, don’t you think? I guess it’s not really surprising since J.P. Morgan (JPM) has been fined more than 29 billion dollars for abusing the market since the year 2000. But, Bitcoin is the fraud?

Bitcoin value is based on nothing but FOMO?

I think people forget that Bitcoin is not some magical beast that lives in isolation. It’s a network with many stakeholders and it represents something different to each group. Bitcoin has created an ecosystem that includes Bitcoin Miners, Software Engineers, Exchanges, Cloud infrastructure like Blockchian as a Service, Merchants, Users, and of course, the speculators and the scammers.

Let’s look at some data.

FOMO or subject of scholarly research?

If Bitcoin was just FOMO, then surely academic interest in the subject would be small, and certainly not growing over time. What’s the big deal after all?

Year Number of Scholarly Articles Mentioning “Bitcoin”
2012 1,040
2013 2,030
2014 4,080
2015 4,640
2016 5,860
2017 9,990

Data Source: Google Scholar

FOMO or a life raft for those living in oppressive regimes?

If Bitcoin was just speculation, surely the countries with the highest search volume for the term “Bitcoin” would be wealthy countries where people are throwing money around, rather than in troubled places where a censorship resistant currency might be of use. As you can see, with the exception Finland in 2012, the interest is overwhelming coming from troubled geographic areas.

Year Number one Country by Search Volume for the term “Bitcoin”
2012 Finland
2013 Estonia
2014 Estonia
2015 Ghana
2016 Nigeria
2017 South Africa

Data Source: Google Trends

FOMO or a source of jobs and innovation?

If Bitcoin was just FOMO, surely it wouldn’t be creating jobs, and certainly it wouldn’t be one of the fastest growing fields in technology.

https://static.seekingalpha.com/uploads/2018/6/13/49499619-15289486497264006.pngImage Source: Burning Glass

FOMO or the new obsession of Venture Capitalists?

If Bitcoin was just FOMO, then why are VC firms investing more in blockchain startups each year? Maybe some of them are caught up in the craze, but just look at the chart below.

https://static.seekingalpha.com/uploads/2018/6/14/49499619-1528949078002327.png
Image Source: Statista

A shared delusion?

To say that Bitcoin has no value is to say that academics (students and professors), governments, venture capitalists, software engineers, hiring managers, and people living in the most troubled areas of the world are completely off their rockers because they dare to challenge our assumptions about what value is and the ways in which it might be transferred.

Is Bitcoin a shared delusion? Sure, but so are lines of latitude and longitude, global time standards, our existing money system, right and wrong, cultural norms, beauty, art and hope. The more important question is, does this shared delusion give us something back? Do we gain something by believing in it?

For me, the answer is clear. I think Bitcoin is one of the most powerful forces for the rights of the individual. I think Bitcoin can at once weaken the oppressors of the downtrodden and create opportunity for the bold.

Conclusion

It may challenge our assumptions that money might come from the crowd, rather than from on high. But, maybe this time it’s up to us to save ourselves? Ask yourself what it might mean to live in a world where currencies exist that reach the entire globe and yet don’t require the backing of a military. I don’t know for sure what it means, but I’ve decided to follow this path and find out for myself, rather than relying on the old guard to hand down truth to me.

Source: Hans Hauge | Seeking Alpha

***

Advertisements

California Become 3rd Largest State with More People leaving than Migrating to the State

https://d33wjekvz3zs1a.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CAL-EXIT.gif

California has beaten Illinois for net out-migration from the state. California has become one state that there are more people trying to get out than moving into it. So while California wants to protect illegal aliens and fight with the Federal government over sanctuary cities contrary to the Constitutional Supremacy Clause, according to a November report from the U.S Census Bureau, the Golden State has had 142,932 residents exit the state. This domestic out-migration has been the second largest outflow in the USA behind only New York and New Jersey. The net out-migration from California jumped up 11% compared to 2015.

Source: Armstrong Economics

Proposal To Split California Into Three States Earns Spot On November Ballot

3 Californias? Billionaire’s Plan to Split California Into 3 Separate States Clears First Hurdle

California’s 168-year run as a single entity, hugging the continent’s edge for hundreds of miles and sprawling east across mountains and desert, could come to an end next year — as a controversial plan to split the Golden State into three new jurisdictions qualified Tuesday for the Nov. 6 ballot.

If a majority of voters who cast ballots agree, a long and contentious process would begin for three separate states to take the place of California, with one primarily centered around Los Angeles and the other two divvying up the counties to the north and south. Completion of the radical plan — far from certain, given its many hurdles at judicial, state and federal levels — would make history.

It would be the first division of an existing U.S. state since the creation of West Virginia in 1863.

“Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education and lower taxes,” Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley billionaire venture capitalist who sponsored the ballot measure, said in an email to The Times last summer when he formally submitted the proposal. “States will be more accountable to us and can cooperate and compete for citizens.”

Source: by John Myers | Los Angeles Times

Small Business Optimism Soars to Highest Level in 34 Years

Small business optimism soared in May to its highest level in 34 years, with some components hitting all-time highs, the National Federation of Independent Businesses said Tuesday.

The NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index rose 3 points in May to a reading of 107.8, its second-highest level in 45 years and strongest level of the recovery. Economists were expecting the index to rise to 105.2 from 104.8.

The May reading was just under the 1983 record of 108.

Several measures hit the highest levels ever recorded. Plans for business expansion, reports of positive earnings trends, and compensation increases broke new records. Expectations for strong increases in sales reached their highest level since 1995.

“Small business owners are continuing an 18-month streak of unprecedented optimism which is leading to more hiring and raising wages,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “While they continue to face challenges in hiring qualified workers, they now have more resources to commit to attracting candidates.”

The NFIB cites tax cuts and regulatory cuts as helping drive the optimism of small businesses.

“The new tax code is returning money to the private sector where history makes clear it will be better invested than by a government bureaucracy,” the NFIB said in its report. “Regulatory costs, as significant as taxes, are being reduced.”

Source: by John Carney | Breitbart

US Budget Deficit Hits $530 Billion In 8 Months, As Spending On Interest Explodes

The US is starting to admit that it has a spending problem.

According to the latest Monthly Treasury Statement, in May, the US collected $217BN in receipts – consisting of $93BN in individual income tax, $103BN in social security and payroll tax, $3BN in corporate tax and $18BN in other taxes and duties- a drop of 9.7% from the $240.4BN collected last March and a clear reversal from the recent increasing trend…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/receipts%20may%202018.jpg?itok=rEuJVtdq

… even as Federal spending surged, rising 10.7% from $328.8BN last March to $363.9BN last month.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/outlays%20may%202018.jpg?itok=HWulNcBr

… where the money was spent on social security ($83BN), defense ($56BN), Medicare ($53BN), Interest on Debt ($32BN), and Other ($141BN).

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/MTS%20may%202018.jpg?itok=hsSikeNj(click here for larger image)

The surge in spending led to a May budget deficit of $146.8 billion, above the consensus estimate of $144BN, a swing from a surplus of $214.3 billion in April and far larger than the deficit of $88.4 billion recorded in May of 2017. This was the biggest March budget deficit since the financial crisis.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/us%20budget%20deficit%20may%202018.jpg?itok=8rJNKZPj

The May deficit brought the cumulative 2018F budget deficit to over $531bn during the first eight month of the fiscal year; as a reminder the deficit is expect to increase further amid the tax and spending measures, and rise above $1 trillion.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/budget%20deficit%206.12.jpg?itok=cziKJhqI

The red ink for May deficit brought the deficit for the year to-date to $532.2 billion. Most Wall Street firms forecast a deficit for fiscal 2018 of about $850 billion, at which point things get… worse. As we showed In a recent report, CBO has also significantly raised its deficit projection over the 2018-2028 period.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-04-09_11-13-25.jpg

But while out of control government spending is clearly a concern, an even bigger problem is what happens to not only the US debt, which recently surpassed $21 trillion, but to the interest on that debt, in a time of rising interest rates.

As the following chart shows, US government Interest Payments are already rising rapidly, and just hit an all time high in Q1 2018. 

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/interest%20expenditures.jpg?itok=BuGbNIs6

Interest costs are increasing due to three factors: an increase in the amount of outstanding debt, higher interest rates and higher inflation. A rise in the inflation rate boosts the upward adjustment to the principal of TIPS, increasing the amount of debt on which the Treasury pays interest. For fiscal 2018 to-date, TIPS’ principal has been increased by boosted by $25.8 billion, an increase of 54.9% over the comparable period in 2017.

The bigger question is with short-term rates still in the mid-1% range, what happens when they reach 3% as the Fed’s dot plot suggests it will?

* * *

In a note released by Goldman after the blowout in the deficit was revealed, the bank once again revised its 2018 deficit forecast higher, and now expect the federal deficit to reach $825bn (4.1% of GDP) in FY2018 and to continue to rise, reaching $1050bn (5.0%) in FY2019, $1125bn (5.4%) in FY2020, and $1250bn (5.5%) in FY2021.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/exhibit_1.img%20%284%29.png

Goldman also notes that it expects that on its current financing schedule the Treasury still faces a financing gap of around $300bn in FY2019, rising to around $750bn by FY2021, and will thus need to raise auction sizes substantially over the next couple of years to accommodate higher deficits.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/exhibit_3.img%20%283%29.png

What does this mean for interest rates? The bank’s economic team explains:

The increase in Treasury issuance and the ongoing unwind of QE should put upward pressure on long-term interest rates. On issuance, the economic research literature suggests as a rule-of-thumb that a 1pp increase in the deficit/GDP ratio raises 10-year Treasury yields by 10-25bp. Multiplying the midpoint of this range by the roughly 1.5pp increase in the deficit due to the recent tax and spending bills implies a 25bp increase in the 10-year yield. On the Fed’s balance sheet reduction, our estimates suggest that about 40-45bp of upward pressure on the 10-year term premium remains.

And here a problem emerges, because while Goldman claims that “the deficit path is known to markets, but academic research suggests these effects might not be fully priced immediately… the balance sheet normalization plan is known too, but portfolio balance effect models imply that its impact should be gradual” the bank also admits that “the precise timing of these effects is uncertain.”

What this means is that it is quite likely that Treasurys fail to slide until well after they should only to plunge orders of magnitude more than they are expected to, in the process launching the biggest VaR shock in world history, because as a reminder, as of mid-2016, a 1% increase in rates would result in a $2.1 trillion loss to government bond P&L.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2016/06/04/bond%20market%20exposure_0.png

Meanwhile, as rates blow out, US debt is expected to keep rising, and somehow hit $30 trillion by 2028

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/debt%20budget%20trump%202019.jpg

… without launching a debt crisis in the process.

Source: ZeroHedge

“It’s Crazy”: Midland Texas Roiled By Unprecedented Labor Shortage Hiring “Just About Anyone”

A battle is playing out in Midland, TX between employee-starved local businesses and multinational energy companies who are poaching local residents left and right for high-paying jobs as the latest Permian Basin shale-oil boom accelerates.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/shale-extraction.jpg?itok=6EbGR0ag

Midland Mayor Jerry Morales says the boom is a double-edged sword; while the energy industry has increased sales-tax revenue by 34% year-over-year, an incredibly low unemployment rate of  2.1% has resulted in a severe shortage of low-paying jobs around town – such as the 100 open teaching positions, according to Bloomberg.

Morales, a native Midlander and second-generation restaurateur, has seen it happen so many times before. Oil prices go up, and energy companies dangle such incredible salaries that restaurants, grocery stores, hotels and other businesses can’t compete. People complain about poor service and long lines at McDonald’s and the Walmart and their favorite Tex-Mex joints. Rents soar. –Bloomberg

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/shalelow.JPG?itok=odFsD9t3

“This economy is on fire,” said Morales – who is also the proprietor of Mulberry Cafe and Gerardo’s Casita. Unfortunately, the fire is so hot that the Mayor is scrambling to fill open jobs – from local government positions, to cooks at his restaurants. 

In the country’s busiest oil patch, where the rig count has climbed by nearly one third in the past year, drillers, service providers and trucking companies have been poaching in all corners, recruiting everyone from police officers to grocery clerks. So many bus drivers with the Ector County Independent School District in nearby Odessa quit for the shale fields that kids were sometimes late to class. The George W. Bush Childhood Home, a museum in Midland dedicated to the 43rd U.S. president, is smarting from a volunteer shortage.

And it doesn’t take much to get hired by the oil industry – which, as Bloomberg summarizes, “will hire just about anyone with basic training“… and it will quickly double, triple or x-ple their pay in the process. “It is crazy” said Jazmin Jimenez, 24, who flew through a two-week training program at New Mexico Junior College about 100 miles north of Midland. Jimenez was hired by Chevron as a well-pump checker. “Honestly I never thought I’d see myself at an oilfield company. But now that I’m here — I think this is it.

And at $28-an-hour, Jimenez makes double what she was earning as a prison guard at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs. 

Meanwhile, innovations in oilfield technology promise to find new and efficient ways of finding and pulling oil from the pancaked lawyers of rock in the 75,000 square-mile Permian basin – an extraction method which now accounts for 30% of all US output

The booming shale economy has also effected the local real-estate market – as the supply of homes for sale is the lowest on record according to the Texas A&M Real Estate Center. 

The $325,440 average price in Midland is the highest since June 2014, the last time the world saw oil above $100 a barrel. Apartment rents in Midland and Odessa are up by more than a third from a year ago, with the average 863-square-foot unit commanding $1,272 a month.

People who move for jobs are stunned by the cost of living. Armin Rashvand’s apartment is smaller and costs more than the one he rented in Cleveland before moving last August to run the energy-technology program at Odessa College.

“That really surprised me,” he said, because Texas’s reputation is that it’s affordable. “In Texas, yes — except here.”

Some of Rashvand’s students with two-year degrees are making more than he does, despite his master’s degrees in science, electrical and electronic engineering.

Keep on truckin’

And for those who would rather work a bit further upstream from the oilfields, schools that teach how to pass the test for a commercial drivers license (CDL) are packed.  “A CDL is a golden ticket around here,” said Steve Sauceda, head of the workforce training program at New Mexico Junior College. “You are employable just about anywhere.

Truckers in the shale fields can easily make six-figures, such as Jeremiah Fleming, 30, who is on track to make $140,000 driving flatbed trucks for Aveda Transportation & Energy Services Inc., hauling rigs. 

“This will be my best year yet,” said Fleming, who used to work in the once-bustling shale play in North Dakota. “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”

So what is Mayor Morales doing? 

In order to try and retain employees, Morales has come up with several strategies – such as weekly vs. twice-monthly paychecks, more opportunities for overtime, and a “common-sense pitch” to employees thinking of jumping ship for the oil fields: 

“If you’ll stay with me, I can give you three quarters of what the oil will give you but you don’t have to get dirty or worry about getting hurt.”

Source: ZeroHedge

***

‘Moving in droves’ to Midland, Texas
CNN’s famous 2013 Midland Texas oil boom report

 

 

 

California Officials Avoid ‘p-word’ When Selling Higher Taxes to Voters

Why are officials so unwilling to tell their voters (tax donkeys) that pension costs are the underlying factor in their requests for tax increases?

https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/fp_thumb/images/user3303/imageroot/20171006_donkey.jpg

While public and media attention to this week’s primary election focused – understandably so – on contests for governor, U.S. senator and a handful of congressional seats, there were other important issues on Californians’ ballots.

One, which received scant attention at best, was another flurry of local government and school tax and bond proposals.

The California Taxpayers Association counted 98 proposals to raise local taxes directly, or indirectly through issuance of bonds that would require higher property taxes to repay.

The proposed taxes on legal marijuana sales and other retail sales and “parcel taxes” on pieces of real estate were particularly noteworthy for how they were presented to voters.

Most followed the playbook that highly paid strategists peddle to local officials, advising them to promise improvements in popular services, such as police and fire protection and parks, and avoid any mention of the most important factor in deteriorating fiscal circumstances – the soaring cost of public employee pensions.

City, county and school district officials howl constantly, albeit mostly in private, that ever-increasing, mandatory payments to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) are driving some entities to the brink of insolvency.

However, those officials are just as consistently unwilling to tell their voters that pension costs are the basic underlying factor in their requests for tax increases.

Why?

Tying tax increases to pensions, rather than popular services, not only would make voters less likely to vote for them but make public employee unions less willing to pony up campaign funds to sell the tax increases to voters. It is, in effect, a conspiracy of silence.

This week’s local tax and bond measures are just a tuneup for what will likely be a much larger batch on the November ballot.

It’s a well-established axiom of California politics that low-turnout elections, such as a non-presidential primary in June, are not as friendly to tax proposals as higher-turnout general elections, such as the one in November. Primaries tend to draw older white voters who often shun taxes, while general elections have younger and more ethnically diverse electorates easily conditioned through social media to believing they might receive a few crumbs from voting in favor of socialist wealth transfer tax schemes.

As local officials make plans to place those proposals on the November ballot, a bill making its way through the Legislature could skew local tax politics even more.

Senate Bill 958 would allow one school district, Davis Unified, to exempt its own employees from paying the $620 per year parcel tax that its voters approved two years ago.

The Senate approved SB 958 on a 24-19 vote last month, sending it to the Assembly. It’s being carried by Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat whose district includes Davis.

The bill’s rationale is that housing is so expensive in Davis that teachers and other school employees cannot afford to live there, and that exempting them from the parcel tax would, at least in theory, make housing more affordable.

However, if SB 958 becomes law, it would set a dangerous precedent. It doesn’t take much imagination to see local government and school unions throughout the state demanding similar exemptions from new taxes with the threat, explicit or implicit, that they would refuse to finance tax measure campaigns.

The very people who benefit most from additional taxes by receiving higher salaries and/or better fringe benefits thus would be able to avoid paying those taxes themselves.

Source: The Mercury News