Tag Archives: Bitcoin

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

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Can Bitcoin Become A Flight-To-Quality Asset?

2018 might be the year we find out.

There’s an old saying on Wall Street that when times are good, you should focus on the return on your capital, but when times are bad, you should only care about the return of your capital. A flight to quality asset then is anything that tends to go up in times of turmoil because investors perceive it as a safe place to park their money.

Upon first glance, Bitcoin is a terrible candidate for such a role. It’s volatile, hard to understand, and difficult to access given how it exists outside of the traditional banking system.

So why would anyone consider it desirable during a crisis? Because it exists outside of the traditional banking system.

One of the first parabolic up-moves for the cryptocoin began with a banking crisis in Cypress. Back in 2013, while still reeling from the aftermath of the financial crisis, the tiny Mediterranean country found its banking system teetering, and reached out to the bigger European powers for help.

But instead of offering them a bailout, the EU came back with something more along the lines of a bail-in, as it demanded that Cypriot banks confiscate a portion of their customers deposits to shore up their balance sheets. To add insult to injury, they also imposed capital controls that prevented people from moving their money to a safer jurisdiction.

As you can see on the chart below, a decentralized form of money like Bitcoin, despite its drawbacks, can suddenly look very appealing when the centralized system starts to falter.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/1_07h2st-34dnwwYOFR5XC3Q.png?itok=JhN9K9GQ

Crypto skeptics who tell us that digital money should not be worth anything often forget that fiat money like the Euro is also in of itself worthless. It’s only valuable when someone else is willing to trade a good or service for it. But you can’t get anything in exchange for money that the government is taking or locking up, which is why the Cypriot crisis brought a lot of attention to the then relatively unknown Bitcoin.

Government officials don’t like cryptocurrency because they transfer the sovereignty of money from their control to a decentralized consensus mechanism, a transfer that they view as a downgrade in the quality of money. If our existing system of money and banking was always stable, they would have a point.

But every time there is a crisis, it reminds the public that the folks in charge are not as smart as they think they are. When those same leaders respond to the crisis with draconian capital controls (or selective bailouts for their once and future employers on Wall Street) they remind the public that they aren’t as fair as they think they are, either. Bitcoin might be volatile and hard to understand, but it’s always fair, because math does not discriminate, nor does it change the rules when people start to panic.

So why bring this issue up now? Because there is financial trouble brewing in certain corners of the global financial system, and if things continue to deteriorate, this year might serve as an important test of the crypto economy.

Iran and Venezuela are in the midst of the kinds of hyper inflationary currency death spirals that bring societies to their knees. In Argentina, the peso has fallen to an all-time low against the dollar as inflation and interest rates spike. Turkey is having problems of its own, and China continues to do everything it can to prevent its citizens from liberating their own money.

Some of this weakness was to be expected, because the Federal Reserve is now removing the liquidity it has provided for the past decade. But there’s a bigger issue in play, as the perennial economic mismanagement of developing nations is now rubbing up against the increasing political instability (Brexit, Trump, Catalonia, Five Star) of developed ones.

In the old days, the two best candidates for flight to quality assets were gold and the Dollar. But the former is hard to get a hold of and even harder to store, and the latter is no panacea either. When the Argentinian government last devalued its currency back in 2001, it first forced all local banks to convert the dollar-denominated accounts of its citizens to the Peso. Even the citizens that were smart enough not to trust the local currency had their savings destroyed, learning the valuable lesson that dollars in the bank is not the same as dollars under the mattress.

One of the most important takeaways from past financial crisis is that when the stuff hits the fan, banks are nothing more than a policy tool for the government.

So can a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin be considered a flight to quality asset for certain countries? Given everything we’ve learned in the past 20 years, a better question to ask might be how could it not.

Source: Authored by Omid Malekan via Medium.com, | ZeroHedge

JPMorgan Busted Over Bitcoin Fraud… Seriously!

Oh, the irony…

https://s16-us2.ixquick.com/cgi-bin/serveimage?url=http%3A%2F%2Fmedia.salon.com%2F2013%2F02%2Fjamie_dimon.jpg&sp=0b75c357def09705e3b7052650b2dcb9Jamie Dimon has come a long way in seven months…

From “Bitcoin is a fraud” in September to “Busted for Bitcoin fraud” in April.

Reuters reports that JPMorgan Chase & Co has been hit with a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court accusing it of charging surprise fees when it stopped letting customers buy cryptocurrency with credit cards in late January and began treating the purchases as cash advances.

Simply put, the bank switched from charging regular interest rates to charging, higher, cash advance rates on purchases of cryptocurrencies without notice to customers about the change.

The named plaintiff in the lawsuit, Idaho resident Brady Tucker, was hit with $143.30 in fees and $20.61 in surprise interest charges by Chase for five cryptocurrency transactions between Jan. 27 and Feb. 2, his lawsuit said.

With no advance warning, Chase “stuck the plaintiff with the bill, after the fact of his transactions, and insisted that he pay it,” the lawsuit said.

Hundreds or possibly thousands of other Chase customers were hit with the charges, Tucker said.

The lawsuit is asking for actual damages and statutory damages of $1 million.

Full Docket below…

Source: ZeroHedge

Bitcoin Battered To Fresh Lows After Twitter Joins Crypto Ad Ban

Facebook started it – banning crypto/ICO ads on Jan 30th, then came Google – copying Facebook’s ban on March 14h; and now, less than a week later, Twitter is virtue-signalling support for the crypto-crackdown, planning its own ban on ads.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/725_Ly9jb2ludGVsZWdyYXBoLmNvbS9zdG9yYWdlL3VwbG9hZHMvdmlldy81OGZjOTQ0MzIxOGM1MTRjN2I1MjE2MmRlOGFiMTcxMy5qcGc%3D.jpg?itok=ZnQ3SG_-

Sky news reports that Twitter is preparing to prohibit a range of cryptocurrency advertisements amid looming regulatory intervention in the sector.

The microblogging platform is following similar moves by Facebook and Google which have restricted financial advertisements due to concerns about illicit activities.

Sky News understands that the new advertising policy will be implemented in two weeks and currently stands to prohibit advertisements for initial coin offerings (ICOs), token sales, and cryptocurrency wallets globally.

The reaction was swift, just as we have seen to the other crypto ad bans… smashing Bitcoin back below $7500 (into mystery-dip-buyer territory)…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-03-18_8-12-11.jpg?itok=FtGpXfUk

But Ethereum and Ripple have been the worst performers since the crypto ad bans began…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-03-18_8-22-14.jpg?itok=I7yeDVvG

Reportedly, Twitter has experienced an influx of fake accounts pretending to advertise cryptocurrency giveaways, often by users posing as famous crypto sphere personas like Litecoin’s Charlie Lee.

… is food next?

Source: ZeroHedge

“Stocks No Longer Make Sense To Me” – Here’s Why Quants Are Embracing Bitcoin

Since bitcoin first seeped into the public consciousness in 2013, the stereotypical image of the cryptocurrency trader is the 25-year-old tech bro who uses phrases like “YOLO” and “FOMO” when describing his trading strategy and general investing philosophy.

In more recent years, the image of the mom-and-pop crypto trader has taken hold, as Mrs. Watanabe – the archetypal Japanese and South Korean house wife once known for trading foreign exchange – has migrated to trading bitcoin and ethereum.

But as the Financial Times pointed out in a story about financial professionals dabbling in crypto markets, the hoodie-wearing twenty something described above isn’t entirely representative of the crypto community. In fact, many former Wall Street professionals – some with backgrounds working at hedge funds or quantitative trading shops – have embraced cryptocurrency trading.

And while the allure of obscene returns is obviously one reason for the attraction, one venture capitalist interviewed by the FT offered an even more revealing answer:

He embraced crypto after becoming disillusioned with traditional markets, which “no longer make sense” thanks to nearly a decade of central bank intervention.

“I’ve been out of the stock market because it stopped making sense to me,” he says. Central bank support for the markets plus the trend of passive investing have turned it into a game with unclear rules.

“Over the past few years or so, everyone has just been buying indexes and they haven’t been doing price discovery. They’re just investing in a trend of something going up and up and up,” he says.

Until very recently, volatility in global stock markets had fallen to one of the lowest levels in history – making life difficult for quantitative traders who leverage up and play for small moves.

But in the crypto market, circumstances couldn’t be more different. Such high volatility is essentially a quantitative traders’ dream.

“In a days worth of cryptocurrency movement you have a week or a month of equity market movement or a decade of country debt,” he said.

Another apt description came from a hedge fund trader who said financial professionals are drawn to bitcoin for the same reasons they’re drawn to the poker table.

“It’s fun,” one hedge fund trader said, adding that she did not want “fomo,” the acronym for ‘fear of missing out’. One London-based banker was more blunt: it was gambling for people who could afford to lose a bit of money. “That’s it. Nothing else.”

We’re not sure the surprising number of people who bought bitcoin on their credit cards last year would agree.

Source: ZeroHedge

Bitcoin Going Down! And I Can’t See the Bottom


“As we approach the 8400-8500 level, watch for volume to pick up. One of two things will happen, it will reverse sharply or drive through that level to find another level of value below. If we stall here and a lull in the market occurs, price will consolidate, and then move lower”

Bitcoin May Fail But We Now Know How To Do It

Taleb: Bitcoin Is “An Excellent Idea” And “Insurance Against An Orwellian Future”

Foreword to the book It may fail but we now know how to do it by Saifedean Ammous

Let us follow the logic of things from the beginning. Or, rather, from the end: modern times. We are, as I am writing these lines, witnessing a complete riot against some class of experts, in domains that are too difficult for us to understand, such as macroeconomic reality, and in which not only the expert is not an expert, but he doesn’t know it. That previous Federal Reserve bosses, Greenspan and Bernanke, had little grasp of empirical reality is something we only discovered a bit too late: one can macroBS longer than microBS, which is why we need to be careful on who to endow with centralized macro decisions.

What makes it worse is that all central banks operated under the same model, making it a perfect monoculture.

In the complex domain, expertise doesn’t concentrate: under organic reality, things work in a distributed way, as Hayek has convincingly demonstrated. But Hayek used the notion of distributed knowledge. Well, it looks like we do not even need that thing called knowledge for things to work well. Nor do we need individual rationality. All we need is structure.

It doesn’t mean all participants have a democratic sharing of decisions. One motivated participant can disproportionately move the needle (what I have studied as the asymmetry of the minority rule). But every participant has the option to be that player.

Somehow, under scale transformation, emerges a miraculous effect: rational markets do not require any individual trader to be rational. In fact they work well under zero-intelligence –a zero intelligence crowd, under the right design, works better than a Soviet-style management composed to maximally intelligent humans.

Which is why Bitcoin is an excellent idea. It fulfills the needs of the complex system, not because it is a cryptocurrency, but precisely because it has no owner, no authority that can decide on its fate. It is owned by the crowd, its users. And it has now a track record of several years, enough for it to be an animal in its own right.

For other cryptocurrencies to compete, they need to have such a Hayekian property.

Bitcoin is a currency without a government. But, one may ask, didn’t we have gold, silver and other metals, another class of currencies without a government? Not quite. When you trade gold, you trade “loco” Hong Kong and end up receiving a claim on a stock there, which you might need to move to New Jersey. Banks control the custodian game and governments control banks (or, rather, bankers and government officials are, to be polite, tight together). So Bitcoin has a huge advantage over gold in transactions: clearance does not require a specific custodian. No government can control what code you have in your head.

Finally, Bitcoin will go through hick-ups (hiccups). It may fail; but then it will be easily reinvented as we now know how it works. In its present state, it may not be convenient for transactions, not good enough to buy your decaffeinated expresso macchiato at your local virtue-signaling coffee chain. It may be too volatile to be a currency, for now. But it is the first organic currency.

But its mere existence is an insurance policy that will remind governments that the last object establishment could control, namely, the currency, is no longer their monopoly. This gives us, the crowd, an insurance policy against an Orwellian future.

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb