Category Archives: Currencies

“Cash Must Not Be Made the Scapegoat”, by Don Quijones

The use of cash isn’t just an economic matter, it’s a matter of civil liberties, privacy, and for some, survival. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

The proposed EU-wide cash restrictions could come into effect as early as this year. But defenders of physical cash have an unexpected ally in their struggle: Yves Mersch, a member of the European Central Bank’s executive board. In a speech hosted by the Bundesbank last week, the Luxembourgian central banker exalted cash’s value as legal tender and heaped scorn on the oft-heard argument that its anonymity only helps criminals.

“Protection of privacy matters to all of us. Privacy protects people from the risk of a surveillance state and thought police,” he told his audience. “No particular link can be established statistically between cash and criminal activities. The focus must be on the fight against crime. Cash must not be made the scapegoat.”

One of the world’s biggest issuers of notes and coins, the Bundesbank was a fitting location for a speech on the virtues of physical money. In total, €592 billion of the €1.1 trillion of banknotes in circulation at the end of 2016 were issued by the Bundesbank.

Judging by recent statements, the Bundesbank wants to preserve this arrangement. Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann, who is hotly tipped to replace Mario Draghi as ECB president in 2019, has warned that it would be “disastrous” if people started to believe cash would be abolished — an oblique reference to the risk of negative interest rates and the escalating war on cash triggering a run on cash.

That didn’t stop five national governments — Cyprus, Bulgaria, Belgium, Portugal and Denmark — from approaching the ECB last year to consult on measures to limit the use of cash, according to Mersch. Meanwhile, Sweden is widely regarded as the most cashless society on the planet. “No cash accepted” signs are a common sight in shops and eateries as payments go digital and mobile, Bloomberg reports. A full 36% of the population never use cash, or just pay with it once or twice a year.

To continue reading: “Cash Must Not Be Made the Scapegoat”

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“Blockchain” Stocks Completely Disintegrate, by Wolf Richter

For some, this may be like closely examining a fatal car crash. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Black Friday for them. Meet the OTC’s “skull and crossbones.”

I’ve never seen a sector skyrocket and totally collapse this fast – in four months – as these newfangled “blockchain stocks.” Now they’re surrounded by debris and revelations of scams. These fly-by-night or near-failure outfits used the hype of “blockchain” and the whole media razzmatazz about cryptocurrencies to manipulate up their stocks, sometimes by several thousand percent in a matter of days.

I vivisected some of these outfits and their stock manipulation schemes on the way up. And on January 25, I documented Phase One of the collapse. This is now Phase Two of the collapse. And dip buyers are still not through getting crushed.

UBI Blockchain International got totally mangled. When I last wrote about UBIA on January 25, it was down 93% from the peak six weeks earlier. Since then, all heck has broken loose. On Friday, OTC Market, where the shares had been demoted to, slapped a “skull-and-crossbones” icon next to the ticker and no longer displays a quote.

It started out so promising: Over the course of a few days in mid-December, UBIA skyrocketed 1,500% to $115 a share intraday.

  • December 28, I tarred and feathered the company, its executives, their shenanigans, and their Chinese connection [for details, read, I’m in Awe of How Far the Scams & Stupidities around “Blockchain Stocks” are Going].
  • January 9, the SEC halted trading in UBIA, for two reasons: lacking “accuracy” in disclosures and funny trading activity. The trading halt froze the share price at $22.
  • January 23, when trading resumed, shares plunged further.
  • January 25, when I last wrote about it, they were at $8.25, down 93% from the peak.
  • February 9, the company disclosed in its quarterly SEC filing that it had zero revenues and a quarterly loss of $1.24 million. It repeated that its ability to go on as a “going concern” depended on getting new financing and its “ability to achieve and maintain profitable operations.” Fat chance.
  • February 15, shares closed at $6, down 95% from the peak.

Friday, February 16, OTC Markets Group stopped displaying quotes of UBIA, labeled the shares “Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware),” and placed the skull-and-crossbones icon next to the stock symbol. It told investors to “exercise additional caution and perform thorough due diligence before making an investment decision in that security.”

To continue reading: “Blockchain” Stocks Completely Disintegrate

What Just Changed? by Charles Hugh Smith

Risks can be obscured and hidden, at least for awhile, but they can’t be eliminated. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

The illusion that risk can be limited delivered three asset bubbles in less than 20 years.
Has anything actually changed in the past two weeks? The conventional bullish answer is no, nothing’s changed; the global economy is growing virtually everywhere, inflation is near-zero, credit is abundant, commodities will remain cheap for the foreseeable future, assets are not in bubbles, and the global financial system is in a state of sustainable wonderfulness.
As for that spot of bother, the recent 10% decline in stocks: ho-hum, nothing to see here, just a typical “healthy correction” in a never-ending bull market, the result of flawed volatility instruments and too many punters picking up dimes in front of the steamroller.
Now that’s winding up, we can get back to “creating wealth” by buying assets–$2 million homes in Seattle that were $500,000 homes a few years ago, stocks, bonds, private islands, offshore wealth funds, bat guano, you name it. Just borrow whatever you need to borrow to buy more.
(But don’t buy bitcoin. No no no, a thousand times no. It is going to zero, Goldman Sachs guaranteed it.)
Ahem. And then there’s reality: something has changed, something important.What changed? The endlessly compelling notion that risk has magically vanished as the result of financial sorcery is now in doubt. If risk hasn’t been made to disappear, and even worse, can’t be corralled into a shortable instrument like VIX, then–gasp–every asset and instrument might actually be exposed to some risk.
As I’ve noted many times here, risk cannot be made to disappear; it can only be transferred onto others or off-loaded into the financial system itself. Risk can be cloaked or masked, and indeed, that is the beating heart of financial alchemy: we can eliminate risk by hedging via exotic instruments.
Once risk has been vanquished, then we can safely invest in all sorts of high-yield ventures that were once risky: junk bonds, emerging market debt, private wealth funds and so on.
To continue reading: What Just Changed?

 

Crypto Crackdown: Bitcoin is a “Combination of Bubble, Ponzi Scheme, Environmental Disaster”, by Wolf Richter

When the General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements, the world’s central banks’ central bank, talks about cryptocurrencies, it may be worth paying attention. It’s probably a pretty good indication where the world’s powers that be want cryptocurrencies to go. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

“If authorities do not act preemptively, cryptocurrencies could become more interconnected with the main financial system and become a threat to financial stability.”

The official crackdown on the entire cryptocurrency space got a new and broader framework from Agustín Carstens, General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and former governor of the Bank of Mexico. In a lecture in Frankfurt on Tuesday, he let fly some real zingers interspersed with indications of what is to come. He clarified the main concern – that the crypto ecosystem, as it “piggybacks” on the financial system, transfers its risks to the financial system.

Here are some excerpts from his lecture that I think are very insightful views of how bank regulators will be looking at the crypto ecosystm.

He said, “We are seeing the type of cracks and cheating that brought down other private currencies starting to appear in the House of Bitcoin”:

Debasement.

“In Bitcoin, these take the form of forks, a type of spin-off in which developers clone Bitcoin’s software, release it with a new name and a new coin, after possibly adding a few new features or tinkering with the algorithms’ parameters. Often, the objective is to capitalize on the public’s familiarity with Bitcoin to make some serious money, at least virtually.”

“Last year alone, 19 Bitcoin forks came out, including Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold and Bitcoin Diamond. Forks can fork again, and many more could happen. After all, it just takes a bunch of smart programmers and a catchy name.”

These multiplying cryptos “dilute the value of existing ones, to the extent such cryptocurrencies have any economic value at all,” he said. There are now over 1,500 cryptocurrencies, up from just a handful several years ago.

“Even if the supply of one type of cryptocurrency is limited, the mushrooming of so many of them means that the total supply of all forms of cryptocurrency is unlimited. Given the experience with currency debasement that has peppered history, the proliferation of such private monies should give everyone pause for thought.”

To continue reading: Crypto Crackdown: Bitcoin is a “Combination of Bubble, Ponzi Scheme, Environmental Disaster”

Over $100 billion wiped off global cryptocurrency market in 24 hours, by Arjun Kharpal

Easy come, easy go. You knew this was going to happen, you just didn’t know when, or you would have made a fortune. From Arjun Kharpal at cnbc.com:

  • Over $100 billion was wiped off of the global cryptocurrency market in 24 hours on Friday.
  • Concerns over tighter regulation, and worries that the bitcoin price was manipulated on a major exchange called Bitfinex by a cryptocurrency called Tether, weighed on prices.
  • Bitcoin, ethereum and ripple all saw their prices tank.

Over $100 billion was wiped off the global cryptocurrency market in 24 hours on Friday amid concerns over tighter regulation and worries that the bitcoin price was manipulated on a major exchange.

The total market capitalization or value of all cryptocurrencies in circulation stood at $405 billion Friday morning New York time, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com, which takes into account the prices of digital coins across a number of key exchanges. This was a fall of $112.6 billion in value from a day before.

Cryptocurrencies have seen a major sell-off this week. Bitcoin fell below $9,000 on Thursday and briefly dropped below $8,000 Friday morning, according to CoinDesk’s bitcoin price index, which tracks prices from four major cryptocurrency exchanges.

 Other major coins including ethereum and ripple were down 12 percent and 13 percent, respectively, compared to a day ago as of 9:58 a.m., ET, Friday.

The cryptocurrency world has been plagued by a spate of negative news.

India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the country wants to “eliminate” the use of digital currencies in criminal activities, signaling tighter regulation in the country.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that an increasing number of digital currency investors are worried the price of bitcoin and other digital currencies have been inflated by cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex, which is included in CoinDesk’s price index. Bloomberg reported Tuesday that in December, the U.S. Commodity Futures and Trading Commission subpoenaed Bitfinex and a cryptocurrency company called Tether, which is run by many of the same executives.

To continue reading: Over $100 billion wiped off global cryptocurrency market in 24 hours

Global Crisis Events: The Weird Keeps Getting Weirder, by Brandon Smith

Sooner rather than later something big is going to blow up. From Brandon Smith at alt-market.com:

While the mainstream media and general public tend to assume that every new day is bringing us closer to a better future, many alternative analysts focus on the underlying weirdness of our world and all of the crisis factors that average people don’t want to think about. I have to say, in my view the “weirdness” has been escalating rather swiftly lately, and I don’t think that very many analysts, alternative or mainstream, appreciate the potential consequences.

The most important issue of course has always been the global economy. With nearly every sector of our system resting on massively inflated financial bubbles driven by central bank fiat printing and artificially low interest rates, there is only one question that really needs to be asked: How long before a geopolitical or economic shock event takes down the entire house of cards?

The mainstream philosophy seems to be that the economy is now impervious to such events. As the media now argues often, stock markets in particular do not appear to care whenever international threats present themselves. I would argue that this is because nothing substantial has actually happened quite yet. We have had a steady build-up of domestic and global political tensions, but the markets have so far been presented with a world that is comfortably predictable. It is a dangerous world with numerous potential pitfalls, but still predictable nonetheless.

And this is the very odd position we find ourselves in. A system which grows progressively more unstable year by year, and a society that has grown ignorantly used to it. To wake people up to the threats ahead would require a surprise, a slap to the face, something entirely unexpected. Here are a few developing powder kegs around the world that may present such a shock.

To continue reading: Global Crisis Events: The Weird Keeps Getting Weirder

 

Bitcoin, by Nassim Taleb

Why Bitcoin is good. (SLL has also posted articles about why Bitcoin is bad, and why Bitcoin is a mixed bag. SLL has not yet made up its mind. Needless to say, SLL hasn’t made a dime on bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency.) SLL is not qualifed to argue with Nassim Taleb on cryptocurrencies, but would fight to the death on Taleb’s notion that markets are rational. From Taleb at theburningplatform.com:

Foreword to the book 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.

To continue reading; Bitcoin