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Opinion

Is Bitcoin a Currency or a Commodity?

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Bitcoin has quickly asserted itself as an alternative asset deserving of our attention, but if you’re a stickler for details, the real debate is whether it is a currency, commodity or something else entirely. Up until recently, this debate wasn’t given much thought. After all, cryptocurrencies are meant to solve many of the problems plaguing the current system of fiat money. Naturally, then, they are currencies.

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Not so fast.

Bitcoin as a Commodity

Investability is one of bitcoin’s most defining characteristics. With a market cap of more than $160 billion, the cryptocurrency allows investors to take capital or gain exposure in meaningful ways. As mainstream adoption catches on, bitcoin investments will also make their way into traditional vehicles, such as ETFs and futures. In this vein, it has many of the same characteristics as commodities.

Bitcoin is often called digital gold because it behaves very much like a commodity. As a divisible resource, it is considered portable, scarce, secure and durable.  The following chart courtesy of BTCS provides a clear illustration of how bitcoin stacks up to the physical commodities gold and silver.

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Some investment circles are also beginning to treat bitcoin as a hedge against uncertainty. Although the author believes this is characterization is a tad premature, bitcoin has one characteristic that very few assets have: no correlation. To the author’s knowledge, this feature was first identified by ARK Invest in its highly influential whitepaper Bitcoin: A disruptive Currency.

Whereas most asset classes are correlated, bitcoin’s price is completely independent of outside forces. That means it is not affected by the performance of other markets, regardless of their composition. That means bitcoin behaves independently of stocks, bonds, commodities and even currencies. Investors have already realized and capitalized on these unique benefits, and this is reflected in bitcoin’s price point.

LendEDU Survey

Student and personal loan marketplace LendEDU has been conducting surveys on how consumers perceive cryptocurrencies. This past month, it commissioned a new survey of 564 respondents who have already invested in bitcoin. One of the questions that caught our attention was whether investors classify bitcoin as a commodity or a security.

Less than one-third (31.56%) viewed bitcoin as a commodity, compared with 39.54% who saw it as a security. Interestingly enough, 28.9% of respondents said they were unsure how to classify the cryptocurrency.

It’s interesting to note that “currency” wasn’t listed as one of the responses. While it’s reasonable to assume that many associate bitcoin with digital currency, most investors seem to hold a different opinion.

Further, the LendEDU survey found that 21.81% of respondents described bitcoin as “a long term store of value, like gold or silver.” Meanwhile, a mere 8.16% said they plan on using bitcoin “for transaction or repurchases” instead of as an investment.

The vast majority of poll takers have held bitcoin for more than one year, which means this is likely a rich crowd.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

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Opinion

Is Bitcoin Driving Gold Prices Lower?

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Bitcoin’s record-setting advance since the start of the year has left other asset classes out in the cold. As gold continues to struggle below $1,300, some analysts have noted an inverse correlation between the two asset classes.

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Battle of the Safe Havens?

Gold has long been valued as a safe haven and store of value capable of shielding against economic, financial and geopolitical risks. Although the yellow metal has lost much of its luster, it remains the go-to haven asset for investors concerned about the future. Case in point: gold has risen several times this year on geopolitical tensions between North Korea and the West.

At the same time, gold has been unable to break above $1,300 a troy ounce with any real conviction. Gold futures traded on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange appear to have peaked north of $1,350 in September before crashing back down.

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Indeed, 2017 has been a frustrating year for bullion, with prices following a predictable pattern of peaks and troughs. That being said, the metal has still managed to add around $100 since the beginning of the year.

Bitcoin, on the other hand, has enjoyed unrivaled success, culminating in a yearly gain of around 1,200%. The world’s most traded cryptocurrency spiked above $19,500 last week in anticipation of the first-ever cryptocurrency futures contract. Prices have since pulled back, but remain strongly bullish as institutional capital enters the market.

Although bitcoin cannot be entirely described as a safe haven, it is being used exactly in this way by investors. Its finite supply and shrinking producer base over time give it unique attributes that haven-seeking investors may find appealing.

Strategist Weighs In

As CCN reports, ACG Analytics analyst Larry McDonald believes the growth of bitcoin could weigh on gold prices more acutely in the near future. According to McDonald, the cryptocurrency asset class is equivalent to roughly a quarter of liquid tradable gold. That figure has increased manifold over just one year ago. As the $450 billion cryptocurrency market grows, it may continue to eat away at the yellow metal.

Meanwhile, Phillip Streible of RJO Futures said bitcoin futures will play an important role in how gold is priced. Speaking to CNBC’s Power Lunch, Streible said gold stands to benefit should bitcoin futures go bust. At the same time, bullion may continue to lose its shine should bitcoin and the crypto asset class more generally push higher.

“Bitcoin has stolen a large market share of gold,” Streible said.

There were no signs of a crash on day one of CBOE’s bitcoin futures contract. After initial volatility, the contract provided a boost to the spot price, eventually sending BTC/USD above $17,000. That being said, the rally wasn’t nearly as convincing as the one that occurred last week. With its latest upsurge, bitcoin controls more than half of the total cryptocurrency market when evaluated on total capitalization. In terms of volume, it accounts for roughly half, according to data provided by CoinMarketCap.

Institutional traders will soon get their fill of bitcoin futures. CME Group is planning on launching its own contract on Dec. 18. Nasdaq is reportedly working on its own bitcoin-linked derivatives product for next year.

On Monday, the Security and Exchange Commission’s public filing system also showed two new applications for a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF). REX and VanEck have each submitted a proposal to the securities regulator to create their own bitcoin ETF. Some analysts say it is only a matter of time before cryptocurrency enters the multi-trillion-dollar ETF market.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

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Opinion

Altcoin Investing Strategy as Futures Hit the Market

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There is a lot of buzz around cryptocurrency right now as bitcoin futures hit Sunday evening. No one really knows how bitcoin futures will impact the underlying price of BTC/USD for the long-term. One theory states that large institutions will short bitcoin futures. If this happens, you can expect a lot of negative headlines to come from traditional media and advertising trying to tank the BTC price. The next important date to look out for is Dec. 18 (CME Futures). Nasdaq has yet to give a solid date on when its futures contract will go live.

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Altcoins traditionally are tied to bitcoin. Although this is usually expressed as an inverse relationship, altcoins have been moving in the same direction as bitcoin as of late. However, in the current environment, what seems to be happening is veteran bitcoin and altcoin investors taking profit as BTC rises before flooding the more solid altcoins. The newer investors are starting to prop up bitcoin for the long-term and allow experienced altcoin investors to use those profits to diversify.

For the long-term, here is a suggested strategy:

  • 60% bitcoin (BTC)
  • 20% solid large cap altcoins, such as Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Monero (XMR), NEO (NEO) and EOS (EOS)
  • 20% ICO investing and more speculative altcoins

Riskier Strategy

A successful, albeit riskier strategy employed by various traders, include using bitcoin (BTC) as the primary trading cryptocurrency when trading altcoins. Ethereum has more bots and less volume, which often makes it less advantageous as bitcoin for accessing the altcoin universe.

With ICOs being launched on the daily, there is plenty of opportunities to speculate on unproven altcoins.

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With this risker strategy, 100% is invested in ICOs and speculative altcoins. This strategy involves buying into ICOs and trading altcoins in order to increase your position in bitcoin. The goal of this strategy is to trade and outperform BTC. When an altcoins start to tank, move cash back to BTC. ICO investing is a topic all on its own. The best ICO investing strategy is to buy in the presale or get a token bonus of some sort during the early ICO crowdsale. A lot of the successful ICOs allow investors to exit with at 2x-3x return on investment (ROI). You could also cash out your initial investment from an ICO and then leave the profit in the coin for the long term.

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Cryptocurrencies

Futures Trading – Bullish or Bearish for Bitcoin?

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Writing anything against the price rise in bitcoin is like keeping your head in a guillotine and expecting it to be unhurt. However, at times, one’s got to do what one’s got to do. So, at the risk of ruffling a few feathers among the bitcoin enthusiasts and staunch supporters, I will put forth my two cents on why the latest rally in bitcoin is looking bubbly. Only time will tell whether my argument proves to be correct or falls flat on its face, similar to the ones proclaimed by the legendary investors.

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Key points

  1. Bitcoin’s rally is looking like a bubble
  2. Futures trading will pit the bulls and the short sellers against one another
  3. Introduction of Nikkei futures trading turned out to be bearish for the Japanese stock market
  4. Sell 50%  bitcoin holdings at the current levels and stay in cash

We had recently warned that bitcoin is topping out in the short-term. While bitcoin fell after our article, the dip was more of a buying opportunity rather than the indication of a top that we were referring to. Whoa, there goes my forecasting capability out of the window.

However, does the rise above $16000 and a market capitalization of above $300 billion make us change our view? Not really. I now believe that we are about to make an intermediate top.

The common gripe among the cryptocurrency enthusiasts is that being a new asset class, bitcoin is not understood by many traditional investors (include me also in this list) who keep questioning its incessant rally. On the other hand, the traditional investors point that the price has gone well ahead of its fundamentals.

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There is going to be a big clash between these two school of thoughts with the launch of bitcoin futures.

What can happen after the launch of bitcoin futures trading?

I will try to explain how things will play out according to my opinion.

The launch of bitcoin futures trading will provide an opportunity to the institutional investors to diversify their investments into a new asset class. Nevertheless, it is difficult to fathom how many will buy, especially when the cryptocurrency has risen more than 16 times this year.

Until now, most of the money used to be on the long side of the trade. Some of the sharp falls were a result of profit booking or due to investors not stepping in to buy at lower levels due to the negative news flow. There was never an overhang of short sellers on bitcoin prices, which is going to change from December 10 and December 18.

So, with every part of the rally, there will be an equally bearish short seller who will see an opportunity to benefit from the fall in bitcoin prices. Money will be made both on the way up and the way down.

Will the short sellers jump into the fray at once?

Difficult to say, but my anticipation is that the short sellers are unlikely to jump in to sell bitcoin futures aggressively, especially since bitcoin is backed by a strong upward momentum. Large short sellers are likely to dip their feet with small short positions and watch.

As now we have traders willing to take both sides of the trade, we expect the pace of the ascent to slow down and short positions to start accumulating on every rise. Volatility is also likely to increase in the short-term.

Introduction of futures trading is not always bullish

Though we don’t have an apples to apples comparison for cryptocurrencies, we can look at how the Japanese stock markets were affected by the introduction of Nikkei futures trading in Osaka Securities Exchange.

The Japanese stock market was riding high on the back of a bubble in asset prices, which also boosted the prices of Nikkei stock exchange. The index rose 10 times from 1975 to 1990.

Nikkei futures trading started in Osaka Securities Exchange in 1988 and the Nikkei stock average peaked in end-1989. The descent was equally sharp as the ascent.

Some may point that the crash in Nikkei happened only two years after the futures trading started. However, one must keep in mind that it took 15 years for the Nikkei to rise 10 times while bitcoin has risen 16 times this year itself. Therefore, the fall is also going to be equally vicious.

Signs of excesses in bitcoin

  1. Almost every cryptocurrency trader(other than hacked.com subscribers) believes that this time it is different and one can make tons of money within a short span of trading in cryptocurrencies. After all, the Winklevoss twins have become billionaires by starting with just $11 million four years back. There is a firm belief that bitcoin is the future, hence, every fall will only rally higher than the previous one. See, all the analysts’ targets.
  2. Analysts are beating one another in announcing targets on bitcoin. I believe the maximum is $1 million by 2020, by John McAfee. Let’s see if there is any analyst brave enough to top this one, especially in the medium-term time frame of 2-3 years.
  3. A vertical rally. 16 times increase in value within a year is evidence enough that the rally is overheated. Expecting the same pace of rally in the future is like asking Usain Bolt to complete the marathon with the same speed that he runs the 100 metres race.
  4. The institutional investors will be eager to jump in to buy bitcoins and once those billions start pouring in, there is no end to the rally. This is not true because the large institutional investors are hugely risk averse. Their money is made in compounding about 15%-25% consistently over the years. It is unlikely that most will enter the fray until bitcoin’s volatility reduces considerably.
  5. Consider the world’s population of 6 billion and the fact that there will only be 21 million bitcoins mined. Additionally, out of that, millions are either lost or are locked away with only a few millions in circulation. So, the price rise is justified. Well, if Leonardo da Vinci had a few hundred thousand paintings in the market place, his paintings wouldn’t have fetched millions. So, this argument of only 21 million bitcoins that will ever be mined doesn’t hold ground.

OK, so if bitcoin is in a bubble, what should one do with it?

For people who don’t own bitcoin currently, please stay away from it, until you see a large correction.

For the others who own bitcoins, 50% of the positions should be closed right away, above $16,000 levels before the futures trading starts. The other 50% of the position should be held. This can be sold when bearish patterns develop on bitcoin because no one can point the top in a bubble.

Likely scenarios to play out if bitcoin falls

There are two possible scenarios that I believe can happen.

  1. Bitcoin falls and drags the sentiment down for the whole cryptocurrency universe. It doesn’t take a long time for the sentiment to get sour. In such a case, people who have been hoping that altcoins will rally when bitcoin falls will be in for a rude shock.
  2. The second scenario is that the current investors in bitcoin will face a stiff resistance from the short sellers. When the existing whales are unable to influence bitcoin prices like before, they are likely to jump to the altcoins because they don’t have to counter short sellers there. In this case, the altcoins recover sharply.

Conclusion

The best way is to cash your bitcoins into dollars and sit out. Once the dust settles down, there will be many opportunities to earn money because cryptocurrencies, as an asset class is here to stay.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest money you can't afford to lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here.



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