Currency

 

Today is 4/20, the day that has become an unofficial pot-smoking holiday. For some reason Dogecoin, the not-really-a-cryptocurrency cryptocurrency, has become associated with this not-really-a-holiday holiday. At one stage this morning Dogecoin traded at 42 cents, which was probably very exciting to anyone that gets excited about stuff like this. Joe has written something in his paragraph below if you have to know more.

The crypto market has had one of its standard bouts of volatility over the last few days, but as this table from CoinMarketCap shows clearly, of the top five biggest coins, one coin really stands out.

That’s right. Doge has just been in its own universe, and honestly it’s really great to see because it’s the perfect thing to make everyone annoyed.

For the Cryptoskeptic Nocoiner, it’s just more evidence that the coin thing is a scam or a bubble or a Ponzi scheme that will eventually end in tears.

And for the people who demand that everyone take crypto really seriously, it’s an awkward embarrassment. Mike Novogratz of Galaxy Digital, for example, told Bloomberg that he’d be worried if one of his friends had invested in Dogecoin.

See all the serious stuff about decentralized finance, or stores of value, or people thirsting for an alternative to the dollar. Nobody can talk about it with a straight face when it comes to Dogecoin. I mean, sure you could probably intellectualize the whole thing by finding some quote from Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens about how money has always been a shared meme blah blah blah. But really, all the crypto talking points go out the window with Doge.

There’s a lot of self congratulation in crypto. Bitcoiners who have made an extraordinary sum of money in a short period of time love to talk about how they’re taking on the Fed, or taking on the banks, or enabling some kind of peaceful revolution that will bring freedom to people all over the world. Basically Dogecoin is like Bitcoin stripped of the virtue signaling.

And to be crystal clear, Dogecoin has been a better investment than Bitcoin for its entire existence. Here’s a chart, again from CoinMarketCap, of Dogecoin priced in Bitcoin. Doge/BTC is at all-time highs. What this means — just so there’s no ambiguity — is that at every step of the way if you bought Bitcoin, you should have bought Dogecoin instead in retrospect. That’s not cherry picking or a chart crime or anything. It’s just a fact that at any time over the last seven years, buying Dogecoin was the better move than buying Bitcoin.

 

KEY POINTS
  • Dogecoin is a cryptocurrency based on the “Doge” meme, which rose to popularity in late 2013. It started out as a joke.
  • Now, defying all odds, dogecoin is worth $34 billion, and its price has risen by a whopping 300% in the last seven days.
  • Dogecoin’s skyrocketing price has led to worries of a potential bubble in the cryptocurrency market.

Dogecoin started out as a joke. Now it’s a top-10 digital currency worth $34 billion.

The cryptocurrency is based on the “Doge” meme, which rose to popularity in late 2013. The meme portrays a Shiba Inu dog alongside nonsensical phrases in multicolored, Comic Sans-font text.

Created in 2013 by software engineers Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer, dogecoin was intended to be used as a faster but “fun” alternative to bitcoin. It has since found a growing community online.

And now, defying all odds, dogecoin has a total market value of $34 billion, according to crypto market data site CoinGecko, adding about $19.9 billion in the last 24 hours. The digital token reached an all-time high above 28 cents Friday morning, more than doubling in price from a day ago.

 

‘I just became a Dogecoin millionaire’

 

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Inside China’s quiet plan to dethrone the dollar

 

Over the last few months, 100k+ people in China were airdropped cold hard cash… digitally.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) is piloting a digital version of the country’s currency (Chinese yuan) that will circulate alongside its paper and coin counterparts.

It’s similar to other digital currencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum, except for one key difference: The digital yuan is issued by the Chinese government.

Centralized vs. decentralized

The Chinese government plans to tightly control the value of the digital yuan — something the PBOC has historically done with the paper yuan — making its proposed narrow price fluctuations something of an anomaly in crypto-land.

On the flip side, the digital yuan gives the Chinese government a shiny, new spying tool, allowing the government to see transaction flows, spot tax evaders, and even experiment with expiring cash.

But it’s also about taking down the dolla…

Ever since WWII, the US dollar has been the world standard for foreign exchange trades: 88% of all trades are backed by the dollar, according to a 2019 Bank for International Settlements survey. The yuan? Only 4.3%.

That exchange domination lets the US government see how dollars move between borders and allows it to freeze individuals or organizations out of global financial products — a move known as dollar weaponization.

Now, China plans to introduce a currency with all the benefits of being digital and backed by a government that loves price fixing.

It’s a recipe some economists worry could make Uncle Sam’s cash look shabby on a global stage. Cue DigiDollars?

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(Also see this: Early Facebook investor and Palantir founder Peter Thiel believes that Bitcoin could potentially be a financial weapon wielded by China against US Dollar hegemony)

Turkey’s slumping lira adds fuels to crypto trading boom

 

The Turkish lira’s dramatic slump has added fuel to a surge in cryptocurrency trading in the country, data showed, with investors hoping to both gain from bitcoin’s rally and shelter against inflation.

Turkey’s currency has lost over 13% since President Tayyip Erdogan fired central bank Governor Naci Agbal earlier this month, stoking fears of looser policy and rising price pressures that could erode the lira’s value.

The aftermath of the Agbal’s sacking accelerated an already growing boom in Turkey’s crypto market.

Trading volumes between the start of February and March 24 hit 218 billion lira ($26 billion) with a spike on the weekend of Agbal’s ouster, data from US researcher Chainalysis shared with Reuters showed, surging from a little over 7 billion lira in the same period a year earlier.

The jump echoes soaring global interest in crypto, driven by bitcoin’s rally to a record of just under $62,000 as major investors and companies embraced the emerging asset.

Yet investors in Turkey said a weaker lira and inflation pressures, as well as hopes of quick gains, have driven demand.

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Visa is the latest legacy finance player to embrace crypto

 

In October 2018, Visa Inc. CEO Aflred Kelly told CNBC’s Jim Cramer that cryptocurrencies are not a big threat but “if we have to go there, we will go there.”

At the time, Visa was a $300B+ company and the combined market cap of all cryptocurrencies was $200B+. Today, things are looking different:

  • Visa = $450B+
  • Crypto (primarily Bitcoin/Ethereum) = $1.8T+

Well, earlier this week… Visa went there. Per Reuters, the payments giant will roll out a pilot program with crypto platform Crypto.com.

How it works

Crypto.com already offers its users a Visa card. However, any payments used by the cryptocurrency card have to be converted to fiat, which adds costs and complexities for merchants.

Here’s the new process:

  • A Crypto.com Visa card purchase is made
  • Instead of converting to fiat, Visa will settle the transaction using Crypto.com’s USDC stablecoin, which is pegged to the US dollar (to limit volatility)
  • It will all be done on the Ethereum blockchain

This should reduce the friction in using crypto for payments

Ethereum has its own fee — called gas costs — to operate on the blockchain.

According to Protocol, a single transaction could rack up a fee of $10 to $20. Visa’s solution: to bundle payments as it does on its existing network to reduce costs and increase speed.

Such an improved process will go a long way to mainstreaming crypto for everyday payments.

The cryptocurrency momentum is undeniable

As Bitcoin continues to rise, other big finance names are jumping aboard the crypto train. Among the moves:

  • PayPal will offer a checkout service that turns crypto assets into fiat to pay for goods across 29m merchants on its network
  • Fidelity plans to launch a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF)
  • Goldman Sachs is on the verge of offering bitcoin and crypto services to its wealth management clients

JPMorgan Chase, BNY Mellon, BlackRock, and Mastercard are all making their own moves in tandem.

It’s safe to expect more finance players to “go there” in the very near future.

 

The Eurozone Weakness: Much More Than Covid

 

If we looked at most investment bank outlook reports for 2021, one of the main consensus themes was a strong conviction on a rapid and robust eurozone recovery. They were wrong.

This week, Capital Economics joined other analysts and downgraded the eurozone growth, highlighting “We now think that the euro-zone economy will recover more slowly than we previously anticipated, growing by about 3% this year and 4.5% in 2022. Meanwhile, euro-zone government bond yields seem unlikely to fall much further, and with Treasury yields set to increase significantly, we expect the widening yield gap to cause the euro to weaken against the US dollar”.

This wave of downgrades, which includes the OECD and European Central Bank estimates, comes with the same-old and tired upgrade of next year’s expectations, which will likely be downgraded again further down the line.

Most politicians blame the eurozone weakness on the pandemic and the slow vaccine roll out. It is partially true. None of those two factors are detached from one of the main traits that makes the eurozone consistently disappoint in growth and crisis periods: massive bureaucracy.

The slow vaccine roll-out of the eurozone is evident in Bloomberg Economics’ Covid-19 resilience ranking and Our World In Data vaccines administered per 100 people falling significantly below Israel, Chile, the United States or the United Kingdom, despite the eurozone economies having the highest levels of public healthcare spending in the world. The reason why the eurozone lags in vaccinations comes from a bureaucratic and slow process in the approval and purchase of vaccines.

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