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Tag #Bitcoin

Inferno market report: how will bitcoin fare in a recession?

With talk of a global recession growing louder, it’s time to consider what BTC might do in this scenario – one it’s never seen before.

 

Bitcoin is well into its new bull market, having seemingly completed its first leg up and pullback and now looking at getting the job done in earnest. At the same time, the global markets are looking a little shaky. We’ve recently seen the first interest rate cut by the Fed in 10 years – something that has never happened in Bitcoin’s history. Trade wars with China are hotting up, and a global slowdown is underway.

 

This is new territory for bitcoin. What will happen if we really see a major recession? Will it be a safe-haven asset, or will it get sold like stocks and other risk-on assets?

 

Two possibilities

There are probably two major scenarios here, depending on how bad and long the recession is. 

  1. Stock market crash but a fast recovery. Bitcoin might get hit like most other asset classes, but some traders could decide to put money in crypto as an undervalued and uncorrelated asset. If there’s lots of international tension (China, Iran, North Korea…) involved, then as an independent asset outside of the control of governments and central banks, bitcoin could prove quite popular.
  2. Deeper recession. Bitcoin could be more seriously impacted. When people lose their jobs, they tend to sell liquid and convertible assets to see them through. Retail crypto holdings could be badly hit; institutional ones, perhaps less so?

 

There are lots of variations on what could happen, and lots of potential complicating factors. More failing states with hyperinflation would place additional demand on BTC. It could also see increased use as a way of avoiding capital controls imposed by countries like China to prop up their economies.

So we can take an educated guess, but we won’t know for sure until it happens. That it is going to happen is something that is becoming clearer by the day.

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Inferno guide to Bitcoin Bears

The success of cryptocurrency has seen a new breed of bear evolve. These are vicious, tortured creatures who will maul bitcoin at the slightest provocation. Understood correctly, they can be a fantastic form of entertainment.

 

Bitcoin has its fair share of critics as well as fanatics. It’s something that polarises opinion. But there are those so rabid in their denunciation of crypto that it tips over into insanity. These are some of the professional Bitcoin Bears you should be able to identify.

 

Peter Schiff. Gold is good, bitcoin is bad. Peter has made a career out of shilling gold, and now there’s a new kid in town. Naturally, Peter says bitcoin isn’t as good as gold, because it’s not shiny and heavy. Peter knows there’s a ‘massive inflationary recession’ coming, and gold is going to be the go-to safe haven asset when it does. Everyone needs to buy gold. Forget bitcoin, it’s going back to $3,000 and then lower.

 

Nouriel Roubini. No discussion of Bears could be complete without mention of ‘Dr Doom’. Nouriel has a very visceral hatred of Bitcoin, which is made far worse by the fact that he has been warning people to stay away from it ever since it was in double digits back in 2013. With no fear that he could be on the wrong side of history, Roubini clings to his success in predicting the Global Financial Crisis as proof that he is smarter than you are, and that he is right about Bitcoin too. Watch his tirades against crypto, the veins on his forehead bulging, the foam on his lips, the rage that seeps from every pore of his skin. Make no mistake: this is personal for him.

 

Donald Trump. The Don hasn’t said much about bitcoin, but he’s not a fan. His one tweet to date on bitcoin says as much: ‘I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air. Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity….’ Most of all, though, he hates Libra, which is a little bit Bitcoin-y. It’s not worth bothering to understand the differences, though, because anything that isn’t the US dollar is junk.

 

Jamie Dimon. JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon has been cross about bitcoin for over five years, rivalling Nouriel for his commitment to hating crypto. ‘It’ll eventually blow up. It’s a fraud, OK?’ he said in 2017. He once threatened to sack any of his traders who got into bitcoin. ‘You can’t have a business where people can invent a currency out of thin air and think the people buying it are really smart. It’s worse than tulip bulbs, OK?’ Presumably he thinks creating currency out of thin air is a job for banks, which is why JP Morgan is the first bank to have tested a crypto coin for settlement.

Paul Krugman. Ah Paul, Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and New York Times columnist. You’re not really a proper bear, not like Nouriel. It’s just that your economic criticism of Bitcoin in your article ‘Bitcoin is evil’ from 2013 made you a poster boy of the anti-coiners. And it’s really not fair that people keep dredging up that old quote of yours. Hey, remember back in 1998 when you said that ‘By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s’? Oops.

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Sunday Inferno round-up

Here it is, folks: our regular Sunday summary of Inferno news, articles and market insights. Here’s what’s been going on this week:

We’ll be back with more tomorrow, so enjoy what remains of your weekend and stay tuned!

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Are permissioned ledgers the future of blockchain for business?

Corporations and governments won’t work with open platforms. Permissioned ledgers are likely to play a key role in the adoption of blockchain technology.

 

Bitcoin, the original blockchain, is an open network. Anyone can join it, use it, run a full node, or start a mining node. There are no restrictions of who gets to be a part of the network.

 

That’s great for transparency and trust, but it has its drawbacks. Since anyone can use the network, malicious activities are possible, from DDoS to 51% attacks. And of course, bitcoin can be used for criminal purposes; no one can stop you sending bitcoin to anyone else.

 

For regular individuals, this is a price worth paying. Having a blockchain and form of money that is free from interference is hugely important. And form of control by companies or governments increases the risk of intervention, and that could mean users not being able to access their funds. So open blockchains are here to stay: they’re just too valuable to expect them to go away, and it’s not possible for regulators to shut them down. Similarly, small businesses are happy with open blockchains, which offer greater transparency and auditability than their current centralised providers.

 

But corporations and government aren’t happy with that. They need greater reliability and network stability, higher throughput, and predictability for fees and other properties.

 

Permissioned blockchains can deliver this by keeping the network tight and only allowing approved actors to use it. By running a small number of approved nodes, it’s possibly to avoid most of the uncertainty of open blockchains, ensure greater network stability, and avoid the need for fees. Depending on how the network is structured, you can also prevent bad actors from using it, or kick them off for serious offences.

 

There are already various permissioned ledger solutions out there, many of them based on existing blockchain technology. We can expect more of these to arise as governments and corporations look for infrastructure partners. 

 

In most cases, the regular crypto community won’t benefit from these – there won’t be ICOs, and the tokens won’t be designed to increase in value. But there may be other ways in which it’s good for the crypto sector.

 

Overall, it could be good for crypto just as a way of raising awareness – just like Facebook’s Libra has brought Bitcoin into front and centre for Congress. There may also be open blockchain platforms that launch permissioned functionality. Waves Enterprise, for example, will allow entities to launch permissioned networks of their own, securing them on the main Waves chain and bringing additional demand to the WAVES token that powers the open blockchain.

 

Then there are initiatives like VPLedger, which is designed from the ground up for businesses use. This includes KYC as a mandatory condition of entry for every user, and a network of a couple of dozen nodes. However, the project still has a commitment to decentralise its governance completely, meaning it could prove a valuable addition to a future decentralised economy and become a host for many interesting projects.

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Inferno market analysis – another look at Realised Cap

‘Realised Cap’ is closing in on $100 billion, giving us another way of assessing bitcoin price developments in the medium-term future.

 

In this report, we’re going to take a look at the longer-term picture for bitcoin. In particular, we’ll look at what’s been going on with the Realised Cap metric, which we’ve looked at before and which can help give a sense of whether BTC is under- or over-valued. 

 

Realised Cap – recap

We’re used to talking about the price and market cap of bitcoin, but those figures don’t mean a lot in isolation. What matters is the price people paid for those coins in comparison to the current price. Look at it this way: when we hit a new all-time high, no one who ever bought and held coins is taking a loss.

 

This is what Realised Cap is for. The measure was devised by the CoinMetrics team, and it looks at the price of BTC for every UTXO – in other words, how much coins cost when they were last moved. It’s not perfect, because people move coins all the time without selling them, but it’s much better than simple market cap, which doesn’t take into account factors like lost coins. You can see it as ‘an indicator of the sum of levels where groups of long-term, legit, buyer-hodlers entered into their Bitcoin positions, with local and immediate emotions and manias stripped out,’ say Adaptive Capital analysts Murad Madmudov and David Puell.

 

Where are we now?

As you can see from the chart, Realised Cap is gradually going up all the time. In a bull run, it goes almost vertical on the log chart. Where it gets really interesting, though, is comparing Realised and Simple market cap.

 

Right now, Realised Cap is around $100 billion – an all-time high. But that’s nowhere near the simple market cap of Bitcoin. In fact, prices would need to correct to around $5,000 before the average holder was in the red. So the average bitcoin holder is currently sitting on a 200% profit

 

At historic bubble peaks, that has been more like 400-500%. (Mahmudov and Puell put the ‘sell’ indicator factor at 3.7.) However, this doesn’t mean a predicted top around $20,000 again. Remember, Realised Cap is rising all the time. 

 

And this is one of the reasons why lengthy corrections within a bull market are important. They enable Realised Cap to rise to meet price, just like a moving average support line rising towards price in a consolidation period. What’s happening here is that coins are changing hands at a profit (on average) and so Realised Cap is increasing. It’s part of the churn that calms the market’s exuberance and allows the bull to run further.

 

The history of Realised Cap also confirms that this bull run, if it’s anything like previous ones, has a long way to go. At some point, price will dip below it, which is a clear buy signal. But we could be years off that.

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The strange story of Hal Finney and Dorian Nakamoto, Part 2

Statistically, one or other Satoshi Nakamotos was always likely to live near a prominent cypherpunk.

 

In the first part of this article, we looked at the unlikely coincidence that Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto – the man unfairly and inaccurately outed as Bitcoin’s creator by Newsweek – lived just a mile away from Hal Finney, a man who was involved in Bitcoin’s origins.

 

The theory goes that this can’t be a coincidence. Instead, one assumption is the cypherpunks who created Bitcoin chose Dorian as a kind of mascot, for one reason or another. But maybe there’s another explanation. And maybe it’s as simple as this:

 

Cypherpunk City

The cypherpunk movement started in California and has kept its roots there. Back in 1992 a group of twenty or thirty mathematicians and computer scientists met to discuss some of the most pressing and concerning developments in the advance of communications technology, including privacy. Timothy C. May, author of the Crypto Anarchist Manifesto, lived in Corralitos, California. Eric Hughes, a mathematician from the University of California, Berkeley was there. So was John Gilmore, a computer scientist and (later) an internet activist. There were, and are, lots of cypherpunks in the Bay Area of California. A population of around 8 million is packed into 7,000 square miles. If the Bay Area was a perfect circle, it would be less than 100 miles across.

 

The point is, there are lots of cypherpunks within a fairly small area. Now, what are the odds that someone with the same name as Bitcoin’s creator – or not quite the same – lived close to one or other of them?

 

‘Nakamoto’ isn’t a super common name, like Smith. But it’s not exactly rare, either. According to different directories, there are probably a hundred in California alone, and quite possibly more. One site suggests there are a total of three Satoshi Nakamotos living in the US. Odds on there are more, since these are just the ones recorded in those directories, and in some cases, middle names may have been omitted. 

 

Here’s how the math stacks up. California has 12% of the US population but a third of the nation’s 15 million Asians. So even if there really were only three Satoshi Nakamotos in the US, statistically there’s more than a 50% chance that at least one of them would live in California. And since one quarter of the Bay Area’s population are Asian, you might reasonably expect to find a Satoshi Nakamoto living there – especially if you looked for Nakamotos with a middle name of Satoshi, too. And if you live in the Bay Area, there’s a very good chance you live near a cypherpunk – within a few miles at most, and probably a lot closer.

 

Statistically, it’s not particularly unlikely that Dorian Nakamoto lived near a cypherpunk like Hal Finney. But let’s not let that get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.

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The strange story of Hal Finney and Dorian Nakamoto, Part 1

Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, the man who definitely wasn’t Bitcoin’s creator, lived just a mile away from someone who could have been. Coincidence?

 

Hal Finney was a giant in the Bitcoin scene. He was a prominent cypherpunk who worked on landmark privacy projects, including PGP and anonymous remailers. He was one of just a handful of people to reply positively to Satoshi Nakamoto’s early posts on the Cryptography Mailing list, announcing his ideas about a truly peer-to-peer electronic currency; most members simply dismissed it without much thought. He corresponded with Satoshi, helped him refine the idea, mined a few bitcoins and then drifted away from the project. He came back later, in 2010, sharing ideas on the bitcointalk forum. By this stage, he was suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, and died in 2015.

 

Could Hal have actually been Satoshi? It sounds possible: he’s one of very few people in the world with the right background, interests and expertise. However, it seems unlikely. He was actually less involved than most people assume. And apart from anything else, Hal specifically said he wasn’t Satoshi. You can read his thoughts about Bitcoin and Satoshi on bitcointalk:

 

When Satoshi announced Bitcoin on the cryptography mailing list, he got a skeptical reception at best. Cryptographers have seen too many grand schemes by clueless noobs. They tend to have a knee jerk reaction.

 

I was more positive. I had long been interested in cryptographic payment schemes. Plus I was lucky enough to meet and extensively correspond with both Wei Dai and Nick Szabo, generally acknowledged to have created ideas that would be realized with Bitcoin. I had made an attempt to create my own proof of work based currency, called RPOW. So I found Bitcoin fascinating.

 

When Satoshi announced the first release of the software, I grabbed it right away. I think I was the first person besides Satoshi to run bitcoin. I mined block 70-something, and I was the recipient of the first bitcoin transaction, when Satoshi sent ten coins to me as a test. I carried on an email conversation with Satoshi over the next few days, mostly me reporting bugs and him fixing them.

 

Today, Satoshi’s true identity has become a mystery. But at the time, I thought I was dealing with a young man of Japanese ancestry who was very smart and sincere. I’ve had the good fortune to know many brilliant people over the course of my life, so I recognize the signs.

 

After a few days, bitcoin was running pretty stably, so I left it running. Those were the days when difficulty was 1, and you could find blocks with a CPU, not even a GPU. I mined several blocks over the next days. But I turned it off because it made my computer run hot, and the fan noise bothered me. In retrospect, I wish I had kept it up longer, but on the other hand I was extraordinarily lucky to be there at the beginning. It’s one of those glass half full half empty things.

 

The next I heard of Bitcoin was late 2010, when I was surprised to find that it was not only still going, bitcoins actually had monetary value. I dusted off my old wallet, and was relieved to discover that my bitcoins were still there. As the price climbed up to real money, I transferred the coins into an offline wallet, where hopefully they’ll be worth something to my heirs.

 

So what about Dorian?

Hal had a reputation for honesty and integrity, and we have to assume he wasn’t lying – or laying an elaborate trail of false evidence to put people off the fact he was Satoshi. But there’s another curious twist to this tale.

 

Back in 2014, Newsweek outed a man called Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto as the creator of Bitcoin. Dorian was an unemployed 64-year-old Japanese-American engineer. Leah McGrath Goodman, who had (poorly) researched and written the article, based much of her belief on the fact that he had the right name. The rest was fanciful or ridiculous – like this: ‘[Dorian’s wife] Mitchell suspects Nakamoto’s initial interest in creating a digital currency that could be used anywhere in the world may have stemmed from his frustration with bank fees and high exchange rates when he was sending international wires to England to buy model trains. “He would always complain about that,” she says.’

 

The story unravelled fast, and Goodman was left looking stupid to say the least. But there was one bizarre coincidence. Dorian lived just two blocks away from Hal Finney. Finney had been involved at the start of Bitcoin. Was that really a coincidence?

 

CoinTelegraph made much of the fact it was not. ‘A man with such a unique name living so close? I don’t think so.’ A reddit post made an intriguing argument: ‘I think he [Dorian] is the real person after whom the Satoshi persona was named. The coincidence of having a Satoshi Nakamoto living 2 blocks away from Hal Finney’s home is just too improbable to be ignored. Hal and his cypherpunk counterparts intended for this old friendly retired man whose house had been foreclosed by banksters to be the symbolic figure behind the financial renaissance on behalf of all the victims of the modern financial system. Satoshi is Dorian and I think it’s just fine that way.’

 

It does sound too improbable to be a coincidence. In the second part of this article, though, we’ll explore that idea further – because the reality is, there’s actually a pretty good explanation.

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Inferno market report: JP Morgan says sell your dollars

The bank warns the dollar’s dominance could be coming to an end, and to prepare accordingly. 

 

JP Morgan has urged its international high net-worth clients to reduce their exposure to the dollar in favour of gold and international currencies

 

The investment bank did not recommend them to buy bitcoin, but the wider effect could be the same. The bank’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, is famous in cryptocurrency circles for denouncing Bitcoin as a scam and then going on to launch JPM Coin. Now, Dimon is inadvertently doing his bit for the crypto world again by warning that the days of the dollar’s dominance may be coming to an end.

 

The portfolios of its high net-worth clients are exposed to the dollar to the tune of around 80%. The bank’s analysts suggest cutting that by up to half, down to just 40%, replacing it with gold, Chinese renminbi, euros, Swiss franc and even the British pound.

 

‘The US dollar has been the world’s dominant reserve currency for almost a century,’ the bank’s strategist Craig Cohen wrote. ‘However, we believe the dollar could lose its status as the world’s dominant currency… due to structural reasons as well as cyclical impediments.’

 

Various currencies have been in the news recently, competing to see which can do worst. China’s Yuan is at a ten-year low, prompting President Trump to renew his accusations of currency manipulation, and urge the Fed to drop interest rates and devalue the dollar in turn. The stock markets have reacted with a sharp ‘correction’ to the trade wars. Meanwhile the British pound has been trading at close to a long-term low in the face of mounting fears of a no-deal Brexit.

 

Gold, on the other hand, recently hit a six-year high, and bitcoin appears to be correlating well with its own bull run. Max Keiser suggested that confidence in centralised institutions and fiat was at a multi-decade low. 

 

There is a growing narrative and awareness that the established authorities don’t have the answers, and that putting some money in an uncorrelated and independent asset class could be a very good idea. JP Morgan gave their take on that; the wider market will decide what it means for bitcoin.

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The Periodic Table of Crypto

Bitcoin is known as ‘Digital Gold’ due to its scarcity and high value. It’s the safe haven and reserve currency of the crypto world. What about other cryptos, though…?

 

Bitcoin: Digital Gold. It’s the original form of digital wealth. A store of value that crypto traders seek in times of uncertainty. The ultimate scarce digital asset: don’t be without it.

 

Litecoin: Digital Silver. Still a scarce asset, though not so scarce as digital gold. It’s more volatile, just like physical silver. It’s more useful as a transactional currency than a store of value, but it has good network effect and isn’t going out of fashion. Totally manipulated, of course.

 

Ethereum: Digital Plutonium. Really cool. Powerful when handled carefully. Nuclear-scale disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing. Make sure you store it safely. Some wallets are like leaky reactor cores. Yes, Parity. I’m looking at you.

 

Ripple: Digital Chromium. Shiny shiny shiny!! Look at this, it must be super valuable! I’m so smart for buying a ton of it while it’s so cheap!! Shiny!! Wait, what? There’s 144,633 trillion more tons of this stuff in the ground? Dammit.

 

BCash: Digital Lead. It’s vaguely shiny, but rather dull. Isn’t worth much, though even lead has its value. But it is rather toxic and frankly you could do a lot better. A bag of this can feel heavy.

 

Libra: Digital Iron. Utilitarian. Serves a purpose, gets the job done. Useful for making weapons to beat the US government with, though you’d better believe they’re going to beat you back. Nothing particularly special or different, there’s going to be a lot of it, but it’s handy as far as it goes.

 

Tether: Digital rust. Seems so good, strong, useful. But then you realise that what was once so good is a flaking pile of dirty crap.

BSV: Digital Turds. You can gold plate a turd but it’s still a turd. Just like real turds, there will always be people who have a nasty fascination with digital turds and can’t help playing with them. But they still stink and normal people will avoid them like the plague they are.

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Sunday Inferno summary

It’s the weekend once again, so here is our regular round up of news, market analysis and Inferno-style fun:

That’s all! We’ll be back next week with more of the same.

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