While some analysts are pointing to inflation fears to explain bitcoin’s recent rally, there are so many other factors at play that affect the cryptocurrency’s rise.
Neil Johnston was a creature of habit, and it was one of the things which his wife of twenty-four years Dorothy, both loved and loathed about him. While Dorothy appreciated Neil’s dependability, she was wondering if things were getting a little stale.
So naturally Dorothy grew a little worried when Neil, who would walk through the door almost like clockwork at 7 pm every evening for dinner, started to get home late from work.
“Late from work?” she thought to herself.
Neil was a man of schedule and precision.
As the quality manager at plastics molding company, Neil’s routine was more precise than a German train schedule.
Yet over the last few weeks, Neil kept coming home later and later and Dorothy started to get suspicious.
Were her worst fears coming true? Was Neil having an affair?
Try as she might, she just couldn’t get the nagging suspicion out of her head husband might be cheating on her.
So one evening, when the children were staying over at a friend’s house, she went early to Neil’s office to follow him home.
True enough, he got off work exactly on time but instead of making his way home, he boarded a bus in the opposite direction, with Dorothy following at a distance.
After a few stops, Neil got off the bus and disappeared into a dance studio.
“Dance studio?” Dorothy thought.
But instead of confronting Neil, she peeked through the window of the studio and saw a tall blonde and very attractive woman smile to greet him.
“So that’s who he’s been seeing!”
Before she could charge into the dance studio with indignation, to Dorothy’s surprise, the tall blonde started to put Neil through some warm up paces — she was teaching him to ballroom dance!
But why keep it a secret?
Dorothy, her face pressed against the glass window of the dance studio, watched as her husband practiced the Waltz, the Tango, the Foxtrot and the Bolero, and each move was taken with precision and determination.
When he was finally finished with his personal class, Neil was shocked to find his wife waiting outside for him,
“What are you doing here?” he asked, somewhat shocked.
“I should be asking you that.”
Sheepish, Neil looked at the ground,
“You’ve ruined the surprise.”
“Remember how you said when we were first dating that you wish I knew how to dance, how you wished we could maybe one day go on a glamorous cruise and dance in the ballroom. So I wanted to surprise you on our 25th wedding anniversary. I wanted to learn how to dance.”
Dorothy, by now tears welling in her eyes, reached out and kissed her husband, a long passionate kiss of the sort that the couple had not shared for a long time.
Because nothing is ever as it seems at first blush.
And often times the explanations we come up with to explain our circumstances, can be far removed from the reality of the situation.
Inflating The Price Of Bitcoin
Which is why bitcoin watchers who have witnessed the most recent surge in the dollar-price of bitcoin may have inadvertently noticed that it also coincided with a period when investors became increasingly concerned over inflation.
But are fears of inflation fueling bitcoin’s ascent?
The short answer is yes, and no.
Since the beginning of this year, bitcoin has rallied some 57%, and over 130% from its low in March, after investors digested the havoc caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the computational design of bitcoin is deflationary — there can never be more than 21 million bitcoins ever created, and the rate of mining that bitcoin halves on average once every four years — that in and of itself doesn’t immediately make bitcoin a hedge against inflation.
Given bitcoin’s relatively short history — about 11 years or so — its relationship with its dominant trading pair, the dollar, has not been consistent.
Yet that hasn’t stopped some of the biggest names in the investing world, including billionaire macro hedge fund investor Paul Tudor Jones from allocating a portion of their vast investment portfolios in bitcoin, as a hedge against inflation.
To be fair, Tudor Jones termed his bitcoin investment a “great speculation,” particularly with regards to its value as a hedge against inflation.
And in many ways Tudor Jones is right.
The Great Inflation Speculation
When interest rates fall, non-yielding assets such as bitcoin typically become more attractive because the opportunity cost of leaving money, in the cryptocurrency, become lower.
And when inflation rises, the narrative that fuels demand for these non-yielding assets also gets a boost.
But where inflation really matters is as a component of expected real rates — a closely watched measure of interest rates which are adjusted for inflation.
The market’s favorite gauge of real rates are yields on the U.S. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities or TIPS, which provide investors built-in compensation for the effects of rising price levels.
To figure out whether investors think that inflation will rise in the future or not, breakeven inflation rates — measured by the gap between nominal yields on U.S. Treasuries (bonds) and TIPS yields, serve as a proxy for future inflation.
As the U.S. Federal Reserve took unprecedented monetary and fiscal policy measures to battle the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, real rates fell to historic lows at a time when nascent assets like bitcoin started to appreciate dramatically.
Feeding the inflation-hedge narrative, some investors suggest that the dollar has been losing ground to assets like bitcoin this year, in part at least, because the Fed has been purchasing so much of the U.S. government’s record debt sales — potentially debasing the dollar and diminishing its allure as a haven.
But if that argument were valid, Japan, where over 70% of Japanese government debt is owned by the central bank, would have experienced runaway inflation by now, and the Japanese yen would be near worthless.
Instead, inflation has remained low in Japan, and the Japanese yen is seen as a safe haven currency in times of economic turmoil.
So is real yield all we need to forecast bitcoin’s price?
Right now the inflation story is the one that has taken over the dollar-bitcoin narrative.
Over the past four months, real rates have been observed to be correlated with bitcoin’s ascent.
When bitcoin crashed in March, it demonstrated a strong negative correlation with the dollar.
And since that time, the dollar has slid against other major currencies, while bitcoin has continued to rise.
But the correlation isn’t so simple.
Complicating the correlation between the dollar and bitcoin is that the dollar itself is affected by a slew of factors, including geopolitics, social issues, economics, health and elections.
And this year has provided a plethora of factors to upset the dollar, including, in no particular order of panic, the coronavirus pandemic, rising unemployment, racial and social unrest, law and order issues, political gridlock, economic recession and Sino-American tensions.
On any given year, America usually has to deal with one or more of these crises —but it’s never had to deal with all of them at once and at the worst possible time as well.
At a time when strong leadership is needed from Washington (and it’s not just the White House), politicians on both sides of the aisle are demonstrating just how inept the American political system has become at dealing with crises on a national level.
In the past, times of national crises have tended to unite Americans, not highlight their divides.
No such luck this time.
At the worst possible time, the current occupant of the White House is accentuating American differences, instead of focusing on what should unify the nation.
What should have been a health and safety issue — something as simple as wearing a mask — has been hijacked by ideologues to be recast as a battle for personal freedom.
But surely the right to be free from the coronavirus is a freedom as well?
And while America debates whether wearing a mask is a political statement or not, the coronavirus has completely ignored the argument and ripples through the population virtually unchecked, leaving an ocean of caskets in its wake.
Against this backdrop, policymakers have had to undertake unprecedented fiscal and monetary policy measures, essentially printing money that flows into the financial system.
But although America has never had to deal with so many crises simultaneously, its institutions have proved resilient in the past, so the jury is out on whether they will persist in the future.
And the U.S. economy is still the world’s largest.
Try as the rest of the world might, American consumption and profligacy is still the perpetual motion machine that keeps the rest of the global economy running.
Which is why the dollar hasn’t completely collapsed worthless.
It’s why Japan and Germany which have negative interest rates and a high level of sovereign debt (in the case of Japan) haven’t seen the implosion of their economies the way Zimbabwe and Venezuela have.
And it’s for that reason why the dollar won’t implode suddenly, but some are buying bitcoin, just in case.
No Easy Answers
Which is why there’s no easy answer for whether or not bitcoin’s rise is due to inflation fears.
Over the past four months and based on its correlation with real rates, bitcoin has demonstrated its value as an asset to hedge against future inflation.
But four months do not an inflation hedge make.
And while investors who doubt the dollar may move into other assets, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be moving lock stock and barrel into bitcoin either, especially not purely on the basis of inflation.
Because bitcoin is a Veblen good — which means that as its price increases, it can become even more desired — when bitcoin rallies, it excites analysts and investors, it makes headlines and generates buzz.
With everything in the world so uncertain right now, that bitcoin is rallying speaks to the investor consciousness that it is a desired and desirable asset — because it is perceived to be resilient.
It’s sort of like why the rest of the stock market rallied on the news of tech stocks delivering better than expected second quarter results in 2020 — everyone loves a winner.
And right now, bitcoin looks like a winner.
So more is written about bitcoin, more analysis is done, and more money flows in.
At times like these, the bitcoin rally can be self-perpetuating — which provides incredible opportunity, but also increases risk.
And unlike in 2017, a lot more people are paying attention in the bitcoin rally with institutional investors throwing their hat in the ring in a way not seen before — institutional bitcoin trust Grayscale saw inflows of US$1 billion, half of which were in the first three months of this year alone.
Which might help explain bitcoin’s propensity to trend upwards.
Like so many things in life, things are almost never what they appear to be, even something as simple as coming home late from work.
Warren Buffett Buying Gold May Push Bitcoin to $50K, Investors Say
Berkshire Hathaway, the $503 billion conglomerate led by Warren Buffett, sold Goldman Sachs for a Canadian gold company Barrick Gold. Max Keiser, the founder of Heisenberg Capital and an early Bitcoin investor, says it could help buoy BTC to $50,000.
The quarterly shareholder filing of Berkshire Hathaway shows Buffett trimmed his position on most major banks, Fortune reported on Aug. 15. The firm sold a substantially large portion of its shares in JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and PNG.
What Buffett’s decision to enter a gold position over banks shows about Bitcoin
Buffett’s decision to completely close Berkshire’s position on Goldman Sachs follows the bank’s second-ever highest quarterly trading revenue of $13.3 billion. It suggests Buffett is not comfortable in betting big on the banking industry in the long-term.
Instead, Buffett purchased a single stock in Barrick Gold, whose stock has reflected that of gold in most of 2020. The firm is a gold mining company based in Canada, which recorded a 45% increase year-to-date. Following Berkshire’s investment, the stock rose by 8.11% in after-hours trading.
Max Keiser, an avid Bitcoin investor who has invested in companies like Kraken and Bitfinex, believes Buffett’s gold investment could benefit Bitcoin. He said the positive sentiment around gold implies a higher valuation for Bitcoin, which some consider as “digital gold.” Keiser said:
“Global $100 trillion fund management biz is less than 1% invested in Gold. With Buffett now moving into Gold. Expect global allocation of 5% AU min. Implies $5,000 Gold. Expect a 1% BTC global allocation ($1 trillion). This implies $50,000 for Bitcoin Expect PTJ ups to 10%.”
The weekly price chart of Bitcoin. Source: TradingView.com
A former L/S equities portfolio manager and Ikigai Fund founder Travis Kling echoed a similar sentiment. Referring to Buffett’s skeptical statement in 1998 around gold saying it doesn’t have utility, Kling said:
“Today it was announced Berkshire Hathaway just bought its first gold stock ever. The reasons are self-apparent at this point. Just in case you’re wondering what the coming years are going to look like for Bitcoin, this was Buffett on gold in 1998.”
BTC has shown some correlation with the precious metal as of late
Although Bitcoin has outperformed gold since April, the price trend between gold and BTC has shown some correlation. Data from Skew show the two assets have increased in tandem throughout the past four months.
The correlation between Bitcoin and gold. Source: Skew.com
The simultaneous rally of Bitcoin and gold since the global market crash in late March hints that more investors are starting to consider BTC as a store of value.
Most recently, MicroStrategy, a $1.4 billion intelligence conglomerate, purchased $250 million worth of Bitcoin. The firm said BTC would act as the company’s primary treasury asset, acknowledging Bitcoin as a store of value and a potential safe-haven asset.
Unraveling the Blockchain and Crypto Gaming World One Click at a Time
Regular readers will no doubt be aware of the high expectations currently being placed on the shoulders of blockchain gaming. For advocates of blockchain technology, there is the hope that tapping into the estimated 2.5 billion gamers worldwide will provide a huge leap toward mainstream adoption.
Blockchain and distributed ledger technology continue to make inroads into all kinds of industries as an increasing number of people discover and gain an understanding of the benefits that it can bring. From supply chain efficiencies through certification of authenticity and provenance to the immutable nature of information stored on a blockchain, the technology is already seeing ever-increasing interest.
In the last month alone, there have been announcements from firms associated with global brand names like Coca Cola, international shipping giants working with the Port of Rotterdam, and national governments such as the Philippines regarding blockchain technology implementations. However, this impressive growth is still somewhat organic in nature despite the promotion of the technology by industry leaders and political advocates such as Chinese President Xi Jinping. It also does little to increase blockchain and cryptocurrency awareness among the general public.
The theory is that getting blockchain in front of a potential third of the world’s population, many of whom are already comfortable with in-game payments and currencies, could be the push that finally takes the technology mainstream. This may well feed back into increased adoption of cryptocurrency from gamers who are exposed to the underlying technology through blockchain gaming.
What blockchain can do for gaming
Some believe that the integration of blockchain technology has the ability to revolutionize the gaming industry. Known for its progressive nature, the gaming industry has been fairly quick to get on board, as Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said in a press release shared with Cointelegraph:
“The potential of blockchain and cryptocurrencies reaches far beyond the financial sector. Given the readiness of the gaming industry in its continuous evolution, especially in new technologies. […] Blockchain is becoming an essential part of game development and is set to change the global gaming industry.”
Blockchain brings a number of benefits to gaming, some of which are inherent blockchain attributes that apply to many industries. The transparency of blockchain technology can bring provably fair gameplay. Its security, meanwhile, can guard against fraudulent play or hacking. But perhaps the biggest evolution that blockchain has brought to gaming came with the development of nonfungible tokens.
Essentially, NFTs allow players to own their in-game items, characters and abilities and then trade these items with other players. CryptoKitties was the first game to implement NFTs, but the link between cryptocurrency and trading in-game items goes back way further than that.
At one point, Mt. Gox became the biggest Bitcoin (BTC) exchange in the world, but it fell victim to one of the most infamous Bitcoin exchange hacks of all time. However, the website first started as a card-trading platform and got its name from “Magic: The Gathering Online” (eXchange). One could say that the path of gaming and blockchain technology has come full circle.
Time to roll up the sleeves
So far, Cointelegraph’s coverage of blockchain gaming has been focused on venture capital investments in gaming platforms, NFT pre-sales for forthcoming games, and technologies springing up to support the industry, such as decentralized exchanges for NFTs and platforms enabling developers to easily implement blockchain tech.
While there have been a few game reviews, these have generally been of sample games to show how the technology has been implemented. But if bringing gamers to blockchain technology can increase mass adoption, then Cointelegraph is ready to install the latest graphics drivers and start the grinding. This means expanding the gaming coverage to include the exciting developments in the space from the gamers’ perspective, with one eye firmly on the blockchain technology, of course.
As a little teaser, here are just a handful of the games that will be looked at.
Age of Rust
Age of Rust is a first-person, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi adventure developed by SpacePirate Games. Featuring drop-dead gorgeous graphics, it combines exploration, stealth, combat and puzzles galore, some of which form an in-game treasure hunt with a prize fund worth 20 BTC.
While some puzzles are of the standard “move-the-block-to-reach-hidden-switch” type, others will require specific crypto-items in combination with one’s cognitive powers to solve. These can be collected in-game, traded, bought and sold. As part of the EnjinVerse, an ever-growing collection of games that allows in-game items to be shared, some of the items can be discovered within other games using the platform.
The game is blockchain to its core, and SpacePirate Games founder and CEO Chris LoVerme told Cointelegraph that: “One the reasons why we decided to build the game is to start to break down the walls that exist between gamers and crypto-based platforms.” The early beta release of the game is scheduled for this fall.
Neon District is a cyberpunk-themed role-playing game and the flagship release from developer Blockade. As players battle through enemies in a sci-fi dystopian environment, they collect unique items and abilities, all of which are represented as NFTs that can be bought, sold and traded with other gamers.
As Cointelegraph reported, the game has gone through a number of unfortunate delays, the latest of which was last month when the company announced a move to Ethereum layer two solution Matic after its original platform went AWOL.
However, there are plans to release Neon District experiences on web and mobile later this year, with a full release of Season One on Steam slated for 2021. Rest assured, Cointelegraph will be there to beta test this one when it becomes available.
Infinite Fleet, the highly-touted, massively-multiplayer online space strategy game from Samson Mow’s Pixelmatic, has been making headlines recently through various successful funding rounds.
The game will see players take control of a fleet of large spaceships protected by multiple small AI-controlled fighters. Featuring collaborative gameplay mixed with crypto incentives, Infinite Fleet unites gamers to defend against an invading alien threat. Moreover, Mow has described the game as: “The first proper video game to truly bring together gaming and crypto assets.” While the alpha test is still some way off, Cointelegraph will be getting involved and reviewing the game as soon as possible.
Hash Rush is a real-time strategy game where players must collect resources, build bases and manage armies. It features classic RTS mechanics, such as fog of war and an increasingly challenging opponent.
While an open beta version is currently available for anyone to download, the developer has prioritized gameplay for now, so blockchain features are still in development. However, the first elements of blockchain integration are promised to come online soon, and the eventual aim is to offer a “play-to-earn” model for those who want it.
The Sandbox has been around in one form or another since May 2012 when it was released on iOS. The latest 3D blockchain-enabled iteration has already been making news with its pre-sales of LAND packages and its recent native SAND token sale on the Binance Launchpad. It’s billed as a community-driven platform where creators can monetize the gaming experiences they create in an open-world sandbox environment.
The public beta of the game is slated to launch later this year, but in the meantime, Cointelegraph has been given access to the Game Maker Closed Alpha, a review of which will be landing on screens rather soon. Cointelegraph-themed gaming experiences will become available when the full game launches.
Samsung Phone Support for Gemini Exchange Can Further Crypto Adoption
In a major new partnership, Samsung has announced that the Samsung Blockchain Wallet will be integrated with Gemini, a New York-based crypto exchange. This integration will allow owners of newer Samsung Galaxy phones to not only use their devices as cold storage wallets but to buy and sell crypto via the Gemini exchange as well.
Samsung is the global leader in the smartphone market, with 298.1 million units shipped and a 21.8% market share in 2019, according to tech analytic firm Canalys. Adding support for Gemini will lower the barrier to entry to cryptocurrency use for millions of people.
Previously, owners of Samsung Blockchain Wallet-compatible devices were able to store crypto on their phones, send and receive crypto, and use decentralized applications. However, with this latest addition, Samsung owners will now be able to buy and sell crypto via Gemini too, making it easier for those new to crypto to get their hands on their first tokens.
Both Samsung and Gemini hope that by streamlining the crypto acquisition process, they will be able to overcome some of the roadblocks that have led to the somewhat underwhelming adoption of cryptocurrencies. Tyler Winklevoss, CEO of Gemini, stated in a press release:
“Crypto is not just a technology, it is a movement. We are proud to be working with Samsung Blockchain to bring crypto’s promise of greater choice, independence, and opportunity to more individuals around the world.”
The rocky road to widespread crypto adoption
From Bitcoin’s (BTC) mysterious origins as the brainchild of the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto to the sudden rise of crypto in 2017, cryptocurrency has experienced a wild ride over the past decade, with roadblocks at every turn.
At the beginning of its journey, cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, was largely viewed as a means to conduct illicit affairs and, in some ways, that reputation has stuck around. From ordering drugs online to cryptojacking malware (malicious software that uses a computer’s resources to mine crypto), cryptocurrencies have earned something of a bad reputation.
Unfortunately, because cryptocurrency is accessed through computers, which are always vulnerable to cyberattacks, many people are also concerned about the security of their funds if they were to adopt crypto as their go-to currency. Although cryptocurrencies use complex cryptography to stay secure, and there are many ways to further improve the safety of your funds — such as switching from cloud storage to cold storage — many people may be slow to switch over to digital currencies out of fear of being hacked.
While these concerns haven’t stopped the growing public interest, it has made it more difficult to obtain crypto in some countries, hampering its ability to become a global currency. With several governments banning crypto outright and a lot of people not using a VPN to sidestep those bans, that reputation has put a dent in its user base — especially given that China, one of the largest consumer markets, is one of the countries making an active effort to suppress cryptocurrency.
What’s more, even when people are not worried about cryptocurrency and aren’t legally prohibited from acquiring tokens, many crypto exchanges are simply too complex for the average user to navigate. While there has been an uptick in user-friendly exchanges over the past few years, of which Gemini is one, this lack of easy-to-use exchanges may have significantly hindered the early adoption of cryptocurrencies.
Throughout all this turmoil, Samsung has been one of the largest proponents and supporters of cryptocurrency. In 2019, the company rolled out the Samsung Blockchain Wallet, which supports sending, receiving and storing ERC-20 tokens as well as using DApps built on Ethereum.
This was viewed as one of tech’s biggest moves toward crypto adoption, along with Facebook’s digital currency, Libra. However, without the ability to purchase cryptocurrencies on exchanges, there was still somewhat of a barrier to Samsung owners who didn’t already own crypto.
Samsung and Gemini partner to bring cryptocurrency to the masses
While the complex mathematics behind cryptocurrencies may be hard for consumers to grasp, the benefits of a global currency are not. With support for Gemini built into new Samsung Galaxy models, widespread adoption of cryptocurrency may be inching closer and closer.
Unlike some other crypto exchanges such as Binance, Bittrex or Poloniex, Gemini focuses on providing a streamlined and intuitive crypto buying and selling experience for its users instead of an environment designed for active trading. It’s comparable to Coinbase in its beginner-friendly nature and its focus on buy-and-hold investment strategies.
Gemini is also one of the few exchanges to be awarded a BitLicense, which is required to operate an exchange in the state of New York. This exposes Gemini to a potential market of over 19 million people that not all of its competitors have access to.
By natively supporting Gemini with Samsung’s existing cold storage wallets, the two companies are making it exceedingly easy for new blood to enter the crypto space and safely secure funds in cold storage. Jeanine Hightower-Sellitto, managing director of operations at Gemini, said:
“For millions of Samsung users across the U.S. and Canada, being able to store crypto directly on their phones lowers another barrier to entry.”
While this alone likely won’t be enough to completely change the landscape of cryptocurrency, it sets the stage for other groundbreaking developments yet to come.
Although Samsung Pay continues to lag behind Apple Pay in market share, it still maintains a sizable user base that is expected to hit 100 million users this year. While Samsung Blockchain Wallet doesn’t currently integrate with Samsung Pay, it seems to be just a small step away from allowing Galaxy owners to exchange fiat for tokens, or vice versa, on Gemini and then immediately use them for everyday purchases.
With Samsung Pay so deeply integrated into the daily life of several Asian countries, the impacts of a development like this could be truly massive. Although such an integration is purely speculative at this point, the combined forces of Samsung and Gemini do seem to show that the future is bright for crypto.
Indeed, regardless of whether this recent partnership has an impact, it’s clear that blockchain and similar cryptographic technologies are here to stay. From cryptocurrency to DApps, these technologies are poised to change the world.
While the vision of cryptocurrency as a truly global currency is still far off in the future, these recent developments are drawing us ever closer.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Sam Bocetta is a freelance journalist specializing in United States diplomacy and national security with an emphasis on technology trends in cyberwarfare, cyberdefense and cryptography. Previously, Sam was a contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense, working in partnership with architects and developers to mitigate controls for vulnerabilities identified across applications.
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