Bitcoin – The Bull that refuses to back into its cage

Bitcoin is now trading above the ceiling predicted to be its cap – it is the bull that remains uncontrollably volatile but unashamedly confident.

bitcoin-2643159__340  In a previous post, I explored how Bitcoin worked and explained the functionality of the centralized ledger. This week I have a new question. Why do people have faith in a currency that has no tangible resource backing it? Traditional currencies use gold, what does Bitcoin have? Hope? I will supply two reasons I find particularly compelling that may explain sudden interest for Bitcoin, however bear in mind that there a multitude of factors, and there is no monocausal reason for the sudden growth of Bitcoin.

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Firstly, financial commentators have commented on the magnitude of growth Bitcoin would experience if it were to be backed by a finite resource like gold. Bitcoin is a currency that has no tangible resource dictating its value. Its value is based precisely in what people think it is worth (or will be worth). Currently, Bitcoin is not backed by gold, or any other finite resource, but what if it were?

Standpoint Research’s Ronnie Moas reported that there is $200 T tied to cash, stocks and bonds. He stated:

“I am not excited about putting my money into any of those – If 1% of that $200 trillion finds its way into crypto in the next 10 years, you will be looking at a 2 trillion-dollar valuation – 10 times what it is today”

A theme common with cryptocurrencies. People are investing on the whim that it “could be” massive.

Secondly, trading Bitcoin may become safer – and hence attract attention from more conservative hedge fund managers. The more investors, the more Bitcoin will grow. Last week, the world’s largest exchange operator by market value (CME Group) has announced it is readying plans to offer futures on Bitcoin.

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This will give momentum to cryptocurrencies’ move away from the fringes of finance. But more importantly, the Chicago–based trading venue said it intended to add Bitcoin to its stable of futures on interest rates, stock indices, commodities, and currencies by the end of the year.

If hedge fund managers can long and short different prices, they can hedge against volatility. Currently, Bitcoin does not allow this. If it were to, which the CME have suggested, then Bitcoin becomes more attractive to less risky investors – once again increasing the amount of investment, and the “normativity” of the currency.

These two points share something. Both signpost to us that Bitcoin is doing well because people think it will do even better in the future. The potentiality for the currency is very high. And, although now there is little tangibility to Bitcoin besides hope and (somewhat) empty prediction, it seems that in the near future Bitcoin could become a global phenomenon.

The Run-Up to Christmas

The period running up to Christmas can be one of the most important months of the financial year. Not only can increased consumer spending help to motivate the retail sector, but it also gives a clear indicator as to how the public are feeling economically, whether they are more or less inclined to spend money.

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In Brazil this holiday season, the public’s feelings on Christmas spending are clear – this is a year to tighten your belt. According to a survey by Deloitte, Brazilians will spend 20% less this year than they did for Christmas 2015. The survey shows that, on average, people in Brazil plan on buying only four gifts this year, and intend to spend just $98. This is largely based on the country’s widespread financial insecurity, with the Brazilian GDP having shrunk by 4.4% over the last four quarters. Disappointing news for all those who were hoping Brazil was primed for a turnaround, and a much more restrained holiday season for inhabitants.

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Back in the US, the 12 days of Christmas are a little more expensive this year! This is according to PWC Wealth Management’s annual Christmas Price Index. The exercise is a humorous way to track inflation, with Maids A-Milking and Pipers Piping reflecting real labor costs and Five Gold Rings representing commodities. In the study’s 33rd year, birds, pipers and drummers have got more expensive, where everything else has remained the same or gotten slightly cheaper. This is in-line with the economy’s gradual expansion and reflects the cautiously optimistic attitude of consumers.

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This turn of optimism and expansion has triggered a move by the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates again for the first time since December 2015. The demand for labor has increased almost exactly to the level predicted by Wall Street, pave of growth has quickened and unemployment has continued to drop, now standing at 4.6% from 4.9% last month. Wage growth has yet to recover but this is not enough to stay the Fed’s hand and interest rates are set to go up before Christmas.

One industry is set to have an excellent holiday season for sure, and that is the travel industry! With an expected 3.5% boost in December holiday travellers, US airlines are set to have a record-breaking Christmas season, with a predicted 45.2 million passengers flying between Decemberwhite-male-1771597_1920 16th and January 5th. This means an average of 73,000 more passengers traveling each day in year which saw over 800 million people flying in and around the US. Major airlines are set to add 99,000 additional seats each day to accommodate the rush and this, despite the persistently low fare prices, ought to provide a healthy boost to end the year.

Trump’s Effect on the US Economy

Four weeks have passed since Americans across the country took to the polls and chose Donald Trump as the next President of the United States – but what effect has that had on the US Economy?

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The first thing of note is that, contrary to the example set in Britain post-Brexit, US stocks have soared since Trump’s election. The S&P 500 index, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and Nasdaq Composite Index have all reached record highs since November 8th. This upward swing is even being called a “Trump rally” by some.

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Experts’ feelings on Trump’s economic plan – which involves boosting public spending and introducing tax cuts and reforms – is divided, though most believe it will lead to a sharp increase of both growth and inflation. Trump’s promised corporate tax cuts will be financed largely by higher public borrowing which, although it may certainly stimulate growth, will create bigger budget deficits.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development believe GDP growth is likely to be greater under Trump than it was under Obama, with predicted figures currently standing at 2.3% in 2017 and 3% in 2018. This compares to growth of just 1.5% this year and the 2.2% average annual rate during the current president’s second term.

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Trump’s pledge to dedicate $550bn to rebuilding crumbling infrastructure across the country is likely to push the US towards full employment. Coupled with deregulation and banks being encouraged to loosen lending standards, this growth is bound to push inflation higher as time goes on.

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One thing which remains to be seen is what effect Trump’s presidency will have on the global economy. With a general move away from free trade and globalisation – including policies such as amnesty for multinationals who repatriate foreign profits – at a time where the global economy is less than strong, the US could end up endangering a number of emerging global economies.

One country at least seems to be pleased with the election results. Trump’s views surrounding climate change and global warming has translated into promises to cut red tape for the fossil fuel industry – a move which could prove very useful for Saudi Arabia. The Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih believes that US oil consumption will recover in 2017 leading to a stabilisation of oil prices, though it was not explicitly stated that this would come as a result of Trump’s election and potential return to a 3% rate of growth in the United States GDP.

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