Category Archives: cryptos

18/9/18: Extreme Concentration Risk: Bitcoin’s VUCA Bomb

I wrote before both, about the general problem of concentration risk and the specific problem of this risk (more accurately, the concentration-implied VUCA environment) in the specific asset classes and the economy. Here is another reminder of how the build up of concentration risks in the financial markets is contaminating all asset classes, including the off-the-wall crypto currencies:

The added feature of this concentration risk is extreme (87%) illiquidity of major Bitcoin holdings. This means that under the common 'Mine and Hold' strategy, already monopolized, highly concentrated mining pools literally create a massive risk buildup in the Bitcoin trading systems: with 87% of wallets not trading for months, we have a system of asset pricing and transactions that effectively provides zero price discovery and will not be able to handle any spike in supply, should these accounts start selling. Worse, the system is tightly coupled, as Bitcoin holdings are frequently used to capitalize other leveraged crypto currencies undertakings, such as investment funds and ICOs.

The extent of latent instability in the crypto markets is currently equivalent to a Chernobyl reactor on the cusp of the human error.

3/9/18: Bakkt: One New Exchange, Two Old Exchanges, Same Crypto Story?

My comment on the new #cryptocurrency exchange project involving Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Microsoft, Starbucks, and Boston Consulting Group: In the nutshell, hold the hype, but watch it develop...

1/8/18: Dynamic patterns in BTCUSD pricing: is there a new down cycle afoot?

Bitcoin Cycles Analysis in one chart:

As the above suggests, BTCUSD dynamics are signalling continued structural pressures on Bitcoin prices and the start of the new double-top down cycle. The Great Unknown remains with the behaviour of the buy-and-hold investors who dominate longer-term BTC markets. Increase in market breadth with arrival of more active traders from the start of 2018 has not been kind to Bitcoin. More institutional investment flowing into the cryptos market has been, on average, a net negative for the crypto.

25/5/18: The Wondrous World of Cryptos Fraud: Profitable and Growing

One of the key promises of cryptocurrencies to their 'users'/'investors'/'gamblers' has been that of security of data stored on cryptos-backed blockchains and crypto 'assets' held by their owners. Yet, scandal after scandal, the myth has been deflated by the news flows, with security breaches, theft and fraud hitting the cryptos markets with frequency and impact not seen in traditional investment venues and asset classes.

Research by the Anti-Phishing Working Group released on Thursday shows that criminal activities have resulted in a theft of some $1.2 billion in cryptocurrencies since the beginning of 2017  ( Which is a significant number, but most likely an under-estimate to the true extent of theft and excludes fraud, especially fraud relating to the notorious ICOs.

In January-April 2018, ICOs raised some $6.6 billion, marking a 65% increase on 4Q 2017 ($3.9 billion in ICOs funding). Based on WSJ report that surveyed 1,450 ICOs, roughly 20 percent of the new offers raise major red flags for scams, including “plagiarized investor documents, promises of guaranteed returns and missing or fake executive teams”. Again, this is just a part of an iceberg. Ca half of all ICOs projects had no actual service or product offer behind them. In other words, investors in more than half of all ICOs were backing nothing more than a technological white paper, absent even a rudimentary business plan.

While there have been a lot of discussion in recent months about the potential Ponzi-game nature of the cryptos markets, irrespective of where you stand on the issue, there are two questions every investor must ask before dipping into the cryptos waters:
  1. Do I, as an investor, really comprehend the risks, uncertainties, complexities, and ambiguities imbedded in product offers I am considering investing in? and
  2. Do I, as an investor, have meaningful avenues for monitoring, hedging and/or ameliorating the above risks, uncertainties, complexities, and ambiguities imbedded in product offers I am considering investing in?
Now, without any sense of irony, when it comes to cryptos and ICOs, for any, even the most-informed and seasoned investor, the answers to (1) and (2) are 'No'. Which means that cryptos and ICOs are not a form of investment, but a form of speculative gambling. Nothing wrong with playing some chips at an unregulated casino, of course. Feel free to do so at own risk.

Update: A new research report ( estimates that "it could take just $55 mln to hack a major cryptocurrency network for $1bln profit", providing yet more evidence that a "successful 51% attacks to control hashpower" previously deemed "too expensive and would result in making the attacked currency worthless" is no longer 'too expensive' and can deliver signifcantly higher profit margins than mining. So much for 'secure decentralized un-hackable' assets, thus.

21/12/17: Of Taxes and Whales: Bitcoin’s New Headaches

I have recently mused about the tax exposures implications of Bitcoin 'investments', and in particular, my suspicion that many today's BTC enthusiasts (retail investors speculating on BTC and other cryptos) are likely to be caught out with unexpected and un-covered tax liabilities arising from trading in currencies pairs that involve cryptos and regular currencies (e.g. BTCUSD pair). Normally, every trade in BTC that involves sale of BTC for USD is subject to capital gains tax. This is a nasty side effect of the BTC trading.

And here comes a new and a worse one: the GOP tax plan will make even trades between cryptos (e.g. BTCETH pair) subject to capital gains ( The GOP plan removal of the like-kind swap tax deferral provision for everything other than real property sweeps cryptos put of the deferral cover because back in 2014, the IRS designated cryptos as non-currency property-type assets, like gold.

In addition to catching many investors off-guard and leaving them facing potentially explosive tax bills, the new change induces more liquidity risk into the system: removal of the deferral imposes a de facto transaction tax on BTC and other cryptos. This is likely to reduce frequency of trading conducted by investors. Which, in turn, reduces liquidity of the BTC and other cryptos.

This tax change, in part, likely explain why the BTC and other cryptos concentration is falling: the whales, who used to control up to 40% of the entire BTC issuance to-date, are selling, and selling at speed (  Ordinarily, this would be a good thing (lower concentration risk, increased liquidity), but cryptos are not your ordinary assets. The problem with whales selling is that one of the key arguments in favor of cryptos is that crypto-enthusiasts and pioneers are market-makers who prefer mine-and-hold strategy. In other words, to-date, the argument has been that the whales simply will never sell their holdings before BTC issuance reaches its bound of 21 million units.

That reasoning is now going, like the proverbial hot air out of a punctured balloon: