Crypto Trader Digest – Nov 3

It’s China Stupid


As China goes, Bitcoin goes. This Halloween weekend, Bitoiners were either drinking in celebration, or fixated on their charts as China ripped and roared higher. XBTCNY reached a high of 2316 CNY or $364 this past Friday. I will devote the entirety of this week’s newsletter to questions surrounding China’s impact on Bitcoin.

Is China Using Bitcoin To Get USD?

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The PBOC is attempting to halt the hot money fleeing China. Since the 4% devaluation in late August, the authorities began actually enforcing capital controls. Bitcoin is legal in China, and individuals can wire RMB to one of several large Bitcoin exchanges to exchange RMB for Bitcoin. Once they have Bitcoin, they are free to transfer it anywhere in the world to buy goods or services, or convert into another fiat currency.

Further devaluation is forthcoming for the RMB. The Chinese citizens know this, and are searching for ways to protect their wealth. One popular theory is that through Bitcoin, Chinese households will get access to USD. The Bitcoin corridor is very narrow, and even a slight uptick in this sort of activity would cause trading volumes and the price to skyrocket.

The above chart shows the ratio of XBTCNY volume on, Huobi, and BTCC vs. XBTUSD volume on Bitfinex, Bitstamp, Coinbase, itBit, and Each was indexed at 100 on October 1st. Each subsequent day’s index looked at the change in volume vs. October 1st. If Chinese households were using Bitcoin as a USD conduit, then XBTCNY and XBTUSD volumes would have the same magnitude of increase.

The chart clearly shows that there were actual inflows into Bitcoin that didn’t fully leak into USD. This is very price positive. There is actual organic demand from China for wealth preservation or pure upward price speculation using Bitcoin. As the rest of the world piggybacks on the surge in Chinese demand, that ratio will fall further.

USDCNY vs. USDCNH: The Bitcoin Angle

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Currency trading in China is a complicated and fickle beast. There are three currency pairs to know about. The interbank USDCNY rate is set each morning at 9:15am by the PBOC. This is the rate at which member banks can trade USDCNY against the PBOC. USDCNY floats in a PBOC set band around the interbank USDCNY rate. USDCNY can only be traded onshore in China and is subject to capital controls. USDCNH is the offshore version of USDCNY. This pair floats in a band around the USDCNY rate. USDCNH cannot be imported onshore accept in a few circumstances that are irrelevant for this discussion.

USDCNY and USDCNH both have different forward curves, which represent the supply / demand dynamics of onshore and offshore CNY. Only domestic Chinese banks can participate in the deliverable USDCNY forward market, and this market is heavily regulated and monitored by the PBOC. Any bank globally can participate in the deliverable USDCNH forward market; the PBOC have very strong regulatory control over this market. Because of this, the USDCNH is a leading indicator of where the PBOC will set the interbank USDCNY, as banks can effectively use the offshore forward market to speculate. Recently USDCNH has traded at a higher price than USDCNY, which signals the market believes further CNY devaluation will occur.

The chart above shows the USDCNH premium (read: the market thinks CNY will be devalued) vs. the premium of Bitcoin in China. There is no clear correlation between the two metrics. The complicating factor is that the PBOC actively intervenes in the USDCNH forward market to narrow the differential. The PBOC does not want clear market signals of the impending devaluation. I still believe that a major motivating factor for China’s shift to Bitcoin is a real fear of currency devaluation.

How To Play The China Bitcoin Premium

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The China Bitcoin Premium chart as the most important chart in Bitcoin. The premium rose substantially during the recent run up in price. The 5%-10% region is very important. If the premium breaks out of this range, it means the usual avenues of arbitrage are broken. Arbitrageurs provide a price dampening effect in China. If they are unable to effectively move money between China and Hong Kong, then Bitcoin and China will soar farther and faster than in November 2013.

The premium is close to the 10% level. Let’s examine how to properly arbitrage this premium.

  1. Set up a Bitcoin account offshore (Bitstamp and Bitfinex are my top choices), and a Bitcoin account onshore (, Huobi, or BTCC are my top choices).
  2. Set up a mainland Chinese bank account. If you live in Hong Kong, take the bus to Shenzhen and you can open a bank account with just your passport. The Chinese banking system is very easy to enter, but hell to exit.
  3. Wire USD to your offshore exchange, then buy Bitcoin.
  4. Send the Bitcoin to your onshore exchange, sell it to realise CNY, then withdraw the CNY to your onshore bank account.
  5. Now comes the tricky part of converting CNY into USD or HKD. Every person is given a $50,000 equivalent FX limit each year in China. Assume that you have exhausted your limit. You can travel to China and withdraw 20,000 CNY and walk it across the border. If you want to do size, then you need a few friends to come with you each day. Or you can use a shadow bank to move the money from CNY to HKD. Unfortunately Beijing has begun cracking down on these bankers, and your money may or may not appear in Hong Kong.

With $10,000, you could make $800 per day in profit. However moving even $10,000 between China and Hong Kong on a daily basis is quite difficult. Therefore, I expect the premium to continue its upward ascent as the fear of continued CNY devaluation grows. Also remember that as the PBOC lowers the benchmark interest rates, it becomes less attractive to store savings with a bank, and more attractive to speculate on risky assets like Bitcoin.

Conclusion: Long And Strong


Unlike 2013, there are real concrete macro factors affecting the flow of CNY into Bitcoin. Bitcoin has passed through many trials and tribulations over the past two years. Many exchanges have fallen, but Bitcoin and the blockchain are still here. China and the rest of the world tackled the 2008 GFC by engaging in a money printing orgy. The effects of which are only starting to be felt. The volume of world trade is declining and the only method left for nominal growth is money printing. Nominal not real growth is all that matters so that banks can extinguish their pouch of non performing loans. The high priests of central banks will provide this growth at whatever social and or economic cost.

China “rescued” the world in 2008 by going on a massive credit fueled infrastructure spending spree. The PBOC now must fight the spectre of deflation. The tools at its disposal are rate cuts and currency debasement. Bitcoin and other non-standard risk assets will gain favor with a desperate populace trying to escape the jaws of inflation. Short this rally if you must, but cover before you bust.

XBT Spot


$330 dusted, $320 is history, $340 we are almost there. That statement is filled with hubris. As a speculator, I would like to see $300 put to the test and pass before I marched towards $400.

The volumes on non-Chinese exchanges have not increased enough at these levels. This week will be a true test. Will the $300 prices bring out the closet buyers. A good indicator will be premiums paid in America on LocalBitcoins. The volume on Coinbase will also be an important barometer. Coinbase operates the largest American Bitcoin brokerage service, and all that volume is passed onto their exchange. The largest trading market for Bitcoin has spoken, but we still need follow on support from the second fiddle, America.

Shorting this rally has proved fatal. If you want to express your bearishness, earn the carry by shorting the BitMEX daily 100x leveraged Bitcoin / USD futures contract, XBT24H, vs. buying spot.

Trade Recommendation:

If you are bearish, sell XBT24H vs. buy spot for a cash and carry arbitrage trade.

If you are bullish, buy weekly 50x leveraged Bitcoin / USD futures, XBT7D, while spot is $325 to $330.


Crypto Trader Digest – Oct 26

To Print Money Is Glorious


On his southern tour of China in 1992, Deng Xiaoping was credited with uttering “To Get Rich is Glorious”. His program of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics unleashed one of modern times’ greatest transformations in a country’s wealth. Since the early 1990’s, China transitioned from the century of humiliation, to a century of prosperity and growth.

China’s growth over the past two decades is legendary, but underpinning this growth is one of the largest credit expansions in human history. Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is a euphemism for a red printing press. Printing money is as old as centralised government. China being China just did it larger and more in your face than any government in history. Since the 2008 GFC, China’s total debt to GDP has almost doubled to 180%. The gargantuan issuance of debt underpinned the creation of ghost cities and bridges to nowhere.

The great financialisation that began in 1971 when Nixon took America off the gold standard is reaching its expiry date. World growth is slowing evidenced by an across the board slump in industrial commodities. China is a highly levered to the global manufacturing economy, and the state owned banks (SOE) loan books are stuffed with industrial companies’ debt. This debt must be warehoused and rolled over to keep the many zombie SOE’s alive. As a result, the PBOC continues to aggressively ease monetary conditions.

This past weekend the Reserve Ratio Requirement was cut by 0.50%, and the benchmark lending rate by 0.25%. These desperate moves are meant to help banks deal with their toxic loan books. As deposit rates drop, the rush to sell CNY and convert into a higher yielding asset will intensify. The PBOC is clearly telegraphing that the CNY will depreciate in the near term. Mao’s red army is watching and as the they earn less and less at the bank, they will start to embrace risky assets. Bitcoin serves as a central bank put, an electronic means of wealth preservation, and a vehicle to export domestic capital.

$300 is just the beginning. If the China narrative catches hold again, a truly explosive upward price burst will occur. For the more patient traders, consider buying BitMEX’s 25x leveraged March 2016 Bitocin / USD futures contract, XBTH16.

XBT Term Structure

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The FOMO was strong this weekend. The amazing China pump to 1950 CNY ignited the inner bull in traders. The short end of the curve shot upwards. The long end barely budged. XBTZ15’s basis was flat, and XBTH16’s basis was up 8% on the week. Traders are still hesitant to believe the rebirth from the $200 to $300 purgatory. That is why the long end has not been bought as aggressively. Many traders expect a $300 breach, and then a quick tumble just like the other two attempts prior.

If the narrative around China grows, the medium term trend for Bitcoin is higher. If $300 can be broken and held for a week, then the FOMO will begin in earnest. Then the long end of the curve will skyrocket. Those patient enough to buy XBTH16 and sell XBTZ15 or spot, will be amply rewarded.

Trade Recommendation:

Buy XBTH16 vs. sell XBTZ15 or spot if you believe $300 can be broken and held for one week.

Dancing With The Daily

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If Bitcoin is fun, Bitcoin with 100x leverage is a hell of a party. BitMEX’s 100x daily expiring Bitcoin / USD futures contract, XBT24H, has quickly become our most popular product. Because of the heightened volatility and price rise, the premium intraday has been massive.

The above chart shows the premium of XBT24H over spot for October 25th from 00:00 GMT to 23:00 GMT. 12:00 GMT is the settlement time, and that is why there is a dip. Starting yesterday night during the pump to 1950 CNY, the premium of XBT24H reached 1.75% outright. For a contract that expires in 24 hours, that is massive. I call that the FOMO premium. In a trending market, traders following the trend and momentum will overpay for exposure. This is a perfect opportunity for spot vs. futures arbitrage.

The trade is to sell XBT24H and buy spot. This is not a perfect arbitrage. At certain prices, the short XBT24H’s negative USD gamma will cause a loss for the portfolio. The PNL function is quadratic so we can solve a priori for the two break even points. For this particular trade, break even is below $259.37 and above $337.71. Given the spot price was $293, it is extremely unlikely that XBT24H will settle outside of that range. This is a no brainer trade for an arbitrageur.

XBT Spot


Bitcoin traders have been praying to the goddess of volatility for the entire summer. She awoke with a vengeance this weekend. The price action in XBTCNY reminded me of 2013. The highs were high, and the retrace was violent and swift. XBTCNY touched 1950 (appx. $306), and then careened lower by 120 CNY to a low of 1830 this morning.

Bitstamp climbed to $296, and during the downdraft briefly touched below $280. The price action will subside this week, and another attempt will be made for $300 on XBTUSD, and 1950 for XBTCNY. Additional easing from the PBOC will lend the China narrative further firepower. Make no mistake, this is a healthy rally. Short at your own peril.

Trade Recommendation:

Buy the weekly 50x leveraged Bitcoin / USD futures contract, XBT7D, while spot is $280 to $285. The upside target price is $300.