Crypto Trader Digest – Mar 28

I Think I’m Turning Japanese

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Japan is the unorthodox monetary policy guinea pig. A future of tentacle porn and massive money printing awaits all developed nations. After over two decades of print and pray (maybe try just the tip?), Japan has arrived at the final solution: helicopter money.

Helicopter money, or basic income as many governments label it, is an attempt to jump start spending by handing cash directly to consumers. Instead of enriching only those who hold real assets (stocks, bonds, and real estate) via central bank bond buying, Japan will hand out vouchers to low-income young people so they may purchase “daily necessities”.

Helicopter money is nothing new. Some European countries have experimented with this flavor of money printing as well. The difference is that Japan has the world’s largest government debt load as a percentage of productive output. The BOJ puts other central banks to shame in their attempts to reflate a dying economy and country.

Japan produces some of the world’s most delicious produce (make sure it’s not from Fukushima), but imports virtually all of its energy needs. Abe-san and Kuroda-san’s policy of massive money printing trashed the yen, and made life for ordinary Japanese citizens very expensive. First it will be young poor people, soon it will be most able-bodied adults who will receive some form of government handout. The only result will be a cheaper yen, and rampant energy and food inflation. Even though Japan has a healthy farming sector, farmers still need to consume imported energy to grow and transport their crops.

Japanese housewives are renowned for their penchant to speculate in foreign exchange. What happens when they discover Bitcoin and other digital currencies? They can be bought over the internet (Japan has the world’s fastest internet after South Korea), and instantly they can protect and store their wealth. While the USD is the cleanest dirty sheet, it will get trashed as well vs. gold, digital currencies, and other real assets once Grandma Yellen goes negative.

Most of you aren’t Japanese; however that doesn’t mean BitMEX doesn’t have a way for you to profit from Kuroda-san’s freebasing habit. In the next few weeks, in cooperation with Quoine (the largest Bitcoin / Yen exchange), we will launch a daily Bitcoin / Yen futures contract: XBJ24H. Japanese traders will have direct access to XBJ24H through their account with Quoine, and BitMEX will also offer the product via our platform.

Japan Goes Full Krugman: Plans Un-Depositable, Non-Cash “Gift-Certificate” Money Drop To Young People

Brexit Maybe?

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The odds of Brexit are climbing, averaging 35% across various betting platforms. Some unofficial polls put the “Leave” vote above 40%. The referendum will be held on June 23rd.

Brexit would be catastrophic for the EU project. EU skeptic parties continue to poll better and better. If one of the richest countries in Europe leaves the EU project, the calls for Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain (the PIGS) to exit from their citizens will gain force.

All of the PIGS have massive debt problems. Either they continue suffering from high unemployment, or devalue and accept their old domestic currency. These are the only options to regain competitiveness vis-a-vis ze Germans. After 7 years of “austerity” the plebes are fed up. However, they have been sufficiently scared about the possible post-EU apocalypse to vote themselves out of the Euro. That all changes if Brexit occurs.

The Bitcoin rocketship will ignite if the odds increase further. To gain an appreciation for the positive price effect, chart Bitcoin during the Grexit saga last summer. Brexit is still too far in the future and the odds too low to be on many traders’ radars yet. It is the perfect time to go Bitcoin volatility if one believes that the likelihood of Brexit will increase.

The BitMEX Bitcoin / USD September futures contract, XBTU16, is the ideal product to trade. It settles well after the referendum date. If Brexit does occur, the whole of Europe will decend into chaos over the summer. Greece is out of money again, surprise surprise. They will be back at Merkel’s feet begging for more cash this summer. Maybe this time around the population will follow through on their threat to leave the Euro, and redonominate their debt into Drachmas. These fears will multiply and cause a bid for safe-haven assets like Gold and Bitcoin if Brexit occurs. The aftermath will be more wild than the Brexit vote itself. These fears will be priced into markets if the odds of Brexit increase. That is why a contract like XBTU16 that expires in the fall will be bid up if the odds of Brexit increase.

XBTU16 currently trades at a 62% per annum (PA) premium. Historically, three and six month BitMEX contracts have traded between 40% to over 100% PA premiums. If the Brexit odds increase, XBTU16 is poised to trade at the upper end of that range. In order to isolate the XBTU16’s premium, buy XBTU16 vs. short selling spot Bitcoin.

Brexit Referendum Betting Odds

NYT Kneels At The Alter Of Ether

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I wanna get down on my knees and start pleasing Jesus, I wanna feel his salvation all over my face!

— Faith +1

Ethereum is on the warpath and is zeroing in on Bitcoin.

A recent article published by the New York Times (NYT) describes it as a Bitcoin 2.0, a new currency that can overcome obstacles which Bitcoin can’t. Having risen by nearly 1700% in the past three months from trough to peak, it is clear that Ethereum is a serious contender and is now the 2nd largest Cryptocurrency available, overtaking the likes of Litecoin.

Is this exponential rise going to continue? The price has been plateauing lately, almost taking a breather; however no doubt there are a lot of traders with fingers twitching over that buy button, myself invcluded. Anyone who was trading Bitcoin back in 2011 and 2012 must surely feel some sort of déjà vu.

Why has it come to this? The article highlights a few reasons, some of which the Bitcoin community are highly aware of already. Firstly, this tedious battle on the future of Bitcoin between Core and Classic has led to a number of startups and traders lacking the confidence to invest further into the currency and look for alternative virtual currencies. We can all agree that trading Bitcoin over this period has been lacklustre and boring, and until we have a clear answer on what is going to happen I don’t think we are out of this rangebound yet.

Furthermore, Ethereum provides a way to create smart contracts easily. Personally I think this is huge – already the finance community are looking into this and has gained a lot of attention from companies such as JPMorgan, Microsoft and IBM. Smart contracts can save a whole lot of time and money, especially in finance and banking where traditional contracts (such as in inventory financing) can take days if not weeks to execute. Backoffice functions benefit as well, which have a number of different databases and clutter in which a number of things can and will go wrong (being told you are short $5 bucks of an illiquid stock on settlement day and you’re going to enter a ‘buy-in’ was never a fun thing to hear from your backoffice).

Given the fact that the NYT is almost ‘pumping’ ETH, I would suggest to get on board the gravy train. We should witness further news forthcoming about it if discussions between Core and Classic do not go anywhere and Bitcoin remains in a deadzone. This all points to one way ticket for ETH. I recommend buying the dips – anywhere below 0.024 Ether / Bitcoin is attractive. BitMEX is the only exchange to offer a 25x leveraged Ether / Bitcoin futures contract, ETH7D, so get your bids in early and enjoy the ride.

Ether Margin Trading vs. Futures Contracts

Soon after spot Ether trading began, leveraged products on the Ether/Bitcoin (ETHXBT) appeared. BitMEX was the first exchange to offer leveraged trading via a futures contract called ETH7D. The leading spot ETHXBT exchanges Poloniex and Kraken, have just started offering margin trading. This post will explain the differences and costs of margin trading vs. futures trading of ETHXBT.

Margin Trading

Margin trading requires that traders borrow Bitcoin to go long ETHXBT, and Ether to go short ETHXBT. Traders will then place their leveraged orders into the spot order book. The ability to borrow Bitcoin and Ether is not a sure thing. On Poloniex and Kraken other users must lend out their excess Bitcoin or Ether. If there is no supply, margin trading cannot happen. The interest rates paid are very volatile and can be expensive at times.

Futures Trading

The BitMEX ETH7D futures contract expires weekly every Friday. Each contract is worth 1 ETH, and traders must post Bitcoin as margin to go long or short. BitMEX allows 5x leverage. This means that there is no need to borrow ETH in order to short the ETHXBT exchange rate when using ETH7D. There is no daily interest rate charged either. The difference between where you buy or sell ETH7D and the current spot ETHXBT rate at the time represents an implied interest rate. For traders who have Bitcoin, ETH7D represents the easiest and cheapest way to go both long or short with leverage on ETHXBT.

How To Trade Ether

The hottest new altcoin on the block is Ether (ETH). Ether is the token used to power the Ethereum protocol’s smart contracts. Now that Ether is freely tradable, this post will explain the different ways to express bullish and bearish views on this new cryptocurrency.

Spot Trading

Buying and selling Ether on a spot basis is quite simple. The most liquid Ether currency pair is Ether/Bitcoin (ETHXBT). Poloniex and Kraken are the leading exchanges by volume.

Buying Ether

To buy Ether, send Bitcoin to the exchange and exchange it for Ether. This must be done on a fully funded basis (i.e. there is no leverage).

Selling Ether

If you hold physical Ether, you can exchange it back for Bitcoin. Selling Ether you don’t possess is not possible.

Leveraged or Derivatives Trading

For most of the readers of this blog, leveraged trading / speculating presents a more interesting way to trade Ether. With the exception of Bitcoin and Litecoin, leveraged or derivatives trading on altcoins was not possible. BitMEX recognised that Bitcoin traders would like to speculate on Ether with leverage and using only Bitcoin as margin.

BitMEX launched the ETH7D, weekly expiring ETHXBT futures contract, when spot trading became available last Friday. Each ETH7D contract represents 1 ETH. The contract expires each Friday at 12:00 GMT on the ETHXBT exchange rate. All margin, profit, and loss are conducted in Bitcoin. The maximum leverage allowed is 5x.

Buying Ether Futures

BitMEX Ether futures contracts allow traders to speculate on the future value of the ETHXBT exchange rate. A trader who wishes to go long 1,000 ETH, must buy 1,000 ETH7D contracts. The beauty of ETH7D is that it requires Bitcoin as margin. The maximum leverage is 5x. If the ETH7D price is 0.005, the trader must post 1 Bitcoin as margin (1,000 Contracts * 0.005 ETHXBT * 20%). If the price rises to 0.006, the profit is 1 Bitcoin = (0.006 – 0.005) * 1,000.

Selling Ether Futures

Short selling, or selling something you don’t possess is usually impossible with altcoins. Using ETH7D, traders are able to placed leveraged bearish bets on Ether as long as they own Bitcoin. For example, a trader who wishes to go short 1,000 ETH, must sell 1,000 ETH7D contracts. Again only Bitcoin is required for margin. If the ETH7D price is 0.005, the trader must post 1 Bitcoin as margin (1,000 Contracts * 0.005 ETHXBT * 20%). If the price falls to 0.004, the profit is 1 Bitcoin = (0.004 – 0.005) * -1,000.

Placing leveraged trades, and shorting Ether are only possible with BitMEX’s ETH7D futures contract. ETH7D Contract Description 

Crypto Trader Digest – August 10

Bye Bye, New York State

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I am sad to announce that due to Bitlicense, BitMEX will cease to service New York State residents. Residents of New York State will be barred from accessing BitMEX as of August 16 12:00 GMT. Affected users must close all positions and withdraw any Bitcoins held with BitMEX. Users who are unable to access their accounts after August 16th, can email support@bitmex.com to request their positions be closed at prevailing market prices, and their remaining Bitcoin balance withdrawn to a Bitcoin address of their choice.

BitMEX Launches World’s First Ethereum Derivative

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Last Friday, Ether (the token powering Ethereum smart contracts) began trading on selected exchanges. Traders smart enough to buy at the IPO price were immediately up 20x on their investment. As expected, many attempted to rush for the exit and crystalise a profit. The problem was that exchanges were not crediting Ether balances and allowing traders to sell.

The launch of the BitMEX Ether / Bitcoin Weekly Futures Contract (ETH7D) coincided with spot trading launch. Because Bitcoin is used as margin, traders can short Ether and lock in their profit without depositing Ether with BitMEX. ETH7D immediately began trading at a substantial discount to spot. ETH7D represented the only mechanism for true price discovery of Ether’s value. The chart above illustrates this point. As each successive wave of Ether deposits were allowed to be sold, spot gapped down attempting to reach the level of ETH7D.

Holders of Ether from the IPO who have not liquidated yet are still in the money. Given the technical problems associated with the launch of new cryptocurrencies, it is likely that transfers and the sale of Ether for Bitcoin or USD could be halted again. ETH7D represents the only way for holders of Ether to lock in a Bitcoin profit.

Here is how to execute the hedge:

  1. Each ETH7D contract represents 1 Ether (ETH). The contract references the Kraken ETHXBT exchange rate and profit and loss are denominated in Bitcoin.
  2. If you bought 10,000 ETH at a price of 0.0005 ETHXBT at the IPO, you must sell 10,000 ETH7D contracts to lock in your profit.
  3. If ETH7D trades at 0.0025, you have locked in a profit of (0.0025 – 0.0005) * 10,000 = 20 XBT.
  4. BitMEX allows 5x leverage for ETH7D. You must deposit 20% * 10,000 * 0.0025 = 5 XBT as margin to place the sell order.

BitMEX ETH7D futures are not purely a speculative product, but have uses for ETH holders who wish to hedge their holdings. If you have any questions about how to hedge your ETH IPO allocation, please contact us.

Global Macro Musings

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Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, listed in order of importance, are four of China’s largest export competitors. The commonality amongst these countries is the race to the bottom in terms of currency debasement. While the Greek drama has torpedoed the Euro, the German export juggernaut is humming along as EURUSD has fallen from 1.5 to under 1.1. Kuroda-san and his BOJ have trashed the Yen from 80 to 120 in the last two years.

Xi Jinping and the politburo recognising the challenges facing the Chinese economy, are attempting to engineer a transfer of wealth from heavy investment industries into the hands of households. The chief conduit of change is removing the implicit subsidy of an undervalued Yuan. The Yuan is on a tear vs. the global major trading currencies, the USD, EUR, and JPY.

Unfortunately, the world economy isn’t cooperating with China’s rebalancing strategy. World trade is faltering and the commodity complex is imploding along with it. People don’t want more stuff, and China’s growth rate by some estimates has fallen to sub 5% (the official GDP is 7%, but no one believes those numbers). NPLs are rising and deteriorating local government finances have forced the PBOC to warehouse more and more toxic paper. At some point China will have to respond tit for tat vs. its major trade partners to recover some competitiveness and provide succor to its economy by devaluing the Yuan.

Chinese households that experienced a rise in global purchasing power will not sit quietly during a devaluation. They will invest / speculate on goods they believe will protect their wealth. Bitcoin is one piece of the puzzle. While it is not an income bearing bond or asset, Bitcoin cannot be devalued by diktat. When RMB begins to flood the Middle Kingdom, it will find its ways into various non-standard assets and cryptocurrencies will benefit. The Litecoin ponzi scam will be the tip of the iceberg. A desperate population is prone to believe many tall tales, and promoters will capitalise on this desperation and greed.

Quantifying Quanto: XLT7D

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BitMEX launched the world’s only Litecoin futures contract that uses Bitcoin as the margin, profit, and loss currency last Wednesday. Because traders are accustomed to trading the LTCUSD exchange rate, we decided to apply a Bitcoin multiplier to the LTCUSD exchange rate. As a result, XLT7D is classified as a quanto futures contract. Many users are still confused as to the implications of quanto vs. non-quanto futures contracts from a pricing perspective. I intend to walk readers through a simple example meant to illustrate how to properly price the quanto risk premium.

Assume that a trader has gone short XLT7D futures contracts. He is now short Litecoin, long USD, and his profit will be in Bitcoin. He decides to hedge his short LTC exposure by buying LTC on the spot market. His LTC and USD exposures as it relates to price movements are now hedged. However, his XLT7D pnl is denominated in Bitcoin while his LTCUSD pnl is denominated in USD. If LTCUSD rises he will be short XBTUSD from a pnl perspective, and if LTCUSD falls he will be long XBTUSD.

The question now becomes, what is the covariance between LTCUSD and XBTUSD. Covariance measures the degree to which two assets move together. I took daily log returns of XBTUSD and LTCUSD from Bitfinex and calculated the covariance over a 30 day period. The result was a positive covariance of 0.068% or 6.8 basis points. Therefore, XLT7D should be priced 6.8bps cheaper than LTCUSD. The adjustment is so small that it can be safely ignored. Traders can treat the quanto XLT7D future as they would a LTCUSD future. The upside is that XLT7D’s settlement currency is Bitcoin, which doesn’t necessitate the holding of Litecoin or USD.

XBT Futures Term Structure

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When I used to be an ETF market maker, there was nothing more exhilarating than taking a large outright position in particular stock. I used to run overnight mean reversion strategies in certain ETFs between the NY and Asian time zones. I would wake up with substantial deltas and have to close out at market open. That only occupied me for a few hours each day. More fun and risk was to be had, playing basis curves between various equity index futures. Now that there is more volume going through BitMEX’s XBT series contracts, curve trades can be executed.

I will begin posting the WoW changes in the XBT futures term structure. The term structure illustrates the % basis per annum each maturity futures contract is trading at. I take a 24 hour average of the % annualised basis each Sunday. Traders who do not wish to predict the outright movement of Bitcoin, may instead trade the relative movement in the term structure.

The curve experienced a parallel shift downwards WoW. To sell basis or go short interest rates, traders would need to sell XBT futures contracts and buy spot. As the spread narrows, unwind the trade for at a profit.

XBT Spot

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The downdraft I had called for finally occurred. A swift fall took the price to $260. The all-important support level held, and now the $260-$270 chop has begun. The Grexit premium has all but evaporated. The $300 bag holders can now hold a “cheap coins” symposium on an r/bitcoin thread.

$260 will be tested again. Failure to hold that level will most likely result in a retest of $220. If Bitcoin can hold firm during the final days of August, the return of traders from summer holiday should buoy the market.

Trade Recommendation:

Sell XBTQ15 while spot is above $265 with a near-term target price of $260. If that breaks, the next target is $240.