Crypto Trader Digest – Feb 22

China Loves The Crack Pipe


Beijing and economic analysts agree that China’s economy needs to wean itself off debt based GDP growth. The transformation of the Chinese economy requires hard political choices. Economic rebalancing cannot happen without some stakeholders feeling acute pain. Someone must pay for the losses due to the over extension of credit over the last decade.

In the past Beijing opted for inflation and currency debasement. This time around, many thought that Beijing would finally inflict pain on the state owned enterprises who benefited the most from cheap credit. However the latest new loan figures suggest Beijing continues to smoke the pipe. Banks extended 2.51tn CNY in January, a new record. Unfortunately more loans are producing less and less nominal growth.

Banks lend at the behest of the government. If new loans are surging, it is because Beijing has chosen the path of least resistance. Looking back to the 1990’s, Beijing dealt with banking sector losses with crippling inflation and a massive devaluation of the Yuan.

This time around China is not an Asian backwater, but the second largest global economy. There are now various ways for investors globally to express a view on the Chinese economy through different investment products. BitMEX traders can now express direct bets on the direction of the Chinese economy. The BitMEX China A50 Index Futures contract (A50G16) allows traders to bet with leverage (up to 25x) on the Chinese stock market. The good thing about the A50 index is that it is comprised mostly of banks and real estate developers. The A50 index is very sensitive to investors’ views on the future of the Chinese banking system, which is precisely the sector that will lead China to oblivion or nirvana.

China’s New Credit Surges to Record on Seasonal Lending Binge

Grexit : Armageddon :: Brexit : ?

NOTE ALTERNATE CROP Mayor of London Boris Johnson salutes from the deck of the tall ship Tenacious, which is moored at Woolwich, in east London, as part of the month long Totally Thames festival.

While Greece was on the verge of liberating themselves from Euro hell, the mainstream media (MSM) began scaring the world as to what would happen if the Greek people voted for financial freedom. In the end, the sheep and their shepherds were sufficiently scared back into line. This bought the pro-EU crowd a few precious months.

EU politicians have always feared referendums where the people were actually asked if they wanted EU membership. Each time it appears that they will vote No, the MSM bombards the airwaves with the consequences of leaving the EU. The big daddy of of them all, Britain, is set to vote in late June on whether to remain in the EU. Germany is the biggest daddy, but they are about the only country that has benefited from the debt-vendor financing that is EU economics.

I give credit to British politicians for abstaining from adopting the Euro. But now the plebs must vote on whether to remain in the political union with all it’s benefits(?). David Cameron put on a good show by taking the fight to Brussels and demanding concessions if he was to publically support continued membership in the EU. Boris Johnson (the Mayor of London) has hailed this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ditch the EU. Oh yeah, it’s going to get interesting.

A Yes vote is not a forgone conclusion. A No vote would be catastrophic to the EU. The countries that would actually benefit the most from exiting the EU would find renewed strength to oppose their country’s membership. PIGS, Portugal Italy Greece Spain.

Last summer presented empirical evidence that Bitcoin reacts positively to the possibility of a EU and Euro breakup. One of the best ways to express an out of the money view on Brexit and ultimately the acceleration of the EU’s demise is to purchase June Bitcoin volatility. Buying the BitMEX June futures contract (XBTM16) vs. short selling spot is a great way to isolate the Bitcoin volatility component. XBTM16 expires one day after the Brexit vote on June 23rd. If Brexit odds begin rising, Bitcoin will begin to rally sharply. This is a classic Buy the Rumor, Sell the Fact. As the fear of breakup intensifies, traders will begin purchasing safe haven assets like Bitcoin and Gold. The fear to reality spread will be highest just days before the vote, and that is the perfect time to unwind the trade.

Boris Johnson backs Brexit as he hails ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to vote to leave EU

The Price Is Everything

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 14.47.08

I was beginning to lose faith in the function of the Bitcoin price to force economically prudent actions by the miners. My faith was restored this weekend during the Bitcoin Roundtable in Hong Kong. BitMEX remains neutral on Bitcoin Classic vs. Core. What we do want is stability in the protocol so that users may use Bitcoin as a common form of collateral to trade financial derivatives.

The largest miners and exchanges met in Hong Kong and discussed a roadmap for a block size increase in conjunction with the Bitcoin core developers. Early Sunday morning, they released the Bitcoin Roundtable Consensus. The price began its ascent Saturday afternoon as roundtable participants tweeted updates on the progress of the meeting.

Once the official communique was released, the price spiked to a high of $451 and 2,995 CNY. Core will release Segregated Witness, and commit to a hard fork in January 2017 with a block size increase of 2 MB to 4 MB. More importantly, the participants committed to not supporting Bitcoin Classic. The participants represent 80% of the network hashing power. Classic needs 75% of hashing power consensus to be activated. If the participants stick to their word, Bitcoin Classic is dead on arrival.

In the end, the motivating factor was the Bitcoin price. Given the global financial system wobbles, Bitcoin should be well above $500. However at the time when Bitcoin could be shining, the community is mired in trench warfare over how to increase network capacity. Those with the most to lose, the miners, finally got their act together and organised a meeting with the Bitcoin core developers and came to an understanding.

The price is the most important signal as to the health of Bitcoin. That one number pronounces Bitcoin a success or failure in real time by collating the buying and selling preferences of millions of people instantaneously. Bitcoin is an open source project, and this is not the last time crisis that it will face. Hopefully at the next fork in the road, the miners will react more quickly to secure their economic interests.

Bitcoin Roundtable Consensus


Crypto Trader Digest – Feb 8

BitMEX’s New Look


We have been hard at work making changes to the BitMEX UI/UX. A major facelift will be released at the end of this week. You can get a sneak peek on BitMEX Testnet. We also welcome your feedback. This is only the beginning; we intend to go through every widget individually to simplify and improve usability.

In addition to a new look, we will also be greatly expanding the number of order types available. We expect to launch Market, & Stop Market types, Post-only (Maker) orders, and hidden orders in the near future. Many more are coming.

In other news: China, China, China. The long awaited BitMEX China A50 Index Futures Contract is nearing completion. You can view the A50 Contract Details, and a Trading Guide on BitMEX Testnet as well. We aim to list this contract by the end of the month. Keep an eye on the BitMEX Blog and your inbox for further details.

Classic vs. Core Roshambo


Bitcoin Classic has now been released and the race is on to reach 75% consensus. The showdown between Classic and Core is nearing the final stretch. If the Chinese miners are serious about increasing the block size to 2 MB, expect them to begin running Classic shortly after they return from holiday next week. If not, like Punxsutawney Phil… expect more Winter.

Once 75% consensus is reached, then the 28 day grace period begins. During this period, those not running Classic should upgrade their Bitcoin software before Classic goes live. Then the moment of truth will arrive. Will the fork in Bitcoin lead to a price crash or pump?

Every trader has a different opinion on whether a Bitcoin fork will be positive or negative for the price. The one thing we can be sure of is intense price volatility after the 75% consensus is reached. Now is a perfect time to purchase your volatility lottery tickets by trading March (XBTH16) and June (XBTM16) futures contracts.


The above graph shows the % Basis PA (per annum) of each futures contract over the past month. XBTH16’s % Basis PA has gotten smacked hard, while XBTM16 has held up well. Buying XBTH16 vs. selling XBTM16 is the appropriate strategy. The trade has positive carry or theta because the premium earned by selling XBTM16 is higher than what is paid by buying XBTH16. The expectation is that during the period of high volatility XBTH16 will rise faster than XBTM16 due to the depressed % Basis PA level.

If the price crashes, expect the basis to trade lower then snap sharply higher as bottom feeders buy longer dated futures contracts aggressively. Given XBTH16 trades cheaper than XBTM16, expect speculators to focus their buying power on XBTH16. If the price spikes once Classic reaches 75% consensus, again speculators will focus their buying power on the cheaper contract, XBTH16.

If you intend the hold the spread trade until XBTH16 expiry, XBTM16’s % Basis PA would have to be above 94.75% for the trade to start losing money.

Getting paid to wait for the inevitable Classic vs. Core fireworks is a great strategy for those who don’t have a strong bullish or bearish view.

View how many nodes are running Bitcoin Classic at Coin Dance.

Arbitrage During Lunar New Year


Happy Lunar New Year! During Lunar New Year, Asia is closed for business. The most liquid Bitcoin exchanges are all based in Asia. Deposit and Withdrawals of fiat currency will be processed slower, or not at all. Onshore bank CNY transfers are still open during this week, but the major XBTCNY exchanges will have slower processing times. OKCoin USD and Bitfinex both will not be processing USD deposits or withdrawals until February 15th.

Arbitrage opportunities will present themselves for traders who happen to have CNY, USD, and Bitcoin deposited on certain exchanges. The China Bitcoin premium can expand to much higher levels this week as traders will be unable to deposit USD and take advantage of lower prices outside of China. Price differences between OKCoin USD and Bitfinex could persist all week. Do not read too much into large price discrepancies as they are not driven by actual demand, but by closures of the on- and off-ramps.


Crypto Trader Digest – Jan 11

Yuan Devaluation Math

China FX teller_0

MingPao, the most widely read Chinese language newspaper in Hong Kong, reports that Shanghai residents are queuing up at FX dealers to convert RMB into USD before further devaluation occurs. Simon Black reports that Chinese are buying .com domain names as a way to legally transform RMB into more stable currencies. Reuters reports that PBOC policy advisors suggest a 10%-15% sharp and immediate devaluation.

No one in China is under any illusion that the CNY will hold steady. But I thought China was Scrooge McDuck rich?; China’s official FX reserves total $3.3 trillion. However, analysts believe that $2.8 trillion of that is pledged to other liabilities. Coupled with over $100 billion per month of capital flight and rising banking non-performing loans (NPLs), China is out of cash.

Kyle Bass of Hayman Capital Management believes shorting the Yuan is the slam dunk trade of 2016. The effects of the most aggressive credit expansion since the 2008 GFC are bearing spoiled fruit. Bass warns that China’s “neutron bomb” is its banking system. The state owned banks (SOE) were forced to lower underwriting standards to lend to SOE’s for a variety of industrial products that are not profitable. The rise in NPLs must be absorbed by the central government via the banking system. Bass notes a rise of the official 1.5% NPL ratio to 20% would result in a $3.0 trillion charge.

Aggressive currency debasement and interest rate cuts are the only policy levers left. As the citizenry realises that jobs will be lost and prices will rise, they will search for anything that holds value and or can be sold abroad to receive a stable currency.

The price of Bitcoin is set in Yuan. The Bitcoin premium has compressed lately. In Q1, expect increased volatility and the beginnings of actual cash from China finding its way into Bitcoin. To date, most of the price action has come from speculators front-running this tidal wave of Yuan. When cash buyers return to Bitcoin after a 2.5 year hiatus, the price action will be legendary.

Patient traders should begin accumulating positions in longer dated BitMEX futures contracts. Buying March 2016 (XBTH16) or June 2016 (XBTM16) are great ways to benefit from rising volatility and price.

Pressure on China central bank for bigger yuan depreciation: sources

China Finds $3 Trillion Just Doesn’t Pack the Punch It Used To

For Kyle Bass This Is “The Greatest Investment Opportunity Right Now”

Meanwhile In Shanghai Residents Form Lines To Sell Yuan, Buy Dollars

Here’s the ultra-clever way that Chinese are circumventing capital controls

Chinese Capital Markets Timetable

Bitcoin will react to movements in both the Chinese FX and equity markets. Any serious trader should know the key opening and closing times of these respective markets.

All times are Beijing local time, GMT + 8.

Daily PBOC USDCNY Fixing

The PBOC fixes the inter-bank USDCNY rate each morning at 9:15am.

CNY Onshore Trading Hours

9:30am to 11:30pm

CHH Offshore Trading Hours

CNH trades 24/5

China A Share Market

9:15am – 9:25am Call Auction

9:30am – 11:30am Continuous Trading

1:00pm – 3:00pm Continuous Trading

PBOC daily fixing

Live index prices from the Shanghai Stock Exchange

Bitcoin Implied Yuan

image (11)

An interesting relationship appeared to me while I was looking at XBTCNY, USDCNY, and USDCNH. If we derive the Bitcoin implied USDCNY rate by dividing XBTCNY by XBTUSD, does this implied Yuan follow the CNH movements? Remember that CNH is the offshore Yuan, and generally is a leading indicator of where USDCNY will fix onshore as trading of USDCNH is not as manipulated by Beijing as USDCNY. To get a clearer picture, I graphed the spread between the Bitcoin implied Yuan and CNH against the daily change in the XBTCNY price.

The graph above shows this relationship. The two variables track well until this past weekend. The Bitcoin implied Yuan is trading cheap to CNH. Given the CNH level and expectations of further devaluation, Bitcoin is trading cheap in China.

The appropriate trade is to go long the Bitcoin premium in China and hedge out the Bitcoin price risk. To do that, sell BitMEX 50x leveraged weekly Bitcoin / USD futures (XBT7D) vs. buy XBTCNY. XBT7D trades at a premium; therefore the trade has positive carry. For users who do not have CNY with which to buy Bitcoin, BTCC allows users to wire USD into their HK bank account and they will change into CNY and allow you to trade.

BitMEX Arbitrage Webinar Lesson 2

24x10 - Bart

Thank you to everyone who tuned into Lesson 1 last Friday. Lesson 2 will air this Wednesday 13 January 03:00 GMT.

Lesson 2 Topics:

  • Cash and Carry Arbitrage
  • Volatility Arbitrage

Lesson 2 Live Broadcast Link

Lesson 1 Recording

Lesson 2’s slide deck and spreadsheets will be provided on our blog and via email prior to Wednesday.


Crypto Trader Digest – Jan 4

BitMEX In 2016


El Nino ain’t got nothing on BitMEX. BitMEX is bringing the fire in 2016. We have a long list of development items and we aim to deliver on them in a timely fashion. First up: new order types. This month we will add:

  • Stop Market Orders
  • Trailing Stop Orders
  • Hidden Orders
  • Iceberg Orders
  • One Cancels The Other (OCO) Orders

Please keep providing your feedback. BitMEX aims to be the most trader-friendly platform in Bitcoin.

Arbitrage Webinar


As the general knowledge about derivatives trading grows, traders begin using more sophisticated strategies and instruments. BitMEX is committed to educating traders about the uses of Bitcoin derivatives. I will be hosting a series of Webinars in January that will go through the basics of futures trading and arbitrage strategies. Lesson 1 will cover these topics:

  • Differences between Spot, Margin, and Futures trading
  • Differences between Quanto and Inverse Futures
  • How to price Quanto and Inverse Futures contracts

Lesson 1 will air this Friday January 8 at 03:00 GMT. The slide deck and example spreadsheets will be made available on Thursday. Q&A will be allowed during the presentation. If you are unable to view the Webinar live, a recording will be posted on our YouTube channel afterwards.

We will post links in the site chat and BitMEX Blog.

2016 Themes

Forecasting the future price of Bitcoin is a fool’s errand. Many pundits will throw out bold predictions on both the up- and down-side. However, successful traders position their portfolios to benefit from the overarching themes or narratives of the current moment. In this week’s Crypto Trader Digest, I will lay out three major themes that will shape 2016 and the trajectory of Bitcoin.

China Devaluation Dance


China is Bitcoin. The majority of hashing power is located in China, and the majority of trading volume occurs on XBTCNY. Failure to properly interpret PBOC monetary policy could prove fatal.

China is the largest consumer of raw commodities and energy. Once consumed, China produces low cost goods that the world enjoys. The big problem for China is that the majority of this trade is conducted in USD. Commodities are priced in USD and many buyers purchase China’s goods with USD because they do not hold Yuan (CNY). As a result, China has a large portfolio consisting mainly of US Treasuries. As BNP Paribas and many other companies and countries have experienced, if you transact anywhere globally using USD you are essentially Washington’s bottom bitch. After the Century of Humiliation, China is not keen on being beholden to Washington.

China has begun to liberalise the trading of the Yuan, and has set up trading hubs across the globe to trade CNH. CNH is the offshore version of CNY. CNH behaves more according to market forces than CNY. Currently the two are not fungible for most actors. China has begun signing large deals priced in Yuan rather than USD. The expanded use of CNH means that onshore CNY will follow CNH rather than the other way around.

At the same time, the PBOC is beginning to allow market forces to weaken its currency. A weaker CNY allows China to become more competitive vs. other global exporters. The sea change began in August 2015. The PBOC in one week devalued the CNY by 4%, and sent a message that the strong Yuan period was over. Over the past 4 months, CNY has gotten weaker and weaker. The PBOC sets the onshore rate each morning, however CNH trades at a much weaker level as traders expect the devaluation to continue.

In addition, the PBOC has clarified that it looks at the CNY vs. a basket of major global currencies, not just against the USD. The CFETS RMB Index shows that the CNY has actually appreciated over the past 12 months. In 2016, the PBOC must become more aggressive in the pace and size of devaluation in order regain lost ground. Given the vast amount of QE that the ECB and BOJ have engaged in, the PBOC has a lot of work to do.

The writing is on the wall, and those with a vast hoard of legal and illegal wealth are running for the exits. Hundreds of billions of USD fled China in 2015. The PBOC has begun enforcing capital controls to stem the tide. Bitcoin remains open as a legal channel through which capital can flow from China to the rest of the world. Given the relative illiquidity of Bitcoin, even a minuscule amount of capital choosing this channel will completely re-rate Bitcoin to much higher prices.

The ingredients of lower domestic CNY interest rates, a weaker CNY, the greater importance of offshore CNH, and the desire to preserve CNY denominated wealth point to Bitcoin trading higher in CNY terms. Traders must continue to watch the China Bitcoin Premium, the daily PBOC CNY fixing, and the spread between CNY and CNH.

Capital Controls Are Coming … For Everyone


Physical banknotes are the bane of governments globally. They are an anonymous bearer instrument. Taxing and monitoring physical cash is a tall order for most governments. Due to the computer revolution, the majority of the developed world holds money in the form of electronic credits with a regulated bank. These electronic bank notes are easily tracked and taxed.

The current problem for central bankers is that a vast amount of debt was extended for dubious purposes, and inflation must be engineered to make financial institutions whole. First central banks took rates to 0% (ZIRP), then they began buying all types of assets (QE), and now they are going nuclear with negative interest rates (NIRP).

The problem with NIRP is that if the bank charges you to hold your money, you will convert electronic into physical banknotes. When this process happens en masse, that is a bank run. If physical cash was banned, there would be nowhere to hide. Faced with NIRP, either you leave your money at the bank, spend it, or buy risky assets. Low risk saving is not an option.

The biggest NIRP offenders are several European nations (Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and the ECB). In Sweden and Denmark, physical cash is barely used. While many hail the effortless ways in which payments are made, the populace is surrendering their financial freedom. In other nations there is a limit on cash transactions. French residents have a 1,000 Euro limit and non-residents a 10,000 one. In America, the cops just steal your money using bogus civil asset forfeiture laws and make you fight lengthy court battles to get it back. The message is clear: holding physical cash is not only unwanted, but could even be illegal.

Using the preferred boogiemen of towel-clad men with beards holding AK-47’s, world leaders will enact more restrictions on the use of physical banknotes. Capital controls are coming for everyone globally. Converting a portion of your electronic fiat credits into electronic Bitcoin is prudent.

The Have And The Halve Nots


This July, the much-anticipated Bitcoin Halving will occur. The block reward will halve from 25 to 12.5 Bitcoin. The community is rife with speculation as to how the price will react to this momentous event. Some believe this a structural reason why the Bitcoin price should skyrocket and others believe it’s a non-event. Let’s examine the various effects of halving and their possible price impact.

Bitcoin Inflation Will Decline

A block is mined every 10 minutes on average. That equates to a 3,600 XBT increase in the money supply daily. That will drop to 1,800 XBT after the halving. Over the past 30 days, the average daily trading volume (ADV) across all exchanges was 2.63 XBT million.

Currently the daily Bitcoin inflation is 0.13% of ADV, and future inflation would be 0.065%. Based on the percentage of daily volume, if the miners sold all the new Bitcoin mined it would have 0 price impact. Some would argue that the trading volumes of the big three Chinese exchanges are hocus pocus. To make a conservative estimate, let’s go with that: assume that only 20% of the trading volumes across OKCoin, Huobi, and BTCC is “real”. That leads to an ADV of 642 thousand XBT. The daily current and future inflation then represents 0.56% and 0.23% respectively. Even then, it is still an inconsequential amount.

Those who base their bullish bias on this thesis need to go back to the drawing board.

Transaction Fees Will Increase

Miners are compensated primarily through the block reward. Absent a doubling in price, miners will see their earnings drop by 50%. In order for them to be equal pre vs. post halving, transaction (tx) fees will need to double. Higher fees means that Bitcoin will be less useful for micropayments. Many in the community would like Bitcoin become cost effective for large and small transactions alike, and larger fees are a big fear.

However, tx fees don’t necessarily have to rise. Based on anecdotal evidence, I believe that the marginal cost to product a Bitcoin for the largest mining pools is between $100 to $200. At a price of $430, their gross margins are 330% to 115% respectively. Based on the USD and XBT P2P interest rates on Bitfinex, I would price a plain vanilla July 2016 Bitcoin / USD futures contract at $430 (the term structure is relatively flat).

Even with a 50% smaller block reward, the majority of large miners are still profitable. Low cost producers will be able to offer the same tx fees and obtain more market share. Unless the miners form a cartel, the likely outcome is that tx fees will be unaffected by the halving. Unfortunately for miners, their margins will get crushed and due to competitive forces they cannot unilaterally raise fees. If transaction volumes continue to increase, miners will recoup these losses with higher throughput on the network.

I see no salient positive or negative impact on the future price.

Halving Volatility

Whatever happens, there is sure to be extreme volatility around the event. Bitcoin is a much different animal this halving. The attention being focused on this event is sure to generate wild swings in the price. In late March, BitMEX will list a September 2016 25x leveraged Bitcoin / USD futures contract. Traders who wish to play the pre vs. post Bitcoin halving spread, should trade the June 2016 (XBTM16) vs. the September 2016 (XBTU16) futures contract.

I suspect that due to the expectation for fireworks, the XBTU16 will trade at a substantial premium to XBTM16. Selling volatility by selling XBTU16 and buying XBTM16 could be a profitable strategy.