Crypto Trader Digest – July 20

Slow Motion Banking Collapse

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The Grexit can was kicked a few months down the road by a last minute capitulation by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. A bridge loan has been arranged so that the ECB and IMF can be paid their tribute. The Greek parliament voted to subjugate their nation in exchange for zero. The various EU nations are borrowing money from their populations to pay back zombie loans. The focus will shift to the Greek banking system, and how long the generosity of the ECB lasts.

The banks are open today. Capital controls are still in place. What the world is witnessing is a slow motion bank run. The ECB will not continue to fund the banks indefinitely. At some point they will tire of increasing their Greek liabilities and cut the banks off once and for all. Greek depositors know their banks are living on borrowed time. They will rush to withdraw in cash and send abroad any amount that is permitted. Images of long bank withdrawal lines, and empty store shelves will continue to frame the collective world image of Greece. We like to pretend that our 21st century society is more civilised and advanced than the late 19th and early 20th century. Our Just-In-Time highly advanced production economy depends on the free flow of capital between suppliers of raw materials and producers of finished goods. Remove that even for a short while, and the human condition will regress to levels of our great grandparents.

The European diplomats are all comfortably back at their favorite summer holiday destinations. Beneath the surface, the markets are setting up for an explosion of volatility this fall. Spaniards have watched the complete German subjugation of a vassal state without one bullet fired. They take to the polls later this year. Prime Minister Rajoy’s People’s Party is in trouble. They have towed the austerity line, and there are rumblings of dissent amongst the plebes. If Greece succeeds in getting a debt haircut, which the IMF (aka US) is advocating, the Spaniards will demand one too. To get one, the government will have to take the currency union to the brink of breakup like the Greeks.

Global macro volatility and instability has proven supportive of Bitcoin. Bitcoin was the only asset outperforming during the midst of the latest Grexit crisis. Once Grexit was off the table, the price fell almost 15%. 7 years after the onset of the GFC, it appears that another unlikely event could plunge the world financial markets into turmoil once more. December Bitcoin futures contracts expire just before the end of 2015. If you believe the world is going to get more uncertain, consider buying XBTZ15 and use Bitcoin to reduce the overall volatility in your portfolio.

Liftoff

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During Empress Yellen’s testimony in front of the US Congress and Senate, she stated that a hike in interest rates is very likely to happen by the end of 2015. A 0.25% increase in the Federal Funds rate may happen at the September or October FOMC. After over 6 years of 0% interest rates, the onset of positive short term rates will significantly impact financial markets globally.

There are two camps with regards to how markets will react to a Fed in a tightening cycle. The first camp believes that the hike in interest rates confirms that the US economy is strong. The financial markets will welcome confirmation that the largest economy in the world is on sure footing. The second camp believes that the world has become addicted to 0% interest rates, and the onset of more expensive money will destroy asset markets globally.

I agree with the second camp’s doom and gloom position. With regards to the Bitcoin price, it is unclear as to the initial price reaction. During margin calls, investors will dump everything they can to raise cash. Bitcoin could become a casualty as well. Or it could rally substantially as global financial market instability rises.

The one thing I am certain about is that unsecured USD interest rates will rise faster than those for Bitcoin. The basis between forward and spot prices for Bitcoin will increase. I would rather benefit from a general rising interest rate environment, and not be subject to whether I can call the price direction correctly. There are several strategies to profit from this view.

Strategy 1:

If you are a long holder of Bitcoin and don’t intend to sell regardless of the short term price, consider replacing your long physical Bitcoin with leveraged futures contracts. As the USD rates rise, your futures contract will become more valuable. With the Bitcoin not utilised as margin, you can sell them for USD and lend on a margin trading platform to earn extra income.

Trade Recommendation:

Buy XBUZ15 (25 December 2015) futures contracts.

Strategy 2:

To go long solely the futures’ basis, buy a leveraged futures contract and short sell spot Bitcoin. You have removed the price risk from the trade, and will benefit if the futures’ basis increases. You can short sell spot Bitcoin on a variety of margin trading platforms.

Trade Recommendation:

Buy XBUZ15 futures contracts. Short sell spot Bitcoin.

Strategy 3:

To go long solely the futures’ basis, construct a calendar spread between two different maturity futures contracts. Buy a December expiring futures contract, and sell a September expiring futures contract. As rates rise, the calendar spread will increase because the longer dated futures contract has more time value.

Trade Recommendation:

Buy XBUZ15 futures vs. sell XBUU15 (25 September 2015) futures contracts.

Weekly Review: Bitcoin Investment Products

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Week Ending GBTC Avg Volume WoW % Chg % Premium XBT Avg Volume WoW % Chg % Premium
7/10/2015 1,035 XBT 8.35% 2,673 XBT 0.00%
7/17/2015 760 XBT -26.56% 6.03% 1,441 XBT -46.09% -0.17%

The end of the current chapter in the Greek melodrama caused volumes to slide on both GBTC and XBT. As we enter the final weeks of summer, expect a general decline in volumes traded.

XBT Spot

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The Grexit premium is slowly leaking from Bitcoin. The Greeks were betrayed by their leaders and continue to suffer in the Euro straightjacket. As the price hovers in the $270’s, it will take renewed cash buying pressure to lift Bitcoin back above $300.

Unless PM Tsipras is ejected by his party and fresh elections are called in Greece, the end of summer will end quietly for Europe. Bitcoin volatility will follow as well. Traders can return to their Mediterranean holidays, and stop babysitting their Bitcoin.

To maintain the bullish momentum, Bitcoin needs to hold $260. $300 was held for one 1D candle. That in itself is positive, but bulls will have to remain resilient as they are tested at lower levels. The level of XBT swaps outstanding on Bitfinex has fallen by almost half. The XBT swap rate stands at only 0.0058% per day; it is practically free to short Bitcoin. If the bears want to test $260 with vigor, it will not cost them much to do so.

Trade Recommendation:

Sell XBTN15 while spot is below $280. The downside target price is $260. If spot manages to rally above $280, cover the short XBTN15 position.

Crypto Trader Digest – July 13

Greece To Sell Islands To Fund Its Banks

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The people of Greece have been betrayed. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a referendum on the conditions of the controversial EU bailout package. The people voted not to accept the terms. Now he has “signed” a new program that cedes all control of Greece to Brussels. The most galling part of the new plan is that proceeds from a 50 billion Euro privatisation fund (read: selling Greek islands and public utilities to the highest bidder) will be used to recapitalise the failing banks. The EU has robbed Peter to pay Paul. In the end they have provided no real assistance to their European brother.

Greece has until Wednesday to pass the agreement in parliament. The Greek people need to make themselves heard. They must put the fear of God into any MP who dares to ignore the landslide No vote in the referendum. If this agreement passes, violence will reign in Greece. If the banks somehow manage to reopen, they will be emptied of Euros within days.

As this agreement hit the newswires, Bitcoin began nosediving. The price touched a low of $281. Once more information about the deal trickles out, traders will focus their sights on Wednesday and the political fight to pass the agreement. $300 Bitcoin may return in a few days time.

Bitcoin is one of the only ways that European people can secure assets outside of the EU banking systems. Germany is hell-bent on demonstrating to Spain, Italy, Portugal, and France what happens when they are disobeyed. Citizens of these countries must read the writing on the wall. It is not enough to hold cash under the mattress, or spirit capital to Switzerland. Every EU citizen will now wonder: is our country next? Will we be made to beg for scraps from unelected bureaucrats? Redenomination risk is real, and the contagion will spread across Europe. Bitcoin will continue to be bought on these fears regardless of whether the Greeks receive another bailout.

China: The Wests Portrait Of Dorian Gray

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The financial services industry employs many intelligent people. But in the end there are only two actions, Buy or Sell. China is seeking to remove the sell button permanently in an attempt to prop up its market. Authorities have even threatened jail time for those who sell their holdings. 50% of the market is shut, and you can now pledge your house as collateral for a loan to buy stocks.

Many western commentators have chastised China for not living up to the free market principles they were supposedly striving to implement. China is not doing anything that western governments (US and Europe) haven’t tried before. The Chinese style is just a tad more in your face. Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 banned the private holding of gold by US citizens. Those who refused to sell their barbaric relic to the government at a below market rate faced federal prison. China is the US and Europe’s portrait of Dorian Gray.

If China’s brash way of dealing with falling asset markets proves successful, similar measures will be introduced when the contagion spreads to western capital markets. People invest in paper assets (stocks, bonds, etc.) to store and grow wealth. If there is no exit, these assets are worth zero. You can’t eat stock. You can’t eat Bitcoin either, but at least there are free markets for the exchange of Bitcoin.

Santa Baby

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Santa baby, just slip a Bitcoin under the tree for me;
Been an awful good girl, Santa baby,
So hurry down the blockchain tonight

The low volatility phase that began in mid-April is over. 30-day realised Bitcoin volatility has risen to 50.96%. As the volatility mean reverts, the current market structure will change dramatically. With the backdrop of Grexit and turmoil in financial markets globally, the more likely scenario is for Bitcoin to continue its upward ascent with increased vigor. While short dated futures’ basis on BitMEX and our competitors has risen sharply, December futures’ basis (XBUZ15) on BitMEX has barely budged.

As volatility increases, the Bitcoin call option becomes more valuable. Given an unlimited upside, longs will be willing to pay increasing rates to borrow USD and buy Bitcoin. XBUZ15 has the most remaining time value, and the rate rise will impact this contract’s basis the most.

There are two ways to profit. If you would like to retain upside exposure to Bitcoin and rates, buy XBUZ15. If you would just like to profit off of rising rates, then buy XBUZ15 and sell XBUU15. This will cost you around $2-$4, as XBUZ15 is more expensive by that amount than XBUU15. The $2-$4 is your entry fee and maximum loss. Effectively, you are borrowing money between September and December for 5% per annum. Given the explosive nature of Bitcoin, that is very cheap. Compare to Bitfinex, where you can borrow USD at 27% per annum.

Trade Recommendation:

Buy XBUZ15 outright, or buy XBUZ15 and hedge your delta by selling XBUU15.

The Litecoin Pump and Dump

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Until last Friday, Litecoin was up 8x on the month. Since writing Chinese Promoter Pumping Litecoin Via Ponzi Scheme on Friday morning, the price of Litecoin has fallen 45%. The promoter began cashing out his position on Friday afternoon. LTC dumped and Bitcoin pumped on all the Chinese exchanges. Spot Bitcoin on OKCoin.cn hit a high of 2335 CNY or $376; a full retrace happened in minutes and any traders with derivative positions that included China prices got rekt. This happened against a backdrop of a major DDoS attack on many of the leading Chinese exchanges and Bitfinex. There is no definitive evidence of chicanery but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Which altcoin will this well-run operation pump next? Be sure to let us know when you do.

Weekly Review: Bitcoin Investment Products

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Week Ending GBTC Avg Volume WoW % Chg % Premium XBT Avg Volume WoW % Chg % Premium
7/3/2015 771 XBT 14.74% 1,255 XBT -0.09%
7/10/2015 1,035 XBT 34.31% 8.35% 2,673 XBT 112.98% 0.00%

The LTC and Bitcoin dump and pump on Friday lit a fire under the trading volumes of GBTC and XBT. Volumes surged on Friday, and XBT traded an all time high 5,170 Bitcoin. With the heightened Greek drama, expect volumes to continue increasing. GBTC’s premium now stands below 10%. As more supply enters the market, it appears the market maker is able to better control the premium.

XBT Spot

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The news of a Greek deal slid across the wires. The price slowly faded lower. Within minutes, Bitcoin was in freefall and retested $281. The level held on two attempts, and a consolidation is under way around $285. Intraday volatility has returned. Babysitting your Bitcoin is essential. After a sleepy start to the summer, proper risk management techniques need to be employed or you will find yourself rekt.

The Greece saga is not over. The parliament must approve the deal by Wednesday. Bitcoin will be in a holding pattern until then. The news is likely to be negative (Bitcoin positive) up until the vote. My base case is for the Greece parliament to sell their citizens down the river and vote to approve the deal. The downside target is $260. Medium term I am still bullish Bitcoin as the Greece debacle has laid bare the intentions of the EU overloads. Spanish elections are this fall and the ruling party is in trouble. Expect a flare up of European contagion risk as the markets focus on the next weakest links.

Trade Recommendation:

Sell XBTN15 into the retracement of the $281 fall. The downside target price for spot is $260. If a the EU agreement is voted down, cover quickly.

Crypto Trader Digest – June 1

BitMEX Happenings

Summer is here and whether you are in the Hampton’s, St. Tropez, or Marbella global macro events aren’t stopping while you bronze. The BitMEX team is hard at work on many improvements to the platform. 20x leverage for our XBT quanto futures contracts is in the works. Our exchange Exchange Default Swap will not be far behind, and the recent events demonstrate the need for price discovery of exchange default risk even more.

Asia Risk recently profiled BitMEX, you can read the article here.

This past Saturday the BitMEX team was on Whaleclub discussing the BitMEX platform and fielding questions. Soundcloud Recording

 

Bitcoin Implied Volatility Surface

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This past Friday we listed XBTU15 (25 September 2015) and XBTZ15 (25 December 2015). As I have often pointed out, it is possible to glean the implied volatility of Bitcoin from the premium over spot that the XBT quanto futures contract trade. Please read XBT vs. XBU Chain for a more in depth explanation of the return profile. Now that there are three quarterly maturities, a curve of implied volatility can be constructed from actual market prices.

The above chart shows the implied and realised annualised volatility. The implied volatility comes from the premium over spot of the respective XBT futures contract. The realised volatility takes the .XBT2H value (the daily 10:00 – 12:00 GMT Bitfinex 1-minute TWAP), and looks at the realised volatility based on how many days until expiry of the contract. The longer dated the contract, the bigger premium of implied over realised volatility. There is substantial time value premium or theta in these contracts. Traders wishing to collect theta, and go short gamma and volatility should short XBTU15 and XBTZ15. To isolate theta, gamma, and volatility, use the XBU series to hedge spot Bitcoin price movements. Because XBU contracts are worth $100 of Bitcoin, the USD payoff is linear with respect to spot movements, and you can isolate the relevant trading variables. If volatility continues to be subdued, this will be a very profitable trade. Those bidding these contracts believe that volatility will rise in the future, and want to enjoy an asymmetric upside payoff.

Trade Recommendation:

To earn time value and gamma premium, sell XBTU15 or XBTZ15 and buy XBUU15 or XBUZ15. To go long future volatility and gamma, buy XBTU15 or XBTZ15 and sell XBUU15 or XBUZ15.

 

Weekly Review: Bitcoin Investment Products

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Volumes across the board were lower for both GBTC and XBT. GBTC volume experienced a 82% decline WoW, and XBT a 21% decline WoW. The GBTC premium rose 8% points WoW, and XBT’s discount widened by 0.08% points. XBT is definitely the more popular investment product, I assume that is because it trades close to fair value while GBTC trades at a hefty premium.

 

XBT Spot

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There were rumours last week about an European interest with a large bid in the OTC market at $235. That level was well defended until the OKCoin fiasco went nuclear on Saturday. The bearish sentiment was unleashed and the price now stands below $230. The kill spot is $213-$225. If the price falls within that range, it is likely that cascading margin calls of leveraged longs on Bitfinex will be unleashed and a run at $200 will commence. The bears have been waiting for a retest of the $150-$170 levels seen in January. It has eluded them for six months. The current price action is a perfect setup for another attempt. $200 won’t come easy, but if it does the suicide hotline will be inundated.

Trade Recommendation:

Short XBUU15 (25 September 2015) futures contracts at current levels. A sustained break back above $235 and consider covering the short. The near term price target is $220-$225.

Crypto Trader Daily – 14 March 2015

Price Action

After a brief recovery above $290, the price sank to a low of $281 on Bitfinex. Trading for the rest of day was range bound between $281 and $285. Expect an attempt to test $280. If it holds the bull market will live on, otherwise watch out below.

 

Trade Idea

XBUU15 prices have proven to be quite sticky. After the price fall, the difference between XBUU15 and spot has widened to $20. Consider selling XBUU15 and buying spot as an arbitrage trade.

 

In the News

China can’t get enough Bitcoins (Bloomberg View)