Litecoin’s Value Leaps 60% in 24 Hours

Litecoin is one of the oldest cryptocurrencies in existence, being created by former Google employee Charlie Lee in October 2011. Litecoin’s name is a reference to the decreased block size compared to Bitcoin. A new Litecoin block is mined every 2.5 minutes, while Bitcoin’s blocks take 10 minutes. This allows for far faster transaction confirmation compared to Bitcoin.

Litecoin has also been ahead of the curve in adopting improvements which have been suggested for Bitcoin. Implementation of segregated witness proved hugely controversial within the Bitcoin community, while Litecoin fully implemented this transaction-quickening technology in May. Shortly after, Litecoin implemented the lightening network, another improvement which has long been debated for Bitcoin.

Virtually every cryptocurrency has made massive gains in 2017 and Litecoin is no exception. From a low of $3.76 on February 26, Litecoin value began shooting up in April, both in relation to the US Dollar and to Bitcoin. A peak of $84.72 was hit on September 1, but this was followed by wild fluctuation and a quick fall back beneath the $50 level. Litecoin finally broke the $80 barrier again on November 25 and surpassed a 0.01 BTC exchange value shortly afterward.

Litecoin’s value has shot up exponentially since then, breaking $100 on December 8 and hitting an all-time high of $164.27 less than 24 hours later. The value has receded since then, but Litecoin is still trading at above $155 at the time of writing.

While the growth of Litecoin’s dollar value is truly remarkable, it may be the breaking of the 0.01 BTC barrier that proves to be most important to Litecoin’s long-term success. Litecoin hasn’t traded at above 0.01 BTC since November 2015. The current surge in value comes at a time when Bitcoin is hitting insane all-time highs that would’ve been unthinkable a year ago. While Bitcoin has never been more valuable, its limitations have also never been more obvious.

The massive rally in Bitcoin’s valuation over the past few weeks has seen transaction fees and processing time soar. The more popular and valuable Bitcoin becomes, the less attractive it is as a usable digital currency.

Litecoin has always been lightyears ahead of Bitcoin in this regard. Long-term holders have considered Litecoin to be massively undervalued compared to other cryptocurrencies. It now looks like they may be being proven right.

Litecoin is one of the easiest cryptocurrencies to invest one. Coinbase is growing rapidly as investors across North America and Europe look to get involved with the cryptocurrency boom. Along with Bitcoin and Ethereum, Litecoin is one of the three cryptocurrencies that Coinbase allows to be easily bought with US Dollars, Euros, and British Pounds.

It’s likely that Litecoin is also benefitting from the chaos caused by the popularity of Ethereum’s CryptoKitties game. The game has proved an unexpected hit, with users spending tens of thousands of dollars for the most sought-after felines on the cat breeding game. Transfers involving CryptoKitties have completely congested the Ethereum network, massively slowing down transaction times and delaying the launch of some Initial Coin Offerings.

While Ethereum is much more than just a cryptocurrency, faster transaction times are a big advantage it has held over Bitcoin. With CryptoKitties taking this advantage away, Litecoin’s emphasis on speed has made it more attractive than ever.

Bitcoin is now increasingly seen as a form of digital gold rather than a truly liquid cryptocurrency. Litecoin is perfectly positioned to take up the mantle of the first-choice option for fast digital payments.

It’s too early to tell if the current surge in its value will be sustained long-term, but there are many who think Litecoin is still a steal at $150.

What’s Going on With Bitcoin, Tether and Bitfinex?

As Bitcoin’s price has set staggering new all-time highs over the past couple of weeks, many cryptocurrency enthusiasts have become convinced there’s something nefarious beneath the sudden growth. As major financial groups prepare to launch Bitcoin futures trading, many think the price could be being inflated by big-money investors hoping to make a killing by shorting a Bitcoin crash.

Another rumor that has been gathering steam involves Bitfinex, one of the internet’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, and US Dollar Tether.

CoinDesk recently reported that Bitfinex have hired the law firm Steptoe & Johnson to take legal action against what it says are unfounded accusations designed to manipulate markets. Although Bitfinex’s statement doesn’t name any individuals directly, it’s been heavily implied who this action is targeting. The same CoinDesk article quotes Ross Torossian, a PR specialist hired by Bitfinex and Tether, as saying, “I think you can infer who”.

Every forum post and news article on the evolving situation points to the same target:  a blogger using the handle Bitifinex’ed, who has posted lengthy articles on Medium that go as far as accusing Bitfinex of being a Ponzi scheme.

These are very heavy claims and its easy to see why Bitfinex would be motivated to take legal action over them. It’s far from unusual for articles to attack different players in the cryptocurrency space. Unfounded claims and accusations have been thrown at almost every coin, development team, and exchange at one time or another. These types of attacks have become so commonplace that they’ve earned their own acronym – FUD, for fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

The cryptocurrency market is both hyper-competitive and almost completely unregulated. Huge amounts of money are exchanging hands for digital coins and tokens. Value in the cryptocurrency space is almost completely determined by trust. FUD erodes trust, harming one project so that another can prosper.

Bitfinex’ed’s articles have been widely distributed and they’ve created a lot of negativity around Bitfinex and Tether. The articles have been so widely shared that  they’ve received coverage in the New York Times, while every Reddit and forum post referencing Bitfinex or Tether attracts comments warning about the mounting controversy.

The appearance of a highly critical article in a major mainstream publication like The New York Times shows that this situation is escalating. Among the many points made in The NYT article are references to the recent Paradise Papers leak. The Paradise Papers showed that the Bitfinex’s chief strategy operator Phil Potter and chief executive Jan Ludovicus van der Velde had set up Tether in the British Virgin Isles in 2014.

Tether is supposed to add liquidity to the cryptocurrency market by allowing direct transfer to a coin that is directly linked to a supply of US Dollars. The value of one USDT is ‘tethered’ to the value of one USD.

Among the most serious accusations being thrown at the team behind Bitfinex and Tether is that USDT isn’t actually being backed 1:1 by US dollars.

Both Bitfinex and Tether have been targeted by multimillion dollar hacks,  including a recent hack which was said to have captured $30 million of USDT. But this latest hack is less severe than a hack which captured 120,000 Bitcoin last August. The stolen Bitcoin was worth more than $60 million at the time, and would now be worth magnitudes more than that.  The loss was spread out across all Bitifnex’s customers, with the exchange swapping 36% of funds held in accounts on its platform for debt tokens.

Fortune is another mainstream media entity which has weighed in on the mounting controversy. The Fortune article repeats accusation which have been thrown at Bitfinex and Tether by Bitfinex’ed and various Reddit and forum posts. Most of the concern surrounds the rate at which new US Tether is issued,  with 50 million being issued in week in November. This massive influx of Tether coincided with a spike in Bitcoin’s valuation.

Litecoin creator Charlie Lee summed up the worries of many in a Twitter post on November 30, stating: “There’s a fear going on that the recent price rise was helped by printing of USDT that is not backed by USD in a bank account.” The same Tweet ends by urging Tether and Bitfinex to assuage fears by conducting a complete audit of their accounts.

Other aspects of the mounting controversy include Bitfinex’s banking difficulties. American bank Wells Fargo and four banks based in Hong Kong and Taiwan moved in April to freeze or suspend accounts and transfers related to Bitfinex, making it difficult for customers to withdraw money.

There are fears that this mounting controversy could result in a collapse similar to the Mt. Gox disaster in 2013, which led to a years-long depression in the value of Bitcoin.

With Bitcoin’s value now riding higher than ever and Bitcoin futures about to bring cryptocurrency into the financial mainstream, things could get extremely messy in the near future if the questions over Bitfinex and Tether aren’t resolved.

Are Wall Street Whales Pumping Bitcoin’s Price to Short a Crash?

The last ten days have marked a wild end to the craziest year in the short history of cryptocurrency. Hype and mainstream media attention have grown with every new all-time high as Bitcoin went from $1000 in January to $10,000 on November 28. The price has soared since breaking the $10,000 psychological barrier, hitting highs above $18,000.

Even the most optimistic long-term holders are beginning to fear this rally is unsustainable. In the past, all-time highs have always been followed by a sustained dip. The current exponential rise in Bitcoin’s price defies all logic.

The next ten days will see things become even more interesting with the much-hyped introduction of Bitcoin futures by two major exchanges. CBOE Group will allow Wall Street futures trading from December 10, with CME Group following suit on December 18.

Much of Bitcoin’s growth over the past year has been fuelled by ordinary new investors getting swept up in the hype surrounding its growth. The recent surge has been different.

One of the central features of Bitcoin is the existence of an open ledger of transactions that anyone can view. The transactions that have been taking place recently are mostly transferring thousands of Bitcoin at a time, with many taking place for tens of thousands. To put that in perspective, 1000 Bitcoin is currently around $16,665,000, and transactions above 10,000 BTC are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

This has had a big knock-on effect for those holding smaller sums. While the value of Bitcoin has increased, its utility value has seriously diminished. Transaction fees are often now twice what they were a week ago. Transaction fees are paid to Bitcoin miners to authorize transactions, and users are able to set their own transaction fee to bid for authorization. Users looking to move small amounts are increasingly finding that its impossible to propose a transaction fee high enough to get their transfer approved.

It’s clear that big money is pouring into Bitcoin at an unprecedent rate as CBOE and CME prepare to offer the first Bitcoin futures. This is unlikely to be coincidental.

There is a growing fear that big-time investors, or ‘whales’, are buying huge sums of Bitcoin with the intention of shorting it once trading begins on Bitcoin futures. If these whales then sell their Bitcoin at a loss, the price will plummet and they can make a huge return through shorting the crash.

The past year has been an insane time for anyone with an interest in Bitcoin. The next few weeks might see things get even wilder.

Canada’s Central Bank Issues White Paper on Government-Backed Digital Currency

The current boom in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is bringing an emerging technology ever close to the financial mainstream. Governments around the world are looking closely at how cryptocurrency and blockchain technology could be incorporated into existing financial infrastructure.

A recent Canadian Central Bank white paper explores the feasibility and potential consequences of introducing Central Bank Digital Currency.

The white paper mentions the use of bank notes has declined in Canada over the past two decades relative to the country’s GDP. It mentions that in countries which are closer to becoming truly cashless, such as Sweden, central banks may soon be forced to take an active stance on whether to issue digital currency.

However, the paper notes that in Canada’s case, it would be undesirable for digital currency to completely replace banknotes. Canada is a large country with huge swathes of sparsely-populated land. A total switch to digital currency would be more feasible in countries with populations concentrated in large urban centers, such as most of Europe, along with East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea.

In Canada’s case, banknotes will still be necessary to conduct transactions in isolated rural areas with limited internet access. Interestingly, the paper envisions people in these areas using United States banknotes if Canada was to completely replace Canadian banknotes with digital currency.

The paper also shoots down a few of the proposed effects of a switch to digital currency. It concludes that digital currency is unlikely to affect the central bank’s ability to manipulate interest rates. It is also unlikely to be any more or less desirable for use in criminal activity than hard currency.

Concerns over enabling criminal activity would mean that digital currency would be unlikely to provide full anonymity. However, the paper dismisses the idea that digital currency would make it easier to track how money is being used and effectively cut off funding from criminal enterprises.

Another often-touted benefit of cryptocurrency is that allows those without bank accounts to easily store money and make transactions. This is could have a big effect in developing countries, but the paper mentions that very few people are excluded from the banking system in developed countries such as Canada.

The vision of digital currency outlined in the paper is one that blends the formula established by Bitcoin with parts of the existing banking system. Citizens would be able to store their digital currency in banks or withdraw it from ATMs and send it to smartphone-based wallets.

The biggest benefit of digital currency would be in its use as a form of everyday payment. Using digital currency would be cheaper than either bank cards or hard currency. This would lead to other knock-on benefits, such as reducing the barrier of cost for new firms and business ventures. The introduction of digital currency could therefore stimulate the economy by making it easier to start a business.

The paper concludes by recommending a cautious introduction of digital currency, followed by a period of learning through trial and error. As with all things in the emerging cryptocurrency space, the paper is unable to draw firm conclusions as to best practice as the idea of digital currency is completely untested.

Venezuela’s President recently announced the introduction of digital currency, but he was mocked by political opponents for providing no clear details on how this could be achieved. Venezuela is already at the forefront of cryptocurrency adoption, with hyperinflation making existing cryptocurrencies more attractive than the value-losing Venezuelan Bolivar.

It is likely we will see more governments experiment with digital currency over the next few years. The Canadian Central Bank’s white paper hasn’t provided a fully-fledged blueprint for a future digital currency, but it has provided another indication of the hugely disruptive potential of blockchain and distributed ledger technology.

How to Short Bitcoin: 5 Ways to Make Money Betting on the Bitcoin Bubble Bursting

Bitcoin has drawn a huge amount of hype, with some investors making incredible profits from it. The price has varied wildly since its launch, with each new peak followed by an immediate dip in value. At the press time, Bitcoin is trading at $16,382 level, according to the Coinbase. While some are convinced this digital currency has still yet to reach its maximum value, others feel like Bitcoin is a bubble comparable to the 17th Century Dutch mania for tulips or the 1990s craze for Ty Beanie Babies.

JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, is one of many Bitcoin skeptics, declaring the cryptocurrency a fraud and a bubble that was sure to burst sooner or later. So far, he has been wrong. However, if you agree with Dimon and think that Bitcoin’s value is sure to collapse at some point, here’s how to make money shorting Bitcoin.

1. Derivatives

The most straightforward way to short Bitcoin is through buying derivatives. This is a relatively new concept in the world of cryptocurrency and there are few options for doing it at present. However, these options look set to increase as Bitcoin’s ever-increasing hype leads to more skeptics looking to short it.

The only current option for doing this is through Hong Kong’s Bitmex exchange. Traders can buy a “put option” through Bitmex to sell Bitcoin at peak pricing. If the price then decreases, traders will make a profit on the put option.

Options for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency derivatives look set to explode with LedgerX. LedgerX has already been approved by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to operate as a cryptocurrency clearinghouse. LedgerX is offering a range of swaps and derivatives, making it easy for anyone to bet against Bitcoin’s future success.

2. Place a Bet

For big-time investors, major investment banks will draw up a contract for shorting almost anything. The obvious drawback is that firms such as Goldman Sachs won’t negotiate these kinds of deals with anyone who walks in off the street.

If you think cutting a deal with a major investment bank is beyond you, you could always turn to a traditional bookmaker. Like investment banks, bookmakers will allow a bet to be placed on almost anything. You might not get fantastic odds on a long-term bet on Bitcoin’s value dropping but it might be worth placing a bet if you’re convinced cryptocurrency is destined to fail.

3. Buy Bitcoin on Margin

Some Bitcoin exchanges allow users to trade Bitcoin on margin. This functionality is intended to allow users to bet on the cryptocurrency’s long-term success, but it can easily be tweaked to allow for shorting Bitcoin.

Using an exchange such as GDAX or Kraken, Bitcoins can be sold on margin. The deal will be completed later when the value has hopefully decreased.

The main drawback of this strategy is that it only allows for short-term selling on margin. Through GDAX, margin positions can only be left open for a maximum of 27 days. Of course, if the price of Bitcoin increases during this time, the user is liable for the new higher price.

Through GDAX, this option only really exists for big-time investors, with a minimum of $5 million required for margin trading. Kraken is a better option for most traders, as it doesn’t have this steep financial barrier to margin trading.

4. Short Bitcoin-Connected Shares

While directly shorting cryptocurrency is currently fairly difficult, there are ways to indirectly bet against Bitcoin.

The Bitcoin Investment Trust currently trades on pink-sheet Over the Counter (OTC) markets, allowing investors to profit from Bitcoin’s success without negotiating the complicated technical aspects of buying Bitcoin directly. Shorting their stock is difficult, however, as most major brokerages don’t allow investors to short pink sheet stocks.

As with options for trading in Bitcoin derivatives, options for shorting Bitcoin investment groups will likely increase in the near-future. The Winklevoss twins had an application for a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund rejected by the SEC in March 2017. While that attempt failed, it’s probable that other similar ventures will attempt to get licensed.

Another option would be to bet against publicly-traded companies that are heavily invested in Bitcoin’s success. For example, chip-maker Nividia is one of the biggest firms supplying Bitcoin miners with the tools they need to generate the cryptocurrency.

5. Bet Against Bitcoin Believers Directly

An unorthodox option for shorting Bitcoin would be to make direct one-to-one bets against the cryptocurrency’s biggest supporters. Tracking down Bitcoin supporters is easy, with many forums dedicated to dissecting the latest crypto news and trends. Making a bet is less easy and requires a degree of trust.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to trust the other person to honor the bet. Other blockchain-based cryptocurrencies make it possible to set up a wager that will automatically pay one party if the conditions of the bet have been satisfied.

The Ethereum blockchain platform has been generating a lot of buzz through allowing for the creation of “smart contracts.” Smart contracts automatically transfer funds from one party to another when the pre-set conditions of a deal have been met.

This option requires some technical knowledge of using Ethereum and setting up smart contracts. If this can be done, using smart contracts to make direct one-to-one bets may be the best way to bet against Bitcoin’s continued success.

Conclusion

It’s worth remembering that Bitcoin is still less than a decade old and most people are still completely clueless about exactly what this technology is and what it’s capable of. It’s an open question whether Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have any inherent value or whether they’re products of investor hysteria, just like Dutch tulips and Ty Beanie Babies.

big-short-movie
A still from the film The Big Short [Motion Picture].
If you’re convinced that Bitcoin is a bubble, you might feel a bit like a character from The Big Short, completely confused as to how so many people seem oblivious to the financial implosion waiting around the corner. In The Big Short, a huge amount of effort is put into shorting the American sub-prime mortgage bubble and a few people get very rich as a result. Finding a way to bet against Bitcoin might just be equally as rewarding.

THE FINE PRINT: This material is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice. It is not a recommendation of any particular strategy or investment product. Our views and opinions expressed in any online content are current at the time of publication and are subject to change. All investment involves risk, including the loss of principal.

MonaCoin Price Jumps from $0.50 to $17 in Two Months

MonaCoin is a relic from the early days of cryptocurrency, when spending 10,000 BTC on two pizzas seemed like a reasonable investment. As with a lot of early alt-coins, MonaCoin was little more than a clone coin with a cute character slapped on it. Suddenly, this cute character has made MonaCoin attractive enough to jump 3000% in value.

Since its launch in December 2013, MonaCoin has spent most of its existence with a sub-$1 million market cap. Today, MonaCoin’s market cap is closing in on $1 billion.

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MonaCoin (MONA) chart, source: coinmarketcap.com

As with most minor alt-coins, there have been spikes before. One noteworthy bump came in August 2014. At a time when Bitcoin’s involvement with the Silk Road and other darkweb sites was generating negative headlines, a Japanese news show did a positive piece on this minor alt-coin. MonaCoin leapt from $0.10 to $0.84 almost overnight. But the bump was short-lived and the drop-off came immediately. A few months later, MonaCoin was back at $0.10 with a sub-$500,000 market cap.

The current spike is different in both magnitude and duration. To put this in perspective, IOTA’s sudden rise to $3.80 has made it the most hyped coin since Ethereum. At the beginning of November, IOTA was trading at $0.33, meaning its value has increased by around 1151%. MonaCoin has produced more than double IOTA’s return on investment.

There are two main reasons for the sudden rise of MonaCoin. While other novelty coins such as DogeCoin are more or less dead, cat-referencing cat is in vogue right now. CryptoKitties has surprised many by becoming the first big viral success on the Ethereum platform. The most sought-after kitties on this cat-breeding game are being sold for thousands of dollars’ worth of Ethereum. CryptoKitties is so popular that congestion from the game is seriously slowing down the Ethereum network. In this climate, backing a coin on the basis of its cuteness doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous.

The second reason is the most important one. In its home country of Japan, MonaCoin has gone mainstream.

MonaCoin is a Litecoin clone that was based on a cat meme that frequently appeared on the Japanese 2chan message board. It’s actually faster than Litecoin, another factor which has helped its sudden mass-adoption.

Japan is embracing cryptocurrency in a big way. Many stores are accepting payment in cryptocurrency and Zaif has set up a network of crypto ATMs across the country. The two coins chosen for inclusion in both most stores’ payment options and Zaif’s ATMs are Bitcoin and MonaCoin.

MonaCoin’s utility value as a currency wouldn’t be enough to make it stand out if it in a completely free market, but its status in Japan has granted it an enormous captive market of consumers who are enthusiastic about cryptocurrency. MonaCoin may not be a ground-breaking piece of technical wizardry like IOTA, but it doesn’t have to be. With the Japanese market cornered, MonaCoin just has to be more useful than Bitcoin for making payments.

MonaCoin’s market cap has been rising all year. It began 2017 with a market cap of little more than $1 million. MonaCoin’s market cap hit $11 million in May, $20 million in June, and $40 million in July. The wildest growth has come in the last few months, with the market cap hitting $80 million in mid-October and surpassing $250 million just two days later.

At a time when cutting-edge coins like IOTA are surging in value, MonaCoin is proof that technical advancement isn’t the only determiner of a coin’s success. It’s sudden surge to an almost $1 billion market cap is a perfect storm of corporate partnership, branding, and speculation.

IOTA is exploding in a way that could only be compared to Ethereum

The incredible speed and volatility of cryptocurrency was on full display over the past few days with IOTA. At the start of November, IOTA was a relatively obscure coin that was trading at around $0.38. Today, its value is closing in on $5.

While there’s nothing unusual about minor cryptocurrencies experiencing huge spikes in their valuation, IOTA is exploding in a way that could only really be compared to Ethereum. IOTA has just leapfrogged veterans Litecoin and Dash to become the fifth largest cryptocurrency by market cap. And there’s no indication that it’s stopping there.

Why is IOTA going supernova?

IOTA is a revolutionary platform that solves the main issues which have affected other cryptocurrencies – fees, scaling limitations, and centralization.

Fees and scaling limitations are by far the biggest barrier to Bitcoin ever becoming the digital currency it was originally envisioned as. As the blockchain ledger recording Bitcoin transactions grows ever larger, speed decreases as each Bitcoin transaction requires total verification of the entire blockchain.

The verification process for Bitcoin is conducted by miners who require a fee each time a transaction is processed. Bitcoin users are able to specify the fee they are willing to pay when making a transaction, which creates a bidding war when the network is congested. Miners obviously opt to verify the highest-paying transactions first, so the more popular Bitcoin becomes, the less likely it is that Bitcoin can ever be used for everyday purchases.

For Bitcoin, the problem of fees and scaling limitations are completely entangled. Other cryptocurrencies have scaling limitations of their own, with Ethereum’s transaction fees slowing down considerably thanks to the viral success of the kitten-breeding game CryptoKitties.

Centralization is happening inadvertently with Bitcoin, with power becoming concentrated in powerful mining firms who essentially control whether transactions get verified. Centralization is one of the central criticisms of other emerging cryptocurrencies like Neo, which operate a small number of nodes that could conceivably be taken out by any manner of digital or real-world catastrophes.

The first reason for IOTA’s sudden success is that it’s seemingly solved all these issues with the Tangle. The Tangle moves beyond blockchain to execute all transactions peer-to-peer, without any transaction fees. Instead of miners validating transactions on the ledger as with Bitcoin, verification is built into the ledger itself. The more popular IOTA becomes, the more widespread the transaction-verifying Tangle. Where scaling and network congestion hamstrings Bitcoin and Ethereum, IOTA actually becomes faster the more people use it.

The second reason is that the Tangle has got some major tech players very excited. It’s no coincidence that IOTA’s explosion in value followed an announcement of a partnership with Microsoft. Microsoft are very proactive in the cryptocurrency space. They recently launched a development contest with Neo and they are one of the main players in the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance. The company responsible for making PCs user-friendly fared poorly in the smartphone space, with Windows Phone never coming close to rivalling Android or iPhone’s market share. Microsoft are keen to be at the front of the pack when it comes to the rapidly-evolving world of blockchain and cryptocurrency.

The third reason is speculation at its wildest. The cryptocurrency market is a hyper-charged version of the stock market where a slight bearish trend can become hysteria within hours. All-time highs generate headlines which generate speculation which generates more headlines, and the price starts increasing exponentially purely because the price is increasing exponentially.

How far can IOTA climb?

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IOTA (MIOTA), Market Cap, 12/5/2017. Source: coinmarketcap.com

Speculation is still at the heart of all cryptocurrency investments and we may still be years from seeing the technology behind IOTA being used to its full potential. However, if it fulfils even a fraction of that potential, there’s almost no limit to how big IOTA can get.

While Bitcoin is increasingly referred to as digital gold, IOTA is positioning itself as the crypto equivalent of a major energy conglomerate. Central to IOTA’s potential is the idea that data is the oil of the digital economy. To take this metaphor to its logical conclusion, IOTA may have just invented the internal combustion engine.

IOTA’s combination of secure data transfer and zero transaction fees enable the sharing and monetization of data on a grand scale. IOTA’s vision is of a near-future in which data is freely and instantly amalgamated from smart devices connected to the Internet of Things.

We are already living in the early years of the data age, with an incredible amount of information on all of us existing on the internet and in the databases of the myriad companies we interact with every day. As IOTA points out on its website, 99% of the data that is currently generated is lost due to there being no real way to sync-up the data generated by every internet-connected device. The Tangle makes it easy for companies to automate the sharing and selling of this data.

Before Microsoft got on board, IOTA had already announced partnerships with Cisco Systems, Samsung, and Volkswagen. Its easy to see why the Tangle’s game-changing utilization of data would be incredibly interesting to major companies like this.

The suddenness of IOTA is surprising even by cryptocurrency’s crazy standards. The majority of trading volume is currently being conducted through Bitfinex and Binance. Korea’s largest exchange, Bithumb, will be adding IOTA soon, which could cause the value to rise even higher.

Cryptocurrency is so new, and IOTA is so different to every other player in the space, that there really is no guide by which to predict its future. The spikes and dips that have marked Bitcoin’s ascension can be plotted against trends experienced by other markets and technologies, allowing somewhat-educated guesses to be made about its future direction. But when something moves as suddenly as IOTA, all bets are off. The price could continue to sky-rocket or it could collapse tomorrow. The more speculation mounts, the more unpredictable things become.

But IOTA is undoubtedly an incredibly interesting project with almost unlimited potential.

How long can Bitcoin reign as king of cryptocurrency?

With the price of Bitcoin seeming resilient above $11,000, you could be forgiven for thinking that the notoriously volatile king of cryptocurrency has never been in a stronger position. However, as Bitcoin closes out an incredible 2017 with a final surge in value, it’s continued bearish outlook against the US dollar masks strong indications that Bitcoin is quickly losing its lustre.

The growth of Bitcoin has sparked mainstream interest in a cryptocurrency space that was considered a niche financial novelty a year ago. The interest has spilled over into all other cryptocurrencies and you’d have difficult finding a coin that didn’t provide a wild return on investment over the past twelve months. But heading into 2018, Bitcoin is rapidly losing its market dominance.

Bitcoin spent the first few months of 2017 consistently accounting for more than 85% of cryptocurrency’s total market cap. This began dropping in March and hit a low of 37.78% on June 20.

BTC/USD chart,2017
BTC/USD chart,2017

Bitcoin regained some ground when its value began surging in October. There were a few days in early November when Bitcoin was back above 60% of cryptocurrency’s market cap, but it looks to be heading into 2018 at closer to 50%.

Why Declining Market Share is Bad for Brand Bitcoin

This is bad for Bitcoin because its current success largely hinges on its brand name value. The headline-generating speculative frenzy surrounding Bitcoin has made it a household name. Most people probably still couldn’t tell you what the blockchain is, but they could tell you that they wished they’d poured their life savings into Bitcoin before the price shot up.

Bitcoin has achieved this brand recognition largely by virtue of being the first of its kind. But there is almost nothing that Bitcoin can do that other cryptocurrencies aren’t already doing much better.

If you want to make quick payments with minimal transaction fees, you’re better off using Ripple or Litecoin. If you want anonymity, go for Monero or Zcash. If you’d like to make a speculative bet on the revolutionary potential of blockchain-enabled technology, then Ethereum, Neo and IOTA are all much more attractive propositions.

But what Bitcoin has more of than any of these other cryptocurrencies is brand recognition. The value of brand recognition should not be underestimated, especially when it comes to finance. Many people would be reluctant to place their life savings in an online-only bank, even if it promised to be better in every way than a bank on the high street. Even if the online bank’s website displayed guarantees from government-approved financial authorities, many people would be reluctant to trust them with their hard-earned cash.

Amid incredible price volatility and repeated warnings from big-time financial players that it’s nothing but a bubble and/or scam, it might seem strange to talk about Bitcoin being a trusted and reputable asset. But in the wild world of cryptocurrency, that’s exactly what Bitcoin is. However, one big crash could destroy the trust that’s been placed in Brand Bitcoin.

Bitcoin has already weathered big crashes before, most notably in 2013, when its value dropped from around $1000 to $500 and then kept on falling, eventually bottoming out at around $200 in 2015. But during this entire time span, Bitcoin’s market share never spent more than a few days below 80%.

If you look at a chart of Bitcoin’s market share since it was first launched, you’ll see years spent hovering between 80% and 90% market dominance, then a sudden extreme drop-off in the first few months of 2017.

The Outlook for Brand Bitcoin

While Bitcoin’s share of the cryptocurrency market has declined over the past year, its dollar value and market capitalization have skyrocketed. Bitcoin might be competing in a much more crowded marketplace than it was a year ago, but it’s also gone from being a big fish in a small pond to the biggest beast in a rapidly-expanding ocean.

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Percentage of Total Market Capitalization (Dominance), source:coinmarketcap.com

But cracks are already showing in the resilience of Brand Bitcoin. Breakaways like Bitcoin Gold and Bitcoin Cash have proved hugely controversial because of their potential to dilute the brand. Many long-term Bitcoin-holders have petitioned cryptocurrency exchanges to list Bitcoin Cash as Bcash to reduce the potential for brand confusion.

At the same time, cryptocurrency’s unstoppable march into the financial mainstream has seen projects like Ethereum and IOTA accumulate a lot more media coverage.

Bitcoin is still the intermediary of choice when moving funds between fiat and cryptocurrencies and its success is therefore inextricably linked with that of all other cryptocurrencies. But this situation may not last forever. Major exchanges such as Coinbase already allow Ethereum to be purchased directly with fiat currency. As the space develops, more coins could gain the same level of legitimacy and fungibility.

Bitcoin is still the king of cryptocurrency because of the self-sustaining legitimacy that being at the top gives it. But if its dollar value and market capitalization ever slip from the top spot, it might be a death sentence.

Finding Undervalued Assets in the Cryptocurrency Marketplace

You don’t have to have been monitoring cryptocurrency developments for more than a few months to have seen the same pattern play out with Bitcoin half a dozen times. A new all-time high is reached, the price creeps up higher, then it falls back at a rate that would be considered catastrophic with traditional investments.

As the insane growth in Bitcoin’s value continues, these peaks and rollbacks are becoming evermore dramatic. Just take a look at the milestones and rollbacks that Bitcoin’s US dollar value went through last week. On Sunday November 26, Bitcoin exceeded $9000 for the first ever time. On Tuesday November 28, it broke $10,000. By Wednesday, it had hit above $11,500. On Thursday, it dropped back to almost $9,500 – a loss of more than 17%. As I write this a week on from the $9000 all-time high, Bitcoin is sitting at a new all-time high of $11,800. At the press time  Bitcoin is trading at $11,150 level.

It’s clear from this that it’s impossible to know with any certainty what Bitcoin is really worth. In any other market, a 17% drop would trigger panic-selling and a complete collapse in confidence. To put that figure in perspective, Black Monday in 1987 triggered one of the greatest stock market crises in history. The stock market’s value fell 22% in three days and people thought the sky was caving in. If the value of Bitcoin fell 22% tomorrow, it would be considered a minor blip that would be forgotten about a week later.

As the mania and hype of speculation around cryptocurrency gathers pace, it’s tempting to think of this new asset class as being completely immune to the economic maxims that govern other investments. And while it’s true that the speed and volatility of cryptocurrency markets far outstrips any other form of investment, conventional wisdom can still be applied.

Investing in Undervalued Assets

The gulf in opinions on Bitcoin’s true value is enormous. For every economic expert proclaiming Bitcoin a bubble built on nothing but hype, there’s a true believer who sees a revolutionary new technology that is still massively underpriced.

Because cryptocurrency is so new, it’s impossible to know with any certainty which of these groups will eventually be proven correct. However, there are many projects within the cryptocurrency sphere which appear relatively undervalued.

In the stock market, a company is said to be undervalued if its market capitalization is less than the value of its assets. In theory, this is relatively simple to work out. All publicly traded companies are required to publish in-depth financial reports each year. If these reports show that the company’s profit-generating capabilities exceed its market cap, then the company is probably undervalued.

A good practical example of this theory is the fall in BP’s share price following the July 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This catastrophic event was both an environmental and public relations disaster. BP’s share price halved immediately following the oil spill, plummeting from approximately $60 to $30 in a single day. The price has never since surpassed the pre-oil spill highs and BP has suffered seemingly permanent reputational damage, but the market reaction to the oil spill represented a fantastic opportunity for savvy investors.

Bitcoin Volatility vs Other Asset Classes
Bitcoin Volatility vs Other Asset Classes, Source: Woobull.com

Despite the reputational hit and the eventual tens of billions BP were forced to pay in fines, its share price a day after the oil spill was massively undervalued. BP was still a global energy giant with a huge amount of infrastructure and profit-generating capabilities. If you’d bought at the bottom of the dip, your $30 BP shares would’ve been worth almost $49 by March 2011. 61% price appreciation over eight months might seem meagre by cryptocurrency’s otherworldly standards, but for most forms of investment, that’s an insane return.

Finding Undervalued Assets in the Cryptocurrency Marketplace

Sifting through the plethora of alt-coins and tokens now available on cryptocurrency exchanges can make playing the stock market look like a breeze. While publicly traded companies issue detailed annual accounts, most cryptocurrencies are backed only by a white paper outlining bold and unproven strategies for future growth. However, the rewards for taking a chance on an undervalued crypto asset can be enormous.

Bitcoin will likely hit $12,000 before 2017 ends and could in all probability climb even higher, marking a roughly 1200% appreciation in value over the course of the year. But there are other players within the cryptocurrency market who’ve experienced even greater growth.

Ethereum is the most prominent, beginning the year at $8 and recently hitting an all-time high just shy of $520, meaning an almost 6500% increase in value.

Neo began 2017 valued at less than 15 cents. In August, its value surpassed $48 – a 32,000% rise. Ripple began the year trading at a fraction of a cent – $0.006396, to be precise. It’s all-time high of a little less than 37 cents in May represents growth of almost 57,700%.

Sorting the Undervalued from the Completely Worthless

Undervalued doesn’t mean ‘cheap’. In fact, the value of a single unit of a cryptocurrency is an almost completely meaningless figure.

Think of the way different fiat currencies are denominated. Ten US dollars is worth roughly the same as a thousand Japanese Yen, which is worth about 10,000 Korean Won.

There are about 16.7 million Bitcoin currently in existence, with a maximum of 21 million that can ever be mined. While the supply of Bitcoin will increase until it hits that 21 million limit, other cryptocurrencies work on the exact opposite principle. Ripple was launched with 100 billion XRP already in existence. Every transaction conducted using Ripple destroys a little XRP and reduces the supply. The relative US dollar value of one unit of BTC and XRP is therefore a completely meaningless metric for comparing the two.

Imagine that Company A’s share price is $100 and Company B’s share price is $10. Its tempting to think Company A is by far the more valuable of the two, but now throw in the consideration that each of Company A’s shares represent 10% of the whole company while Company B’s shares represent 0.01%. Company A therefore has a market capitalization of $1000 while Company B’s market capitalization is $1 million.

Market capitalization is the main metric for determining the worth of a cryptocurrency. A single unit of Dash is currently valued at just over $789 compared to roughly $0.26 for Ripple’s XRP, but Dash has a market cap of around $6 billion while Ripple’s market cap is over $10 billion.

The surest metric of finding an undervalued cryptocurrency is therefore finding a cryptocurrency with an overly low market cap.

As already mentioned, this is difficult in an emerging area where the biggest bargains are those with potentially revolutionary ideas that have yet to establish themselves. This is where hype comes in – projects like Ethereum and Neo generated a lot of buzz before their value went stratospheric. If you find a buzzworthy coin with a $5 million market cap, there’s a chance that coin might be about to go supernova.

A Final Word of Warning

Investing in something that’s as unproven long-term as cryptocurrency is inherently risky. Investing in emerging coins with no track record is potentially far riskier than investing in the volatile established names like Bitcoin.

The less investors backing a coin, the easier it is for its price and market cap to be manipulated. While cryptocurrency exchanges are beginning to make efforts to stamp out pump and dump schemes that send the value and market cap of worthless alt-coins skyrocketing, there are still scores of coins which see a 500% jump in their valuation one day and become completely worthless the next.

At the same time, legitimate projects which are just getting started are far more vulnerable to ‘fear and doubt’ (FUD) campaigns, where alarmist and often groundless articles appear online throwing doubt on the project and suppressing its value.

The truth is that absolutely nothing in the world of cryptocurrency is certain. However, if you’re kicking yourself for missing out on the meteoric rise of Bitcoin and other established cryptocurrencies, you can take solace in the fact that are still a lot more moonshot projects waiting to be explode within the wild and unpredictable cryptocurrency marketplace.

QUOINE & QASH: making cryptocurrency truly borderless

As Bitcoin edges ever closer to the financial mainstream, it moves further away from the original vision of a frictionless global currency.

The surge in demand for Bitcoin has led to ever-increasing transaction costs, while the ballooning size of the blockchain leads to ever-slower transaction times. The meteoric rise in Bitcoin’s value means people now laugh at early attempts to use it as a legitimate form of currency, such as the notorious 10,000 BTC payment for two Papa John’s pizzas that would today be worth $117 million.

Those two pepperoni pizzas become even more ludicrously expensive if you’re living outside the United States.

Severe economic crises and hyperinflation have made Venezuela and Zimbabwe interesting test cases for mass adoption of cryptocurrency, with the result so far being a localized premium on cryptocurrency investment.

South Korea is the world’s largest per-capita cryptocurrency marketplace, but high demand has led to what local investors unaffectionately term the Kimchi Premium on cryptocurrency exchange values.

Anyone who’s purchased cryptocurrency using a relatively smaller currency than US Dollars – for example, British Pound Sterling – knows that lower liquidity in the local cryptocurrency marketplace leads to higher prices.

And while US investors typically enjoy the lowest prices, they’re barred from many ICOs and cryptocurrency exchanges due to fears surrounding regulation from the SEC.

QUOINE: Adding Liquidity to the Global Cryptocurrency Marketplace

The Japanese fintech firm QUOINE (pronounced ‘coin’) has an appropriately revolutionary approach to the problem of the regional splintering of the cryptocurrency marketplace. They aim to make transactions between all currencies equal.

QUOINE’s QUOINEX platform proclaims itself the world’s most advanced cryptocurrency exchange. It allows trading from any fiat currency to any cryptocurrency without fees.

QUOINE aren’t the first entity to identify the potential benefits of blockchain-enabled frictionless currency transfers. Ripple have already made a lot of headway by offering instant international transfers to major financial institutions. But while Ripple is essentially a B2B platform servicing transactions between established financial heavyweights, QUOINE aims to fully democratize the global cryptocurrency marketplace and offer a similarly fluid experience to the masses.

The potential marketplace for QUOINEX is huge. If it can capture even a fraction of those affected by regional variations in the cryptocurrency marketplace, the potential for growth is enormous.

QASH: The First Government-Approved ICO

 

quoine-qash

QUOINE’s ambitions extend to issuing its own token for facilitating frictionless international financial transactions. The Japanese government has taken a progressive stance on cryptocurrency and the QASH token is the first initial coin offering (ICO) to be fully regulated by a national government.

The initial offering of 350 million tokens at a cost of 0.001 ETH a piece raised $100 million, with the total supply snapped up in just three days. QASH is now being rolled out across a variety of currency exchanges. It is already available on Bitfinex, with Binance and CEX trading coming soon.

A lot of those who got in on the ICO have already tuned a healthy profit. The ICO’s ETH value was the equivalent of around 29 US cents per token, which immediately rose to around 50 cents upon hitting the first cryptocurrency exchanges on November 21. Prices peaked at $1.48 when QASH was added to Bitfinex on November 29. The mass sell-off from early investors looking to turn a quick profit has since seen the price fall to around 96.5 cents.

QASH’s Long-Term Potential Value

QUOINEX undoubtedly has enormous potential to be a major cryptocurrency exchange. It has a slick and well-designed interface that inspires confidence in the team behind the project, but the heralded full fiat currency support has yet to be realized. While anyone can make exchanges on QUOINEX using most major cryptocurrencies, fiat support is currently limited to Japanese Yen, US Dollars, Australian Dollars, and Indonesian Rupiah. The potential is there but the userbase is small and long-term viability has yet to be proven.

As for the QASH token itself, it’s important to note that the fates of QASH and QUOINEX are not necessarily intertwined. There are many similar emerging examples within the cryptocurrency space of potentially revolutionary uses of blockchain technology that are attached to a coin without being dependent on it. The major financial institutions making Ripple-powered transactions don’t necessarily guarantee success for XRP, just as the Neo team’s Onchain project could bring largescale blockchain functionality to Chinese regional governance without affecting the fortunes of the Neo coin.

But association with a heavily-hyped product and an established fintech team have so far proven good indicators of a cryptocurrency’s future success. QASH is getting a lot of people excited with its bold vision for future growth. There is big talk of QASH aiming to be a top five or even top three cryptocurrency.

For a coin that’s just launched and has yet to hit many cryptocurrency exchanges, QASH is making a lot of headway. With 350 million coins in circulation following the ICO and a current valuation of around 96.5 cents per coin, it has an approximate market cap of $338 million.

An additional 450 million coins will be released over the next 5 years, meaning 80% of QASH’s total 1 billion coins will be on the market while 20% remain locked away. Five years is of course an incredibly long time in a field as new and volatile as cryptocurrency and it is impossible to predict whether QASH will still be well-regarded that far into the future. But QASH is currently a new coin with a huge buzz developing around it.