The financial crisis of 2008 highlighted yet another risk of the modern banking system. When a bank goes out and spends the 90% of net deposits it holds in investments, it can often make very bad bets, and lose all that money. In the case of the 2008 crisis, banks in particular bet on high risk subprime mortgages. These were mortgages taken out by borrowers very likely to become delinquent, to purchase houses that were sharply inflated in value by the rampant ease of acquiring a mortgage.
More recently, the approval or rejection of a bitcoin ETF was widely touted as being the contributing factor to a bitcoin bull run from under $1000 to over $1200. It was speculated that if the ETF were to be rejected, that naturally the price would fall to where it was before the bull run began. Indeed, the moment the ETF was announced as rejected, the price did momentarily fall to almost $1000. However, it just as quickly recovered, and began an inexorable climb all the way up to over $2700, where it stands to this day.
With the advent of smart contracts made possible by the blockchain, however, this is (soon-to-be) a thing of the past. One can create a simple smart contract at effectively almost no cost that specifies in code that each party will send it $100 in bitcoin, and that upon the completion of the election process, it will either send all $200 to the party that bet on Donald Trump winning the election, or send the $200 to the party that bet on him losing the election. No ifs, ands, or buts. The code is clear, objective, and deterministic. Either the contract is fulfilled in one direction, or it is fulfilled in the other. No need to trust the other party in the bet at all, much less a third party to mediate.
The recent weeks, however, saw a shift in this previously serene mental landscape, as new considerations about crypto futures began to pour into media space with increased frequency. From allegations of massively suppressing crypto prices to a widening range of platforms offering crypto derivatives to a real prospect of Ethereum futures coming about soon, these developments point to the need of revisiting the realm of cryptocurrency-based futures. Now that these derivatives have been around for more than half a year, a more nuanced picture of this asset class’ role in crypto finance is emerging.
At the same time, I also see a million and one ways where bitcoin fails to reach the promised land. Bitcoin has already experienced numerous growing pains, and at the present moment, is suffering most acutely from a huge backlog of transactions that can’t be fit on the blockchain. This is because blocks are presently limited to 1 MB in size, and can consequently fit only a small fraction of all the transactions that are trying to be propagated over the network. This forces those who want to have their transactions go through to pay inordinately high transaction fees in order to prioritize their transaction over other transactions.
For those who are more comfortable with a predictable form of reward, mining is the way. Mining involves setting up of a rig, consisting of GPUs or CPUs and an investment in the electricity. Mining is only possible on cryptocurrencies that follow the Proof of Work protocol. It takes some effort to setup and gets things running, but it is attractive as a long-term passive income as long as you frontload the work.
This occurs because any block that the rogue miner who changed their software mines won’t be accepted by all the other miners who are still running the original software. Consequently, all the other miners will begin mining different blocks, and adding those to their blockchain. This leads to a fork in the road, essentially, where two completely different blockchains are formed — one by the rogue miner, and one by all the other miners.
"Because the future can be traded on regulated markets, it will attract investors, making the market liquid, stabilizing prices, and [it will] not suffer from low transaction speeds of bitcoin [exchanges]," he said, adding, "If prices stabilize, we may start seeing more companies accepting bitcoin as a mode of payment. This may further bring liquidity to the market."
Had I actually done my research and believed that it was a fair bet to make that one day bitcoins would be worth far more than even the height of the local maximum bubble at the time, it absolutely could have been the right decision to buy in then, even if it crashed later temporarily to $200. What wasn’t right was buying in simply because the price was going up and I had a fear of missing out.
Were I to send them a wire (as I used to), their banks demand a mountain of documentation detailing every last dollar and hold their money for upwards of half a month before ultimately releasing it to them. Naturally, this is a pain in the ass and highly inefficient, time consuming, and resource intensive for all of us. Bitcoin easily sidesteps all of these issues.
But not everyone is convinced it’s a good idea. On Dec. 6, the Futures Industry Association -- a group of major banks, brokers and traders -- said the contracts were rushed without enough consideration of the risks. Last month, Thomas Peterffy, the billionaire chairman of Interactive Brokers Group Inc., wrote an open letter to CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo, arguing that bitcoin’s large price swings mean its futures contracts shouldn’t be allowed on platforms that clear other derivatives.
That’s the case as I see it for bitcoin. In the case of most altcoins, however, I don’t see remotely enough to even begin to justify the possibility of long term gain in the first place. Even with speculations, or perhaps especially with speculations, it’s incredibly important to thoroughly analyze a given investment opportunity for at least the potential for long term gain and success, and assess the magnitude of that possible gain, and then to weigh that potential versus the likelihood of outright failure of the speculation. With most altcoins, their value over bitcoin or ethereum is far from clear, and generally superficial or minor at best.
Consequently, with the short term price movements of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies being incredibly volatile and oftentimes nothing short of inexplicable, I highly caution anyone against making decisions such as selling their bitcoins on the way down in anticipation of a market crash, so as to either avoid the crash or to buy their coins back at a cheaper price at the bottom of the crash.
The market is so volatile that big movements up and down are pretty common and you can capitalise on this through swing trading. I recommend choosing a group of coins to be in and then sticking to swing trading in those coins rather than jumping constantly between different cryptocurrencies – it does help to have an understanding of what different coins do and how much volatility can be expected and you will gain that understanding with time. Good luck!
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