Home / Crypto Currency / What Would Happen to Crypto In a Global Market Meltdown?

What Would Happen to Crypto In a Global Market Meltdown?

Michael J. Casey is the chairman of CoinDesk's advisory board and a senior advisor for blockchain research at MIT's Digital Currency Initiative.

The following article originally appeared in CoinDesk Weekly, a custom-curated newsletter delivered every Sunday exclusively to our subscribers.

casey, token economy

A common thought experiment in the crypto community is to ponder how cryptocurrencies would fare in the event of another global financial meltdown.

It is not an idle question. There is a host of troubling developments in the global economy: the threat of a trade war, jitters in Italian debt markets, problems at Deutsche Bank and new emerging market crises in Turkey and Argentina.

Meanwhile, central banks, led by the U.S. Federal Reserve, are tightening or signaling tighter monetary policy. That's putting a brake on the huge gains that low interest rates and quantitative easing had bestowed on global markets in the eight years since the end of the last crisis.

With this combination of risk factors already in play, there's always a chance that some unforeseen trigger could set off another terrified rush for the exits among global investors.

What would the impact be on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies? Would their reputation as independent assets see them benefit from safe-haven inflows? Or would the market-wide reduction in risk appetite spread wide enough that crypto assets get caught up in the selloff?

Opposing scenarios

Some crypto hodlers salivate at the idea of market panic.

They contend that, unlike the 2008-2009 collapse, when Satoshi Nakamoto's newly launched cryptocurrency was essentially out of sight and unavailable to the hordes seeking a haven from the fiat world's chaos, bitcoin is now widely recognized as a more versatile alternative to traditional flight-to-safety assets such as gold.

In a crisis, they say, bitcoin could shine – as might other cryptocurrencies designed as alternatives to fiat cash such as monero and zcash. Unaffected by future monetary policy responses, immune from draconian interventions such as the Cypriot bank deposit freeze of 2013, and easily acquired, they could prove their value as digital havens for the digital age in such a moment. Accordingly, the bulls' argument goes, their prices would surge.

On the other hand, if there's enough of a market-wide departure from risky investments, it's hard not to see this sector being swept up in it.

Just as the most extreme gains in crypto prices in the latter part of 2017 were inextricably linked to the rapid "risk on" uptrend seen in stocks, commodities and emerging-market assets, so too a major selloff could easily infect these new markets.

Cryptocurrencies and tokens are perceived by most ordinary investors as high-risk assets – you buy them with money you can afford to lose when you're feeling upbeat about market prospects. When the mood sours, this class of investment is typically the first to be retrenched as investors scramble to get cash.

At $300 billion, according to Coinmarketcap's undoubtedly inflated estimates, the market cap of the overall crypto token market is more than three times its value of a year ago (even though it's down more than half from its peak in early January).

But it's less than 1 percent of the end-2017 market cap of $54.8 trillion for the S&P Global Broad Market Index, which includes most stocks from 48 countries. If risk-hungry investors are panicking and looking for things to dump – or for that matter if they're looking for something safe to buy – it won't take much of their funds to move the crypto markets, one way or another.

Low correlations

Backing the bitcoin bulls' argument is the fact that correlations between cryptocurrency and mainstream risk assets – the degree to which prices move in tandem with each other – are quite low.

A 90-day correlation matrix compiled by analytics firm Sifr put bitcoin's correlation with the S&P 500 index of U.S. equities at minus-0.14. That's a statistically neutral position since 1 represents a perfect positive correlation while -1 is a perfectly negative relationship.

But they say that in a crisis "all correlations go to 1." The panicked state of the crowd, with investors selling whatever they can offload to cover debts and margin calls, means that everything could go out with the flood.

Intellectually, too, that sort of wholesale downturn would comfortably stand as a logical counterpoint to the conditions seen last year when market valuations reached excessive levels. We cannot separate the flood of money that flew into crypto at the end of the year from the fact that eight years of quantitative easing had driven a "hunt for yield" in once-obscure markets as the return shrank on now pricey mainstream investments such as corporate bonds.

With bond funds paying little more than, say, 2 percent for years, bitcoin looked attractive to mainstream investors. When that artificially-stoked liquidity disappears, the reverse could happen.

Despite all of this, I do believe a global financial crisis could be an important testing moment for crypto assets.

Perhaps there'll be a two-phase effect. In the immediate aftermath of the panic, there would be a selloff as every market is hit by the liquidity squeeze.

But after things settle, one can imagine that the narrative around bitcoin's uncorrelated returns and its status as a hedge against government and banking risk would gain more attention.

Just like the mid-2013 surge in bitcoin that accompanied the Cypriot crisis' lesson that "they can come for your bank account but not for your private keys," so too a wider financial crunch could spur conversation around bitcoin's immutable, decentralized qualities and help build the case for buying it.

The wider point here is that, whether it's as an aligned element that rises and falls in sync with the broader marketplace or as a contrasting alternative to it, cryptocurrencies can't be viewed in isolation from the rest of the world.

Image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Read more

Check Also

FBI: “Call of Duty” Players Remotely Stole $3.3 Million in Cryptocurrencies

A group of “Call of Duty” players from Indiana are accused of stealing more than $3 million in cryptocurrencies after coercing an Illinois man to aid them in remotely hacking unsecured crypto wallets on more than 100 cell phones. Man Coerced Into Hack After SWATing Incident The episode began in Bloomington, Illinois, where a local man told the FBI he met the members of the would-be group of cybercriminals online playing Call of Duty. In the simulated warfare game, players are able to communicate with each other in real-time and with relative privacy. The group, based out of Dolton, Indiana, allegedly coerced the man from Bloomington into working for them using an intimidation tactic called “SWATing,” a nefarious, illegal, and dangerous phenomenon that has become increasingly popular in online gaming communities. SWATing is when police are called with a false report of a violent crime at someone’s home, which prompts a response from a SWAT team — oftentimes leading to door breaches, gunfire, and even the accidental deaths of unknowing victims. It’s often used as a decidedly dark method of payback, or, as in this case, to intimidate or threaten an individual. Afraid of further retaliation the man succumbed to the hacker’s requests, to which they handed over names, phone numbers, and other information that permitted him to remotely access the cell phones of their victims. According to the FBI affidavit, the man admitted to taking over the cell phones of more than 100 people. Once the group took over a phone, they were able to hack into a victim’s cryptocurrency account and drain their funds. The group is suspected of stealing at least $3.3 million in various cryptocurrency, including about $805,000 in Augur’s Reputation Tokens, according to the FBI. The suspects then allegedly moved stolen tokens through cryptocurrency networks, such as Ether or Bitcoin, to their own digital wallets. As of yet, the Chicago Sun-Times isn’t naming the suspects identified in the affidavit because they don’t appear to have been charged with any crimes. In an online interview the Bloomington man proclaimed his innocence — even going as far as to say that considers himself a victim: “I have done nothing but cooperate with Augur and the FBI,” he said. “I have never once profited from anyone [by] crypto-hacking, ever.” Crypto Thefts in First Half of 2018 Total Over $1.1 Billion According to recent study from cybersecurity firm Carbon Black, the total amount of cryptocurrency that has been stolen through cybercrime this year alone is over $1.1 billion — primarily through ransomware and exchange hacks. The firm’s report claims that many criminals are using the dark web to appropriate cryptocurrency from their victims, estimating that there are over 12,000 marketplaces with almost three times that number of crypto theft listings between them. Rick McElroy, security strategist at Carbon Black, spoke on the trend, noting how easy it is for cybercriminals to operate these days: “It’s surprising just how easy it is without any tech skill to commit cybercrimes like ransomware… It’s not always these large nefarious groups, it’s in anybody’s hands.” Part of the reason for this is the accessibility and user-friendliness of the tools of the trade. McElroy said that certain pieces of malware even come with customer service to aid would-be cybercriminals, adding that the malicious software costs an average of $224 but can be picked up for as little as $1.04. Many of the attacks against crypto users, companies, and exchanges originate from an organized group of criminals like those out of Indiana, however, McElroy says, they’re just as likely to be the product of a trained engineer who is out of work: “You have nations that are teaching coding, but there’s no jobs… It could just be two people in Romania needing to pay rent.” Image from Shutterstock The post FBI: “Call of Duty” Players Remotely Stole $3.3 Million in Cryptocurrencies appeared first on NewsBTC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Disclaimer: Trading in bitcoins or other digital currencies carries a high level of risk and can result in the total loss of the invested capital. theonlinetech.org does not provide investment advice, but only reflects its own opinion. Please ensure that if you trade or invest in bitcoins or other digital currencies (for example, investing in cloud mining services) you fully understand the risks involved! Please also note that some external links are affiliate links.