Over the years, I’ve written a number of articles regarding why I prefer physical gold and physical silver over bitcoin (BTC). I believe in monetary competition, however, and believe that different forms of money should be allowed to compete, because the best form will eventually and quite rapidly always rise to the top. However, we are far from such an environment, as government/banking cartels have banned the use of gold and silver as systemically-wide accepted forms of money worldwide while ensuring that their rapidly devaluing fiat currencies remain the norm. So where does BTC fit into this picture? Again, I think that BTC has its place in the economy, especially since transaction fees using BTC are well below the highway-robbery rates of global banking institutions. However, BTC has yet to prove itself in preserving purchasing power over decades of time as has gold and silver, nor does it meet all 9 qualities that I deem necessary for sound money.
In any event, as some of you may well know, BTC has exhibited massive volatility in 2017, far beyond even the sometimes volatile price fluctuations in spot gold and spot silver prices. BTC started out this year reaching an interim high of $1,129.87 per BTC, then plunged a maddening 31% in just 5 trading days to $775 after the Chinese government placed more restrictions on BTC trading, but since then, has nicely recovered 24% of that plunge and has risen back to $1,052.54 per BTC. At the time, BTC rose to $1,129, many posed the question of whether BTC was better than gold, which in my opinion, it will never be due to its digital nature. Some ask why would Chinese regulations cause BTC to plunge 31% in five trading days, and the answer is simple. Chinese speculators were almost entirely responsible for the rise of BTC from $800 to $1,129 at the end of 2016 into the start of 2017. As the Chinese government took more measures to clamp down on black money leaving China, wealthy Chinese turned increasingly towards BTC as their preferred mechanism to move black money out of China, thus fueling a speculative, unsustainable rise in BTC price. Furthermore, Chinese traders not even using BTC to move black money out of the country piggybacked off of this rising, easy trade because most Chinese BTC exchanges charged no fees on either end of the buy and sell transactions for BTC. However, when regulators changed these rules and implemented a 0.2% transaction fee on both ends of the trade, the easy speculative profits disappeared, and in response, BTC volumes collapsed 90% almost overnight on every Chinese BTC exchange.
Though the easy profits of HFT bankers trading the Chinese BTC exchanges disappeared, this was a constructive development for the BTC market, because though HFT traders always claim that they benefit markets by providing ‘liquidity’, such claims are rubbish, and most HFT traders destroy markets by destroying real price discovery. Thus, the less HFT traders that exist in any market, the less volatility in prices there should be. However, since Chinese traders alone fueled the vast majority of the rise in BTC price at the end of 2016 into the start of 2017, it is always critical to track what is happening to the Chinese BTC market to understand what may happen to BTC prices in the future. As an analogous example, ask yourself what would happen to a company’s revenues if the company received 90% of its revenues from one customer and that customer decided not to renew its contract with that company? For now, this is how much influence the Chinese can have over short-term BTC prices.
This post was published at GoldSeek on 9 February 2017.