Magdalena Golebiewska – Country Manager at Luno
You can’t spend five minutes reading about cryptocurrencies without stumbling across at least one prediction for the future price of Bitcoin.
Across forums, social media, newsletters, blogs, news sites and every other corner of the internet — financial analysts, expert investors, bankers, tech icons, and new enthusiasts offer up their views.
Some cite careful analysis, some base it on past trends. While others are guessing or acting on their ‘intuition.’ Their predictions are varied, ranging from a plummet to zero, to millions.
With all this noise surrounding the Bitcoin price, you might be wondering whom to believe. Or if you should believe anyone at all. Is it possible to predict the future?
Investing begins with education, not buying. So it’s important to think about the information you base your buying decisions on.
How do people make price predictions?
There are two types of analysis used for predictions: fundamental and technical.
They’re used for everything from the stock market to Bitcoin. While other types of analysis do exist, these are the main ones.
Fundamental analysis is all about intrinsic value. You look at the factors that give something value, then decide if it’s under or overvalued. Publicly traded companies release lots of information to help with this. So, for a stock you might look at a company’s:
- Revenue (how much money it’s making)
- Profit margins (how much of the revenue is profit)
- Growth potential (how much money it could make in the future)
- Management (how competent the people in charge are)
Some of these factors can be defined in numbers. Others come down to the judgement of the analyst.
For a cryptocurrency, you might look at its:
- Price growth (how the price has grown over time)
- Scalability (if it has the potential to keep growing)
- Security (if the network is secure and safe from attacks)
Technical analysis is different as it focuses on an asset’s price, not the asset itself. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase ‘past performance is not an indicator of future performance.’ But technical analysis bases future predictions on the past. This can be based on a short time frame (hours or even minutes) or long (months or years.)
To do this, you look for patterns and trends in price charts, such as:
- The average price over a chosen time span
- The price at which a lot of investors start buying
- The price at which a lot of investors start selling
- The overall price trend
Do fundamental and technical analyses work?
There’s no straightforward answer to that question. Both techniques can be useful, but they also have their limitations for cryptocurrencies.
Fundamental analysis works when investors base their decisions on fundamentals. This isn’t always the case for Bitcoin. Many investors base their decisions on the decisions they expect others to make.
Technical analysis assumes that a market follows rational rules and patterns. It’s less useful for cryptocurrencies because the market is still young. There isn’t as much past data to analyse. Cryptocurrencies also have less liquidity than something like stocks.
Self-defeating and self-fulfilling prophecies
When we talk about price predictions, we run into an important concept: self-defeating and self-fulfilling prophecies.
Making a prediction about the future can end up changing what actually happens.
The prediction about the future creates the future.
This isn’t the case when we talk about a system like the weather because we can’t change it.
But when you make predictions for a system involving people, it’s different.
Hearing predictions can cause people to change their behaviour.
Sometimes this happens in a way that prevents the prediction from coming true — a self-defeating prophecy — or it can cause the prediction to come true — a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Predictions about cryptocurrency prices have the power to influence how investors act. If it’s predicted the Bitcoin price will increase, this encourages more people to buy. This can drive up the price, and vice versa.
That brings us to incentives.
The issue of intentions
Incentives are what motivate people to do what they do. It’s an important concept in investing. Financial gain is a powerful driving force.
Most investors understandably want to do whatever will make them the most money. This can include making predictions that benefit them.
Let’s say you come across an article where the author claims Bitcoin will be worth $100,000 by December 1st 2019. Rather than taking that at face value, it’s important to ask: why are they saying this? If they know for certain, why don’t they put all their money into Bitcoin, and make a huge profit? Why are they sharing that information?
Likewise, if someone claims Bitcoin will drop, you might wonder why they’re saying that. If they know for certain, why don’t they keep quiet, short it, and make a big profit?
In both cases, we need to consider the underlying incentives.
If someone stands to profit from the Bitcoin price increasing, it’s natural they’ll predict it’s going to do that. They’re hoping this will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If someone stands to benefit from it decreasing or to suffer if it increases, it’s not unexpected that they’ll predict it’s going to decrease.
Luck and probability
But if no one can predict the future, how come some people do make correct predictions?
Maybe you heard that your brother’s roommate’s cousin’s coworker’s uncle correctly predicted the price of Bitcoin. Or you’ve seen someone on Youtube who seems to always get it right.
The fact that no one can predict the future doesn’t mean no one can make correct predictions.
It comes down to luck, probabilities, and information asymmetries.
First, luck. Every day, thousands of people make predictions about Bitcoin prices. It’s inevitable that some of them will be correct by luck.
As they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. With so many people making predictions, it’s likely a percentage of them will be correct.
When professional forecasters make predictions, they usually base them on probabilities. What’s the most likely outcome? A weather forecaster might say it’s going to rain tomorrow because there’s a 62% probability. They don’t know it for sure. It’s just more likely than not.
Then there’s insider information. If you know something most investors don’t, you have a big advantage. For example, if you have insider information that Apple is about to release a new product, it’s reasonable to expect the stock will go up. But other investors buying Apple stock aren’t aware of that information, so they can’t predict it.
Insider information is less meaningful for cryptocurrencies. There’s a less direct link between fundamentals and prices. Events that seem like they should cause an increase or decrease can do the opposite or nothing.
The next time you look at a cryptocurrency price chart, imagine a crowd of people in a stadium, all moving at different times but appearing to create an organised rippling motion. Because that’s what you’re seeing: the combined actions of many people.
There’s no mystical, secret order to it. There’s just lots of people making decisions based on the information they receive.
Barclays announces new trade finance platform for corporate clients
Barclays Corporate Banking has today announced that it is working with CGI to implement the CGI Trade360 platform. This new platform will provide an industry leading end-to-end global trade finance solution for Barclays clients in the UK and around the world.
With the CGI Trade360 platform, Barclays will provide clients with greater connectivity and visibility into their supply chains, allowing them to optimise working capital efficiency, funding and risk mitigation. By utilising cloud based functionality for corporate banking clients, Barclays will also be able to offer a leading client user experience through easy access and real-time integration to essential information, combined with the latest trade solutions as the industry-wide shift to digitisation continues to accelerate.
This move underpins Barclays commitment to supporting the trade and working capital needs of their clients and reinforces a commitment to innovation that has been central to the bank for more than 300 years.
James Binns, Global Head of Trade & Working Capital at Barclays, said: “We are delighted to announce our move to the CGI Trade360 platform and to have started the implementation process. We have a longstanding partnership with CGI, and the CGI Trade360 platform will mean we can continue delivering the best possible trade solutions and service to our clients for many years to come.”
Neil Sadler, Senior Vice President, UK Financial Services, at CGI, said: “Having worked closely with Barclays for the last 30 years, we knew we were in an excellent position to enhance their systems. Not only do we have a history with them and understand how they work, but part of the CGI Trade360 solution includes a proof of concept phase, which is essentially seven weeks of meetings and workshops with employees across the globe to guarantee the product’s efficiency and answer all queries. We’re delighted that Barclays chose to continue working with us and look forward to supporting them over the coming years.”
What’s the current deal with commodities trading?
By Sylvain Thieullent, CEO of Horizon Software
The London Metal Exchange (LME) trading ring has been the noisy home of metals traders buying and selling for over a hundred years. It’s the world’s oldest and largest metals market and is home to the last open outcry trading floor. Recently however, the age-old trading ring, though has been closed during the pandemic and, just a few weeks ago, the LME announced that it will remain so for another six months and that it is taking steps to improve its electronic trading. This news fits in with a growing narrative in commodities about a shift to electronic trading that has been bubbling away under the surface.
Something certainly is stirring in commodities. The crisis has affected different raw materials differently: a weakening dollar and rising inflation risks bode well for some commodities with precious metals being very attractive, as seen by gold reaching all-time highs. Oil on the other hand has had a tough year and experienced record lows from the Saudi-Russia pricing war. It has been a turbulent year, and now prices look set to soar. While a recent analyst report from Goldman Sachs predicts a bullish market in commodities for the year ahead, with the firm forecasting that it’s commodities index will surge 28%, led by energy (43%) and precious metals (18%).
Increasingly, therefore, it seems that 2020 is turning out to be a watershed moment for commodities, and it’s likely that the years ahead will bring about significant transformation. And whilst this evolution might have been forced in part by coronavirus, these changes have been building up for some time. Commodities are one of the last assets to embrace electronic trading; FX was the first to take the plunge in the 90s, and since then equities and bonds have integrated technology into their infrastructure, which has steadily become more advanced.
The slow uptake in commodities can be explained by several truths: the volumes are smaller and there is less liquidity, and the instruments are generally less exotic, essentially meaning it has not been essential for them to develop such technology – at least not until now. This means that, for the most part, the technology in commodities trading is a bit outdated. But that is changing. Commodities trading is on the cusp of taking steps towards the levels of sophistication in trading as we see in other asset classes, with automated and algo trading becoming ever prominent.
Yet, as commodities trading institutions are upgrading their systems, they will be beginning to discover the extent of the job at hand. It’s no easy task to upgrade how an entire trading community operates so there’s lots to be done across these massive organisations. It requires a massive technology overhaul, and exchanges and trading firms alike must be cautious in the way they proceed, carefully establishing a holistic, step-by-step implementation strategy, preferably with an agile, V-model approach.
The workflow needs to be upgraded at every stage to ensure a smooth end-to-end trading experience. So, in replacement of the infamous ring, these players will be looking to transform key elements of their trading infrastructure, including re-engineering of matching engines and improving communications with clearing houses.
However, these changes extend beyond technology. For commodities players to make a success of the transformation in their community, exchanges need to have highly skilled technology and change the very culture of trading. All of which is currently being done against a backdrop of lockdown, which makes things much more difficult and can slow down implementation.
What is clear is that coronavirus has definitely acted as a catalyst for a reformation in commodities. It is a foreshadowing of what lies ahead for commodities trading infrastructure because, a few years down the line, commodities trading could well be very different to how it is now, and the trading ring consigned to history.
Afreximbank’s African Commodity Index declines moderately in Q3-2020
African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has released the Afreximbank African Commodity Index (AACI) for Q3-2020. The AACI is a trade-weighted index designed to track the price performance of 13 different commodities of interest to Africa and the Bank on a quarterly basis. In its Q3-2020 reading, the composite index fell marginally by 1% quarter-on-quarter (q/q), mainly on account of a pull-back in the energy sub-index. In comparison, the agricultural commodities sub-index rose to become the top performer in the quarter, outstripping gains in base and precious metals.
The recurrence of adverse commodity terms of trade shocks has been the bane of African economies, and in tracking the movements in commodity prices the AACI highlights areas requiring pre-emptive measures by the Bank, its key stakeholders and policymakers in its member countries, as well as global institutions interested in the African market, to effectively mitigate risks associated with commodity price volatility.
An overview of the AACI for Q3-2020 indicates that on a quarterly basis
- The energy sub-index fell by 8% due largely to a sharp drop in oil prices as Chinese demand waned and Saudi Arabia cut its pricing;
- The agricultural commodities sub-index rose 13% due in part to suboptimal weather conditions in major producing countries. But within that index
- Sugar prices gained on expectations of firm import demand from China and fears that Thailand’s crop could shrink in 2021 following a drought;
- Cocoa futures enjoyed a pre-election premium in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, despite the looming risk of bumper harvests in the 2020/21 season and the decline in the price of cocoa butter;
- Cotton rose to its highest level since February 2020 due to the threat of storm Sally on the US cotton harvest, coupled with poor field conditions in the US;
- Coffee rose 10% as La Nina weather conditions in Vietnam, the world’s largest producer of Robusta coffee, raised the possibility of a shortage in exports.
- Base metals sub-index rose 9% due to several factors including ongoing supply concerns for copper in Chile and Peru and strong demand in China, especially as the State Grid boosted spending to improve the power network;
- Precious metals sub-index, the best performer year-to-date, rose 7% in the quarter as the demand for haven bullion continued in the face of persistent economic challenges triggered by COVID-19 and heightening geopolitical tensions. In addition, Gold enjoyed record inflows into gold-backed exchange traded funds (ETFs) which offset major weaknesses in jewellery demand.
Regarding the outlook for commodity prices, the AACI highlights the generally conservative market sentiment with consensus forecasts predicting prices to stay within a tight range in the near term with the exception of Crude oil, Coffee, Crude Palm Oil, Cobalt and Sugar.
Dr Hippolyte Fofack, Chief Economist at Afreximbank, said:
“Commodity prices in Q3-2020 have largely been impacted by COVID-19. The pandemic has exposed global demand shifts that have seen the oil industry incur backlogs and agricultural commodity prices dwindle in the first half of the year. The outlook for 2021 is positive however conservative the markets still are. We hope to see an increase in global demand within Q1 and Q2 – 2021 buoyed by the relaxation of most COVID-19 disruptions and restrictions.’’
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