With the benefit of hindsight, there can be no doubt that the moves seen in Bitcoin, and other crypto-currencies, from the summer of 2017 through to February 2018 has all the hallmarks of a classic bubble – and corresponding bust. No doubt it will become a popular part of market history – just like the technology shares boom and bust of the late 1990s. Somewhat ironically, weekly volatility in Bitcoin recently hit a one year low below 3% – at pretty much the same time as the NASDAQ, that barometer of technology stocks, moved out to fresh all-time highs.
So why has volatility evaporated? There are a few reasons we could point to, but first let’s set the scene. From the middle of November to the middle of December the price of Bitcoin increased threefold. After spending years just being something of a niche IT interest, Bitcoin went mainstream and dragged plenty of other crypto-currencies along for the rise. The mainstream media picked up on the story with almost daily coverage on TV programmes and in newspapers that would never have even heard of crypto-currencies just a few months before. The gains in cryptos seemed to represent easy money and individuals, who would never dream of speculating in more traditional markets, were keen to find out how to get involved. Facebook and Google were full of adverts on how to profit. The prices moved ever higher
It’s a classic rule of market psychology – whenever the general public gets involved in a market in large numbers, expecting further rises, then a top could well be near. This of course proved to be the case – at the time of writing Bitcoin is around 60% below its December all-time high.
Why the lack of volatility?
The obvious reason is that the hype has gone from this market. Plenty of latecomers to the crypto currency rally have had their fingers burnt, have taken their losses (or are still sitting on them) and have vowed never to return. Activity amongst the wider public has slowed.
There are not as many new entrants buying and selling as the price has burst – the story of it being a somewhat boring market in recent months, is not going to make people excited about the potential for “easy money”. Wider media coverage has dried up, reducing awareness amongst the public.
Facebook and Google have banned crypto currency adverts – so an incredibly important section of the digital media world is not increasing awareness of this market. You can see this in internet searches – Google searches for Bitcoin for example are down by 75% for the year so far, again pointing to a significant shift in interest by the casual investor. https://cointelegraph.com/news/cnbc-google-searches-for-bitcoin-down-75-since-early-2018
Arguably, the introduction of a listed futures contract for Bitcoin has also calmed the wilder market moves. The additional media coverage resulted in widespread speculation prior to the listing. The unregulated crypto exchanges experienced extremely high numbers of new signups and in some cases stopped on boarding new customers. The futures contract was launched in the first week of December last year and, less than three weeks later, Bitcoin started falling. Now, institutions and more professional investors have a regulated way of gaining exposure to Bitcoin without having to worry about online wallets and the worries over lack of security. The futures contract also gave the ability to “sell short” – so to profit from Bitcoin falling. This has no doubt gone some way to initiate a more orderly two-way market in Bitcoin – making it more like most other markets. But even the official futures market has suffered as volatility has dropped off – current volumes are best described as modest.
The lack of volatility is seen as a positive sign by those who see more adoption of blockchain technology. It’s hard to claim that cryptos are a store of value when the price is moving 10% and more in a very short period of time. More price stability and less volatility certainly helps this value arguement. Significant new money continues to move into blockchain, with billion dollar VC investment funds being raised to new blockchain startups. The world’s leading financial regulators and institutions continue to engage and determine how to regulate and participate in what has become a disruptive new area of investment. Although the boom and bust is over (for now, at least), it could end up being one of the best things to happen for the future of crypto currencies.
Dollar advances as investors shy away from risk
By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar edged higher against a basket of currencies on Monday, as a burst of volatility in stock markets around the globe sapped investors’ appetite for riskier currencies.
Concerns over the timing and size of additional U.S. fiscal stimulus sent major U.S. stock indexes briefly more than 1% lower before they recovered to trade little changed on the day.
The sharp move in stock markets soured FX traders’ appetite for risk, Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Cambridge Global Payments in Toronto, said.
“Your high beta currencies – currencies that are highly correlated with equity markets and global risk appetites – are tumbling in synchrony with equity indexes,” Schamotta said.
Market sentiment turned more cautious at the end of last week as European economic data showed that lockdown restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus hurt business activity.
The U.S. Dollar Currency Index was 0.19% higher at 90.396, after rising as high as 90.523, its strongest since Jan. 20.
The euro was down around 0.28% against the dollar. German business morale slumped to a six-month low in January as a second wave of COVID-19 halted a recovery in Europe’s largest economy, which will stagnate in the first quarter, the Ifo economic institute said on Monday.
The Australian dollar – seen as a liquid proxy for risk – was 0.16% lower against the dollar.
U.S. stocks have scaled new highs in recent sessions even as concerns about the pandemic-hit economy remain. Investors are trying to gauge whether officials in U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration could head off Republican concerns that his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief proposal was too expensive.
Despite the dollar’s recent rebound – the dollar index is up about 1.3% since early January – analysts expect a broad dollar decline during 2021. The net speculative short position on the dollar grew to its largest in 10 years in the week to Jan. 19, according to weekly futures data from CFTC released on Friday.
The U.S. Federal Reserve meets on Wednesday and Chair Jerome Powell is expected to signal that he has no plans to wind back the Fed’s massive stimulus any time soon – news which could push the dollar down further.
Sterling strengthened on Monday against the weaker euro as Britain’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout over the weekend offered support to the British currency.
(Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Sonya Hepinstall)
London and New York financial services treated the same, EU says
By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – An EU forum for discussing financial services with Britain will be similar to what the United States has, and it must be in place before market access will be considered, the bloc’s financial services chief said on Monday.
Britain’s Brexit trade deal with the EU from Jan. 1 does not cover financial services, leaving its City of London financial center largely cut off from the EU.
Both sides are committed to creating a forum for financial regulatory cooperation by March, but talks have not started yet, the EU financial services commissioner told the European Parliament.
“What we envisage for this framework is similar to what we have with the United States, a voluntary structure to compare regulatory initiatives, exchange views on international developments and discuss equivalence related issues,” Mairead McGuinness told the European Parliament.
U.S. and EU regulators took about four years just to agree on rules on cross-border derivatives.
Trading in euro shares has already left London, along with a chunk in swaps trading. That questions the value of any future EU access given that many banks and trading platforms from the UK have opened units in the bloc.
McGuinness said regulatory cooperation will not be about restoring market access that Britain has lost, nor will it constrain the EU’s unilateral equivalence process.
Equivalence refers to EU access when Brussels deems a non-EU country’s rules are similar enough to the bloc’s.
“Once we agree on our working arrangements, we can turn to resuming our unilateral equivalence assessments… using the same criteria as with all third countries, including anti-money laundering and taxation cooperation,” she said.
Britain plans to amend some EU rules.
“The United Kingdom intention to diverge requires a case-by-case discussion in each area. Equivalence and divergence are polar opposites,” McGuinness said.
“I am optimistic that over time, through cooperation and trust, we will build a stable and balanced relationship with our UK friends.”
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Dan Grebler)
Staying connected: keeping the numbers moving in the finance industry
By Robert Gibson-Bolton, Enterprise Manager, NetMotion
2020 will certainly be hard to forget. Amongst the many changes we have come to live with, for many of us it has been adapting to a new style of working. Whatever your take on it is, remote working, working from home or even agile working, one thing remains clear – for many of us, this could be the new-normal for the foreseeable future. The professional services sector is no different. For example, many finance practices around the world are now allowing staff to work from home part of the time. In addition, a recent KPMG report found that half of the UK’s financial services workforce want to work from home after COVID-19.
Will this therefore become the de facto working practice for the finance industry too? We can’t say for sure, but this agile approach to working has certainly caused a major rethink for many firms. And as they evolve and adapt to meet the demands of a different way of working, firms need to ensure that their workforce can seamlessly interact with each other and their clients – this is key if they want to continue to deliver exceptional client service. Whilst financial services organisations everywhere are busy adopting innovative new technologies to better reflect the ‘work from anywhere environment’, they need to ensure secure access to resources and strive towards enhancing the end user experience. Success will be replicating the office working experience at home or wherever else they may be.
It’s all well and good for a firm to boast about the ability of their staff to work successfully from home, but how do they also establish that their people are just as productive as they were before? Whilst the IT department will have to grapple with security and compliance issues that arise from agile and remote working, they must also ensure that their people can connect securely, without eschewing user experience. And it needs to be completely seamless, without compromising the service level provided to clients.
Why all the fuss?
Which brings us nicely to persistent connectivity. Persistent connectivity effectively allows you to do more. How frustrating for the user when connectivity drops, or when the device that they are working on can’t find a network to connect to (or if the device switches between different networks). When connectivity drops, and re-connection is required then there is that small period where the user is not connected at all. And the user might have to re-authenticate or log into their VPN again (most VPNs are rubbish when they lose connectivity). All of these different scenarios ultimately disrupt the user experience – persistent connectivity provides the flexibility to overcome these challenges. When you enjoy consistent connectivity, you are making sure that the technology works as it was designed to work, allowing staff to rely on optimum user experience, anytime, anywhere – in effect, supplying them with that office-like experience, wherever they are. Just think about how many hours might be spent on a train, in a hotel or even on a client site. Consistent connectivity is key here – consistent in any of these locations.
Connectivity will be a fundamental component for successful remote working as firms try to meet the demands of an increasingly mobile workforce. Ultimately, they need encrypted and reliable connections that enable them to quickly and easily reach business applications and services. Working in a disconnected environment can lead to frustrated workers, hardly fitting given all the new remote working policies in place.
Getting the user experience spot-on
When you fine-tune connection performance so that essential business applications run reliably across networks, you are essentially talking about traffic optimization. Mobile traffic optimization ensures that applications, resources and connections are tuned for weak and intermittent network coverage and can roam between wireless networks as conditions and availability change. When connections aren’t performing well, applications that are crucial for job performance can experience packet loss, jitter or latency that can make working on the hoof extremely tricky. Compared to wired networks, wireless networks operate under highly variable conditions, including such factors as terrain or congested mobile towers. When you optimise the flow of traffic, you are helping to manage packet loss. Effectively, packet losses are data loss, which happens very regularly when you’re on the move or transitioning between different networks. Applications that require a lot of data tend to become fairly unusable when you hit even minor packet loss, which can be a common occurrence for many on residential broadband or on local Wi-Fi. conversely, NetMotion can enable critical applications to work and prevent disruptions at over 50% packet loss – in this way, employees can rely on technology performing well in situations and locations where it simply could not before. That is incredibly powerful for firms.
The finance industry is facing many of the same challenges presented to other industries. It is a question of balancing the requirement for more sophisticated ways to ensure secure access to resources with the need to enhance the end user experience (key team members in particular). For finance firms everywhere, adopting the right technologies will ensure that their people can enjoy a ‘work-from-anywhere’ environment.
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