Bitcoin Rises Above $12K Amid U.S. Recession Fears

August 13, 2019
“How many millionaires do you know who have become wealthy by investing in savings accounts? I rest my case”
― - Robert G. Allen

5-Day Change

  • Bitcoin: $10,963.14
  • Ethereum: $206.79
  • S&P 500: $2,929.20
  • Dow Jones: $26,327.00

Fed's rate cut may save the stock market

Two weeks after the Fed rate cut, the US may still be headed for recession... but it just might be that it hasn’t fully kicked in yet. And there’s a good chance of more cuts on the horizon. All of this is aimed at curbing the worst excesses of the US-China trade war - which is already pushing the US towards recession despite otherwise good numbers. On the other hand, there are worries that the 25 basis point cut will not be enough, and the stock market may trend downwards regardless.

What are the risks? The big one is that the cut was just not enough to offset the uncertainty surrounding the trade war. The constant barrage of tariff threats and talks are sending conflicting signals to investors, though on paper, indicators like manufacturing numbers and the US unemployment rate are good. It also may be that the US-China trade war, Brexit, and disappointing earnings are just too large factors to overcome with a rate cut.

Will further cuts help? Possibly. Rumors are starting to swirl about lowering rates back to near-zero, especially if tariffs are implemented in September as US President Donald Trump threatened to do. In fact, some analysts believe that we’re looking at a new cycle of cuts, in both September and October to bolster the economy, especially as US bond yields are falling to an all-time low.

So the Fed is on top of things, right? It might be making the right moves, but not fast enough. The spread between the 2-year and 10-year T-note yields are rapidly approaching inversion, which is a pretty good indicator for a recession, and it may just come on faster than the Fed expects. In that case, the 25-point rate cut will be revealed as not enough, causing a downward spiral as growth flattens despite Fed involvement.

Wut We Think: It’s still too early to get out the ‘End Is Nigh’ signs and march around downtown - as bond yields fall, equities become more attractive, and the easier money offered by Fed will surely help to smooth things out, especially if they go with the lowering cycle. But recession indicators are hard to ignore, and a lot hinges on whether or not tariffs will be applied (remember that the latest proposed round will include major firms like Apple and Nike). But if upcoming earnings, especially for big companies like Walmart and Nvidia make the cut, and if industrial production numbers perk up, then the US may avoid inflation and give markets a bit of a bump to boot. 


Blockstream reveals massive Bitcoin mining facility

Giant mining farms aren’t just limited to China... as Blockstream, a blockchain tech company, recently revealed two massive mining centers. Combined, the mining centers are capable of making up 10% of the total hash power of the Bitcoin network. Located in Canada and the United States, the company plans to rent out its center to customers, diluting the risk of blockchain centralization.

Is centralization dangerous? Very. The most obvious risk is that too much centralization can enable a 51% attack - in simple terms, this refers to a single miner or a cartel of miners who control 51% of the hash rate. This control would allow them to double-spend by reversing already confirmed transactions - since a transaction needs the majority of nodes to be valid, otherwise valid transactions can be rejected if enough nodes agree.

Is it a real risk? It depends on the crypto in question. Cryptos like Bitcoin are generally safe because the cost of the attack would typically be prohibitive, though smaller cryptos can, and have been, vulnerable. Even big names like Ethereum Classic and Bitcoin Gold have been affected, though again, larger cryptos make 51% attacks cost-prohibitive.

So is Blockstream encouraging centralization? According to the company, they’re actually offering less centralization, not more. By implementing what they call the Betterhash Protocol, which is intended to transfer some control from mining pools, which consolidate miner hash power, back to individual miners, this encourages decentralization, and ideally reduces incentives for centralization.

Wut We Think: Centralization is undoubtedly something that should be taken into account when it comes to crypto, but Bitcoin isn’t an attractive target. With the Bitcoin price hovering around $11,000 and the hash rate reaching all-time highs, smaller coins are a lot more at risk. Even Litecoin, with a market cap of $5.4 billion, would only cost around $25,000 to maintain a 51% for an hour - an attractive prospect if there are transactions worth millions of dollars. The risk that altcoins run for 51% attacks grows the smaller the coin is - further giving more momentum to Bitcoin, for better or for worse.


Pound may fall to parity with USD

Vacations in Britain might soon be as cheap as traveling at least if you have US dollars or euros. That’s the result of current fears that the UK pound sterling will fall to parity with the US dollar. The last time this happened was in 1985 but led immediately to the Plaza Accords that saw the start of the 80s economic boom in the UK. The fall of the pound coincides with a 0.2% contraction in UK GDP - the first since 2012.

Why did the economy shrink? Brexit. Brexit Brexit Brexit. Brexit. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is hard to overstress the chaos and uncertainty surrounding Brexit. And with the hardline stance of Boris Johnson, the UK’s new Prime Minister after the resignation of Theresa May, no deal is becoming increasingly plausible. A big contributor to the fall are firms winding down Brexit stockpiles, as well as continually plummeting confidence in the UK’s economic future.

What does dollar parity mean for the pound? Also, not good news. While technically it will make British exports cheaper, the most likely effects will be wage stagnation as foreign-made goods - and Great Britain is an island - become more expensive, and firms move out of the UK and into Europe, as the UK defaults to WTO trade rules. A weak pound is bad news for British workers, and British businesses - and no-deal eliminates even the slight upside of cheaper exports.

What if a deal is reached? There’s the chance that the UK will be able to avoid recession. But the damage has already been done. Not only have many firms already chosen to relocate from the UK to the EU proper, but investor confidence has already been damaged. However, the pound is expected to bounce back if a deal is reached, and it remains possible that the UK could leave the economic union with favorable terms - if unlikely.

Wut We Think: With Boris Johnson and the EU both unwilling to budge on their separate takes of the Irish backstop, no-deal is a very, very likely possibility. And the UK is not going to do well in that scenario. The pound already is shorted at the highest level in two years. As we get closer to the Oct. 31st deadline, that number is only set to grow. 

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