This is the second article written for us by Robert McDowell.
He is a long time supporter both personally and through Summerhall of Scotcoin. He is currently chairman of that renowned venue in Edinburgh, and a long time top level financier and economist. He has written a couple of pieces for us. The first one was on the macro position we find ourselves in and the true scale of the credit crunch that is here now. This second piece is specifically on cryptos and where they might be headed.
Cryptos ain’t too big to fail.in fact in the bigger scheme of things they are not even ‘big’. The question is twofold. Are prominent cryptos a financial ‘safe haven’ compared to others (like Gold just now) or cash (either one or several currencies). We are in a low (probably negative) inflation situation. We have falling central bank interest rates even although we have higher risk premia. The question is are cryptos volatile or have they now found ‘fair value’. That may be the case today but they fell dramatically further than other assets over the last week. In fact by more than half as much again as the USD. (See https://uk.investing.com/crypto/). Daily trade volume is 1/4000th of regular currencies.
Cryptos like other new alternative assets such as securitised bonds in the 2008/9 crash had not until then been tested by major recessions (global scale economic cycle downturns) or even by secondary market conditions. What had been largely a one-way primary market faced major exogenous shocks, shifting into dramatic sell-offs & volatilie gyrations of two-way secondary markets. Central banks won’t be expanding their balance sheets to shore up crypto currency markets. There are no guarantors of last resort, no market brakes i.e. ‘trade halts’, no regulatory inquiries into quality of market conditions or very much else in the crypto world.
You can think but not say , quite truthfully and realistically, that the next two years are a test for the long term survival of cryptos. Of course, mentioning words like ‘survival‘ is anxiety-inducing & negative signalling, so perhaps it is best not to opine in those words exactly!
As a safe haven asset class is it truly liquid? In other words, do sellers always find buyers? Obviously this hasn’t happened in the last week or so. Are there other advantages such as that they are unregulated, anonymous, unauditable & untaxable, without or beyond all borders that outweigh that fact? Are these what cash-surplus or cash-rich people need just now or those who cannot buy foreign currency or cross physical borders to travel to London or NYC with cash-packed suitcases stuffed with USD for fear of inter-bank audit trails?
There is $1trillion net flow from ‘south’ to ‘north’ every year below the radar, characterised as cross-border money-laundering & tax dodging. How much of this will deploy into cryptos because that’s better & surer than less unconventional assets & currencies? 10% of this processes itself via the world’s art markets – maybe 1-2% might transfer via cryptos?
I suspect that for the next 2 years the outlook for cryptos is neither better nor exceptionally different from other assets. I suspect that not until there is economic recovery & governments are looking hard again at tax-raising will there be positive movements.
However, I’m not confident about making predictions in an asset class that has relatively so little volume or history. Hence, I’m not sure what is best to say publicly. It may be that, for a long while yet, least said soonest mended. We should not be thinking speculatively, and markets will move better the less focusing there is of a caustic-minded attention on cryptos. Few media commentators can be relied upon to look kindly at anything relatively eccentric at the moment even though there are billions of people out there feeling extremely nervous & open to suggestion more than they realise. As has been said elsewhere, with all the massive “printing” of money, there WILL come a day of reckoning in terms of inflation. That will be the time to be glad you tucked away some crypto.
Robert McDowell is a long time supporter both personally and through Summerhall of Scotcoin. He is currently chairman of that renowned venue in Edinburgh, and a long time top level financier and economist. He has written a couple of pieces for us, this first one on the macro position we find ourselves in and the true scale of the credit crunch that is here now. The second piece is specifically on cryptos and will appear in a few days time.
Georgiova (IMF managing director) was recently quoted as saying “what we want is to guarantee that people are not going to die just because of lack of money“. How absurd can it get? Obviously not a Keynesian but a Monetarist supply sider.
It reminds me of the long since
passed Airey Neave (who was Thatcher’s puppet-master until the
IRA car-bombed his Jaguar in the House of Commons). He was an
admirable person in many ways except he ordered HMT never to report
to Cabinet the difference between public spending before & after
tax rake-backs, a foolish neo-con rule insanely followed ever since.
He was, decades earlier in WW2, nearly caught having escaped from
Colditz (an officer class PoW castle) in Germany, heading for
Switzerland. He was spotted in a railway station eating a chocolate
bar (a Swiss Red Cross supplied one) when chocolate was something
ordinary Germans could only dream of enjoying in 1941.
Chocolate then, money now. Lack of
money? Lack of air or water? Maybe the IMF think money should be
good’) whenever there’s plenty of it? But what the crisis teaches us
is that it is not quantity but velocity
or circulation of money that gives it value. I shouldn’t wonder too
if countless people die prematurely
sometimes because they actually have too much money. But, today,
asset values like cash are in free-fall and we cannot see any reasons
yet for recovery!
Countries can largely shut down to
ensure social isolation & social distancing, but it will become
harder over time to guarantee basic necessities & essential
services. The problem is that while clampdowns, prohibitions
and the like, can be announced & enforced, the conditions
restrictions & announcing a return to normal are deceptive &
uncertain without a firm date (or time limit). Getting Brexit done
clung fiercely to dates by when a make or break deal must be struck.
No such iconoclasm is in evidence r.e. Covid-19 & the present
anxiety/panic is deeply entrenched. It is so deep that there could be
permanent changes in the patterns that have pertained of modern human
social behaviour. There will be hard-to-calculate economic (&
It is funny how prepared everyone
appears to be to be seen to tackle this pandemic with a cavalier
disregard for the costs of unintended or unwanted consequences. The
economic dislocation that currently appears unbounded appears
unending, with arbitrary dates being bandied about. Suddenly, for
example, the whole private sector is bleating for government support.
These pleas come from those who normally condemn state interference
or “tax & spend” almost unreservedly.
All places where crowds might
congregate including pubs & cafes plus all live arts & sport
are shutting or mothballing or reducing to a skeleton operation.
Supermarkets or big shopping stores are not yet shutting, but they
subject to stockpiling, and panic-buying. Many are involuntarily
closing. All non-essential travel for months will stop in an effort
to try to postpone the spiking of the covid-19 virus.
It’s like thinking that prolonging
a recession gets everyone cut back to essentially good &
necessary fundamentals and behaviour – a puritanism in fact. It can
backfire just like austerity. Those who railed against government
austerity policy ain’t seen nothing like the austerity now coming
fast down every one of our main streets.
A pandemic – like any defined
thing of business – is assumed to be like a game where we are
game-players. But games have agreed rules. Players all start with an
equality – two factors almost totally missing in real world or real
life events yet are demanded in a general crisis. Government must
defend all equally, all businesses & all people. Fairness &
equality ought to rule, though of course everything has unintended
consequences. No good deed goes unpunished.
The pandemic is often likened to a
lottery (even if only one of many such lotteries, many of which are
much bigger) i.e. everyone has a remotely even chance of getting
caught by it. My father often seriously joked there is good
luck, bad luck, & luck out!
(to be spoken in an Ulster brogue).
Funny how all presume equality of
rights (first principle of citizenry) & everything connected
thereto. Many of these same people extol inequality & dramatic
change as creative
simply good entrepreneurial spirit. But not any longer because they
feel it is all someone else’s fault anyway or like the weather, if
not the climate, inevitable. Human hypocrisy is now philosophical
rationalism. It is limitless in its self-justifying sense of personal
& or group entitlement.
The pandemic may be a lottery, but
it has classes insofar as inequalities about who gets the worst &
highest percentage risk of dying. I’m in the high risk category
(retirement age & vulnerable upper respiratory tract). You too
probably -no more pub visits!
Summerhall is closing down in
events (e.g. 6 weddings in April-June) performances & catering
(our main revenue). We will therefore have to reduce staffing to a
skeleton crew at immense cost & may even find August festivals
cancelled . That is a third of annual revenue! Various
government compensations are mooted & insurance claims, but the
fact is probably we will probably be unable to access any of these.
Jobs are being temporarily or
permanently lost across all sectors given there are so many knock-on
effects – a negative vortex. Leading bleaters craving government
financial aid (didn’t work for FLYBE) are airlines, airports, and
hotel groups. Credit demand on banks is increasing with
depleting security for loans, probably with many new margin calls &
higher risk rates. Cash & Gold are suddenly King as they
Transport & tourism in
particular, but general retail too, have all been massively hit.
Worldwide, 50 million jobs in tourism/travel industry alone are
expected to go i.e. 23%. Global unemployment was 205 millions
(c.3 billions with jobs). We now foresee, even if temporarily
in the short term (6 months- or more?), at least tripling of
joblessness to over 15% of the global aggregate, & possibly
another 10-20% may follow if the crisis persists for a year or more.
No one knows.
The virus is triggering a major
recession globally. Some felt a recession was imminent anyway,
waiting only for the excuse to start, but this? Well, we know a
normal recession squeezes everyone’s finances & wipes out
(nominally in theory) at least 75% of banks’ reserves! Consumer
culture is debt-fuelled, so the slowing of the velocity of money
makes assets fall in value as well.
While good manufacturers can
stockpile & hope to catch up in the eventual recovery rebound,
trade lost to services tends to stay lost! A lot of
financial firms are bound to go under for their inability to handle
withdrawals & foreclosures.
There is a palpable Keynesian
response (or at least a strong whiff of it) among governments in
their budgetary jet streams. Whatever is blowing in & across
central bankers’ rate-setting counters & balance sheet re-jigging
has the same smell to it. Hence, the naff IMF statement we started
with – much like politicians saying ‘we’ll do whatever it takes’ is
necessary implying also “whatever the consequences” while
having no idea what these might be.
UK budget deficit borrowing is
mooted to hit 25% ofGDP i.e. a war-economy footing. Half of the
government budget will be debt financed. That’s probably only
sensible. But, off balance sheet or off-budget financial relief may,
as in the 2007-9 GFC, prove even more effective.
An amusing aspect is the
conspiracy theory that banks & the non bank finncial sector are
capriciously unfettered in how they create new money out of loans.
Now these same conspiracists must face the opposite – in other
words asset value crashes. Generally markets have fallen in price by
about a third so far but not yet touched bottom.
Worldwide stock market value was
about $70 trillions in total. That’s now had a c.30% fall.
Property ownership is reputedly about 60% of world assets or about
$217 trillions (Savills Research 2016, of which $162tn is
residential). In all likelihood, there is a 20% or higher fall there
as well. The $217tn figure includes $145tn not available to be traded
or not secured for debt. Hence, the active market amount is c.$70tn.
Commercial property – c. $53tn
including land (according to Savills 50% of the world total is
in USA, 28% Europe, 5% Latin America, ME & Africa, leaving only
17% in E, S, & SE Asia, which seems a bit implausible despite
what we know of market pricing) What can such figures mean? If
all ‘assets’ are c. 4 x world GDP & have fallen in price by 1 x
world GDP so far this year, that is by about $1,000 per person in the
world – man woman and child. Of course the loss of wealth is mostly
concentrated in the world’s richest 25%.
That means about $60 trillions of
wealth seems to have disappeared. Another $6 trillions of
households’ & personal incomes may follow & at least half as
much again in lower company profits & actual losses.
The UK appears now exposed. Sterling fell this week sharply
against both the USD & Euro (considered a safe haven for capital
flight alongside CHF (Swiss Franc)). In March up to today, CHF/GBP
went from 0.78 to 0.86 i.e. CHF up 10%. GBP/Euro went from
1.206 to 1.097 i.e. GBP down 9.9%. Those are big movements! They will
have profound long term effects, not least fewer assets to support
future development. Indeed, banks may need to ignore all the existing
rules and conventions about loans
Officially the UK continues to
enjoy a positive inflow of private foreign capital sufficient to
finance the trade deficit without resource to extra government Gilts
issues. But, underlying this since 2016 has been somewhere between £1
& £2 trillions of foreign disinvestment & UK capital flight.
This is officially recorded in the UK’s net external balance (over
£500 billion negative) i.e. about 20 years’ worth of net inflows
recorded elsewhere by ONS in the balance of payments accounts.
There is something irreconcilable in these two data sets as there is also in the UK’s self-belief that financial services generate sizeable annual trade surpluses, when the UK’s top ten trading partners in financial services record surpluses against the UK. In truth it may not really matter. Why? Because in the UK, especially London & The City & their surrounding regions are simply far “too big to fail”! It remains to be seen whether we can take comfort in that statement.
Robert will be sharing his views on blockchain and crypto in the next article. We very much hope he will become a regular contributor to our project.
Quite apart from the disruption that has been caused, China has printed $170BILLION of extra cash to pump into the economy. There’s no guarantee that’s enough, and in fact it’s unlikely to be. In 2008, the US Treasury printed $600 billion, and that wasn’t enough to prevent widespread bankruptcies and zombie companies. The IMF only has about $3-4 triilion available to it and the dollar derivatives and swaps are now around $18 trillion, so a real disruption (people asking for their USD back) would have a catastrophic effect on the world economy. Far from reducing reliance on dollars, the crash enhanced and strengthened its hegemony.
– at the risk of stating the obvious – there needs to be
something else that can be used if dollars start to become
unavailable. I’m not for a moment suggesting that cryptos – with
a current value UNDER $300 MILLION – will replace it, but if your
bank started not honouring your bank card, you just might like to
have some cryptos available to buy that pint of milk.
We applaud her efforts
and support for us and wish her and her family all the very best.
As part of our casting call for “ Firsts”, the Purple Lioness has written the following which captures what we are looking for from this initiative. Please read it.
My first Christmas in a hotel …..
When I was about 10 years old my parents took us to a big field beside some trees in a pretty part of Windsor and turning round in the car to face us they told us they were getting a divorce. It was no news to my older sister who was quite the eavesdropper but it was a shock to my younger brother and I. We naturally felt anxious and unsure.
Up till that point Christmas was spent at home with our wee green plastic tree bedecked with stringy tinsel, fragile baubles and tiny lights along green bendy wires, pretty multi coloured shiny decorations crisscrossing the ceiling, shiny foil lanterns hung down at their centre.
That first year when it was our first Christmas apart we did everything differently.
Our parents had joint custody so we were with Mum for Christmas Eve and Day then we went to Dad’s on Boxing Day for another Christmas Day which became our new normal.
That first Christmas however, we were told we were going to a hotel. Excitement! We were a little apprehensive too as we had never been to a hotel before. So on Christmas Eve we got dressed up in our new Christmas clothes – my sister and I had burgundy velvet dresses and our brother had a wee suit with a burgundy cummerbund and velvet bow tie.
My Mum had booked a Christmas package so we were staying Christmas Eve and Day at the hotel. Then she would drop us off at our Dad’s on Boxing Day and return to the hotel herself. We were so excited..
In the great hall of the hotel we stood staring at the huge natural Christmas tree flawlessly decorated and lit by hundreds of small white lights and a piper in traditional Scottish dress played people into the dining area. Excited wasn’t the word!
We sat at the big dining table, legs dangling in shiny Christmas tights staring in amazement at all that was going on around us. On the table was a white linen cloth with a festive Christmas runner along it, candles, silverware and as much holly as you could want.
There were crackers next to our plates with hats, jokes and a much less junky than normal present inside. Also on there were crystal dishes containing bright coloured cotton balls (not sure what they were for) wee individual curls of butter sat on ice cubes and ready-made cigarettes in all manner of colours! It was all utterly exciting!
We posed with the cigarettes pretending to smoke them while Mum actually did smoke them. We ate traditional Christmas Fayre including alcohol laced Christmas pudding which was brought flaming to the table in front of our goggling eyes! Being children we of course had room for knickerbocker glory and that along with fizzy drinks topped up our sugar quota for the day.
Food and drink consumed, crackers pulled, jokes cracked and hats put on it was time for mischief! Being the horrid children we were we looked around for opportunity and spotting the coloured cotton balls, we dipped them in the dish of melting ice cubes and proceeded to try to throw them up the kilts of the piper band entertaining the dining room that evening. It was all magical, exciting, new and wonderful.
It was a bit like the first time I was talked through the process of setting up a crypto wallet. I was apprehensive as I had heard stories of the wrong button being pressed and everything disappearing, but I was excited too. A new experience!
Of course, once it’s done you feel relief but triumph too. A great feeling of success and achievement!
July 31, the FCA issued its
settled policy statement on cryptocurrencies in a document titled
“PS19/22: Guidance on Cryptoassets.” The document represents an
updated version of a consultation
crypto assets that was first released for public comment in January
2019, and intends to bring more regulatory clarity to existing types
of digital assets.
essence it describes 3 types of crypto assets.
Exchange token: Referencing
Bitcoin and Ethereum, the FCA described these tokens as
“usually decentralized and primarily used as a means of exchange.”
The regulator emphasized that such digital currencies do not fall
under the regulatory scope of the FCA and is outside its remit.
Security tokens: The
FCA said it will be regulating security tokens as they are
considered as digital assets with specific features that provide
rights and obligations akin to specified investments such as shares
or debt instruments
Utility tokens: These fail the
Howey test, and simply provide users with a
product and/or service.
The FCA also stated that some stablecoins may fall under its remit, as they have characteristics of e-money or security tokens. Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies designed to minimize the volatility of the price of the stablecoin, relative to some “stable” asset or basket of assets. A stablecoin can be pegged to a cryptocurrency, fiat money, or to exchange-traded commodities (such as precious metals or industrial metals).
For the avoidance of doubt, Scotcoin is an Exchange token.
wallets with £105m can’t be accessed “because he was the only
person with the password”
presto! There’s nothing in them
call me cynical but if the money had been there, I would have said
that maybe he was
dead. But the wallets were apparently cleaned out months before and
there are a whole lot of unauthorised wallets that the coin might
have gone to. One person access = danger, under all circumstances.
It’s why quoted companies usually don’t have the same person as
Chairman and CEO. You only have to think of Robert Maxwell
This is exactly why people don’t trust crypto-currencies. For a start more than one person should have had the password available to them and indeed maybe in this kind of fiduciary situation it should have been accessible only with two or more private keys. That raises all sorts of questions as well about storing passwords, and indeed it is one of the areas where we at Scotcoin are working to achieve some sort of standard.
our own perspective security is more important than anything. The
whole point of crypto-currencies is that you can rely absolutely on
what the blockchain tells you, via its decentralised approach. If
that trust breaks down, what is the point?
be fair, as far as I know, it has always been an “inside” job
where things have gone wrong. But part of the problem that there has
been with ICOs and exchanges is that there has been no over-arching
regulatory set up to make sure everyone plays fairly by the rules. In
the wild west the cattle barons made their own rules until the
Federal Government imposed their laws – and profited immensely. The
same situation pertains within the world of digital currencies at the
moment. The nature of the beast attracts charlatans and card sharps.
Until regulation is everywhere there will always be poor benighted
people who lose out. That’s one reason that Malta and its
legislation is so important for the future and development of
blockchains and crypto-currencies.
We at Scotcoin embraced
regulation and disclosure a long time ago, and we fully expect to be
able to comply with any and all regulations as they are enforced.
Just one more reason to believe there is a solid, secure future for
Scotcoin. Get your
or give some to a friend or valued employee with a Gift
A Boston College research paperentitled Digital Tulips has found that fewer than half of all ICO projects survive more than 120 days after the completion of their sales of tokens to the public.
That is really scary. And this fact does not seem to be putting people off. Another $10-12 billion of ICOs will be out there during this year.
I was reflecting on the longevity of Scotcoin.
In the same way that most small businesses go bust within one to three years, it appears that ICOs ( ok it’s digital so it’s faster) go bust in 3-4 months.
It’s not surprising really. Most of them are designed as get rich quick schemes for the perpetrators with no economic or financial sense. That’s why some of the earlier coins and tokens have lasted – they have a purpose and a measurable impact, unlike their imitators. In the same way that it is said there are only 7 plots in total for literature, there may not even be 7 in crypto-currencies.
So Scotcoin, actually in existence for 5 years, is almost a granddaddy. In fact, in terms of country coins we might actually be the oldest – if anyone else knows better please let me know.
But I wanted to reflect on the words of an Economics Professor – Hyman Minsky. Being a true Keynesian myself – and believe me what we have had for a long time is NOT what Keynes said – I find Minsky’s idea of his Financial Instability Hypothesis extremely enticing. Basically he says on the economic upswing, people take greater and greater risks – until the bubble bursts and we end up back down at the bottom of the boom and bust cycle again. Sadly, Gordon Brown no more banished it than controlled it – and then made a mess of the Banks’ recapitalisation. In fact, it means we are on a treadmill we can’t get off. Digital money, espoused by Milton Friedman more than 20 years ago, has enormous attractions when all around is collapsing.
But Minsky said something very wise.
“Everyone can create money; the problem is to get it accepted.”
Despite our new blockchain not needing Bitcoin, we will all need some Bitcoin in order to effect the migration from our present Counterparty Protocol.
It’s not very much per wallet but in order to send the existing coin to its new wallet, Bitcoin will be needed.
We are in the process of identifying those wallets where there is currently no Bitcoin. It is our intention that those that do not have any bitcoin in them will be sent enough to effect the migration.
To this end, we are making a special offer to people who HAVE some Bitcoin. If you buy Scotcoin for Bitcoin, we will give you a 15% discount to the present price on the exchange. The Bitcoin price will be at the GBP price as shown on Preev.com
The news that US regulators are investigating crypto currency exchanges for illegal rigging activities should come as no surprise to anyone.
When you are in the Wild West, anything goes, and can go on for as long as no one pulls the plug on it.
But this particular move is all part of the worldwide efforts by regulators and central banks to bring some oversight and order to the crypto world. Think of the Wild West and how law and order came to it over a period once the abuses became so much that Washington got involved. The same is now happening with blockchain and crypto currencies – not a surprise to us at Scotcoin. We have been preaching about how regulation was coming and how this was a good thing for over two years now. Our new permissioned blockchain will handle all these requirements as a prerequisite.
What this also emphasises is how right we were to be happy to remove from Bittrex. The total speculation and pump and dump culture had no part in what we have been building.
There are still people who view cryptos as get rich quick schemes. Indeed I was looking at some exchanges on our Twitter (which please follow!) where someone was looking to buy something he could rapidly sell at a profit. That is actually counterproductive in terms of the evolution of digital currencies. If people are to have trust in them, they have to be sure of the value at any given point. Arguably, the worst offender is Bitcoin – A year ago $1000, Christmas $20,000, now $6500. How on earth can any business plan its forward sales and cash flows dealing with that?
Ideally you want a very slow and steady increase in price over time. Most people will by now have forgotten the German “Wirtschaftswunder” (Economic Miracle) of the 1950s ,60s and 70s. It is a given nowadays that Germany is one of the pre-eminent economies in the world. Not so after WW2 and into the early 60’s. Ludwig Erhard – the then German Economics Minister, equivalent to our Chancellor of the Exchequer – believed there was a way to guarantee economic growth. It wasn’t quantitative easing on a grand scale (as people seem to believe erroneously nowadays). He believed that what gave business the confidence to invest and grow was certainty. So he said categorically that the money supply would grow at 2% pa for the foreseeable future – no more and no less. And he stuck to that religiously for 20 odd years. He was so successful he ended up as German Chancellor.
We at Scotcoin have the same philosophy. We don’t want ups and downs destroying trade. We want trade to grow and grow with confidence, in the way that the German economy grew mightily from the 1950’s onward. If we could replicate that in Scotland we would, as the saying goes, be quids in.