Also: February Recap and Fantom Network
Geopolitical headline have dominated the markets for the last few weeks as Russia invaded Ukraine and volatility across all asset classes to spike. Commodity markets are disconnecting in violent short covering rallies, the S&P 500 is off over 14%, and rate markets have already tightened financial conditions beyond anything the Fed could hope accomplish out of their March meeting. Zero Hedge is calling for all out disaster, which is nothing new, but it’s the breadth of indicators flashing red that seem to make it actually worth paying attention to this time. While dollar dominance as the world’s reserve currency may or may not be at stake, I do think the world’s reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have deeper consequences on our world than the invasion itself. You just can’t cancel a nuclear powered country like someone with a blue checkmark and expect the same, limp, apologetic response in return.
War aside, what does this mean for crypto? I think there is a high probability recent events will actually strengthen the case for crypto. First, it is no longer a case of waiting for Bitcoin, or crypto generally, to “go mainstream.” Even if you slept through the Super Bowl and never turn on CNBC or Bloomberg, all of which were, and are, flooded with crypto commercials, then perhaps you’ve read about Trudeau’s stunt in Canada, speculation of Russians circumventing international sanctions using bitcoin (or not), and recent headlines regarding an imminent executive order from the Biden administration.
There are dozens of other examples of crypto going mainstream (it is mainstream, after all), so perhaps this isn't exactly the riskiest stance to take. But I think recent events highlight something more fundamental as well. In a sense, we are seeing crypto put to the ultimate test in real time. Bitcoin was invented to “allow two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party,” ie, governments. Suddenly the Canadian government and all governments sanctioning Russia are actively proving the value of decentralized stores of value in real time. Uncensorable, self-custodied assets have never existed on a global scale as they do today. Governments can try to seize financial assets, as they do all the time if those assets are held in a regulated, central exchange, but if those assets are held in a personal crypto wallet, there is literally nothing they can do to freeze or otherwise control those assets.
Of course, that may reduce the effectiveness of some economic tools for responding to bad actors. Sanctions, if you will. But it still highlights the importance of controlling your own financial assets in a day when someone, somewhere, could literally remove your ability to participate in society by freezing your assets with a few phone calls, as the some protest supporters in Canada recently found out.
(Travis Kling’s monthly summaries are great. If he ever stops publishing these roundups, I think I’d have to start doing them for myself.)
With the war in Ukraine dominating the news lately, it’s hard to believe some events on that list were actually just a couple weeks ago. Fundraising rounds were still strong, the IRS and other regulatory agencies offers *some* clarity on crypto regulations, and it seems the Bitfinex hack was finally solved with the help of some gift cards. But two other events stood out to me, which were the announcements that State Street and BNY Mellon will start offering crypto custody - State Street initially through a partnership with Gemini and BNY through a strategic investment Fireblocks. State Street and BNY Mellon offering custody solutions could blow the door wide open for traditional finance firms to start truly capitalizing on opportunities in the crypto space. Custody solutions are generally required by the SEC for firms managing over $25 million in client money, but the complexities of crypto has, up until now, sidelined the established players. It will be interesting to see if these development change the institutional landscape of crypto, and DeFi in particular, considering State Street and BNY Mellon together custody over $40 trillion in assets.
As of today, I do not see any sign that war in Ukraine is subsiding and recent events suggest things will get worse before they get better. I have no idea how much worse; however, I do expect the crypto markets to lead out of whatever depths we reach, just not yet. In fact, after a failed breakout of the RSI trendline last month, I think there is a good possibility BTC retests the summer lows as noted by the green box below.
One view that gives me pause on the medium term bear case is BTCPERP open interest seems to have found support and funding has been generally neutral for weeks now. A recent series of higher lows on the daily chart could mean max pain is, indeed, up.
My FTM/SOL call from several weeks ago is closed after even more turbulence around Andre Cronje after he announced (poorly) that he was walking away from crypto. (I say poorly because because his vague announcement made it seem like all Andrew Cronje-related projects were folding, which is not the case). While no developer is responsible for the success or failure of an entire blockchain, the crisis of confidence Andre and Daniel Sestagalli’s created around their projects will be hard for many who followed them to shake. Further, the volatility stemming from the news that Andre was hanging up the keyboard put the entire Fantom network under significant stress, with gas prices reaching over 10,000 gwei after several days of congestion following the launch of his latest projects, Solidly and Solidex.