- The Ethereum market is ripe for a large investor to corner the market, says crypto finance firm Amber Group.
- A “George Soros type of trade” in which an investor hoards gas tokens and purposely collapsed the network could be very profitable, the group suggests.
- The theory may have merit say crypto insiders, even if it currently remains unlikely.
There’s a way to destroy the economy of the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, Ethereum—and it’s a scheme not dissimilar to a trading strategy used by billionaire investor George Soros in the 1990s, who made billions of dollars by shorting the British Pound.
That’s according to researchers from crypto finance firm Amber Group, which earlier this week published its findings on the matter in a Medium post.
The Ethereum network is fit to burst; as of September 4, 97.16% of the network is used up. It’s not hard to think of reasons why: in the past three months, users have poured $8 billion into so-called decentralized finance protocols, such as lending services. But the DeFi boom of 2020 and the massive influx of both money and activity on the Ethereum network could have some intended consequences.
All Ethereum protocols are powered by “gas,” the name for the fuel that pays for smart-contract transactions. It’s paid in ETH, the native currency of the Ethereum blockchain network. Gas fees are now ridiculously high—getting your transaction processed within 30 seconds now costs about $5, according to Ethereum block explorer Etherscan.
And there’s a way to push those fees even higher, postulates Amber Group. One way to do it could be to hoard Gas Tokens, a special type of token that are “essentially tokenized rent for block space,” wrote the research group.
Amber Group continued: “They take advantage of the storage refund mechanism in Ethereum; when you mint gas tokens, you are saving data into contract storage, and when you free (spend them), you are burning the tokens and freeing up the storage element previously saved.”
If someone bought a whole load of Gas Tokens, this could waste even more space on the blockchain, and make gas so scarce that the price would go up and up.
“As fees continue to increase, demand for gas tokens increase, pushing prices higher, which in turn creates more minting. The minting process consumes more block space…which results in higher gas fees…and so on,” wrote Amber Group.
Eventually, Ethereum would become unusable, and the price of ETH would plummet. But if someone shorted ETH—i.e. stood to profit from its collapse—they could make a lot of money.
That’s similar to what billionaire investor George Soros did in the 1990s. He bought up all British pounds he could, so that the pound became overpriced. Then the Bank of England was forced to buy up pounds itself, further overvaluing the pound. So when the pound started to fall in value, Soros, who had shorted the pound, made lots of money.
So, does the Amber Group’s “George Soros scenario” theory hold water?
Eden Dhaliwal, the global managing director of Conflux Network, told Decrypt that “there are real concerns of large scale acquisitions of gas tokens that would lead to wasted block space and thus even higher gas prices. Adding speculative pricing to the mix would again result in upward price pressure in my view.”
But Eric Wall, CIO of Arcane Assets, is not bowled over by the thesis. “I don’t think it’s going to cause any big feedback loop pressure on the system,” he said.
“We’re already suffering from insanely high gas costs right now. If this would cause people to flock to gas tokens in such droves that it would squeeze people out of the chain, it would probably already have happened by now.”
Wall said that the strategy makes sense only “if you think gas is going to go up even more.” But anyone trying this strategy must keep in mind that software to scale Ethereum—thus potentially freeing up space on the network—may come out in the next couple of months.
”Whoever buys them now will definitely fear a collapse in their value when scaling solutions hit,” he said. “Whether that fear is justified is a bit too complex to answer in my opinion. But yes, it is likely.”
Still, investors and the markets in which they operate aren’t always rational—a dictum that often rings more true in crypto than in most other markets.
The views and opinions expressed by the author are for informational purposes only and do not constitute financial, investment, or other advice.
China aims to let foreigners use digital yuan at Winter Olympics in 2022
China’s central bank is looking to enable foreign athletes and visitors to use the country’s digital currency during the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, according to a top central bank official.
Li Bo, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said that the upcoming Winter Olympics could potentially become the first test of China’s central bank digital currency, or CBDC, by foreign users.
“For the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, we were trying to make e-CNY available not only to domestic users, but also to international athletes and like visitors,” Li said Sunday at a CNBC panel at the Boao Forum for Asia. The bank previously announced its plans on testing the digital yuan at the event in August 2020.
The official said that the PBoC doesn’t intend to replace the United States dollar’s dominance as the world’s reserve currency. Li reportedly noted that the central bank is focused on the domestic use of the digital yuan.
“For the internationalization of renminbi, we have said many times that it’s a natural process and our goal is not to replace the U.S. dollar or any other international currency. I think our goal is to allow the market to choose and to facilitate international trade and investment,” he stated.
Despite the PBoC’s focus on the domestic digital yuan, China’s central bank is still exploring cross-border CBDC use. “At the same time, working with our international partners. Hopefully, in the long term, we have a cross border solution as well,” Li said. At the forum, Li also said that China’s central bank now views the major cryptocurrency Bitcoin (BTC) as an “investment alternative.”
After launching its first domestic digital yuan tests in 2020, China started cross-border CBDC pilots in collaboration with central banks in Hong Kong, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates in February 2021. On April 1, PBoC director of research bureau Wang Xin announced that China’s central bank completed the first cross-border pilots of the digital yuan with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.
Chinese authorities have stressed multiple times that the government is not seeking to replace existing fiat currencies including the U.S. dollar with the digital yuan. “We are not like Libra and we don’t have an ambition to replace existing currencies,” Zhou Xiaochuan, the president of the Chinese Finance Association and former PBoC governor, said in late 2020.
As previously reported by Cointelegraph, the U.S. has taken a careful approach toward CBDCs due to the U.S. dollar’s status of the world’s reserve currency and other CBDC-related challenges like privacy. The European Central Bank is also still deciding whether Europe needs a digital euro, with ECB President Christine Lagarde expecting the digital currency to be adopted in four years, at the earliest.
UK government establishes central bank digital currency task force
Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Bank of England have begun preliminary central bank digital currency studies that could result in the creation of a national digital currency.
In a document published by HM Treasury, the exchequer announced the creation of a CBDC taskforce in collaboration with the U.K.’s central bank.
Jon Cunliffe, deputy governor of the Bank of England and Katharine Braddick, director general of financial services at HM Treasury will co-chair the task force.
According to the terms of reference document, the task force will synergize the efforts of all relevant statutory bodies in the U.K. regarding CBDC development.
As part of its duties, the task force will explore preliminary issues associated with the design, implementation, and operation of a CBDC in the U.K. The task force will also interface with stakeholders across academia, fintech and other relevant industries to identify the technological hurdles involved in creating a sovereign digital currency.
The joint HM Treasury and BoE task force will also monitor CBDC-related developments on the international scene especially as other nations are actively exploring their own central bank digital currency projects.
According to a BoE press release issued on Monday, the central bank will also run its own internal CBDC unit headed by Jon Cunliffe.
The establishment of the task force is yet another indication of the U.K. government’s focus on digital currencies and fintech in the aftermath of Brexit. In November 2020, Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the Exchequer said that Brexit offered an opportunity for the U.K. to revamp its financial services sector.
Since Brexit, Sunak has overseen a significant policy shift towards harnessing novel fintech innovations like CBDC and stablecoins. As previously reported by Cointelegraph, U.K. financial services minister John Glen has identified stablecoin regulations as the major focus of the government in the area of cryptocurrency regulations.
According to a report by Reuters, the U.K.’s financial market focus is also extending towards distributed ledger technology firms. Speaking during a financial industry conference on Monday, Sunak announced that the government plans to establish a fintech sandbox for blockchain startups.
China ‘endorses’ BTC investment: 5 things to watch in Bitcoin this week
Bitcoin (BTC) is beginning a new week grinding back to $60,000 as the shock of a weekend price crash settles.
After dropping to as low as $52,000 in a snap sell-off event, Bitcoin has spent the past two days slowly recovering its losses. What’s next?
Cointelegraph presents five factors to consider as a new trading week gets underway and cryptocurrency holders across the board nurse their wounds.
Stocks primed for “up only” short term
The macro picture is fairly stable in Asia and Europe, with United States markets yet to open.
A mixed picture greeted investors at the open, but volatility has been broadly absent, with only oil showing signs of more pronounced weakness.
As such, little impact on Bitcoin is to be expected from equities moves, these forecast to continue building on record highs in the coming weeks.
Russel Chesler, head of investments and capital markets at the Australian branch of crypto-friendly investment manager VanEck, captured the mood in a note quoted by Bloomberg.
“Our current view is that with short-term interest rates set to remain low for the medium term and our expectation that earnings will continue to increase, it is unlikely that the increase in long-term interest rates will trigger an equity market fall,” he wrote.
Coronavirus concerns still linger despite stocks’ relentless surge higher, with more reported official cases last week than ever before worldwide.
Economic responses continue to vary, with a patchwork of openings and closings characterizing countries’ latest attempts to control the outbreak.
Bitcoin recovers from $52,000 crash
In Bitcoin circles, the main talking point naturally remains the weekend’s events, which saw a sudden cascade of selling send BTC/USD down by $7,000 in a matter of minutes.
Bouncing at just above $52,000, the crash echoed several similar events this year, and Bitcoin managed to regain around 50% of its lost ground within hours.
Responses, however, are split between those who consider the volatility “business as usual” and more conservative voices calling time on the latest bull run.
As Cointelegraph reported, suspicions are focusing on a Chinese power blackout hitting hash rate, as well as rumored legal action by U.S. regulators against unnamed financial institutions related to money laundering.
In his own breakdown of what happened, popular statistician Willy Woo highlighted both China and skittish moves by futures investors as contributing to the losses.
“We just saw the single largest 1-day drop in mining hash rate since Nov 2017. The hash rate on the network essentially halved, causing mayhem in BTC price as it crashed,” he told Twitter followers.
In a sign that the future could see fresh sustained upside, Woo reiterated the “reset” in an on-chain metric, the spent transaction output ratio (SOPR), showing that long-term investors will likely soon stop selling altogether.
“The on-chain SOPR metric near a full reset. A classic buy the dip signal,” he added.
“In simple terms, profit taking by longer term investors is completing, very little sell power left unless investors want to sell at a loss from their entry price. Unlikely in a bull market.”
Fundamentals point higher
It’s not just SOPR — a whole range of Bitcoin network indicators and fundamentals are buoying bulls’ cause, even as BTC/USD remains below even February’s high of $58,300.
For Woo and others, particularly important are the transfer of funds to investors who have traditionally hodled, not sold — another classic trait of Bitcoin’s rise in recent months.
“Serious strong-handed holders are buying this dip. In the last 24 hours, over 200,000 Bitcoin became illiquid, a 3-year record,” fellow analyst William Clemente added Sunday.
“This illiquid supply increase is not only just dip buyers with no history of selling, but partially accumulation from 5-6 months ago of which those wallets have just crossed the ‘illiquid’ threshold for this metric.”
Lastly, around 13.5% of the total available Bitcoin supply has been active above $53,000, something which Woo says is confirming its status as a trillion-dollar asset. At around $53,800, Bitcoin’s market cap becomes a solid $1 trillion.
“This dip happened while unprecedented numbers of new users are arriving onto the network per day. There’s been a retail influx in the last 2-3 weeks,” Woo additionally noted, with total wallet numbers nearing 10 million.
Difficulty takes care of miner woes
A closer look at hash rate, which at one point dipped by almost half, shows that a recovery in line with price is underway.
According to rough estimates from on-chain monitoring resource Blockchain, Bitcoin network hash rate is already back above 150 exahashes per second (EH/s), having broken through the 200 EH/s barrier for the first time in history last week.
Miners leaving the network due to power problems leads to Bitcoin’s network difficulty decreasing to incentivize more to come online.
Further confirmation that the weekend’s issue was firmly temporary comes from difficulty forecasts — in two weeks’ time, when it next adjusts, difficulty will only drop by around 4%, a modest move which could yet be cancelled out altogether as miners return.
This balance between hash rate and difficulty is arguably the most important aspect of Bitcoin, one which allows it to govern itself and preserve security and functionality regardless of sudden events impacting network participants.
Chinese central bank praises Bitcoin and stablecoins
In another unanticipated event which is arguably yet to be fully appreciated by the market, China has given an unprecedented stamp of approval to cryptocurrency as an “investment alternative.”
Speaking at a conference organized by CNBC, Li Bo, deputy governor of China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), broke ranks to validate both Bitcoin and stablecoins.
“We regard Bitcoin and stablecoin as crypto assets… These are investment alternatives,” he said.
The comments are surprising as despite being a center for Bitcoin mining activity, China has had a blanket ban in place on trading and transacting in cryptocurrencies since September 2017.
“Every country that bans Bitcoin eventually reverses that ban. You simply cannot be competitive in the 21st century economy without it,” Charles Edwards, founder of investment firm Capriole, responded.
“China is playing 4D chess. The last 3 days have made very clear they still dominate global mining. Slowly, slowly then all at once.”
The market barely reacted to this high-level affirmation of Bitcoin’s long-term potential. At the time of writing, Bitcoin is still hovering at $57,000, as yet failing to see an attack of familiar resistance levels.
Crypto has arrived.
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