Bitcoin Was All About Chinese Money Flight

By Bryan Rich

November 29, 5:00 pm EST

Today I want to talk about the decline in Bitcoin. 

As we often see with markets, people tend to confuse forced capital flows with genius.We’ve seen it in the tech giants.  The “disrupters” in Silicon Valley were only able to  disrupt long-entrenched industries because of the hundred billion dollars that flowed from Washington to Silicon Valley as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  When the government is pouring that kind of money into “new technologies”, private equity (i.e. pension fund money) will follow it.  Plenty of funding, regulatory advantage, and no pressure to (in some cases, ever) produce a profit turns out to be a recipe for destroying industries.  The entrepreneurs are credited for their genius, but they have those capital flows from Washington, at the depths of the economic crisis, to thank for it.

Bitcoin is another case of confusing capital flows with genius.  It’s no coincidence that the ascent of Bitcoin coincided perfectly with the crackdown on capital flight in China.  In late 2016, with rapid expansion of credit in China, growing non-performing loans, a soft economy and the prospects of a Trump administration that could put pressure on China trade, capital was moving aggressively out of China.  That’s when the government stepped UP capital controls — restricting movement of capital out of China, from transfers to foreign investment.

Of course, resourceful Chinese still found ways to move money.  Among them, buying Bitcoin. And that’s when Bitcoin started to really move (from sub-$1,000). China cryptocurrency exchanges were said to account for 90% of global bitcoin trading. Capital flows were confused with Silicon Valley genius.

But in September of last year China crackdown on Bitcoin – with a totalban.  A few months later, Bitcoin futures launched, which gave hedge funds a liquid way to short the madness. Bitcoin topped the day the futures contract launched.

With the above in mind, I want to copy in my Pro Perspectives note from last December where I discussed the Bitcoin bubble.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2017

With all that’s going on in the world, the biggest news of the day has been Bitcoin.
 
People love to watch bubbles build. And then the emotion of “fear of missing out” kicks in. And this appears to be one.
 
Bitcoin traded above $16,000 this morning. In one “market” it traded above $18,000 (which simply means some poor soul was shown a price 11% above the real market and paid it).
 
As we’ve discussed, there is no way to value Bitcoin. There is no intrinsic value. To this point, it has been bought by people purely on the expectation that someone will pay them more for it, at some point. So it’s speculation on human psychology.
 
Let’s take a look at what some of the most sophisticated and successful investors of our time think about it…
 
Billionaire Carl Icahn, the legendary activist investor that has the longest and best track record in the world (yes, better than Warren Buffett): “I don’t understand it… If you read history books about all of these bubbles…this is what this is.”
 
Billionaire Warren Buffett, the best value investor of all-time: “Stay away from it. It’s a mirage… the idea that it has some huge intrinsic value is a joke. It’s a way of transmitting money.”
 
Billionaire Jamie Dimon, head of one of the biggest global money center banks in the world: “It’s not a real thing. It’s a fraud.”
 
Billionaire Ray Dalio, founder of one of the biggest hedge funds in the world: “Bitcoin is a bubble… It’s speculative people, thinking they can sell it at a higher price…and so, it’s a bubble.”
 
Billionaire investor Leon Cooperman: “I have no money in Bitcoin. There’s euphoria in Bitcoin.”
 
Billionaire distressed debt and special situations investor, Marc Lasry: “I should have bought Bitcoin when it was $300. I don’t understand it. It might make sense to try to participate in it, but I can’t give you any analysis as to why it makes sense or not. I think it’s real, as it coming into the mainstream.”
 
Billionaire hedge funder Ken Griffin: “It’s not the future of currency. I wouldn’t call it a fraud either. Bitcoin has many of the elements of the Tulip bulb mania.”
 
Now, these are all Wall Streeters. And they haven’t participated. But this all started as another disruptive technology venture. So what do billionaire tech investors think about it…
 
Billionaire Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo: “Bitcoin as a digital currency is not quite there yet. I personally am a believer that digital currency can play a role in our society, but for now it seems to be driven by the hype of investing and getting a return, as opposed to transactions.
 
Mark Cuban: He first called it a “bubble.” He now is invested in a cryptocurrency hedge fund but calls it a “Hail Mary.”
 
Michael Novagratz, former Wall Streeter and hedge fund manager. He once was a billionaire and may be again at this point, thanks to Bitcoin: “The whole market cap of all of the cryptocurrencies is $300 billion. That’s nothing. This is  global. I have a sense this can go a lot further. He equates it to an alternative (or replacement) for the value of holding gold – which is an $8 trillion market… over the medium term, this thing is going to go a lot higher.” But he acknowledges it shouldn’t be more than 1% to 3% of an average persons net worth.
 
Now with all of this in mind, billionaire Thomas Peterffy, one of the richest men in America and founder of the largest electronic broker in the U.S., Interactive Brokers, has warned against creating exchange-traded contracts on Bitcoin. He says a large move in the price could destabilize the clearing organizations (the big futures exchanges), which could destabilize the real economy.
 
With that, futures launch on Bitcoin on Sunday at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. This is about to get very interesting.

That was the top.

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