FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Is the Bitcoin Bubble the New ‘Subprime Mortgage’ Bomb?

Photo by Vitalij Fleganov | CC BY 2.0

Is Bitcoin the new ‘Subprime Mortgage Bond’? Just as subprimes precipitated a crash in the derivative, Credit Default Swaps (CDS), at the giant insurance company, AIG, in September 2008, setting off the global financial crash that year—will the Bitcoin and crypto-currency bubble precipitate a collapse in the new derivative, Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) in stock and bond markets in 2018-19, ushering in yet another general financial crisis?

The US and global economy are approached the latter stages in the credit cycle, during which financial asset bubbles begin to appear and the real economy appears to be at peak performance (the calm before the storm). This scenario was explained in my 2016 book, ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy‘. And in my follow-on, just published August 2017 book, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes’, I predict should the Federal Reserve raise short term US interest rates another 1% in 2018, as it has announced, that will set off a credit crash leading to Bitcoin, stock, and bond asset price bubbles bursting. How likely is such a scenario?

Is Bitcoin a Bona Fide ‘Bubble’?

What’s a financial asset bubble? Few agree. But few would argue that Bitcoins and other crypto currencies are today clearly in a global financial asset bubble. Bitcoin and other crypto currencies are the speculative investing canary in the global financial asset coalmine.

One can debate what constitutes a financial bubble—i.e. how much prices must rise short term or how much above long term average rates of increase—but there’s no doubt that Bitcoin price appreciation in 2017 is a bubble by any definition. At less than $1000 per coin in January, Bitcoin prices surged past $11,000 this past November. It then corrected back to $9,000, only to surge again by early December to more than $15,000. Given the forces behind Bitcoin, that scenario is likely to continue into 2018 before the bubble bursts. Some predict the price for a Bitcoin will escalate to $142,000, now that Bitcoin trading has gone mainstream on the CME and CBOE, and offshore, commodity futures exchanges.

The question of the moment is what might be the contagion effects on other markets?”

What’s Driving the Bitcoin Bubble?

If Blockchain and software tech company ICOs are driving Bitcoin and other crypto pricing, what’s additionally creating the bubble?…..Who is buying Bitcoin and cryptos, driving up prices, apart from early investors in the companies? ……the absence of government regulation and potential taxation of speculative profits from price appreciation has served as another important driver of the Bitcoin bubble bringing in still more investors and demand and therefore price appreciation. No regulation, no taxation has also led to price manipulation by ‘pumping and dumping’ by well positioned investors….. Another factor driving price is that Bitcoin has become a substitute product for Gold and Gold futures……But what’s really driving Bitcoin pricing in recent months well into bubble territory is its emerging legitimation by traditional financial institutions………futures and derivatives trading on Bitcoin just launched in December 2017 in official commodity futures clearing houses, like CME and CBOE…..Bitcoin ETFs derivatives trading are likely not far behind……….big US hedge funds are also poised to go ‘all in’ once CME options and futures trading is established…… Declarations of support for Bitcoin has also come lately from some sovereign countries………While CEOs of big traditional commercial banks, like JPM Chase’s Jamie Dimon, have called Bitcoin “a fraud”, they simultaneously have declared plans to facilitate trading in the Bitcoin-Crypto market.

Bitcoin as ‘Digital Tulips Bitcoin demand and price appreciation may also be understood as the consequence of the historic levels of excess liquidity in financial markets today. Like technology forces, that liquidity is the second fundamental force behind its bubble. To explain the fundamental role of excess liquidity driving the bubble, one should understand Bitcoin as ‘digital tulips’, to employ a metaphor.
The Bitcoin bubble is not much different from the 17th century Dutch tulip bulb mania. Tulips had no intrinsic use value but did have a ‘store of value’ simply because Dutch society of financial speculators assigned and accepted it as having such. Once the price of tulips collapsed, however, it no longer had any form of value, save for horticultural enthusiasts.

What fundamentally drove the tulip bubble was the massive inflow of money capital to Holland that came from its colonial trade in spices and other commodities in Asia. The excess liquidity generated could not be fully re-invested in real projects in Holland. When that happens, holders of the excess liquidity create new financial markets in which to invest the liquidity—not unlike what’s happened in recent decades with the rise of unregulated global shadow banking, financial engineering of new securities, proliferating liquid markets in which securities are exchanged, and a new layer of professional financial elite as ‘agents’ behind the proliferating new markets for the new securities.

Bitcoin Potential Contagion Effects to Other Markets

A subject of current debate is whether Bitcoin and other cryptos can destabilize other financial asset markets and therefore the banking system in turn, in effect provoking a 2008-09 like financial crisis………….Deniers of the prospect point to the fact that Cryptos constitute only about $400 billion in market capitalization today. That is dwarfed by the $55 Trillion equities and $94 trillion bond markets. The ‘tail’ cannot wag the dog, it is argued. But quantitative measures are irrelevant. What matters is investor psychology. ……For example, should cryptos develop their own ETFs, a collapse of crypto ETFs might very easily spill over to stock and bond ETFs—which are a source themselves of inherent instability today in the equities market. A related contagion effect may occur within the Clearing Houses themselves. If trading in Bitcoin and cryptos as a commodity becomes particularly large, and then the price collapses deeply and at a rapid rate, it might well raise issues of Clearing House liquidity available for non-crypto commodities trading. A bitcoin-crypto crash could thus have a contagion effect on other commodity prices; or on ETFs in general and thus stock and bond ETF prices.”

More articles by:

Jack Rasmus is author of the recently published book, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, Clarity Press, August 2017. He blogs at jackrasmus.com and his twitter handle is @drjackrasmus. His website is http://kyklosproductions.com.

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail