Five Most Successful DeFi Assets of 2020

Money-lending services, decentralised exchanges and liquidity protocols, all running on smart-contracts, became a new popular agenda in the world of cryptocurrency in 2020. Many of these projects experienced wild fluctuations, both in terms of liquidity locked in the protocols and price action of their digital tokens.

Now, I will share with you my take on the most successful DeFi assets in 2020. In my list of projects I will use the data provided by the cryptocurrency data aggregators Messari and CoinGecko.

1. Aave (AAVE)

The money-lending platform Aave was launched in January 2020. At the end of 2020, its native token AAVE reached a $1 billion market cap and comfortably leads the DeFi project ranking by market cap.

Aave’s original token launched at the end of 2017 was Lend (LEND). In July 2020, the AAVE governance token was launched, and LEND tokens were swapped for AAVE at a ratio of 1:100. The AAVE token enjoyed spectacular growth in both spikes of the DeFi market in 2020: in August and November. From under $30 in July, the token rose to $90 in August, then fell to $25 on 5th November. Then the second wave of DeFi market growth began, taking AAVE to $96 on 3rd December.

As of mid-December 2020, AAVE is mainly trading between $75 and $90.

2. Uniswap (UNI)

Uniswap stormed the scene of decentralised exchanges (DEX’s) in 2020. It made a real breakthrough in terms of decentralised liquidity, quickly becoming the most popular DEX. In December 2020, the project’s reported market cap fluctuates around $850 million.

Since the launch of the UNI token on exchanges, its price quickly travelled from $0 to $8.5 in mid-September. Then the UNI price quickly reversed the gains in a corrective move toward $2 and sank below it in early November. But the second wave of DeFi market growth let the UNI token recover its positions above $3.

Since the launch of the UNI token on 17th September 2020, it has grown by over 200% as of mid-December 2020.

3. Yearn.finance (YFI)

The popularity of AAVE governance token and the governance tokens of such DeFi projects as Compound and Balance led to the rise of Andre Cronje’s Yearn.finance. The platform features several services, such as money lending, liquidity provision and insurance. As of mid-December 2020, the Yearn.finance market cap sits at around $734 million.

The platform was created single-handedly by developed Andre Cronje as iEarn, but the platform suffered an exploit in February 2020, creating a wave of criticism and making Andre Cronje step away. But he later returned and rebranded iEarn into Yearn.finance.

The project increased in capitalisation multifold after the launch of its governance token YFI on July 18th as people began pouring liquidity into the protocol. According to CoinGecko, YFI grew from $31.65 on 18th July to the dizzying $32,358 on 30st August. As of 16th December, the YFI price remains at around $24,500, with the astronomical 77,000% profit over 5 months, because there was no pre-sale or private sale of this token.

4. Compound (COMP)

Compound was the first big player among money-lending protocols in the DeFi space, and it remains one of the top DeFi players at the end of 2020. According to Messari, the project’s reported market cap amounts to around $660 million as of mid-December 2020.

Compound rose rapidly with the launch of its own governance token COMP. The token let people maximise their profits by benefiting from the liquidity locked in the protocol and mining the YFI, which surged from $61 on 18th July to $336 on 22nd July.

As of mid-December 2020, the COMP profit amounts to over 145%.

5. Synthetix (SNX)

Synthetic assets are derivative assets, created through liquidity locked in different liquidity protocols. Using crypto synthetic assets investors can peg the protocol’s token to any underlying asset and thus invest in various types of assets with a single token.

The most popular synthetic assets DeFi project has so far been Synthetix. As of 16th December, its reported market cap, according to Messari, constitutes around $560 million. The price of its SNX token launched in March 2019 has grown from $0.5 to an all-time-high of $7.84 on 1st September 2020.

Conclusion

The rise of DeFi in 2020 has clearly shown its potential in the financial world. The classic services revolutionised through trustless smart contracts have quickly gained public trust and interest, signaling high-profit potentials to high-net-worth investors and large companies. And this may only be the beginning of a larger adoption of DeFi technologies that the world may see in 2021.

Anton Chashchin, Commercial Director at CEX.IO Loan

What do Cultural Differences and Trading Behaviours have in Common?

An investor’s attitude to risk is usually associated with their wealth, job security, and inflation. Having this in mind, you might conclude that two people from entirely different cultures and countries will invest similarly if their economic situation is the same. And you would be right. The whole concept of investment starts within communities and individual households, built on the foundation of the societal norms that surround them and constitute the fabric of their culture.

A study by Mei Wang and Marc Oliver Rieger, professors in behavioural finance, shows that cultural background influences investment behaviour, even when inflation rates and wealth are taken into account.

According to Wang and Rieger, the more impatient the investors are, the higher the value premium in a country is. Russia and Romania, for example, are such countries. Anglo-Saxons are willing to pay more for equities. Traditionally some societies tend to be quite risk averse than others, which is reflected in the make-up of the overall economy. “Ego-traders” are usually situated in the United States. More patient ones live in Germany and the Nordics, where there are more value traders who prefer to wait for more significant returns.

People’s expectations and the idea of value or value creation have changed with time. Yet culturally, many societies still favour traditional investment tools as a way to preserve or create wealth.

The most historical of all emotional connections between cultures and specific asset classes is the one that exists with gold. The demand for gold trading has moved East over the last decade, and this is primarily due  to the cultural affinity that exists between precious metal and countries such as India and China, where gold is considered one of the safest stores of value.

A lot of capital in India is stuck in hard assets because that’s the traditional and cultural mindset of the society there. The culturally defined beliefs in the country drive high demand for gold as an asset class, whether it is traded as physical gold or as a CFD (contract for difference) on the precious metal. This cultural affinity to gold is also similar in China. It is instrumental in the Lunar New Year, and 24-carat jewelry featuring the zodiac sign is frequently given as presents, both for its symbolism and centuries-old value.

Superstition is another emotional factor influencing the investment. In the Western world, stock market returns are always lower on Friday the 13th. A similar  situation can be observed in East Asian cultures, primarily China, with the number four – investors avoid all sorts of trades on the fourth day of every month.

The coronavirus pandemic has already played out differently around the world according to individual cultures. The majority of investors globally have responded by increasing their trading activity significantly, not least because most people were quarantined at home for months, with more time on their hands to trade.

Multi asset broker Exness offers some products by region depending on geographic behaviour, popular asset classes, and even religion. Its swap-free trading accounts, for example, are explicitly created for traders of the Islamic faith. According to the Koran, they cannot take part in any trading activity that accumulates interest. These particular accounts, however, allow clients in some of Exness’s most essential regions to invest freely without compromising their faith.

According to Stanislav Bernukhov, market analyst at Exness:

“Though some specific behavioural patterns may be visible through different countries, the financial markets liberate people, allowing them to achieve success no matter what education or background one might have. Mr. Market doesn’t care whether you hold a CFA license or graduated from the Ivy League – you just need to have the skills and knowledge which comes from persistent learning and usually has nothing to do with nationality.”

Investors don’t necessarily have something to learn from their counterparts in other countries, but understanding cultural differences in trading behaviour can certainly point them to opportunities they haven’t considered before.

The Rise of Defi: Powering the Next Crypto Boom

After a number of years of consolidation across the cryptomarket, new innovative protocols are drawing interest.

The interest has created a new crypto hype that is more than just reminiscent of the 2017 ICO boom.

As was the case back in 2017, there are a mass number of protocols hitting the crypto market.

This time around, the focus has shifted away from the CeFi space to DeFi. Decentralized Finance, better known as DeFi has become the buzz word of 2020.

Bitcoin and the broader crypto market delivered blockchain technology and decentralization. There was, however, an element of centralization in the CeFi space. Centralized finance became laden with governance and KYC/AML requirements and more in order to meet investor and government demands.

DeFi, by contrast, currently stands as truly decentralized. With an ethos of Permissionless and Trustless, there is no actual governance. And, there are no KYC/AML requirements. In fact, to access decentralized finance all a user needs is a wallet.

In concept alone, it is a mouthwatering prospect. True cryptocurrencies have yet to really make a dent in fiat money’s unwavering position as a primary payment source.

When considering the unbanked, the disgruntled, and the anonymous, however, DeFi may well give the banking sector a run for its money.

The Projects and the Returns

As entrepreneurs and scam artists enter the world of DeFi, a number of protocols have caught the eye amidst the mist…

While there are no guarantees that these protocols will be here tomorrow, there is the hope and with it the dream of incredible earnings potential.

Based on DeFi market caps from Coingecko, some of the more promising protocols that have enjoyed early success. These include:

Chainlink (“LINK”)

Chainlink sits at the top of the DeFi coin charts at the time of writing. Not only is Chainlink at the top of the DeFi list, but Chainlink’s meteoric rise has also seen it join the crypto giants in the top 10 by market. CoinMarketCap has Chainlink currently sitting at number 8, impressively outgunning the likes of Litecoin…

Year-to-date return: 473.2% to the end of day 28th September 2020.

What’s the hype? With DeFi driven by smart contracts, Chainlink connects smart contracts to data sources. Additionally, users can send payments from a smart contract to bank accounts and payment networks.

Dai

Dai sits at number 3 on the DeFi market cap table and is ranked at number 25 on the CoinMarket Cap.

Year-to-date: Investors will have missed gains from elsewhere, however, with Dai up by just 2.02%.

Why the lowly return? Dai is decentralized and backed by collateral. In other words, Dai is a stablecoin and as such, looks to maintain a value of $1.00. The position by market cap, however, reflects the degree of adoption across the DeFi space.

Uniswap (“UNI”)

Uniswap comes in at number 6 and number 42 on the CoinMarketCap ranking.

New to the market and launched on 17th September, founding investors have received a return of 1,318%.

The protocol allows investors to supply liquidity and to swap tokens.

Yearn.finance (“YFI”)

Yearn.finance sits at number 4 on the DeFi market cap list and number 27 in the crypto CoinMarketCap ranking.

New to the market, with a launch date of July 2020, YFI has delivered genesis investors a since launch return of 2,623%.

What’s on the package?

Yearn.finance provides investors with an array of financial products. These are categorized under:

  • Earn: A yield aggregator that seeks out the best ROI from leading DApps.
  • ZAP: Allows investors to swap between assets, whilst saving on gas fees.
  • Vaults: Delivers returns from liquidity mining and higher yields from more aggressive investments.
  • Cover: Yinsure allows investors to get insurance. A key product in the world of decentralized finance.

The Rest

And there are other worthy protocols worth mentioning including Synthetix, Ox, Oracle, Kava, Band, and Aava

In addition to viewing the DeFi rankings by market cap, DeFi Pulse provides a platform for protocols to list. Here, you are given a brief summary of what the protocol delivers and a direct link to the webpage.

The Road Ahead

While a number of these protocols will likely survive the early boom days, there are many that will fall by the wayside.

Investors only need to go back 3-years to the ICO boom of 2017 to get a glimpse of what likely lies ahead.

Just like back in 2017, however, talk of 1,000% returns are drawing investors back into the crypto world. For those, who entered the 2017 boom late, it may take a little longer, however.

At present, market leaders report the large existence of scammers and Ponzi schemes in the DeFi space. The current upward trend in DeFi’s market cap suggests that investors are willing to take another bite of the cherry.

Unlike investing in CeFi protocols, however, DeFi is a Trustless and Permissionless space. This means that there is little to no governance, testing, auditing, etc. It, therefore, means that some of the protocols drawing investor money could vanish in weeks, if not days.

For that very reason, investors are seeing exception returns. The protocols are drawing investors into the DeFi space, wooing them with double-digit returns from the least risky products on offer.

These include Yield Farming and Liquidity Pooling that puts the cherry on the top for investors today.

When considering the fact the DeFi is still niche, the rally may have some way to go. This is assuming, of course, that the victims of the 2017 crypto meltdown lick their wounds and return to the fray…

With platforms such as Binance setting up US$100m funds to seed new projects and fund development, the future of DeFi does look bright. It does not mean, however, that there will not be any cautionary tales.

The Future of DeFi: Boom or Bust?

After a slow start, with a number of DeFi protocols having been around for a few years, the segment has recently drawn plenty of attention.

Projects are on the rise and some of the main players within the CeFi space are making sure that they aren’t left behind.

As with any new space, however, the pitfalls are many and the gold rush could be short and sweet.

At the time of writing, simply comparing the market cap of non-stable coins and stable coins shows how far behind DeFi is from CeFi.

Based on numbers at the time of writing, the total market cap of non-stable coins stood at US$310bn. By contrast, the total market cap of stable coins stood at just US$16bn

Some of the main players within the DeFi space predict a 20 fold increase in the market cap of stablecoins. It is, therefore, unsurprising that there is an explosion in the number of protocols hitting DeFi.

The Projects

To view the current protocols launched within DeFi, DeFi Pulse provides a platform for protocols to list.

The list is broken down by function to make it easier for investors to find the protocol of their liking. These categorizations include:

Lending; Trading; Payments; Wallets; Interfaces; Infrastructure; Assets; and Scaling.

Additionally, there are the following categories to assist DeFi communities or new entrants:

Analytics; Education; Podcasts; Newsletters; and Communities.

While the projects are readily accessible, with DeFi Pulse making it easier for DeFi investors, key risks exist.

As a result of the very nature of DeFi, which is Permissionless and Trustless, not all of the protocols are audited.

Without governance and the anonymous nature, the protocol developers are anonymous. This has led to a vast number of scams and Ponzi schemes. Akin to any industry, bad news and dishonest participants tend to slow progress and, in particular, adoption.

Due to the sheer number of projects coming to the market, we, therefore, expect a period of consolidation. Many of the main players within the DeFi space expect that the vast majority of the existing projects will eventually fail.

What to look out for

When considering the view that a large number of scams and Ponzi schemes exist, there are ways to at least mitigate some of the risks.

These would include:

  • Avoid protocols that are unaudited or unverified: While DeFi is a Trustless and Permissionless world, the more serious projects provide investors with the necessary comfort.
  • Look for projects with longer vesting and incentive periods: Projects with vesting periods of as little as 2-weeks are unlikely to be there in a few months, let alone a few years. The anonymous founders will take their money and run… The same view is taken on incentives given to protocol communities. Within the DeFi space, it is the communities that are of greater importance. Short-term incentive schemes will not keep a community together for the longer-term. This should be considered negative.
  • Look for innovative protocols: The key to the success of DeFi is to deliver protocols over and above those available within the CeFi and banking space. Finding protocols that bring innovative financial services to the DeFi space will find support. This is assuming that they address the issues raised above.
  • Reputable Communities: As previously mentioned, communities are key to the success of a project. Not only must they be appropriately incentivized but they must also be reputable.
  • Governance and Transparency: Alongside the communities, some sort of governance is also needed. That should come from a degree of transparency in the early years before becoming fully Permissionless and Trustless.

The Risks

As with anything nascent, there are plenty of risks associated with DeFi. An advantage for the DeFi space, however, is certainly the lessons learned from the ICO boom.

For the DeFi space key risks and threats to its evolution include:

  • Bad news: As with any investment opportunity, bad news does not help. The ever-present threat of scams and hacks leave DeFi exposed to unscrupulous participants. News of thefts and hacks would give DeFi a bad name and put its advancement back by years.
  • Blockchain constraints: Ethereum’s blockchain is already at capacity. This means that the market requires a degree of fragmentation. Currently, Tron’s blockchain is the next viable alternative. Ensuring that there is not a complete fragmentation is important, however. A degree of specialization would be an acceptable solution. Here different blockchains would support different sectors…
  • Vesting and incentive periods: As previously discussed these would need to tie in developers and communities for the long haul. A cut and run mentality would slow the evolution and adoption of DeFi.
  • Financial Risk: Investors are currently exposed to the risk of significant loss. The developers and communities can mitigate some of the risks by:
    • Carrying out greater testing and verification to eliminate debilitating bugs.
    • Provide insurance to protect investor capital.
    • Educate: Vastly increase the education currently available on DeFi.
  • Platform Access: Simplify access to DeFi. The more user-friendly the greater the degree of user comfort. This is another avenue to build trust in the Trustless world of DeFi.

Looking Ahead

When considering the risks associated with DeFi, these are not wholly different from those seen in the CeFi space.

The key to the success of DeFi is to deliver communities with solutions that are also available in the CeFi and banking space. At a minimum, DeFi must deliver viable alternatives that deliver greater earning power.

Additionally, DeFi will need to be far more innovative and offer protocols that address the shortcomings of both CeFi and banks. In essence, this would be the development and mass adoption of automated asset managers.

Communities don’t need people but smart contracts that are able to locate the best earnings power across DeFi.

Coupled with smoother user experience, zero gas fees, and addressing the issue of unaudited smart contracts, the future does look bright.

DeFi will need to experience some consolidation, however. As was the case in the .Com and ICO booms, a large number of the DeFi projects will not last.

To prevent a DeFi implosion, however, developers and communities must address existing blockchain constraints. There will also need to be a greater degree of auditing, addressing vesting and incentive periods, and the availability of insurance to protect investors.

Fishing out the scammers and Ponzi schemes with limited reputational damage to DeFi will also be a must.

The Positives

Having said that, there are certainly some positives that yield optimism. These include:

  • Speed of innovation: While currently lagging CeFi, market leaders expect DeFi to grow exponentially relative to CeFi.
  • The benefit of hindsight: DeFi can take the lessons learned from CeFi and the ICO boom and avoid the same mistakes.
  • Early Awareness: There is early awareness of some of the key DeFi risks. This gives communities the opportunity to mitigate the risks quickly to support growth.
  • Education: As the news wires report huge earnings potential, the education side is also improving. There is yet the widespread awareness needed, however, to compete with the banking sector. DeFi remains a niche space today and will likely remain so for the near-term.

When considering the risks and the positives, addressing these while continuing to offer a greater earnings multiple would support a positive future for DeFi.

There is a sizeable audience that DeFi can capture with relative ease. Target audiences would include:

  • The non-banked: At the time of writing, the World Bank estimated 1.7bn people with access to basic banking. In the DeFi world, all a user would need is a mobile phone or a computer. There are no KYC or AML requirements…
  • CeFi Users: For CeFi users, a migration to DeFi seems a natural one. Once DeFi has gone through its teething problems it is hard to envisage CeFi keeping up.
  • Disgruntled banking customers: This is possibly the largest target audience of them all. For DeFi, the inflection point is expected to be when users don’t know that they are on DeFi. At this point, the banking community and CeFi may well find themselves in the history books.

In conclusion

We don’t expect a bust. The more innovative and transparent projects will likely enjoy longevity.

There is undoubtedly going to be some pain ahead, however, something that is hard to avoid in the early days.

As with blockchain and cryptos, the concepts are right and so it rests in the hands of innovators to deliver.

One curveball to consider, as always, is whether governments and central banks will allow the untimely demise of the global banking system.

If we learned anything from back in 2017 and 2018, anonymity within the world of finance is a no-no for governments.

How this plays out may eventually decide the fate of DeFi

How to Earn Passive Income with DeFi

Contents

Decentralized Finance

While Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin creation was to bring an alternative to fiat currency, DeFi is looking to take it one step further.

After the evolution of centralized finance in the crypto space, DeFi is looking to battle global finance and the long-established financial sector head-on.

As the name suggests, DeFi looks to bring a truly decentralized, community-driven financial services platform.

DeFi is designed to be both “Permissionless” and “Trustless” in a decentralized world akin to that of Bitcoin.

This is in contrast to the world of CeFi, where there are governance and control over the financial platforms.

As the market leaders look to innovate and deliver an alternative to the existing banking model, there are a number of ways in which crypto holders are able to generate income.

When considering the lack of KYC and AML requirements, due to the decentralized nature of DeFi, DeFi is not only targeting the banked but also the non-banked that is estimated to sit at around 1.7bn.

As is the case with more traditional financial products, investors have the option to generate active or passive income.

Active income would include the trading of assets available across DEX platforms, these being decentralized exchanges. Similar to trading cryptos and other asset classes, this is a hands-on practice and even more so in the volatile crypto world.

Passive income is just the opposite, where investors and crypto holders may earn income from cryptos held but are not being actively traded.

Passive Income

While DeFi is in its very early days, there are a number of ways in which investors can earn passive income. The entire reason for the existence of such platforms and products is to deliver liquidity to the DeFi space through incentivization.

Income-generating DeFi products currently include:

  • Yield farming
  • Liquidity mining
  • Staking
  • Decentralized Exchanges (“DEX”)

Unlike the CeFi space, there is also a low barrier to entry, supporting innovation that will be key in delivering an alternative financial services platform.

So, for those holding stablecoins looking to generate a steady income stream, the DeFi world offers just that.

Taking a closer look at the passive income products on offer:

Yield Farming

Yield farming is the generation of yield from crypto assets.

The product is comparable to bank deposits, fixed-term deposits, and even government bonds.

Investors deposit fiat money into financial institutions via bank deposits and fixed deposits, which gives the institution liquidity. Investing in government bonds gives governments liquidity. The liquidity is then used to generate growth by the institution or government.

Not only can the community generate income from crypto assets already held. Yield farmers can also borrow crypto and generate income. This is profitable when interest rate differentials are aligned in favor of the borrower.

Yield farmers can farm yield from DeFi money markets, liquidity pools, and incentives.

As an example, a yield farmer places 10,000 USDT into a DeFi protocol, delivering liquidity to the platform. The protocol gives the yield farmer a reward for depositing the USDT.

The yield farmer then takes the rewarded USDT or other tokens that may be given and deposit it into a DeFi liquidity pool accepting USDT or the token received. The yield farmer then receives a yield kicker from the incentives.

While at present there is an element of active management of assets, the DeFi space is evolving. Currently, yield farmers are manually in search of the best yields on offer. There are new protocols on offer, however, that can do the work for you. These are known as Robo-Advisors or Robot yield toppers.

Smart contract systems use “Oracles” in order to automatically transfer Robo-managed tokens to protocols offering the highest yields for a fee.

“Oracles” are services that provide “off-chain” data to smart contracts. “Off-chain” data is typically market prices of assets and world events, such as sports scores, weather, etc.

Revenue Streams

The types of returns that a yield farmer can earn are as follows:

  • Capital growth: Assets, fees, and rewards may be in stablecoins or non-stablecoins. Capital growth during a staking period is a passive income source. There is a risk, however, of “Impermanent Loss”.

“Impermanent Loss” is an opportunity cost incurred between supplying liquidity to an AMM pool vs simply holding the tokens in a wallet. The loss happens when asset prices diverge from original levels when tokens were first deposited.

Additional income streams include:

  • Token rewards
  • Transaction fees

Liquidity Mining

The 2nd step that yield farmers take in yield farming is liquidity mining.

From a protocol perspective, a token issuer or DEX rewards liquidity miners for providing liquidity to a specific token.

Here token holders deposit collateral into a liquidity pool offered by an automated market maker, (“AMM”).

Once you have identified a mining pool that accepts your idle tokens, simply stake your token in exchange for incentives. Incentives are normally tokens that holders can later exchange on a DEX.

It’s worth noting that liquidity pools tend to offer better yields than money markets. There is a greater risk, however, which justifies the greater reward.

Automated Market Makers

Automated market makers, more commonly known as AMMs, offer the liquidity pools to enhance farming yields.

In essence, the community trades with smart contracts and not with other community members.

AMMs are smart contracts that create liquidity pools, typically traded by an algo or “Robots” rather than order books.

From a DeFi perspective, AMMs are pivotal in its evolution. The liquidity is a must for the DeFi space to continue to evolve and deliver new protocols and products to the community.

The Risks

As is the case with any investment, yield farming is not risk-free.

Such risks stem from:

  • Smart Contracts: Developers can’t change smart contracts once the rules are baked into the protocol. This makes bugs permanent and could result in the material loss of assets.
  • Exchange Rates: Asset price volatility is unavoidable. As previously mentioned, “Impermanent Loss” is one risk related to exchange rates.
  • Price Oracles: Price-feed providers rely upon the quality of the data. That leaves “Price Oracles” exposed to price tampering. In an automated world, there are no audits to verify the accuracy of the data.
  • Hacks: Thieves and hackers target AMMs, particularly in the early days.

In conclusion

For the crypto market evolution, the most enticing element of DeFi must the offering of financial services without KYC and AML requirements. The DeFi community can enjoy full anonymity, while also enjoying the products on offer than range from trading to taking out loans…

Passive income is a key element, as the DeFi world innovates to even greater automation.

Investing does not come without its own risks, however. In the Trustless and Permissionless world of DeFi, there is no governance to identify the good from the bad.

As we saw in the boom days of crypto, however, this will eventually stabilize. Until then, investors need to tread cautiously when investing in the DeFi space.

Recommendations include:

  • Try to avoid investing in unaudited protocols unless you are fully aware of the risks and can stomach the loss.
  • Don’t invest money that you cannot afford to lose. There are Ponzi schemes abound.
  • Do some research and identify protocols that are likely to exist for the longer term. The longer the vesting periods and incentives for communities to remain in place for the long haul the better.

 

Decentralizing Traditional Finance: Bridging CeFi and DeFi

Contents

CeFi and DeFi Explained

With Bitcoin’s 10th birthday come and gone, developers and entrepreneurs are now looking to take a bigger bite out of the banking industry.

Over the last 10-years, the crypto market has been largely aligned with the global banking system in the form of centralized financial services.

In fact, only a handful of decentralized exchanges have existed in recent years. It’s also worth noting that, while the platforms such as Ripple delivers a decentralized global payment system, Ripple is not truly decentralized.

These platforms all fall under the category of Centralized Financial Services.

As far as the crypto world is concerned, the main differential between “CeFi” and “DeFi” is whether a community trusts people or technology.

Using the simple differential

CeFi: Users trust people behind a platform to manage and ensure that a crypto platform remains a going concern. In other words, the area of focus is on the appropriate governance to ensure the success and viability of a platform.

DeFi: The community trusts technology and its capability to function and deliver its core deliverables. Under the current ethos of DeFi, there is no governance and the success of a DeFi platform is reflected in the community behind it.

The Commonalities

For many in the crypto world, CeFi and DeFi provide very similar services at present, making them indistinguishable.

Currently, both CeFi and Defi platforms deliver financial services that include but are not limited to:

  • Borrowing
  • Crypto trading
  • Derivatives trading
  • Margin trading
  • Lending
  • Payments
  • Stablecoins

There are, however, some distinct differences.

The Differences

AML/KYC: In the world of DeFi, platforms don’t require user information. Users enjoy anonymity across the DeFi space. This is something that regulators brought an end to across the CeFi space, particularly in regulated jurisdictions.

Cross-Chain Support: DeFi platforms are unable to support the trading of some of the larger cryptos by market cap. In the DeFi space, at present, tokens must follow Ethereum standards, though this is expected to expand…

At the time of writing, Tron has also become part of the DeFi movement to compete with Ethereum that faces capacity issues.

Adaptability v Innovation: In the world of CeFi, governance and management ensure the right level of customer services to stay on top. This is adaptability over innovation. By contrast, the DeFi world is about innovation, as technology and not people is the influencer.

Crypto to Fiat: CeFi platforms are able to support crypto to fiat and fiat to crypto transactions. This is because of the AML/KYC requirements that CeFi platforms must adhere to.

Custody: CeFi platforms require users to keep funds on the platforms providing financial services. The issue of custody puts users at risk of hacks and theft. Let’s not forget that CeFi platforms also hold personal information in addition to user funds…

Transparency: Due to the nature of CeFi platforms, there is a transparency issue. Within the DeFi space, platforms are governed by technology and, specifically, smart contracts, ensuring transparency.

The Buzz Words

As DeFi etches is existence into the crypto sphere, there are a number of buzz words that any crypto trader and investor must know…

DEX: These are decentralized exchanges that run on smart contracts. The smart contracts are encoded with instructions to execute orders on a DEX.

Innovation, innovation, innovation: DeFi is technology-driven and, as such, will continue to innovate rather than adapt to meet customer needs. At present, the DeFi space is in Rapid Innovation Mode (“RIM”).

Permissionless: There are no AML or KYX processes to access DeFi platforms and financial services. This means that users do not need to provide personal information to fund DeFi accounts or to have access to DeFi financial services. All a DeFi user needs is a wallet.

Trustless: A DeFi community does not need to trust that a protocol will deliver what it says on the box. There are a number of auditors and more appearing in the space to assess and review capabilities. Most importantly is the ability to assess and verify smart contracts that DeFi protocols have in place to deliver and execute financial services.

The CeFi – DeFi Bridge

With the DeFi market in its infancy, the first step has been to build a bridge between the CeFi and DeFi worlds.

It’s not surprising that one of the crypto market’s most well-known names is involved in bridging the gap…

Binance is amongst the innovators building the CeFi – DeFi Bridge.

Why the need for a bridge?

The goal of DeFi is to reconstruct the banking system in an open, Permissionless, and Trustless space. DeFi advocates see DeFi delivering a more transparent, resilient, and less fragile financial system.

Following all the negative news surrounding Tether, the case for DeFi has become all the more compelling in recent years.

There are some challenges, however. One of the key advantages to DeFi is one of its disadvantages in the early days.

There is no governance in the world of DeFi. Anyone is able to launch a protocol and attempt to raise funds. The lack of oversight means that many projects will boom and bust, leaving investors with material losses. Along with protocols that may not make it, there are also scams to avoid in the space.

While this is the case, there are some impressive protocols that have already garnered plenty of interest.

As the DeFi world maneuvers its way through its early years, some of the crypto market leaders need to carefully woo users across from the CeFi space. This is all the more important with the lack of DeFi awareness today.

Estimates vary on the size of the DeFi community, with the numbers ranging from as low as 400,000 to as many as 5,000,000. Both numbers are small, however, when compared with the CeFi space.

The market caps of stablecoins and non-stablecoins tell the story. At the time of writing, the market cap of stable coins stood at about US$16bn, dwarfed by the non-stable coins market cap of US$310bn.

The Key Steps

In order to fully bridge the CeFi and DeFi spaces, developers will need to bring the offerings of the financial sector to the DeFi space.

Some key steps in bridging the CeFi and DeFi world include:

  • Materially reducing risks currently associated with DeFi platforms. Offering insurance, proper testing and auditing, and preventing hacks are a must. Any adverse news and the DeFi space will take even longer to establish itself as a viable alternative to the banking world.
  • A marked increase in DeFi education to shift the DeFi space from niche to mainstream.
  • Simplifying access to DeFi protocols. At present, there are too many steps to gain access, deterring possible early adopters.
  • Build reputable DeFi communities.

The speed of innovation is working in DeFi’s favor early on.

While progressing through the key steps outlined above, DeFi will also need to deliver key financial services products to build the community.

More importantly, however, will be for DeFi to deliver what the existing financial systems are unable to deliver.

The ultimate goal is for users interacting with DeFi to not even know that it is DeFi. Many leading figures within the DeFi space see this as the inflection point.

At the time of writing, the World Bank estimates that the total number of non-banked sits at 1.7bn.

The Road Ahead

A fully functional DeFi world would materially eat into the 1.7bn, not to mention draw across disgruntled CeFi and bank platform users.

Looking at early entrants and stakeholders, Binance has rolled out a $100m Support Fund for DeFi projects on Binance’s Smart Chain.

The Fund is to drive collaboration between CeFi and DeFi.

As part of the shift towards DeFi, Binance will provide liquidity support to DeFi projects. Binance will also carry out security audits and due diligence processes to deliver some order to a Permissionless and Trustless world.

Through Binance, selected DeFi projects will also have access to Binance’s customer base, media information, knowledge education, financial management, and more. Binance may also list a chosen few.

DEX platforms require all transactions to take place “on-chain”. When considering the trades per second that centralized exchanges(Verified Exchanges) (“CEX”) execute, that’s an incredible burden.

With Ethereum currently the chain on which DeFi exists, 15 second average block times doesn’t cut it. The rapid evolution of DEX platforms has brought Ethereum to its knees. Alarmingly, the number of DeFi users dwarf in comparison to CeFi users. This means that the situation will only become more exasperated without change or alternative.

Another major issue for DEX platforms is the need for all transaction cancellations to be on-chain. That exposes the DeFi community to front running.

It’s also worth noting that many decentralized exchanges position themselves as decentralized rather than centralized exchanges.

In reality, however, the vast majority fit and fulfill the criteria of a centralized exchange. AML/KYC requirements are one simple identifier…

In conclusion, there’s a long way to go. With the guidance of the more reputable to bridge the gap, however, the road will be a shorter one to success.

How the Blockchain Can Turnaround Africa’s Mining Industry

The use of the blockchain, otherwise known as the Distributed ledger technologies (DLT), involves the setting up of digitally stored databases around several privately held locations around the globe, enabling the creation of electronic records which can be verified using peer-to-peer mechanisms, without any verifying party having centralized control of the database. Such a record is secure, accessible to all, and is immutable.

The very structure of the blockchain makes it suitable for use in eliminating the various challenges that have beset Africa’s mineral sector, which is riddled with problems that are created from the relative opacity of all segments of the sector. Take any person living in a typical African mining community and ask whether he or she knows what happens to the minerals taken from their soil and you would be lucky to get an informed answer.

The opacity of the processes involved from the extraction point to when the precious minerals and the payments change hands provides the perfect cover for those who game the system at all levels.

In many African countries, national governments do not even know how much of their minerals leave their shores. Such is the level of decadence in the mineral sector in Africa.

The situations above probably operate where there are legitimate governments in place. When there are conflict situations or conditions where renegade movements are in control of the areas where the mineral resources are located, things take a gory turn. The problems of conflict minerals which the film “Blood Diamonds” portrayed in a toned-down manner are now well known.

The emphasis now is to deploy initiatives that can address all the problems associated with Africa’s extractive industry and to bring about improvements. The use of distributed ledger technology will directly address the problems with record-keeping, traceability, and management of the entire supply chain. The blockchain can be used to enforce standards that comply with international conventions on the extraction, processing, marketing, and distribution of mineral resources and their derivatives.

The Issues

The political, economic and social cost of illegal mining in Africa is immense. From Ghana to DR Congo, Nigeria to South Africa, the story is the same. The locals and the economy of the mining communities are left impoverished as vast lands that could be used for agriculture are destroyed by uncontrolled and unethical mining methods.

Local workers are subjected to slave-like, dehumanizing conditions with armed soldiers paid for by these companies, set over these workers. The countries bleed foreign exchange as revenues that could have gone to development projects is siphoned off by large foreign corporations. The only gainers are the big mining companies, their executives and local collaborators in government and the communities.

The Blockchain: The Tool for Audibility and Accountability

Distributed ledger technologies have certain features that make them adaptable as tools of audibility and accountability in the African mineral sector.

  1. They are decentralized and available to all
  2. The records stored on the databases are immutable
  3. The records are open to public scrutiny and validation

The lack of a single clearinghouse or a single point at which information is warehoused makes it very hard to alter records pertaining to the mining operations. A government can in an instant, know who has been granted mining licenses, who has commenced operations, and which companies are not listed on the national database of mining licenses.

Records are secure and cannot be altered or subjected to fraudulent accounting practices. No single person can lay hold of control on the ecosystem. The records can be viewed by all. Transactions can be scrutinized and validated. Tax records of mining companies can immediately be accessed. Prosecution of errant parties in the mining industry can be made a lot easier as incontrovertible evidence of wrongdoing can be gathered quickly. Opacity is sacrificed instantly on the altar of transparency; this is what the blockchain offers.

The blockchain can significantly degrade the ability of those who game the mining industry in Africa in an instant. Its efforts can be supplemented by the demands of increasingly aware consumers, who want to be sure that what they are buying was ethically sourced in an environmentally friendly manner.

Consumers also want to be sure that what they are getting was not produced by dehumanizing labor practices, and that it passed through an accountable supply chain management system that can pinpoint the pathway of the minerals from point of origin to destination.

Blockchain technology is not a fix-all solution to the problems in Africa’s mining industry. But the blockchain forms a very strong foundation on which fundamental change can occur.

Use Case Applications of the Blockchain in Africa’s Mining Industry

One of the ways in which the blockchain can be used to benefit Africa’s mineral industries is by the tracking of conflict minerals. One country that is already doing this is Rwanda. Rwanda became the first country in the world to adopt blockchain technology in addressing the problem of conflict minerals within its borders. Rwanda uses the blockchain to track the entire mining chain of Tantalum, from the mining pots to the refining furnaces.

Another example of the use of distributed ledger technology to track minerals in Africa comes from a private company. IAMGOLD Corporation is a gold miner which is using the blockchain to track responsibly sourced gold. IAMGOLD Corporation has its African operations in Burkina Faso and uses a blockchain technology solution developed by California-based company, Emtech.

These two are examples of how a government and a private corporation in Africa are helping contribute to the use of distributed ledger technologies to combat Africa’s mining problems.

How to Invest in Cryptocurrencies: The Complete Guide for 2020

Seasoned investors continue to cross over from the more mature asset classes and regulators have eased off on the Crypto assault that led to the 2018 slump.

With Bitcoin and the broader market sitting at more than 50% below their all-time highs, there is still plenty of incentive to enter the crypto sphere.

For many, however, the crypto market may seem like a maze. There are a tremendous number of exchanges and brokers and that is before considering regulations imposed by regulators in recent years.

Investing in cryptocurrencies requires a level of due diligence not too dissimilar to the research involved in other more mature asset classes.

The volatility and sizeable returns on offer have certainly allowed investors to dream. After all, Bitcoin has yielded a mass number of Bitcoin millionaires, more commonly known as whales.

So, how do we invest in cryptocurrencies?

While there are multiple considerations, some are more important than others when looking to enter the crypto market.

Just jumping in on a whim that the majors will reach historical highs is a dangerous game. This is no dissimilar to jumping into the equity markets when they are sitting at record highs.

There is one material difference, however. The regulatory landscape has materially changed since late 2017. For this very reason, investors may continue to face plenty of uncertainty before the market can find a return to the hay days.

Understanding the key drivers and market characteristics are therefore particularly important.

Basic Essentials

In this guide, you will learn the key preparations that you need in order to build your cryptocurrency portfolio.

Before making an investment, deciding on the source of funds would certainly be step 1.

In spite of the current interest rate environment, it is recommended that you avoid funding the portfolio with debt.

Credit Card or Bank Account – Investors will, therefore, need to decide on cash or credit card. As an investor, you can either fund your crypto trading account with a debit/credit card or by funding with a bank transfer.

It is worth noting, however, that certain jurisdictions have banned the funding of crypto exchanges with credit cards. Some banks have even taken a step further and banned the transfer of fiat money to such exchanges.

Nonetheless, the simplest method to fund a crypto exchange account is with a credit/debit card. This does tend to come with higher fees and caps on transfer amounts, however.

Fiat to Bitcoin Exchange

First, you need to decide on which cryptocurrency or cryptocurrencies that you wish to trade.

You would then need to identify the exchanges that have the largest trading volumes for the chosen cryptocurrencies.

One consideration here is your source of funds. Not all exchanges allow fiat money deposits. A vast majority of exchanges restrict deposits to Bitcoin.

Carrying out the necessary research on the most appropriate exchange is important. If you are looking for an exchange that accommodates the purchase of Bitcoin with fiat money:

Coinbase is popular and easy to use, with a strong global presence. The exchange has the necessary security measures as well as delivering adequate liquidity for trading.

When searching for the right exchange, it is worth noting that each has its pros and cons. The important thing is to identify the exchange that, first and foremost, delivers on your personal requirements.

Other popular exchanges include:

These crypto exchanges not only cater to Bitcoin investors and traders but altcoins in general.

It’s also worth considering exchanges that offer a wider choice of cryptocurrencies and altcoins. This would allow you to diversify your investments and gain exposure to the broader crypto market.

Bitcoin to Crypto Exchange

The next exchanges that you should look into are the ones you will be using for the Altcoins. Many of the smaller coins, my market cap, are generally not supported by larger exchanges. Generally speaking, the only way to buy those smaller coins is by buying them using Bitcoins or Ethereum.

On most exchanges, you need to deposit Bitcoins as you cannot buy coins directly from the exchange. This is why it’s crucial that you have a Fiat to Bitcoin Exchange first.

You can buy Altcoins from Binance, BitTrex, Kucoin, and Kraken.

Choose the Right Wallet

The next step in the crypto investment journey is to select the appropriate crypto wallets. It is essential to have your crypto wallet before buying any cryptocurrencies. You will need wallets to store your coins within your secure personal wallets.

While exchanges allow investors to hold purchases coins within assigned exchange wallets, it’s recommended that you withdraw your cryptos and hold them in private wallets. This protects you and your investments from hackers and theft. It is also worth noting that wallet compatibility also needs to be considered.

Crypto wallets to choose from include but are not limited to:

Before Getting Started

Prior to deciding on the most suitable crypto exchanges and wallets to support your trading activity, you need a trading strategy. As part of your strategy build, there are a number of factors to keep in mind:

  • Only invest in what you can afford to lose
  • Do not take a loan to invest
  • Do your own research, monitor the news wires, and view technical analysis on the respective cryptos that you decide to go with. FX Empire covers the largest cryptos, with exchanges also providing technical analysis to their users free of cost.
  • Set realistic expectations, don’t be greedy, and know when to accept a loss. (It is easy to be influenced by the news wires and overzealous analysts talking of the next crypto boom or doom. It is best to block out such noise.

Forming a Crypto Trading Strategy

While identifying the most appropriate wallets and exchanges are vital, formulating a trading strategy is undoubtedly the most important pre-investment step for a prospective trader.

Key Decisions:

  • Cryptocurrency selection – A blend of the largest cryptos along with medium-sized to small cryptos by market cap is recommended. This also addresses any liquidity issues for the overall portfolio.
  • Worth noting – A certain cryptocurrencies may have values that exceed the intended investment size. In such instances, identifying an exchange that offers CFDs or partial investment of a crypto coin is important.
  • Trader durations – For traders with adequate time to trade, a short, medium, and longer-term trading strategy would make sense.
    • Smaller size, more volatile, coins increase earnings potential intraday. These should ideally form no more than 20% of the total investment pool.
    • The Largest coins should form longer-term strategies. With adequate research, however, smaller coins may also form part of this strategy.
    • For the more medium-term strategies, which would be anything beyond intraday but less than a month, a blended portfolio is recommended. This can comprise of small, medium, and large-cap coins.
  • In any trading strategy -using risk management tools and indicators is recommended. While there are fees incurred for using stop loss and trade profit, using these would protect your downside.

80/20 Rule

When considering crypto market volatility and the rise and fall of the smaller coins, an 80/20 blend of large-cap to mid to small-cap would be recommended.

This would provide the opportunity to make sizeable gains any sudden surge in the small to mid-cap cryptos, whilst also holding the more stable coins. Do note that stable is a relative term in the crypto market. Even Bitcoin can see sizeable swings on a given day…

Does the Number of Coins Matter?

It ultimately boils down to the investment strategy that you build. With a blended portfolio, 1 Bitcoin may make up your large-cap portfolio, or 20 Litecoin for instance. It is important to focus on the blend rather than the actual number of coins that make up each component of the portfolio.

Recommendations

Below is a range of cryptos to consider the different components of your portfolio. This is not a comprehensive breakdown of the broader market and there may be coins that are more to your liking. As always, carry out the necessary research before hitting the buy or sell order…

Large Caps

Tezos, Ripple, Bitcoin, Ethereum, EOS, Cardano, Bitcoin Cash SV, Bitcoin Cash, and Binance Coin.

Mid-Caps

Zcash, VeChain, True USD, Tron’s TRX, Qtum, OmiseGo, OKB, NEO, Ethereum Classic, Dogecoin, DASH, and Cosmos. These have been selected based on 24-hour volumes and have market caps of between $100m and $1bn.

Low Caps

This will consist of cryptos with a market cap of less than $100m and will likely have lower trading volumes. That means less liquidity, which is why this component should form a lower proportion of the portfolio.

Unibright, Theta Fuel, Status, MCO, Matic Network, IOST, HyperCash, BitTorrent, and ABBC Coin.

Next Steps

Once you have built your strategy, selected your cryptos, opened your trading accounts, and set up your wallets, it’s time to trade.

While you may be able to have a better sense of when to enter more mature markets, such as the global equity market, it’s less simple to pick the right entry point in the crypto world.

Other than entering at an all-time high, there’s no hard and fast rule other than waiting for any sell-off to flatten out.

Once you start trading, remain disciplined, and ensure you run your risk parameters each day.

These will include your charts that should have your support and resistance levels embedded.

And remember, not every trade will yield a return, so don’t panic should your first trade take a hit.

Negative Commodity Prices – Causes and Effects

In commodity markets, we have seen markets move to levels where those holding long positions wind up paying other market participants to close positions. This can occur in the futures as well as the physical markets. The payment is not just market differences between the purchase and sale price. There have been instances where a purchase at zero turned into a losing proposition.

In the 1950s, the US regulators closed the onion futures market on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as the price of the root vegetable fell into negative territory. At the time, trading in onions accounted for around 20% of the volume on the exchange. Market manipulation caused the price volatility in onions that have not traded in the futures market since 1958.

A raw material market can fall below zero

Negative commodity prices are nothing new, as other raw materials have declined to levels where sellers pay buyers to take a commodity off their hands. While some markets have seen zero or negative prices, others never experienced the phenomenon.

Aside from onions, another futures market has traded at or below a zero price. The power or electricity market is a use-it or lose-it market. The electric power runs along transmission lines, and if not consumed by a party that holds a long position, it becomes worthless or can even trade at a negative price.

April 20, 2020, was a day to remember in the crude oil market

Before April 20, 2020, the all-time modern-day low for the price of NYMEX crude oil was $9.75 per barrel, the 1986 bottom. In late April 2020, the price fell through that low and reached zero.

Source: CQG

The quarterly chart highlights the decline to a low that few traders, investors, and analysts thought possible.

Some market participants likely purchased nearby futures at or near zero, assuming that they were buying at a price that was the sale of the century. They turned out to be tragically wrong. Crude oil fell to a low of negative $40.32 per barrel on April 20. The problem in the oil market was that there was nowhere to put the oil as storage facilities were overflowing with the energy commodity.

Historically, oil traders with access to capital purchased nearby futures and sold deferred contracts at times when contango, or the future premium, was at high levels. The theory behind owning the nearby contract and selling the deferred contract is that those who can store and finance the energy commodity gain a risk-free profit.

Holders of the spread hedge the price risk with the sale of the deferred contract and own the physical in case the market tightens, which is a call option on the spread. Meanwhile, speculators often synthesize the cash and carry trade using nearby and deferred futures without the ability to store the energy commodity. When nearby futures dropped to over negative $40 per barrel, the unexpected losses for those holding synthetic positions were staggering.

Storage capacity is the critical factor

Supply capacity is the crucial factor for any market participant holding a long position in a nearby futures contract. Without the ability to take delivery and store the commodity, there is a potential for negative price levels. Assuming that the downside is limited to zero is wrong. Another market that could face a similar fate in the future is natural gas, where storage capacity is finite, and the price could venture into negative territory at some point.

Without the ability to store and finance a commodity, the downside risk is theoretically as unlimited as the upside.

Negative commodity prices may seem irrational, and it is always tempting to buy something for zero. In the world of commodities futures and some of the physical markets, zero could turn out to be a high price as the oil market taught us on April 20, 2020.

Breakeven Crude Oil Production Costs Around The World

If the market price of a raw material is higher than its cost of extracting it from the crust of the earth or any other form of production, it leads to increased output. A profitable production process provides an incentive for output.

When the cost of production is higher than the market price, output declines as it becomes a losing proposition. The price cycle in commodities causes prices to rise to levels where production increases. Higher output leads to growing inventories. As a market becomes more expensive, the elasticity of demand causes consumers to look for substitutes and buying declines, leading to price tops and reversals to the downside.

When the price of a commodity falls below the cost of production, output slows. The demand tends to increase as consumers take advantage of lower prices, and inventories begin to decline, leading to price bottoms. The price cycle in a commodities market can change because of exogenous events, but it tends to be efficient. High prices lead to glut conditions, and low prices often create shortages, over time. Production cost is one of the critical variables that fundamental analysts use to project the path of least resistance for market prices.

In the crude oil market, output costs vary according to the production location. Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are the three leading oil-producing nations in the world, and each has different sensitivities to output costs.

Saudi Arabia- Think turning on a garden hose

Over half the world’s crude oil reserves are in the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia is the leading producer in the region. The Saudis have long been the most potent force within OPEC, the international oil cartel. Saudi Arabia’s vast reserves make production as easy as turning on a garden hose in our backyards for the country.

Meanwhile, the Saudi economy depends on oil revenues. The rising costs of running the country have pushed the break-even level of the price of the energy commodity to over $80 per barrel on the Brent benchmark. While the nominal production cost of oil is the lowest in the world in Saudi Arabia at $2.80 per barrel, the requirements for revenues creates a wide gap between production economics and balancing the Saudi budget.

Russia- Output costs may not matter as much in the west

Russia is an enigma when it comes to the cost of production for the energy commodity. The Russians, under President Vladimir Putin, is structured as an oligarchy. A small group runs the nation’s economy. Therefore, the production cost of crude oil is an enigma and a state secret. In 2020, the Russian leader had said that he is comfortable with a Brent price around the $40 per barrel level. The statement could shed at least some light on the price level for the energy commodity that provides enough revenue to keep the system running smoothly.

The US- The marginal producer in the world

In the 1970s and 1980s, the United States was dependent on oil imports from the Middle East. Rising prices during this century, combined with reserve discoveries in shale regions, caused production to increase. Moreover, technological advances in extracting crude oil from the crust of the earth and regulatory reforms under the Trump Administration caused daily output to rise to over 13 million barrels per day, making the US the world’s leading producer and achieving the goal of independence.

The US is a marginal producer. While production costs have declined, they are still around the $30 to $40 per barrel level. The US is in a position where it is a dominant marginal producer. When the price of oil rises above production costs, the output can increase. When it falls below, the US can turn off production and import inexpensive crude oil from other nations.

In any commodity, the production cost is a critical factor when it comes to the fundamental supply and demand equation. Pricing cycles take prices above and below break-even output costs at times. Each leading producer has different requirements when it comes to prices, which makes a global analysis complicated and the worldwide break-even equation for crude oil an economic and geopolitical enigma.

What are Commodity Currency Pairs?

The currencies of countries around the world are fiat instruments, meaning that they have no backing by anything other than the full faith and credit of the nations that issue the legal tender.In the past, many currencies used gold and silver to provide support for the foreign exchange instruments, but the metals prevented countries from making significant changes in the money supply to address sudden changes in economic conditions.

Meanwhile, some countries with substantial natural resources that account for revenue and tax receipts have an implicit backing for their legal tender. The ability to extract commodities from the crust of the earth within a nation’s borders or grow crops that feed the world allows for exports and revenue flows. While those countries have fiat currencies in the international financial system, the implied backstop of commodity production makes them commodity currencies.

Commodities provide support for some foreign exchange instruments

The fundamental equation in the world of commodities often dictates the path of least resistance for prices. While demand is ubiquitous as all people around the globe are consumers of raw materials, production tends to be a local affair.

Commodity output depends on geology when it comes to energy, metals, and minerals. Soil, access to water, and climate make some areas of the world best-suited for growing agricultural products. Chile is the world’s leading producer of copper. The vast majority of cocoa beans, the primary ingredient in chocolate, come from the Ivory Coast and Ghana, two countries in West Africa.

In Chile and the African nations, the production of the raw materials accounts for a significant amount of revenues and employs many people, making them a critical factor when it comes to economic growth. Meanwhile, the Australian and Canadian currencies are highly sensitive to commodity prices as both nations are significant producers and exporters of the raw materials to consumers around the globe.

Australia and Canada have commodity currencies

Australia and Canada produce a wide range of agricultural and energy products, as well as metals and minerals. Australia’s geographical proximity to China, the world’s most populous nation with the second-leading economy, makes it a supermarket for the Asian country. Canada borders on the US, the wealthiest consuming nation on the earth. Therefore, Australia and Canada are both commodity supermarkets for a substantial addressable market of consumers.

In 2011, commodity prices reached highs, and the price action in the Australian and Canadian currencies versus the US dollar shows their sensitivity to raw material prices.

Source: CQG

The quarterly chart of the Australian versus the US dollar currency pair highlights that highs in commodity prices in 2011 took the foreign exchange relationship to its all-time high of $1.1005. The price spike to the downside during the first quarter of 2020 that took the A$ to $0.5510 came on the back of a deflationary spiral caused by the global Coronavirus pandemic that sent many raw material prices to multiyear lows.

Canada is a significant oil-producing nation. In 2008, the price of nearby oil futures rose to an all-time peak of over $147 per barrel.

Source: CQG

The quarterly chart of the Canadian versus the US dollar currency pair shows that the record high came in late 2007 at $1.1043 as the price of oil was on its way to the record peak. The highs in raw material prices in 2011 took the C$ to a lower high of $1.0618. The deflationary spiral in March 2020 pushed the C$ to a low of $0.6820 against the US dollar.

Both the Australian and Canadian dollars are commodity currencies that move higher and lower with raw material prices over time.

Brazil’s real also tracks the prices of some commodities

Brazil is an emerging market, but the most populous nation in South America with the leading GDP in the region is a significant producer of commodities. The price relationship between the Brazilian real and the US dollar is another example of how the multiyear highs in commodity prices in 2011 sent the value of a commodity-sensitive currency to a high.

Source: CQG

The quarterly chart of the Brazilian real versus the US dollar currency pair shows that the real reached a record high of $0.65095 against the US dollar in 2011 when commodity prices reached a peak.

While the Australian and Canadian dollar and Brazilian real are fiat currencies, they each reflect the price action in the raw material markets, making them commodity currencies. The foreign exchange instruments may not have express backing of the nation’s raw material production; there is an implied backing as higher commodity prices lift the local economies and government tax revenues. Commodity currencies can serve as proxies for the asset class as they move higher and lower with raw material prices.

How To Use Technical Analysis In Forex Markets

Charts are useful tools for investors and traders as they offer insight into herd behavior. In a book written in 2004, author James Surowiecki explained how crowds make better decisions than individuals. Markets are embodiments of Surowiecki’s thesis as the current price of an asset is the level where buyers and sellers meet in a transparent environment.

When it comes to the global foreign exchange market, buyers and sellers of currencies determine the rates of one foreign exchange instrument versus others on a real-time basis. At the same time, governments manage the level of currency volatility to maintain stability. Technical analysis can be particularly useful in the currency markets as technical levels can provide clues about levels where government intervention is likely to occur.

Technical analysis includes support and resistance levels where currency pairs tend to find lows and highs. At the same time, price momentum indicators often signal where exchange rates are running out of steam on the up and the downside.

Technical analysis can breakdown at times when black swan events occur.

Futures are a microcosm of the OTC market

In the world of foreign exchange, the over-the-counter market is the most liquid and actively traded arena. The OTC market is a global and decentralized venue for all aspects of exchanging the currency of one country for another; it is also the largest market in the world. In April 2019, the average trading volume was $6.6 trillion per day. The OTC market operates twenty-four hours per day, except for weekends.

Futures markets for currency pairs are smaller, but they reflect the price action in the OTC market. When it comes to technical analysis, the futures market provides a window into the price trends and overall state of the strength or weakness of one currency versus another.

Volume and open interest metrics provide clues for price direction

The dollar versus the euro currency pair is the most actively traded foreign exchange relationship as both foreign exchange instruments are reserve currencies.

Source: CQG

The weekly chart of the dollar versus the euro futures contract displays the price action in the currency pair since late 2017. The bar chart on the bottom reflects the weekly volume, which is the total number of transactions. The line above volume is the open interest or the total number of long and short positions.

When volume and open interest are rising or falling with the price, it tends to be a technical validation of a price trend in a futures market. When the metrics decline with rising or falling prices, it often signals that a trend is running out of steam, and a reversal could be on the horizon. Volume and open interest are two technical metrics that aid technical traders looking for signs that a trend will continue or change.

Momentum indicators are powerful technical tools at times

Stochastics and relative strength indices can provide a window into the overall power of a trend in a futures market.

Source: CQG

Beneath the weekly price chart, the slow stochastic is an oscillator that aims to quantify the momentum of a price rise or decline. Stochastics work by comparing closing prices with price ranges over time. The theory behind this technical tool is that prices tend to close near the highs in rising markets and near the lows in falling markets.

A reading below 20 indicates an oversold condition, while over 80 is a sign of an overbought condition. On the weekly chart of the euro versus the dollar currency pair, the reading of 31.42 indicated that the stochastic oscillator is falling towards oversold territory in a sign that the downtrend could be running out of steam.

The relative strength indicator compares recent gains and losses to establish a basis or the strength of a price trend. A reading below 30 is the sign of an oversold condition, while an overbought condition occurs with a reading above the 70 level. At 45.55 on the weekly dollar versus euro chart, the indicator points to a neutral condition in the currency pair.

Technical analysis can fail at times

Technical analysts look for areas of price support and resistance on charts. Support is a price on the downside where a market tends to find buying that prevents the price from falling further. Resistance is just the opposite, as it is the price on the upside where a market tends to experience selling that prevents it from rising further. When a price moves below support or above resistance, it often signals a reversal in a bullish or bearish price trend.

Technical analysis is not perfect, as the past is not always an ideal indicator of the future.

Source: CQG

The chart of the currency relationship between the US and Australian dollar shows that the price broke down below technical support and experienced a spike to the downside. The price movement turned out to be a “blow-off” low on the downside that reversed after reaching a significantly lower price.

Technical analysis provides a roadmap of the past in the quest for insight into the future. Many market participants use technical analysis to make trading and investing decisions, which often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy as a herd of transactional activity can create or impede a price trend. Technical analysis is a tool that foreign exchange traders use to project the path of least resistance of exchange rates.

Some of the most influential participants in the foreign exchange markets are governments. Historical price volatility in foreign exchange markets tends to be lower than in most other asset classes because governments work independently or together, at times, to provide stability for exchange rates. Therefore support and resistance levels tend to work well over time.

What are Contango And Backwardation?

Term structure, the forward curve, or time spreads are all synonymous and reflect the price differences for a commodity over time.

In some commodities, seasonality causes prices to reach lows at certain times of the year and peaks at others. Natural gas and heating oil often reach seasonal highs during the winter months, while gasoline, grains, lumber, and animal proteins can move towards highs as the spring and summer seasons approach.

Meanwhile, the price differential for various delivery dates can provide valuable information when it comes to the supply and demand fundamentals for all commodities. Contango and backwardation are two essential terms in a commodity trader’s vocabulary.

Contango is a sign of a balanced or glut market

Contango exists in a market when deferred prices are higher than prices for nearby delivery. A “positive carry” or “normal” market is synonymous with contango.

Source: NYMEX/RMB

The forward curve in the NYMEX WTI crude oil futures market highlights the contango in the energy commodity. In this example, the price of crude oil for delivery in June 2020 was at $28.82 per barrel and was at $36.10 per barrel for delivery one year later in June 2021. The contango in the oil market stood at $7.28 per barrel.

The contango is a sign of oversupply. However, it also reflects the market’s opinion that the current price level will lead to declining production and inventories and higher prices in the future.

Backwardation signals tightness

Backwardation is a market condition in which prices are lower for deferred delivery compared to nearby prices. Other terms of backwardation are “negative carry” or “premium” market.

Source: ICE/RMB

The term structure in the cocoa futures market that trades on the Intercontinental Exchange shows that cocoa beans for delivery in May 2020 were trading at $2305 per ton compared to a price of $2265 for delivery in May 2021. The backwardation of $40 per ton is a sign of nearby tightness where demand exceeds available supplies. At the same time, the lower deferred price assumes that cocoa producers will increase output to close the gap between demand and supplies in the future.

Watch the forward curve

A fundamental approach to analyzing commodity prices involves compiling data on supplies, demand, and inventories. The term structure in raw material markets can serve as a real-time indicator for supply and demand characteristics. When nearby supplies rise above demand, the forward curve tends to move into contango. When the demand outstrips supplies, backwardations occur.

Watching the movements in term structure can provide value clues when it comes to fundamental shifts in markets. Exchanges publish settlement prices for all contracts each business day. Keeping track of the changes over time can uncover changes that will impact prices.

In tight markets where backwardations develop or are widening, nearby prices tend to move to the upside. In contango markets, equilibrium can be a sign of price stability, while a widening contango often is a clue that prices will trend towards the downside.

The shape of the forward curve can move throughout the trading day. Any dramatic shifts tend to signal a sudden change in market fundamentals. For example, a weather event in an agricultural market that impacts production would likely cause tightening and a move towards backwardation. As concerns over nearby supplies rise, the curve often tightens.

Conversely, a demand shock that leads to growing inventories often leads to a loosening of the term structure where contango rises. Observing changes in a market’s forward curve and explaining the reasons can provide traders and investors with an edge when it comes to the path of least resistance of prices.

What Is A Forward Contract?

A forward contract is an over-the-counter or exchange-traded financial transaction for the future delivery of a commodity or an asset. The buyer receives guaranteed access to the asset at an agreed-upon price. The seller receives a fixed price as well as a sales outlet from the buyer.

Forward contracts can call for payment upon delivery of the asset but may also include provisions for margin or other terms expressly agreed upon by the parties to the contract. A forward can be a useful hedging tool for both producers and consumers of commodities. However, they can also be fraught with pitfalls at times.

Forwards in the over-the-counter market

In the OTC market, a forward transaction occurs on a principal-to-principal basis between a buyer and a seller. The parties to the contract obligate themselves by contractual terms with the seller assuming the credit risk of the buyer and the buyer doing the same with the seller.

In the world of commodities, there are many derivations of the forward contract. A pre-export financial transaction is a forward where the buyer pays the seller a percentage of the value before delivery. Pre-export financial transactions require the buyer to take more risk than the seller. The price for the asset tends to reflect the higher risk undertaken by the buyer. Another form of a forward transaction is a swap, where a buyer and exchange a fixed for a floating price.

In the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, changes in the regulatory environment caused many forward and swap transactions to move into clearinghouses where margin requirements lowered the potential for defaults.

Forwards are very popular in the highly liquid over-the-counter foreign exchange market. Forward transactions allow for the parties to negotiate all of the terms for the purchase and sale and they are non-standardized contracts.

Forwards on an exchange

Some exchanges offer products that are forwards rather than futures contracts. The London Metals Exchange, which is the oldest commodities exchange in the world, trades forwards on nonferrous metals, including copper, aluminum, nickel, lead, zinc, and tin. While each contract represents a standard amount of the metal in metric tons, the most actively traded product is the three-month forward. Producers and consumers favor the LME contracts as they allow for delivery of the metals each business day of the year. The LME also offers forward contracts for shorter and longer terms in all of the metals.

The difference between a forward and a futures contract

The most significant difference between a forward and a futures contract is that the forward is non-standardized. Futures have the following characteristics:

  • One stated asset or commodity
  • A physical or cash settlement
  • A fixed amount of the asset per contract
  • The currency in which the asset is quoted
  • The grade or quality of the asset that is deliverable
  • The delivery month and subsequent delivery months
  • The last day of trading
  • The minimum price fluctuation per contract, which is the tick value

Futures are subject to original and variation margin. In a non-standardized forward contract, the terms of margin when it comes to a good-faith deposit and payment of market differences are subject to negotiation.

A forward contract offers less liquidity than a futures contract as the future can be offset with any other party. Many forwards can only be offset by agreement of the original parties. In futures, the clearinghouse becomes the counterpart for all purchase and sale transactions. While both futures and forwards are derivative instruments, there are tradeoffs. Futures allow for far more liquidity, while forwards often meet the needs of those buyers and sellers looking for tailor-made solutions to financial risks.

Meta Trader 4: The Complete Guide

Most of these trading platforms are customized by MetaQuotes for a broker which is referred to as a White Label. The newest addition is MT5, but many traders like the tried and true Meta Trader 4, as it provides all the functionality you need in a forex trading platform.

Getting Started with Meta Trader 4

Meta Trader 4 is intuitive and relatively easy to use.  You can start by opening a demonstration account that allows you to test drive the system without making a deposit.  You simply need to provide a broker that uses Meta Trader Platforms, your personal information including your email and they will send you a login and password to open a demonstration account.

A demonstration account uses demonstration money and allows you to see how the platform works without risking real capital.  Don’t be afraid to place multiple trades so you understand how to execute and order and view your positions.

The first page you see when you open Meta Trader 4, can be customized as your default page. You might want to see forex quotes along with a chart as an example. On the left side is a quote sheet. It shows you a list of products that you can trade through the MT4 platform.

You can double-click on any of the items on the quote sheet and it will bring up an order page.  Here you can see a graph of a tick chart along with the asset you are planning to trade. You can fill in your volume and place a stop loss and take profit orders.  This allows you to set your risk management before you even place your trade.

Additionally, you can have a 1-click trading box in the upper left side that allows you to instantly place a trade. You can place your trade using market execution or pending order.  You also can determine the volume of your trade.  Below is the bid-offer spread. As a market taker, you buy on the offer (the blue) and sell on the bid (the red).

Navigating through Meta Trader 4 is intuitive and designed to give you easy access to all of the destinations available on the platform.  You can customize your home page to see any page, including seeing your positions.

The demo account has a tab system on the bottom left, that opens to the common tab, where you can see charts of the major currency pairs.  You can change that to see daily, weekly or any intra-day period.  You can create several tabs that provide a view that you want to see.

Above the tabs is a navigator that allows you to see technical indicators as well as expert advisors and scripts.  Technical indicators allow you to perform technical analysis of different assets. An expert advisor is a system that can be back-tested to understand the performance of an automated trading signal over time.  Scripts allow you to drive alerts and run automated trading scenarios.

If you double-click in indicators in the menu of the navigator, you will a plenty of technical indicators that can be customized. In the graph above, the MACD (moving average convergence divergence) indicator is shown, along with a pop up of a custom input that you can use to change the standard MACD.

You can change the number of units (days, weeks, months, etc…) as inputs along with the colors used to generate a MACD indicator. The MACD shows both the MACD lines as well as the MACD histogram. There are dozens of technical indicators. You can save your favorite indicators into a tab and name favorites.

Expert Advisor

Metal Trader 4, offer access to their expert advisor. An expert advisor is a system that places trades after they have been back-tested.  It will automatically execute your trades when specific criteria are met. The demo account gives you a choice of a couple of different sample expert advisors.  You can choose from a moving average crossover expert advisor or a MACD expert advisor.

You can choose the inputs you use for each of these advisors such as the number of days or hours that you want in the calculation of the signal as well as the risk management that you want to employ when trading.  Risk management is a key component of your trading. The use of a demonstration account in conjunction with an expert advisor is highly recommended.

Scripts

Within the scripts section, you will find a wide variety of trading mechanisms. This includes automated trading, along with trading signals. There is copy trading as well as specific risk-reward indicators.  You can use multiple scripts with reviews of these scripts on your demonstration account to determine if the trading performance is in tandem with your goals.

Summary

Meta Trader 4 is one of the most efficient and complete trading platforms available.  You can open a demonstration account to test drive Meta Trader 4, and determine if its right for you.  You can set up multiple pages, to see charts, quotes, along with your portfolio.  You can execute traders from the quote sheet or enter an order directly.

There is a navigator you can use to add indicators, as well as create an expert advisor.  The platform provides you with access to dozens of indicators. You also can program your indicator. MT4 also allows you to evaluate a plethora of scripts that allow you to copy other investor’s trades or set up a signal that has been reviewed by others who use meta trader to transact. This is one of the most widely used trading platforms and is the benchmark platform for retail forex traders globally.

The Benefits of Using Contracts for Differences

Contracts for differences (CFDs) are financial instruments that track many assets including forex, individual equity shares, commodities, indices, and cryptocurrencies. CFDs allow you to trade the capital markets using leverage.

What is a Contract for Differences (CFD)?

A contract for differences (CFD) is a financial instrument that tracks the movements of an underlying asset such as a stock, currency pair, commodity, cryptocurrency or index. It differs from the underlying instrument in that you do not have to post the entire amount of capital to buy the underlying instrument. Instead, you only need enough to cover the change in the price from where you plan to enter the trade, and where you will exit the trade.

This compares to a stockbroker who might require that you need to have nearly all the capital in your account to buy equity shares. In some cases, when you purchase a CFD, you might be entitled to the dividend that is granted by the company on the underlying shares. CFDs can be used to trade directionally, or you can buy one CFD and simultaneously sell a different CFD and capture the relative value change.

Do CFDs Provide Leverage?

A CFD has an imbedded leverage feature which will differ from broker to broker and asset to asset. Leverage is a feature that enhances your trading returns, as it allows you to increase the capital you control with borrowed capital.

For example, some brokers will allow you to purchase $4,000 of EUR/USD while only posting collateral of $10. To use leverage, you need to open a margin account. Each broker will have different criteria for opening a margin account. They will generally ask you questions about your trading experience as well as your investing knowledge.

It’s important to understand how leverage can impact your trading returns. If you can purchase $4,000 of EUR/USD using 400-1 leverage, it will only take a 0.25% ($4,000 * 0.0025 = $10) move to either double your money or wipe out your capital. So, while leverage is an attractive tool, it can be a double-edged sword.

When you open a margin account, your broker will require that you always have a specific amount of capital in your account.  Each time your place a new trade your broker will require that you post a specific amount of fund which is referred to as initial margin.  The margin required is the amount of capital needed if the price of the CFD moved against you by a larger than the normal amount.

Your broker wants to make sure that you have enough capital allocated to a trade that if there was a larger than normal change in the price, that you have the funds to cover the losses. As the market moves, the amount of margin that you need to hold against each trade will change. If the price of the asset that you are trading moves against you, your broker will take maintenance margin to cover additional losses in addition to your initial margin. If the price of the security you are trading moves in your favor, the initial margin will remain unchanged, but any maintenance margin that was collected will decline.

The margin calculation is in real-time, and it tells your broker the minimum amount of capital you must have in your account to continue to hold your position.  If your trade moves against you and you are unable to increase the capital you have in your account, your broker will have the right to begin to liquidate your position.  Make sure you completely understand the margin agreement you sign and your broker’s rights to liquidate your position before you start to trade CFDs.

Trading CFDs relative to Stocks

CFDs can be very efficient for investors who are looking to trade stocks. This is because the leverage that is used in CFD trading, is much higher than the leverage you can receive with a stockbroker. For example, Amazon shares are trading near $1800 per share.

This means that you would need $1,800 just to purchase one share of Amazon stock. Many CFD brokers offer leverage of 20-1 which would allow you to purchase 1 CFD of Amazon for as little as $90 per CFD. A 5% rise in Amazon shares will allow you to double your money. Additionally, for the same $1,800 that would allow you to purchase 1-share of Amazon stock, you could buy 20 Amazon CFDs. Lastly, CFDs allow you to short the stock without having to borrow the shares.

Managing Your Risk

CFD trading can be risky, especially if you use leverage, so you must have a plan in place before you make each trade. To avoid the risk of ruin, you should limit the amount of capital you place on each trade to 5-10% of your portfolio. For example, if you plan to trade a portfolio of $5,000 the maximum you should post for each trade should be $500. This will provide you with a strategy that will provide some forgiveness if you start slowly.

Another concept you should follow is to cut your losses and let your profits run.  If the market moves against you and hits your stop loss, you should exit and live to see another day. If the market moves in your favor, move your stop-loss up and let your gains compound as the market moves in your favor.

Summary

Contracts for differences (CFDs) are financial instruments that allow you to trade the capital markets without purchasing the underlying instrument. CFDs track underlying instruments and provide leverage to help you enhance your returns. This would include equity shares, commodities, indices, forex, and cryptocurrencies. To trade CFDs with your broker you will need to open a margin account. While leverage can significantly enhance your trading returns, it is a double edge sword and can also lead to robust loses. You must have a well thought out risk management plan that you can employ on each trade, before risking any of your hard-earned capital.

Decisive Action in the New Decade: How to Invest Wisely in the 2020’s

Sadly, we’re still having to cope with jittery markets and widespread instability due to a range of political, environmental and technological factors, but that’s not to say there won’t be some great investment opportunities which we can capitalize on in the coming years.

The previous decade gave us a taste of the almighty potential that disruptive technology possesses, and cryptocurrencies, in particular, taught us that the sky’s the limit if investors are shrewd, wise and, in many cases, lucky enough.

Of course, cryptocurrencies are way too volatile to consider as anything other than a gamble, but there are plenty of opportunities out there that hold potential for the coming decade. Though it’s important to note that there are lots of unforeseeable circumstances that could undermine the value of just about any investment in the future – so it’s advisable to keep on guard if you decide to buy specific assets.

Looking to the clouds

(Cloud robotics industry forecasts show that industry growth is expected in the 2020s. Image: EVA)

Hamish Douglass is the billionaire chairman of Magellan and is an expert when it comes to investing in tech companies in particular. Speaking to the Financial Review, Douglass is confident that cloud computing will be the star player of the 2020s. “Mobility, internet of things, edge computing, enables the whole cloud to come together and do things we can’t even imagine today and businesses we haven’t even thought of will be $100 billion businesses in ten years,” he explained.

The beauty of cloud computing is that it’s demonstrably effective already. As opposed to the industries of AI and Virtual Reality, which still rely on some degree of speculation, the cloud is already largely used for the storage of images, home entertainment, collaboration tools, and within a range of smart devices. Many speculate that it’s soon to infiltrate the world of gaming, too.

As technology becomes smarter, the necessity of communicating with other smart devices increases. Add to this the fact that wires are fast becoming redundant in a world that’s dependent on convenience and it leaves the Internet of Things and cloud computing as an essential development in everyday life. The massive processing power of the cloud will also be key for industries depending on the interpretation of big data and powerful calculations.

In a jittery financial landscape, it’s fair to say that shares in the cloud technology companies could be one of the safest investments of the coming decade. This isn’t to say it’s completely immune from extraneous circumstances, but it’s one of the best shots to build a healthy portfolio.

Safety in real estate

Writing for Market Watch, Mark Hulbert believes that real estate is set to offer value investments over the next 10 years.

Hulbert highlights a Bankrate survey that asked investors which type of investment they would pick if they were using money that wouldn’t be needed for 10 years. The choices were stocks, bonds, real estate, cash, gold or metals, or cryptocurrencies.

The winner by some margin was real estate, which goes some way in showing that the best investments can come from more traditional places. Nearly one-third of respondents chose the housing market, and given that the stock markets as a whole face an uncertain short-term future, it could be one of the wisest decisions.

Hulbert believes that the performance of real estate during bear markets – with the notable exception of the 2008 market crash – shows that homes are safer than equities should an economic downturn occur. “In every other stock market bear market since the 1950s, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index rose in all but one. And in that lone bear market prior to 2007 in which the index did fall, it did so by just 0.4%.”

There’s also the added perk of the housing market being much less prone to the level of volatility shown by the world stock markets, meaning that over a 10-year period, your investments are likely to fluctuate less.

Geographic diversity

(Image: Visual Capitalist)

Interconnectivity has been making the world a smaller place for some time, and when looking for future investments it’s vital to look beyond the western world.

Tobias van Gils, of Countach Research believes that the fastest GDP growth of the 2020s will come from Asia. Furthermore, Van Gils highlights neglected economies surrounding both China and India as possessing great potential for growth.

The driving force behind Asian growth in the 2020s will be China’s multi-trillion dollar Silk Road Economic Belt, as well as the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road – two infrastructure investments that are designed to bring unprecedented levels of trade across the eastern hemisphere and beyond.

(Old and new: The new Silk Road infrastructure. Image: Benzinga)

Of course, such an ambitious project comes with more caveats. Firstly, much of the GDP forecast for Asia will be influenced by the successful arrival of the Silk Road. Secondly, with so many nations working together, it’s reasonable to expect some hitches in the development of such a large project.

Relationships with the US and China have been frosty to say the least, and the decade has arrived with fresh tensions in the Middle East. While China’s emerging economy still seems like a wise investment, its level of progress will depend on a more optimistic political climate.

Capitalising on disruption

Another safe set of investment options stem from the growing range of disruptive technologies set to become available in the coming decade.

There are five key areas where disruptive technologies are ripe for the future, and they include:

Green-tech and energy

Helping to propose solutions to the growing climate emergency comes renewable energy sources like wind power and fuel cells, as well as green buildings and carbon capture and storage solutions.

Advanced materials

Including nanomaterials, graphene and solid-state batteries.

Digital technology

Relating to both 5G and 6G, AI, quantum computing, blockchain and both augmented and virtual reality.

Smart machines

Involving exoskeletons, service robots, medical robots, 3D printing, driverless vehicles and industrial robots.

Biotechnology

Potentially disrupting healthcare could come technology like personalised medicine, gene therapy, nanobiosensors, cell therapy and 3D bioprinting.

Given the important role each piece of technology can play, it’s fair to assume that the future will see widespread implementation of many disruptive solutions. However, in the next 10 years, it could come down to which governments are more willing to spend money on developing the tech.

Once again, China could play a significant role in developing disruptive technology, and may focus on sectors that carry the most economic importance.

While investments in these sectors would appear generally safe, the issue is that most disruptive technology requires significant levels of funding, and in an economically unstable environment, it can be tricky to find a government or organisation willing to invest heavily in the implementation of such tech.

However, in a world that’s beginning to wake up to climate change, it’s worth taking a look at disruptive technologies in the field of sustainability and renewable energy as an area that could develop comfortably as the new decade rumbles on.

Beating The Crunch: Can We Invest Wisely in an Economic Downturn?

The very mention of a downturn can strike fear into the hearts of investors. Economics tends to be cyclical in nature and while steady periods of growth are revered with widespread speculation, they’re usually followed by a profound decline.

We currently live in challenging times for world economies. Uncertainty surrounding the United Kingdom’s Brexit alongside ongoing trade wars between the United States and China have sent some clear warning signs that investors may be facing some challenging times in the near future.

(The future of finance in the UK is conditioned primarily by Brexit, and could prompt an economic slowdown. Image: Institute for Fiscal Studies)

The UK isn’t alone in its uncertainty. With four possible outcomes of Brexit in the coming months leading to wildly different GDP forecasts, the United Kingdom is just one of many nations operating in a fragile economic climate.

But is it possible to successful invest within the volatile markets of a recession? Here are a few points on how to wisely develop your portfolio while navigating the potentially choppy waters of an economic downturn.

Coming to terms with a recession

It could be useful to clarify what is meant by the use of the term ‘recession’, as well as ‘economic downturn’.

(Chart illustrating the impact of the financial crash and the slowdowns within the global economy that followed. Image: The Economist)

Essentially, a recession is the name given to a sustained period of economic decline. Economists typically agree that two consecutive quarters of negative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth can be defined as a recession, but this isn’t always the case. It’s also worth noting that GDP acts as a measure of all the goods and services produced by a country over a pre-designated period.

There are plenty of factors that can contribute to a recession, which is why many economists avoid predicting their arrival with much certainty. In 2008 the collapse of the US housing market sparked a worldwide downturn, while other factors like governmental change, natural disasters, and new legislation can all be big contributors.

Recessions take shape as a result of a widespread loss of confidence from consumers and businesses when it comes to spending money. This, in turn, leads to stagnant incomes, loss of sales and ultimately production. Unemployment generally rises due to cutbacks in industries and national leaders face the challenge of kickstarting a weak economy to remedy the effects.

Right now you may be wondering how it’s even possible for anyone to build a successful portfolio from these circumstances, let alone those looking to make intelligent investments.

As they’re intrinsically linked to the financial markets, recessions tend to point towards more instances of risk aversion from investors as they plot methods of keeping their money safe from damaging losses of value. However, the cyclical nature of finance means that recessions must give way to recovery sooner or later. Let’s take a deeper look into some of the opportunities presented to investors during a time of severe financial difficulty:

Can opportunities be identified?

Recessions are terrible things that can severely impact the lives of millions, possibly billions of individuals worldwide.

But many negative events can come with some opportunities attached. And while recessions represent a considerable burden on the world financial markets, they can also offer some extremely high-value prospects for new investors.

When a recession takes hold, asset prices typically fall hard. This means that investors who were previously priced out of making meaningful revenue from stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, private businesses to name but a few, can suddenly find themselves presented with considerably lower costs than a year or two prior. As other investors are forced to part with their assets, you could swoop in and grab yourself a bargain.

(The Financial Times highlights the inverted yield curves within US Treasury bonds as a sign of a coming recession – as evidenced by historical trends within this chart. Source: FT)

The Financial Times recognises that the US Treasury yield curve has inverted due, largely, to ongoing trade wars. Further to the chart above, the newspaper also reported that UK yield curves on two and ten-year gilts inverted over the past summer – indicating that there are challenging times ahead for investors.

Naturally, when market predictions appear ominous, bearish investor sentiments become more prominent. The Financial Times reports that in the current climate, the price of gold is “soaring.” With “the price of the yellow metal rising above $1,500 per troy ounce for the first time in six years” back in August.

Prolific investors will always be on the lookout for opportunities to buy low and sell high, and even though the markets will no doubt show volatility, there’s a good chance that as a recession subsides, the assets you’ve bought into will begin to regain their true value.

With this in mind, it’s worth exploring the prices associated with specific stocks and bonds. If their respective values appear to be outstandingly low compared to their value outside of the economic downturn, you could be looking at a good opportunity to gain money as the market recovers.

Searching for value in capital markets

When it comes to equity markets, the perceptions that investors hold of heightened risk typically leads to the urge for seeing higher potential rates of return for holding equities. For their expected returns to rise higher, current prices would need to drop. This happens when investors sell off riskier holdings and transition into safer securities like government debt.

This is what makes equity markets fall prior to recessions. As investors grow fearful of seeing the collective values of their assets decline, they take a series of steps in order to retain as much value as they can.

Safety in investing by asset class

History tells us that equity markets have a pretty useful habit of acting as reliable predictors of upcoming economic downturns, so it’s important to pay close attention to the optimism or pessimism of traders within this particular field.

However, even if the equity markets are in the midst of a deep decline, there’s still cause for optimism among investors. Assets still have the ability to undergo a period of outperformance, so it can often pay to keep your ear to the ground and hunt for small pockets of clear blue skies amidst the cloud-covered horizon.

Can efficiency be found within stock investing?

Stock markets can be volatile places even at the best of times. But history shows that there’s still plenty of security that can be found by investing during a recession.

One of the safest places to invest across a range of markets can be found within the stocks of high-quality companies that have been in existence for a long period of time. While this may not guarantee security, these types of businesses have shown that they can survive prolonged periods of financial difficulty in the past.

Indeed, the NASDAQ-100 index has experienced notably less profound volatility as it recovered from 2008’s crash than stock indexes comprised of less affluent companies.

Naturally, companies with credible balance sheets and little debt regularly outperform businesses with significant operating leverage and weaker cashflows. So it’s worth looking to established organisations for a little solidity when times get tight.

Will diversification remain a safe bet?

Even in the gloomiest of financial forecasts, always diversify your bonds. Even if you come across a company that appears to be thriving amidst an economic downturn, it’s vital that you diversify your assets.

Markets are extremely jittery when the world’s news is littered with closures and the falling GDP of nations and currencies. The landscape can change with little warning, and while diversification may not be a flawless way of thriving amidst the inevitable rainy days, it stands a much better chance than taking up the option of piling your faith into one company that looks stable today with no guarantee for tomorrow or the day after.

The world of finance hasn’t been brimming with confidence for some time now, and while investments should be made at the holder’s risk, there are certainly plenty of opportunities out there to build a respectable level of profits even in the midst of an economic downturn. Above all, stay patient, look out for emerging trends and make sure you diversify your investments.

The Crypto and Blockchain World – Trading and Investing in Today’s World

The Landscape

Throughout 2018, we saw regulators across key crypto markets including, but not limited to, China, India, Japan, and South Korea, clamp down on what was commonly referred to as the Wild West of the Global Financial Markets.

Over the course of the current year, however, the public attitude has shifted.

There are numerous reasons behind this, including significant steps by regulators and governments to shut down the more cavalier exchanges permitting the trading of cryptocurrencies, without the need for the standard disclosures seen across exchanges offering to trade of more traditional asset classes.

While jurisdictional restrictions continue to be a thorn in the crypto sphere’s side, crypto exchanges have also made significant strides in delivering more technically advanced trading platforms.

Not only have exchanges delivered the platforms for the effective trading of cryptocurrencies, but a number have also been built on blockchain tech, adding an additional layer of security.

Cryptocurrency Trading

Since the early days, when investors were only able to invest in the actual cryptocurrencies across exchanges that were no able to protect investor funds, times have changed.

The crypto trading market has evolved from exchanges offering crypto to crypto trading, into trading between cryptocurrencies and fiat money, but also the trading of certificates of deposits, derivatives and more.

As crypto exchanges have developed, risk management and other platform capabilities have been introduced. Encouraged by the volatility and potential earnings the crypto market offers more seasoned investors crossed over.

Across the crypto exchange spectrum, the types of exchanges on offer vary. While some are under the more standard web-based models, others are built on a blockchain platform.

As the blockchain world expands, the number of exchanges and trading platforms based on blockchain is also on the rise.

One such trading platform is Torex.

Torex

Torex is a multifunctional blockchain platform supporting cryptocurrency trading.

The advantage of using Torex is that it consolidates different exchanges, coins, and analytical tools onto the Torex platform.

In the first quarter of 2020, traders will be able to trade, gain experience and share trading strategies.

The Torex trading platform delivers the following capabilities to support both more novice and advanced crypto trading:

Centralized Parallel Monitoring

Enables the tracking of cryptocurrency rates on different exchanges on the Torex platform.

Advanced Analytics

The platform is planned to provide diverse analytics, ranging from embedded news aggregators to detailed technical analysis.

Multi-Exchange & Multi-Coin

Fast operations with any coin or token (like Bitcoin and Ethereum for example) from different exchanges.

Diverse Trading Tools

The platform, in 2020, will allow traders to choose between API-trading, copy trading, arbitrage trading, crypto betting, and more.

Advanced Cryptocurrency Arbitrage

Torex’s Arbitrage Tool analyzes the liquidity and depth of order books across multiple crypto exchanges, providing traders with easy access to liquidity-driven price arbitrage.

Cryptocurrencies are considered to be the most volatile of asset classes, with values capable of rising or falling by a few percentage points in a matter of minutes.

The volatility delivers traders with the rare opportunity of inter-exchange arbitrage.

Torex provides traders with the platform to take advantage of arbitrage windows. An arbitrage window develops when the strike price of a cryptocurrency at one exchange is higher or lower than found on another.

Using the Torex Arbitrage Tool, traders are also able to adjust the parameters. Traders are able to select the exchanges, cryptocurrency pairings, minimum trading volumes, and the minimum percentage of profit expected.

This capability is delivered through the manual mode of the Torex Arbitrage Tool. In automatic mode, an arbitrage assistant will carry out the functions, with the trader being required to make only minor inputs.

Cross-Platform

Torex is fully functional on PC and mobile devices. (A fully functional mobile version for Android and iOS is due out in Q4, 2020)

The Future of Crypto Trading

The nascent nature of the crypto trading world means there are plenty of opportunities for traders, both the novice and more advanced alike.

Crypto exchanges will need to continue to develop and introduce greater capabilities to hold onto existing liquidity and fee income.

Additionally, being flexible as such to meet the ever-fluctuating demands on the regulatory front, is also an important factor for traders domiciled across multiple jurisdictions.

The minimum requirements for the vast majority of crypto traders now include:

Stop loss, take profit, and trailing stop orders. Traders now can simultaneously place stop loss and take profit orders.

Trailing stops have become more popular in the volatile world of crypto trading.

Trailing stops allow traders to adjust the order limit along with the price, which is essential within the more volatile crypto sphere.

Other Modern Trading Platform Capabilities

API Trading

API Trading allows traders to make transactions and monitor currency rates across different exchanges. The added advantage is that it supports the managing of several accounts on one exchange.

Torex uses the official APIs, developed and released by the leading stock exchanges. These APIs allow users to manage all of their exchanges on the Torex platform.

Crypto betting is similar to the futures markets, where investors and traders forecast future prices.

Crypto Betting

Another development in the crypto world is the offering of crypto betting. In crypto betting, the user needs to predict how the rate of a coin or token will change in a given period of time. (Due for release in Q3, 2020).

Idea Sharing

On the Torex platform, there is also the opportunity to share trading tips through an encrypted TOREX end-to-end messenger.

Trader ideas is a recommendation to open a transaction that a trader creates and makes visible to all users on the platform.

Within the Torex world, traders will be able to purchase a subscription for a given number of published ideas for a given number of days. In 2020 traders will have a possibility to make payments in Torex tokens, called TOR. Basic Torex functionality is and will be available free of charge.

For an investor, the investor pays a commission for the ability to view and accept trading ideas.

The platform uses a Telegram Messenger bot to ensure both quick and easy to view trading ideas and signals in support of the network.

Trading ideas provides traders and investors alike with the opportunity to seize on a series of trading ideas.

Torex will release the idea-sharing capability in Q1, 2020. The copy trading capability is due to roll out in the 2nd quarter.

Blockchain

As the cryptocurrency world has evolved, the number of exchanges developed on blockchain technology has also increased.

A key attribute to the use of blockchain technology is the level of trust and transparency it delivers.

There are a number of increasing advantages of using blockchain tech. These go beyond the recording of transactions on the exchange.

The use of smart contracts is certainly one, which delivers even greater transparency.

Conclusion

As the crypto trading world evolves, more traders and investors continue to cross over from more mature asset classes. Trading platforms, including Torex, will need to continue to deliver equivalent, if not, more advanced trading experience than seen across traditional exchanges.

Catering to the need of both traders and investors will further fuel interest in crypto trading.

Alongside the necessary tools to trade and the appropriate transaction logging, security and speed are also significant priorities.

Since the early days, when hacking and theft was rife, cryptocurrency market players have begun to provide a far safer environment.

Exchanges are increasingly using cold wallets, which holds funds offline and out of reach from hackers. 2-factor authentication (“2FA”) is widely offered to further protect investor and trader accounts. With that in mind, 2FA authentication is implemented in Torex universal trading platform as well.

Coding has also become more sophisticated. Ensuring that hackers are unable to break into the system and take what very little is online is key.

We can expect the use of blockchain and an ever-increasing number of capabilities across the exchanges and trading platforms to further support the cryptomarket.

By historical standards, more recent crypto exchange offerings are certainly more sophisticated.

This is not surprising when considering the risks associated with trading in cryptocurrencies.

For investors looking forward to Torex, the IEO is coming soon. The soft cap has already been reached. Torex’s intention is to create a sophisticated, transparent and truly universal platform to meet the needs of every crypto trader.

How To Trade Bonds Using Macro Indicators

Bonds; What They Are And Why You Want To Own Them

Bonds, the bond market, bond yields, and the yield-curve are important aspects of the financial markets every trader should understand. It doesn’t matter if you are a bond trader or not, understanding the nature of the bond market can provide a deeper insight into just about every other market on the planet.

First let me answer the question, what is a bond? A bond is a pledge or a promise for one individual or entity to repay a debt that can be bought and sold by the public. It is, in essence, a way to guarantee a debt, the seller is borrowing money and the buyer is lending.  Bonds can be issued by just about any type of organization but are most commonly used by governments and businesses to raise large amounts of capital.

The bond issuer agrees to pay the bondholder an amount of interest that is predetermined at the time of the exchange in return for a loan.

Governments and businesses often need to borrow more money than what they can access through traditional banking means. In order to raise this money, they use public bond markets so they can tap into a larger liquidity pool. Investors buy the bonds in return for interest payments they receive over time or upon maturity. The amount of interest the issuer pays and the owner receives depends on a number of factors including Credit Rating, Interest Rates, and Demand.

Credit ratings for bonds are similar to the credit score you get as an individual, it is a measure of the bond issuer’s ability to repay the debt. Ratings are issued by agencies like Moody’s and Standard & Poors in a range from Investment Grade through Junk. Investment Grade bonds have the least likely of default, the least amount of risk, while Junk bonds have the highest amount of risk. A higher risk of default equates to a higher interest rate for the borrower, the issuer of the bond. That is good for the owners of bonds because it means a higher rate of return.

Safety-seeking investors may accept smaller returns for guaranteed investments and focus only on investment-grade bonds.

Demand can affect a bond’s cost/return ratio the same as any trading asset. Because bonds are typically issued in batches the amount of debt available for investors to buy is limited. If there is enough demand it can drive the cost of ownership higher and lower the effective yield. This is bad news for the bond investor but good news for the issuer because it lowers their cost of borrowing.

Central Bank Policy Underpins Bond Market Conditions

Interest rates are important for bonds because they determine the cost for issuers and return for investors. What makes bond trading hard is that interest rates change over time which means there times you may want to be a seller of bonds and other times when you want to be a buyer of bonds.

The primary force behind this is the prime rate or base rate maintained by the central bank of the country in which the bond is issued. When the prime rate is high bond rates tend to be higher and when the prime rate is lower bond rates tend to be lower. The challenge for bond traders is when the central bank is the process of altering its policy and changing the prime rate.

Central banks move their target for the prime rate up and down in an attempt to maintain economic stability within their respective nations. If economic activity is too high they raise the cost of borrowing money to make it harder for businesses to borrow. If activity is too low they lower the rate in an effort to stimulate business investment and flow within the capital markets. Savvy investors can sell bonds short when rates are low and then buy them back when they are high profiting on the cost of the bonds and receive interest payments in the meantime.

Inflation – This Is Why Central Banks Change Their Policy

The number one tool that central banks use to measure the economy and determine the trajectory of their policy, whether rates are rising or falling, is inflation. Inflation is a measure of price increases over time and can be applied to many aspects of the economy. The two most commonly tracked are business and consumer inflation. To that end, two of the most tracked inflation reports are the Producer Price Index and the Consumer Price Index.

Of the two, the Consumer Price Index or CPI is by far the most important. Consumers are the backbone of modern economies. While producer prices may bleed through to the consumer level, if consumer prices get too high there is nothing for an economy to do but collapse. In the U.S., the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index or PCE is the favored tool for measuring consumer-level inflation. It is released once per month and as a part of the quarterly GDP announcement.

Regarding inflation, most central bankers favor a 2.0% target for consumer-level inflation. This means that when CPI or PCE prices are below 2.0% the central banks tend to be “accommodative” toward their economies and ease back on policy by lowering interest rates. When CPI or PCE is above 2.0%, central banks tighten policy by raising interest rates.

Labor Data And Its Role In The Inflation Picture

Labor data plays an important role in the inflation picture. First and foremost, no economy can function if its people are not working. The FOMC at least is mandated with two functions and one of them is to ensure maximum employment. Figures like the non-farm payrolls, unemployment, and average hourly earnings become important in that light. The difficulty the FOMC faces is that stimulating labor markets can lead to increased wage inflation.

Economic Activity, Central Banks And Bond Trading

Economic activity is the alpha and omega of bond trading. When economic conditions are good capital markets are flush, when economic conditions turn the capital markets dry up and bonds are harder to issue. The takeaway is that economic conditions are what the central banks are trying to manipulate and they do that through interest rates. When conditions are bad, interest rates will fall, when conditions improve interest rates will rise until they reach a point the economy recedes. That is the nature of the bond market and bond trading, understanding that ebb and flow is key to bond trading success.

According to Learn Bonds, when the economy is performing badly and the stock markets are highly volatile, investors tend to switch investments to fixed income securities and this boosts the activity in the bond market. But this is not always the case. High volatility can sometimes drive investors towards short-term trading via online trading platforms. This way, they can benefit from both sides of the market without having to hold stocks for long periods.

Yield Curve And Market Outlook

There is a limitless supply of bonds but not all are the same. When it comes to bonds the safest, most trusted, and closely watched are U.S. Government Treasuries. The U.S. Treasuries are issued in a variety of maturities that range from a few weeks to thirty years. The yields on each maturity are different due to demand for time-frame, either long or short-term investment and can be analyzed for insight into market sentiment.

Known as the yield curve, in good time the spread of yield increases the further out you go. This is because investors believe that interest rates will be higher in the future so they don’t want to lock-in a low yield for too long. This phenomenon results in a higher demand for shorter-maturity bonds and a “normal” yield curve. In bad times that all changes. Bond investors believe interest rates will be lower in the future so they are seeking to lock in the higher rate for a longer duration. That creates a higher demand for longer maturity bonds and a signal known as a yield-curve inversion

This graph shows a partially inverted U.S. yield curve.