If there is one asset, outside of the crypto universe, that bitcoin often gets mentioned in the same breath with, it is gold. The yellow metal has several qualities to which bitcoin and other digital currencies aspire, namely bullion has been used as currency, it is a store of value and seen as a credible alternative to fiat currencies.
Still, bitcoin has a way to go to surpass gold on the investment front.
“Last year, when bitcoin prices rose from their 2017 starting value of just under $1,000 to over $19,000 by mid-December, market chatter was that bitcoin was usurping gold’s role as a store of value and alternative to fiat currencies,” reports CNBC. “After all, bitcoin’s price was skyrocketing, while gold was languishing, staying mostly in the $1,200 an ounce range, despite rising geopolitical worries.”
Commodities as an asset class have a reputation for volatility, but gold is one of the more docile commodities, meaning its comparisons to highly volatile bitcoin may miss the mark. Take the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) as an example. GLD is an exchange traded fund backed by physical gold. It traded around $118 for much of December while bitcoin was flirting with $20,000. Today, GLD is flirting with $127 while bitcoin is creeping toward $8,900 but only after following below $6,700 earlier this year.
Said another way, gold is often embraced by conservative investors. In its still young life span, bitcoin has proven highly inappropriate for conservative investors.
Age matters in financial markets and bitcoin is young by any metric, but gold is old. Really old.
“Gold has been a part of human history for at least 6,000 years, and it has functioned as money since at least 200 BCE in the ancient kingdom of Lydia,” according to State Street, which issues GLD. “Today, gold plays an important role in the international monetary system as a reserve asset in almost all central bank balance sheets.”
Speaking of central banks, many are major buyers of gold while some are looking to ban digital currencies in their respective countries.
Bitcoin and gold have some similarities, including scarcity of supply and that neither is regulated by a central bank.
“Bitcoin is engineered to slowly decline to zero growth around the year 2140, where it will reach maximum capacity of 21 million digital coins,” according to State Street. “Gold doesn’t have a set date or maximum capacity, but on average approximately 3,200 tonnes of gold have been mined every year, adding about 1.7% of the total stock of gold ever mined.”
Only 1.3 million Bitcoin are left in circulation on cryptocurrency exchanges!
Christmas is coming, and Bitcoin (BTC) scarcity is at historically low levels. CryptoRank announced in a recent tweet that just 6.3% of the overall Bitcoin supply, or 1.3 million BTC, are kept on cryptocurrency exchanges.
The decreasing amount is nothing new; it’s been steadily declining since the Bitcoin halving in 2020, when the BTC block reward was cut in half. The supply of BTC on exchanges has also decreased gradually over the past year, trending downward. On October 2020, exchange wallets made up 9.5% of the BTC supply, just before the all-time highs at Christmas time, and 7.3% in July 2019. In December 2021, the 6.3 percent figure is a record low.
However, the dominance of Coinbase’s BTC wallet is also falling. The American exchange used to store more bitcoin than all other exchanges combined. Over the past year, its domination has decreased from 50.52% to 40.65%.
Following a spate of good price statistics that tie into the rising price of Bitcoin, the announcement has sparked further excitement among investors. First and foremost, owing to the fact that BTC output is shifting from a “liquid” to an “illiquid” state, monthly BTC production has frozen at 100,000 BTC. In other words, more BTC is stored in cold storage than is being mined.
Additionally, it’s crucial to remember that many retail investors and several firms keep their BTC on exchanges, demonstrating that the “illiquid” BTC category may be even smaller. Instead of keeping their BTC in cold storage, some Bitcoin holders would entrust it to exchanges instead of leaving custody of their keys with them.
Surprisingly, Binance CEO and co-founder Changpeng Zhao has encouraged hot wallets, despite the best efforts of Bitcoiners like Andreas Antonopolous to the contrary: “Not your keys, not your bitcoin.” is part of everyday BTC mantra.
This may lead to the situation in which 1.3 million BTC is “stored” on exchanges, but they are not “circulating,” and they certainly do not contribute to the liquidity problem.
Despite calls for a “Santa Rally” on the back of strong analytics, the bears are not yet out of the woods. A tweet from BullRun Invest using Glassnode data showed that 24.6% of all BTC supply is sitting above $47,000.
According to the report, close to a fourth of the BTC purchased at those prices levels are now underwater. If BTC fails to make progress into the 50s, there may be fewer gifts under the tree tomorrow.
U.S. Takes Crypto Crime Seriously with Anti-Money Laundering Reforms
The United States passed into law its Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020, which takes effect on January 1, 2021. This brings digital currency exchange companies and other digital-asset-related businesses under the scope of regulations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), which requires financial institutions “to actively detect, monitor and report potential money laundering activity.”
“I’m pleased that our anti-money laundering legislation was included as a part of this year’s [National Defense Authorization Act]. This bipartisan legislation protects Americans by depriving criminals and terrorists of the tools they use to finance illicit activity. It is the first serious overhaul of our anti-money laundering system in decades, and it makes sense to include it in the biggest, most important national defense legislation Congress passes each year,” South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds said in a press release.
The massive anti-money laundering reforms are targeting businesses dealing with digital currencies and assets by clearly specifying the definition of a “financial institution” to “‘a business engaged in the exchange of currency, funds, or value that substitutes for currency or funds” and “a licensed sender of money or any other person who engages as a business in the transmission of funds or value that substitutes for currency.”
The reforms further define a “money transmitting business” to include those who deal with “currency, funds, or value that substitutes for currency.” Now, there are no longer loopholes that digital asset companies can use when dealing with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the agency that enforces the BSA.
Stricter Penalties Enforced
Aside from updating definitions to ensure that digital currency exchange firms and others dealing in digital assets are clearly within the scope of the AML Act of 2020 and the BSA, stricter penalties are now being enforced for crypto criminals.
Now, those who have been found guilty of violating the AML Act of 2020 and/or BSA are faced with fines amounting to profits earned while committing the violation and possible jail time. Those guilty of an “egregious” breach are also going to be banned from taking a board member position of any financial institution in the country for 10 years. Furthermore, employees of financial institutions who commit these crimes will be obligated to return to their employer all bonuses received during the time the act was committed.
FinCEN is being given additional resources, like increasing its manpower, to ensure the enforcement of these reforms. This will further safeguard investors against crypto crimes and nail down digital currency exchange firms and other digital-asset-related businesses that do not comply with BSA regulations.
Bitcoin (BTC) Crosses 55k And Is Heading Towards 60k Fast!
Less than two months into 2021, the price of bitcoin has risen 95.4%.
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