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Currency Trading

Currency trading (forex or FX) offers investors a way to trade on country or regional fiscal/monetary situations and tendencies. Are there reliable ways to exploit this market? Does it represent a distinct asset class?

SACEVS and SACEMS from a European Perspective

A European subscriber asked about the effect of the dollar-euro exchange rate on the Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy (SACEVS) and the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS). To investigate, we each month adjust the gross returns for these strategies for the change in the dollar-euro exchange rate that month. We consider all strategy variations: Best Value and Weighted for SACEVS; and, Top 1, equally weighted (EW) Top 2 and EW Top 3 for SACEVS. We focus on SACEVS Best Value and SACEMS EW Top 3. We consider effects on four gross performance metrics: average monthly return; standard deviation of monthly returns; compound annual growth rate (CAGR); and, maximum drawdown (MaxDD). Using monthly returns for the strategies and monthly changes in the dollar-euro exchange rate since August 2002 for SACEVS and since July 2006 for SACEMS, both through December 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Crypto-assets as Currencies

Can Bitcoin, or any other crypto-asset, become a durable currency, or is its value a pure bubble? In his October 2020 paper entitled “Fiat Money, Cryptocurrencies, and the Pure Theory of Money Edward Elgar Handbook on Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies”, David Glasner applies basic concepts and doctrines of the economic theory of money to address the value of bitcoins and other crypto-assets. He focuses on rationalizations for a positive equilibrium value for bitcoin and other crypto-assets. Based on his interpretation of theory, he concludes that:

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Timing GBTC Based on Its Inferred Premium

“Evolution of Bitcoin as an Investment” suggests a shift toward acceptance of Bitcoin (BTC) as an investment asset, as do recent actions by some large investors. Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) offers a way for investors to access BTC via a fund that manages BTC holdings. GBTC price generally carries a premium over its BTC holdings in consideration for this convenience (17% as of the end of 2020). Does variation in this premium indicate good times to buy and sell GBTC? To investigate, we use the ratio GBTC/BTC (with BTC divided by 1,000 because the prices greatly differ in scale) as an easy way to infer the premium. We then look at ways to exploit variation in the ratio to buy and sell GBTC. Because of the rapid evolution of Bitcoin, we limit analysis to recent data. Using daily closing prices of GBTC and BTC during 2019 through 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Crypto Transformation of Finance?

How might crypto-assets transform finance? In their December 2020 paper entitled “DeFi and the Future of Finance”, Campbell Harvey, Ashwin Ramachandran and Joey Santoro examine the potential for decentralized finance (DeFi) to disrupt traditional financial infrastructure. They summarize origins and essential features of DeFi, its potential to improve traditional finance and its risks. They also speculate on future development of DeFi. Based on a review of relevant research and events, they conclude that:

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Bitcoin Displacing Gold?

Is Bitcoin beginning to displace gold as a U.S. dollar hedge? To investigate, we look at rolling correlations of returns for the following pairs of exchange-traded funds (ETF):

  1. Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) and SPDR Gold Shares (GLD). This relationship should perhaps trend negative if investors are shifting from gold to Bitcoin.
  2. GBTC and Invesco DB US Dollar Index Bullish Fund (UUP). This relationship should perhaps trend negative if investors are hedging currency weakness with Bitcoin.
  3. GLD and UUP. This relationship should perhaps trend less negative if investors are shifting away from gold as a currency hedge.

Using daily and monthly adjusted prices for these three ETFs during May 2015 (limited by GBTC) through mid-November 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

What Kind of Asset Is Bitcoin?

Does Bitcoin behave like some other asset class? To investigate, we use the easily held, liquid and matched-close Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) as a proxy for Bitcoin holdings and calculate daily and monthly return correlations between GBTC and each of 35 exchange-traded products encompassing those used in “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy ” (SACEMS), 22 others considered in “SACEMS Portfolio-Asset Addition Testing” plus SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill (BIL), iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond (SHY) and Powershares DB US Dollar Index Bullish Fund (UUP). These selections represent a broad set of asset classes. We start calculations with inception of GBTC on May 11, 2015. All other assets are available as of that date. Using daily and monthly levels of Bitcoin and prices for GBTC and the 35 other exchange-traded products adjusted for dividends and splits during mid-May 2015 through late November 2020, we find that:

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Are Currency Carry Trade ETFs Working?

Is the currency carry trade, as implemented by exchange-traded funds/notes (ETF/ETN), attractive? To investigate, we consider two currency carry trade ETF/ETNs, one live (with low trading volume) and one dead:

  • PowerShares DB G10 Currency Harvest Fund (DBV) – tracks changes in the Deutsche Bank G10 Currency Future Harvest Index. This index consists of futures contracts on certain G10 currencies with up to 2:1 leverage to exploit the tendency that currencies with relatively high interest rates tend to appreciate relative to currencies with relatively low interest rates, reconstituted annually in November.
  • iPath Optimized Currency Carry (ICITF) – provides exposure to the Barclays Optimized Currency Carry Index, which reflects the total return of a strategy that holds high-yielding G10 currencies financed by borrowing low-yielding G10 currencies. This fund stopped trading July 2018, but an indicative value is still available.

We focus on monthly return statistics, plus compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). For reference (not benchmarking), we compare results to those for SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT). Using monthly total returns for the two currency carry trade products, SPY and TLT as available through October 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Evolution of Bitcoin as an Investment

How are attitudes toward Bitcoin as an investment evolving? In their October 2020 survey report entitled “Comparing Public Bitcoin Adoption Rates in 2020 vs 2017”, the Tokenist summarizes findings from a survey using the same questions as three of the most widely cited past surveys on Bitcoin adoption from October 2017, July 2018 and April 2019. Respondents to the new survey include 4,111 via an online multiple choice questionnaire and conducted via Google Surveys and 741 via an email campaign to Tokenist readers. Using data from these 4,852 respondents received September-October 2020 and results of the past surveys, they find that:

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Bitcoin Price Repeatedly Manipulated?

Benford’s law states that the probability of the value of the first digit in many naturally occurring samples of numbers, including asset prices, varies inversely with digit magnitude. For example, the number 1 (9) appears as the leading digit about 30% (less than 5%) of the time. For asset prices, deviations from this law typically indicate some kind of fraud. In his September 2020 paper entitled “To the Moon: A History of Bitcoin Price Manipulation”, Timothy Peterson applies Benford’s law to daily bitcoin prices over a long sample and by calendar year to identify price manipulations. He requires that each bin [0 through 9] in the price distribution histogram have at least eight observations. If this condition is not met for the first digit, he relies on the second digit. If not for the first and second digits, he relies on the third digit. To rule out speculative mania as the cause of unusual price activity, he uses daily ratios of price to three fundamental network size and activity metrics: (1) active addresses, (2) non-zero balance addresses and (3) transaction counts. Using daily closing Bitcoin price and activity data during July 2010 through May 2020, he finds that: Keep Reading

Asset Class ETF Interactions with the Yuan

How do different asset classes interact with the Chinese yuan-U.S. dollar exchange rate? To investigate, we consider relationships between WisdomTree Chinese Yuan Strategy (CYB) and the exchange-traded fund (ETF) asset class proxies used in the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) and the Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy (SACEVS) at a monthly measurement frequency. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for CYB and the asset class proxies during May 2008 (when CYB is first available) through August 2020 (147 months), we find that: Keep Reading

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