Nickel Research Centre

Nickel News Roundup - Week 9

3rd March, 2022 

Market Overview:

Digital assets bounced back strongly as they demonstrated their viability within conflicts, posting the largest single-day gain in over a year.

  • Bitcoin grew steadily throughout the first half of the week before experiencing rapid growth on Monday and Tuesday, breaking back above the $40,000 and (briefly) $45,000 marks, posting a weekly high of 45,080
  • Bitcoin’s current price of $43,330 equates to a 21.7% weekly increase
  • Bitcoin overtook the overall market capitalisation of the Russian Ruble, in a week when both Russian and Ukrainian digital asset trading volume climbed sharply
  • Alongside Bitcoin’s visible use as a safe haven asset, the market also benefited from macro conditions such as Jerome Powell signalling lower-than-expected rate hikes
  • Ether experienced similar performance patterns, briefly breaking above $3,000 again on Tuesday and Wednesday, but proved unable to form a strong price floor there
  • Ether is currently priced at $2,897; up 21.2% on last week
  • Total market capitalisation climbed above $2tn once again on Tuesday, before retracing slightly to current levels of $1.92tn—a weekly recovery of more than $200bn
  • Total value locked in DeFi climbed $10bn to $78.4bn, according to industry analytics platform DeFi Pulse

News cycles, including those of the digital assets market, were understandably and unfortunately dominated by war in Ukraine this week, where the asset class appeared to demonstrate its viability as a decentralised safe haven against conflict and extreme economic policies. Away from the conflict zone, regular development and adoption continued; the EU moved closer to a regulatory framework, Cambridge University created a world-leading private-public partnership for digital asset research, and State Street, Citadel, and JP Morgan were just some of the many other names active in the sector over the last seven days.


What happened: Digital assets provide economic lifeline on both sides of Ukraine conflict

How is this significant?

What happened: State Street works with US regulators for “mega” digital asset custody plans

How is this significant?
  • State Street is one of the leading American financial institutions moving into digital assets; the country’s second-oldest bank and with nearly $4tn AUM 
  • They publicised wide-ranging plans for crypto asset custody this week, declaring “We’re literally investing in the future”
  • Nadine Chakar, leader of the bank’s new digital division, told Bloomberg that “the minute we get the [regulatory] nod, we’ll be ready… We know clients are out there looking for this”
  • She revealed the institution has “mega plans” for digital wallet custody, saying “We think a custodian bank like State Street can continue to do what it’s best at, which is keeping order and safety into the system”
  • Chakar also stated their internal research revealed “great adoption” by institutional investors, and theorised that as institutional allocation increases, the volatility traditionally associated with the asset class will become less of a concern

What happened: EU legislators remove proof-of-work concerns from crypto markets bill

How is this significant?
  • The EU continued development on a regulatory framework for crypto assets this week, removing language that had caused concern over possible misinterpretation
  • An earlier draft version of the current Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA) bill had a section proposing a ban on any assets created with “environmentally unsustainable consensus mechanisms” by 2025
  • Many interpreted this to mean proof-of-work consensus mechanisms, most notably employed by Bitcoin, which could have rendered the world’s leading digital asset illegal in the EU within 3 years
  • Stefan Berger, the parliamentarian behind the bill, removed the paragraph in its entirety, citing concerns it could be “misinterpreted and understood as a POW ban”
  • Voting on MiCA has yet to be scheduled, but it could prove a watershed in European crypto asset regulation; creating a framework to “establish uniform rules for crypto-asset service providers and issuers at EU level”

What happened: CME group launches micro Bitcoin and Ether options

How is this significant?
  • The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Group issued a press release this week detailing the launch of new micro options for both Bitcoin and Ether
  • According to the release, “Micro Bitcoin and Micro Ether options contracts will be one-tenth of their respective underlying tokens in size and will offer a wide range of market participants – from institutions to sophisticated, active, individual traders – more ways to manage their exposure” to the top two digital assets
  • Existing Bitcoin options contracts (launched in 2020) are sized at five Bitcoins each, so the new micro contracts will provide half a Bitcoin’s worth of exposure
  • Clients will have “a choice of monthly as well as Monday, Wednesday and Friday weekly options expiries” on the micro contracts
  • Tim McCourt, CME’s Global Head of Equity and FX Products said the new products were building on the success of previous micro releases; “At less than a year old, nearly 5.2 million combined Micro Bitcoin and Micro Ether futures contracts have changed hands”

What happened: Cambridge University partners with institutions for digital asset research

How is this significant?
  • Cambridge University’s Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) announced a collaborative research project with a variety of leading financial institutions this week, dubbed the Cambridge Digital Asset Programme (CDAP)
  • CDAP seeks to provide insights on the digital asset industry, and “aims to meet the resulting need for greater clarity by providing data-driven insights through collaborative research involving public and private sector stakeholders”
  • 16 major companies and institutions are collaborating with the university’s research efforts, including the IMF, World Bank, Accenture, Ernst & Young, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, Invesco, Mastercard, and Visa
  • Terry Angelos, SVP and Global Head of Fintech at Visa praised the programme’s potential in demystifying the benefits of digital assets to a variety of stakeholders; “Industry collaboration and public-private partnerships will be vital in bringing the benefits of digital currencies to life in a sustainable, inclusive and secure way”
  • Other CDAP participants are 
  • The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) Innovation Hub
  • British International Investment (BII)
  • Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)
  • UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)
  • Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
  • London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG)
  • MSCI

What happened: Ken Griffin confirms Citadel Securities move into crypto market-making

How is this significant?
  • In a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg this week, hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin seemed to declare himself a crypto convert, and confirmed that recent sales of equity in Citadel Securities signalled a move towards the digital asset market 
  • In January, Citadel accepted $1.15bn in investment from Sequoia and Paradigm, two firms with a distinct digital asset focus
  • Griffin said the growth of the digital asset market left them with virtually no choice but to offer services; “To the extent that we’re trying to help institutions and investors solve their portfolio allocation problems, we have to give serious consideration to being a market maker in crypto. It’s fair to assume that over the months to come, you will see us engage in making markets in cryptocurrencies”
  • He admitted that despite retaining some scepticism, he regrets his previous position on the market; “Crypto has been one of the great stories in finance over the course of the last 15 years. And I’ll be clear, I’ve been in the naysayer camp over that period of time. But the crypto market today has a market capitalization of about $2 trillion in round numbers, which tells you that I haven’t been right on this call”
  • Griffin also revealed concerns about current US sanctions, making a case for the value of alternative or decentralised assets; “When we put on the table the possibility that your dollars will become seized, or that you can't move dollars, we're telling the rest of the world to embrace other currencies in their portfolio, and we diminish the value of the dollar as the reserve currency”

What happened: Venture Capital continues to seek digital asset exposure

How is this significant?
  • VC investment continues to pour into the digital asset market
  • Hack VC launched a $200m crypto seed fund for early-stage digital asset and blockchain startups, backed by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z)
  • JP Morgan announced a “strategic investment” in blockchain analysis company TRM Labs, with JPM’s blockchain leader Umar Farooq saying “leading infrastructure companies like TRM will help usher in the future of secure blockchain and crypto use cases”
  • Billionaire investor Alan Howard participated in a $7.5m Series A round for social trading platform and “financial NFT” creators Nested
  • Coinbase Global senior manager Amy Wu left the exchange for early-stage crypto VC Archetype, joining as a venture partner
  • AT&T Capital completed a $100m capital raise to launch a blockchain and crypto venture fund
News Roundups