Nickel Research Centre

Nickel News Roundup - Week 23

7th June, 2024

Market Overview:

Digital assets exhibited steady performance following last week’s Ether ETF-approval euphoria, bolstered by several reports concerning US regulatory positivity.
  • Bitcoin experienced some of the strongest ETF inflows since the funds launched in January, with one day this week approaching $1bn in assets added
  • This brought the leading digital asset back above $70,000, growing from a Friday low of $66,780 to a Wednesday high of $71,680
  • Bitcoin’s weekly performance included its best daily winning streak since the march to March’s record high
  • Analysts believe this movement was not only influenced by ETF positivity, but also greater anticipation of Federal Reserve rate cuts this year, which would favour risk assets
  • Ether erased last week’s losses, but couldn’t match Bitcoin’s growth as the asset remains in somewhat of a holding pattern until greater clarity emerges around spot Ether ETF launch timeframes
  • Ether grew from a Friday low of $3,725 to a Wednesday high of $3,880, with the majority of trading between $3,775 and $3,820
  • Overall digital asset market capitalisation grew to $2.62tn, buoyed by strong Bitcoin and altcoin performance
  • Amongst altcoins, the Binance exchange’s proprietary BNB coin had a particularly notable performance; growing over 18% to reach a new all-time high above $700 as former CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao reported to serve his four month sentence
  • According to industry monitoring site DeFi Llama, total value locked in DeFi grew by $3bn to $109bn

Digital assets exhibited positive performance once again, as strong ETF inflows were backed by numerous stablecoin developments, major acquisitions, global adoption, and potential IPOs. Within the US, the White House vetoed a recent pro-crypto accounting resolution, but as election season looms, digital asset Super PACs also raised tens of millions towards supporting candidates sympathetic to the industry.

What happened: ETF news

How is this significant?

  • Bitcoin ETFs continued their successful post-launch performance this week, while new details emerged around applications for spot Ether ETFs
  • According to CoinShares data, digital asset investment products registered their fourth consecutive week of growth, led by Bitcoin ETFs
  • In the trading week ending last Friday, net inflows totalled $171m of inflow across BTC ETFs, according to Farside
  • This brought inflows for May to $2bn, and tipped year-to-date inflows on digital asset investment products above $15bn; a new annual record
  • Furthermore, just four days into this week, 3rd-6th June, resulted in a whopping 10x increase, to $1.7 billion of inflows
  • On Tuesday, spot Bitcoin ETFs experienced their second-best day of net inflows since launch, adding over $887m
  • This included over $379m of inflows for Fidelity’s FBTC, as Bloomberg senior ETF analyst Eric Balchunas noted “Fidelity not messing around. Big-time flows all around for The Ten [ETF issuers]”
  • This was followed by $488m of inflows on Wednesday, including over $220m for Fidelity, $155m for BlackRock, and $71.4m for ARK
  • Thursday also marked 17 consecutive days of inflows, which Balchunas deemed “shows staying power”
  • Nate Geraci of ETF Store noted Fidelity’s recent strong performance, pointing out that “FBTC now [has] over $12bn AUM and in top 7 of *all* ETF inflows year-to-date…It’s already Fidelity’s largest ETF”
  • Meanwhile, BlackRock’s IBIT crossed $20bn in AUM within five months of launch; “Fastest ETF to hit this mark and it’s not even close”
  • A professor of finance at Wisconsin’s Marquette University gave an interview this week in which he opined that the state’s pension investment board could likely increase the size of its Bitcoin ETF exposure beyond the current 0.1% portfolio value
  • Professor David Krause stated “I think it’s just an entry point. I think they’re testing to see the reaction of the public to whether or not there’s resistance to owning this and they’re using it as a trial run, because it really is not going to impact the portfolio substantially, until you get to maybe a 1% or 2% positioning”
  • Proshares (the firm which launched the historic first Bitcoin futures ETF) entered the spot Ether race, filing to list an ETF on the NYSE
  • Bitwise also submitted an amended filing, although no fee information was shared
  • Perhaps the most notable incident in Ether ETF filings was ARK Invest removing itself from its joint filing with 21Shares—although ARK will maintain its joint-created spot Bitcoin ETF
  • On Tuesday, the first-ever 2x Ether Futures ETF launched, with $5m volume, followed by volume tripling the day after
  • Balchunas acknowledged these volumes were “microscopic” compared directly with spot Bitcoin ETFs, but in context “great for a new launch AND more than all the Ether futures ETFs did combined on their first day”

What happened: Biden vetoes vote to overturn SEC accounting guidelines

How is this significant?

  • Some recent enthusiasm over growing bipartisan support for digital assets was halted this week, as US President Joe Biden vetoed a recent resolution to overturn controversial SEC accounting guidelines known as SAB121, despite support from Democrats in both the House and the Senate
  • Despite industry requests to reconsider, the White House went ahead with a previous vow to veto the resolution, arguing that “this Republican-led resolution would inappropriately constrain the SEC's ability to set forth appropriate guardrails and address future issues”
  • The controversial nature of SAB121 is two-fold; firstly that it requires banks (or any other regulated financial institution) to hold custodied digital assets on their own balance sheet, and secondly because it was effectively issued by edict, rather than judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act
  • As some analysts point out, the former factor is particularly curious when one considers that securities custodied by banks are always held off balance sheet—the SEC (and chair Gary Gensler in particular) frequently claim that most digital assets are securities, yet refuse to allow banks to custody them as they do securities
  • Banking groups noted that this makes it prohibitively expensive for such institutions to custody crypto, as it effectively forces them to treat such assets as liabilities
  • In an open letter, the American Banking Association (ABA) wrote “SAB 121 effectively precludes regulated banking organisations from offering digital asset custody at scale since it treats the assets as if they are owned rather than simply custodied by a banking organisation”
  • However, there was some positive (or at least conciliatory) wording towards digital assets in Biden’s veto, which stated his administration wishes to “harness the potential benefits and opportunities of crypto-asset innovation" and is "eager to work with Congress to ensure a comprehensive and balanced regulatory framework for digital assets”

What happened: Pro-crypto lobbying groups receive sizeable election-cycle donations

How is this significant?

  • With US election season looming, lobbying groups and Super PACs concentrated on digital assets have received substantial boosts to their coffers, intended to support pro-crypto candidates on the campaign trail
  • The largest beneficiary has been the Fairshake Super PAC, which registered separate $25m donations from digital asset exchange Coinbase, XRP coin developers Ripple Labs, and tech VC Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) within the last week
  • In a Monday blog entitled “How to get Regulatory Clarity for Crypto”, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong wrote “For too long, some congressional leaders who are out of touch with their constituents have attempted to eliminate the crypto industry from the US… The best way to get regulatory clarity in democratic countries is to elect pro-crypto candidates on both sides of the aisle, and to vote anti-crypto candidates out of office”
  • He noted recent bipartisan House success with FIT21, and noted that “Fairshake and its affiliates have raised to $160m in this election cycle, making it one of the largest SuperPACs”
  • A16z managing partner Chris Dixon tweeted “This [$25m] contribution along with others from the industry will be used to further Fairshake’s mission of supporting candidates from both sides of the aisle to promote American entrepreneurs and recognize the need for clear rules of the road for digital assets”
  • Blockchain Association CEO Kristin Smith told Bloomberg “The industry has long felt that the SEC and other regulators really haven’t given us a fair opportunity to work constructively to find the right kind of regulation… we’ve seen a tremendous amount of investment in the Fairshake PAC, the largest industry PAC of any industry out there”

What happened: Stablecoin news

How is this significant?

  • Several separate stablecoin developments occurred this week, involving both established players and new entrants to the scene
  • Paxos, a long-standing stablecoin issuer, announced the creation of a new US dollar-pegged stablecoin, known as the Lift Dollar (USDL)
  • This fully-backed coin is issued by an Emirati affiliate of Paxos, and will provide 5% yield
  • Paxos chose to launch this in the UAE rather than the US as a spokesperson explained they wish to make USDL “available in jurisdictions where we have a lot more confidence that it is able to comply with all the different rules and regulations and laws”
  • The Ethereum-based stablecoin will automatically deliver yield to wallets on a daily basis, and Bloomberg reported that “Paxos has teamed up with Argentinian crypto firms Ripio, Buenbit and TiendaCrypto to boost USDL adoption in Argentina”
  • PayPal, issuers of the first corporate stablecoin, expanded the proprietary PYUSD’s presence to multiple blockchains this week, rolling it out onto the Solana blockchain
  • Solana has seen growing activity this year as a haven for memecoin developers, drawn by low deployment costs and transaction fees
  • Jose Fernandez da Ponte, PayPal’s digital asset SVP, promoted the blockchain’s speed, noting that “If you are in the retail space, you need to be able to sustain at least 1,000 transactions per second”
  • In stablecoin-adjacent news, China’s CBDC featured in two separate pieces of reporting this week
  • Saudi Arabia joined a BIS-led cross-border trial featuring the central banks of China, Hong Kong, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates
  • Project mBridge has moved beyond the prototype stage with Saudi Arabia’s entry, and the Atlantic Council’s Josh Lipsky noted “This means in the coming year you can expect to see a scaling up of commodity settlement on the platform outside of dollars—something that was already underway between China and Saudi Arabia but now has new technology behind it”
  • Elsewhere, it was reported that China’s Digital Yuan Pilot program has dropped the “pilot” from its name, perhaps indicating the pilot phase is drawing to an end and an actual production phase could begin
  • China was amongst the first countries to explore CBDCs; its pilot phase began back in 2020

What happened: Crypto exchange Kraken reportedly preparing for IPO

How is this significant?

  • Bloomberg reports this week indicated that Kraken—a leading US-based digital asset exchange—is currently amidst a pre-IPO funding round, following multiple enquiries from potential investors
  • According to the sources, the pre-IPO round would likely be worth around $100m, to be completed by year-end
  • When directly asked for comment, Kraken kept their cards close to their chest, stating “We are always exploring strategic paths toward Kraken’s Mission: accelerating the global adoption of crypto… We remain fully focused on investing in this goal”
  • Although Kraken currently faces enforcement action from the SEC, it remains one of the largest and most respected American exchanges, and an IPO would make it only the second publicly-listed exchange, after Coinbase

What happened: Bitcoin mining news

How is this significant?

  • Stablecoin giants Tether agreed a deal this week to purchase up to $150m in shares of leading mining firm Bitdeer, according to a press release
  • This includes a guaranteed $100m Class A share purchase, alongside a warrant to purchase five million shares at a flat rate of $10 each
  • Bitdeer is owned by early Bitcoin billionaire Jihan Wu, and Cantor Fitzgerald acted as placement agent for the deal
  • One of Tether’s new business units is dedicated to Bitcoin mining, and this move sits alongside other mining commitments, such as infrastructure across Latin America
  • The rise of artificial intelligence has led to a wave of interest in converting Bitcoin mining capacity and GPUs towards AI processing
  • On Tuesday, cloud computing firm Coreweave offered $1bn to buy Bitcoin miners Core Scientific outright after the companies agreed 12 year deals for the former to lease 200mw of capacity from the latter
  • Core Scientific CEO Adam Sullivan had previously hinted “We view the opportunity in AI today to be one where we can convert existing infrastructure we own to host clients who are looking to install very large arrays of GPUs for their clients that are ultimately AI clients”
  • However, Coreweave may have to revise its offer; the $1bn works out to around $5.75 per share, but news of the potential takeover led to a surge in Core Scientific’s share price, taking prices to $7.85
  • Core Scientific rejected the offer on Thursday, stating “the Board determined that the CoreWeave proposal significantly undervalues the Company and is not in the best interests of the Company and its shareholders”
  • Bitcoin mining firm OCEAN announced its new global headquarters in El Salvador, which was the first nation to recognise Bitcoin as legal tender

What happened: Several Hong Kong exchanges are close to receiving permits

How is this significant?

  • According to Hong Kong government officials, the city’s move towards becoming a digital asset hub continues, as multiple applicants will soon receive licences to operate local exchanges
  • Whilst regional rivals Dubai and Singapore also seek to position themselves as global hubs for the industry, Hong Kong was the first (and thus far only) of the three to launch ETFs, back in April
  • The Securities and Futures Commission has “deemed” 11 applicants to be licenced, including international applications from Bullish and
  • This marked an approval rate of around 2/3rds of all applicants
  • Bloomberg notes that “Hong Kong provides a gateway to tap wealth from mainland China”, as crypto trading remains officially banned within the People’s Republic, although recent reports indicate mainlanders still seek crypto exposure

What happened: Turkey rules against tax on crypto (and stock) profits

How is this significant?

  • Turkish finance minister Mehmet Simsek outlined a positive policy for digital asset traders this week, indicating that the country doesn’t plan to tax profits on crypto
  • However, it might just be the most successful traders who benefit; he also revealed that his ministry is considering “a very limited transaction tax”, without specifying the size of such a charge
  • Digital assets hold strong appeal in Turkey, as the country is currently wracked by inflation above 75% leading to falling faith in the local Lira
  • A study last November found that the introduction of a 1% TDS (tax deducted at source) transaction tax in India may have cost the India government $420m in revenue by moving crypto traders offshore
  • A New Delhi technology think tank instead advocated a 0.01% TDS rate

What happened: Franklin Templeton exploring altcoin investment strategies

How is this significant?

  • Tech industry publication The Information broke news this week that $1.6tn asset manager Franklin Templeton is evaluating the opportunities of launching a new digital asset fund—without any Bitcoin or Ether exposure
  • According to sources, such an investment vehicle would be structured as a private fund and target institutional investors, providing “altcoin” exposure and potentially providing yield derived from staking rewards
  • In a panel discussion at the recent Consensus 2024 conference, Franklin Templeton CEO Jenny Johnson reaffirmed her enthusiasm for digital assets, remarking that “We have looked at blockchain tech [and found] this is going to be transformational and we better make sure we understand it”
  • She added that their understanding comes from hands-on experience, revealing that the firm currently runs 30 validator nodes on 12 different blockchains, including Ethereum, Cardano, and Stellar

What happened: Robinhood acquires Bitstamp digital asset exchange for $200m

How is this significant?

  • On Thursday, popular trading app Robinhood announced the acquisition of digital asset exchange Bitstamp
  • The firm expects the deal to finalise in 2025, with a transaction value of around $200m cash
  • News of the deal provided a boon to Robinhood’s share price, pushing it up nearly 8%, to its highest levels since 2021
  • Bitstamp is the world’s longest-running crypto exchange (founded in 2011), and has an international footprint which the new owners say “positions Robinhood to expand outside of the US and will bring a trusted and reputable institutional business to Robinhood”
  • Shifting beyond the US is a key priority for Robinhood; due to ongoing regulatory uncertainty in its home market, the platform actually reduced the amount of digital assets available to customers
  • Johann Kerbrat, Robinhood general manager of crypto, stated that “Bitstamp’s highly trusted and long standing global exchange has shown resilience through market cycles... By seamlessly coupling customer experience with safety across geographies, the Bitstamp team has established one of the strongest reputations across retail and institutional crypto investors”
  • Meanwhile, CEO Vlad Tenev was effusive in his praise of the asset class, saying “We believe crypto will fundamentally reorganise the financial system, and we’re acquiring Bitstamp to accelerate our vision”
  • Barclays acted as advisors to Robinhood in the deal, whilst Galaxy Digital provided guidance to Bitstamp
News Roundups