Nickel Research Centre

Nickel News Roundup - Week 26

30th June, 2022

Market Overview:

Digital assets experienced modest growth for the majority of the week, before erasing those gains with a sharp decline late on Wednesday.
  • Bitcoin traded in the $20,300 to $21,500 range for virtually the entire week, peaking at $21,770 on Sunday, before abruptly dropping back below $20,000 on Wednesday
  • Some industry analysts believe that increased selling action from miners—seeking to immediately realise profits, rather than holding long-term—may mark a capitulation period and potentially indicate an imminent recovery, but historical examples of such correlations took place in rather different macroeconomic conditions
  • Speaking at an ECB Forum on Wednesday, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell vowed to take a tough stance in monetary policy to prevent “transition from a low-inflation environment into a high-inflation environment”, leading to further wariness from investors
  • Bitcoin declined sharply late on Wednesday following the forum, before dropping nearly $1000 on Thursday morning for a current price of $19,050, representing a 7.5% weekly decline
  • Ether outperformed Bitcoin this week, trading primarily between $1,120 and $1,247
  • Ether’s current $1,057 price equates to a 3.6% weekly loss
  • Overall market capitalisation dipped to $874bn, after spending the majority of the week ranging between $925bn and $950bn
  • Total value locked in DeFi grew by around $1.5bn to $40.3bn, according to industry monitor DeFi Pulse

Digital assets performed positively throughout the week, before a pull-back on Wednesday wiped out the weekly gains. Large-scale institutions continued to demonstrate long-term faith in the asset class, even if the silver linings of current clouds may take time to manifest. Goldman Sachs, FTX and Citigroup all moved to work on the purchase of beleaguered firms (or their assets), the world’s largest digital asset exchange enhanced its institutional offerings and Bank of America declared that “blockchain technology and the digital asset ecosystem are here to stay”.

What happened: Bank of America report reveals continued crypto asset investor interest

How is this significant?
  • Following their recent "Web3 & Digital Assets Day" conference, Bank of America released a report on Tuesday that outlined continued long-term faith in the asset class, despite current bearish market momentum
  • The report built on conversations with more than 150 different clients who attended the event, leading to the broad conclusion that “blockchain technology and the digital asset ecosystem are here to stay”
  • The research note suggested that the ongoing crypto winter could help to separate the wheat from the chaff, ensuring that only the most fundamentally strong projects survive, dubbing the correction; “likely healthy for the ecosystem’s development over the long term”
  • Regulatory clarity was a repeated theme at the conference in terms of possible catalysts for recovery, “critical for institutional and corporate engagement”
  • Bank of America analysts ultimately believe that the future remains bright for digital assets, as “Client engagement continues to grow and focus remains on the rapid development and disruptive nature of blockchain technology”

What happened: Goldman Sachs reportedly raising $2bn for crypto asset buy-ups

How is this significant?
  • According to reports this week, banking giants Goldman Sachs are currently in the process of raising $2bn in order to act as the broker for mass crypto asset purchases from beleaguered industry lender Celsius
  • Celsius liquidity concerns have been a key topic of interest in the digital asset space for the last few weeks, creating contagion concerns
  • Now Goldman Sachs appear eager to take advantage of the situation, as sources told Forbes that they could purchase the platform’s assets at a steep discount in the event of a bankruptcy for Celsius
  • The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Celsius have engaged the services of restructuring firm Alvarez & Marshal, making a future insolvency sale appear a distinct possibility
  • Industry publication TheBlock also published an article revealing Celsius have enlisted Citigroup in an advisory capacity, and that Citi are reportedly encouraging a bankruptcy filing
  • Sources speaking to Forbes said that Goldman are currently seeking investment and commitments for the $2bn war chest from a variety of funds specialised in Web3 and crypto
  • As of May this year, Celsius had $8bn loaned out, and $12bn in assets under management, meaning potentially attractive discounts for any firms who assist Goldman Sachs in this reported endeavour
  • Some reports also speculated that the assets could potentially be purchased for cut-price rates even if Celsius don’t collapse
  • In other news related to last week’s liquidity concerns, digital asset exchange Voyager issued insolvent crypto hedge fund 3 Arrows Capital with a notice of default regarding a $675m loan
  • Industry publication TheBlock reported that a court in the British Virgin Islands appointed financial advisory firm Teneo to handle the liquidation of 3 Arrows Capital on Monday, protecting the company’s assets and assessing its creditors

What happened: FTX exchange makes further investments

How is this significant?
  • Following last week’s news of digital asset exchange FTX providing funding to beleaguered digital asset industry firms, more reports emerged this week about them deploying further capital to grow and secure their position in the industry
  • Most significantly, FTX was strongly linked with plans to purchase popular traditional trading platform Robinhood, one of the largest gateways for retail investors to purchase stocks
  • On Monday, Bankman-Fried issued a statement declaring “We are excited about Robinhood’s business prospects and potential ways we could partner with them”, but added that there were no current concrete M&A activities between the two
  • The FTX CEO has previously displayed interest in the platform; in May, one of his companies purchased a 7.6% stake in Robinhood
  • Like many in the investment space, Robinhood have experienced an uncomfortable 2022 amidst an environment of recession fears, high inflation and harsh monetary policy globally; the company’s shares are down around 75% since their July 2021 IPO
  • Following Bloomberg’s first report about FTX’s interest, Robinhood shares surged 14% and triggered a trading pause, giving them a valuation of about $8bn—representing a significant discount on their $32bn valuation on going public
  • Acquiring Robinhood would be by far FTX’s largest acquisition to date, and the largest crypto-related merger of any kind, providing the digital asset natives a convenient platform for diversification into equities
  • Additionally, the Wall Street Journal reported that FTX may deepen their involvement with lender BlockFi, following last week’s $250m revolving credit facility to the company
  • Without naming any exact figures, the Journal wrote that FTX may be interested in acquiring a sizeable ownership stake in the lender, according to sources close to the matter
  • A BlockFi source told industry publication Coindesk that “We are still negotiating the terms of the deal and cannot share more information at this time. We anticipate sharing more on the terms of the deal with the public at a later date”

What happened: Binance launches institutional trading platform

How is this significant?
  • Despite the ongoing bearish market conditions, the world’s largest digital asset exchange is pushing ahead with expansion plans
  • On Friday, Binance announced the launch of Binance Institutional; “a new flagship platform for VIP and institutional users, in an effort to upgrade… institutional offerings and services”
  • Thus far, Binance has experienced $7.7tn in annual trading volume and 90 million registered accounts, without any bespoke institutional solutions
  • Binance institutional could open the company up to a new customer profile, as well as providing institutions access to Binance’s considerable liquidity; the new institutional website touts features like over-the-counter liquidity, broker products, algorithmic trading, access to liquidity programs, and instant pricing
  • The exchange particularly stressed the regulatory compliance of its institutional offering in all available markets, and revealed applications for SOC 2 and ISO-27001 certifications

What happened: USDC issuer signs reserve asset custody agreement with community bank

How is this significant?
  • According to a Tuesday press release, Circle—developers and issuers of the reserve-backed USDC stablecoin—secured a new partnership for custodianship of its assets this week, teaming with New York Community Bank (NYCB)
  • This announcement builds on a previous deal from earlier this year, where Circle secured the services of BNY Mellon as the primary custodian for their reserve assets
  • As NYCB is a smaller bank ($61bn in assets under management, versus BNY Mellon’s $45tn), it will enable part of Circle’s mission to provide greater access to digital assets for underrepresented financial institutions, creating “billions of dollars in deposits over time”
  • A Circle spokesperson commented “If we want to make the future of money and payments more inclusive than the past, we have to build new partnerships and connections at the community level… By partnering with NYCB, we are opening up new pathways for community banks and MDIs [Minority-owned Depository Institutions] across the country to be key participants in the fast growing digital assets market”

What happened: MicroStrategy purchases additional Bitcoin amidst market downturn

How is this significant?
  • On Wednesday, MicroStrategy—the world’s largest corporate holder of Bitcoin—added to their Bitcoin balance sheet, using the market decline to lower their average purchase price
  • The company bought $10m worth of Bitcoin for approximately $20,820 each; far below their average $30,660 buy-in
  • MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor remains publicly bullish on Bitcoin, dubbing it the only “investment grade cryptocurrency”

What happened: SEC Chair Gary Gensler reaffirms position that Bitcoin is a commodity

How is this significant?
  • In an interview with CNBC this week, Securities and Exchange Commission leader Gary Gensler opened up on a variety of issues, including the classification of various digital assets
  • He stated his opinion that Bitcoin is a commodity (and would thus fall under the remit of the CFTC), but refused to comment on any other specific digital assets—although he did state that be believed many crypto assets may meet the basic attributes of securities
  • Gensler said that currently, a lot of projects are non-compliant, but also acknowledged that “there’s a lot of work to be done” for investor protection, including more clarity on regulation, and coordination with the CFTC
  • He also stated that in terms of stablecoins, there could be overlap with banking regulators due to stablecoins
  • Previous SEC leadership openly classified Ether as a commodity alongside Bitcoin, so Gensler’s position appears a regression from previous administration

What happened: Singapore regulators praise leading digital asset firms

How is this significant?
  • Despite saying that Singapore will be “brutal and unrelentingly hard” on any bad actors in the industry, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) gave a big thumbs-up to several major digital asset companies this week
  • MAS chief fintech officer Sopnendu Mohanty applauded many industry leaders after attending the Point Zero summit in Switzerland, writing “Leaders from the Crypto/Token space (Binance,, Ripple and others) are fully committed to building a secure and sustainable innovation solving real problems, and identifying real-economy opportunities… It is heartening to see the clarity among CEOs on the need to create a responsible and compliant industry. The future is on the right path”
  • Singapore has previously announced ambitions to be a global hub for the crypto industry, but their stringent standards for regulatory compliance have led some companies (including troubled hedge fund 3 Arrows Capital) to move towards the more laissez-faire regulatory environment of the UAE
  • The city-state has begun granting licences, with local newspaper The Straits Times reporting last week that 14 out of around 200 applicants have now been granted approval to provide digital asset services, including
  • In a recording at the aforementioned Point Zero summit, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat told attendees that it is still early in terms of real adoption, especially in cross-border payments; “Crypto assets have more recently been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons… This, however, does not reflect where the greatest value of blockchain and digital assets lies, much of which is away from the retail glare”
  • He also stressed the potential for increased regulation to improve trust in the asset class; “We must continue to build trust through regulatory guardrails, while encouraging innovation and realising gains”

What happened: Grayscale continues push for Bitcoin spot ETF despite rejection

How is this significant?
  • Digital asset firm Grayscale continued to beat the drum for a spot Bitcoin ETF this week, urging the SEC to support the conversion of their GBTC fund, and demonstrating wider support for the move
  • On Monday, they published an open letter to investors on their website, in which Grayscale CEO Michael Sonnenschein stated that conversion of GBTC to an ETF “remains our team’s top priority”, and that they are operationally ready and “unequivocally committed” to the conversion process
  • He also confirmed that due to the SEC’s disapproval of spot Bitcoin products thus far, “the Grayscale team has been preparing for all possible post-ruling scenarios” including litigation with “the strongest possible legal team to help us articulate the importance of this issue”
  • Additionally, they confirmed plans to work with Jane Street and Virtu Financial as market makers should the ETF be granted, designating them as “authorised participants”
  • Sonnenschein indicated this provided further proof of Bitcoin’s legitimacy and the demand for such exchange products; “This announcement from Virtu and Jane Street should really be digested as validation that the market has matured to the place where you have institutional players standing ready to support such an ETF”
  • The SEC rejected Grayscale’s application overnight on Wednesday, sparking a lawsuit against the commission as Sonnenschein declared “We are deeply disappointed by and vehemently disagree with the SEC’s decision to continue to deny spot Bitcoin ETFs from coming to the U.S. market”
  • Representing Grayscale, former US Solicitor General Donald Verrill issued a statement claiming the SEC was violating federal law by “failing to apply consistent treatment to similar investment vehicles”
News Roundups