Posts Tagged ‘Cyprus’

Wild ride for the Bitcoin as its value crashes

April 12, 2013

I wonder whether the real reasons for the Bitcoin gyrations ( see previous posts here and here) will ever be fully known. From $9 to about $240 and now back to $69!

But this kind of behaviour does not manifest itself without someone, somewhere pulling some strings. I am inclined to think that some very “hot” money was involved in the boom and that it has “moved on”  to create the bust – but has almost certainly not moved back to where it started from.

bitcoin turbulence april 2013

bitcoin turbulence april 2013 (Mt. Gox)

There is some discussion that this has been a concerted effort from within the world-wide-web to manipulate the price but I think the coincidences with the goings-on in Cyprus are connected. And that probably means the movement of Russian money.

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Bitcoin still soaring

April 9, 2013

Updating my previous post, the Bitcoin value  continues to soar and had reached about $240 today. The Bitcoin hoard of 21 million is now worth about $5 billion.

Three months ago the value of a Bitcoin was less than $10. Simple arithmetic tells us that around an additional $4.8 billion has come into this market and  is now locked up as Bitcoins. Some of this enhanced value may be due to intentional circular trading but if that is the case this bubble will burst and some will make a killing and others are going to take a big hit. Anybody who has entered recently without a well thought out exit strategy is taking a big risk.

Last price:$235.70000, 

High:$240.11100, Low:$180.00000, 

Volume:108657 BTC 

bitcoin value 9th april 2013 in USD

bitcoin value 9th april 2013 in USD

Bitcoin value in US Dollars

Bitcoin value in US Dollars last 6 months to 7th April

Could Russian money from Cyprus be fuelling the Bitcoin?

April 7, 2013

In the last 6 months the value of the “virtual” currency the Bitcoin has jumped from $9.7 to $149. It started increasing significantly in February and really  took off in the middle of March this year. It seems too much of a coincidence that the worries (and the rumours) about the Cyprus banks followed the same time-table.

Bitcoin value in US Dollars

Bitcoin value in US Dollars

It is thought that much of the Russian money stashed away in Cyprus – especially the “black” money – left Cyprus before all the restrictions came into effect. That money must have gone somewhere and that somewhere would need not only to be “remote” but which also could provide the possibility of some “laundering” when the money was moved again. The Bitcoin perhaps could provide such a haven. If the bubble bursts in the next few months it could well indicate that the Russian money has moved again, well “laundered” and probably at a profit.

The bitcoin logo

At current values the Bitcoin “hoard” – restricted to be 21 million Bitcoins – represents a little over $3 billion.

The Telegraph reports that

Russia is the country most interested in Bitcoin, internet searches show, after a week in which the controversial electronic currency reached a record high and led to talk of a bubble.

The virtual currency, which allows users to circumvent the banks, burst into the mainstream as the price of a Bitcoin rose to $147 (£96) against the dollar, from under $20 at the start of this year.

Russia is the country now performing the most internet searches for the term “Bitcoin”, according to Google figures, followed by Estonia, the United States and Finland. The UK is not in the top 10.

The data gave weight to the belief that the recent price spike was driven by the crisis in Cyprus, as cuts to depositors’ savings planned under its bail-out further undermined faith in the global banking system.

Russian businesses were thought to account for €19bn of deposits held in Cypriot banks as of September last year, due to tax advantages, cultural links and, in some cases, for reasons of tax evasion. …….

……….. Created by a developer using a psuedonym in 2009, Bitcoin was intended to offer a means of payment that cuts out the banks through a “purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash [that] would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution”.

The coins are “mined” by computer processing, with the system capping the number that can be produced at 21m. The process is technically difficult, meaning it has a cost in terms of equipment and electricity.

Cyprus could be the straw that breaks the Euro’s back

March 26, 2013

The wunderkind of the EU have just established a two-currency Europe and have undermined the trust any depositor can have in a Eurozone bank. The Cyprus solution has effectively created a Cypriot Euro which is – in practice – worth a lot less than a normal Euro. And every depositor holding more than €100,000 will be taking a very large risk if he puts his money in a weak Eurozone bank or in a weak Eurozone country. The depositor will need to demand a risk premium to cover the risk that his money could be stolen by the bank or by the State.

A Cypriot Euro (Κ€) is now worth less than a “normal” Euro (€). What that value is is a little difficult to judge but it lies somewhere between 60% and 90% of a normal Euro. All K€ which are outside of the deposit guarantee are now only worth 80% of a normal €. Moreover currency restrictions apply which are not so different to exchange control regulations for movement outside the country but which apply – in addition – to movement of money within Cyprus. A K€ still has the same buying power as a normal Euro but, on the other hand, it will no longer be possible to get any “outside Euros” to move into Cyprus and risk confiscation!

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch chairman of the Eurozone announced (rather idiotically) yesterday that the Cyprus solution was the template to be used in the future.  Cyprus itself does not have an economy large enought to be so significant. But effectively  he was confirming that “Savings accounts in Spain, Italy and other European countries will be raided if needed to preserve Europe’s single currency by propping up failing banks”. But the resulting, ostensibly “single currency” will , de facto, have to distinguish between the currency held in different countries and just calling it a “single” currency will not hide the reality.  Mr. Dijsselbloem later tried to back-pedal on his statement but the truth was out by then. No amount of denials will change the fact that the Cyprus solution now sets the precedent and every weak bank will now be required to try and protect its shareholders by attacking its depositors.

I think the damage has been done and it is already too late for the EU to try and soften the message. I heard today that financial advisers in India and China were already suggesting to clients with Euro holdings to make sure it was in a strong country. This eliminates Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland and even Hollande’s France. This only leaves Germany. The Russians are probably already shifting their legitimate Euro funds to Germany or the Netherlands and their not-so-legitimate money to the Bahamas or Mauritius or the Seychelles. In the short term Germany is the main beneficiary. Not only are their exports being helped by a weak Euro (kept weak because of the weak countries persisting within the Euro) but their banks are likely to see Euro deposits from the weak countries moving their way. But in the long term a flight from the Euro will not help anyone in Europe. The ideological – and almost dogmatic – attachment to the single Euro is now damaging all of Europe and delaying the recovery. Every single one of the bailed-out countries would recover faster if only they had a currency which could have been devalued.

The Cyprus solution is also a more general attack on Europe’s middle class (admittedly the richer part of the middle class). The population of the EU is about 500 million. With an average of about 2.5 individuals per household this represents about 200 million households. Probably 15-20 million households have a net worth exceeding  €200,000 which implies financial assets (as opposed to property and other non-liquid assets) of about €100,000. So an attack on European deposits of greater than €100,000 could affect some 40 – 50 million individuals.

Cyprus could be the straw that breaks the Euro’s back.

Stealing by the state from depositors in Cyprus is a dangerous precedent for all weak banks in the Euro zone

March 23, 2013

A one off tax is not a regular tax but just confiscation. When done by a State it is Grand Theft. It is some kind of nationalisation where some selected private assets are appropriated. Whatever it is called, it is just plain stealing from bank depositors. When banks are weak or badly managed it is the owners of the bank who should be held both responsible and accountable. But to blatantly and arbitrarily just “confiscate” a part of some of the depositors holdings  is a dangerous precedent.

If this is what happens in Cyprus and seemingly with the acquiescence –  if not the encouragement – of the Euro zone then it bodes ill for all depositors in weak Euro zone banks or banks in weak Euro zone countries. Cyprus can set a precedent of what is acceptable behaviour in the Euro zone. Certainly the banks and the owners will like this. After all it shifts risk from the bank’s equity to the bank’s depositors. And for profligate countries it provides a cover for stealing the money of large depositors.

For depositors having more than €100,000 in Cyprus it is already too late. Robbery by the State has been sanctioned by the European Union including Germany. Rationalising such a move by saying it is to get at black Russian money is disingenuous. If this is acceptable in Cyprus today then it may well be acceptable for banks – and not just the State – to confiscate their customer’s savings whenever an “emergency” arises.

For those with substantial deposits  – and not just over €100,000 – in Greece or Spain or Italy or Ireland it is probably high time to get out.


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