Bitcoin just hit a new high in value, and other non-traditional currencies are rapidly appreciating, but curb your enthusiasm.
So says Brown Brothers Harriman, acknowledging the rising market capitalization of Ripple, which has surged more than six-fold to $13 billion, and of Ethereum, which was worth about $700 million in January and recently was valued at more than $8.5 billion.
But if these so-called crypto-currencies are hoarded, BBH notes, they cannot develop the critical mass of networking to fulfill the other functions of money as a means of exchange, BBH writes. UPDATED: Yet crypto-currencies still are praised by bulls as an alternative to fiat currencies, though neither is typically backed by gold or silver.
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BBH's Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy; Win Thin, global head of emerging market currency strategy; and Masashi Murata, emerging market currency strategist, write:
" ... There are several factors that may have spurred renewed interest in this space.
Geopolitical uncertainty is running high. The seemingly unpredictable U.S.
president, who antagonized friends and foes, is escalating the long-simmering confrontation with North Korea, has dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan, and launched a missile strike on Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons. European politics were perceived to be a grave risk.
Chinese capital controls may have encouraged some interest in crypto-currencies as a means to circumvent the restrictions. The recent cyber-attacked demanded Bitcoins as payment (and some reports suggested at least $80k of bitcoins were paid).
Also, recently demand from Japan followed the inclusion of the Bitcoin under the country's regulatory framework ...
The rising price for crypto-currencies and new interest does not alter our assessment.
These are not currencies in any meaningful sense. To the extent that some retailers accept them is a bit of a novelty and marketing fluke.
Some of the larger businesses, like Virgin, who previously indicated a willingness to accept Bitcoins as payment, reportedly convert such payments into hard currencies. It is a gimmick, not confirmation of its currency status.
Leaving aside the questions of the origin of money, money, under conditions of modernity facilitates exchange, and is used to pay taxes and settle debts.
When crypto-currencies can be used to pay taxes, and/or are generally accepted to retire debt, then their money status needs to be reviewed. Under present condition, none of the functions of money are met by crypto-currencies.
They are hardly used as a means of payment. They are poor stores of value.
They are not units of account.
People can still make and lose money trading them ..."
Subscribers can read Barron's latest Read This, Spike That feature, "Trump and Bitcoin: Two Peas in a Pod" and Barron's columnist Michael Kahn's March column, "The Dollar Is Strong, but Bitcoin Is Stronger." A few days later in March, the Securities and Exchange Commission rejected a bitcoin exchange-traded fund promoted by twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
Among emerging market currencies today, the South African rand is the big winner, up 1.2% against the U.S.
Richard Wolff on Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency
The Argentine peso is stronger by 0.9%. Among weakening currencies, the Indian rupee tops the list, off by 0.5% against the greenback. The euro is fractionally weaker at 1.12 against the dollar today.
So far this year, the Polish zloty has strengthened the most among emerging market currencies, up nearly 12%, and the Russian ruble is stronger by more than 9%. Few EM currencies are significantly weaker, though the struggling Turkish lira tops the list with a 1% decline against the dollar.
Currency isn't always a harbinger of equity performance: the iShares MSCI Poland Capped ETF (EPOL) is up 32% this year, while the VanEck Vectors Russia ETF (RSX) is down more than 3% on geopolitical and oil-price worries.
The iShares MSCI Turkey ETF (TUR) has rallied 25% following a referendum consolid