Believe it or not, there are upwards of 2,100 digital currencies being traded in the world right now, with a combined market cap of nearly $US150 billion, according to Coinranking.com.
Obviously not all of these cryptos will survive. We’re still in the early innings.
Last month I compared this exciting new digital world to the earliest days of the dotcom era, and just as there were winners and losers then, so too will there be winners and losers today. Although bitcoin and Ethereum appear to be the frontrunners right now, recall that only 20 years ago AOL and Yahoo! were poised to dominate the internet. How times have changed!
It will be interesting to see which coins emerge as the “Amazon” and “Google” of cryptocurrencies.
For now, Ethereum has some huge backers. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), according to its website, seeks to “learn from and build upon the only smart contract supporting blockchain currently running in real-world production — Ethereum.” The EEA includes several big-name financial and tech firms such as Credit Suisse, Intel, Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase, whose own CEO, Jamie Dimon, knocked cryptos a couple of weeks ago.
Will Bitcoin replace gold?
Lately I’ve been seeing more and more headlines asking whether cryptos are “killing” gold. Would the gold price be higher today if massive amounts of money weren’t flowing into bitcoin? Both assets, after all, are sometimes favoured as safe havens. They’re decentralized and accepted all over the world, 24 hours a day. Transactions are anonymous. Supply is limited.
But I don’t think for a second that cryptocurrencies will ever replace gold, for a number of reasons. For one, cryptos are strictly forms of currency, whereas gold has many other time-tested applications, from jewellery to dentistry to electronics.
Unlike cryptos, gold doesn’t require electricity to trade. This makes it especially useful in situations such as hurricane-ravished Puerto Rico, where 95 per cent of people are reportedly still without power. Right now the island’s economy is cash-only. If you have gold jewellery or coins, they can be converted into cash — all without electricity or WiFi.
Finally, gold remains one of the most liquid assets, traded daily in well-established exchanges all around the globe. Every day, some £13.8 billion, or $US18 billion, worth of physical gold are traded in London alone, according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). The cryptocurrency market, although expanding rapidly, is not quite there yet.
I will admit, though, that bitcoin is energizing some investors, especially millennials, in ways that gold might have a hard time doing. The proof is all over the internet. You can find a number of TED Talks on bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, but to my knowledge, none is available on gold investing.
YouTube is likewise bursting at the seams with videos on cryptos.
Bitcoin is up 350 per cent for the year, Ethereum an unbelievable 3,600 per cent. Gold, meanwhile, is up around 10 per cent. Producers, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, have gained 11.5 per cent in 2017, 23 per cent since its 52-week low in December 2016.
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Look Past the Negativity to Find the Good News
The news is filled with negative headlines, and sometimes it’s challenging to stay positive. Take Friday’s jobs report. It showed that the U.S. lost 33,000 jobs in September, the first month in seven years that this happened. A weak report was expected because of Hurricane Irma, but no one could have guessed the losses would be this deep.
The jobs report wasn’t all bad news, however. For one, the decline is very likely temporary. Beyond that, a record 4.88 million Americans who were previously sitting out of the labour force found work last month. This helped the unemployment rate fall to 4.2 per cent, a 16-year low.
There’s more that supports a stronger U.S. economy. As I shared with you last week, the Manufacturing ISM Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to a 13-year high in September, indicating rapid expansion in the manufacturing industry. Factory orders were up during the month. Auto sales were up. Oil has stayed in the relatively low $US50-a- barrel range, which is good for transportation and industrials, especially airlines. Small-cap stocks, as measured by the Russell 2000 Index, continue to climb above their 50-day and 200-day moving averages as excitement over tax reform intensifies.
These are among the reasons why I remain bullish.
One final note: Speaking on tax reform, Warren Buffett told CNBC last week that he’s waiting to sell assets until he knows the plan will go through. “I would feel kind of silly if I realised $US1 billion worth of gains and paid $US350 million in tax on it if I just waited a few months and would have paid $US250 million,” he said.
It’s a fair comment, and I imagine other like-minded, forward-thinking investors, buyers and sellers will also wait to make huge transactions if they can help it. Tax reform isn’t a done deal, but I think it has a much better chance of being signed into law than a health care overhaul.
Get the latest Bitcoin price here.