A new class of “institutional investors”—spurred by large financial institutions such as Fidelity— is fueling this year’s dramatic bull run, according to the first biannual report from digital asset management firm Coinshares. Though the report cautions that retail-side investment is waning, it proclaimed a new era of Bitcoin dominance.
London-based Coinshares analyzed market trends from January through June 2019, and acknowledged significant differences between the 2017 market rally and the current one. "Four factors that were present during the 2017 bull run have been conspicuously absent during the current rally: widespread media attention; spikes in ‘bitcoin’ searches on Google; spikes in tweets about Bitcoin; and the aforementioned corresponding rally in altcoins.”
Despite this, the report hails the long-awaited influx of “institutional money.” The report cited asset management firm Fidelity, which this year announced its intention to launch institutional grade Bitcoin custodial services. Coinshares also pointed to a spate of other large businesses moving into the space, among them Microsoft, Starbucks, and the Intercontinental Exchange, which are together launching the Bakkt exchange. That business is seeking permission to sell physically settled Bitcoin futures.
And then there’s Facebook, which plans to run a digital currency, “Libra,” from a Swiss bank account governed by a consortium of 27 Silicon Valley grandees. Though the project stoked anger from lawmakers worldwide, Coinshares suggests that the project nevertheless looks promising.
“While Libra is centralised, permissioned, trust-based, not censorship resistant, not scarce, and arguably not even a cryptocurrency at all (though this term is poorly defined…) it does offer potential benefits to the world’s unbanked that currently don’t have access to services we take for granted in the West, such as online shopping,” the report said.
The report’s conclusion that it is “institutional money” fuelling the market may be short-sighted, however. The market dominance of embattled stablecoin tether, a dollar-denominated token used by whales unable to access US capital, has raised uncomfortable questions this year. Last month, Decrypt reported that vast sums of tether are bought wholesale in advance of massive trades, by large over-the-counter trading desks. The venerable banks and pension funds who qualify as “institutional investors” would be unlikely to make their entrance via tether rather than, say, a proudly regulated exchange like Gemini.
Coinshares also weighs in on the two second largest cryptocurrencies, Ethereum and XRP. While the report notes that “internal disagreements” continue to roil the Ethereum developer community, it expresses hope for Ethereum’s much-anticipated phase two: the launch of Ethereum 2.0., or Serenity, which will release after Ethereum developers “scrap” the existing protocol.
The report was less positive toward XRP, the “worst performer of H1 2019 by far,” whose six percent price growth this year pales in comparison to Bitcoin’s 188 percent rebound, and Litecoin’s chart-topping 281 percent rebound. Even the favorable view taken of the cryptocurrency by global policy makers—including the IMF’s Christine Lagarde—is taken with a pinch of salt.
“It is not entirely clear if these positive views apply to XRP the digital asset, or if they are simply made in reference to the company Ripple, their RippleNet product suite, or all of the above,” the report said. (XRP the cryptocurrency was supposedly “gifted” to Ripple, which nevertheless holds the largest amount and continues to frequently dump it on the XRP market.)
Even with XRP’s meager gains, it seems number continue to go up across the board.