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Tom Rodgers
Tom Rodgers Head of Research
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ETC Group Crypto Minutes Week #10

120,000 people donate $60m" in Bitcoin and Ethereum to Ukraine, institutions add their largest Bitcoin positions in four months, there’s a banking mass exodus and eBay could herald the next stage of mainstream adoption.

120,000 people donate $60m" in crypto to Ukraine

Europe is in turmoil and everyone reading this will know why. What we do need to discuss is the impact of technology on the geopolitical situation, and specifically blockchain, because there are some absolutely incredible things going on.

Crypto has a long history as a tool for oppressed people to finance their causes: it was true in Hong Kong in 2019 when HSBC cut off access to protestor funds, it was true in Belarus in 2020 when dissidents were fighting the regime and were enabled with Bitcoin grants, and even in Myanmar, pro-democracy anti-Junta groups made the Tether USD stablecoin an official currency as a way to fund their cause.

This time around, it’s not only NGOs and grassroots initiatives that are raising funds with crypto, it is a sovereign government itself. On 26 February the Ukrainian government posted on Twitter three wallet addresses: one for Bitcoin (BTC), one for Ethereum" (ETH), and one for Tether (USDT), and within 24 hours raised millions of dollars.

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By 8 March that figure had reached $60m", with 120,000 people donating cryptoassets of one kind or another. They include Polkadot founder Gavin Wood, who sent $5.8m in DOT, while Art for Ukraine is using Tezos (XTZ) to send funds to these addresses near-instantly as soon as anyone buys one of their artworks, using a specially-designed smart contract. Each sells for around 3 XTZ ($6). The project has raised 6,000 XTZ.

Ukrainian suppliers of night-vision goggles are accepting payments directly in crypto, Coindesk reports.

It may take some time for the wider world to adequately process the idea that a sovereign nation has turned to a global community to crowdfund critical funds, using a novel technology, thereby validating the thesis for what cryptoassets do. They are a way to move and store money value cross-border and peer to peer, in a frictionless way that avoids censorship, seizure and other issues along the way.

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Crypto regulatory compliance firm" Elliptic added data showing how a CryptoPunk NFT worth $200,000 was sent to the Ukrainian government’s Ethereum" address – displaying exactly how it is not just money, but any kind of tokenisable asset that can move cross-border onto public blockchains. Pressure group UkraineDAO has also auctioned off an NFT of the Ukrainian flag for $6.5m" in ETH, the tenth most expensive NFT ever sold. The proceeds are to be donated to the Come Back Alive NGO.

To the point that Russia’s sanctioned wealthy could use crypto in the same way to evade sanctions, we have written a lengthy rebuttal countering these assertions. For Crypto Minutes readers, here’s a short summary.

Public blockchain ledgers are terrible ways to launder large amounts of money: anyone can view a record of all transactions at any time. Coupled with the skill of forensic blockchain analysts like Chainalysis and Elliptic, and we are talking flows of money that are orders of magnitude larger than it would be possible to conceal.

If Russia wants a SWIFT alternative, it won’t use Bitcoin. Instead of a public, open network it cannot control, it is much more likely to use CIPS, the onshore yuan clearing and settlement system" offered by China. To this point, we hear that Sberbank and Alfa Bank will issue Mir cards with China’s UnionPay, after Mastercard and Visa stopped operating in the country.

Institutions pile $127m"/week into crypto: most since December

Despite accelerating geopolitical risks, and commodity markets like oil and nickel seeing vast spikes, institutions are pushing ever greater amounts of capital into cryptoasset ETPs. 

Data via CoinShares shows that institutional investors moved net inflows of $127m" into Bitcoin, Ethereum, Solana, Cardano, Tezos ETPs in the last week. That rounds up seven straight weeks of net inflows. It’s a dramatic turnaround from November-December 2021, which saw profit-taking on a huge scale after Bitcoin hit its $69k all time high. These figures bring the 2022 year-to-date net inflows to $218m.

Digital asset investment products saw inflows totalling $127m" last week, an uptick on the previous week, suggesting investors remain supportive of digital assets despite the recent geopolitical events prompting a sell-off in risk assets,

wrote CoinShares head of research James Butterfill.

Bitcoin saw inflows totalling $95m", the largest single weekly inflow since early December. Ethereum saw inflows of $25m, the largest in 13 weeks, and follows a run of mixed to negative sentiment since early December.

Altcoins including Litecoin and Cardano also saw net inflows.

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Crypto markets appear to have effectively split into two types of capital market allocators.

One is the speculator who is highly leveraged and who treats Bitcoin as a purely risk-on asset, riding the wave of liquidity flows and monetary debasement, but who sells at the first sign of central bank tightening. 

The other is the risk-neutral investor who believes the generation-defining thesis that crypto is the greatest macro opportunity of our lifetime and that it will create more value than the internet.

eBay accepts NFTs, could accept crypto, while banking exodus continues

Turning away from" the turmoil in Europe for a moment, we are seeing more ripple effects of the broad-scale adoption of crypto as a payment method.

eBay CEO Jamie Iannon told The Street in a 27 February interview that he wants to reposition the marketplace as the go-to home for Gen Z and millennials.

Despite the lack of an official announcement, eBay has already changed its policies to accept trading in NFTs, Iannon said.

So even without announcing anything or doing anything, people started trading NFTs on our platform". It reminded me of many years ago when people just started selling cars, when we didn't even have a vehicle business at that point. So we're seeing the same type of thing [with NFTs].

The $32.7bn market cap company could make an announcement on accepting crypto as payment methods as soon as an upcoming March investor presentation day, Iannon revealed.

We're not accepting crypto currently. On March 10, we're going to go deeper on all of these things, payments, advertising, our focus categories.

The masses don’t see adoption of new technologies coming in advance. That’s probably because human brains are really good at processing linear information, but terrible at tracking and understanding the effect of exponential curves.

Jeff Bezos famously quit a high-paying hedge fund job to start Amazon in his garage in 1994. His decision was based, in part, when he spotted a stat that made him sit up in shock: the internet was growing at 2,300% per year.

Crypto is following the same trajectory and is projected to reach 1 billion users sometime between 2023 and 2027.

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By the same token, we are starting to see the early stages of what could be a mass exodus of bankers, analysts, FX traders and finance professionals into crypto.

FnLondon's recent interviews with six former bankers who all switched to crypto was illuminating.

My phone rings off the hook,

said Chris Perkins, who left Citigroup in September 2021 to become president of crypto investment firm Coinfund.

I realised I was advising on transactions with centuries-old financial services companies who could be significantly impacted if they didn’t adapt,

said Hazem" Shish, former head of financial institutions group banking at Barclays. He left the bank in November 2021 to found a blockchain startup.

17-year Morgan Stanley veteran Kyle Downey followed a similar path: “The dominant narrative around crypto has shifted from" it being a joke, for criminals and supporting the dark web, to a lot of people on Wall Street saying you should have 1-2% of your portfolio allocated to digital assets.”

In October 2021 Downey quit his senior technologist role to head up a firm" focused on digital asset risk management. “The bigger picture is that it is a new way to trade any asset. If you project forward 15 years, I think all assets will be tokenised and there will be no difference between the stock market and digital asset markets.”

Annabelle Huang of Amber Group, a 250-staff crypto trading firm" in Hong Kong, cut her teeth trading FX markets for Deutsche Bank and Nomura. “That was 24/5 and I thought it was pretty crazy, but now this is 24/7,” she said.

We’re getting resumes every day from" banks all over the world. I’m personally getting a lot of phone calls from people who I used to work with. Four years ago, they were mostly asking me, ‘What is wrong with you?’ and now, they’re asking me, ‘How can I be a part of it?

Markets

BTC/USD

Bitcoin’s performance was among the best of the cryptoassets in the two-week trading session, ascending 4.75% from" a $36,863 start to finish at $38,614. There was quite the variance in between those two points, as there tends to be in crypto markets, with a low of $34,329 found in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, before a storming 32.2% climb as high at $45,411. BTC has found some support above $40k, which will be a boon to bullish traders as this was a previous resistance point, but again found headwinds in the same $45k level it sought to breach three weeks earlier.   

BTC/USD graph
Data as of 8 March 2022 | Source: TradingView.com

ETH/USD

Ethereum" followed a similar pattern to Bitcoin across the fortnight, albeit with less volatility. A $2,550 start was less than bulls had hoped for, given its run all the way from $2,200 to $3,200 as sentiment shifted to the positive in the late-January to early-February period. Still, a bounce at a higher low than was seen three weeks earlier provides positive momentum going forward, even if $3,000 has been rejected for the moment. In all, ETH ended the two-week session almost exactly flat, at $2,561.74.

ETH/USD graph
Data as of 8 March 2022 | Source: TradingView.com

LTC/USD

Litecoin has witnessed little price action of note in recent weeks, but it will be heartening to holders to see the that the tight $104-$112 range broke to the upside in the wake of the network’s MWEB extension block upgrade from" late January.  Beginning at $102.84, Litecoin dipped less than some may have expected on the geopolitical news from 24 February, finding a bottom at $91.53, climbing 25.75% to $116.02, and then finishing almost exactly where it started, at $102.22.

LTC/USD graph
Data as of 8 March 2022 | Source: TradingView.com

BCH/USD

Bitcoin Cash developers have been showing off the chain’s DeFi credentials in recent weeks, as the chain attempts a pivot into the revenue-earning vertical and beyond its simple cross-border currency use case. That hasn’t been reflected in the price just yet, as BCH – like Litcoin and Ethereum" – traded flat across the two weeks. A low of $259.99 apes the bottom found in late January and the chain has traded at higher lows more recently, which will give bulls good cheer.

BCH/USD graph
Data as of 8 March 2022 | Source: TradingView.com

ADA/USD

Cardano appears to remain somewhat stuck in the macro downtrend that gripped crypto markets since the latter part of November, a frustrating experience for holders given that user adoption and revenue on the smart contract chain is soaring with its most recent round of tech updates. ADA began at $0.86, dipping to $0.75 before finding a relief rally push it nearly 35% higher to $1.01. That momentum" has not persisted, and ADA finished out the fortnight 7% down at $0.80. Cardano holders will be hoping that in the weeks ahead the market can digest precisely how much money the blockchain is now pulling in.

ADA/USD graph
Data as of 8 March 2022 | Source: TradingView.com

DOT/USD

Fortunes over at Polkadot have been markedly better in recent weeks, with Ukraine adding DOT to their wallet addresses and founder Gavin Wood’s international profile gaining a boost from" his near $6m donation. From a price perspective, DOT was one of the only top 25 chains to climb across the fortnight, adding 4.3% to finish out at $16.77. Bulls watching how swiftly things are moving on the technical side, with ever more parachain auction winners spinning up their blockchains on Polkadot, will be hoping to retry $20 again in the not too distant future.  

DOT/USD graph
Data as of 8 March 2022 | Source: TradingView.com

SOL/USD

Solana’s two-week journey was characterised by relatively little volatility, and the Ethereum"-killer smart contract chain dipped far less than its rivals, finding hefty support at $75, and finishing the fortnight in the green. Rejection at the lower high of $106.56 mid-period saw SOL dip below the $100 mark, though, suggesting that there is much more to come from Solana when market fortunes are revived in the latter part of 2022.

SOL/USD graph
Data as of 8 March 2022 | Source: TradingView.com

XTZ/USD

In general, Tezos holders remain in something of a holding pattern. Most are collecting their staking yields and watching as the blockchain continues to sign impressive corporate partnerships, but the price of XTZ has not followed to date. XTZ began and ended the fortnight at exactly $3.01, with a low of $2.56 swiftly rejected and more support appearing in the $2.75-$2.80 region.  

XTZ/USD graph
Data as of 8 March 2022 | Source: TradingView.com

XLM/USD

Stellar broke to the upside in late January, taking out bears who had rejected $0.195 on three separate occasions, albeit with $0.250 marking the high-water point and too much for bulls to hold. Across the two-week session, XLM" slipped 10% from a $0.180 start to bottom at $0.162. From that low, XLM added 6.1% upside to close out the fortnight at $0.172.

XLM/USD graph
Data as of 8 March 2022 | Source: TradingView.com

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