Wall Street suddenly enthusiastic about Bitcoin!

Over the past few years, the topic of cryptocurrencies has evoked little to no enthusiasm among the major banks on Wall Street. On the contrary, JPMorganChase, for example, repeatedly warned that in the case of Bitcoin it was an immense bubble, which is why Bitcoin would eventually strive towards zero value. This view seems to have changed somewhat…

Well, such warnings were already issued by the major American bank in those days when a Bitcoin was still traded for a mere 500 US dollars per digital unit.

From this point of view, it seems rather strange that now those players on Wall Street, of all people, seem to be waking up, from whom hardly anything else could be heard so far than to keep their hands off dangerous and highly volatile cryptocurrencies.

Digital assets have entered the mainstream
Among others, it is the traditional bank BNY Mellon, the most long-established institution on Wall Street, which has now announced that it will securely store and manage Bitcoins for its own wealth management clients. This is reported by the Wall Street Journal, among others.

In the report, the WSJ quotes Roman Regelman, head of digital operations at BNY Mellon, who says that investing in digital assets has become mainstream. This is a reality that the firm’s own industry should not ignore, he says.

And yet, a milestone seems to have been reached on Wall Street. BNY Mellon is the first client and investor bank on Wall Street to announce plans to treat digital assets on an equal footing with all other asset classes.

BNY Mellon plans equal treatment with other assets
A Decrypt publication states that BNY Mellon has plans to run digital cryptocurrencies through the same in-house systems as traditional paper currencies and equities in the future.

All in all, BNY Mellon is in the process of developing a prototype to determine whether its own customers and clients are willing to use such a system. The system is expected to be launched towards the end of the current year.

Further push from Mastercard and Amazon
Not only this news, but also the announcements by Mastercard and Amazon that they want to enable and accept payments using cryptocurrencies in the future – as is already the case with Paypal – recently gave the Bitcoin rally a new boost.

In the meantime, Bitcoin has cracked the mark of 50,000 US dollars per digital unit. Banks on Wall Street seem to have tasted blood, which means that views on cryptocurrencies seem to diverge between traditional commercial banks and central banks.

Views of commercial and central banks diverge
That’s because BNY Mellon’s announced plans ironically coincided with a far less positive proclamation from Bank of Canada Vice Chairman Tim Lane, who suggested that costly verification methods and unstable purchasing power made cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin a doomed payment method per se.

At this point, it should be noted that it remains to be seen to what extent fiat and paper currencies issued by central banks will still prove to be “stable” means of payment once the first signs of a significant increase in inflation, which are already visible, appear.

Bank of Canada vice chairman speaks of speculative mania
During a speech titled “Payments Innovation Beyond the Pandemic,” Lane made a desperate attempt to pour a bucket of cold water on decentralized payment systems. After that, Lane said, developments in cryptocurrency markets threaten to upend the world of traditional commercial banks.

The recent rally movement in the cryptocurrency sector, he said, gives the impression not of a perpetuating trend, but of speculative mania. Nowadays, the dropping of a Twitter message by an “influencer” is enough to further fuel this mania, Lane said.

Again, it’s worth noting that we’ve been hearing statements of this nature from central bankers now since the beginning of the upswing in cryptocurrency markets. Indeed, their decentralized nature seems to be what central bankers are most concerned about.

Decentralization just isn’t the central planners’ cup of tea….
After all, since when do central bankers care about pumping up bubbles in global financial markets?! In the last twenty years alone, their monetary policy has led to three boom & bust periods that have brought us to where we are now.

Recently, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that he had invested $1.5 billion in bitcoin, which in turn has led to a run on cryptocurrencies among institutional investors, including hedge funds.

Institutional entry routes
Meanwhile, it is becoming apparent that more and more institutional investors intend to get a foot in the cryptocurrency markets, but without investing funds in the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), which is trading at striking price premiums relative to current prices.

For this reason, institutional investors are looking for other ways to enter this sector. Among them is, believe it or not, the major American bank Morgan Stanley, whose investment department does not invest in GBTC, but instead invests directly in the Bitcoin proxy Microstrategy (MSTR).

Interested observers have meanwhile noted with astonishment that Morgan Stanley increased its holdings in this area by 455 percent during the fourth quarter of 2020 – from 142,900 to a record 792,600 share certificates. Morgan Stanley now holds ten percent of the outstanding shares in MSTR alone.

Morgan Stanley as the next bitcoin driver after Elon Musk?
Coindesk reported that Morgan Stanley is looking at its own investments as a way to participate in the historic rally in the bitcoin sector. In a nutshell, this probably means that Morgan Stanley’s aggressive investment strategy in MSTR could serve as a catalyst to push the Bitcoin price towards the $100,000 per digital unit mark next.

At the very least, Tesla’s Elon Musk’s announcement went a long way toward breaking the $50,000 per digital unit barrier. Announcements of this kind usually attract follow-on investors who intend to jump on a moving train in the hope of not missing out on this development.

Central banks hand out tranquilizer pills
It should be pointed out once again that there is liquidity in abundance in the global financial markets, considering that the Federal Reserve alone is still pumping $120 billion per month (!) into the financial markets through bond purchases.

The result is that central bankers then get in front of the microphones to explain that the numerous speculative bubbles in the international financial markets have nothing to do with the monetary policy they are specifically pursuing, as Fed super dove James Bullard, among others, has done yet another time.

According to Bullard, bitcoin prices of $50,000 per digital unit “did not prove to be a threat to the U.S. dollar.” Moreover, no speculative bubbles could be identified in the financial markets, it was just ordinary investment activity – just one thing to that: LOL.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how the current development in the cryptocurrency sector will affect the corporate world as such, and whether more companies will follow in the footsteps of MSTR and Apple to enable their own customers to make everyday payments based on bitcoin.

Bank of America is also on board
With regard to Morgan Stanley, a report from Bloomberg, citing internal sources, said that the big bank’s $150 billion managed investment arm called Counterpoint Global has realized gains in mutual funds to potentially further expand its own bets in the bitcoin sector.

Incidentally, after Morgan Stanley, Bank of America has also suddenly identified Bitcoin as the best performing asset since the beginning of this year in specially maintained investment lists.

Bloomberg further states on this topic that Counterpoint Global usually bets on the shares of unique companies whose market capitalization is considered massively undervalued. What such an investment approach should have to do with the bank’s significantly expanding investment bets in the Bitcoin sector is not clear to observers, even at second glance.

In total, Counterpoint Global manages nineteen sub-funds, of which five would have yielded investment gains of one hundred percent or more in the full year 2020. This may have been because the sub-funds in question had bet almost entirely on high-flyers in the e-commerce and online sectors in the pandemic year 2020.

These included stocks such as Amazon, Shopify, Slack Technologies, Zoom Video, vaccine developer Moderna and a number of streaming services. It is not uncommon for the investments made to be heavily concentrated in order to boost their own performance, which of course can go wrong if the market moves in the opposite direction.

Will the big capital managers jump on board soon?
Some analysts believe that it would only be a matter of time before major capital managers such as Bridgewater or BlackRock discovered the cryptocurrency sector for themselves, which, if it happens, should bring a new push.

The Bloomberg report said that widespread skepticism among institutional investors about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies stems from unpredictable price volatility in the sector. Furthermore, more than a decade after their emergence, cryptocurrencies are still not widely used in global payments.

Customers threaten to leave
Despite all this, more and more institutional investors, who are unlikely to hold bitcoin directly, are entering the sector through trusts like GBTC to at least get a foot in the door. If large Wall Street houses – such as Morgan Stanley or BNY Mellon – could not offer their clients investment opportunities in this sector, these clients simply threatened to migrate to other capital managers.

For this reason alone, the debates on Wall Street increased to deal with the cryptocurrency sector far more intensively in the future. Bridgewater said two weeks ago that it would focus on alternative and value-preserving assets in the future, which is why it will probably soon launch a new fund to better protect against the anticipated devaluation of outstanding fiat currencies and the debt underlying these paper currencies.

Bridgewater: bitcoin as a portfolio addition
The bitcoin sector also comes into question for this, he said, taking into account a risk-reward trade-off. On the part of Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio it is further said that from his perspective it currently seems as if Bitcoin has recently taken an important hurdle to transform itself from the previous perception of a speculative investment into something that will offer investors a certain value in the future.

In this context, Bitcoin is proving to be a long-term option, taking into account a future that is no longer predictable in any way. For this reason, the willingness to invest a certain amount in this sector is growing within the company, even if there should be subsequent losses of up to 80 percent in view of a possible misjudgement.

Rival JPMorgan expresses diametric views
It is interesting in this context that Morgan Stanley’s Wall Street rival JPMorgan repeatedly demonized Bitcoin last week, making the prediction that no other well-known institution would follow in the footsteps of e-car builder Tesla to buy Bitcoin.

From a current perspective, this thesis has proven to be a striking miscalculation. It is not likely that anyone will apologize to JPMorgan for this brilliant miscalculation. Rather, it is likely that JPMorgan will continue to insist to its own clients that the Bitcoin bubble will eventually burst.
In this context, from a current perspective and taking into account the current trend events, it is perhaps even more likely that Bitcoin will take the threshold of 100,000 US dollars per digital unit in the foreseeable future instead of falling to zero US dollars overnight.

At least on the part of billionaire Mike Novogratz, this view is shared. According to Novogratz, it can be foreseen that “the herd will soon fall into this sector”. Moreover, soon every company on the planet will buy bitcoins.

After previous criticism – Deutsche Bank now participates in platform construction
As the RussiaToday channel reports, Deutsche Bank AG, among others, had been one of those institutions that had not spared public criticism of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the past.

But suddenly, Deutsche Bank AG seems to be seizing this asset class as an opportunity to participate in the activities and trading on these markets by means of building its own customer management platform.

RT refers to a report published last December by the World Economic Forum, according to which Germany’s largest private business bank has already developed the prototype of a system to be used in this area in the future.

Access to this platform is to be granted exclusively to the bank’s institutional clients and their digital assets, in order to connect its own system to the broad ecosystem of cryptocurrencies over time.

According to RT, this report has not been widely echoed in the Western mainstream media to date. Coindesk was the first to point out these developments. According to the report, the platform currently being developed is intended to bring together service offerings in the area of traditional investment offerings and digital assets in the future.

In this way, traditional investment offerings, traditional banking services, and the management and administration of digital assets could be integrated and increasingly unified in a single platform in the future.

DepthTrade Outlook

Nothing new to report in the investment universe. Once a mania is ignited, gradually everyone wants to be part of the party. However, the fact that major global banks are now integrating digital currencies into their investment offerings, setting up platforms to link the traditional with the digital investment world, and therefore also beating the drum for the digital sector because far-reaching fees will have to be collected there in the future, should be a warning shot across their own bow from the perspective of central banks.

The longer central banks watch these developments progress in the private sector, the more difficult it will become at some point to ban private cryptocurrencies in order to make central bank digital currencies, which are to be launched specifically for this purpose, the measure of all things in the future. If nothing else, central banks face diametric winds from the banking and corporate sectors if such decisions are eventually made. These are exciting times we live in. Let’s wait and see the outcome.

Ben Schaack Send an email

Mr. Schaack is a financial analyst, specializing in the commodity, foreign exchange, and crypto markets - with more than 10 years of experience. Besides his business analytics studies, Mr. Schaack works as a journalist - covering finance, economy, and geopolitics. His special interests are focused on inflation hedging and exponential (compound interest) growth. He posts and discusses relevant news on his Twitter account.
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