Tuesday, March 14, 2017

13/3/17: Bitcoin v Gold: Volatilities and Correlation

On foot of the previous post, a reader asked me for some analysis of comparatives between Bitcoin volatility and Gold price volatility. It took some time to get to the answer. One of the reasons is that Bitcoin is traded continuously, while gold prices are listed for specific markets trading dates. So it takes some time to reconcile two data sets.

Here is the analysis. Starting with daily returns volatilities for log-log returns:

Several things are obvious from the above chart:

  1. Overall Bitcoin price volatility is magnitudes greater than volatility of gold prices almost always. Historical standard deviation in daily returns is 2.663% and Gold price (log daily returns) volatility is 0.466%, which means that historically, gold daily returns are less volatile than Bitcoin daily returns by a more than a factor of 5. 
  2. There are, broadly speaking three key periods of Bitcoin volatility: the period from September 2011 through December 2012, when volatility was extreme and declining, the period from January 2013 through February 2015, when volatility in Bitcoin was characterised by severe spikes and elevated base, and the period from March 2015 on, when both the spikes in volatility and the base of volatility abated. These three periods are associated with the following comparatives between gold volatility and Bitcoin volatility: period through December 2012: gold daily returns volatility 0.520% against Bitcoin daily returns volatility of almost 6 times that at 3.00%; period from January 2013 through February 2015, when Bitcoin returns volatility (3.27%) was almost 7.5 times gold returns volatility (0.479%), and the current period from March 2015, where Bitcoin daily returns volatility (1.421%) was over 3 times daily returns volatility for gold (0.412%). Note: these are log-log returns, so much of extreme volatility is smoothed out and this benefits the Bitcoin.
  3. There is a long-term trend difference between gold returns volatility and Bitcoin returns volatility, as shown by polynomial (power 6) trend lines for both. In fact, even in terms of trend, Bitcoin is much more volatile than gold and Bitcoin's volatility is less stable than volatility of gold. 
In very simple terms, Bitcoin volatility is vastly in excess of Gold's volatility, albeit the former is starting to moderate in more recent years.

Now, for the last bit of observations. I also mentioned that Bitcoin is distinct from Gold in terms of its financial properties. And guess what, I did not provide any evidence. Well, here it is. Bitcoin returns and Gold returns are not correlated, or in other words, they neither co-move with each other nor countermove against each other. Here's a chart to prove this:

Average 30-days running correlation for Bitcoin and gold in terms of daily log-log returns is 0.03025 historically, which is statistically indifferent from zero. Across the three periods of Bitcoin volatility structure (defined above), average correlation between Bitcoin and gold log-log returns was 0.0147, 0.0182 and 0.0529 respectively. All of these are statistically indifferent from zero. In history of the Bitcoin, there were only 7 occasions on which daily returns were correlated positively with gold price with correlation in excess of 0.5. and 5 with negative correlation in excess of -0.5 in absolute value None with correlation in excess of 0.65 in absolute value for either positive or negative correlations. 

Bitcoin comparatives to gold hold about as much water as a colander hit by a shrapnel shot.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

12/3/17: Bitcoin Pop: Nothing too Dramatic by Historical Comparatives

Few days back, I posted a quick note about the erroneous nature of Bitcoin-Gold comparatives. And yesterday, we had one of those events that highlights the same.

In summary of the event, SEC rejected an application for a Bitcoin ETF.  And Bitcoin crashed. Inter-day volatility shot up through the roof. Which would have been bad enough, except it is the norm for Bitcoin

You can see just how unsurprising the current volatility is for the BTC, consider the following charts:

Pretty much by every metric of volatility, Bitcoin's latests wobble is minor, despite it being dramatic enough to set @Reuters and @Bloomberg folks all hopping with excitement. Thing is, folks, Bitcoin's volatility is in the league of financial widow-makers.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

3/3/17: BRIC Manufacturing PMI: Weaker Support for Global Growth in 1Q

The latest BRIC Manufacturing sector PMIs for February are continuing to signal support for global growth albeit at weaker rates than in 4Q 2016.

Brazil Manufacturing PMI for February came in at 46.9, slightly less sharp of a rate of contraction than 44.0 in January 2017. This marks 25th consecutive month of Brazil’s Manufacturing PMIs at below 50.0 - the point of zero growth. The rate of decline in Brazil’s case is shallowest since January 2016, but the series are quite volatile and at 46.9, the index is statistically significantly below 50.

Russian Manufacturing PMI moderated from 54.7 in January to 52.5 in February, but the index remained statistically above 50.0, signalling robust growth. This marks 7th consecutive month above with PMI above 50 and the 5th consecutive month that Manufacturing PMI exceeded 50.0 by a statistically significant margin, as the Russian economy continued on its expansion trend.

Chinese Manufacturing PMI cam in at 51.7, still below statistically significant growth line, but above 50.0 nominally, marking 8th consecutive month of above 50 readings (none of these readings were statistically significant, however). 51.7 marks a slight improvement on January’s 51.0.

India’s Manufacturing PMI rose to 50.7 in February from 50.4 in January. This marks the second consecutive month with above 50.0 nominal readings, but the index remains statistically indistinguishable from 50.0 zero growth mark.

Table below uses January-February average PMI for 1Q 2017 reading and compares it against full quarter averages for Manufacturing PMIs for previous quarters.

Chart below illustrates quarterly averages trends:

As shown in the chart above, 1Q 2017 results to-date indicate slightly weaker growth support from the BRIC economies overall, based on Manufacturing sector activity alone. Global growth in manufacturing continued to accelerate in the first two months of 2017, while BRIC Manufacturing posted slightly weaker growth in 1Q so far. The downward momentum in BRIC Manufacturing growth was driven by 
  • Brazil (experiencing accelerated contraction in 1Q to-date compared to 4Q 2016)
  • India (experiencing sharply slower growth in 1Q 2017 to-date compared to 4Q 2016)
Offsetting these trends,
  • Russian growth in manufacturing sector accelerated in the first two months of 2017 compared to 4Q 2016; and
  • Chinese growth in the sector remained roughly unchanged in January-February 2017 compared to 4Q 2016.

I will be posting on Services sector PMIs and Composite PMIs once we have data for Brazil.

Friday, March 3, 2017

3/3/17: Sovereign & Corporate Credit Ratings: Slow Motion Disaster Spectacle

Recently, I wrote about the latest Fitch Ratings data showing a dramatic decline in the number of AAA-rated sovereigns over 2016 (see: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.com/2017/02/10217-sovereign-debt-bubble-methane.html). Now, take a look at the Fitch's latest analysis of the trends in A and better rated sovereigns:

Per Fitch: "The proportion of 'A-' and higher ratings in Fitch's global portfolio of sovereigns, corporates and banks remains well below the pre financial-crisis level and could fall further over the next couple of years as the balance of ratings outlooks has deteriorated."

Some numbers:

  • In sovereign ratings, the proportion of 'AAA' sovereigns was down to below 10% at the end of 2016, marking its lowest-ever level. "Around 36% of the portfolio is rated in the 'A' to 'AAA' categories, down from 48% at the end of 2006 while 27% is rated 'B+' or below, compared to 20% in 2006."
  • Fitch's sovereign ratings also "have the greatest share of negative outlooks on a net basis, at 21%. This suggests downgrades could outnumber upgrades by a wide margin" going forward.
  • In corporate ratings, "the proportion of corporate ratings in the 'A' to 'AAA' categories has dropped to 20% from 30% over the last decade, but unlike sovereigns the proportion rated 'B+' and below has only ticked up by 1 percentage point. Instead ratings have become increasingly compressed in the 'BB' and 'BBB' categories."
  • "Financial institutions, which have historically had a bigger share of high investment grade ratings, have seen the proportion of 'A' to 'AAA' category ratings slip to 39% from 53%."
  • "The trend seems set to worsen, as a net 11% of financial institution ratings outlooks were negative at end-2016, driven largely by outlooks on emerging-market banks, which themselves often reflect the outlooks of their sovereign."

3/3/17: Gold vs Bitcoin: Prices vs Values

Marketwatch reported earlier that Bitcoin is currently being priced at above the price of gold in USD terms: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bitcoin-is-now-worth-more-than-an-ounce-of-gold-for-the-first-time-ever-2017-03-02?siteid=bnbh

The comparative is somewhat silly, because, as Marketwatch article notes, Bitcoin market cap is much much smaller than that for gold, which implies that any valuation of Bitcoin to-date incorporates a hefty liquidity risk premium compared to gold. In addition - unmentioned by the Marketwatch - Bitcoin lacks key financial properties of gold, including:

  1. Established safe haven properties: gold acts as a safe haven instrument against large scale or systemic risks. Bitcoin is yet to establish such property with any conviction. There are some indications that Bitcoin may be seen in the markets as a hedge against some systemic risks, e.g. capital controls in China, but this property is yet to be fully confirmed in data. Beyond such confirmation, there is no evidence to-date that Bitcoin acts as a safe haven for other systemic risks (e.g. sovereign debt crisis risks in the Euro area, or political risks in the EU, etc).
  2. Hedging properties: Bitcoin shows no hedging relationship to key asset classes, in contrast to gold.
The above points mean that in addition to liquidity risks, Bitcoin price is also factoring in premium for lacking the broader safe haven and hedging properties.

While the continued evolution of Bitcoin is a great thing to watch and take part in, immediate valuations of Bitcoin are subject to severely concentrated risks, including the currently extremely elevated risk of Bitcoin demand being severely skewed to China (http://trueeconomics.blogspot.com/2017/01/18117-bitcoin-demand-its-chinese-tale.html) and the supply and legal rights issues with Bitcoin. Hence, as it says on the tin: the comparative to gold is silly, even if entertaining.