Risks of Crypto Exchanges; Wall Street Loses in Senate’s Reg Reboot; Beware Fintech Firms Bearing Bitcoin

Mar 5, 2018

First Read

Hits & Takes
JLN Staff

See what our friend David Setters is doing protesting in the UK, in ITV’s piece Motor neurone disease patients protest in Westminster. Brave, focused and strong. Keep fighting, David. He issued a special thanks to Cathryn Lyall, Belinda Gooderham, Mark Thornberry, Thom Lant, Mark Gately, FCIM and MCIPR for coming out to support him that day.~JK

Chuck Mackie and Rumi Morales were part of a Chicago SunTimes event last week, the story of which is, “Experts break down future of bitcoin, blockchain in Sun-Times discussion.”~JJL

From the World Federation of Exchanges latest report, “41 percent of respondents noted that large technology companies (firms such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft) could be the most impactful in the capital markets infrastructure space in the next five years.”~JK

In a circular to members, SGX has declared their gold futures to be dormant due to the “absence of trading interest.” The exchange suspended the Singapore Kilobar Gold Contract trading on SGX-DT with immediate effect.~JJL

The Dubai Gold & Commodities Exchange (DGCX) today announced that its physically-backed Sharia-compliant Gold contract will commence trading on the exchange on March 29, 2018.~JJL

The FEAS, Federation of Euro-Asian Stock Exchanges, announced that this week is dedicated to their member Iran Fara Bourse. During this whole week FEAS will share news and updates about IFB and their mission.~JJL

Dr. Milton Friedman gave a concise and lucid argument for international free trade at Utah State University in 1978, including why steel producers love tariffs.~JJL

Just to brighten your Monday, here is the musical “Hamilton” set to a polka by Weird Al Yankovich.~JJL


Would You Wait Six Months To Get A Bitcoin Account? TT’s Michael Unetich Outlines The Crypto Obstacles And Opportunities Ahead
Jim Kharouf – JLN

Michael Unetich is seeing cryptocurrencies from both sides – as a trader and now on the service side as vice president of cryptocurrencies at Chicago-based Trading Technologies. JLN’s Jim Kharouf sat down with him at FinTank’s CryptoCon event in Chicago last month to find out where this asset class is going and the many things it still needs to grow.

Q: Do you have a sense of how this is evolving as far as participants? I hear that even if institutional players are not in it yet, they are looking at it and getting ready for it.

A: Yes. Some have flipped the switch to do it, but they just can’t get in. You hear about corporate customers having onboarding experiences as long as six months at different exchanges. The Coinbase app is one of the top downloaded apps every month and we see different exchanges hitting different milestones every month in terms of new customer accounts. In some ways, the market is only moving as quickly as the infrastructure is letting it move. So I don’t think it is slowing down. I don’t feel like the price sell-off has dented enthusiasm for it. The general public might now realize you can lose a lot of money in it, but the professional market is ready and rarin’ to go.

Read the rest HERE.


Coinbase Hit with 2 Class Action Lawsuits: Accused of Insider Bitcoin Cash Trading
Samantha Chang – Investopedia
Bitcoin exchange Coinbase was hammered with two federal class action lawsuits in two days, with one accusing employees of insider trading of Bitcoin Cash (BCH).

***** Hammered is what you get after you get the lawsuit.~JJL


Ex-Vatican Bank President Indicted for Embezzlement, Money Laundering; Prosecutors to charge Angelo Caloia and his lawyer for generating losses of more than $60 million
Francis X. Rocca – WSJ
“Vatican prosecutors have indicted a former president of the Vatican bank and his lawyer for embezzlement and money laundering, the latest move in a long-term cleanup of the historically scandal-plagued institution.

*****Brings new meaning to Lent.~JJL


Roger Bannister, the First Person to Run a Mile in Less Than 4 Minutes, Dies at 88
Chris Lehourites, AP via Time
It was a typical British afternoon in early May: wet, cool and blustery. Not exactly the ideal conditions for running four laps around a track faster than many thought humanly possible.

****Former Euronext executive Lee Hodgkinson dedicated a MarketsWiki Education talk to Roger Bannister and his quest to break the 4-minute mile.


Friday’s Top Three
Everyone wants to know who just got banned. The NFA’s release Permanently Banning Fortune Trading Group and its principal, Jonathan Schuler, for five years was the top read story. Second went to another banishment of sorts in Bloomberg’s Ken Griffin’s Citadel Dismisses 21 People. Third went to a self-inflicted banishment, in Reuters’ LJM Partners shutting its doors after ‘vol-mageddon’ losses in U.S. stocks. An honorable mention to the WFE’s McKenzie report on fintech in capital markets, which can be accessed via its press release


MarketsWiki Stats
121,478,177 pages viewed; 23,022 pages; 211,931 edits
MarketsWiki Statistics

Lead Stories

Crypto Investing Comes With a Big Risk: The Exchanges; Recent hacks show the vulnerability investors can face when buying speculative tokens on startup exchanges
Paul Vigna – WSJ
Cryptocurrency traders are learning that where they buy and sell digital tokens can be just as risky as choosing a coin or picking a price. Investors have lost more than $700 million this year in hacks of two major cryptocurrency exchanges. The thefts at Florence, Italy-based BitGrail and Japan’s Coincheck bring total investor hacking losses since 2014 to around $1.4 billion, according to a Wall Street Journal review of recent hacks.

Rare Loss for Wall Street in Senate’s Reboot of Financial Rules
Elizabeth Dexheimer – Bloomberg
Despite lobbying, big banks don’t get many changes they wanted; Smaller banks would be freed from too-big-to-fail oversight
The U.S. Senate is expected to approve a sweeping revamp of financial rules this week. Of all the surprises that entails — about a dozen Democrats signing on, Republicans leaving a lot of the much-maligned Dodd-Frank legislation intact — the biggest is the lack of goodies for Wall Street.

Beware Fintech Firms Bearing Bitcoin; Banking isn’t addictive, but getting rich certainly is.
Lionel Laurent – Bloomberg
Fintech startups have long had trouble turning feel-good rhetoric into profitable growth. Competition is intense, consumers tend to want things for free, and dinosaur banks are far from extinct. To make matters worse, finance just isn’t as addictive as messaging or catching up with friends. That counts in an era where billions are made through monetizing attention.

Surprise: LaSalle Street balks at LaSalle Street tax
Lynne Marek – Crain’s Chicago Business
Gubernatorial hopeful Dan Biss has a tax idea so anathema to Chicago business that not even his Democratic rivals will go there. The Illinois state senator proposes a “LaSalle Street tax” on every trade running through the city’s futures and options exchanges operated by CME Group and Cboe Global Markets. It’s “one fair way to increase revenue for Illinois,” he says, eyeing $10 billion to $12 billion annually.

Sheila Bair Sees the Seeds of Another Financial Crisis
Reshma Kapadia – Barron’s
Sheila Bair has demonstrated that she’s not afraid to be the lone person flagging potential problems. The former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is best known for her early warnings about the subprime mortgage market, and she’s still spotting problems in the financial system.

Virtu Financial moves to distance itself from ‘VirtCoin’
Nicole Bullock in New York – FT
Virtu Financial, the high speed trader, on Friday moved to disassociate itself from VirtCoin, which was using Virtu’s logo on a website describing a cryptocurrency operation.

What a Longer Xi Reign May Mean for Investors
Vito J. Racanelli – Barron’s
“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble” is attributed to Augustus, the first Roman emperor. It’s an ancient boast that comes to mind as Chinese President Xi Jinping maneuvers his power and his country for the future.

Exchanges, OTC and Clearing

Kuwait Stock Exchange Plans Share Sale as Early as This Year
Yousel Gamal El-Din, Abbas Al Lawati, Filipe Pacheco – Bloomberg
Market studies will be completed at the end of April: CMA; Vice Chairman Al-Usaimi says liquidity “remains an issue”
Kuwait, which was classified as an emerging market by index provider FTSE Russell in September, plans to sell a stake in its stock exchange as early as this year.

Deutsche Boerse AG: Release Of A Capital Market Information
In the period from 26 February 2018 to, and including, 02 March 2018, Deutsche Boerse AG purchased a number of 63,446 shares within the framework of its ongoing share buy-back program which had been announced by the announcement of 22 November 2017 pursuant to Art. 5 (1) lit. a) of Regulation (EU) No 596/2014 and Art. 2 (1) of Delegated Regulation (EU) No 2016/1052.

NASDAQ and IEX – Sue Everybody!
Themis Trading
What is one to do when their monopoly power and cash cows are threatened? Send in the lawyers, that’s what!

Dubai Gold & Commodities Exchange Appoints INTL FCStone Commodities DMCC To Serve As Market Maker For Their Sharia- Compliant Spot Gold Contract (DGSG)
INTL FCStone Inc. today announced that its Dubai-based subsidiary, INTL FCStone Commodities DMCC (“the Company”) will serve as the market maker for the Dubai Gold & Commodities Exchange (DGCX) Sharia-compliant Spot Gold contract, which will be available for trading beginning on March 29, 2018. The release of this contract is a first for DGCX, and will mark its entry into the Islamic Finance sector.

Intercontinental Exchange Reports February Statistics; ICE Average Daily Volume (ADV) +16% y/y, Open Interest (OI) +8% y/y
Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. (NYSE:ICE), a leading operator of global exchanges and clearing houses and provider of data and listings services, today reported February 2018 trading volume and related revenue statistics, which can be viewed on the company’s investor relations website at http://ir.theice.com/ir-resources/supplemental-information in the Monthly Statistics Tracking spreadsheet.

Intercontinental Exchange Sets Date for 2018 Annual Meeting of Stockholders
Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. (NYSE:ICE), a leading operator of global exchanges, clearing houses and provider of data and listings services, will hold its 2018 Annual Meeting of Stockholders on Friday, May 18, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. ET at The St. Regis Atlanta. The proxy statement and admission procedures will be available in early April for stockholders of record as of March 20, 2018. A live audio webcast and replay of the annual meeting will be available on the company’s website www.theice.com in the investor relations and media section.

Basis Trade at Index Close (“BTIC”) Eligibility on CME Globex and Expansion of Listing Schedule for Certain CME and CBOT Equity Index Futures Contracts
CME Group

LSE chairman calls in ex-KPMG chief Simon Collins to probe boardroom crisis
Mark Kleinman, City Editor – Sky News
The London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) has drafted in a City heavyweight to conduct an independent probe of the boardroom crisis which triggered the ousting of its former chief ex?ecutive.


Why Bill Gates Is Wrong About Cryptocurrencies
Rob Viglione of ZenCash
Bill Gates’ recent criticisms of cryptocurrencies ó in which he suggested that blockchain technology facilitates financial crime and drug dealing, and has directly caused people harm ó are extremely disappointing. Still, Gates is not the only billionaire who has come out as strongly opposed to the new technology. Warren Buffett has called bitcoin a “joke,” while his partner Charlie Munger referred to it as “noxious poison” that the government should wipe out.

Cryptocurrency is terrible as money but “crypto-assets” are for real, says Bank of England’s chief
Cryptocurrencies represent a deeply flawed form of money, but policymakers should be careful not to crack down too hard on “crypto-assets,” Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, argued in a speech (pdf) today.

Bitcoin Billionaire Tyler Winklevoss Reveals Litecoin’s True Role; It’s … a little patronizing, honestly.
Alasdair Wilkins – Inverse.com
Litecoin has enjoyed some recent undivided attention from cryptocurrency enthusiasts with the ultimately confusing launch of LitePay. But the truth is that perhaps more than any other coin, it is defined in terms of bitcoin. Litecoin uses almost exactly the same blockchain technology as bitcoin, and it was specifically created to be a more accessible, user-friendly alternative to bitcoin.

Iceland’s ‘Great Bitcoin Heist’ sees 600 computers worth $2 million disappear
Jack Morse – Mashable
Mining for cryptocurrency can be an expensive proposition ó albeit less so if you just go ahead and steal 600 powerful computers to do it for you.

How Trump’s Hudson Tunnel Snit Threatens the National Economy
Elise Young and Demetrios Pogkas – Bloomberg
Economic risks keeping Americans up at night include the hastily rewritten tax code and the possibility of a global trade war set off by U.S. tariffs. Consider another cause for insomnia: President Donald Trump’s opposition to a new rail tunnel linking New York and New Jersey beneath the Hudson River.


Trump’s Tariff Plan Leaves Blue-Collar Winners and Losers
Natalie Kitroeff and Ana Swanson – NY Times
President Trump’s announcement that he planned to impose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum delighted some blue-collar industries he had championed. “Enthusiastic and gratified are probably understatements,” said Michael A. Bless, the president of Century Aluminum.
Behemoth steel buyers like Boeing and General Motors weren’t as pleased.

Shortly before Trump announced tariffs, his former adviser dumped millions in steel-related stocks
Marwa Eltagouri – Washington Post
President Trump’s decision Thursday to impose crippling tariffs on the imports of steel and aluminum took many by surprise ó particularly investors, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day’s trading down more than 400 points, or 1.7 percent, at 24,608.

Trump tax cuts herald $1tn bonanza for US investors; Growth in stock buybacks outstrips investment in capex, R&D and employees
Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson – FT
US companies are on track this year to return a record $1tn to shareholders, as Donald Trump’s tax cuts prompt boards to boost buybacks and dividends at a faster rate than their capital expenditure, research and development budgets or wage bills.

Scaramucci Is on White House ‘Exclusion List’ Blocking Visits
Jennifer Jacobs, Justin Sink – Bloomberg
White House official had denied his claim he was on blacklist; Statement confirms he is on list requiring special approval
Anthony Scaramucci, President Donald Trump’s former communications director, is on a list of people blocked from entering the White House without special approval.

The Good Donald, the Bad Donald and the Ugly Market; Stock investors’ reaction to the president’s plan creates an internal conflict.
Stephen Gandel – Bloomberg
Call it the tariff tantrum. The big question investors should be asking during the market’s plunge this week is how could the threat of tariffs — which would affect only 2 percent of all U.S. imports, representing just 0.2 percent of GDP — cause stocks to lose more than $600 billion. The answer is that either tariffs will sock a bigger punch to the economy than most economists think, or it’s about more than just tariffs.

State Dept. Was Granted $120 Million to Fight Russian Meddling. It Has Spent $0.
Gardiner Harris – NY Times
As Russia’s virtual war against the United States continues unabated with the midterm elections approaching, the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy.


U.S. prosecutors want stay lifted to settle ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ suit
Reuters Staff
The U.S. Justice Department has asked a court to lift a stay on civil proceedings linked to a Malaysian fund at the center of its biggest ever “kleptocracy” probe, so that a settlement can be reached with producers of the movie ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’.

Ex-Deutsche Bank Trader Called Gollum by Tom Hayes Fined
Franz Wild – Bloomberg
FCA fines Guillaume Adolph $250,000, bans him from industry; Bank paid $3.5 billion in fines, disgorgements over Libor
A former Deutsche Bank AG trader, nicknamed “Gollum” by Tom Hayes, was fined 180,000 pounds ($250,000) for his role in the Libor-rigging scandal.

ASIC consults on updated guidance for its oversight of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA)
ASIC today released draft updated Regulatory Guide 139, Oversight of AFCA (updated RG139) for public consultation.

SEC Celebrates African American History Month
The Securities and Exchange Commission this week concluded its month of celebrations, events, and remembrances – at its Washington, D.C. headquarters as well as in regional offices around the country – in honor of African American History Month. With the help and leadership of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI) and the SEC’s African American Council, the SEC highlighted this year’s national theme, “African Americans in Times of War,” and held a number of events celebrating the contributions of African Americans to the United States. Highlights of African American History Month at the SEC included a keynote address by Command Sergeant Major Michael L. Gragg of the U.S. Army Medical Command and a roundtable discussion on diversity hosted by SEC Chairman Jay Clayton.

FCA fines and bans former Deutsche Bank trader, Guillaume Adolph
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has fined Guillaume Adolph £180,000 and banned him from performing any function in relation to any regulated financial activity.

Big Wall Street Banks See Chance to Weaken Post-Crisis Rule
Emily Flitter, Kenneth P. Vogel and Alan Rappeport – NY Times
The first significant bipartisan attempt to alter rules established after the 2008 financial crisis is turning into a battle on Capitol Hill, as some of the biggest Wall Street banks seek to weaken a crucial requirement aimed at ensuring that they can withstand financial losses.

Investing and Trading

Shades of 1987 in the Dow’s 500-Point Drop
Randall Forsyth – Barron’s
With the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 500 points, Gluskin Sheff’s chief economist David Rosenberg neatly sums up in a tweet the parallels from just over three decades ago:

Bogle on Bubbles
John C. Bogle, founder of Vanguard Group, was quick to write us after he read an opinion piece we ran last week by Jeffrey Frankel, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. And Frankel had a few thoughts for Bogle. Here’s their spirited exchange.

Why High-Yield Bonds Could Be Mispriced
Mary Childs – Barron’s
There’s something funny in the high-yield bond market, and even Martin Fridson isn’t quite sure what it meansóthough he does believe the junk-bond market has enjoyed a false tranquility for the past 30 years.

Currency markets send a warning on the US economy; Concerns over the dollar weakness are magnified by the decision to impose across the board tariffs on steel and aluminium
Lawrence Summers – FT
One of the many surprising aspects of financial market performance over the past year has been the weak performance of the US dollar, which has fallen by close to 10 per cent on a trade weighted basis and by more than 10 per cent against the euro.

Risk-taking trading firms eye riches in global gas market; Traders such as Trafigura and Vitol are benefiting as the LNG market moves away from long-term contracts
Emiko Terazono and Anjli Raval – FT
The world’s biggest independent commodity traders have carved out reputations and built their billion-dollar balance sheets on a willingness to take calculated risks in oil and metals markets that more staid and established rivals shunned.

Stockpickers’ chance has arrived, but will they seize it?; Focus also turns to monetary policy divergence and junk bonds
FT Reporters
Will stockpickers seize clear opportunities?
Over the past five years it has been common to hear traditional equity fund managers complain that a high degree of correlation between good and bad companies has made the art of stock picking difficult.

Boom times for US shale oil producers; Industry emerges from downturn more productive and propels spectacular output growth
Ed Crooks – FT
“We are in the BOOM of FRAC SAND HAULING” proclaims a job advertisement on the website Indeed.com. Dozens of companies are looking for truck drivers in west Texas to haul the sand used for hydraulic fracturing, one of the processes that has unleashed the US shale oil revolution of the past decade. The sand is mixed with water and chemicals and pumped into wells at high pressure, to open cracks in the rock through which oil can flow.

Investors Warm Up to Bond ETFs; After many years of lagging behind stock-focused funds, bond ETFs draw attention
Gerrard Cowan – WSJ
Fixed-income exchange-traded funds are late bloomers compared with their equities-based cousins. But their popularity has surged in recent yearsówith funds focused on shorter-duration bonds drawing interest latelyóas investors look to marry the benefits of fixed income with the advantages of an ETF.


World’s Best Performing Macro Hedge Fund Lost 16% Last Month
Klaus Wille – Bloomberg
PruLev Global Macro Fund slumps after gaining 52% last year; Singapore-based fund fell as markets roiled in February
The PruLev Global Macro Fund gave up almost one-third of last year’s 52 percent gain in February, after being caught out by the return of volatility.

Deutsche Investor Anchors $140 Billion on Bet Bond Rout Over
Natasha Doff – Bloomberg
Christian Hille sees less likelihood yields will overtake 3%; Sees market dips as opportunity to add to EM, stock holdings
Deutsche Asset Management’s Christian Hille is tuning out a chorus of warnings that Treasuries are in a bear market. In fact, he’s staked most of his $140 billion portfolio on a bet that the rise in yields has pretty much topped out, clearing the path for gains in risk assets.

Fund managers ‘asleep at the wheel’ over exorbitant executive pay; Many of US’s most overpaid CEOs have their packages rubber stamped by asset managers
Attracta Mooney – FT
BlackRock and Vanguard have been accused of being “asleep at the wheel” for failing to tackle exorbitant executive pay in a sign of the growing public and political pressure fund managers are coming under to rein in excessive remuneration packages.

These Banks Can’t Pretend They’re Not Important; History suggests that freeing midsize banks from special scrutiny would be a bad idea.
Mark Whitehouse – Bloomberg
Judging from their latest effort to roll back the Dodd-Frank Act, congressional Republicans think that regulators shouldn’t worry so much about the country’s next-to-largest banks ó the ones with between $50 billion and $250 billion in assets. Are they right? History suggests not.

Shadow banking grows to more than $45tn assets globally; Financial Stability Board data include China and Luxembourg assets for first time
Caroline Binham in London – FT
“Shadow banking” grew by nearly 8 per cent globally to more than $45tn on a conservative measure after international rulemakers were able to include detailed data from China and Luxembourg for the first time.

The Smart Ways for Fund Investors to Deal With Currency Fluctuations; Analysts say investors are best off with a plain-vanilla approach to currency moves
Dan Weil – WSJ
The dollar’s recent drop to a three-year low against other major currencies raises a natural question: How should investors in mutual funds and exchange-traded funds handle currency fluctuations?


What Eyebrows Might Tell You About Japan’s Stock Market
Some analysts see a correlation between eyebrow trends and Japanese stocks. So what are they telling investors now? (Source: Bloomberg)

Parched South Africa City Struggles to Avoid ‘Day Zero’: Water Shutdown
Gabriele Steinhauser – WSJ
Officials who huddled recently to discuss a debilitating drought delivered an unexpectedly apocalyptic conclusion: Unless Cape Town’s four million residents slash consumption, the seaside city under Table Mountain must take the rare step of shutting its taps to avoid running out of water.

China Pig Feed King Says U.S. Trade War Will Hurt
Bloomberg News
The man who runs China’s biggest consumer of American soybeans said he hopes his country will avoid a clash with the U.S. over trade, though his firm can line up alternative suppliers if necessary.

Indian police say gold bribes given in $2 billion bank fraud case
Abhirup Roy, Krishna N. Das – Reuters
An official of India’s Punjab National Bank (PNBK.NS) received gold and diamond jewelry from a billionaire jeweler accused of being involved in a $2 billion bank fraud, the federal police told a court on Saturday.

Why has the US opioid crisis not spread to the UK? Thank the NHS
LSE US Centre
The US is currently experiencing an epidemic of opioid use – a crisis which has yet to cross the Atlantic to the United Kingdom. But why has opioid use reached crisis point in the US but not in the UK? Diarmuid Denneny and Silvie Cooper argue that the US crisis has its roots in the promotion of opioids for chronic pain management more than 20 years ago which led to a culture of attempting to end chronic pain rather than to manage it. The National Health Service in the UK, by contrast, made pain management services universally accessible and offers pain-management strategies beyond opioids.


Global investors shun UK stock market; Influential fund managers see British equities as world’s least popular asset class
Chris Flood – FT
The UK stock market is the most unpopular asset class in the world among big international investors, with confidence languishing at its lowest levels since the financial crisis.

May defends stance on post-Brexit financial services rules
William James – Reuters
Prime Minister Theresa May defended her decision to rule out so-called’passporting’ rights for banks after Brexit, saying Britain could not become a”rule taker” when it came to financial services.

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