Frank Holmes, CEO of US Global Investors, reported back from the LBMA/LPPM Precious Metals that took place in Barcelona last week. Holmes gave the key note address on Day 2 “Quant Investing: From Gold to Cryptocurrencies.”
According to a thrilled Holmes, his presentation was voted the best – no doubt helped by the topical subject matter – and he was the recipient of an ounce of gold. He went on to relate the views of the conference attendees regarding the relative performance of gold and cryptos should there be (heaven forbid but sadly topical) a conflict involving nuclear weapons.
“Speaking of gold and cryptocurrencies, the LBMA conducted several interesting polls on which of the two assets would benefit the most in certain scenarios. In one such poll, attendees overwhelmingly said the gold price would skyrocket in the event of a conflict involving nuclear weapons. Bitcoin, meanwhile, would plummet, according to participants—which makes some sense. As I pointed out before, trading bitcoin and other cryptos is dependent on electricity and WiFi, both of which could easily be knocked out by a nuclear strike. Gold, however, would still be available to convert into cash.”
Unsurprisngly, the conference attendees gold voted gold as the superior store of value – a view which echoed the recent Goldman Sachs primer on precious metals. Goldman asked whether cryptos are the new gold and concluded “We think not, gold wins out over cryptocurrencies in a majority of the key characteristics of money…(precious metals) are still the best long-term store of value out of the known elements.”
However, there is obviously a difference between a superior store of value and shorter-term upside…and Holmes is far from bearish on bitcoin and other virtual currencies.
One of his observations is, alas, only too relevant for many gold investors that “Because they’re decentralized and therefore less prone to manipulation by governments and banks - unlike paper money and even gold - I think they could also have a place in portfolios. He goes on to aim a couple of blows on Bitcoin’s biggest recent detractors “Even those who criticize cryptocurrencies the loudest seem to agree. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jaime Dimon, if you remember, called bitcoin ‘stupid’ and a ‘fraud,’ and yet his firm is a member of the pro-blockchain Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA). Russian president Vladimir Putin publicly said cryptocurrencies had ‘serious risks,’ and yet he just called for the development of a new digital currency, the ‘cryptoruble,’ which will be used as legal tender throughout the federation.”
It was Holmes observation on Bitcoin and Metcalfe’s Law that we particularly enjoyed…
This was Holmes’ take:
“Metcalfe’s law states that the bigger the network of users, the greater that network’s value becomes.
Robert Metcalfe, distinguished electrical engineer, was speaking specifically about Ethernet, but it also applies to cryptos. Bitcoin might look like a bubble on a simple price chart, but when we place it on a logarithmic scale, we see that a peak has not been reached yet.
Holmes is not the first to link Bitcoin with Metcalfe’s Law. For example, the Journal of Electronic Commerce Research published a study earlier this year. As TrustNodes reported
“The study measured the value of the network based on the price of relevant digital currencies and compared it to the number of unique addresses that engage in transactions on the network each day, according to the abstract. The results show that ‘the networks were fairly well modeled by Metcalfe’s Law, which identifies the value of a network as proportional to the square of the number of its nodes, or end users,’ the study says…The application of Metcalfe’s law towards transaction numbers specifically has long been suggested, with a fairly strong correlation between the price of digital currencies and their transaction numbers observed over many years. Ethereum, for example, was barely handling 20,000 transactions at the beginning of the year. Now it manages nearly 300,000 a day. Likewise, price has risen some 10x during the same time period. The reason for this relationship is fairly intuitive. As more projects build on ethereum, more users find it useful as there are more things they can do with it, which in turn makes ethereum more useful for new projects as it allows them to tap into more users. The same can be said about merchants. As more of them accept eth for payments, more think eth can be useful for everyday things, which means more merchants want to accept it to tap into the increased number of users, so forming a virtuous cycle. Metcalfe’s law of network effects can be applied to developers too, or investors, including speculators. The more that use it, the more useful it becomes, with the reverse applying too. The fewer individuals that use it or the more that stop using it, the less useful it becomes.”
If that was his killer chart, however, this was perhaps his killer comment.
“Bitcoin adoption could multiply the more people become aware of how much of their wealth is controlled by governments and the big banks."
This was among the hallway chatter I overheard at the Precious Metals Conference, with one person commenting that what’s said in private during International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings is far more important than what’s said officially. We have a similar view of the G20, whose mission was once to keep global trade strong. Since at least 2008, though, the G20 has been all about synchronized taxation to grow not the economy but the role government plays in our lives. Trading virtual currencies is one significant way to get around that.