Members of the Bank of Japan’s monetary policy board said that the country’s economy continues to proceed at an acceptable pace, minutes from the bank’s September 20-21 meeting revealed on Monday.The post BoJ Minutes: Recovery On Track For Japan Econom…
After the shocking NFP number released back in October which came in at -33K, there was expectation that Novembers Non-Farm Payroll would show a strong come back with a forecast of 310,000 new jobs created. However, though there…
Manufacturing PMI comes in at a miss, 51.6
– expected 52.0
– prior 52.4
More, via Reuters:
– Weakening property market and tighter pollution rules that are forcing many steels mills, smelters and factories to curtail production over the winter
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Services PMI for October falls below September, in at 54.3
– prior 55.4 (this was the highest since May 2014)
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The post China October offi…
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1. Investors will be focusing on Wednesday’s Fed meeting for fresh clues on the likely trajectory of monetary policy. Fed is widely expected to hike interest rates again in December. Fed fund futures are pricing in 97.8% chance…
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Along with the tide of immigration from Africa and the Middle East into the wealthier, more “optimistic” countries of Europe, where these penniless, war-embattled immigrants have been headed, there has been a parallel rise in political instability. The…
Here are a couple of previews: I posted late last week:
Here is my ‘in a nutshell’ preview to add to those:
– No policy change expected
– Headline inflation is rising very slowly (latest data was on Friday – , core is moribund at 0.2%)
The post Preview…
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Chris Burniske is a cofounder of Placeholder Ventures in New York and former blockchain products lead at ARK Investment Management LLC. Jack Tatar is an angel investor and advisor to startups. In this opinion piece, adapted from their book Cryptoassets: The Innovative Investor’s Guide to Bitcoin and Beyond, they explain what mainstream financial commentators still don’t understand about the space – even if the markets are starting to get it.
* * *
This has been a breakout year for crypto assets, but not so long ago we were thickly in “blockchain, not bitcoin” season.
When we began work on our book, the consensus play seemed to be stripping the native assets out of blockchains and privatizing these originally open networks.
With the book, we set out to make a stand for public blockchains as the more important innovation, to confront the misguided (and persistent) claim that crypto assets are elaborate scams, and to reassure macroeconomists that not all crypto assets are currencies.
Bitcoin, not blockchain
One of the main motivations for writing the book was to emphasize the value of the native assets that incentivize a distributed set of actors to provision a digital good or service with no central operator, i.e. crypto assets.
Given the recent boom in interest around crypto assets, it seems counterintuitive that much of 2014, 2015 and 2016 were dominated by the idea that blockchain technology was important, while crypto assets could be forgotten and little would be lost.
The term distributed ledger technology (DLT) became popularized to convey this concept, effectively washing those pursuing DLT-strategies clean of association with bitcoin. Many in the financial services industry were all too eager to forget that bitcoin was the mother of blockchain technology.
Fall 2015 was when the frenzy around private blockchains really began, with Blythe Masters and Digital Asset Holdings featured on the cover of Bloomberg Magazine, and the Economist running a front cover piece called “The Trust Machine.”
The combination of Masters, Bloomberg, and the Economist led to a spike in interest in blockchain technology that set off a sustained climb in global Google search volumes for “blockchain.” In the two weeks between Oct. 18 and Nov. 1, 2015, just after Bloomberg and the Economist published their articles, global Google search volumes for ‘blockchain’ grew 70 percent.
We find ourselves on the flip side of Jamie Dimon’s reasoning: we believe the majority of private blockchains and DLT implementations will become the CompuServes and AOLs of the cryptoasset movement.
Time and again through the history of information technology, open has won out over closed, public has won out over private. This is not to say there isn’t a place for closed and private, but rather that the impact such systems have on the world consistently pales in comparison to the change brought about by open and public systems.
As we write in the book,
“We see many DLT solutions as band-aids to the coming disruption. While DLT will help streamline existing processes — which will help profit margins in the short term — for the most part these solutions operate within what will become increasingly outdated business models.”
Baby boomer biases
Famously, Nout Wellink, former president of the Dutch Central Bank, said of bitcoin, “This is worse than the tulip mania… At least then you got a tulip [at the end], now you get nothing.”
Nout displays a type of anti-crypto asset bias many baby boomers suffer from: if these things have no physical form, how could they possibly have value?
To start, such a mindset then raises the same question of much of our world, which is increasingly based upon things that have only digital representations and amass massive amounts of value.
For example, the market caps of Twitter, Facebook and Google are largely based on 100% digital services – certainly, those services produce cash flows, but cash is paid in exchange for a digital service, implying a purely digital service can have value.
To sate the skeptical, in our book we provide a deep dive into methodologies for valuing bitcoin, and explain how the methodologies can be put to use for crypto assets more broadly.
One of our favorite explorations was working to quantify the contributions of developers, which we don’t think we nailed, but hopefully provided a basis for future work and exploration. Below is one of the developer graphs, showing the frequency of activity based on code repository points and the number of days a crypto asset project has been in the works.
In addition to explaining how crypto assets have a very real form of value, we spend two chapters exploring the most famous market disasters across all kinds of asset classes, including John Law and the Mississippi Company that brought France to its knees, the cornering of the gold market by Jay Gould, and different forms of this time is different thinking.
We spend a significant chunk of time exploring the history of financial speculation to highlight that all asset classes go through growing pains, and we should expect the same of crypto assets.
We may have new bad actors in the crypto markets, but they are playing old tricks.
Why so many?
A question asked by many new to the industry is, why do we need more than 100 currencies? Can’t we do with just a handful? And if these things intend to be currencies, why are they so volatile?
For that reason, we titled the book Crypto assets, and not Cryptocurrencies, and we explain our thinking as follows:
Historically, crypto assets have most commonly been referred to as cryptocurrencies, which we think confuses new users and constrains the conversation on the future of these assets. We would not classify the majority of crypto assets as currencies, but rather most are either digital commodities (crypto commodities), provisioning raw digital resources, or digital tokens (crypto tokens), provisioning finished digital goods and services.
A currency fulfills three well-defined purposes: to serve as a means of exchange, store of value, and unit of account. However, the form of currency itself often has little inherent value. For example, the paper bills in people’s wallets have about as little value as the paper in their printer. Instead, they have the illusion of value, which if shared widely enough by society and endorsed by the government, allows these monetary bills to be used to buy goods and services, to store value for later purchases, and to serve as a metric to price the value of other things.
Meanwhile, commodities are wide-ranging and most commonly thought of as raw material building blocks that serve as inputs into finished products. For example, oil, wheat, and copper are all common commodities. However, to assume that a commodity must be physical ignores the overarching “offline to online” transition occurring in every sector of the economy.
In an increasingly digital world, it only makes sense that we have digital commodities, such as compute power, storage capacity, and network bandwidth. While compute, storage and bandwidth are not yet widely referred to as commodities, they are building blocks that are arguably just as important as our physical commodities, and when provisioned via a blockchain network, they are most clearly defined as crypto commodities.
Beyond cryptocurrencies and crypto commodities – and also provisioned via blockchain networks – are “finished-product” digital goods and services like media, social networks, games, and more, which are orchestrated by crypto tokens. Just as in the physical world, where currencies and commodities fuel an economy to create finished goods and services, so too in the digital world the infrastructures provided by cryptocurrencies and crypto commodities are coming together to support the aforementioned finished-product digital goods and services.
Crypto tokens are in the earliest stage of development, and will likely be the last to gain traction as they require a robust cryptocurrency and crypto commodity infrastructure to be built before they can reliably function.
The markets catch up
We wrote Cryptoassets to cut against the grain of thinking that claimed bitcoin and its digital siblings were a niche movement, and instead to emphasize to investors that this represents the greatest opportunity for investors and entrepreneurs since the Web.
In the midst of writing, the markets came to the same realization, taking the aggregate network value of crypto assets up roughly 15-fold, and doing much of the convincing for us.
Nonetheless, we hope the book serves as a useful guide to the uninitiated, an explainer for befuddled financial professionals, and a reflection on the wild ride it’s been for the crypto OGs.
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As speculation mounts that Paul Manafort might be the target of the sealed indictments reportedly approved by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury, Buzzfeed is reporting new details of Mueller’s probe into Manafort, seemingly a hint that he will in fact be one of, if not the only, target taken into custody tomorrow.
The FBI’s investigation of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, includes a keen focus on a series of suspicious wire transfers in which offshore companies linked to Manafort moved more than $3 million all over the globe between 2012 and 2013.Much of the money came into the United States.
These transactions — which have not been previously reported — drew the attention of federal law enforcement officials as far back as 2012, when they began to examine wire transfers to determine if Manafort hid money from tax authorities or helped the Ukrainian regime close to Russian President Vladimir Putin launder some of the millions it plundered through corrupt dealings.
The new revelations come as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is tightening, with reports that an indictment may already have been issued. It is not known if Manafort has been indicted, or if he ever will be. Manafort has been the subject of multiple law enforcement and congressional inquiries. A spokesperson for Manafort would not comment for this story about the investigation or any of the specific transactions, but Manafort has previously denied wrongdoing.
Manafort took charge of Trump’s campaign in May 2016 and was forced to resign just three months later, amid intense media scrutiny of his ties to the notoriously corrupt former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was supported by the Kremlin. A political operative for decades, the 68-year-old Manafort has worked for Republicans such as Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, as well as for foreign leaders such as former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos.
To be sure, the subject or subjects of the indictment have not been revealed – and leaking any more details from the grand jury room would only serve to further erode Mueller’s credibility.
And it’s important to Manafort is only one of a handful of Trump associates to face scrutiny in the probe – that group also includes President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. But the probe into Manafort has been subject to an unusual number of leaks, including reports that his home had been raided by the FBI over the summer, and that Mueller had been looking into his tax records in search of a ‘check the box’ violation.
Adding to this, Roger Stone reportedly testified that Mueller’s team had informed Manafort that he should expect to be indicted.
As Buzzfeed pointed out, Manafort is reportedly also being investigated for money laundering by federal prosecutors in New York City, but there have been no formal charges from that probe. The FBI searched his home during a pre-dawn raid this summer, reportedly as part of Mueller’s probe. Manafort has consistently maintained his innocence.
Mueller is reportedly examining at least 13 wire transfers that occurred between 2012 and 2013. The transfers were flagged by Treasury officials as suspicious, which triggered an FBI investigation that – tellingly – never led to charges. It’s unknown how that investigation was resolved.
Now, BuzzFeed News has learned that investigators have been scrutinizing at least 13 wire transfers between 2012 and 2013. The transfers were first flagged by American financial institutions, which are required by law to tell an office within the Treasury Department about any transactions they deem suspicious. Such “suspicious activity reports” do not prove wrongdoing. Federal law requires financial institutions to file reports on cash transactions that exceed $10,000 in a single day, even if those transactions seem otherwise legitimate. Banks are also required to file the reports whenever they suspect money laundering or other financial crimes.
Bank officers flagged unusual behavior among five offshore companies that authorities say are associated with Manafort: Global Endeavour Inc., Lucicle Consultants Ltd., and three others that appear to have no current contact information.
Law enforcement sources say the companies sent funds in round-dollar amounts without explanation of what the money was to be used for. The countries where these transactions originated — notably Cyprus and the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines — are notorious for money laundering. Federal law enforcement officials said they saw evidence of “layering,” the process by which the origin of money is obscured behind many layers of companies. Much of the money ended up in the US, sent to American home improvement contractors, a hedge fund, and even a car dealership.
Manafort’s suspicious financial transactions were first flagged by Treasury officials as far back as 2012 and forwarded to the FBI’s International Corruption Unit and the Department of Justice for further investigation in 2013 and 2014, a former Treasury official who worked on the matter told BuzzFeed News. The extent of Manafort’s suspicious transactions was so vast, said this former official, that law enforcement agents drafted a series of “intelligence reports” about Manafort’s financial dealings. Two law enforcement officials who worked on the case say that they found red flags in his banking records going back as far as 2004, and that the transactions in question totaled many millions of dollars.
Buzzfeed later implies that Manafort helped Viktor Yanukovich – who is suspected to be the ultimate source of the payments, which were presumably made in exchange for Manafort’s consulting work – loot Ukraine’s public Treasury.
BuzzFeed News has learned specific details about 13 of the wire transfers, all of which took place between 2012 and 2013. At least four of the transfers originated with Manafort’s company Global Endeavour, a political consulting firm based in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Global Endeavour was hired by Yanukovych to consult and lobby on his behalf. Ousted after the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, Yanukovych lives in exile in Russia and is accused of treason by Ukrainian authorities; the country’s general prosecutor said Yanukovych’s embezzlement of state funds was so egregious it resembled a “mafia structure.”
Wire transfers flagged as suspicious show that during the waning months of Yanukovych’s presidency, Global Endeavour sent more than $750,000 out of Ukraine. None of these transactions have been previously reported.
In November and December of 2013, for example, the company transferred almost $53,000 to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Kiev-based political operator. It’s not known what the money was for. A federal law enforcement official described Kilimnik as a linguist trained by the Russian army and about whom the US has gathered intelligence. He reportedly attended a military school some experts believe to be a training ground for Russian spies.
Kilimnik worked with Manafort for more than a decade, and the Washington Post reported that Manafort emailed his old partner in 2016 to offer “private briefings” to a Russian billionaire close to President Vladimir Putin.
Kilimnik declined to comment when reached Saturday by BuzzFeed News.
In September 2013, Global Endeavour transferred $500,000 that would ultimately end up back in Manafort’s control. First it went to a hedge fund in Florida, Aegis Holdings LLC, that is controlled by Marc Baldinger, a broker who in 2014 was suspended for 18 months for engaging in deals his financial institution didn’t know about. Baldinger’s brother, Bruce, is a real estate attorney who has worked with Manafort for about a decade.
While the wire transfers Buzzfeed reported on mostly involved Manafort’s Global Endeavor lobbying company, the FBI is also reportedly examining suspicious wire transfers involving other companies.
In addition to transactions involving Global Endeavour, there were wire transfers, never before reported, flagged as suspicious involving other companies. There were three by the Cyprus-based Lucicle Consultants — which has “strong ties” to Manafort, according to federal law enforcement sources — in March and April 2012. The company transferred a total of about $2.5 million, some of it directly to accounts controlled by Manafort. No contact information for Lucicle or any of its officers could be found.
Given that leaking Manafort as the target would be too damaging, is this leak Mueller’s way of taunting the former Trump campaign executive before indictments are handed down?
Or are these just more trivial details about Manafort receiving payment for his lobbying work?
What do you think?
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Our rapidly digitizing world has opened up a whole range of new ways to market your brand, one of the most effective being through social media. Influencers have become an integral component of creating brand awareness, basically through word-of-mouth …
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