The Digital Asset Insider is your monthly recap on what’s been going on in the digital asset space. Brought to you by Andrew Han, Director of Business Research at Fireblocks.
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Digital asset markets paused in July after consecutive months of weak prices. The adoption of tokenization to traditional asset classes is slowly becoming a reality as more financial and commercial firms look to adopt and build out digital asset infrastructure to support existing and new business opportunities using blockchain technologies. Crypto-native projects continue to develop their business and use this “quiet” period in the markets to innovate.
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Centralized finance (CeFi) firms continue to navigate the drop in crypto-native markets by optimizing operations, reviewing business strategies, and increasing crypto-native token support. Some are executing their expansion plans by extending their digital asset footprint into traditional finance (TradFi) markets.
- Coinbase had no exposure to centralized finance (CeFi) firms seeking bankruptcy protection. The NASDAQ listed centralized exchange took action early on to optimize their operational costs by reducing headcount as the onset of the “crypto winter”.
- Bitpanda has listed new tokens for their professional clients to trade with a focus on GameFi, including Axie Infinity Shard (AXS), Gala (GALA), and The Sandbox (SAND). The exchange also added five tokens made available for staking: Aave (AAVE), Avalanche (AVAX), Elrond (EGLD), Flow (FLOW) and Kava (KAVA).
- Crypto exchange FTX’s US affiliate, FTX US, offered their clients stock trading through their app at the end of July. Last month, FTX US acquired stock trading platform Embed Financial Technologies to enable their users to trade stock.
Traditional finance (TradFi) firms are looking to provide tokenization services to their clients and the broader market. The United Kingdom trade association for fund managers is seeking to speed up regulations allowing mutual funds to be tokenized. Digital asset infrastructure will need to be put in place to facilitate this movement of these tokenized traditional assets along secure transfer networks.
- Brazilian private bank Itaú Unibanco, is launching a tokenization platform and digital assets custody services. The bank intends to issue, distribute, and custody digital asset tokens and integrate with other products and channels through the platform.
- United Kingdom fund managers through trade body, The Investment Association, are pushing regulators to allow the tokenization of mutual funds by speeding up the approval of blockchain-traded fund regulations to the second quarter of 2023. This will bring greater efficiency, cost savings and transparency to mutual funds.
Decentralized finance applications (dApps) continue to build projects and make them available on multiple chains. Public and private blockchain protocols are partnering with corporations to develop enterprise applications using blockchain technologies to solve supply chain tracking problems by tokenizing data. Traditional finance (TradFi) rating agencies are looking to partner with decentralized finance (DeFi) players to “institutionalize” their business, as well as working with TradFi to incorporate crypto into their business.
- Clearpool launched uncollateralized stablecoin lending on Polygon. Credit risk ratings are issued by Credora (previously called X-Margin) to institutional borrowers after which lenders then decide whether to provide liquidity to the borrower via a single-borrower liquidity pool. Similar institutionally-focused lending pools include Maple Finance, Atlendis and TrueFi.
- Polygon is working with Mercedes Benz to develop a data-sharing platform, Acentrink, allowing users to buy, sell, and trade data. Traditional technology companies like SAP are leveraging private blockchain technology to trace plastics through the supply chain to advance the recycling of plastic resources.
- Rating agency S&P Global has launched a decentralized finance (DeFi) strategy group. The group will support both traditional finance firms looking to integrate crypto into their business models, as well as crypto-native firms looking to “institutionalize” by providing investors better information about the risks associated with their business.
Digital Asset Infrastructure
Traditional finance and payment firms are partnering with digital asset focused firms to enable secure and easy access to crypto for their customers and clients. Despite lower digital asset prices, access to crypto-native tokens by fintech firms continues to expand while investment into Web3 infrastructure remains strong in the second quarter. Venture capital interest for Web3 firms in the second quarter increased in a shift from firms in the DeFi and NFT space.
- Mastercard partnered with Indonesian crypto gateway provider Fasset to develop solutions that will bring access to digital financial services to Indonesian users and drive financial inclusion.
- BNP Paribas partnered with Fireblocks to enable clients to issue, transfer and hold regulated digital assets securely. Financial institutions have increased their interest in building their digital asset infrastructure to enable them to offer digital asset products and services.
- Revolut announced support of 22 tokens on its “superapp” platform. They also shared hiring plans over the next six months, which will focus on legal expertise, compliance, and financial crime prevention.
Regulation | Regulators
United States regulators believe crypto assets meeting the definitions set in securities regulation should not be exempt from meeting these requirements and become regulated. In the United Kingdom, a regulatory framework that is able to incorporate the unique characteristics of digital assets as property is being sought. Meanwhile, more firms providing digital asset services are receiving their license to operate more openly in Australia, Dubai and Singapore.
- The United States Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler does not believe the crypto industry should be treated any differently to the securities industry just because they use a different technology to accomplish the same activities as a securities exchange.
- The Law Commission in the United Kingdom is seeking to establish regulatory frameworks surrounding property rights to include digital assets. Due to the intangible characteristics of digital assets, they are not able to be classified as traditional properties.
- On the digital asset licensing front, Digital Treasures Center and Sparrow both received the full license to operate in Singapore as a regulated Digital Payment Token (DPT) service provider. FTX has received their full license, and OKX a provisional license to operate as virtual-asset service providers in Dubai. In Australia, Huobi has successfully registered with Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) allowing it to operate in the country.
CBDC designs being considered by central banks are seeking to prevent the disintermediation of banks. Central banks are concerned that without deposits, banks would not be able to provide lending facilities. Designs around wholesale CBDCs would focus on being non-interest bearing, which would reduce the risk of a serious bank run under high stress market conditions.
- Industry leaders from Checkout.com, Fireblocks and Gemini sat down to discuss stablecoins’ potential to transform banking, and how stablecoin regulation could impact their relationship with central bank issued digital currencies (CBDCs).
- The U.S. Federal Reserve released public comments on the digital dollar, which show many commentators are not in favor of the idea. Their concerns are around financial privacy, financial oppression, disintermediation of the banking system, the risk to financial stability, and whether a digital dollar would provide any benefits.
- Bank Indonesia, Indonesia’s central bank, is expected to release the design of a wholesale focused CBDC by the end of 2022, the digital rupiah. The bank is looking to distribute the digital rupiah through intermediaries like smaller banks and payment service companies for retail transactions.
Carbon credit registries are exploring how blockchain technologies can bring integrity to the voluntary carbon markets. Sovereign and corporate debt markets are issuing green bonds to finance sustainable projects and initiatives. Sustainable infrastructure projects in South-East Asian countries are estimated to need $2 trillion to build, requiring funding from both private capital and government spending.
- Verra is seeking public consultation on how blockchain technologies can be used to protect against fraud in the tokenization of carbon credits. The concern is around the registry’s ability to know-your-customer (KYC) involved in the carbon credit transaction (issuer and receiver), and protect the integrity of the voluntary carbon market from creation of the carbon credit to its eventual retirement.
- General Motors is expected to issue $2.25 billion of green bonds with the proceeds used for clean transport technology and solutions. Over the last 12-18 months, Ford Motor Co. raised $2.5 billion in green bonds for clean transport projects focused on battery electric-vehicles, and Honda Motor Co. raised $2.75 billion to be used for electric-vehicles and recycling used vehicle parts. Toyota Motor Corp. has been issuing asset-backed green bonds since 2014, with $7.6 billion raised as of 31 December 2021.
- The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced the launch of a Singapore dollar denominated S$1.5 billion Green Singapore Government Securities (infrastructure) sovereign green bond, with the proceeds going toward projects with environmental benefits. It will be the first of up to S$35 billion of sovereign and public sector green bonds to be issued by 2030. ASEAN+3 countries (China, Japan and South Korea), have cumulatively issued US$47.7 billion in green bonds in the first quarter of 2022 surpassing prior quarters predominantly originated by corporates in both local (LCY) and foreign (FCY) currencies.
Crypto-Native Market Analytics
Total Market Capitalization (TMC) climbed above $1 trillion in July as crypto-native prices recovered modestly over the month. The corrective price movement observed was in tandem with traditional risk-oriented assets such as equities which also saw higher prices. Central banks raised interest rates across the board between 25 to 75 basis points in an attempt to tame price inflation felt by economies around the world, and mitigate the chances of economic recession.
CHART OF THE MONTH
Bitcoin (blue line) moves closely with benchmark equity index S&P 500 Index (black line) and could be considered correlated with risk-assets overall.
Gold (orange) had moved inversely until mid-April after which price started to move in the same direction as bitcoin and the S&P 500 Index.
Crypto-native markets ended July higher as risk-oriented asset markets digested the news of interest rate increases by the major central banks.
TOP 10 MARKET CAPITALIZATION
Digital asset markets recovered slightly in July.
Bitcoin held above $15,000 after three months of lower closes and corrected towards $25,000 throughout the month of July.
BITCOIN : STOCK TO FLOW RATIO [BTC:STFR]
BTC is lower than STFR, indicating it is undervalued.
BTC: ALL EXCHANGES NETFLOW
Net position change continued to see net outflows from exchanges in July which slowed at the end of the month.
REGIONAL BTC FLOWS [Last 7 Day Average, Aug 1]
Intra-regional flows remain strong in East Asia and North America. Western Europe saw higher flows to North America and Eastern Asia.
From a percentage change perspective, flows from Eastern Asia to Western Europe increased over 50% in the last 7 days versus the 30 day average.
Assets typically flow within a region, likely due to preferences for local exchanges, but flows between regions often occur as a result of regulatory concerns, geopolitical changes, or significant market price variations.
Ethereum broke the price range around $1,700 that had been tested multiple times in 2021, and through $1,000 reaching a low of $897, a level not seen since Jan 2021.
TOTAL VALUE LOCKED [TVL, Jul 31]
DeFi TVL rose in tandem to the modest recovery in ETH and Altcoin prices as markets took a breather from lower prices seen since April.
PROTOCOL POSITION [TVL, Jul 31]
Total value locked (TVL) for all the protocols ranking behind Ethereum increased unevenly from the prior month.
DEFI PULSE INDEX [DPI]
Top 5 Tokens: Uniswap, Aave, Maker, Loopring and Synthetix.
Index information can be found at the Tokensets.com.
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This reCap is distributed for general informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal, tax, accounting, or investment advice. For other important disclosures.