Welcome back to Distributed Ledger. This is Frances Yue, crypto reporter at MarketWatch.
Crypto miners have had a remarkable start of this year, as bitcoin
rose to around $24,000 from below $17,000 in early January.
rallied, as Elon Musk is reportedly pushing forward Twitter’s payments system and considering adding crypto in it.
But Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, called for a crypto ban in the U.S.
Find me on Twitter at @FrancesYue_ to share any thoughts on crypto, this newsletter, or your personal stories with digital assets.
Bitcoin mining stocks are soaring, after suffering from a rough year in 2022 thanks to lofty energy costs, lackluster bitcoin prices and the elevated mining difficulty.
Riot Platforms Inc.
shares rose about 119% so far this year, and its rival Marathon Digital Holdings
shares surged 132% over the same period. Ebang International Holdings Inc.
saw its shares up almost 200% year-to-date. Hive Blockchain Technologies
shares jumped 183%, and Hut 8 Mining Corp.
advanced 179% since the start of the year.
The rally echoed the upswing of other risk assets – the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite
went up 16% so far this year. It could also be attributed to an improvement of crypto miners’ fundamentals, analysts said.
As bitcoin went up 45% from the start of the year, miners have seen their profit margin widen considerably, according to Andy Long, chief executive at White Rock Management. “Margins were super tight in December. A lot of miners had production costs that were getting unpleasantly close to the price of the coin,” Long told Distributed Ledger in a call.
Meanwhile, though the difficulty of mining bitcoin has risen to an all-time high as of Wednesday, it hasn’t increased as much as some miners expected, noted Long.
Mining difficulty measures how hard it is to find a bitcoin block – when the number goes up, miners have to put in more computational power to mine a coin. The difficulty level is programmed to increase when there are more miners, and vice versa, to keep the pace of bitcoin mining steady.
Global energy prices, which skyrocketed last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have also fallen, in part thanks to a relatively mild winter in Europe and the continent’s conservation efforts. “We’re looking forward to maybe a more peaceful summer in terms of energy pricing,” noted Long.
Phil Harvey, chief executive at Sabre56, said though he doesn’t think the bear market is over yet, most miners would see a breakeven or make profits as long as bitcoin trades above $18,000.
Quote of the week
““A cryptocurrency is not a currency, not a commodity, and not a security. Instead, it’s a gambling contract with a nearly 100% edge for the house, entered into in a country where gambling contracts are traditionally regulated only by states that compete in laxity.””
— — Charlie Munger, Vice Chair of Berkshire Hathaway
Munger slammed crypto again, this time in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. He blamed the “wretched excess” of cryptocurrencies that are issued by privately owned companies but later become publicly traded without government pre-approval of disclosures, and suggested the U.S. should follow China to ban crypto.
Sometimes, large chunks of crypto are sold to a promoter for low prices and inflated when the public buys in “without fully understanding the pre-dilution in favor of the promoter,” Munger wrote.
MarketWatch’s Anviksha Patel wrote more here.
Dogecoin gained 9.6% in the past seven days, as the Financial Times reported Monday that Twitter has been advancing its efforts to build a payments system and crypto may be part of it.
Twitter has been applying regulatory licenses and devising the software it needed to enable payments through the site, the report said. Musk expects the payment system to use fiat currencies first, but be built so that crypto functionality could potentially be added at a later point, according to the report, citing anonymous sources.
The news revived some crypto enthusiasts’ hope that the social media giant would provide more use cases for digital assets, especially for the meme token Dogecoin, of which Musk is a longtime backer.
Crypto in a snap
Bitcoin prices rose 3.9% during the past week, and was trading at around $23,848 on Thursday, according to CoinDesk data. Ether
gained 3.8% over the same stretch to around $1,678, CoinDesk data shows.
Source: CoinGecko as of Feb. 2
Source: CoinGecko as of Feb. 2
Crypto companies, funds
Shares of Coinbase Global Inc.
rallied 49.6% for the week to around $79.37. MicroStrategy Inc.
rose by 18.8% thus far on the week, to $291.50.
Crypto mining company Riot Blockchain Inc.
surged 20.8%, to $7.41, as of Thursday. Shares of rival Marathon Digital Holdings Inc.
were down 8.1% to $8.02, over the past week. Ebang International Holdings Inc.
rose 8.3% over the past week and was trading at $8.89.
Overstock.com Inc. shares
were trading up 1.6% to $24.78, over the week.
Shares of Block Inc.
formerly known as Square, gained 7.7% to $87.49 for the week thus far. Tesla Inc. shares
were up 17.8% to $189.14.
PayPal Holdings Inc.
advanced 6.7% over the week, to trade at around $86.18. Nvidia Corp.
added 8.3% at $214.51 for the past week.
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. shares
soared 16% to $87.20 for the week.
Among crypto funds, ProShares Bitcoin Strategy
went up 2.6% over the week to $14.91 Thursday, while counterpart Short Bitcoin Strategy ETF
declined 3,7% to $26.96. Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF
edged up 0.9% over the past week to $9.48, while VanEck Bitcoin Strategy ETF
climbed 4.4% to $24.32.
Grayscale Bitcoin Trust
were up 5.4% for the past five days to $12.82 on Thursday.
Former FTX Executive Harrison Is Getting Ready for His Next Act (Bloomberg)
Why NFTs saw $941 million in trading volume in January – the highest since June 2022 (MarketWatch)
Crypto Winter Led to 91% Plunge in VC and Other Investments for January (CoinDesk)