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[uncensored-r/Bitcoin] Look at the incredibly low volume here. This is not a normal market exchange graph.
The following post by azzazaz is being replicated because the post has been silently greylisted. The original post can be found(in censored form) at this link: np.reddit.com/ Bitcoin/comments/7vl6oo The original post's content was as follows:
[uncensored-r/Bitcoin] Is there a site where I can compare multiple exchange rates at once on a single graph?
The following post by DerNalia is being replicated because the post has been silently greylisted. The original post can be found(in censored form) at this link: np.reddit.com/ Bitcoin/comments/7evps4 The original post's content was as follows:
[OC] Which front offices and agents are the 3 major newsbreakers connected to? I went through 6000+ tweets to find out!
If this sounds somewhat familiar, that's because I did a 2019-2020 version and posted it back in March. In terms of changes from that post:
I've expanded the timeline to tweets from September 27, 2018. This is the first official day where each of Shams, Woj and Haynes were at their own respective companies. Shams moved to the Athletic from Yahoo in August, and Haynes moved from ESPN to Yahoo in September.
I've also expanded the criteria on when a tweet could possibly be linked to an agent
TL;DR Tracked tweetsof Woj, Shams and Haynes from 2018-2020 to see whether any of them report on a certain team or a certain agent's players more than their counterparts.Here is the main graphconcerning a reporter's percentage of tweets per team separated into three periods (2019 season, 2020 offseason, 2020 season). Here is aseparate graphwith the Lakers and Warriors, because Haynes's percentages would skew the first graph. During times like the NBA trade deadline or the lifting of the NBA free-agency moratorium, it’s not uncommon to see Twitter replies to (or Reddit comments about) star reporters reference their performance relative to others. Woj is the preeminent scoop hound, but he is also notorious for writing hit pieces on LeBron (sources say it’s been widely rumoured that the reason for these is that Woj has always been unable to place a reliable source in LeBron’s camp). On the other end of the spectrum, it has been revealed that in exchange for exclusive intel on league memos and Pistons dealings, Woj wrote puff pieces on then-GM Joe Dumars (see above Kevin Draper link). Last summer, Woj was accused of being a Clippers shill on this very discussion board for noticeably driving the Kawhi Leonard free agency conversation towards the team. This is the reason I undertook this project: to see whether some reporters have more sources in certain teams (and certain agencies) than other reporters. First I’ll explain the methodology, then present the data with some initial comments.
To make this manageable on myself, I limited myself to tracking the 3 major national reporters: Shams Charania of the Athletic, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports and the aforementioned Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
I didn’t use beat reporters, as most (if not all) of their sources would be concentrated on their local team
Others that I considered but ultimately decided not to track:
Brian Windhorst of ESPN (double-dipping in ESPN)
Zach Lowe of ESPN (I consider him more of an analyst)
Marc Spears of ESPN (harder to sift through Twitter feeds, as he posts a lot more unrelated/non-news-breaking content)
Marc Stein of the New York Times (same as Spears)
Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer (same as Lowe)
The time period I initially tracked for was from January 1, 2020 to the end of the regular season March, but after finding a Twitter scraping tool on GitHub called Twint, I was able to easily retrieve all tweets since September 27, 2018. However, a month ago, Twitter closed their old API endpoints, and Twint ceased to work. I used vicinitas.io but the data loading became more time-consuming. Therefore, the tweets are up to the date of October 15 2020. How I determined information was by manually parsing text tweets by the reporter (no retweets):
This means I did not include images or multimedia appearances such as television, radio or podcasts. The rationale for this is that I simply don’t have the time to listen/watch and record all the instances of providing information through sources on these mediums.
Now, I didn’t take every single text tweet:
I didn’t include direct statements, be they from players or front office folks
I separated them, along with podcast guests in another tab
I didn’t include the summary tweet that Woj & Shams love to do: “Story filed to/Story on [employer]:..” because it doesn’t add anything apart from a link to a story (also, I personally don’t want to be called an ESPN/Yahoo/Athletic shill)
If the tweet added a reporter’s own analysis to someone else’s tweet, it was not included
If it was new information, the tweet was retained
Tweets that related solely to retired players were not included: mainly Haynes reporting Dwyane Wade joining CAA, as well as the unfortunate passing of Kobe Bryant on January 26
I grouped multiple tweets about the same subject delivered around the same time frame (such as trades) into one, as doing otherwise would arbitrarily inflate totals
There’s no hard and fast rule for whether or not to group tweets
For example, the big 4-team trade that created the Pocket Rockets was grouped in full
On the other hand, the Miami-Memphis trade was split up because the full details came like a day later
Sometimes, I used my judgment to determine whether a tweet’s underlying information would have come from a source, and therefore whether I should include that tweet or not
For example, consider the All-Star tweets: Haynes and Shams both posted the All-Star starters, but looking at the time signatures led me to believe that this was simply relaying the information from the TNT reveal
On the other hand, both Shams and Haynes posted tweets disclosing the All-Star Reserves before the TNT reveal
Next, I had to assign possible teams to each tweet:
Items such as changes to the league calendar, the naming of All-Star Reserves and salary cap projections were immediately attached to an NBA source
Injuries and trades were fairly straightforward, assigning these tweets to the participating teams
Items such as league mandated fines/suspensions, invitations to All-Star competitions and game protests were credited to both a general NBA source, as well as the related team(s)
Direct sources from agents or mentions of specific agents were attributed as a catch-all “Agent”
In the former, team was not included: examples include Matisse Thybulle’s agent on not being selected for the Rising Stars Game or Royce O’Neale’s agents confirming his contract extension with the Jazz
In the latter, team was included: examples include two Knicks switching their agent to Rich Paul
New addition: anything related to a player's status with a team were also attributed to agents (qualifying offers, extensions, option decisions, waivers, and contracts/deals)
I then found which agents correspond to which players (big shoutout to realgm.com and the Wayback Machine)
Rumours were slightly more difficult
As we know very well, league sources is an exceedingly vague term
Instead of attempting to pinpoint a rival executive with a motive to make a comment, I took the “Occam’s Razor” approach and assumed that the teams involved had someone talk to the reporter
When it was impossible to even determine a participant team, it was the general “NBA” source to the rescue
Chris Haynes has the highest percentage of tweets relating to the Detroit Pistons in all three periods. He also reports on far more Portland news than Shams or Woj.
Shams' Brooklyn edge is evident. The Athletic was also the outlet that Kevin Durant felt comfortable talking to about his positive coronavirus test. As well, Shams reported on Spencer Dinwiddie's quest to tokenize his contract (similar to bitcoin).
Adrian Wojnarowski has increased his percentage of tweets regarding the LA Clippers period-over-period, but so have the other two reporters.
It's surprising that Dallas's numbers are so low, considering they're a good team with an international superstar.
My hypothesis from my previous post is that Shams and Woj each have capable Mavericks deputies in the Tims (Cato and MacMahon, respectively) and decide to leave that market alone
Shams does have the highest percentage of Mavericks tweets in all three seasons however.
Now, you'll notice that there's two teams missing from the above graph: the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers. Here's the graphs for those two teams. As you can see, they would skew the previous graph far too much. During the 2019 NBA season, 27% of Chris Haynes's qualifying tweets could be possibly linked to the Warriors, and 14% of his qualifying tweets could be possibly linked to the Lakers.
Here's the top 10 agents in terms of number of potential tweets concerning their clients.
Woj has the most tweets directly connected to agents by far. It wasn't uncommon to see "Player X signs deal with Team Y, Agent Z of Agency F tells ESPN." The agents that go to Woj (and some of their top clients):
Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports (Bradley Beal, Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward)
Jeff Schwartz and Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports (Khris Middleton, Nikola Jokic, CJ McCollum and Kevin Love)
Steven Heumann and Austin Brown of Creative Artists Agency (Andrew Wiggins, Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell and Zion Williamson)
One thing I found very intriguing: 15/16 of tweets concerning an Aaron Turner client were reported on by Shams. Turner is the head of Verus Basketball, whose clients include Terry Rozier, Victor Oladipo and Kevin Knox. Shams also reported more than 50% of news relating to clients of Sam Permut of Roc Nation. Permut is the current agent of Kyrie Irving, after Irving fired Jeff Wechsler near the beginning of the 2019 offseason. Permut also reps the Morris brothers and Trey Burke. As for Chris Haynes, he doesn't really do much agent news (at least not at the level of Woj and Shams). However, he reported more than 50% of news relating to clients of Aaron Goodwin of Goodwin Sports Management, who reps Damian Lillard and DeMar DeRozan. Here are the top 10 free agents from Forbes, along with their agent and who I predict will be the first/only one to break the news.
Most Likely Reporter
Too close to call, leaning Shams
Too close to call, leaning Shams
Alexander Raskovic, Jason Ranne
Limited data, but part of Wasserman, whose players are predominantly reported on by Woj
Thanks for reading! As always with this type of work, human error is not completely eliminated. If you think a tweet was mistakenly removed, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll try to explain my thought process on that specific tweet! Hope y’all enjoyed the research!
Putting $400M of Bitcoin on your company balance sheet
Also posted on my blog as usual. Read it there if you can, there are footnotes and inlined plots. A couple of months ago, MicroStrategy (MSTR) had a spare $400M of cash which it decided to shift to Bitcoin (BTC). Today we'll discuss in excrutiating detail why this is not a good idea. When a company has a pile of spare money it doesn't know what to do with, it'll normally do buybacks or start paying dividends. That gives the money back to the shareholders, and from an economic perspective the money can get better invested in other more promising companies. If you have a huge pile of of cash, you probably should be doing other things than leave it in a bank account to gather dust. However, this statement from MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor exists to make it clear he's buying into BTC for all the wrong reasons:
“This is not a speculation, nor is it a hedge. This was a deliberate corporate strategy to adopt a bitcoin standard.”
Let's unpack it and jump into the economics Bitcoin:
Is Bitcoin money?
No. Or rather BTC doesn't act as money and there's no serious future path for BTC to become a form of money. Let's go back to basics. There are 3 main economic problems money solves: 1. Medium of Exchange. Before money we had to barter, which led to the double coincidence of wants problem. When everyone accepts the same money you can buy something from someone even if they don't like the stuff you own. As a medium of exchange, BTC is not good. There are significant transaction fees and transaction waiting times built-in to BTC and these worsen the more popular BTC get. You can test BTC's usefulness as a medium of exchange for yourself right now: try to order a pizza or to buy a random item with BTC. How many additional hurdles do you have to go through? How many fewer options do you have than if you used a regular currency? How much overhead (time, fees) is there? 2. Unit of Account. A unit of account is what you compare the value of objects against. We denominate BTC in terms of how many USD they're worth, so BTC is a unit of account presently. We can say it's because of lack of adoption, but really it's also because the market value of BTC is so volatile. If I buy a $1000 table today or in 2017, it's roughly a $1000 table. We can't say that a 0.4BTC table was a 0.4BTC table in 2017. We'll expand on this in the next point: 3. Store of Value. When you create economic value, you don't want to be forced to use up the value you created right away. For instance, if I fix your washing machine and you pay me in avocados, I'd be annoyed. I'd have to consume my payment before it becomes brown, squishy and disgusting. Avocado fruit is not good money because avocadoes loses value very fast. On the other hand, well-run currencies like the USD, GBP, CAD, EUR, etc. all lose their value at a low and most importantly fairly predictible rate. Let's look at the chart of the USD against BTC While the dollar loses value at a predictible rate, BTC is all over the place, which is bad. One important use money is to write loan contracts. Loans are great. They let people spend now against their future potential earnings, so they can buy houses or start businesses without first saving up for a decade. Loans are good for the economy. If you want to sign something that says "I owe you this much for that much time" then you need to be able to roughly predict the value of the debt in at the point in time where it's due. Otherwise you'll have a hard time pricing the risk of the loan effectively. This means that you need to charge higher interests. The risk of making a loan in BTC needs to be priced into the interest of a BTC-denominated loan, which means much higher interest rates. High interests on loans are bad, because buying houses and starting businesses are good things.
BTC has a fixed supply, so these problems are built in
Some people think that going back to a standard where our money was denominated by a stock of gold (the Gold Standard) would solve economic problems. This is nonsense. Having control over supply of your currency is a good thing, as long as it's well run. See here Remember that what is desirable is low variance in the value, not the value itself. When there are wild fluctuations in value, it's hard for money to do its job well. Since the 1970s, the USD has been a fiat money with no intrinsic value. This means we control the supply of money. Let's look at a classic poorly drawn econ101 graph The market price for USD is where supply meets demand. The problem with a currency based on an item whose supply is fixed is that the price will necessarily fluctuate in response to changes in demand. Imagine, if you will, that a pandemic strikes and that the demand for currency takes a sharp drop. The US imports less, people don't buy anything anymore, etc. If you can't print money, you get deflation, which is worsens everything. On the other hand, if you can make the money printers go brrrr you can stabilize the price Having your currency be based on a fixed supply isn't just bad because in/deflation is hard to control. It's also a national security risk... The story of the guy who crashed gold prices in North Africa In the 1200s, Mansa Munsa, the emperor of the Mali, was rich and a devout Muslim and wanted everyone to know it. So he embarked on a pilgrimage to make it rain all the way to Mecca. He in fact made it rain so hard he increased the overall supply of gold and unintentionally crashed gold prices in Cairo by 20%, wreaking an economic havoc in North Africa that lasted a decade. This story is fun, the larger point that having your inflation be at the mercy of foreign nations is an undesirable attribute in any currency. The US likes to call some countries currency manipulators, but this problem would be serious under a gold standard.
Currencies are based on trust
Since the USD is based on nothing except the US government's word, how can we trust USD not to be mismanaged? The answer is that you can probably trust the fed until political stooges get put in place. Currently, the US's central bank managing the USD, the Federal Reserve (the Fed for friends & family), has administrative authority. The fed can say "no" to dumb requests from the president. People who have no idea what the fed does like to chant "audit the fed", but the fed is already one of the best audited US federal entities. The transcripts of all their meetings are out in the open. As is their balance sheet, what they plan to do and why. If the US should audit anything it's the Department of Defense which operates without any accounting at all. It's easy to see when a central bank will go rogue: it's when political yes-men are elected to the board. For example, before printing themselves into hyperinflation, the Venezuelan president appointed a sociologist who publicly stated “Inflation does not exist in real life” and instead is a made up capitalist lie. Note what happened mere months after his gaining control over the Venezuelan currency This is a key policy. One paper I really like, Sargent (1984) "The end of 4 big inflations" states:
The essential measures that ended hyperinflation in each of Germany,Austria, Hungary, and Poland were, first, the creation of an independentcentral bank that was legally committed to refuse the government'sdemand or additional unsecured credit and, second, a simultaneousalteration in the fiscal policy regime.
In english: *hyperinflation stops when the central bank can say "no" to the government." The US Fed, like other well good central banks, is run by a bunch of nerds. When it prints money, even as aggressively as it has it does so for good reasons. You can see why they started printing on March 15th as the COVID lockdowns started:
The Federal Reserve is prepared to use its full range of tools to support the flow of credit to households and businesses and thereby promote its maximum employment and price stability goals.
In english: We're going to keep printing and lowering rates until jobs are back and inflation is under control. If we print until the sun is blotted out, we'll print in the shade.
BTC is not gold
Gold is a good asset for doomsday-preppers. If society crashes, gold will still have value. How do we know that? Gold has held value throughout multiple historic catastrophes over thousands of years. It had value before and after the Bronze Age Collapse, the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and Gengis Khan being Gengis Khan. Even if you erased humanity and started over, the new humans would still find gold to be economically valuable. When Europeans d̶i̶s̶c̶o̶v̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ c̶o̶n̶q̶u̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ g̶e̶n̶o̶c̶i̶d̶e̶d̶ went to America, they found gold to be an important item over there too. This is about equivalent to finding humans on Alpha-Centauri and learning that they think gold is a good store of value as well. Some people are puzzled at this: we don't even use gold for much! But it has great properties: First, gold is hard to fake and impossible to manufacture. This makes it good to ascertain payment. Second, gold doesnt react to oxygen, so it doesn't rust or tarnish. So it keeps value over time unlike most other materials. Last, gold is pretty. This might sound frivolous, and you may not like it, but jewelry has actual value to humans. It's no coincidence if you look at a list of the wealthiest families, a large number of them trade in luxury goods. To paraphrase Veblen humans have a profound desire to signal social status, for the same reason peacocks have unwieldy tails. Gold is a great way to achieve that. On the other hand, BTC lacks all these attributes. Its value is largely based on common perception of value. There are a few fundamental drivers of demand:
Means of Exchange: if people seriously start using BTC to buy pizzas, then this creates a real demand for the currency to accomplish the short-term exchanges. As we saw previously, I'm not personally sold on this one and it's currently a negligible fraction of overall demand.
Criminal uses: Probably the largest inbuilt advantage of BTC is that it's anonymous, and so a great way to launder money. Hacker gangs use BTC to demand ransom on cryptolocker type attacks because it's a shared way for an honest company to pay and for the criminals to receive money without going to jail.
Apart from these, it's hard to argue that BTC will retain value throughout some sort of economic catastrophe.
BTC is really risky
One last statement from Michael Saylor I take offense to is this:
“We feel pretty confident that Bitcoin is less risky than holding cash, less risky than holding gold,” MicroStrategy CEO said in an interview
"BTC is less risky than holding cash or gold long term" is nonsense. We saw before that BTC is more volatile on face value, and that as long as the Fed isn't run by spider monkeys stacked in a trench coat, the inflation is likely to be within reasonable bounds. But on top of this, BTC has Abrupt downside risks that normal currencies don't. Let's imagine a few:
A critical software vulnerability is found in the BTC codebase, leading to a possible exploitation.
Xi Jinping decides he's had enough of rich people in China hiding their assets from him and bans BTC.
Some form of bank run takes hold for whatever reason. Because BTC wallets are uninsured, unlike regular banks, this compounds into a Black Tuesday style crash.
Blockchain solutions are fundamentally inefficient
Blockchain was a genius idea. I still marvel at the initial white paper which is a great mix of economics and computer science. That said, blockchain solutions make large tradeoffs in design because they assume almost no trust between parties. This leads to intentionally wasteful designs on a massive scale. The main problem is that all transactions have to be validated by expensive computational operations and double checked by multiple parties. This means waste:
BTC was estimated to use as much electricity as Belgium in 2019. It's hard to trace where the BTC mining comes from, but we can assume it has a huge carbon footprint.
A single transactions is necessarily expensive. A single transaction takes as much electricity as 800,000 VISA transactions, or watching 50,000 hours of youtube videos.
There is a large necessary tax on the transaction, since those checking the transaction extract a few BTC from it to be incentivized to do the work of checking it.
Many design problems can be mitigated by various improvements over BTC, but it remains that a simple database always works better than a blockchain if you can trust the parties to the transaction.
BITCOIN BINARY OPTIONS PLATFORM BTCLEVELS RELAUNCHES WITH NEW EXCHANGE RATE GRAPH AND USER INTERFACES
Established September 2013, BTClevels was the first dedicated Bitcoin binary options trading platform: enabling anyone worldwide to open long or short positions, speculate and potentially profit on Bitcoin’s volatile price movements. The Bitcoin binary options service has now relaunched with a new exchange rate graph and user interface, and the removal of limits on the size of positions which can be opened. The live Bitcoin exchange rate is now pulled direct fromHitbtc. BTCLevels also has a new method of distributing Bitcoin to those who correctly predict future Bitcoin price movements. After users have made a correct prediction on the future Bitcoin price, they will share the total Bitcoin of the losing side with the other participants who also made the correct prognosis. The size of the Bitcoin reward received depends on the size of the player’s original position. The earlier users made the correct prediction – the more Bitcoin they will receive. BTCLevels’ new design includes no Bitcoin limits on the size of positions which can be opened; meaning potential Bitcoin profits for punters are also unlimited. Taking its listings and Bitcoin prices directly from Hitbtc in real time, BTCLevels ensures users get an absolutely fair opportunity to make the smartest trade possible. Binary option expiration times are flexible and can be chosen by users on a newly designed rolling graph; with the average expiry time being 1440 minutes. For those who like to trade on the news, the new BTCLevels’design also includes an integrated live news feed of the latest news in the Bitcoin space: enabling traders to make decisions on the future Bitcoin exchange value based on cutting edge Bitcoin news. Designed to be as intuitive and easy to use as possible, opening positions on BTCLevels is done in two clicks and requires no registration. Although registration is available to those users who seek facilitated functionality and a better user experience. With their new user friendly design, exchange rate graph, enhanced functionality, and removal of Bitcoin limits on the size of positions which can be opened, BTCLevels has shown that the original Bitcoin binary options platform is here to stay. To open a position or for more information visit: btclevels.com To learn more please contact via feedback form: btclevels.com/contacts
So I was very skeptical at first, but Dave maybe convinced me about 10% that they have some level of capability in the direction they're suggesting. The techniques are stuff we've known, and it would require large computational resources, combined with loads of offchain data, but maybe they have taken efforts to the next level. It's my belief that govts and banks really dislike Monero. So with that in mind lets give them some small benefit of the doubt and take some creative license:
They amalgamate data from as many publicly available places, some exchanges, and resource sharing with big brother, deep state, govt agencies. Verdict: Near certainty. And I think we have long been aware that the off-chain data is where weaknesses can really creep in. Certainly we have been aware of the dragnet collection ongoing for 2 decades.
Conducting dust or poisoned output attacks on known public addresses, particularly for targets of interest. Also highly likely.
Correlation of IP addresses with on chain data? Recently mitigated with Dandelion++, but previously, medium likelyhood. Seems unlikely that they were correlating every clearnet IP/Tx, and obviously alot of us use ToI2P. But for targeted individuals, yeah probably. Perhaps they're even getting a feed of filtered dragnet IP data.
Transaction graphs. Statistically low useability unless combined with off-chain data. They're probably taking medium probability topologies and corroborating them with off-chain data, as well as poisoned outputs, to significantly increase the confidence of linkages.
Synergy. Yeah, puke, I know. But putting all that together, stripping decoys, generating sets of correlated outputs, provides some ability to gain further resolution on the tx graph, iteratively. I imagine they run countless iterations under different initial assumptions and constants tuning.
Again, they would need some serious computational power and off-chain data feeds. I also imagine that their models suffer from time-decay, especially without a constant stream of hueristic data. Notice at the end he emphasized opsec. Here, I really do believe him. So finally, lets talk opsec.
Run your own node, over Tor or I2P. Dandelion is great, but it doesn't hurt to add an extra layer.
Always generate new subaddresses for every new customer, and avoid posting them to public locations. The less opportunity someone has to turn you into a dust attack, the better. That "refund address" that you get on MorphToken? Yeah, generate a new sub-address and don't re-use it. Regularly cycle your Bisq addresses.
Limit transactions from your smart phone as much as possible.
Don't be turning around transactions immediately after the 20-block limit.
If you suspect that you may have been vulnerable or targeted for some of the above analysis, and/or that you might have a set of correlated outputs, I suggest this: Spend all your funds to self, to a NEW wallet. Yes this will almost certainly confirm their suspected linkage, because you will be doing a multiple input tx containing all of your suspected linked outputs... BUT ... it will also break their future linkage. You will now have one real output with all your funds. Over the course of weeks/months, randomly churn it. They now lose the ability to use multiple-input transactions, to create probabilistic transaction graphs on you. They will quickly lose you in the decoys.
Be PARTICULARLY carefull before depositing funds to an exchange, especially if you suspect you might have poisoned outputs.
I have mixed feelings on this. One of our selling points is default privacy made easy. A lot of what I wrote above doesn't exactly sound simple. On the other hand, crypto is about self responsibility and knowledge. Most people ought to have been adhering to at least the basics (ToVPN, new subaddresses, run your own node). But even if we give CT the benefit of the doubt, the following is still true: Newb use of Monero is far more private than ninja use of Bitcoin.
Government in Venezuela would be accepting payments in cryptocurrencies for public transport
The Government of La Guaira announced that two public transportation terminals are accepting crypto assets. This Tuesday, October 20, the government of La Guaira, a state that is located in the north of Venezuela and borders the Capital District, announced via Instagram that the public land transport terminals of the Catia La Mar and La Guaira locations are accepting cryptocurrencies as a form of payment. As can be detailed in the graph of the announcement, the public transport terminals would have an alliance with the Venezuelan exchange Criptolago, through which they would be making the processes to accept payments with cryptocurrencies. In the announcement, it can be seen that the logos of Bitcoin, Ethereum and the Venezuelan state currency, the Petro, were reflected, although there is no express mention of which cryptocurrencies they will be accepting.
Wandering From the Path? | Monthly Portfolio Update - August 2020
Midway along the journey of our lifeI woke to find myself in a dark wood,for I had wandered off from the straight path. Dante, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto I This is my forty-fifth portfolio update. I complete this update monthly to check my progress against my goal. Portfolio goal My objective is to reach a portfolio of $2 180 000 by 1 July 2021. This would produce a real annual income of about $87 000 (in 2020 dollars). This portfolio objective is based on an expected average real return of 3.99 per cent, or a nominal return of 6.49 per cent. Portfolio summary
Vanguard Lifestrategy High Growth Fund $733 769
Vanguard Lifestrategy Growth Fund $41 794
Vanguard Lifestrategy Balanced Fund $78 533
Vanguard Diversified Bonds Fund $110 771
Vanguard Australian Shares ETF (VAS) $216 758
Vanguard International Shares ETF (VGS) $64 542
Betashares Australia 200 ETF (A200) $237 138
Telstra shares (TLS) $1 540
Insurance Australia Group shares (IAG) $6 043
NIB Holdings shares (NHF) $5 532
Gold ETF (GOLD.ASX) $121 976
Secured physical gold $19 535
Ratesetter (P2P lending) $8 998
Bitcoin $177 310
Raiz app (Aggressive portfolio) $17 421
Spaceship Voyager app (Index portfolio) $2 759
BrickX (P2P rental real estate) $4 477
Total portfolio value $1 848 896 (+$48 777 or 2.7%) Asset allocation
Australian shares 41.5%
Global shares 22.6%
Emerging market shares 2.2%
International small companies 2.8%
Total international shares 27.6%
Total shares 69.2% (5.8% under)
Total property securities 0.2% (0.2% over)
Australian bonds 4.4%
International bonds 8.9%
Total bonds 13.3% (1.7% under)
Gold and alternatives 17.2% (7.2% over)
Presented visually, below is a high-level view of the current asset allocation of the portfolio. [Chart] Comments The portfolio has increased in value for the fifth consecutive month, and is starting to approach the monthly value last reached in January. The portfolio has grown over $48 000, or 2.7 per cent this month, reflecting the strong market recovery since late March [Chart] The growth in the portfolio was broadly-based across global and Australian equities, with an increase of around 3.8 per cent. Following strong previous rises, gold holdings decreased by around 2.2 per cent, while Bitcoin continued to increase in value (by 2.5 per cent). Combined, the value of gold and Bitcoin holdings remain at a new peak, while total equity holdings are still below their late January peak to the tune of around $50 000. The fixed income holdings of the portfolio continue to fall below the target allocation. [Chart] The expanding value of gold and Bitcoin holdings since January last year have actually had the practical effect of driving new investments into equities, since effectively for each dollar of appreciation, for example, my target allocation to equities rises by seven dollars. New investments this month have been in the Vanguard international shares exchange-traded fund (VGS) and the Australian shares equivalent (VAS). These have been directed to bring my actual asset allocation more closely in line with the target split between Australian and global shares set out in the portfolio plan. As the exchange traded funds such as VGS, VAS and Betashares A200 now make up nearly 30 per cent of the overall portfolio, the quarterly payments they provide have increased in magnitude and importance. Early in the journey, third quarter distributions were essentially immaterial events. Using the same 'median per unit' forecast approach as recently used for half yearly forecasts would suggest a third quarter payout due at the end of September of around $6000. Due to significant announced dividend reductions across this year I am, however, currently assuming this is likely to be significantly lower, and perhaps in the vicinity of $4000 or less. Finding true north: approach to achieving a set asset allocation One of the choices facing all investors with a preferred asset allocation is how strictly the target is applied over time, and what variability is acceptable around that. There is a significant body of financial literature around that issue. My own approach has been to seek to target the preferred asset allocation dynamically, through buying the asset class that is furthest from its target, with new portfolio contributions, and re-investment of paid out distributions. As part of monitoring asset allocation, I also track a measure of 'absolute' variance, to understand at a whole of portfolio level how far it is from the desired allocation. This is the sum of the absolute value of variances (e.g. so that being 3 per cent under target in shares, and 7 per cent over target in fixed interest will equal an absolute variance of 10 per cent under this measure). This measure is currently sitting near its highest level in around 2 years, at 15.0 per cent, as can be seen in the chart below. [Chart] The dominant reason for this higher level of variance from target is significant appreciation in the price of gold and Bitcoin holdings. Mapping the sources of portfolio variances Changes in target allocations in the past makes direct comparisons problematic, but previous peaks of the variance measure matches almost perfectly past Bitcoin price movements. For a brief period in January 2018, gold and Bitcoin combined constituted 20 per cent, or 1 in 5 dollars of the entire portfolio. Due to the growth in other equity components of the portfolio since this level has not been subsequently exceeded. Nonetheless, it is instructive to understand that the dollar value of combined gold and Bitcoin holdings is actually up around $40 000 from that brief peak. With the larger portfolio, this now means they together make up 17.2 per cent of the total portfolio value. Tacking into the wind of portfolio movements? The logical question to fall out from this situation is: to what extent should this drive an active choice to sell down gold and Bitcoin until they resume their 10 per cent target allocation? This would currently imply selling around $130 000 of gold or Bitcoin, and generating a capital gains tax liability of potentially up to $27 000. Needless to say this is not an attractive proposition. Several other considerations lead me to not make this choice:
The problem may solve itself as portfolio grows - Growth and continued investments in the portfolio will tend to reduce the variance caused by gold and Bitcoin. The asset allocation targeting approach I adopt has seen continued contributions to equities, reducing the ability of these alternative assets to add to future variance.
Falls in Bitcoin or gold values will also solve the problem - Conversely, price falls in Bitcoin or gold will tend to reduce the variance issue, and such price falls have significant precedents, with for example Bitcoin holdings falling to a value of around $50 000 as recently as January 2019.
If neither of these happen, there may be bigger issues to solve - The only scenario where neither of these alleviating factors occur is should gold and Bitcoin continue to rapidly appreciate compared to other assets, in which case it is difficult to see the value of reducing exposure now.
Does Bitcoin even fit the asset allocation model? - Bitcoin in particular is not a well established or accepted asset class as yet, so it may not be appropriate to apply traditional allocation rules to it - it may be functioning more as a hedge or option against extreme states of the world. Linked to this is the high degree of volatility in Bitcoin. Adopting too tight a target on Bitcoin holdings would potentially see a need to buy and sell Bitcoin frequently, where my intention is to actually never purchase any more.
This approach is a departure from a mechanistic implementation of an asset allocation rule. Rather, the approach I take is pragmatic. Tracking course drift in the portfolio components As an example, I regularly review whether a significant fall in Bitcoin prices to its recent lows would alter my monthly decision on where to direct new investments. So far it does not, and the 'signal' continues to be to buy new equities. Another tool I use is a monthly measurement of the absolute dollar variance of Australian and global shares, as well as fixed interest, from their ideal target allocations. The chart below sets this out for the period since January 2019. A positive value effectively represents an over-allocation to a sector, a negative value, an under-allocation compared to target. [Chart] This reinforces the overall story that, as gold and Bitcoin have grown in value, there emerges a larger 'deficit' to the target. Falls in equities markets across February and March also produce visibly larger 'dollar gaps' to the target allocation. This graph enables a tracking of the impact of portfolio gains or losses, and volatility, and a better understanding of the practical task of returning to target allocations. Runaway lines in either direction would be evidence that current approaches for returning to targets were unworkable, but so far this does not appear to be the case. A crossing over: a credit card FI milestone This month has seen a long awaited milestone reached. Calculated on a past three year average, portfolio distributions now entirely meet monthly credit card expenses. This means that every credit card purchase - each shopping trip or online purchase - is effectively paid for by average portfolio distributions. At the start of this journey, distributions were only equivalent to around 40 per cent of credit card expenses. As time has progressed distributions have increased to cover a larger and larger proportion of card expenses. [Chart] Most recently, with COVID-19 related restrictions having pushed card expenditure down further, the remaining gap to this 'Credit Card FI' target has closed. Looked at on an un-smoothed basis, expenditures on the credit card have continued to be slightly lower than average across the past month. The below chart details the extent to which portfolio distributions (red) cover estimated total expenses (green), measured month to month. [Chart] Credit card expenditure makes up around 80 per cent of total spending, so this is not a milestone that makes paid work irrelevant or optional. Similarly, if spending rises as various travel and other restrictions ease, it is possible that this position could be temporary. Equally, should distributions fall dramatically below long term averages in the year ahead, this could result in average distributions falling faster than average monthly card expenditure. Even without this, on a three year average basis, monthly distributions will decline as high distributions received in the second half of 2017 slowly fall out of the estimation sample. For the moment, however, a slim margin exists. Distributions are $13 per month above average monthly credit card bills. This feels like a substantial achievement to note, as one unlooked for at the outset of the journey. Progress Progress against the objective, and the additional measures I have reached is set out below. Measure Portfolio All Assets Portfolio objective – $2 180 000 (or $87 000 pa) 84.8% 114.6% Credit card purchases – $71 000 pa 103.5% 139.9% Total expenses – $89 000 pa 82.9% 112.1% Summary What feels like a long winter is just passed. The cold days and weeks have felt repetitive and dominated by a pervasive sense of uncertainty. Yet through this time, this wandering off, the portfolio has moved quite steadily back towards it previous highs. That it is even approaching them in the course of just a few months is unexpected. What this obscures is the different components of growth driving this outcome. The portfolio that is recovering, like the index it follows, is changing in its underlying composition. This can be seen most starkly in the high levels of variance from the target portfolio sought discussed above. It is equally true, however, of individual components such as international equity holdings. In the case of the United States the overall index performance has been driven by share price growth in just a few information technology giants. Gold and Bitcoin have emerged from the shadows of the portfolio to an unintended leading role in portfolio growth since early 2019. This month I have enjoyed reading the Chapter by Chapter release of the Aussie FIRE e-book coordinated by Pearler. I've also been reading posts from some newer Australian financial independence bloggers, Two to Fire, FIRE Down Under, and Chasing FIRE Down Under. In podcasts, I have enjoyed the Mad Fientist's update on his fourth year of financial freedom, and Pat and Dave's FIRE and Chill episodes, including an excellent one on market timing fallacies. The ASX Australian Investor Study 2020 has also been released - setting out some broader trends in recent Australian investment markets, and containing a snapshot of the holdings, approaches and views of everyday investors. This contained many intriguing findings, such as the median investment portfolio ($130 000), its most frequent components (direct Australian shares), and how frequently portfolios are usually checked - with 61 per cent of investors checking their portfolios at least once a month. This is my own approach also. Monthly assessments allow me to gauge and reflect on how I or elements of the portfolio may have wandered off the straight way in the middle of the journey. Without this, the risk is that dark woods and bent pathways beckon. The post, links and full charts can be seen here.
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