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Ben Carlson

Ben Carlson

1 year ago

Bear market duration and how to invest during one

More on Economics & Investing

Arthur Hayes

Arthur Hayes

1 year ago

Contagion

(The author's opinions should not be used to make investment decisions or as a recommendation to invest.)

The pandemic and social media pseudoscience have made us all epidemiologists, for better or worse. Flattening the curve, social distancing, lockdowns—remember? Some of you may remember R0 (R naught), the number of healthy humans the average COVID-infected person infects. Thankfully, the world has moved on from Greater China's nightmare. Politicians have refocused their talent for misdirection on getting their constituents invested in the war for Russian Reunification or Russian Aggression, depending on your side of the iron curtain.

Humanity battles two fronts. A war against an invisible virus (I know your Commander in Chief might have told you COVID is over, but viruses don't follow election cycles and their economic impacts linger long after the last rapid-test clinic has closed); and an undeclared World War between US/NATO and Eurasia/Russia/China. The fiscal and monetary authorities' current policies aim to mitigate these two conflicts' economic effects.

Since all politicians are short-sighted, they usually print money to solve most problems. Printing money is the easiest and fastest way to solve most problems because it can be done immediately without much discussion. The alternative—long-term restructuring of our global economy—would hurt stakeholders and require an honest discussion about our civilization's state. Both of those requirements are non-starters for our short-sighted political friends, so whether your government practices capitalism, communism, socialism, or fascism, they all turn to printing money-ism to solve all problems.

Free money stimulates demand, so people buy crap. Overbuying shit raises prices. Inflation. Every nation has food, energy, or goods inflation. The once-docile plebes demand action when the latter two subsets of inflation rise rapidly. They will be heard at the polls or in the streets. What would you do to feed your crying hungry child?

Global central banks During the pandemic, the Fed, PBOC, BOJ, ECB, and BOE printed money to aid their governments. They worried about inflation and promised to remove fiat liquidity and tighten monetary conditions.

Imagine Nate Diaz's round-house kick to the face. The financial markets probably felt that way when the US and a few others withdrew fiat wampum. Sovereign debt markets suffered a near-record bond market rout.

The undeclared WW3 is intensifying, with recent gas pipeline attacks. The global economy is already struggling, and credit withdrawal will worsen the situation. The next pandemic, the Yield Curve Control (YCC) virus, is spreading as major central banks backtrack on inflation promises. All central banks eventually fail.

Here's a scorecard.

In order to save its financial system, BOE recently reverted to Quantitative Easing (QE).

BOJ Continuing YCC to save their banking system and enable affordable government borrowing.

ECB printing money to buy weak EU member bonds, but will soon start Quantitative Tightening (QT).

PBOC Restarting the money printer to give banks liquidity to support the falling residential property market.

Fed raising rates and QT-shrinking balance sheet.

80% of the world's biggest central banks are printing money again. Only the Fed has remained steadfast in the face of a financial market bloodbath, determined to end the inflation for which it is at least partially responsible—the culmination of decades of bad economic policies and a world war.

YCC printing is the worst for fiat currency and society. Because it necessitates central banks fixing a multi-trillion-dollar bond market. YCC central banks promise to infinitely expand their balance sheets to keep a certain interest rate metric below an unnatural ceiling. The market always wins, crushing humanity with inflation.

BOJ's YCC policy is longest-standing. The BOE joined them, and my essay this week argues that the ECB will follow. The ECB joining YCC would make 60% of major central banks follow this terrible policy. Since the PBOC is part of the Chinese financial system, the number could be 80%. The Chinese will lend any amount to meet their economic activity goals.

The BOE committed to a 13-week, GBP 65bn bond price-fixing operation. However, BOEs YCC may return. If you lose to the market, you're stuck. Since the BOE has announced that it will buy your Gilt at inflated prices, why would you not sell them all? Market participants taking advantage of this policy will only push the bank further into the hole it dug itself, so I expect the BOE to re-up this program and count them as YCC.

In a few trading days, the BOE went from a bank determined to slay inflation by raising interest rates and QT to buying an unlimited amount of UK Gilts. I expect the ECB to be dragged kicking and screaming into a similar policy. Spoiler alert: big daddy Fed will eventually die from the YCC virus.

Threadneedle St, London EC2R 8AH, UK

Before we discuss the BOE's recent missteps, a chatroom member called the British royal family the Kardashians with Crowns, which made me laugh. I'm sad about royal attention. If the public was as interested in energy and economic policies as they are in how the late Queen treated Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, UK politicians might not have been able to get away with energy and economic fairy tales.

The BOE printed money to recover from COVID, as all good central banks do. For historical context, this chart shows the BOE's total assets as a percentage of GDP since its founding in the 18th century.

The UK has had a rough three centuries. Pandemics, empire wars, civil wars, world wars. Even so, the BOE's recent money printing was its most aggressive ever!

BOE Total Assets as % of GDP (white) vs. UK CPI

Now, inflation responded slowly to the bank's most aggressive monetary loosening. King Charles wishes the gold line above showed his popularity, but it shows his subjects' suffering.

The BOE recognized early that its money printing caused runaway inflation. In its August 2022 report, the bank predicted that inflation would reach 13% by year end before aggressively tapering in 2023 and 2024.

Aug 2022 BOE Monetary Policy Report

The BOE was the first major central bank to reduce its balance sheet and raise its policy rate to help.

The BOE first raised rates in December 2021. Back then, JayPow wasn't even considering raising rates.

UK policymakers, like most developed nations, believe in energy fairy tales. Namely, that the developed world, which grew in lockstep with hydrocarbon use, could switch to wind and solar by 2050. The UK's energy import bill has grown while coal, North Sea oil, and possibly stranded shale oil have been ignored.

WW3 is an economic war that is balkanizing energy markets, which will continue to inflate. A nation that imports energy and has printed the most money in its history cannot avoid inflation.

The chart above shows that energy inflation is a major cause of plebe pain.

The UK is hit by a double whammy: the BOE must remove credit to reduce demand, and energy prices must rise due to WW3 inflation. That's not economic growth.

Boris Johnson was knocked out by his country's poor economic performance, not his lockdown at 10 Downing St. Prime Minister Truss and her merry band of fools arrived with the tried-and-true government remedy: goodies for everyone.

She released a budget full of economic stimulants. She cut corporate and individual taxes for the rich. She plans to give poor people vouchers for higher energy bills. Woohoo! Margret Thatcher's new pants suit.

My buddy Jim Bianco said Truss budget's problem is that it works. It will boost activity at a time when inflation is over 10%. Truss' budget didn't include austerity measures like tax increases or spending cuts, which the bond market wanted. The bond market protested.

30-year Gilt yield chart. Yields spiked the most ever after Truss announced her budget, as shown. The Gilt market is the longest-running bond market in the world.

The Gilt market showed the pole who's boss with Cardi B.

Before this, the BOE was super-committed to fighting inflation. To their credit, they raised short-term rates and shrank their balance sheet. However, rapid yield rises threatened to destroy the entire highly leveraged UK financial system overnight, forcing them to change course.

Accounting gimmicks allowed by regulators for pension funds posed a systemic threat to the UK banking system. UK pension funds could use interest rate market levered derivatives to match liabilities. When rates rise, short rate derivatives require more margin. The pension funds spent all their money trying to pick stonks and whatever else their sell side banker could stuff them with, so the historic rate spike would have bankrupted them overnight. The FT describes BOE-supervised chicanery well.

To avoid a financial apocalypse, the BOE in one morning abandoned all their hard work and started buying unlimited long-dated Gilts to drive prices down.

Another reminder to never fight a central bank. The 30-year Gilt is shown above. After the BOE restarted the money printer on September 28, this bond rose 30%. Thirty-fucking-percent! Developed market sovereign bonds rarely move daily. You're invested in His Majesty's government obligations, not a Chinese property developer's offshore USD bond.

The political need to give people goodies to help them fight the terrible economy ran into a financial reality. The central bank protected the UK financial system from asset-price deflation because, like all modern economies, it is debt-based and highly levered. As bad as it is, inflation is not their top priority. The BOE example demonstrated that. To save the financial system, they abandoned almost a year of prudent monetary policy in a few hours. They also started the endgame.

Let's play Central Bankers Say the Darndest Things before we go to the continent (and sorry if you live on a continent other than Europe, but you're not culturally relevant).

Pre-meltdown BOE output:

FT, October 17, 2021 On Sunday, the Bank of England governor warned that it must act to curb inflationary pressure, ignoring financial market moves that have priced in the first interest rate increase before the end of the year.

On July 19, 2022, Gov. Andrew Bailey spoke. Our 2% inflation target is unwavering. We'll do our job.

August 4th 2022 MPC monetary policy announcement According to its mandate, the MPC will sustainably return inflation to 2% in the medium term.

Catherine Mann, MPC member, September 5, 2022 speech. Fast and forceful monetary tightening, possibly followed by a hold or reversal, is better than gradualism because it promotes inflation expectations' role in bringing inflation back to 2% over the medium term.

When their financial system nearly collapsed in one trading session, they said:

The Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee warned on 28 September that gilt market dysfunction threatened UK financial stability. It advised action and supported the Bank's urgent gilt market purchases for financial stability.

It works when the price goes up but not down. Is my crypto portfolio dysfunctional enough to get a BOE bailout?

Next, the EU and ECB. The ECB is also fighting inflation, but it will also succumb to the YCC virus for the same reasons as the BOE.

Frankfurt am Main, ECB Tower, Sonnemannstraße 20, 60314

Only France and Germany matter economically in the EU. Modern European history has focused on keeping Germany and Russia apart. German manufacturing and cheap Russian goods could change geopolitics.

France created the EU to keep Germany down, and the Germans only cooperated because of WWII guilt. France's interests are shared by the US, which lurks in the shadows to prevent a Germany-Russia alliance. A weak EU benefits US politics. Avoid unification of Eurasia. (I paraphrased daddy Felix because I thought quoting a large part of his most recent missive would get me spanked.)

As with everything, understanding Germany's energy policy is the best way to understand why the German economy is fundamentally fucked and why that spells doom for the EU. Germany, the EU's main economic engine, is being crippled by high energy prices, threatening a depression. This economic downturn threatens the union. The ECB may have to abandon plans to shrink its balance sheet and switch to YCC to save the EU's unholy political union.

France did the smart thing and went all in on nuclear energy, which is rare in geopolitics. 70% of electricity is nuclear-powered. Their manufacturing base can survive Russian gas cuts. Germany cannot.

My boy Zoltan made this great graphic showing how screwed Germany is as cheap Russian gas leaves the industrial economy.

$27 billion of Russian gas powers almost $2 trillion of German economic output, a 75x energy leverage. The German public was duped into believing the same energy fairy tales as their politicians, and they overwhelmingly allowed the Green party to dismantle any efforts to build a nuclear energy ecosystem over the past several decades. Germany, unlike France, must import expensive American and Qatari LNG via supertankers due to Nordstream I and II pipeline sabotage.

American gas exports to Europe are touted by the media. Gas is cheap because America isn't the Western world's swing producer. If gas prices rise domestically in America, the plebes would demand the end of imports to avoid paying more to heat their homes.

German goods would cost much more in this scenario. German producer prices rose 46% YoY in August. The German current account is rapidly approaching zero and will soon be negative.

German PPI Change YoY

German Current Account

The reason this matters is a curious construction called TARGET2. Let’s hear from the horse’s mouth what exactly this beat is:

TARGET2 is the real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system owned and operated by the Eurosystem. Central banks and commercial banks can submit payment orders in euro to TARGET2, where they are processed and settled in central bank money, i.e. money held in an account with a central bank.

Source: ECB

Let me explain this in plain English for those unfamiliar with economic dogma.

This chart shows intra-EU credits and debits. TARGET2. Germany, Europe's powerhouse, is owed money. IOU-buying Greeks buy G-wagons. The G-wagon pickup truck is badass.

If all EU countries had fiat currencies, the Deutsche Mark would be stronger than the Italian Lira, according to the chart above. If Europe had to buy goods from non-EU countries, the Euro would be much weaker. Credits and debits between smaller political units smooth out imbalances in other federal-provincial-state political systems. Financial and fiscal unions allow this. The EU is financial, so the centre cannot force the periphery to settle their imbalances.

Greece has never had to buy Fords or Kias instead of BMWs, but what if Germany had to shut down its auto manufacturing plants due to energy shortages?

Italians have done well buying ammonia from Germany rather than China, but what if BASF had to close its Ludwigshafen facility due to a lack of affordable natural gas?

I think you're seeing the issue.

Instead of Germany, EU countries would owe foreign producers like America, China, South Korea, Japan, etc. Since these countries aren't tied into an uneconomic union for politics, they'll demand hard fiat currency like USD instead of Euros, which have become toilet paper (or toilet plastic).

Keynesian economists have a simple solution for politicians who can't afford market prices. Government debt can maintain production. The debt covers the difference between what a business can afford and the international energy market price.

Germans are monetary policy conservative because of the Weimar Republic's hyperinflation. The Bundesbank is the only thing preventing ECB profligacy. Germany must print its way out without cheap energy. Like other nations, they will issue more bonds for fiscal transfers.

More Bunds mean lower prices. Without German monetary discipline, the Euro would have become a trash currency like any other emerging market that imports energy and food and has uncompetitive labor.

Bunds price all EU country bonds. The ECB's money printing is designed to keep the spread of weak EU member bonds vs. Bunds low. Everyone falls with Bunds.

Like the UK, German politicians seeking re-election will likely cause a Bunds selloff. Bond investors will understandably reject their promises of goodies for industry and individuals to offset the lack of cheap Russian gas. Long-dated Bunds will be smoked like UK Gilts. The ECB will face a wave of ultra-levered financial players who will go bankrupt if they mark to market their fixed income derivatives books at higher Bund yields.

Some treats People: Germany will spend 200B to help consumers and businesses cope with energy prices, including promoting renewable energy.

That, ladies and germs, is why the ECB will immediately abandon QT, move to a stop-gap QE program to normalize the Bund and every other EU bond market, and eventually graduate to YCC as the market vomits bonds of all stripes into Christine Lagarde's loving hands. She probably has soft hands.

The 30-year Bund market has noticed Germany's economic collapse. 2021 yields skyrocketed.

30-year Bund Yield

ECB Says the Darndest Things:

Because inflation is too high and likely to stay above our target for a long time, we took today's decision and expect to raise interest rates further.- Christine Lagarde, ECB Press Conference, Sept 8.

The Governing Council will adjust all of its instruments to stabilize inflation at 2% over the medium term. July 21 ECB Monetary Decision

Everyone struggles with high inflation. The Governing Council will ensure medium-term inflation returns to two percent. June 9th ECB Press Conference

I'm excited to read the after. Like the BOE, the ECB may abandon their plans to shrink their balance sheet and resume QE due to debt market dysfunction.

Eighty Percent

I like YCC like dark chocolate over 80%. ;).

Can 80% of the world's major central banks' QE and/or YCC overcome Sir Powell's toughness on fungible risky asset prices?

Gold and crypto are fungible global risky assets. Satoshis and gold bars are the same in New York, London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Shanghai.

As more Euros, Yen, Renminbi, and Pounds are printed, people will move their savings into Dollars or other stores of value. As the Fed raises rates and reduces its balance sheet, the USD will strengthen. Gold/EUR and BTC/JPY may also attract buyers.

Gold and crypto markets are much smaller than the trillions in fiat money that will be printed, so they will appreciate in non-USD currencies. These flows only matter in one instance because we trade the global or USD price. Arbitrage occurs when BTC/EUR rises faster than EUR/USD. Here is how it works:

  1. An investor based in the USD notices that BTC is expensive in EUR terms.

  2. Instead of buying BTC, this investor borrows USD and then sells it.

  3. After that, they sell BTC and buy EUR.

  4. Then they choose to sell EUR and buy USD.

  5. The investor receives their profit after repaying the USD loan.

This triangular FX arbitrage will align the global/USD BTC price with the elevated EUR, JPY, CNY, and GBP prices.

Even if the Fed continues QT, which I doubt they can do past early 2023, small stores of value like gold and Bitcoin may rise as non-Fed central banks get serious about printing money.

“Arthur, this is just more copium,” you might retort.

Patience. This takes time. Economic and political forcing functions take time. The BOE example shows that bond markets will reject politicians' policies to appease voters. Decades of bad energy policy have no immediate fix. Money printing is the only politically viable option. Bond yields will rise as bond markets see more stimulative budgets, and the over-leveraged fiat debt-based financial system will collapse quickly, followed by a monetary bailout.

America has enough food, fuel, and people. China, Europe, Japan, and the UK suffer. America can be autonomous. Thus, the Fed can prioritize domestic political inflation concerns over supplying the world (and most of its allies) with dollars. A steady flow of dollars allows other nations to print their currencies and buy energy in USD. If the strongest player wins, everyone else loses.

I'm making a GDP-weighted index of these five central banks' money printing. When ready, I'll share its rate of change. This will show when the 80%'s money printing exceeds the Fed's tightening.

Liam Vaughan

Liam Vaughan

1 year ago

Investors can bet big on almost anything on a new prediction market.

Kalshi allows five-figure bets on the Grammys, the next Covid wave, and future SEC commissioners. Worst-case scenario

On Election Day 2020, two young entrepreneurs received a call from the CFTC chairman. Luana Lopes Lara and Tarek Mansour spent 18 months trying to start a new type of financial exchange. Instead of betting on stock prices or commodity futures, people could trade instruments tied to real-world events, such as legislation, the weather, or the Oscar winner.

Heath Tarbert, a Trump appointee, shouted "Congratulations." "You're competing with 1840s-era markets. I'm sure you'll become a powerhouse too."

Companies had tried to introduce similar event markets in the US for years, but Tarbert's agency, the CFTC, said no, arguing they were gambling and prone to cheating. Now the agency has reversed course, approving two 24-year-olds who will have first-mover advantage in what could become a huge new asset class. Kalshi Inc. raised $30 million from venture capitalists within weeks of Tarbert's call, his representative says. Mansour, 26, believes this will be bigger than crypto.

Anyone who's read The Wisdom of Crowds knows prediction markets' potential. Well-designed markets can help draw out knowledge from disparate groups, and research shows that when money is at stake, people make better predictions. Lopes Lara calls it a "bullshit tax." That's why Google, Microsoft, and even the US Department of Defense use prediction markets internally to guide decisions, and why university-linked political betting sites like PredictIt sometimes outperform polls.

Regulators feared Wall Street-scale trading would encourage investors to manipulate reality. If the stakes are high enough, traders could pressure congressional staffers to stall a bill or bet on whether Kanye West's new album will drop this week. When Lopes Lara and Mansour pitched the CFTC, senior regulators raised these issues. Politically appointed commissioners overruled their concerns, and one later joined Kalshi's board.

Will Kanye’s new album come out next week? Yes or no?

Kalshi's victory was due more to lobbying and legal wrangling than to Silicon Valley-style innovation. Lopes Lara and Mansour didn't invent anything; they changed a well-established concept's governance. The result could usher in a new era of market-based enlightenment or push Wall Street's destructive tendencies into the real world.

If Kalshi's founders lacked experience to bolster their CFTC application, they had comical youth success. Lopes Lara studied ballet at the Brazilian Bolshoi before coming to the US. Mansour won France's math Olympiad. They bonded over their work ethic in an MIT computer science class.

Lopes Lara had the idea for Kalshi while interning at a New York hedge fund. When the traders around her weren't working, she noticed they were betting on the news: Would Apple hit a trillion dollars? Kylie Jenner? "It was anything," she says.

Are mortgage rates going up? Yes or no?

Mansour saw the business potential when Lopes Lara suggested it. He interned at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., helping investors prepare for the UK leaving the EU. Goldman sold clients complex stock-and-derivative combinations. As he discussed it with Lopes Lara, they agreed that investors should hedge their risk by betting on Brexit itself rather than an imperfect proxy.

Lopes Lara and Mansour hypothesized how a marketplace might work. They settled on a "event contract," a binary-outcome instrument like "Will inflation hit 5% by the end of the month?" The contract would settle at $1 (if the event happened) or zero (if it didn't), but its price would fluctuate based on market sentiment. After a good debate, a politician's election odds may rise from 50 to 55. Kalshi would charge a commission on every trade and sell data to traders, political campaigns, businesses, and others.

In October 2018, five months after graduation, the pair flew to California to compete in a hackathon for wannabe tech founders organized by the Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator. They built a website in a day and a night and presented it to entrepreneurs the next day. Their prototype barely worked, but they won a three-month mentorship program and $150,000. Michael Seibel, managing director of Y Combinator, said of their idea, "I had to take a chance!"

Will there be another moon landing by 2025?

Seibel's skepticism was rooted in America's historical wariness of gambling. Roulette, poker, and other online casino games are largely illegal, and sports betting was only legal in a few states until May 2018. Kalshi as a risk-hedging platform rather than a bookmaker seemed like a good idea, but convincing the CFTC wouldn't be easy. In 2012, the CFTC said trading on politics had no "economic purpose" and was "contrary to the public interest."

Lopes Lara and Mansour cold-called 60 Googled lawyers during their time at Y Combinator. Everyone advised quitting. Mansour recalls the pain. Jeff Bandman, a former CFTC official, helped them navigate the agency and its characters.

When they weren’t busy trying to recruit lawyers, Lopes Lara and Mansour were meeting early-stage investors. Alfred Lin of Sequoia Capital Operations LLC backed Airbnb, DoorDash, and Uber Technologies. Lin told the founders their idea could capitalize on retail trading and challenge how the financial world manages risk. "Come back with regulatory approval," he said.

In the US, even small bets on most events were once illegal. Under the Commodity Exchange Act, the CFTC can stop exchanges from listing contracts relating to "terrorism, assassination, war" and "gaming" if they are "contrary to the public interest," which was often the case.

Will subway ridership return to normal? Yes or no?

In 1988, as academic interest in the field grew, the agency allowed the University of Iowa to set up a prediction market for research purposes, as long as it didn't make a profit or advertise and limited bets to $500. PredictIt, the biggest and best-known political betting platform in the US, also got an exemption thanks to an association with Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Today, it's a sprawling marketplace with its own subculture and lingo. PredictIt users call it "Rules Cuck Panther" when they lose on a technicality. Major news outlets cite PredictIt's odds on Discord and the Star Spangled Gamblers podcast.

CFTC limits PredictIt bets to $850. To keep traders happy, PredictIt will often run multiple variations of the same question, listing separate contracts for two dozen Democratic primary candidates, for example. A trader could have more than $10,000 riding on a single outcome. Some of the site's traders are current or former campaign staffers who can answer questions like "How many tweets will Donald Trump post from Nov. 20 to 27?" and "When will Anthony Scaramucci's role as White House communications director end?"

According to PredictIt co-founder John Phillips, politicians help explain the site's accuracy. "Prediction markets work well and are accurate because they attract people with superior information," he said in a 2016 podcast. “In the financial stock market, it’s called inside information.”

Will Build Back Better pass? Yes or no?

Trading on nonpublic information is illegal outside of academia, which presented a dilemma for Lopes Lara and Mansour. Kalshi's forecasts needed to be accurate. Kalshi must eliminate insider trading as a regulated entity. Lopes Lara and Mansour wanted to build a high-stakes PredictIt without the anarchy or blurred legal lines—a "New York Stock Exchange for Events." First, they had to convince regulators event trading was safe.

When Lopes Lara and Mansour approached the CFTC in the spring of 2019, some officials in the Division of Market Oversight were skeptical, according to interviews with people involved in the process. For all Kalshi's talk of revolutionizing finance, this was just a turbocharged version of something that had been rejected before.

The DMO couldn't see the big picture. The staff review was supposed to ensure Kalshi could complete a checklist, "23 Core Principles of a Designated Contract Market," which included keeping good records and having enough money. The five commissioners decide. With Trump as president, three of them were ideologically pro-market.

Lopes Lara, Mansour, and their lawyer Bandman, an ex-CFTC official, answered the DMO's questions while lobbying the commissioners on Zoom about the potential of event markets to mitigate risks and make better decisions. Before each meeting, they would write a script and memorize it word for word.

Will student debt be forgiven? Yes or no?

Several prediction markets that hadn't sought regulatory approval bolstered Kalshi's case. Polymarket let customers bet hundreds of thousands of dollars anonymously using cryptocurrencies, making it hard to track. Augur, which facilitates private wagers between parties using blockchain, couldn't regulate bets and hadn't stopped users from betting on assassinations. Kalshi, by comparison, argued it was doing everything right. (The CFTC fined Polymarket $1.4 million for operating an unlicensed exchange in January 2022. Polymarket says it's now compliant and excited to pioneer smart contract-based financial solutions with regulators.

Kalshi was approved unanimously despite some DMO members' concerns about event contracts' riskiness. "Once they check all the boxes, they're in," says a CFTC insider.

Three months after CFTC approval, Kalshi announced funding from Sequoia, Charles Schwab, and Henry Kravis. Sequoia's Lin, who joined the board, said Tarek, Luana, and team created a new way to invest and engage with the world.

The CFTC hadn't asked what markets the exchange planned to run since. After approval, Lopes Lara and Mansour had the momentum. Kalshi's March list of 30 proposed contracts caused chaos at the DMO. The division handles exchanges that create two or three new markets a year. Kalshi’s business model called for new ones practically every day.

Uncontroversial proposals included weather and GDP questions. Others, on the initial list and later, were concerning. DMO officials feared Covid-19 contracts amounted to gambling on human suffering, which is why war and terrorism markets are banned. (Similar logic doomed ex-admiral John Poindexter's Policy Analysis Market, a Bush-era plan to uncover intelligence by having security analysts bet on Middle East events.) Regulators didn't see how predicting the Grammy winners was different from betting on the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Who, other than John Legend, would need to hedge the best R&B album winner?

Event contracts raised new questions for the DMO's product review team. Regulators could block gaming contracts that weren't in the public interest under the Commodity Exchange Act, but no one had defined gaming. It was unclear whether the CFTC had a right or an obligation to consider whether a contract was in the public interest. How was it to determine public interest? Another person familiar with the CFTC review says, "It was a mess." The agency didn't comment.

CFTC staff feared some event contracts could be cheated. Kalshi wanted to run a bee-endangerment market. The DMO pushed back, saying it saw two problems symptomatic of the asset class: traders could press government officials for information, and officials could delay adding the insects to the list to cash in.

The idea that traders might manipulate prediction markets wasn't paranoid. In 2013, academics David Rothschild and Rajiv Sethi found that an unidentified party lost $7 million buying Mitt Romney contracts on Intrade, a now-defunct, unlicensed Irish platform, in the runup to the 2012 election. The authors speculated that the trader, whom they dubbed the “Romney Whale,” may have been looking to boost morale and keep donations coming in.

Kalshi said manipulation and insider trading are risks for any market. It built a surveillance system and said it would hire a team to monitor it. "People trade on events all the time—they just use options and other instruments. This brings everything into the open, Mansour says. Kalshi didn't include election contracts, a red line for CFTC Democrats.

Lopes Lara and Mansour were ready to launch kalshi.com that summer, but the DMO blocked them. Product reviewers were frustrated by spending half their time on an exchange that represented a tiny portion of the derivatives market. Lopes Lara and Mansour pressed politically appointed commissioners during the impasse.

Tarbert, the chairman, had moved on, but Kalshi found a new supporter in Republican Brian Quintenz, a crypto-loving former hedge fund manager. He was unmoved by the DMO's concerns, arguing that speculation on Kalshi's proposed events was desirable and the agency had no legal standing to prevent it. He supported a failed bid to allow NFL futures earlier this year. Others on the commission were cautious but supportive. Given the law's ambiguity, they worried they'd be on shaky ground if Kalshi sued if they blocked a contract. Without a permanent chairman, the agency lacked leadership.

To block a contract, DMO staff needed a majority of commissioners' support, which they didn't have in all but a few cases. "We didn't have the votes," a reviewer says, paraphrasing Hamilton. By the second half of 2021, new contract requests were arriving almost daily at the DMO, and the demoralized and overrun division eventually accepted defeat and stopped fighting back. By the end of the year, three senior DMO officials had left the agency, making it easier for Kalshi to list its contracts unimpeded.

Today, Kalshi is growing. 32 employees work in a SoHo office with big windows and exposed brick. Quintenz, who left the CFTC 10 months after Kalshi was approved, is on its board. He joined because he was interested in the market's hedging and risk management opportunities.

Mid-May, the company's website had 75 markets, such as "Will Q4 GDP be negative?" Will NASA land on the moon by 2025? The exchange recently reached 2 million weekly contracts, a jump from where it started but still a small number compared to other futures exchanges. Early adopters are PredictIt and Polymarket fans. Bets on the site are currently capped at $25,000, but Kalshi hopes to increase that to $100,000 and beyond.

With the regulatory drawbridge down, Lopes Lara and Mansour must move quickly. Chicago's CME Group Inc. plans to offer index-linked event contracts. Kalshi will release a smartphone app to attract customers. After that, it hopes to partner with a big brokerage. Sequoia is a major investor in Robinhood Markets Inc. Robinhood users could have access to Kalshi so that after buying GameStop Corp. shares, they'd be prompted to bet on the Oscars or the next Fed commissioner.

Some, like Illinois Democrat Sean Casten, accuse Robinhood and its competitors of gamifying trading to encourage addiction, but Kalshi doesn't seem worried. Mansour says Kalshi's customers can't bet more than they've deposited, making debt difficult. Eventually, he may introduce leveraged bets.

Tension over event contracts recalls another CFTC episode. Brooksley Born proposed regulating the financial derivatives market in 1994. Alan Greenspan and others in the government opposed her, saying it would stifle innovation and push capital overseas. Unrestrained, derivatives grew into a trillion-dollar industry until 2008, when they sparked the financial crisis.

Today, with a midterm election looming, it seems reasonable to ask whether Kalshi plans to get involved. Elections have historically been the biggest draw in prediction markets, with 125 million shares traded on PredictIt for 2020. “We can’t discuss specifics,” Mansour says. “All I can say is, you know, we’re always working on expanding the universe of things that people can trade on.”

Any election contracts would need CFTC approval, which may be difficult with three Democratic commissioners. A Republican president would change the equation.

Jan-Patrick Barnert

Jan-Patrick Barnert

1 year ago

Wall Street's Bear Market May Stick Around

If history is any guide, this bear market might be long and severe.

This is the S&P 500 Index's fourth such incident in 20 years. The last bear market of 2020 was a "shock trade" caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, although earlier ones in 2000 and 2008 took longer to bottom out and recover.

Peter Garnry, head of equities strategy at Saxo Bank A/S, compares the current selloff to the dotcom bust of 2000 and the 1973-1974 bear market marked by soaring oil prices connected to an OPEC oil embargo. He blamed high tech valuations and the commodity crises.

"This drop might stretch over a year and reach 35%," Garnry wrote.

Here are six bear market charts.

Time/depth

The S&P 500 Index plummeted 51% between 2000 and 2002 and 58% during the global financial crisis; it took more than 1,000 trading days to recover. The former took 638 days to reach a bottom, while the latter took 352 days, suggesting the present selloff is young.

Valuations

Before the tech bubble burst in 2000, valuations were high. The S&P 500's forward P/E was 25 times then. Before the market fell this year, ahead values were near 24. Before the global financial crisis, stocks were relatively inexpensive, but valuations dropped more than 40%, compared to less than 30% now.

Earnings

Every stock crash, especially earlier bear markets, returned stocks to fundamentals. The S&P 500 decouples from earnings trends but eventually recouples.

Support

Central banks won't support equity investors just now. The end of massive monetary easing will terminate a two-year bull run that was among the strongest ever, and equities may struggle without cheap money. After years of "don't fight the Fed," investors must embrace a new strategy.

Bear Haunting Bear

If the past is any indication, rising government bond yields are bad news. After the financial crisis, skyrocketing rates and a falling euro pushed European stock markets back into bear territory in 2011.

Inflation/rates

The current monetary policy climate differs from past bear markets. This is the first time in a while that markets face significant inflation and rising rates.


This post is a summary. Read full article here

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Matthew O'Riordan

Matthew O'Riordan

1 year ago

Trends in SaaS Funding from 2016 to 2022

Christopher Janz of Point Nine Capital created the SaaS napkin in 2016. This post shows how founders have raised cash in the last 6 years. View raw data.

Round size

Unsurprisingly, round sizes have expanded and will taper down in 2022. In 2016, pre-seed rounds were $200k to $500k; currently, they're $1-$2m. Despite the macroeconomic scenario, Series A have expanded from $3m to $12m in 2016 to $6m and $18m in 2022.

Generated from raw data for Seed to Series B from 2016–2022

Valuation

There are hints that valuations are rebounding this year. Pre-seed valuations in 2022 are $12m from $3m in 2016, and Series B prices are $270m from $100m in 2016.

Generated from raw data for Seed to Series B from 2016–2022

Compared to public SaaS multiples, Series B valuations more closely reflect the market, but Seed and Series A prices seem to be inflated regardless of the market.

Source: CapitalIQ as of 13-May-2022

I'd like to know how each annual cohort performed for investors, based on the year they invested and the valuations. I can't access this information.

ARR

Seed firms' ARR forecasts have risen from $0 to $0.6m to $0 to $1m. 2016 expected $1.2m to $3m, 2021 $0.5m to $4m, and this year $0.5m to $2.5m, suggesting that Series A firms may raise with less ARR today. Series B minutes fell from $4.2m to $3m.

Generated from raw data for Seed to Series B from 2016–2022

Capitalization Rate

2022 is the year that VCs start discussing capital efficiency in portfolio meetings. Given the economic shift in the markets and the stealthy VC meltdown, it's not surprising. Christopher Janz added capital efficiency to the SaaS Napkin as a new statistic for Series A (3.5x) and Series B. (2.5x). Your investors must live under a rock if they haven't asked about capital efficiency. If you're unsure:

The Capital Efficiency Ratio is the ratio of how much a company has spent growing revenue and how much they’re receiving in return. It is the broadest measure of company effectiveness in generating ARR

What next?

No one knows what's next, including me. All startup and growing enterprises around me are tightening their belts and extending their runways in anticipation of a difficult fundraising ride. If you're wanting to raise money but can wait, wait till the market is more stable and access to money is easier.

Koji Mochizuki

Koji Mochizuki

2 years ago

How to Launch an NFT Project by Yourself

Creating 10,000 auto-generated artworks, deploying a smart contract to the Ethereum / Polygon blockchain, setting up some tools, etc.

There is so much to do from launching to running an NFT project. Creating parts for artworks, generating 10,000 unique artworks and metadata, creating a smart contract and deploying it to a blockchain network, creating a website, creating a Twitter account, setting up a Discord server, setting up an OpenSea collection. In addition, you need to have MetaMask installed in your browser and have some ETH / MATIC. Did you get tired of doing all this? Don’t worry, once you know what you need to do, all you have to do is do it one by one.

To be honest, it’s best to run an NFT project in a team of three or more, including artists, developers, and marketers. However, depending on your motivation, you can do it by yourself. Some people might come later to offer help with your project. The most important thing is to take a step as soon as possible.

Creating Parts for Artworks

There are lots of free/paid software for drawing, but after all, I think Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop is the best. The images of Skulls In Love are a composite of 48x48 pixel parts created using Photoshop.

The most important thing in creating parts for generative art is to repeatedly test what your artworks will look like after each layer has been combined. The generated artworks should not be too unnatural.

How Many Parts Should You Create?

Are you wondering how many parts you should create to avoid duplication as much as possible when generating your artworks? My friend Stephane, a developer, has created a great tool to help with that.

Generating 10,000 Unique Artworks and Metadata

I highly recommend using the HashLips Art Engine to generate your artworks and metadata. Perhaps there is no better artworks generation tool at the moment.

GitHub: https://github.com/HashLips/hashlips_art_engine
YouTube:

Storing Artworks and Metadata

Ideally, the generated artworks and metadata should be stored on-chain, but if you want to store them off-chain, you should use IPFS. Do not store in centralized storage. This is because data will be lost if the server goes down or if the company goes down. On the other hand, IPFS is a more secure way to find data because it utilizes a distributed, decentralized system.

Storing to IPFS is easy with Pinata, NFT.Storage, and so on. The Skulls In Love uses Pinata. It’s very easy to use, just upload the folder containing your artworks.

Creating and Deploying a Smart Contract

You don’t have to create a smart contract from scratch. There are many great NFT projects, many of which publish their contract source code on Etherscan / PolygonScan. You can choose the contract you like and reuse it. Of course, that requires some knowledge of Solidity, but it depends on your efforts. If you don’t know which contract to choose, use the HashLips smart contract. It’s very simple, but it has almost all the functions you need.

GitHub: https://github.com/HashLips/hashlips_nft_contract

Note: Later on, you may want to change the cost value. You can change it on Remix or Etherscan / PolygonScan. But in this case, enter the Wei value instead of the Ether value. For example, if you want to sell for 1 MATIC, you have to enter “1000000000000000000”. If you set this value to “1”, you will have a nightmare. I recommend using Simple Unit Converter as a tool to calculate the Wei value.

Creating a Website

The website here is not just a static site to showcase your project, it’s a so-called dApp that allows you to access your smart contract and mint NFTs. In fact, this level of dApp is not too difficult for anyone who has ever created a website. Because the ethers.js / web3.js libraries make it easy to interact with your smart contract. There’s also no problem connecting wallets, as MetaMask has great documentation.

The Skulls In Love uses a simple, fast, and modern dApp that I built from scratch using Next.js. It is published on GitHub, so feel free to use it.

Why do people mint NFTs on a website?

Ethereum’s gas fees are high, so if you mint all your NFTs, there will be a huge initial cost. So it makes sense to get the buyers to help with the gas fees for minting.
What about Polygon? Polygon’s gas fees are super cheap, so even if you mint 10,000 NFTs, it’s not a big deal. But we don’t do that. Since NFT projects are a kind of game, it involves the fun of not knowing what will come out after minting.

Creating a Twitter Account

I highly recommend creating a Twitter account. Twitter is an indispensable tool for announcing giveaways and reaching more people. It’s better to announce your project and your artworks little by little, 1–2 weeks before launching your project.

Creating and Setting Up a Discord Server

I highly recommend creating a Discord server as well as a Twitter account. The Discord server is a community and its home. Fans of your NFT project will want to join your community and interact with many other members. So, carefully create each channel on your Discord server to make it a cozy place for your community members.

If you are unfamiliar with Discord, you may be particularly confused by the following:
What bots should I use?
How should I set roles and permissions?
But don’t worry. There are lots of great YouTube videos and blog posts about these.
It’s also a good idea to join the Discord servers of some NFT projects and see how they’re made. Our Discord server is so simple that even beginners will find it easy to understand. Please join us and see it!

Note: First, create a test account and a test server to make sure your bots and permissions work properly. It is better to verify the behavior on the test server before setting up your production server.

UPDATED: As your Discord server grows, you cannot manage it on your own. In this case, you will be hiring several moderators, but choose carefully before hiring. And don’t give them important role permissions right after hiring. Initially, the same permissions as other members are sufficient. After a while, you can add permissions as needed, such as kicking/banning, using the “@every” tag, and adding roles. Again, don’t immediately give significant permissions to your Mod role. Your server can be messed up by fake moderators.

Setting Up Your OpenSea Collection

Before you start selling your NFTs, you need to reserve some for airdrops, giveaways, staff, and more. It’s up to you whether it’s 100, 500, or how many.

After minting some of your NFTs, your account and collection should have been created in OpenSea. Go to OpenSea, connect to your wallet, and set up your collection. Just set your logo, banner image, description, links, royalties, and more. It’s not that difficult.

Promoting Your Project

After all, promotion is the most important thing. In fact, almost every successful NFT project spends a lot of time and effort on it.

In addition to Twitter and Discord, it’s even better to use Instagram, Reddit, and Medium. Also, register your project in NFTCalendar and DISBOARD

DISBOARD is the public Discord server listing community.

About Promoters

You’ll probably get lots of contacts from promoters on your Discord, Twitter, Instagram, and more. But most of them are scams, so don’t pay right away. If you have a promoter that looks attractive to you, be sure to check the promoter’s social media accounts or website to see who he/she is. They basically charge in dollars. The amount they charge isn’t cheap, but promoters with lots of followers may have some temporary effect on your project. Some promoters accept 50% prepaid and 50% postpaid. If you can afford it, it might be worth a try. I never ask them, though.

When Should the Promotion Activities Start?

You may be worried that if you promote your project before it starts, someone will copy your project (artworks). It is true that some projects have actually suffered such damage. I don’t have a clear answer to this question right now, but:

  • Do not publish all the information about your project too early
  • The information should be released little by little
  • Creating artworks that no one can easily copy
    I think these are important.
    If anyone has a good idea, please share it!

About Giveaways

When hosting giveaways, you’ll probably use multiple social media platforms. You may want to grow your Discord server faster. But if joining the Discord server is included in the giveaway requirements, some people hate it. I recommend holding giveaways for each platform. On Twitter and Reddit, you should just add the words “Discord members-only giveaway is being held now! Please join us if you like!”.

If you want to easily pick a giveaway winner in your browser, I recommend Twitter Picker.

Precautions for Distributing Free NFTs

If you want to increase your Twitter followers and Discord members, you can actually get a lot of people by holding events such as giveaways and invite contests. However, distributing many free NFTs at once can be dangerous. Some people who want free NFTs, as soon as they get a free one, sell it at a very low price on marketplaces such as OpenSea. They don’t care about your project and are only thinking about replacing their own “free” NFTs with Ethereum. The lower the floor price of your NFTs, the lower the value of your NFTs (project). Try to think of ways to get people to “buy” your NFTs as much as possible.

Ethereum vs. Polygon

Even though Ethereum has high gas fees, NFT projects on the Ethereum network are still mainstream and popular. On the other hand, Polygon has very low gas fees and fast transaction processing, but NFT projects on the Polygon network are not very popular.

Why? There are several reasons, but the biggest one is that it’s a lot of work to get MATIC (on Polygon blockchain, use MATIC instead of ETH) ready to use. Simply put, you need to bridge your tokens to the Polygon chain. So people need to do this first before minting your NFTs on your website. It may not be a big deal for those who are familiar with crypto and blockchain, but it may be complicated for those who are not. I hope that the tedious work will be simplified in the near future.

If you are confident that your NFTs will be purchased even if they are expensive, or if the total supply of your NFTs is low, you may choose Ethereum. If you just want to save money, you should choose Polygon. Keep in mind that gas fees are incurred not only when minting, but also when performing some of your smart contract functions and when transferring your NFTs.
If I were to launch a new NFT project, I would probably choose Ethereum or Solana.

Conclusion

Some people may want to start an NFT project to make money, but don’t forget to enjoy your own project. Several months ago, I was playing with creating generative art by imitating the CryptoPunks. I found out that auto-generated artworks would be more interesting than I had imagined, and since then I’ve been completely absorbed in generative art.

This is one of the Skulls In Love artworks:

This character wears a cowboy hat, black slim sunglasses, and a kimono. If anyone looks like this, I can’t help laughing!

The Skulls In Love NFTs can be minted for a small amount of MATIC on the official website. Please give it a try to see what kind of unique characters will appear 💀💖

Thank you for reading to the end. I hope this article will be helpful to those who want to launch an NFT project in the future ✨

Jayden Levitt

Jayden Levitt

1 year ago

Starbucks' NFT Project recently defeated its rivals.

The same way Amazon killed bookstores. You just can’t see it yet.

Photo by Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images

Shultz globalized coffee. Before Starbucks, coffee sucked.

All accounts say 1970s coffee was awful.

Starbucks had three stores selling ground Indonesian coffee in the 1980s.

What a show!

A year after joining the company at 29, Shultz traveled to Italy for R&D.

He noticed the coffee shops' sense of theater and community and realized Starbucks was in the wrong business.

Integrating coffee and destination created a sense of community in the store.

Brilliant!

He told Starbucks' founders about his experience.

They disapproved.

For two years.

Shultz left and opened an Italian coffee shop chain like any good entrepreneur.

Starbucks ran into financial trouble, so the founders offered to sell to Shultz.

Shultz bought Starbucks in 1987 for $3.8 million, including six stores and a payment plan.

Starbucks is worth $100.79Billion, per Google Finance.

26,500 times Shultz's initial investment

Starbucks is releasing its own NFT Platform under Shultz and his early Vision.

This year, Starbucks Odyssey launches. The new digital experience combines a Loyalty Rewards program with NFT.

The side chain Polygon-based platform doesn't require a Crypto Wallet. Customers can earn and buy digital assets to unlock incentives and experiences.

They've removed all friction, making it more immersive and convenient than a coffee shop.

Brilliant!

NFTs are the access coupon to their digital community, but they don't highlight the technology.

They prioritize consumer experience by adding non-technical users to Web3. Their collectables are called journey stamps, not NFTs.

No mention of bundled gas fees.

Brady Brewer, Starbucks' CMO, said;

“It happens to be built on blockchain and web3 technologies, but the customer — to be honest — may very well not even know that what they’re doing is interacting with blockchain technology. It’s just the enabler,”

Rewards members will log into a web app using their loyalty program credentials to access Starbucks Odyssey. They won't know about blockchain transactions.

Join the waitlist here

Starbucks has just dealt its rivals a devastating blow.

It generates more than ten times the revenue of its closest competitor Costa Coffee.

The coffee giant is booming.

Credit — Statista.com

Starbucks is ahead of its competitors. No wonder.

They have an innovative, adaptable leadership team.

Starbucks' DNA challenges the narrative, especially when others reject their ideas.

I’m off for a cappuccino.