Distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) have garnered growing interest in recent years and are making inroads into traditional finance. One purported benefit of DLTs is their ability to bring about “atomic” settlement. Indeed, several recent private sector projects (SDX, Fnality, HQLAx) aim to do just that. But what exactly is atomic settlement? In this post, we explain that atomic settlement, as it is often defined, combines two distinct properties: instant settlement and simultaneous settlement, which should be kept separate.
Stablecoins, which we define as digital assets used as a medium of exchange that are purported to be backed by assets held specifically for that purpose, have grown considerably in the last two years. They rose from a market capitalization of $5.7 billion on December 1, 2019, to $155.6 billion on January 21, 2022. Moreover, a market that was once dominated by a single stablecoin—Tether (USDT)—now boasts five stablecoins with valuations over $1 billion (as of January 21, 2022; data about the supply of stablecoins can be found here). Analysts have started to pay increased attention to the stablecoin market, and the President’s Working Group (PWG) on Financial Markets released a report on stablecoins on November 1, 2021. In this post, we explain why we believe stablecoins are unlikely to be the future of payments.
New York Fed researchers tackled a wide array of topics on Liberty Street Economics (LSE) over the past year, with the myriad effects of the pandemic—on supply chains, the banking system, and inequality, for example—remaining a major area of focus. Judging by the list below, LSE readers were particularly interested in understanding what comes next: the most-viewed posts of the year analyze households’ use of stimulus payments, the implications of lockdown-period savings, the risk of a new housing bubble, the compression of the breakeven inflation curve, and the potential roles that central banks could play in the digital currency sphere. As the year draws to a close, take a look back at the top five posts of 2021.
In the past year, a number of central banks have stepped up work on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs – see map). For central banks, are CBDCs just a defensive reaction to private-sector innovations in money, or are they an opportunity for the monetary system? In this post, we consider several long-standing goals of central banks in their support and provision of retail payments, why and how central banks tackle these issues, and where CBDCs fit into the array of potential solutions.
The authors discuss a common distinction made between “token-based” and “account-based” digital currencies, noting that the distinction is problematic since Bitcoin and many other digital currencies satisfy both definitions.
Bitcoin, and more generally, cryptocurrencies, are often described as a new type of money. In this post, we argue that this is a misconception. Bitcoin may be money, but it is not a new type of money. To see what is truly new about Bitcoin, it is useful to make a distinction between “money,” the asset that is being exchanged, and the “exchange mechanism,” that is, the method or process through which the asset is transferred. Doing so reveals that monies with properties similar to Bitcoin have existed for centuries. However, the ability to make electronic exchanges without a trusted party—a defining characteristic of Bitcoin—is radically new. Bitcoin is not a new class of money, it is a new type of exchange mechanism, and this type of exchange mechanism can support a variety of forms of money as well as other types of assets.
Having witnessed the dramatic rise and fall in the value of cryptocurrencies over the past year, we wanted to learn more about what motivates people to participate in this market. To find out, we included a special set of questions in the May 2018 Survey of Consumer Expectations, a project of the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data. This blog post summarizes the results of that survey, shedding light on U.S. consumers’ depth of participation in cryptocurrencies and their motives for entering this new market.
Bitcoin and other “cryptocurrencies” have been much in the news lately, in part because of their wild gyrations in value. Michael Lee and Antoine Martin, economists in the New York Fed’s Money and Payment Studies function, have been following cryptocurrencies and agreed to answer some questions about digital money.