Permissionless blockchains, which support the most popular cryptocurrency networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum, have shown that it is possible to transfer value without relying on centralized trusted third parties, something that is new and remarkable (although perhaps most clearly useful for less developed financial markets). What makes permissionless blockchains able to transfer value without relying on a small number of trusted third parties is the combination of several components that all need to work together. The components themselves are not particularly new, but the combination of these components is more than the sum of its parts. In this post, we provide a high-level overview of these components and how they interact, taking Bitcoin as an example.
Cryptocurrencies’ market capitalization has grown rapidly in recent years. This blog post analyzes the role of macro factors as possible drivers of cryptocurrency prices. We take a high-frequency perspective, and we focus on Bitcoin since its market capitalization dwarfs that of all other cryptocurrencies combined. The key finding is that, unlike other asset classes, Bitcoin has not responded significantly to U.S. macro and monetary policy news. This disconnect is puzzling, as unexpected changes in discount rates should, in principle, affect the price of Bitcoin.
Will developments in technology, geopolitics, and the financial market reduce the dollar’s important roles in the global economy? This post updates prior commentary [here, here, and here], with insights about whether recent developments, such as the pandemic and the sanctions on Russia, might change the roles of the dollar. Our view is that the evidence so far points to the U.S. dollar maintaining its importance internationally. A companion post reports on the Inaugural Conference on the International Roles of the U.S. Dollar jointly organized by the Federal Reserve Board and Federal Reserve Bank of New York and held on June 16-17.
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.
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.
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.