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A Window into Institutional Adoption of Digital Currencies

Institutional adoption of digital currencies and payment methods is on the rise. We are seeing a tectonic shift in the payments landscape along with the rise of Bitcoin. However, behind Bitcoin, blockchain companies and projects are looking to reinvent the way individuals and entire industries transact across the entire global industrial landscape.

One of the the core concepts behind blockchain is "trustless" transactions which essentially means transactions between two parties that are controlled by a piece of computer code "A smart contract" that is programmed to embody the transactional details and execute automatically. Essentially any "exchange" of property or digital property can be programmed accordingly removing the need or reliance on centralized parties or intermediaries to broker an exchange for fees. The movement to decentralised finance for example aims to remove "banks" and "brokers" as intermediaries allowing what is known as "peer" to "peer" transactions. Individual A can buy a stock or any asset directly from Individual B in a secure and trustless manner or Individuals can send monies "peer to peer" directly to one another without a bank as an intermediary.

Every transaction on the blockchain is recorded in a tamper proof ledger. No one can go back in time and modify the ledger which makes blockchain one of the most secure and transparent technologies in history to date.

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The Case for Negative Interest Rates - Rationale, Risks and Origins

Why on earth would a bank charge negative interest rates? It's so " upside down" and counter-intutive we thought it would be a good idea to cover the topic in this weeks blog post.

During times of economic uncertainty central banks lacking in policy alternatives to stimulate the economy have turned to unconventional policies such as negative interest rates to stimulate the economy. The use of negative interest rates is a tool to counter potential deflationary spirals where - in times of economic uncertainty - there is less incentive on the part of businesses and consumers to spend and therefore less investment, growth, profits and a higher propensity for unemployment which in turn creates a negative feedback loop. By offering negative interest rates banks disincentivize individuals and businesses to hold cash at banks as it now costs depositors money to do so (which turns the traditional banking model on its head) and encourages businesses and individuals to borrow money by actually being paid to borrow by the banks.

Sweden was the first to experiment with negative rates in July 2009 when the Reiksbank cut interest rates to -.25%. The ECB (European Central Bank) did so in 2014 lowering its interest rate to -0.10%. Other European countries and Japan have done likewise with over $10 trillion in government debt carrying instrument with negative yields by 2017. The objective is to encourage banks to lend money rather than hold reserves at the central banks (where they are now charged for the privilege). Another objective is to use negative interest rates to devalue a currency and in essence make it more competitive, stimulating the economy through demands for export of goods and thereby encouraging business expansion.  This has been one of the objectives of the ECB.

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Inflation - How Big a Risk Is It?

The exponential rise in the national debt since COVID began by the tune of more than $3.8 Trillion of stimulus monies was inevitably going to lead to a wave of hard asset inflation as well as consumer inflation. The only question was "how much"?

In the last couple of days, the markets woke up to the fact that inflation might be worse than the federal reserve predicted. The CPI (Consumer Price Index) numbers released for April 2021 rose 0.8% versus an expected rise of 0.2% month over month. Should we be alarmed and worried? In the short term, the answer is "not really". If you have been tracking first quarter earnings calls, you will have heard many CEO's describing how tight supply chains are right now. Higher costs of raw material inputs are being passed onto the consumer. As COVID restrictions ease and consumer demand for goods and services rise alongside tight supply chains operating on "just in time" demand cycles, the natural consequence of greater demand and tight supplies is higher price increases.

It is difficult to say how inflation numbers will fare over the coming months as it will take time for supply chains to re-calibrate and meet rising demand.  However, as this occurrs, inflation numbers will likely decrease as supply increases. Overall, however, we expect the inflation trend to show up as net higher consumer prices across most hard and soft asset categories, compared to before the pandemic.

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China Issues Digital Currency - The Big News That is Not Being Covered with Giant Implications

China has issued a digital Yuan and it's got governments around the world scared and in catch-up mode. So what's the big deal? The world is moving at breakneck pace to a digital based currency system. Cash is being phased out. Consumers around the world are paying increasingly with debit and credit cards. Cash is being used less and less and this trend has only accellerated since the advent of COVID. It only makes sense in a predominantly digital commerce world that this would be accompanied by government issued digital currencies.

When Facebook announced its intentions to launch Libra, the world took notice and action. When a public company with 2 billion users starts issuing its own currency the financial elite start to panic. Just imagine how much power would shift to Facebook. It could become one of the largest financial payment networks in the world overnight. As if it did not have enough power and influence right now, a move to digital banking would tip the balance of power even further to the digital elite. Mark Zuckerberg's argument was simple. "If we do not do it, someone else will" and that is exactly what is happening with China announcing the launch of its digital currency. However, the implications of China announcing a digital currency are just as far reaching as Facebook's announcement.

From a Geo political and economic standpoint, China's launch into the digital world is a significant threat to the dollars global dominance. A digital currency means the ability to bypass US oversight allowing countries that the US is looking to penalize with sanctions, for example, to bypass international payment networks such as SWIFT (which the US monitors closely) and exchange funds anonymously. China's game plan to weaken US dominance in the world is not exactly a secret. As we have written in previous articles, there is a global economic fight for dominance going on between China, US and the EU (less so). One of the last significant bastions of US power in the world is the dominance of the US dollar as the global reserve currency. Almost 80% of all global trade is done in dollars. China is going to keep doing everything it can to disrupt the last bastion of US power.

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Part 2 - Bubbles, Bonds & The Allocation Dilemma

As we mentioned in part one of this article last week, wealth management firms are managing a cross-section of economic conditions and asset classes that each carry comparative risk. We define comparative risk as the "opportunity cost" of asset allocation in which "yield" is the primary measure by clients.

How much "risk on" or "risk off" is the asset allocation question in the midst of what are inevitably "unknown timeframes" and economic conditions that can outlast any rational mind.

In this article we will talk about some other dilemna's facing wealth management firms and their clients:-

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Phone: 925-906-9800
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Hawley Advisors is an investment advisor, registered with the State of California. Any investment ideas or strategies on this website are for the purposes of education and general information only and should not be construed as specific investment advice. For more information about our firm please check the SEC Public Disclosure website: https://www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/

 

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