Stablecoins – Stability In A Sea Of Volatility

The cryptocurrency market is highly volatile. That is the main risk involved due to the speculative nature for cryptocurrency. Price changes can suddenly shift in a matter of seconds. A typical phenomenon observed in the market is called “pump and dump”, and involves a large injection of capital followed by a large outflow of it as well. This is an example of market manipulation, often carried out by investors called “whales”, who have large funds that can influence the market.

Since there is little regulation and lack of clarity in this space, it is really hard to control how money moves in and out of the market. Price valuation depends on the market cap that is the total capital of the cryptocurrency asset. The idea here for most investors is a future return of value, which is typical of a security. However, cryptocurrency are meant to be a form of payment or medium of exchange which has utility. It is supposed to be a currency like the US Dollar or the Euro, but speculators are treating it as a valuable asset. In other words, most cryptocurrency especially Bitcoin, are being treated as a store of value. Investors are “HODling” or holding on to them with the expectation of higher values in the future.

The problem with holding is the price volatility of cryptocurrency assets. The market shifts and swings, with 100% gains getting wiped out in seconds. Those who continue to hold are using a long term strategy but traders who go short will often lose more money than they expect. There is actually a solution to avoid the price volatility in the market for traders. Enter stablecoins, a cryptocurrency that is pegged to the value of fiat currency.

The best and oldest example of a stablecoin is Tether. The token is named USDT and is pegged to fiat currency like the US Dollar, Euro and Japanese Yen. This provides price stability for traders who want to keep their funds in the cryptocurrency market without the volatility of price swings. It makes sense to keep USDT as a trading pair with the top cryptocurrency in the market. Traders who hold USDT, don’t have to undergo any conversion at exchanges from fiat to cryptocurrency any longer. This will cost traders more money because of the associated fees with exchanging between fiat and cryptocurrency. With USDT, traders can conveniently hold their cryptocurrency assets without being affected by price swings since the USDT token is always pegged one to one to the US Dollar, etc. Since USDT has existing trading pairs with many cryptocurrency it is much simpler to trade on digital exchanges.

The complexity of moving large amounts of money from a bank to a digital exchange and vice versa, is in itself a hassle. Not to mention the scrutiny and the fees involved. Traders who have to convert fiat from their bank back to cryptocurrency to trade on exchanges are also incurring a loss because they could miss the moment to trade because of the process involved. A trader will be able to trade faster by just holding a stablecoin like USDT which they can convert and pump back into the market with an order book on digital exchanges.

According to Wikipedia, a stablecoin is:

“… designed to minimize the volatility of the price of the stablecoin, relative to some “stable” asset or basket of assets.”

The basket of assets can include precious metals or even other types of cryptocurrency. In the case of Tether, 1 US Dollar is supposed to back each USDT token issued. Maintaining that price point requires auditable proofs, which stablecoins must be able to provide to regulators.

Stablecoins even have a practical business application not just for traders, but for businessmen and financiers. Moving money across borders with cryptocurrency is actually faster and much simpler than using a bank of money transfer service. It does however, circumvent jurisdiction laws and that is the issue with transactions like this. There have also been criticisms that stablecoins may not actually have the fiat reserves to back their cryptocurrency. This has been the controversy with Tether. It is more a lack of transparency in their financial information that has regulators investigating.

Another issue that seems to beg scrutiny are how centralized stablecoins are under their respective companies. Most all stablecoins – Tether, Paxos, Gemini, TrueUSD – were developed by a company. Though they use a blockchain-based digital ledger technology, their governance and business process is not truly decentralized. They still make money from fees, but what if the government or a certain jurisdiction shuts down the company for non-compliance to regulations? What happens to the stablecoin holders? Digital exchanges can choose to blacklist the stablecoin token, and this would be disastrous for holders who have plenty of them to exchange. Stablecoins may also lead to an increase in the supply of money leading to inflation that is pegged to a national currency. That is another possible problem that stablecoins could introduce or exacerbate.

There are hurdles and many regulatory clarity questions regarding stablecoins. They can eventually lead to greater adoption with further cooperation with jurisdictions and regulators. Even Facebook and Walmart are planning to release their own cryptocurrency that uses a stablecoin. This can impact the mainstream since those are two of the world’s biggest companies. The potential is there, so it is just a matter of how they will be regulated and how companies who issue them will be able to comply. Stablecoins are beneficial to the cryptocurrency market as a whole. Whenever USDT trading volumes are high, it usually correlates to more trading activity of cryptocurrency assets like Bitcoin. Digital exchanges like Huobi and Binance reported 40-80% of transactions use USDT. It is also originating from China, where traders are using stablecoins like USDT to avoid banking restrictions (From article “Why Tether Volume Is At All-Time High” on Coindesk).

A Cointelegraph article “Stablecoins to Play Key Role in Crypto Adoption, Says New Report” states that stablecoins will have a key role in cryptocurrency adoption. This is optimistic news for stablecoins as they aim to address market volatility in cryptocurrency and hyperinflation with fiat currency. Countries with a high inflation rate can adopt stablecoins to stabilize their funds as a sort of safe haven, though this has not yet been seen on a proven scale. There are plenty of new projects being mentioned now that have the use for stablecoins. It could possibly draw the attention of institutional investors. The stability it can bring to a volatile market is what makes it an attractive solution for trading and perhaps even investing.

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