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The “Gold of Tech” Could Become Your Best Portfolio Insurance
In uncertain markets like these, you need to stay as focused – and unemotional – as possible. One way to do that is to always have some “portfolio insurance” on hand.
For instance, many investors dedicate a portion of their portfolio to gold or some other precious metal where it can act as a hedge against trouble in other markets.
Now, some of these folks go overboard, and you probably know a “gold bug” or two. But at bottom, this is a sound strategy, because precious metals generally aren’t affected by the ups and downs of the stock market.
Now, what you have in your hands isn’t a “gold report.” My main interest is in technology. And there is a way to make one particular piece of technology act like gold in your portfolio – by providing a measure of “insurance.”
Now, at first blush the idea that you can use some form of technology as portfolio insurance might sound odd.
Right now big banks, credit card companies and other financial players are avidly exploring ways to use this “gold of tech” (and the science behind it) to disrupt the $500 billion payments industry.
What’s more, this technology is being adopted throughout the economy, in industries as diverse as real estate… art… law… stock trading…
As that upheaval in payments and in other sectors gathers steam, this “safety” play I’m about to show you could soar triple digits or more in the coming years.
So let’s investigate this “gold of tech.”
Up From the Underground
The “gold” I’m talking about is Bitcoin. The encrypted digital currency has been the talk of “underground” tech and privacy circles since 2009, when a writer with the pen name Satoshi Nakamoto released an “open source” paper describing it.
Satoshi’s idea was to create a decentralized currency outside of the control of government and the manipulation of the big banks.
I’ve followed Bitcoin developments since Day 1, both here at Money Morning and around the Web. I discuss it with hundreds of cryptocurrency investors and entrepreneurs on my social-media accounts.
And because of my deep background in monetary economics and cybersecurity, I like to think I have a better grasp on it than most.
Today I’m going to use that know-how to show you why Bitcoin’s rise has only just begun – and why it’s destined to become a true “unstoppable trend.”
I’ll also point to several ways you can invest in Bitcoin, whether as a long-term hedge… or as a way to capture some of the huge gains I’ve seen batted about.
Now, the “chatter” around Bitcoin has not always been positive. Far from it. Plenty of folks say this innovative investment has already run its course.
Even the writers at The Wall Street Journal (who should know better) recently ran a story with the foreboding headline “Is Bitcoin About to Break Up?”
What prompted that story was that one of Bitcoin’s key developers, Mike Hearn, resigned from the Bitcoin project. Hearn didn’t just walk away – he also penned an extremely negative essay calling the highly secure payments system a “failed” experiment. And he sold all his Bitcoins because, in his view, the network supporting the system was getting log-jammed.
I’ve lost count of how many Bitcoin “obituaries” I’ve read, but it’s in the hundreds. And all of them – including this latest one – miss a key point: Bitcoin is a global force so massive in its reach that no one person or event can stop it.
Bitcoin isn’t going anywhere because it’s become an unstoppable trend that I believe will disrupt the global payments system. When you add in the value of credit cards, electronic payments and remittances, that’s a $500 billion sector.
And that leaves Bitcoin – and its underlying technology – plenty of room to cause some convulsions that would greatly benefit those who are invested in it.
Triple-Digit Gains From Bitcoin
Here’s why reports of Bitcoin’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
In the past year the number of merchants accepting Bitcoin more than doubled. Jack Dorsey, CEO of mobile-pay firm Square Inc. (NYSE: SQ), estimates that 160,000 merchants now accept Bitcoin – an increase of 113% since the fourth quarter of 2014. The number of Bitcoin transactions is climbing steadily as well.
There are other strong signs that Bitcoin is rushing into the mainstream.
In November, Bitcoin “wallet” developer and marketer Coinbase launched the first U.S. Bitcoin debit card.
Called the Shift Card, it lets folks spend Bitcoin anyplace that accepts credit cards from Visa Inc. (NYSE: V). According to Coinbase, the Shift Card has been approved for use in 25 states so far and is valid for both online and offline purchases.
This is a huge development for Bitcoin because, as more and more people adopt the card and others like it, that expanding user base will entice merchants into accepting Bitcoin. And an expanding pool of Bitcoin-friendly merchants will attract more and more Bitcoin users.
The result will be a “virtuous circle” of adoption that will help make 2016 the breakout year for Bitcoin.
And as Bitcoin becomes increasingly integrated into the world’s financial system and balloons into its own “ecosystem,” its value will necessarily rise.
Gil Luria, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, recently forecast that Bitcoin will reach $600 in 2016 – a 54% gain from current levels.
I think that forecast is conservative. After bottoming out just below $200 in January 2015, the Bitcoin price zigzagged between $200 and $300 for most of the year. But, in mid-September, it started a run toward $450. Since then, it’s mostly traded between $400 and $460.
And while I don’t see Bitcoin reaching its late-2013 high of $1,242 – at least not in the coming months – I think it could get as high as $921, midway between $600 and $1,242, for a gain of 137% from the current price.
The coming year looks even brighter when you look beneath the surface of Bitcoin and see the truly disruptive nature of this new digital currency
Blockchain Will Free Up Billions in Wealth
The power of Bitcoin is in its backend/grid system, known as the blockchain, which is an Internet-based public ledger of every Bitcoin transaction. People who run the Bitcoin software maintain an up-to-date copy of the blockchain on their computers.
The blockchain is like the “grids” that allow you to make credit card purchases, transfer money between banks or buy stocks through online brokerages. Except its main purpose right now is for folks to buy and sell Bitcoins.
I predict that 2016 will see an explosion of new uses for the technology underlying Bitcoin – the blockchain.
That’s because this decentralized aspect of the blockchain – there’s no third party in between – is now being applied to a whole range of industries and services.
In other words, Bitcoin is just one way to use the blockchain.
Take real estate, for example.
Ragnar Lifthrasir, president of International Bitcoin Real Estate Association (IBREA), says the blockchain could save that industry a huge part of the $20 billion it spends each year on property title insurance and title fraud.
Lifthrasir recently told Blockchain Agenda, “Using Photoshop and a $15 stamp, a criminal can create a fake document that transfers ownership of your house to himself. Compare that to what it would take for that criminal to break the cryptography behind Bitcoin.”
An Israeli private firm called Colu is out to use the blockchain to “digitize” ownership of everything from cars to works of art. Buyers could add a blockchain-based “token” that would provide indelible, fraud-proof evidence of ownership and title.
Another area ripe for blockchain disruption is remittances – money that people living abroad send to folks back home. The fees for doing that are typically quite high – 4% to 8%. Bitcoin/blockchain can do remittances nearly instantly and at almost no cost.
And as impressive as those developments are, there’s another great reason to put your faith in the “gold of tech.” Some major market players are getting up under it.
The World’s Biggest Players Are Lining up Behind the Blockchain
Goldman Sachs has co-led a nearly $50 million investment in Bitcoin payments startup Circle Internet Financial.
And in October, Robert Greifeld, the CEO of the Nasdaq-OMX Stock Market, demonstrated Linq, a platform that uses blockchain technology to manage shares of private companies.
According to Forbes, “Linq clients will be have a comprehensive, historical record of issuance and transfer of their securities, making their records easier to audit and giving them greater capabilities around issuance governance and transfer of ownership.”
As more companies stay private longer, an easy, inexpensive way to manage asset trading is sorely needed.
Also getting behind the blockchain is UBS Financial Services. The Swiss firm, in partnership with Clearmatics in London, is rolling out a blockchain-based “settlement coin” that banks can use to settle transactions involving stocks and bonds. Some estimates claim banks could save $20 billion dollars by using the blockchain this way.
The blockchain can even be used to implement “smart contracts.” These are contracts that “execute” themselves once their terms or conditions have been fulfilled. Again, this holds tremendous promise for cutting out go-betweens like lawyers and dramatically reducing transaction costs.
Look for many more developments along these lines in 2016. Each one will grow the Bitcoin and blockchain ecosystem until it reaches critical mass.
How to Invest in Bitcoin
If you choose to invest in Bitcoin, you could think of it as “the gold of tech.”
That means using it as insurance – a hedge – against today’s volatile market. Like gold, Bitcoin won’t plunge along with stocks. And if the blockchain truly disrupts the payments sector, then the cryptocurrency’s value will soar over time.
I’d advocate allocating just a small portion of a portfolio to Bitcoin – like you would gold – no more than 5%.
Trading around $375 a “coin,” the price movement in the past two years has been volatile, to be sure – at point it traded for more than $1,100.
But the Bitcoin’s Wild West days are coming to an end, and we are entering an era of price stability for the currency as it gains financial and political acceptance. In October, the European Union declared Bitcoin a currency and, as such, tax-free. The move paves the way for Bitcoin acceptance throughout Europe.
Right now, there are two ways to invest in Bitcoin – and one more to put in your “watch” file.
- Bitcoin: For now, the best way to invest in Bitcoin is buying the cryptocurrency itself. You can always buy and sell Bitcoins through exchanges like Coinbase. It’s an online “wallet” that connects to your bank account so you can buy and sell Bitcoin.A brand-new exchange option is Gemini. It was developed by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss – the ostensible creators of Facebook. The twins call Gemini, where you can buy and sell Bitcoins (or fractions thereof), “the Nasdaq of Bitcoin.” Gemini is now the No. 11 Bitcoin exchange – but it’s growing quickly. Gemini launched on Oct. 8 with just 31 trades. By early November, it had 11,600 trades under its belt and about 2,000 daily.
- Tech ETF: If you don’t want to buy Bitcoin directly, take a look at ARK Web x.0 ETF (NYSE ARCA: ARKW). It’s a “next-generation Internet” exchange-traded fund focused on the cloud, Big Data, the Internet of Everything, e-commerce and social media. It’s also invested in Bitcoin Investment Trust (OTC: GBTC), an ETF that tracks the price of the cryptocurrency – but is only open to hedge funds, ETFs and wealthy accredited investors.Its largest holdings include Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB). In other words, ARKW is a “twofer” that gives you limited exposure to Bitcoin and a stake in several leading Web giants.
- Bitcoin ETF: While GBTC is closed to most of us, the Winklevoss twins are working to launch the first Bitcoin ETF, which will track the price of the currency. The Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust (Nasdaq: COIN) is awaiting approval from federal regulators. Like ARKW, COIN will be a good choice for investors who want exposure to Bitcoin but don’t want to hold the currency itself.
Here’s something very important to remember about Bitcoin investing.
The IRS treats it as a commodity, not a currency. So you need to keep very accurate records of when you bought and what you paid so you know your cost basis when you sell it. In that sense, Bitcoin is a lot like other types of investments. The difference is that you must do all the record-keeping – without the help of a broker.
We’re still in the early stages of a global shift toward Bitcoin and its underlying technology… the blockchain. That means this is a trend with many years of growth ahead.
And that makes Bitcoin good long-term insurance – with the potential for huge gains in the years to come.
That’s just the kind of investment we’re looking for in this – the worst market since 2008.
curated by Glen Brink, InvestmentMarketingTips blog.