With so much uncertainty right now it would be a good time to take some time to go over what happened recently and how to invest moving foward. We’ve seen a peak bubble at around 850 billion total market cap in the first week of January, consolidated down to $750 billion and have now just experienced a 40% correction.
What’s happening now and how bad will it get?
First of all you should realize that there is a January Dip that happens every year, when we see a roughly 20-30% decline around mid January. This year its been much more severe though for several additional factors that have compounded on top.
Different theories exist on why this happens (its actually the mirror opposite of the “January Effect” that happens in the US stock market), but the two major theories are:
1) Asian markets pull into fiat because of Asian New Year spending needs
2) People in the US sell in January to defer their capital gains tax liability an extra year
While this cyclic event has lead to a healthy correction in the last few years, this year we got these new factors making more fear as well:
•BTC futures contracts are now expiring this week, and possible manipulation there with contract hedging pushing the price down
• Bitconnect Ponzi finally collapses
• We had a new breed of speculators come in during the November/December timeframe after media made cryptocurrency mainstream following the Bitcoin 10K landmark. While cryptocurrency markets have always had too much hype, the latest rise wasn’t just over-enthusiasm in fundamentally sound cryptocurrencies like Monero and Ethereum, but mass inflows of fiat into vaporware and complete nonsense without any use case. Many people came in to essentially gamble on symbols on an exchange, and are thus short term oriented and quick to sell on any slight downturn, which such further adds to selling pressure.
So in essence we got a storm of scary news along with the usual cyclic downturn. Currently I don’t see this as being a systematic crash like Mt.Gox was that would lead to a long term bear market because the fundamental ecosystem is still intact, and I suspect that after about a month we should consolidate around a new low. All the exchanges are still operational and liquid, and there is no breakdown in trust nor uncertainty whether you’ll be able to cash out. What range the market trades in will all depend how Bitcoin does, right now we’ve already broken below 10K but I’m seeing a lot of support at around $8000, which is roughly where the long term MA curve settles. I don’t expect us going below that support line anytime soon without any systematic breakdown. The fact we got closer to it is actually quite healthy in the long term because it is a valuation that can be logically justified using the cost factors of the mining network. In addition when I run a regression on the price history before the crazy Nov/December bull run, the first Fibonacci level seems to be just around $8000. So I think we should consistantly move above that support level, possibly with a few weeks of fluctuations between the $9-$13K range.
What should you do if you recently entered the market?
If you did buy in the last few months at or near ATH, the very worst thing you can do now is sell in panic and lose your principal. You shouldn’t have more money in crypto than you can afford to lose, so it shouldn’t be a problem to wait a few months. You have to realize that 30% corrections in crypto are relatively common, just last fall we had a 40% flash correction over more China fears. Unless there is a systematic breakdown like we had during Mt.Gox, the market always recovers.
The other worst thing you can do is unload into Tether as your safety net. If there is one thing that could actually cause a long term destruction of trust within the cryptocurrency investment ecosystem, its Tether having a run up on their liabilities and not having enough reserve to cover the leverage. It would not only bring down exchanges but lead to years of litigation and endless media headlines that will scare off everybody from putting fiat in. I don’t know when the next Mt.Gox meltdown will occur but I can almost guarantee it will involve Tether. So stay away from it.
What should long term investors do?
For long term holders a good strategy to follow each year is to capture profit each December and swallow the capital gains taxation liability, park a reserve of fiat at Gemini (whose US dollar deposits are FDIC-insured) and simply wait till around late January to early February to re-enter the market at a discount and hold all year until next December. You can keep a small amount in core coins in order to trade around various Q1 opportunities you anticipate. Others may choose to simply do nothing and just keep holding throughout January which is also a perfectly fine strategy. The cyclical correction usually stabilizes toward late January and early February, then we see a rise in March and generally are recovered by end of April. Obviously this decision whether to sell in December to profit on the dip and pay tax liability or to just hold will depend on your individual tax situation. Do your own math sometime in November and follow suit.
How to construct your portfolio going forward
Rather than seeing the correction as a disaster see it as a time to start fresh. If you have been FOMO-ing into bad cryptos and losing money now is a time to start a systematic long term approach to investing rather than gambling.
Follow a methodology for evaluating each cryptocurrency
Memes and lambo dreams are fun and all, but I know many of you are investing thousands of dollars into crypto, so its worth it to put some organized thought into it as well. I can’t stress enough how important it is to try and logically contruct your investment decisions. If you follow a set methodology, a checklist and template you will be able to do relative comparisons between cryptocurrencies, to force yourself to consider the negatives and alternative scenarios and also sleep comfortably knowing you have a sound basis for your investment decisions (even if they turn out to be wrong).
There is no ideal or “correct” methodology but I can outline mine:
1) Initial information gathering and filtering
Once I identify something that looks like a good potential investment, I first go to the CoinMarketCap page for that symbol and look at the website and blockchain explorer.
• Critically evaluate the website. This is the first pass of the bullshit detector and you can tell from a lot from just the website whether its a scam. If it uses terms like “Web 4.0” or other nonsensical buzzwords, if its unprofessional and has anonymous teams, stay away. Always look for a roadmap, compare to what was actually delivered so far. Always check the team, try to find them on LinkedIn and what they did in the past.
• Read the whitepaper or business development plan. You should fully understand how this crypto functions and how its trying to create value. If there is no use case or if the use case does not require or benefit from a blockchain, move on. Look for red flags like massive portions of the float being assigned to the founders of the coin, vague definition of who would use the coin, anonymous teams, promises of large payouts…etc
• Check the blockchain explorer. How is the token distribution across accounts? Are the big accounts holding or selling? Which account is likely the foundation account, which is the founders account?
• Read the subreddit and blogs for the cryptocurrency and also evaluate the community. Try to figure out exactly what the potential use cases are and look for sceptical takes. Look at the Github repos, does it look empty or is there plenty of activity?
2) Fill out an Investment Checklist
I have a checklist of questions that I find important and as I’m researching a crypto I save little snippets in Evernote of things that are relevant to answering those questions:
• What is the problem or transactional inefficiency the coin is trying to solve?
• What is the Dev Team like? What is their track record? How are they funded, organized?
• Who is their competition and how big is the market they’re targeting? What is the roadmap they created?
• What current product exists?
• How does the token/coin actually derive value for the holder? Is there a staking mechanism or is it transactional?
• What are the weaknesses or problems with this crypto?
3) Create some sort of consistent valuation model/framework, even if its simple
I have a background in finance so I like to do Excel modeling. For those who are interested in that, this article is a great start and also Chris Burniske has a great blog about using Quantity Theory of Money to build an equivalent of a DCF analysis for crypto.
Here is an Excel file example of OMG done using his model. You can download this and play around with it yourself, see how the formulas link and understand the logic.
Once you have a model set up the way you like in Excel you can simply alter it to account for various float oustanding schedule and market items that are unique to your crypto, and then just start plugging in different assumptions. Think about what is the true derivation of value for the coin, is it a “dividend” coin that you stake within a digital economy and collect fees or is it a currency? Use a realistic monetary velocity (around 5-10 for currency and around 1-2 for staking) and for the discount rate use at least 3x the long term return of a diversified equity fund.
The benefit is that this forces you to think about what actually makes this coin valuable to an actual user within the digital economy its participating in and force you to think about the assumptions you are making about the future. Do your assumptions make sense? What would the assumptions have to be to justify its current price? You can create different scenarios in a matrix (optimistic vs. pessimistic) based on different assumptions for risk (discount rate) and implementation (adoption rates).
If you don’t understand the above thats perfectly fine, you don’t need to get into full modeling or have a financial background. Even a simple model that just tries to derive a valuation through relative terms will put you above most crypto investors. Some simple valuation methods that anyone can do
•Metcalfe’s Law which states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). So you can compare various currencies based on their market cap and square of active users or traffic.
• Another easy one is simply looking at the total market for the industry that the coin is supposedly targeting and comparing it to the market cap of the coin. Think of the market cap not only with circulating supply like its shown on CMC but including total supply. For example the total supply for Dentacoin is 1,841,395,638,392, and when multiplied by its price in early January we get a market cap that is actually higher than the entire industry it aims to disrupt: Dentistry.
• If its meant to be just used as just a currency: Take a look at the circulating supply and look at the amount that is in cold storage or set to be released/burned. Most cryptos are deflationary so think about how the float schedule will change over time and how this will affect price.
Once you have a model you like set up, you can compare cryptos against each other and most importantly it will require that you build a mental framework within your own mind on why somebody would want to own this coin other than to sell it to another greater fool for a higher price. Modeling out a valuation will lead you to think long term and think about the inherent value, rather than price action.
Once you go through this 3-step methodology, you’ll have a pretty good confidence level for making your decision and can comfortably sit back and not panic if some temporary short term condition leads to a price decrease. This is how “smart money” does it.
Think about your portfolio allocation
You should think first in broad terms how you allocate between “safe” and “speculative” cryptos.
For new investors its best to keep a substantial portion in what would be considered largecap safe cryptos, primarily BTC, ETH, LTC. I personally consider XMR to be safe as well. A good starting point is to have between 50-70% of your portfolio in these safe cryptocurrencies. As you become more confident and informed you can move your allocation into speculative small caps.
You should also think in terms of segments and how much of your total portfolio is in each segment:
• Core holdings – BTC, Ethereum, LTC…etc
• Platform segment – Ethereum, NEO, Ark…etc
• Privacy segment – Monero, Zcash, PivX..etc
• Finance/Bank settlement segment – Ripple, Stellar…etc
• Enterprise Blockchain solutions segment -VeChain, Walton, WABI…etc
• Promising/Innovative Tech segment – Raiblocks, IOTA, Cardano…etc
You should also think about where we are in the cycle, as now given so much uncertaintly its probably best to stay heavily in core holdings and pick up a few coins within a segment you understand well. If you don’t understand how enterprise solutions work or how the value chain is built through corporations, don’t invest in the enteprise blockchain solutions segment. If you are a technie who loves the technology behind Cardano or IOTA, invest in that segment.
Think of your “circle of competence”
This is actually a term Buffet came up with, it refers to your body of knowledge that allows you to evaluate an investment. Think about what you know best and consider investing in those type of coins. If you don’t know anything about how supply chains functions, how can you competently judge whether VeChain or WaltonChain will achieve adoption?
This where your portfolio allocation also comes into play. You should diversify but really shouldn’t be in much more than around 12 cryptos, because you simply don’t have enough competency to accurately access the risk across every segment and for every type of crypto you come across. If you had over 20 different cryptos in your portfolio you should probably think about consolidating to a few sectors you understand well.
Continually educate yourself about the technology and markets
If you aren’t already doing it: Read a bit each day about cryptocurrencies. There are decent Youtubers that talk about the market side of crypto, just avoid those that hype specific coins and look for more sceptical ones like CryptoInvestor. If you don’t understand how the technology works and what the benefits of a blockchain are or how POS/POW works or what a DAG is or how mining actually works, learn first. If you don’t care about the technology or find reading about it tedious, you shouldn’t invest in this space at all.
Technical analysis isn’t that useful over the short term in crypto, so stop daytrading
Technical analysis was initially developed by financial professionals primarily to measure momentum based on historical data. It can be useful in regulated efficient stock markets for a very good reason: patterns are fairly predictable in stocks since they are a result of intrinsic events (such as quarterly earning reports) or extrinsic events (interest rate change announced). Its true that we also have movement that is based around insider information, however we have laws that keep that to a minimum. Add to this the fact that most stocks are held with large institutional investors and bought and sold by financial professionals who slowly add and decrease their position over long term plans, which is why its rare for the wild swings within short periods. These different intrinsic and extrinsic events all have a correlation in price, and because the markets are regulated and efficient we can use them to predict movement within a reasonable degree of confidence.
None of this is true for crypto. Its completely unregulated and insider trading and PnD schemes are rampant. No technical analysis in the world takes into account that all it takes for a crypto to double is John McAffee to post a single sentence about it on Twitter, or a sub of a smaller crypto to organize a shilling operation on /r/CryptoCurrency. Its also filled with weak hands who will dump on any sign of sellling pressure.
This is why trying to use technical analysis tools from the stock market for short term trading in crypto isn’t that useful. Technical analysis was meant to predict pricing movement in a regulated and efficient environment.
So stop daytrading. If you use technical analysis, use it for long term trend confirmation. Any attempt to trade short term based on price momentum is pure gambling. If you want to gamble get a girl and some friends and go to a casino and drink while you do it, its much more fun.
Summing it up
I predicted a few days ago that we would have a major correction in 2018 specifically in the altcoins that saw massive gains in Decemeber/early January, and it seems we’ve already had a pretty big one. I don’t think we’ll have a complete meltdown like some are predicting, but some more pain may be incoming.
Basically take this time to think about how you can improve your investment style and strategy. Make a commitment to value things rather than chasing FOMO, and take your time to make a decision. Long term investment will grant you much more returns as will a systematic approach.
Take care and have fun investing 🙂