Altcoin roundup: There’s more to DeFi than just providing liquidity

Bitcoin price is down but crypto investors still have a plethora of yield opportunities thanks to DeFi.

The growth of the decentralized finance (DeFi) sector has been a recurrent headline throughout 2021 and to date, hundreds of billions of dollars in crypto assets are locked on protocols across numerous blockchain networks and earning a yield for their holders. 

What started off as a simple Ethereum-based swap interface that allowed ERC-20 tokens to be exchanged in a decentralized manner, called Uniswap, has exploded into a vast ecosystem full of decentralized exchanges, yield farms, lending protocols and staking platforms.

As development continues and older protocols become more established, newer projects have emerged to incorporate more pieces from the traditional financial realm into the DeFi arena as digital technology slowly transforms the global financial system.

Here’s a look at some ways for users to get involved with DeFi outside of simply staking in liquidity pools or depositing to a lending protocol.

Decentralized derivatives trading

Cryptocurrency derivatives exchanges have long been a target for regulators, and once defiant exchanges like BitMEX and Binance have found themselves bending to the will of the law and modifying their operating practices as they seek a more legitimate standing.

This has furthered the necessity for crypto traders to have a decentralized option and led to the creation of protocols like dYdX and Hegic, which offer similar services without the target that is a centralized structure for regulators to come after.

DYdX is a non-custodial perpetuals trading platform built on a layer-two protocol that operates on the Ethereum network and offers users access to up to ten times leverage on futures contracts for more than twenty cryptocurrencies.

Hegic is an on-chain options trading protocol that utilizes hedge contracts and liquidity pools to offer options contracts that last up to 90 days and can payout in Ether (ETH), Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) or USD Coin (USDC).

Both of these platforms offer users access to these advanced trading products without the need to divulge their identities, as is required on the centralized counterparts.

Bonding, rebase and ultra-high APY tokens

One topic that is increasingly popping up more in financial discussions is the concept of how to create a decentralized reserve currency that is free of the control of any government or centralized financial institution.

Olympus aims to address this issue through a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) platform which offers staking and various bond offerings including the ability to bond Ether, MakerDAO (DAI), Liquidity USD (LUSD) and Frax (FRAX).

The bonding process on Olympus is basically a cross between a fixed income product, a futures contract and an option. Bonders are provided with a quote outlining terms for a trade at a future date and include a predetermined amount of the protocol’s native OHM token that the bonder will receive once the vesting period is complete.

Funds that are raised by bond offerings go into the Olympus treasury as collateral to back the OHM tokens that were minted, helping to provide the underlying value behind the OHM token which allows it to be used as a reserve currency or medium of exchange.

The only other projects that have a treasury that provides the underlying value for each token are stablecoins, but as the name implies their price is fixed whereas the price of OHM can increase, offering a new avenue of yield for users.

Once bonding is complete, users can sell their OHM on the open market or stake them on the Olympus protocol for a current yield of 7,299%.

Related: CFTC renewed: What Biden’s new agency picks hold for crypto regulation

Crowd loan participation on Polkadot and Kusama

Another way crypto holders can put their assets to work while also helping the cryptocurrency ecosystem expand is through participating in the parachain auctions in the Polkadot and Kusama ecosystems through a process known as a crowd loan.

In the auction process, different projects vie for one of the limited parachain slots that connect the project directly to the main Kusma or Polkadot network, facilitating the interconnection of all parachains in the ecosystem.

With crowdloans, users who hold the native KSM and DOT tokens can “contribute” them towards the pool that a project uses to secure a parachain slot, and they will have their tokens returned after a specified lock-up or bonding period that can last for up to one year.

In exchange for their contribution and inability to earn staking rewards for the period that the tokens are locked up, users receive a specified number of tokens for the new protocol which can then be used in the ecosystem or sold on the market.

This approach offers a less risky yield opportunity for token holders, as all principal contributions are locked in a smart contract and returned after the stipulated lock-up period. And by the nature of the parachain auction process, there have been well-developed projects with larger communities that have secured parachain slots, increasing the chance that their tokens will maintain or increase in value as long development for the protocols stays active.

Aside from the threat of regulation, the DeFi ecosystem is showing few signs of slowing its integration of the best parts of the traditional financial system and developing innovative protocols that level the playing field for retail investors.

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The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.

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Derivatives data favors Ethereum bulls even with this week’s crash below $3K

Losing the $3,000 mark just days before Friday’s $1.55 billion ETH options expiry nearly doomed Ether longs, but derivatives data shows bulls are still in favor.

Ether (ETH) has been in a bearish trend since early September, and this week’s Evergrande-led market crash drove the price below $2,700 on Sept.20, its lowest level in 47 days. Curiously, just three weeks ago, Ether was testing the $4,000 psychological barrier, but this changed after mounting crypto regulatory concerns and the fear of China’s debt markets triggering a global sell-off intensified.

This week U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler spoke to the Washington Post about renewed plans to regulate the crypto sector and the growing stablecoin market.

Ether’s negative price trend reversed on Sept. 22 after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell confirmed the continuation of the central bank’s monthly bond purchasing program. Powell also made clear that no interest rate hike should be expected in 2021.

Ether price at Bitstamp in USD. Source: TradingView

Even though the current $3,000 level represents a 25% retraction from the recent $4,000 peak, Ether price still reflects a 215% gain in 2021 and the network’s adjusted total value locked (TVL) jumped from $13 billion in 2020 to $60 billion, signaling strong adoption despite surging gas fees.

Bitcoin options aggregate open interest for Sept. 24. Source: Bybt.com

As shown above, bulls got caught by surprise because 72% of call (buy) instruments were placed at $3,200 or higher. Consequently, if Ether remains below that price on Friday, only $260 million worth of neutral-to-bullish call options will be activated on the expiry.

A call option is a right to sell Bitcoin at a predetermined price on the set expiry date. Thus, a $3,200 cut option becomes worthless if Ether remains below that price at 8:00 am UTC on Sept. 24.

Bulls still have an advantage in Friday’s $1.55 billion expiry

The 1.48 call-to-put ratio represents the difference between the $920 million worth of call (buy) options versus the $620 million put (sell) options. This bird’s eye view begs a more detailed analysis because some bets are far-fetched considering the current $3,000 level.

Below are the four most likely scenarios considering the current Ether price. The imbalance favoring either side represents the theoretical profit from the expiry. The data below shows how many contracts will be activated on Friday, depending on the ETH price:

  • Between $2,700 and $2,900: 61,900 calls vs. 72,000 puts. The net result is $27 million favoring the protective put (bear) instruments.
  • Between $2,900 and $3,000: 79,900 calls vs. 52,200 puts. The net result is $80 million favoring the call (bull) options.
  • Between $3,000 and $3,200: 82,500 calls vs. 37,300 puts. The net result is $136 million favoring the call (bull) options.
  • Above $3,200: 99,600 calls vs. 20,200 puts. The net result favors the call options by $255 million.

This raw estimate considers call options being exclusively used in bullish strategies and put options in neutral-to-bearish trades. However, investors typically use more complex strategies that involve different expiry dates. Moreover, there is no way to know if the arbitrage desks are fully hedged.

To win, bears need to keep Ether below $2,900

These two competing forces will show their strength, and the bears will try to minimize the damage. On the other hand, the bulls have decent control over the situation if the Ether price remains above $3,000.

The most important test will be the $2,900 level because bears have significant incentives to suppress the price at this level, even if momentarily. Although there’s still room for additional volatility ahead of the expiry, the bulls seem to be better positioned.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.

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Wealth managers gain exposure to Bitcoin via Grayscale, according to new SEC filings

The Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, which trades under the ticker symbol GBTC, is being snatched up by institutional managers looking for more traditional exposure to digital assets.

New filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, reveal that four wealth management companies have acquired shares of Grayscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust, offering further evidence of institutional adoption of digital assets. 

As first reported by MacroScope, a Twitter feed devoted to institutional trading and asset management, the firms disclosed their GBTC holdings in new filings for the period ending June 30, 2021.

Clear Perspective Advisors, an Illinois-based wealth manager, revealed direct ownership of 7,790 GBTC shares on Friday.

Ohio-based Ancora Advisors scooped up 13,945 shares of GBTC as of June 30. While that’s a small position for the multi-billion-dollar asset manager, it reflects an important strategic move given that the company has a long-term investment perspective.

Meanwhile, two additional firms added to their GBTC holdings for the June 30 reporting period. Boston Private Wealth, which had previously reported 88,189 GBTC shares as of March 31, increased its exposure to 103,469 shares. Ohio-based manager Parkwood boosteits holdings to 125,000 shares from 93,000 at the end of March.

Related: GBTC premium matches Bitcoin price crash levels as unlocking fear fades

Major firms are finding new and diverse ways for gaining exposure to Bitcoin and other virtual assets. As Cointelegraph reported, tech giant Intel recently disclosed a sizable position in Coinbase stock, which provides direct exposure to the digital currency market.

Institutions are likely to increase their exposure to digital assets in the coming months — provided that the bullish narrative continues to play out. Many crypto observers subscribe to four-year cycle theory, which attempts to explain and forecast Bitcoin’s price from one cycle low to another. With the crypto asset class returning above $2 trillion this week — representing a $700 billion recovery from the local bottom — it appears that the next phase of the bull cycle is gaining traction. 

Related: Bitcoin’s off-chain data points to more upward momentum for BTC price

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Happy 21st crypto ETF filed for 2021 with Kryptoin’s ‘Ethereum ETF Trust’

The Kryptoin Ethereum ETF Trust plans to issue its common shares on the Chicago Board Options Exchange’s (Cboe) BZX, and will value them based on the CF Ether-Dollar U.S. settlement price.

Delaware-based Kryptoin Investment Advisors has joined a score of other crypto ETF hopefuls by filing for an Ethereum exchange-traded fund (ETF) with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The crypto investment firm previously tried and failed to get a Bitcoin ETF greenlit back in 2019. The firm came back with another attempt this April, filing for a Bitcoin ETF that was set for a verdict by July 27 but is still under review by the SEC.

According to an Aug. 12 filing, the “Kryptoin Ethereum ETF Trust” plans to issue its common shares on the Chicago Board Options Exchange’s (Cboe) BZX Exchange under a ticker that will be announced before the commencement of trading.

The ETF will hold Ethereum (ETH) via custodian Gemini Trust Company, LLC and will value its shares daily as determined by the CF Ether-Dollar U.S. settlement price, which is an “independently calculated value based on an aggregation of executed trade flow of major ETH spot exchanges.”

“The Trust’s investment objective is to provide exposure to Ethereum at a price that is reflective of the actual Ethereum market where investors can purchase and sell Ethereum, less the expenses of the Trust’s operations,” the filing read.

The ETF will not buy or sell ETH directly. When it sells or redeems its shares, it will do so in baskets of 100,000 shares at the Trust’s net asset value (NAV).

Kryptoin joins asset manager VanEck and New York-based Wisdom Tree investments in filing for an ETF that offers ETH exposure in 2021. According to Bloomberg ETF Research Analyst James Seyffart, there have been a total of 21 crypto ETF applications this year.

Related: VanEck takes a new approach with SEC, files for Bitcoin Strategy ETF

Eric Balchunas, senior ETF analyst at Bloomberg noted on Twitter that as Kryptoin filed for a spot Ether ETF under the 1933 securities act, it may be a while before a verdict is delivered.

SEC Chairman Gary Gensler suggested earlier this month that he may be open to approving ETFs exposed to regulated futures contracts under the Investment Company Act of 1940.

“When combined with the other federal securities laws, the ’40 Act provides significant investor protections,” he said.

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SEC claims first enforcement action in $30M fraud case involving DeFi project

“The labeling of the offering as decentralized and the securities as governance tokens did not hinder us from ensuring that DeFi Money Market was immediately shut down and that investors were paid back,” said the SEC.

A Cayman Islands-based company and two individuals may be the first subjects in decentralized finance, or DeFi, to face enforcement action from the United States Securities and Exchange.

According to a Friday announcement, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, said that this is the first case involving securities using DeFi technology which resulted in an enforcement action. The agency said it charged the company Blockchain Credit Partners as well as Florida residents Gregory Keough and Derek Acree, alleging they were involved in offering and selling more than $30 million in unregistered securities from February 2020 to February 2021.

DeFi Money Market, according to the project’s white paper, was “a permissionless and fully decentralized protocol to earn interest on any Ethereum digital asset backed by real-world assets represented on-chain.” Billionaire Tim Draper also backed the project.

The SEC claimed that Keough and Acree misrepresented how the company was operating to investors and did not reveal that it would be unlikely to pay interest and profits from offering and selling mTokens as well as DeFi Money Market’s DMG governance tokens. Instead of purchasing car loans, as the project claimed, the SEC alleged the pair used personal funds as well as funds from Blockchain Credit Partners to make interest payments for mToken redemptions.

However, the DeFi project closed its doors in February, saying at the time it was the “result of regulatory inquiries.” The announcement led to a huge price drop in DMG, making it more unlikely that investors would be able to redeem their tokens.

Related: SEC enforcement actions cost crypto firms and individuals $1.7B in penalties

“The federal securities laws apply with equal force to age-old frauds wrapped in today’s latest technology,” said Daniel Michael, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Complex Financial Instruments Unit. “The labeling of the offering as decentralized and the securities as governance tokens did not hinder us from ensuring that DeFi Money Market was immediately shut down and that investors were paid back.”

The SEC said that Keough and Acree have agreed to a cease-and-desist order regarding their company’s token offerings that included more than $12.8 million in disgorgement as well as $125,000 penalties each. The pair have funded DeFi Money Market smart contracts to allow token holders to receive any funds due.

At the time of publication, the DMG governance token has a market capitalization of more than $2.3 million, according to data from CoinMarketCap.

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