In our previous paper on the VIX-Yield Curve Cycle, we described a circular motion that occurs between the yield curve’s two-year moving average and the VIX’s two-year moving average, and that the cycle has been repeated three times since 1989. Turns out an extremely similar pattern arises between the yield curve and credit spreads, specifically with the Credit Suisse High Yield Bond Index and its option- adjusted spread (OAS) over U.S. Treasuries of comparable maturity. As with the VIX-yield curve cycle, looking at the overall cycle needs proper explanation (Figure 1). So, let’s break it down.
Our previous article on bitcoin focused on the crypto asset as a currency and delved into the inherent tension in its role as a medium of exchange and a store of value. This paper examines why bitcoin is so volatile; its supply and demand drivers, and how the cryptocurrency compares to commodities.
What is most striking about the economics of bitcoin is the certainty of its supply and the vagaries of demand. The rate at which bitcoin is mined has been highly predictable and unlike almost any other asset – currencies or commodities – its ultimate supply is a known quantity, fixed well in advance. There will never be more than 21 million bitcoins. This feature makes supply almost perfectly inelastic. No matter how high prices go, miners will not produce more than 21 million coins. Moreover, price increases won’t necessarily incentivize a more rapid mining of bitcoin. Even if they did, it would only influence miners to create more bitcoin today at the expense of creating less in the future since the total supply will reach a hard, asymptotic limit of 21 million coins.
The supply inelasticity explains in large part why bitcoin is so volatile. Items with inelastic supply show a greater response to demand shifts than items with elastic supply. The same is true of demand: the more inelastic the demand, the greater the price change in response to small fluctuations in either supply or demand. In the abstract examples below, we show the relatively modest price response to an upward shift in demand for a market with normal supply elasticity, on the left, and contrast it with the much bigger price response from the same demand shift in an inelastic supply market, on the right (Figure 1).
We freely admit: Figure 1 is probably the strangest chart that you will ever see, at least in finance. You may be wondering: did they throw blue spaghetti noodle on paper for inspiration and then write an economics article about it? Or, have they spent too much time with disciples of psychologist Timothy Leary, a proponent of experimenting with psychedelic drugs?
There is considerable change underway in Saudi Arabia, from how the country is governed and managed to an even more activist role in the politics of the volatile Middle East. Options markets, however, appear to be almost entirely unconcerned about recent developments in the country, the world’s largest exporter of crude oil and a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.