Tuesday, August 20, 2019

BIS Newsletter for August 2019 - G7 Working Group on Stablecoins Article

The monthly BIS Newsletter is just below. One article that stands out for me is the one about the G7 working group on stable coins (see some excerpts further below).

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August 2019

Group of Seven update on stablecoins

A G7 working group has discussed stablecoin initiatives and identified key issues to be resolved, says Benoît Cœuré, Chair of the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures. A full report will be produced in October.

Margin requirements for non-centrally cleared derivatives

The Basel Committee and the International Organization of Securities Commissions extend the implementation of margin requirements for non-centrally cleared derivatives by one year.

Alexandre Tombini to join the BIS

The former Governor of the Central Bank of Brazil will start in his new position as Chief Representative for the Americas on 1 September 2019.

Stronger international bank lending

Global cross-border bank claims posted their largest quarterly increase since 2007 in the first quarter of 2019, boosting annual growth to 4.5%.

William Coen reflects on his years at the Basel Committee

William Coen recently left his job as Secretary General of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. In this episode of BISness, he looks back at his years at the helm of the global standard setter for the prudential regulation of banks.
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"Within many countries, existing payment systems generally provide for accessible, safe and efficient retail payments for consumers. Nevertheless, access to payment services needs to improve in many regions, and cross-border payments ought to be faster and cheaper. New technologies have the potential to address these shortcomings and deliver greater benefits to users.
Originally envisioned as an accessible and borderless way to pay, crypto-assets have generally suffered from severe price volatility and limited capacity to process transactions compared with existing arrangements. Consequently, they function primarily as risky investments or a shadowy means to pay, and have not achieved a scale that could entail a material imprint on the payments and financial system.
The developers of the crypto-assets labelled "stablecoins" seek to reduce volatility by anchoring the "coin" to a reference asset (eg a sovereign currency) or a basket of assets. While issuance and usage of stablecoins to date have been limited, a number of new stablecoin initiatives backed by large technology companies or financial institutions could have the potential for widespread adoption."
. . . .
"Significant work by stablecoin developers and further engagement with the public and authorities will be required before they can expect approval by relevant authorities, as the above considerations can only be adequately addressed by ensuring transparency and making more detailed information available for proper assessment."

Thursday, August 15, 2019

BRICS Pay - Another Effort to Bypass the US Dollar

A thank you to a reader for alerting me to this article on Silkroadbriefing.com that explains the new cloud based BRICSPay system. The article points out that this system being installed for use in the BRICS nations is another effort to bypass both the US dollar and also the US banking system. 



Below are a few excerpts from the article followed by a few added comments.
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"The BRICS grouping of countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are creating a single payment system, BRICS Pay, as part of the drive to establish a common system for retail payments and transactions between the member countries.

These nations, all among the worlds leading and most powerful emerging markets, plan to introduce a special cloud platform, which will connect their national payment systems. An online wallet will be developed with access to these payment systems, which will also include mobile apps similar to Apple Pay, which can be installed on smartphones for purchases in any of the five BRICS countries, regardless of which currency the payment and the money in the account of the buyer are denominated in.

This means that nationals of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will be able to use their own national currencies as a direct basis of exchange for external payments. This is being seen as a major step on the path to de-dollarization and a de-coupling from the current US controlled global banking system."

. . . .

"In order for settlements in national currencies to bypass the dollar, the People’s Bank of China will open lines for currency swaps to partner banks to support the exchange trade in yuan in regional currency markets. Similar lines will be opened by the central banks of Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. In these instances, a settlement mechanism based on a basket of currencies of the BRICS countries and a separate financial infrastructure will appear. This, in turn, will support the diversification of the global financial system and currency multi-polarity. BRICS Pay, as a contactless transfer system, will give the citizens of the BRICS countries a convenient means of conducting transactions."


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My added comments: The use of sanctions by the US government has created a predictable response around the world. Nations wary of get caught up in the problems associated with US sanctions are working an a variety of creative ideas to try and bypass the US centered banking system and the US Dollar.

The process so far has been very slow and gradual, but we do see that it continues to grow and there is no reason to think it will not continue to do so. We continue to monitor these kinds of efforts and report on them when information is available.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

News Note: Followup on Potential for Global Monetary Conference?

Earlier, we posted this article which examined some discussion about the potential for some kind of global monetary conference to take place at some point during the Trump Adminstration. This news note is a brief followup related to that based a new twitter comment appearing on the Twitter feed for Dr. Judy Shelton. Below are the relevant links for readers to look at in regards to this topic.

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"Enjoyed reading Barry’s commentary
and appreciate that found it interesting. But on what grounds does Barry assume President Trump would never propose an international conference to discuss monetary arrangements? He is unique in addressing the problem, no?"

She appears to be commenting on this recent article appearing on Project Syndicate by Barry Eichengreen. In that article, Mr. Eichengreen includes this comment:

"Consider Shelton’s call last year for a new Bretton Woods system. The goal, as she described it, would be to establish a “coherent mechanism for maintaining exchange-rate stability among national currencies,” the same goal as the one that was set at the original 1944 Bretton Woods Conference.

But in the absence of a global conference – something that would be anathema to Trump – the way to get there is the same as under the nineteenth-century gold standard. Then, the leading power, Great Britain, unilaterally fixed the domestic currency price of gold. . . . "

So, here again, we seem to have a somewhat cryptic reference to the potential for some kind of global monetary conference at some point in the future under the Trump Administration (although Barry Eichengreen dismisses that as "something that would be anathema to Trump").


All we can do is to continue to monitor events to see what actually does happen and then report on it. Of course, if some day there is a global monetary conference conducted by the Trump Administration (at Mar a Lago or anywhere else), that will be very big news of the kind we do watch for here. Until it happens, we can only assume it remains just speculation of something that could potentially take place.

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Other news note: The price of gold continues to surge and that is another thing we do monitor here. There are a variety of possible reasons why the recent upsurge has taken place, but Jim Rickards offers this potential geo political situation as something to keep an eye on in this recent comment on his Twitter feed

Monday, August 12, 2019

Facebook Libra Vs. Central Banks Followup

Recently we published this article that asked if in the future will see a scenario we might describe as "Facebook Libra vs. Central Banks". It appears we are not the only ones to ask this question. In this recent video, precious metals (and crypto) advocate Mike Maloney also looks at this question. You can watch it just below if interested in this topic.

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My added comments: One thing is for sure. The announcement of Facebook Libra has immediately gotten the attention of central bankers and government officials around the world. Below are links to some of that reaction:











Saturday, August 3, 2019

Off Topic Note to Readers on Family Health Situation

My goal here is to try and stay up with current events as much as possible to be able to report anything that might be important related to the theme of this blog. A health issue in my family may make this more difficult so I wanted to alert readers to that, if fewer articles are written in the coming weeks. 


My brother has now entered the more difficult phase of liver disease (non alcoholic related) where more serious symptoms can arise. Ultimately, he will need a liver transplant or some kind of new treatment (stem cell, etc) to resolve the problem. 

In recent weeks, he has been struggling with elevated levels of ammonia in his blood that cause significant mental confusion and disorientation when the levels get too high. This is a very unsettling situation because during these episodes he can lose complete mental cognition to the point where he does not know who even his close relatives are (this recently happened to me during one episode). I am learning that this is a common problem for people with liver disease, and that there is no real solution to the risk of the problem arising other than to take a medication designed to bind to the ammonia and get it out of his system. Everyone reacts differently to the medication such that on some days it works well and on other days it may not work as well. This creates an ongoing situation where at any time he can lose mental clarity and become disoriented. The problem can't be solved permanently unless he gets a liver transplant or some other treatment that can heal his liver (not a likely alternative at this time). This will require somewhat of a joint family effort to monitor him daily, help him go to doctor visits, and perform other activities. 

It's possible some readers may want to know if there is something they can do to help. The answer is yes. There are two possible ways to help which I will try to describe below:

1- Help us let people know there is a website where people can sign up to be a living liver donor here:


We understand it is not likely that most people would be able to do something like this, but there may be some people who have interest in it. If so, and they wanted to look into this for my brother, they can email me at - 

lonestarwhitehouse@gmail.com

and I can explain how to fill out the form on the web site above. The site requires that potential donors be below age 50 and have a BMI of 30 or less to start an application. Of course, no one should feel obligated to do something like this in any way. Our family decided that it would be better to let as many people as possible know about the site, in case someone was interested.


2- This is the area where it is more likely someone might be able to help us out. The potential for this situation to become a severe financial strain is pretty high. Depending on what happens in the next few weeks and months, it's possible my brother may need to try and seek out some financial assistance if some is available anywhere. He may be able to qualify for some level of disability income, but that will not be enough to sustain the situation if his condition lingers for many months.  This is very possible because getting on the transplant list can take a long time. If he were to lose his health insurance during that time, things will get even more difficult and problematic.  Our extended family can help some, but not for a sustained period of time lasting many months or possibly years on the waiting list.

So, the way anyone can help us is to let us know if you are aware of any programs, charities, etc. that might help provide some financial assistance to people in this kind of situation. Our family has never needed anything like that before, so we are somewhat ignorant of what may be available. If anyone does know of anything like that, you can email me at the email address above. We certainly will appreciate any tips or leads.

Final comments:

Please do not view this as any kind of effort to make anyone feel any kind of obligation. The odds of anyone being able to do anything listed above are pretty slim and we fully understand that. We know that many people will kindly think of us with compassion, offer prayers, etc. and that is more than enough help if you are able to do that. Please know that those sentiments are greatly appreciated and are helpful in ways you won't really ever fully know. 

This situation may impede my ability at times to stay tuned to current events as closely as I would like and to provide timely articles. We don't really know for sure what is ahead. But I did want to let readers know about this situation, in case articles appear less frequently in the weeks and months ahead.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

JP Morgan: Is The Dollar's Exorbitant Priviledge Coming to an End?

Lately we are seeing a lot of different voices speaking up to suggest the the current US dollar based monetary system may be on the verge of a "paradigm shift" or "reset" or whatever term you prefer to suggest things may be starting to change. Now JP Morgan is out with a new article adding their voice to the growing chorus. 



Since this blog watches for any indications of reset of the present monetary system, seeing JP Morgan talk about things we have talked about here for years gets our attention. Below are some excerpts from the article titled - "Is the Dollar's Exorbitant Priviledge Coming to and End?" After that are a few added comments.

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Is the Dollar's Exorbitant Priviledge Coming to an End?


"The U.S. dollar (USD) has been the world’s dominant reserve currency for almost a century. As such, many investors today, even outside the United States, have built and become comfortable with sizable USD overweights in their portfolios. However, we believe the dollar could lose its status as the world’s dominant currency (which could see it depreciate over the medium term) due to structural reasons as well as cyclical impediments.


As such, diversifying dollar exposure by placing a higher weighting on other currencies in developed markets and in Asia, as well as precious metals makes sense today.    . . . ."

. . . .

"In other words, in the coming decades we think the world economy will transition from U.S. and USD dominance toward a system where Asia wields greater power. In currency space, this means the USD will likely lose value compared to a basket of other currencies, including precious commodities like gold.

Recent data on currency reserve holdings among global central banks suggests this shift may already be under way.  As a share of overall central bank reserves, the USD’s role has been declining ever since the Great Recession . The most recent central bank reserve flow data also suggests that for the first time since the euro’s introduction in 1999, central banks simultaneously sold dollars and bought euros.  

Central banks across the globe are also adding to gold reserves at their strongest pace on record. 2018 saw the strongest demand for gold from central banks since 1971 and a rolling four-quarter sum of gold purchases is the strongest on record. To us, this makes sense: gold is a stable source of value with thousands of years of trust among humans supporting it."


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My added comments: This article from JP Morgan basically says what we have been saying here for a long time. I suspect that many of the experts we have covered here that are predicting an end to present monetary system based on the US dollar will find it interesting to see JP Morgan now talking about that very thing. Also, it seems that suddenly gold is not a useless relic of the past in the eyes of JP Morgan since they directly recommend their clients add gold to their investment portfolio in this article (they appear to suggest a 10% allocation to gold related investments):

"Given the persistent—and rising—deficits in the United States (in both fiscal and trade), we believe the U.S. dollar could become vulnerable to a loss of value relative to a more diversified basket of currencies, including gold. As we scan client portfolios, we see that many of them have far more U.S. dollar exposure than we feel is prudent. At this stage of the economic cycle, we believe this exposure should be more diversified. In many cases, our recommendation would likely be to place a higher weighting on other G10 currencies, currencies in Asia and gold (see chart). Talk to your J.P. Morgan Advisor to review your portfolio, and for more information on how to diversify." 
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Added note for a related article: The South China Morning Post  runs an article titled ----China has 'price to pay' for Cutting US Dollar share of reserves . . . .

Quotes from the article:

“There is no alternative market that can offer China the ease and safety in trading that is as deep and broad as the US dollar market,” Ding said.

. . . .

Safe, an arm of the central bank that reports directly to China’s top leadership, highlighted in its annual report two main strategies used to manage the country’s reserves.

One is “diversification” of assets into multiple currencies, resulting in the sharp decline reliance on US dollar-denominated assets. . . ."

Friday, July 26, 2019

Jim Rickards On - Will There be a Global Monetary Conference at Mar a Lago?

There are a number of  advertisements out on the internet that talk of the possibility of there some day being a new Bretton Woods style monetary conference perhaps being held at Mar a Lago. It is sometimes called a proposed "Mar a Lago Accord". Obviously, if such a thing did take place, it would have the full attention of this blog since watching for monetary system reform is the primary purpose here.


But is there evidence that such a meeting is being seriously considered or even already planned? This is where things get a bit murky. On the one hand, we can (and do below) cite some highly credible sources who have hinted at such a meeting taking place. On the other hand, no one in the Trump Administration has stated that a meeting like this is under consideration much less actually planned. 


So, where does this idea come from? Below I have listed some links to credible sources where the possibility of some kind of monetary conference at Mar a Lago has been mentioned. However, please note that it is hard to tell if these references are talking about something actually seriously under consideration or just something that seems desirable given the problems and issues that exist in the present monetary system. 


Further below the links, I have pasted in a very recent interview with Jim Rickards where he talks directly about this topic with his latest views on it based on what he has written about it in his new book Aftermath (starts around the 32 minute mark). I will just post the information and let readers draw their own conclusions on this question.

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Dr. Judy Shelton (from Wikipedia referencing her interview in the Financial Times 5-31-2019)

"In 2019, she said that she hoped for a new Bretton Woods-style conference where countries would agree to return to the gold standard, saying, "If it takes place at Mar-a-Lago that would be great." Mar-a-Lago is a club run by President Trump."


"Her big dream is a new Bretton Woods-style conference -- "if it takes place at Mar a Lago that would be great" -- to reset the international monetary system . . . "


Dr. Judy Shelton - Fortune August 2016:

"I’m not opposed to a new Bretton Woods conference, and if it takes place at Mar-a-Lago, I’m fine with that. But anything the U.S. does because we print the international reserve currency, unilateral action would almost instantly be accommodated by other countries."

Dr. Judy Shelton - GSI Exchange article May 2019 (quoting her in a previous Forbes article):

"When asked in a Forbes interview whether a new gold standard can be achieved unilaterally or if nations must convene to the standard, Shelton says “I’m not opposed to a new Bretton Woods conference, and if it takes place at Mar-a-Lago, I’m fine with that.”








Jim Rickards (Mar a Lago comments start at about 32 min mark)

From the interview just above, my take is that Jim sees it as less likely that the present system will be reformed in an orderly way at something like a "Mar a Lago Accord" and more likely we will see a disorderly failure of the present system, perhaps making such a global monetary conference mandatory under more crisis like conditions. His comments on a Mar a Lago monetary conference start just around the 32 minute mark of the interview. These comments are consistent with what Jim has said in other interviews and also to me by email. In addition, I let Jim preview a draft of this article before posting it.

So you see why this question about a potential new monetary conference has arisen and why many people are watching for any signs of it (perhaps in the second term of a Trump Administration if he is re elected). It is interesting to note that most people (including Jim) now feel the odds of a major financial disruption before the 2020 elections are pretty low and that the Fed will do what Trump needs to try and stave off a recession. On the other hand, Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren is saying she sees a good chance for a new crisis before the next election. Looking at her comments, it is clear now that if a new crisis emerges, Democrats will blame President Trump's tariffs and sanctions for the crisis. Meanwhile, President Trump will blame the Fed as we have mentioned here for some time. Who each side will blame for any economic problems is perhaps one of the easiest forecasts to make.

We will just continue to monitor events as usual here and report what actually happens.

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Added notes: Here is an example of another article where you see this whole idea speculated about. This one appears in NewsMax (Nov 2018) by gold advocate Adam Baratta. This is pretty clearly just speculation (wishful thinking?) by the author. Here is the last paragraph of this article:

"All of this leaves us to ponder the ultimate big idea for Donald Trump. With the G-20 meetings upcoming, and the world’s leaders all set to meet in early 2019 in the United States, what better time for Trump to propose resetting the entire global monetary system with gold? Can you say Mar-a-Lago Accord?"


If you want to see what Jim Rickards is saying on a broad spectrum of current issues, you can take an hour to watch this even more in depth recent interview

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Willem Middelkoop - Towards a New "De Facto Gold" Standard

Author Willem Middelkoop has long offered commentary on the prospects for major monetary system reform including his book on the subject, "The Big Reset". In this recent article published on the OMFIF web site, he says we may be seeing a new unofficial gold standard being adopted even though no nations are moving towards adopting an official gold standard. 

Willem is an OMFIF (Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum) Adviser (see Industry and Investment section). Below are some excerpts from his article.




Willem Middelkoop
(author - The Big Reset)

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"Last year, 22 central banks, situated largely to the east of Germany, bought the largest amount of gold since 1967, the year the London Gold Pool collapsed. The gold repatriations by many European countries of the last few years are another sign that we are reaching the end of four decades of monetary calm. This could bring about the largest monetary changes since the closing of the gold window by US President Richard Nixon in 1971.

The US wants its fiat dollar system to prevail for as long as possible. It has every interest in preventing a 'rush out of dollars towards gold', as happened in the 1970s. Since then, bankers have been trying to exercise control over the precious metal's price. This war on gold has been ongoing for almost 100 years, but gained traction in the 1960s with the forming of the London Gold Pool – whose members included the US, UK, Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland."

. . . . 

Clearly gold is making a remarkable comeback to the world financial system. A new gold standard is being born without any formal decision . . . . ."      click here to read the full article



Added note: Willem posted this news about France calling for a monetary system reset on his Twitter page

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Expert reaction:

I had a brief email exchange with Willem related to his new article. Many readers (and myself) have noticed the recent sharp move up in gold allowing it to break above key resistance price points that have been in place for several years. I asked Willem if this may be a signal that another bigger up leg in the price of gold is coming? He offered  this comment on that question:

"Wouldn’t surprise me at all"

So we will keep an eye on the gold market over the coming months to see if a new major uptrend has begun and also if that indicates other changes may be coming our way in the overall monetary system. As always, time will tell us the answer. 

Keep in mind that both Jim Sinclair and Ray Dalio have also recently said they see a "reset" or paradigm shift coming including much higher prices for gold which we noted in this recent article.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Comparing Bitcoin/Cryptos to Credit Cards for Making Payments

Over the last decade we have seen the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. There are probably many reasons why this has happened, but one big reason seems to be a reaction to the 2008 financial crisis where the integrity of the existing financial system and the US dollar came into question. 


In this article, we will make a comparison between using a standard credit card for making routine payments and using Bitcoin or other similar cryptocurrencies that hope to attract users away from the existing payment alternatives like credit cards. Below I have listed the features of two credit cards people use to make routine payments and further below I will compare some of those features to using Bitcoin or another similar cryptocurrency instead. After that are some added comments.

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For many people, credit cards are a very convenient way to make routine payments for purchases while at the same time taking advantage of incentives offered by the cards to use them. I'll list two examples below. After that we will compare some of the features offered by these two credit cards to using Bitcoin or a cryptocurrency instead.

Chase Freedom Card

- no annual fee

0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases

- 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. After that, earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases

Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
- free unlimited access to your credit score 

Zero Liability Protection means you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card

Purchase Protection covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim

-  Extended Warranty extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year ,on eligible warranties of three years or less.


Capital One QuickSilver Card


- no annual fee 

0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases

Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

This card also comes with limited liability protection and no foreign purchase transaction fees along with other features. My daughter used this card during her semester abroad in her senior year in college and the no foreign transaction fee was very helpful in that situation.

Please note the extensive incentives these card issuers offer to attract the use of their card for purchase payments. They charge no fee to maintain your account, they offer the flexibility to pay off purchases made over the first 15 months at 0% interest, and they actually pay the user cash back on purchases that can certainly add up to a substantial amount over time. (if the cards are used to pay normal monthly expenses as an example)

Users who continue to pay off the full balance of the card monthly after the initial 15 month 0% rate period can continue to accrue cash back while paying no interest and having the convenience of being able to pay everyday payments with the cards which are widely accepted where most people live and spend money on a daily basis.

What about using Bitcoin and Cryptos for routine payments?

In comparing the use of Bitcoin or similar cryptos for regular payments, the first thing to note is that they are not nearly as widely accepted for payments by merchants. While there are merchants (more often online merchants) who accept them for payments, they are a small fraction of the merchants who accept regular credit cards in most locations. In my local area as an example, every gas station, grocery store, restaurant, Walmart, Target, major retail outlet, etc. accepts credit cards for payment. As far as I know, not a single one of these accepts Bitcoin for payment in our local area. So that is one major hurdle for trying to use cryptos for routine payments.

Next, we need to ask: What happens if someone hacks into your wallet and steals your cryptos? As far as I know, you are probably out of luck. In comparison, if someone steals your credit card and uses it improperly, your liability is limited to either a very small amount or in many cases nothing at all. This issues was raised this past week in the Congressional hearings held about Project Libra from Facebook (see the unanswered questions segment of this TechCrunch article)

Extended Warranties and Purchase Protection? Many credit cards offer these features at no cost on all or most purchases. Cryptos don't offer anything like that as far as I know unless some individual merchants who accept them for payment offer it. 

Finally, what incentives does Bitcoin or other cryptos offer to attract users? Here, we might say that the prospect of appreciation of the Bitcoin or crypto held in the wallet may attract some users. Using the US as an example, if you use a credit card you are simply using them as a method of payment to spend US dollars. So there is no balance on hand to appreciate in value and you will not see any gains from the currency itself (US dollars in this example). The cash back offer is what you can expect to receive from cards that offer that incentive (usually 1-3% of purchase amounts on various card offers).

But the prospect for appreciation of Bitcoin or a similar crypto is really more a reason why people buy and hold these cryptocurrencies rather than a compelling reason to use them make routine payments. Of course significant price volatility in anything involves downside risks as well as potential upside gains. Over its life span, Bitcoin holders have experienced significant volatility up and down in the price of the coins. For credit cards, there is little or no downside risk and limited gains for cards that offer cash back or points incentives.

Summary

I believe the comparison above is one explanation for why Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have not achieved broad adoption by the general public for making routine payments. They don't compete well for most people in terms of offering incentives to use them for routine payments. That does not mean they have no role to play. Even though they have not achieved broad public adoption, the number of wallet holders continues to steadily increase over time as does the overall market cap of the cryptocurrency space. For people who want an alternative place to hold funds outside the normal banking system for any reason, they may help fill that demand in the marketplace. For those who see them as an investment vehicle for speculation, they may fill that demand in the marketplace. At the current level and pace of adoption they won't significantly impact the overall global monetary system, but they can find a healthy niche of users who feel they meet their personal needs. It will be interesting to see if the Facebook Project Libra gets off the ground and what incentives if any it may offer users to attract them to use the Libra.

Perhaps one way to look at this is that payment alternatives like credit cards offer some strong advantages for use in just making normal monthly purchases and payments. Things like cryptos and precious metals may offer some alternative long term store of value advantages for a portion of the funds people hold as savings. The same person might well use all three of these as part of their overall personal financial planning. So there is plenty of room in the marketplace for a variety of alternatives for different uses and demands. 
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Added note: For full disclosure, the links I provided above (and below) for the two credit cards mentioned will take you to a page that explains the features offered by those cards. They also offer me an incentive referral fee for the first five people that decide they want to apply for the card and are accepted. So, if you have any interest in having either credit card, feel free to use the link provided above. I'll get a referral fee and you will get a card with a lot of nice features and incentives if you apply and are accepted. These kinds of credit cards work particularly well for people who simply use them to pay normal monthly expenses and then pay off the account balance each month. If you are inclined to build up debt on credit cards and do not pay off the balance, be advised these cards carry very high interest rates after the initial 0% incentive rate period expires. Personally, I prefer not to use credit cards that way.


Added note on the precious metals markets:

We are clearly seeing higher than normal moves up in the precious metals and related mining stocks over the last few weeks. Precious metals investor Eric Sprott provides on update on how he views this move in this recent interview. More articles related to this are upcoming in the next couple of weeks.