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Distributed Ledger: Is bitcoin digital gold, speculative asset or safe-haven? Here’s how the Ukraine crisis shapes the narrative.

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Hello! Welcome back to Distributed Ledger, our weekly crypto newsletter that reaches your inbox every Thursday. I’m Frances Yue, crypto reporter at MarketWatch, and I’ll walk you through the latest and greatest in digital assets this week so far.

Find me on Twitter at @FrancesYue_ to send feedback or tell us what you think we should cover.

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Crypto in a snap

Bitcoin
BTCUSD,
-4.24%

gained 17% over the past seven days, trading at around $42,000, according to CoinDesk data. Ether
ETHUSD,
-5.21%

is trading up 15% over the seven-day trading stretch at around $2,805. Meme token Dogecoin
DOGEUSD,
-3.83%

gained 4% during the past seven days, while Shiba Inu
SHIBUSD,
-5.23

was up 10% from seven days ago.

Crypto Metrics
Biggest Gainers Price % 7-day return
Waves $18.15 93.3%
THORChain $5.77 64.1%
Anchor Protocol $4.57 59.7%
Terra $89.94 50.8%
Frax Share $24.7 36.9%
Source: CoinGecko as of March 3
Biggest Decliners Price % 7-day return
BitDAO $1.21 -10.8%
LEO Token $5.68 -7.3%
Humans.ai $0.12 -6.2%
Klaytn $1.17 -3.8%
ECOMI $0.004 -3.8%
Source: CoinGecko as of March 3
Bitcoin’s long-term value

As Russia attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24, bitcoin tumbled about 10%, and the U.S. stock market also traded lower. Gold, on the other hand, settled higher.

Though the cryptocurrency soon rebounded, some analysts said the selloff challenged the perception by some of bitcoin’s use case as a store of value, as investors sought traditional safe-haven assets when the clash in Eastern Europe erupted, as I’ve discussed here.

Safe haven, refers to assets that could maintain or even increase their value during times of uncertainty. High quality sovereign bonds, gold and major reserve currencies are traditionally viewed as safe-haven assets.

Some supporters touted bitcoin as “digital gold,” as the two assets share some similarities, including having limited supply and existing out of the traditional government and monetary systems.

As the military aggressions persisted and the West levied rounds of sanctions against Russia, bitcoin surged 18% on Monday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.29%

and the S&P 500
SPX,
-0.53%

both closed lower on the same day, prompting some to cheer that the crypto regained its safe-haven status.  

Dow Jones

But how could bitcoin trade as a risk asset at one point, and soon appear to be a safe haven?  

“We can’t really interpret things over price action in one day, right? It’s too short a time period to really say, it’s a trend or not a trend. ” Martha Reyes, head of research at crypto exchange Bequant, told Distributed Ledger in a recent interview. 

“Bitcoin is still new,” said Louis LaValle, managing director at crypto asset-management company 3iQ Digital Assets. “The long-term narrative will be shaped by how and why bitcoin is adopted.”

“The narrative isn’t a standalone book, it’s a series,” LaValle said. 

Reyes said she believes that bitcoin could be digital gold “eventually.”

“Once you have wider adoption, and more institutional participation, it can be perceived as a store of value,” Reyes said, citing bitcoin’s limited supply with a maximum of 21 million. “But I do think this is early on in the evolution of the space.”

For now, as “a lot of growth investors and tech investors have been piling up bitcoin,” the cryptocurrency has shown a relatively high correlation with the stock market since 2020, despite a few exceptions, according to Kevin Kang, founding principal of crypto hedge fund BKCoin Capital. 

Read: Bitcoin is trading in tandem with stocks? This chart shows that relationship as markets face a more hawkish Fed

Pivotal moment?  

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters the second week, crypto seems to have played a role in both countries.

Asthe Western sanctions include measures that remove some Russian banks from SWIFT, a payments-related messaging service based in Belgium that helps banks world-wide execute financial transactions, there has been some speculation around whether Moscow could gain leeway through cryptocurrencies. I’ve written about it here

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government and a nongovernment organization that supports the military have raised $54.7 million through more than 102,000 crypto asset donations since Russia’s invasion, according to crypto compliance company Elliptic. 

Read more: Has the Russia-Ukraine war driven up bitcoin’s price? Here’s what analysts are saying

In addition, trading volume of bitcoin and so-called stablecoins have surged in Russia and Ukraine’s local currencies on Binance, since Moscow laid siege to Kyiv.

Some analysts believe that the war could be a “pivotal moment” for the crypto ecosystem in the long term.

The surge of some crypto’s trading volume in ruble and hryvnia “makes clear the value of a decentralized payment system when you cannot rely on a central government, central bank, or financial institution to preserve the value of, and maintain access to and control of, your financial assets,” Anastasia Amoroso, chief investment strategist at iCapital wrote in Wednesday notes, citing the Western sanctions and plunge of ruble. 

“The war has instigated a tectonic shift that we think will form the foundations of a multi-decade crypto bull run in time to come,” crypto trading firm QCP Capital wrote in its Telegram channel Wednesday. “If the global fiat system becomes a geopolitical tool that can be used to alienate a superpower, then alternatives to fiat become critically significant.” 

Still, the firm expects volatility in the weeks ahead, eyeing the U.S. consumer-price index to be released on March 10 and the Federal Open Market Committee’s coming meeting on March 15-16. The events will “shift the market’s focus back on the Fed,” QCP wrote.

Meanwhile, some analysts noted the Russia-Ukraine war could be a wake-up call for global regulators to tighten their grip on the crypto sector. 

Read more here: SWIFT banking sanction against Russia raises regulatory risk for crypto regs: Analyst

Crypto companies, funds

Shares of Coinbase Global Inc.
COIN,
-8.47%

traded down 5.6% to $183.85 Thursday afternoon. It was up 2.4% for the past five trading sessions. Michael Saylor’s MicroStrategy Inc.
MSTR,
-6.66%

declined 4.5% on Thursday to $438.69, while it has gained 10.5% over the past five days.

Mining company Riot Blockchain Inc.
RIOT,
-9.93%

shares are down 5.8% to $16.70, with a 3.1% gain over the past five days. Shares of Marathon Digital Holdings Inc.
MARA,
-8.26%

slumped 3.9% to $25.80, while they are up 12.3% over the past five days. Another miner, Ebang International Holdings Inc.
EBON,
-7.75%
,
traded 5% lower at $1.23, with a 1.2% loss over the past five days.

Overstock.com Inc.
OSTK,
-6.54%

traded down 3.5% to $54.02. The shares went up 1.9% over the five-session period.

Block Inc.
SQ,
-8.08%

’ s shares, formally known as Square, are down 6.4% to $116.33, with a 22.6% gain for the week. Tesla Inc.
TSLA,
-4.61%

‘s shares lost 2.3% to $859.53, while its shares logged a 7.4% gain for the past five sessions.

PayPal Holdings Inc.
PYPL,
-4.94%

lost 2.1% to $104.30, while it recorded a 0.6% decline over the five-session stretch. NVIDIA Corp.
NVDA,
-2.09%

lost 0.5% to $241.10, and was looking at a 1.3% gain over the week thus far.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
AMD,
-5.33%

inched down 2.4% to $113.80, while it lost 2.4% over the past five trading days, as of Thursday afternoon.

In the fund space, ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF
BITO,
-4.17%

was 3.2% lower at $26.70 Thursday, while Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF
BTF,
-4.21%

was down 3.2% at $16.60. VanEck Bitcoin Strategy ETF
XBTF,
-4.63%

fell 3.4% to $41.70.

Grayscale Bitcoin Trust
GBTC,
-6.85%

was trading at $28.60, off 5.2% Thursday afternoon.

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