Daily BriefsSingapore

Singapore: Bitcoin, DBS, iShares Barclays USD Asia High Yield Bond Index ETF and more

In today’s briefing:

  • ESG and Bitcoin: The Truth Lies Somewhere Between Benign and Boiling Off Oceans
  • Banks on the Bitcoin Bandwagon: Cashing in Through Crypto Custody Services
  • Bank Credit Compass: Asia Tier 2 and Short Duration Notes Sit in the Sweet Spot

ESG and Bitcoin: The Truth Lies Somewhere Between Benign and Boiling Off Oceans

By Kyle Rudden

This Insight is about a trainwreck, the head-on collision of two megatrends in investing: ESG, and cryptocurrencies. “Trainwreck,” because the raging cryptocurrency/ESG debate has spiraled out of control and made absolute lunatics out of everyone, environmentalists and crypto-zealots alike.

Cryptocurrency’s environmental impact is not a recent epiphany. Back in 2009, Hal Finney (creator of Bitcoin’s proof-of-work system, and even rumored to be the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto) tweeted, “Thinking about how to reduce CO2 emissions from widespread Bitcoin implementation.

Prescient, but it didn’t elicit a reaction because in 2009 few investors had even heard of Bitcoin and ESG. In 2021, however, Elon Musk’s words are able to spark a firestorm because Bitcoin and ESG are now deeply ingrained in the collective investor psyche, and the zeitgeist.

And Elon Musk’s words sure did spark a firestorm.

With this report, I hope to provide what is entirely absent in that firestorm – i.e., a comprehensive, rational, and balanced view of the multifaceted cryptocurrency/ESG relationships. Environmental, Social, and Governance. Including some issues that no one is talking about, but should be.

Banks on the Bitcoin Bandwagon: Cashing in Through Crypto Custody Services

By Kyle Rudden

More and more, companies are using cryptocurrency (especially Bitcoin) as part of their corporate treasury management strategies, discussed in Bitcoin on Balance Sheets: Indirect Crypto Exposure Considerations for Crypto-Leery ESG Investors. That trend is behind the topic of this report.

Greater mainstream corporate and institutional use of Bitcoin is driving the growth in demand for cryptocurrency custody services, and banks around the world are rushing to fill that demand. It is a logical and relatively safe foray into the cryptocurrency space, albeit not without some risk.

For ESG investors wishing to avoid direct or indirect cryptocurrency exposure, perhaps due to their views on crypto’s wretched Environmental footprint, the banks herein will have significant indirect crypto exposure. However, I personally find it hard to be categorically bearish on this theme.

Whilst the theme in the first Insight (holding Bitcoin on balance sheets) represents real risk, this is different. It could be argued that crypto custody perpetuates Bitcoin (XBT)‘s climate impacts, thus is a bad thing. Perhaps, from a purely idealistic ESG viewpoint, that is partially true.

However, the connection from custody service to carbon emissions is so far removed, and the risks associated with entering the crypto custody space are so comparatively minimal, that the opinion on this theme should be “neutral” at worst, and definitely not across-the-board “negative.”

But really, that is for each investor to decide, because the crypto/ESG issue is highly subjective.

Bank Credit Compass: Asia Tier 2 and Short Duration Notes Sit in the Sweet Spot

By Hank Calenti, CFA

Executive Summary:  A slightly declining US interest rate yield curve aided in driving credit spreads tighter during the month of May while Asia’s bank credit market conditions remained largely positive, despite the recent flare-up in Covid-19 cases across the region. Global market liquidity metrics continued to push investors into risk assets and Asia’s bank debt benefitted from concerns in other parts of the market.

Asia’s Tier 2 bonds slightly outperformed Additional Tier 1 (AT1) bonds during May. Both bank debt capital components generated positive total returns during the month. Given five-year effective durations, Asia’s AT1 bonds have generated slightly positive total returns year-to-date while Tier 2 notes lag. 

As with April, Asia’s (x-Japan) US$-denominated bank bond performance diverged by duration during the month of May. Shorter-duration bonds outperformed and, for the most part, longer duration notes underperformed in Option Adjusted Spread terms.

Longer duration, high BB rated bonds led spread widening over the month. These bonds were also predominantly Basel III debt capital securities. Unlike in April, there was a mixture of low and high spread bonds amongst underperformers. This suggests greater investor differentiation, via credit fundamentals, in longer duration notes.

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