Here's the Real Reason for Argentina's Bitcoin Premium

Francisco Memoria

Alex Krüger, a trader and economist popular in the cryptocurrency space, has argued bitcoin has developed a premium in Argentina not because of its plummeting fiat currency, but because of illiquidity.

As reported by the BBC the Argentine peso and the country’s stock market plunged this week after the country’s President Mauricio Macri suffered a defeat in this weekend’s primary elections. The peso fell around 15% against the dollar on Monday, after recovering from a 30% dive earlier.

Bitcoiners quickly noticed that bitcoin’s price was on the rise in the country. As the flagship cryptocurrency is known to be used as a hedge against economic uncertainty, some believed a premium was developing over the peso’s dramatic decline.

Earlier this year Chine devalued the yuan to an 11-year low against the dollar to offset some of the impact of tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. At the time bitcoin’s price quickly surged, which saw many speculate it is being seen as a safe haven asset.

Camila Russo, a former Bloomberg writer who’s authoring a book on Ethereum wrote about the surge on Twitter:

In a follow-up tweet she noted people have access to the U.S. dollar, but some were hedging using bitcoin. Krüger, however, soon tried to dispel the narrative bitcoin was being used to hedge instead of the USD, by noting that the country’s exchanges suffer from low liquidity.

Argentina's Illiquid Bitcoin Market

On the microblogging platform Krüger wrote that before Argentina starts being used as an “excuse to yell "Buy Bitcoin" and generate clicks and sell newsletters,” he wanted to point out Argentines can protect themselves against the peso losing value with USD.

Per his words bitcoin awareness in Argentina is “extremely low,” and the country’s bitcoin market is also small. He added its economy is “quasi-dollarized” as Argentines are obsessed with and hedge with the dollar.

Krüger further pointed out that the market is highly illiquid. So much that on the Buenbit exchange, only 19 BTC (around $213,000) were traded on a 24-hour period.

On another Argentine Exchange, the BTC/ARS trading pair had less than 50 trades for the day, with only around $28,0000 being traded in a 24-hour period. The analyst added that as a result most brokers in the country don’t operate exchanges and trade over-the-counter (OTC).

Pointing to growing trading volumes on the peer-to-peer exchange LocalBitcoins, the analyst noted that “volume is only growing in ARS terms to the depreciation of the peso.” Nevertheless, he made it clear he believes “everyone should have bitcoin,” and he’s bullish on it for “multiple reasons.”