January 15, 2016 - In This Issue:







It's Official: Bitcoin was the Top Performing Currency of 2015
The Money Project is an ongoing collaboration between Visual Capitalist and Texas Precious Metals that seeks to use intuitive visualizations to explore the origins, nature, and use of money.

For most investors, the major story of 2015 was the expectation and eventual fulfillment of a rate hike, signalling the start of tightening monetary policy in the United States. This policy is divergent to those of other major central banks, and this has translated into considerable strength and momentum for the U.S. dollar.

Using the benchmark of the U.S. Dollar Index, a comparison against a basket of major currencies, the dollar gained 8.3% throughout the year.

Despite this strength, the best performing currency in 2015 was not the dollar. In fact, the top currency of 2015 is likely to be considered the furthest thing from the greenback.

Bitcoin, a digital and decentralized cryptocurrency, staged a late comeback in 2015 to overtake the dollar by a whopping 35% by the end of the year.

Here's Why It's Time to Invest in Bitcoin in This Crazy Market
In a market crisis, investors should consider safe-haven investments to protect their portfolios. In an era when gold has underperformed for years, bitcoin, the digital currency, might be one answer.

Are markets in crisis? Some financial gurus like George Soros believe its 2008 all over again. While it's probably too early to tell, to Soros' point, the dramatic moves in certain assets mimic that of 2008.

In this first week of the New Year, the S&P 500 has retreated almost 4%, the FTSE 100 has fallen more than 5%, and the Shanghai Composite has lost almost 12%. It's also worth mentioning oil, which continues to crumble, slid to a 12-Year low.

Bitcoin's Role as Hedge against Devaluation of Reserve Currencies like Azerbajian's Manat
While recent global headlines have been dominated by chaos in Chinese and US equity markets, currency markets have also been volatile. The Azerbajiani manat, the national currency of Azerbaijan, has lost nearly 32 percent of its value practically overnight due to the falling price of oil.

On December 18, the value of Manat recorded an all-time low against the U.S. dollar since January 13, 2006, plummeting from 0.96 down to 0.65.

According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, petroleum oils and gas exports in Azerbajan generated more than $26 billion in income, accounting for more than 90 percent of the economy's entire revenue.

Due to its heavy reliance on the oil industry, the abrupt price drop of crude oil and gas severely devalued the national currency of Azerbaijan, pressuring the central bank to implement currency flow restrictions and gain control of the foreign exchange market.

Netflix CFO: 'Sure Would Be Nice to Have Bitcoin' Payments
Bitcoin - a decentralized, truly global currency. Netflix - a streaming platform that just went global. Do both stand to gain by coming together?

One of the biggest stories of the 2016, so far, is Netflix's global expansion that saw the streaming service reach a 130 new countries. The new rollout now sees Netflix beaming to a total of 190 countries, worldwide.

It's a significant move. Millennial pirates the world over, those who were too young or unemployed to pay at one time, may now see Netflix as a good package deal, with the company's extensive library and its much acclaimed and popular original programming. Global piracy is likely to see a fall due to Netflix that's now available on computers, mobile devices, consoles and media streamers at a competitive price.

Don't call it a comeback: industry-wide predictions of bitcoin's resurgence
Coming off bitcoin's most stable year on record, analysts welcomed 2016 with predictions of strong year ahead for the cryptocurrency.

Here's what happened in the world of bitcoins and blockchains for the week ending January 8, a week that saw bitcoin go from $433 to approximately $451:

Writing for Nasdaq's blog,Martin Tillier argued that bitcoin's recent price increase is "both logical and sustainable." The author, argues that bitcoin's increase from about $250 for most of 2015 to $450 isn't speculative, but driven by long-term instability in China, which accounts for a large amount of the cyrptocurrency's trade volume.

Stanford University Introduces Bitcoin Engineering course
To get a background in the digital currency, those interested in the course will start off with a two-week introduction to Bitcoin, and Bitcoin computing. Once this is done, students will be taught how to build Bitcoin-enabled versions of various popular Internet services. The idea behind this is to advocate for, and preview a future where Internet services are powered by micropayments, rather than ads or other monthly fees.

In the course's following weeks, students will be provided with the code needed to illustrate the basic mechanics of an Internet service that is powered by Bitcoin. Once this is done, students will have to get the code running, add in improvements, and then proceed to test it out in an actual online marketplace. Two hack weeks are also part of the syllabus, during which students are free to work on the projects and innovate and test out their ideas.

In terms of the Internet services being built, students will develop a Bitcoin Instagram, where prices can be set on Instagram photos; a Bitcoin Twitter, where micropayments are given when making retweets; a Bitcoin WordPress, where you can monetize your blog by charging bitcoin for each page view; a Bitcoin Google, where the web search engine is funded by bitcoin rather than ads; and last but not least, a Bitcoin Dropbox, where clients are charged bitcoin per byte of storage used.

Interest In Bitcoin Mining Returns
While markets around the world suffered significant turbulence this week, bitcoin climbed 6 percent.

The cryptocurrency is well known for its wild swings in valuation, but many say the digital currency is back on a more stable path and could prove a worthwhile investment in the New Year. In 2015, bitcoin fell as low, as $183 as confidence in the cryptocurrency's staying power waned. However, on Thursday, bitcoin was trading at $429, a significant increase.

When cryptocurrencies were first introduced, miners set up their computers to solve complex problems and be rewarded with the release of new coins. As the value of bitcoin went up, so did the profitability of bitcoin mining. However, last year as bitcoin prices plummeted, the number of miners significantly declined as the cost to buy hardware and pay electric bills to run the machines outweighed the rewards.

Now that bitcoin has made its way higher, mining efforts are increasing - especially among those who bought the necessary hardware last year, but haven't been able to make use of it.

Venezuelans Escape Currency Collapse with Bitcoin
"Bitcoin adoption in Venezuela will explode any time now," one early cryptocurrency adopter in the South American nation confidently predicts. Bitcoin experts argue that the worse an economy is, the more interest there is about the digital currency's benefits - and Venezuela is a strong candidate for the next bitcoin boom.

Stringent controls on access to foreign currency and runaway inflation - last week saw a sudden jump in the unofficial dollar rate to Bs. 400 per dollar - have led to the number of Venezuela's bitcoin users doubling since 2014, according to data provided by Bitcoin Venezuela.

A representative from the country's leading bitcoin advocacy organization, who wished to remain anonymous, told the PanAm Post that they offer Venezuelans the chance to buy the cryptocurrency online and thus escape the ever-increasing devaluation of the national currency.

Global Insurance Giant Accenture Joins the Blockchain Bandwagon
Like many other financial institutions embracing the Blockchain technology, global insurance giant Accenture is now exploring its applications.

Accenture's North American Managing Director of IT Strategy, Abizer Rangwala, made a blog post on January 4, 2016, outlining his vision regarding how his company is going to utilize the technology that made Bitcoin a reality.

"So here we stand at the dawn of 2016, looking forward to change and trying to predict whether Blockchain will indeed prove to be the next Internet-like change driver," said Abizer Rangwala in the blog post. He went on to "aligned with those who see the use of Blockchain as continuing to gain momentum and expect it will have a profound effect on business."

"This [using Blockchain in real financial applications] is starting to happen now," added Mr. Rangwala.

Bitcoin 'Here to Stay,' But Banks Could Disappear, Says FinTech Expert
Few feel the pulse of the new financial technology (FinTech) scene as Frank Schwab. As a founder of FinTech Forum in Germany, Schwab has an extensive knowledge of the rapidly evolving industry -- digital currency (bitcoin), banking apps, robo-advisors, mobile pay and other start-ups. We sat down with him to hear his thoughts on how this industry is shaping the world, and what might lie ahead.

TheStreet: How did you get interested in FinTech?

Frank Schwab: In 2012, I did come across Mambu, a Berlin-based FinTech start-up that develops a cloud-based core system for microloans. I found the IT architecture and the business model quite advanced. Later Samarth Shekhar introduced me into the FinTech activities in London and New York, and we decided to start FinTech Forum in Germany, a first of its kind event.