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The Next Crypto Wave: The Rise of Stablecoins and its Entry to the U.S. Dollar Market
Author: Christian Hsieh, CEO of Tokenomy This paper examines some explanations for the continual global market demand for the U.S. dollar, the rise of stablecoins, and the utility and opportunities that crypto dollars can offer to both the cryptocurrency and traditional markets. The U.S. dollar, dominant in world trade since the establishment of the 1944 Bretton Woods System, is unequivocally the world’s most demanded reserve currency. Today, more than 61% of foreign bank reserves and nearly 40% of the entire world’s debt is denominated in U.S. dollars1. However, there is a massive supply and demand imbalance in the U.S. dollar market. On the supply side, central banks throughout the world have implemented more than a decade-long accommodative monetary policy since the 2008 global financial crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the need for central banks to provide necessary liquidity and keep staggering economies moving. While the Federal Reserve leads the effort of “money printing” and stimulus programs, the current money supply still cannot meet the constant high demand for the U.S. dollar2. Let us review some of the reasons for this constant dollar demand from a few economic fundamentals.
Demand for U.S. Dollars
Firstly, most of the world’s trade is denominated in U.S. dollars. Chief Economist of the IMF, Gita Gopinath, has compiled data reflecting that the U.S. dollar’s share of invoicing was 4.7 times larger than America’s share of the value of imports, and 3.1 times its share of world exports3. The U.S. dollar is the dominant “invoicing currency” in most developing countries4. https://preview.redd.it/d4xalwdyz8p51.png?width=535&format=png&auto=webp&s=9f0556c6aa6b29016c9b135f3279e8337dfee2a6 https://preview.redd.it/wucg40kzz8p51.png?width=653&format=png&auto=webp&s=71257fec29b43e0fc0df1bf04363717e3b52478f This U.S. dollar preference also directly impacts the world’s debt. According to the Bank of International Settlements, there is over $67 trillion in U.S. dollar denominated debt globally, and borrowing outside of the U.S. accounted for $12.5 trillion in Q1 20205. There is an immense demand for U.S. dollars every year just to service these dollar debts. The annual U.S. dollar buying demand is easily over $1 trillion assuming the borrowing cost is at 1.5% (1 year LIBOR + 1%) per year, a conservative estimate. https://preview.redd.it/6956j6f109p51.png?width=487&format=png&auto=webp&s=ccea257a4e9524c11df25737cac961308b542b69 Secondly, since the U.S. has a much stronger economy compared to its global peers, a higher return on investments draws U.S. dollar demand from everywhere in the world, to invest in companies both in the public and private markets. The U.S. hosts the largest stock markets in the world with more than $33 trillion in public market capitalization (combined both NYSE and NASDAQ)6. For the private market, North America’s total share is well over 60% of the $6.5 trillion global assets under management across private equity, real assets, and private debt investments7. The demand for higher quality investments extends to the fixed income market as well. As countries like Japan and Switzerland currently have negative-yielding interest rates8, fixed income investors’ quest for yield in the developed economies leads them back to the U.S. debt market. As of July 2020, there are $15 trillion worth of negative-yielding debt securities globally (see chart). In comparison, the positive, low-yielding U.S. debt remains a sound fixed income strategy for conservative investors in uncertain market conditions. Source: Bloomberg Last, but not least, there are many developing economies experiencing failing monetary policies, where hyperinflation has become a real national disaster. A classic example is Venezuela, where the currency Bolivar became practically worthless as the inflation rate skyrocketed to 10,000,000% in 20199. The recent Beirut port explosion in Lebanon caused a sudden economic meltdown and compounded its already troubled financial market, where inflation has soared to over 112% year on year10. For citizens living in unstable regions such as these, the only reliable store of value is the U.S. dollar. According to the Chainalysis 2020 Geography of Cryptocurrency Report, Venezuela has become one of the most active cryptocurrency trading countries11. The demand for cryptocurrency surges as a flight to safety mentality drives Venezuelans to acquire U.S. dollars to preserve savings that they might otherwise lose. The growth for cryptocurrency activities in those regions is fueled by these desperate citizens using cryptocurrencies as rails to access the U.S. dollar, on top of acquiring actual Bitcoin or other underlying crypto assets.
The Rise of Crypto Dollars
Due to the highly volatile nature of cryptocurrencies, USD stablecoin, a crypto-powered blockchain token that pegs its value to the U.S. dollar, was introduced to provide stable dollar exposure in the crypto trading sphere. Tether is the first of its kind. Issued in 2014 on the bitcoin blockchain (Omni layer protocol), under the token symbol USDT, it attempts to provide crypto traders with a stable settlement currency while they trade in and out of various crypto assets. The reason behind the stablecoin creation was to address the inefficient and burdensome aspects of having to move fiat U.S. dollars between the legacy banking system and crypto exchanges. Because one USDT is theoretically backed by one U.S. dollar, traders can use USDT to trade and settle to fiat dollars. It was not until 2017 that the majority of traders seemed to realize Tether’s intended utility and started using it widely. As of April 2019, USDT trading volume started exceeding the trading volume of bitcoina12, and it now dominates the crypto trading sphere with over $50 billion average daily trading volume13. https://preview.redd.it/3vq7v1jg09p51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=46f11b5f5245a8c335ccc60432873e9bad2eb1e1 An interesting aspect of USDT is that although the claimed 1:1 backing with U.S. dollar collateral is in question, and the Tether company is in reality running fractional reserves through a loose offshore corporate structure, Tether’s trading volume and adoption continues to grow rapidly14. Perhaps in comparison to fiat U.S. dollars, which is not really backed by anything, Tether still has cash equivalents in reserves and crypto traders favor its liquidity and convenience over its lack of legitimacy. For those who are concerned about Tether’s solvency, they can now purchase credit default swaps for downside protection15. On the other hand, USDC, the more compliant contender, takes a distant second spot with total coin circulation of $1.8 billion, versus USDT at $14.5 billion (at the time of publication). It is still too early to tell who is the ultimate leader in the stablecoin arena, as more and more stablecoins are launching to offer various functions and supporting mechanisms. There are three main categories of stablecoin: fiat-backed, crypto-collateralized, and non-collateralized algorithm based stablecoins. Most of these are still at an experimental phase, and readers can learn more about them here. With the continuous innovation of stablecoin development, the utility stablecoins provide in the overall crypto market will become more apparent.
In addition to trade settlement, stablecoins can be applied in many other areas. Cross-border payments and remittances is an inefficient market that desperately needs innovation. In 2020, the average cost of sending money across the world is around 7%16, and it takes days to settle. The World Bank aims to reduce remittance fees to 3% by 2030. With the implementation of blockchain technology, this cost could be further reduced close to zero. J.P. Morgan, the largest bank in the U.S., has created an Interbank Information Network (IIN) with 416 global Institutions to transform the speed of payment flows through its own JPM Coin, another type of crypto dollar17. Although people argue that JPM Coin is not considered a cryptocurrency as it cannot trade openly on a public blockchain, it is by far the largest scale experiment with all the institutional participants trading within the “permissioned” blockchain. It might be more accurate to refer to it as the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) instead of “blockchain” in this context. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that as J.P. Morgan currently moves $6 trillion U.S. dollars per day18, the scale of this experiment would create a considerable impact in the international payment and remittance market if it were successful. Potentially the day will come when regulated crypto exchanges become participants of IIN, and the link between public and private crypto assets can be instantly connected, unlocking greater possibilities in blockchain applications. Many central banks are also in talks about developing their own central bank digital currency (CBDC). Although this idea was not new, the discussion was brought to the forefront due to Facebook’s aggressive Libra project announcement in June 2019 and the public attention that followed. As of July 2020, at least 36 central banks have published some sort of CBDC framework. While each nation has a slightly different motivation behind its currency digitization initiative, ranging from payment safety, transaction efficiency, easy monetary implementation, or financial inclusion, these central banks are committed to deploying a new digital payment infrastructure. When it comes to the technical architectures, research from BIS indicates that most of the current proofs-of-concept tend to be based upon distributed ledger technology (permissioned blockchain)19. https://preview.redd.it/lgb1f2rw19p51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=040bb0deed0499df6bf08a072fd7c4a442a826a0 These institutional experiments are laying an essential foundation for an improved global payment infrastructure, where instant and frictionless cross-border settlements can take place with minimal costs. Of course, the interoperability of private DLT tokens and public blockchain stablecoins has yet to be explored, but the innovation with both public and private blockchain efforts could eventually merge. This was highlighted recently by the Governor of the Bank of England who stated that “stablecoins and CBDC could sit alongside each other20”. One thing for certain is that crypto dollars (or other fiat-linked digital currencies) are going to play a significant role in our future economy.
There is never a dull moment in the crypto sector. The industry narratives constantly shift as innovation continues to evolve. Twelve years since its inception, Bitcoin has evolved from an abstract subject to a familiar concept. Its role as a secured, scarce, decentralized digital store of value has continued to gain acceptance, and it is well on its way to becoming an investable asset class as a portfolio hedge against asset price inflation and fiat currency depreciation.Stablecoins have proven to be useful as proxy dollars in the crypto world, similar to how dollars are essential in the traditional world. It is only a matter of time before stablecoins or private digital tokens dominate the cross-border payments and global remittances industry. There are no shortages of hypes and experiments that draw new participants into the crypto space, such as smart contracts, new blockchains, ICOs, tokenization of things, or the most recent trends on DeFi tokens. These projects highlight the possibilities for a much more robust digital future, but the market also needs time to test and adopt. A reliable digital payment infrastructure must be built first in order to allow these experiments to flourish. In this paper we examined the historical background and economic reasons for the U.S. dollar’s dominance in the world, and the probable conclusion is that the demand for U.S. dollars will likely continue, especially in the middle of a global pandemic, accompanied by a worldwide economic slowdown. The current monetary system is far from perfect, but there are no better alternatives for replacement at least in the near term. Incremental improvements are being made in both the public and private sectors, and stablecoins have a definite role to play in both the traditional and the new crypto world. Thank you. Reference:  How the US dollar became the world’s reserve currency, Investopedia  The dollar is in high demand, prone to dangerous appreciation, The Economist  Dollar dominance in trade and finance, Gita Gopinath  Global trades dependence on dollars, The Economist & IMF working papers  Total credit to non-bank borrowers by currency of denomination, BIS  Biggest stock exchanges in the world, Business Insider  McKinsey Global Private Market Review 2020, McKinsey & Company  Central banks current interest rates, Global Rates  Venezuela hyperinflation hits 10 million percent, CNBC  Lebanon inflation crisis, Reuters  Venezuela cryptocurrency market, Chainalysis  The most used cryptocurrency isn’t Bitcoin, Bloomberg  Trading volume of all crypto assets, coinmarketcap.com  Tether US dollar peg is no longer credible, Forbes  New crypto derivatives let you bet on (or against) Tether’s solvency, Coindesk  Remittance Price Worldwide, The World Bank  Interbank Information Network, J.P. Morgan  Jamie Dimon interview, CBS News  Rise of the central bank digital currency, BIS  Speech by Andrew Bailey, 3 September 2020, Bank of England
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Swaps* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)
Hello, dummies It's your old pal, Fuzzy. As I'm sure you've all noticed, a lot of the stuff that gets posted here is - to put it delicately - fucking ridiculous. More backwards-ass shit gets posted to wallstreetbets than you'd see on a Westboro Baptist community message board. I mean, I had a look at the daily thread yesterday and..... yeesh. I know, I know. We all make like the divine Laura Dern circa 1992 on the daily and stick our hands deep into this steaming heap of shit to find the nuggets of valuable and/or hilarious information within (thanks for reading, BTW). I agree. I love it just the way it is too. That's what makes WSB great. What I'm getting at is that a lot of the stuff that gets posted here - notwithstanding it being funny or interesting - is just... wrong. Like, fucking your cousin wrong. And to be clear, I mean the fucking your *first* cousin kinda wrong, before my Southerners in the back get all het up (simmer down, Billy Ray - I know Mabel's twice removed on your grand-sister's side). Truly, I try to let it slide. Idomybit to try and put you on the right path. Most of the time, I sleep easy no matter how badly I've seen someone explain what a bank liquidity crisis is. But out of all of those tens of thousands of misguided, autistic attempts at understanding the world of high finance, one thing gets so consistently - so *emphatically* - fucked up and misunderstood by you retards that last night I felt obligated at the end of a long work day to pull together this edition of Finance with Fuzzy just for you. It's so serious I'm not even going to make a u/pokimane gag. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's a clue. It's in the title of the post. That's right, friends. Today in the neighborhood we're going to talk all about hedging in financial markets - spots, swaps, collars, forwards, CDS, synthetic CDOs, all that fun shit. Don't worry; I'm going to explain what all the scary words mean and how they impact your OTM RH positions along the way. We're going to break it down like this. (1) "What's a hedge, Fuzzy?" (2) Common Hedging Strategies and (3) All About ISDAs and Credit Default Swaps. Before we begin. For the nerds and JV traders in the back (and anyone else who needs to hear this up front) - I am simplifying these descriptions for the purposes of this post. I am also obviously not going to try and cover every exotic form of hedge under the sun or give a detailed summation of what caused the financial crisis. If you are interested in something specific ask a question, but don't try and impress me with your Investopedia skills or technical points I didn't cover; I will just be forced to flex my years of IRL experience on you in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy. TL;DR? Fuck you. There is no TL;DR. You've come this far already. What's a few more paragraphs? Put down the Cheetos and try to concentrate for the next 5-7 minutes. You'll learn something, and I promise I'll be gentle. Ready? Let's get started. 1.The Tao of Risk: Hedging as a Way of Life The simplest way to characterize what a hedge 'is' is to imagine every action having a binary outcome. One is bad, one is good. Red lines, green lines; uppie, downie. With me so far? Good. A 'hedge' is simply the employment of a strategy to mitigate the effect of your action having the wrong binary outcome. You wanted X, but you got Z! Frowny face. A hedge strategy introduces a third outcome. If you hedged against the possibility of Z happening, then you can wind up with Y instead. Not as good as X, but not as bad as Z. The technical definition I like to give my idiot juniors is as follows: Utilization of a defensive strategy to mitigate risk, at a fraction of the cost to capital of the risk itself. Congratulations. You just finished Hedging 101. "But Fuzzy, that's easy! I just sold a naked call against my 95% OTM put! I'm adequately hedged!". Spoiler alert: you're not (although good work on executing a collar, which I describe below). What I'm talking about here is what would be referred to as a 'perfect hedge'; a binary outcome where downside is totally mitigated by a risk management strategy. That's not how it works IRL. Pay attention; this is the tricky part. You can't take a single position and conclude that you're adequately hedged because risks are fluid, not static. So you need to constantly adjust your position in order to maximize the value of the hedge and insure your position. You also need to consider exposure to more than one category of risk. There are micro (specific exposure) risks, and macro (trend exposure) risks, and both need to factor into the hedge calculus. That's why, in the real world, the value of hedging depends entirely on the design of the hedging strategy itself. Here, when we say "value" of the hedge, we're not talking about cash money - we're talking about the intrinsic value of the hedge relative to the the risk profile of your underlying exposure. To achieve this, people hedge dynamically. In wallstreetbets terms, this means that as the value of your position changes, you need to change your hedges too. The idea is to efficiently and continuously distribute and rebalance risk across different states and periods, taking value from states in which the marginal cost of the hedge is low and putting it back into states where marginal cost of the hedge is high, until the shadow value of your underlying exposure is equalized across your positions. The punchline, I guess, is that one static position is a hedge in the same way that the finger paintings you make for your wife's boyfriend are art - it's technically correct, but you're only playing yourself by believing it. Anyway. Obviously doing this as a small potatoes trader is hard but it's worth taking into account. Enough basic shit. So how does this work in markets? 2. A Hedging Taxonomy The best place to start here is a practical question. What does a business need to hedge against? Think about the specific risk that an individual business faces. These are legion, so I'm just going to list a few of the key ones that apply to most corporates. (1) You have commodity risk for the shit you buy or the shit you use. (2) You have currency risk for the money you borrow. (3) You have rate risk on the debt you carry. (4) You have offtake risk for the shit you sell. Complicated, right? To help address the many and varied ways that shit can go wrong in a sophisticated market, smart operators like yours truly have devised a whole bundle of different instruments which can help you manage the risk. I might write about some of the more complicated ones in a later post if people are interested (CDO/CLOs, strip/stack hedges and bond swaps with option toggles come to mind) but let's stick to the basics for now. (i) Swaps A swap is one of the most common forms of hedge instrument, and they're used by pretty much everyone that can afford them. The language is complicated but the concept isn't, so pay attention and you'll be fine. This is the most important part of this section so it'll be the longest one. Swaps are derivative contracts with two counterparties (before you ask, you can't trade 'em on an exchange - they're OTC instruments only). They're used to exchange one cash flow for another cash flow of equal expected value; doing this allows you to take speculative positions on certain financial prices or to alter the cash flows of existing assets or liabilities within a business. "Wait, Fuzz; slow down! What do you mean sets of cash flows?". Fear not, little autist. Ol' Fuzz has you covered. The cash flows I'm talking about are referred to in swap-land as 'legs'. One leg is fixed - a set payment that's the same every time it gets paid - and the other is variable - it fluctuates (typically indexed off the price of the underlying risk that you are speculating on / protecting against). You set it up at the start so that they're notionally equal and the two legs net off; so at open, the swap is a zero NPV instrument. Here's where the fun starts. If the price that you based the variable leg of the swap on changes, the value of the swap will shift; the party on the wrong side of the move ponies up via the variable payment. It's a zero sum game. I'll give you an example using the most vanilla swap around; an interest rate trade. Here's how it works. You borrow money from a bank, and they charge you a rate of interest. You lock the rate up front, because you're smart like that. But then - quelle surprise! - the rate gets better after you borrow. Now you're bagholding to the tune of, I don't know, 5 bps. Doesn't sound like much but on a billion dollar loan that's a lot of money (a classic example of the kind of 'small, deep hole' that's terrible for profits). Now, if you had a swap contract on the rate before you entered the trade, you're set; if the rate goes down, you get a payment under the swap. If it goes up, whatever payment you're making to the bank is netted off by the fact that you're borrowing at a sub-market rate. Win-win! Or, at least, Lose Less / Lose Less. That's the name of the game in hedging. There are many different kinds of swaps, some of which are pretty exotic; but they're all different variations on the same theme. If your business has exposure to something which fluctuates in price, you trade swaps to hedge against the fluctuation. The valuation of swaps is also super interesting but I guarantee you that 99% of you won't understand it so I'm not going to try and explain it here although I encourage you to google it if you're interested. Because they're OTC, none of them are filed publicly. Someeeeeetimes you see an ISDA (dsicussed below) but the confirms themselves (the individual swaps) are not filed. You can usually read about the hedging strategy in a 10-K, though. For what it's worth, most modern credit agreements ban speculative hedging. Top tip: This is occasionally something worth checking in credit agreements when you invest in businesses that are debt issuers - being able to do this increases the risk profile significantly and is particularly important in times of economic volatility (ctrl+f "non-speculative" in the credit agreement to be sure). (ii) Forwards A forward is a contract made today for the future delivery of an asset at a pre-agreed price. That's it. "But Fuzzy! That sounds just like a futures contract!". I know. Confusing, right? Just like a futures trade, forwards are generally used in commodity or forex land to protect against price fluctuations. The differences between forwards and futures are small but significant. I'm not going to go into super boring detail because I don't think many of you are commodities traders but it is still an important thing to understand even if you're just an RH jockey, so stick with me. Just like swaps, forwards are OTC contracts - they're not publicly traded. This is distinct from futures, which are traded on exchanges (see The Ballad Of Big Dick Vick for some more color on this). In a forward, no money changes hands until the maturity date of the contract when delivery and receipt are carried out; price and quantity are locked in from day 1. As you now know having read about BDV, futures are marked to market daily, and normally people close them out with synthetic settlement using an inverse position. They're also liquid, and that makes them easier to unwind or close out in case shit goes sideways. People use forwards when they absolutely have to get rid of the thing they made (or take delivery of the thing they need). If you're a miner, or a farmer, you use this shit to make sure that at the end of the production cycle, you can get rid of the shit you made (and you won't get fucked by someone taking cash settlement over delivery). If you're a buyer, you use them to guarantee that you'll get whatever the shit is that you'll need at a price agreed in advance. Because they're OTC, you can also exactly tailor them to the requirements of your particular circumstances. These contracts are incredibly byzantine (and there are even crazier synthetic forwards you can see in money markets for the true degenerate fund managers). In my experience, only Texan oilfield magnates, commodities traders, and the weirdo forex crowd fuck with them. I (i) do not own a 10 gallon hat or a novelty size belt buckle (ii) do not wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about the price of pork fat and (iii) love greenbacks too much to care about other countries' monopoly money, so I don't fuck with them. (iii) Collars No, not the kind your wife is encouraging you to wear try out to 'spice things up' in the bedroom during quarantine. Collars are actually the hedging strategy most applicable to WSB. Collars deal with options! Hooray! To execute a basic collar (also called a wrapper by tea-drinking Brits and people from the Antipodes), you buy an out of the money put while simultaneously writing a covered call on the same equity. The put protects your position against price drops and writing the call produces income that offsets the put premium. Doing this limits your tendies (you can only profit up to the strike price of the call) but also writes down your risk. If you screen large volume trades with a VOL/OI of more than 3 or 4x (and they're not bullshit biotech stocks), you can sometimes see these being constructed in real time as hedge funds protect themselves on their shorts. (3) All About ISDAs, CDS and Synthetic CDOs You may have heard about the mythical ISDA. Much like an indenture (discussed in my post on $F), it's a magic legal machine that lets you build swaps via trade confirms with a willing counterparty. They are very complicated legal documents and you need to be a true expert to fuck with them. Fortunately, I am, so I do. They're made of two parts; a Master (which is a form agreement that's always the same) and a Schedule (which amends the Master to include your specific terms). They are also the engine behind just about every major credit crunch of the last 10+ years. First - a brief explainer. An ISDA is a not in and of itself a hedge - it's an umbrella contract that governs the terms of your swaps, which you use to construct your hedge position. You can trade commodities, forex, rates, whatever, all under the same ISDA. Let me explain. Remember when we talked about swaps? Right. So. You can trade swaps on just about anything. In the late 90s and early 2000s, people had the smart idea of using other people's debt and or credit ratings as the variable leg of swap documentation. These are called credit default swaps. I was actually starting out at a bank during this time and, I gotta tell you, the only thing I can compare people's enthusiasm for this shit to was that moment in your early teens when you discover jerking off. Except, unlike your bathroom bound shame sessions to Mom's Sears catalogue, every single person you know felt that way too; and they're all doing it at once. It was a fiscal circlejerk of epic proportions, and the financial crisis was the inevitable bukkake finish. WSB autism is absolutely no comparison for the enthusiasm people had during this time for lighting each other's money on fire. Here's how it works. You pick a company. Any company. Maybe even your own! And then you write a swap. In the swap, you define "Credit Event" with respect to that company's debt as the variable leg . And you write in... whatever you want. A ratings downgrade, default under the docs, failure to meet a leverage ratio or FCCR for a certain testing period... whatever. Now, this started out as a hedge position, just like we discussed above. The purest of intentions, of course. But then people realized - if bad shit happens, you make money. And banks... don't like calling in loans or forcing bankruptcies. Can you smell what the moral hazard is cooking? Enter synthetic CDOs. CDOs are basically pools of asset backed securities that invest in debt (loans or bonds). They've been around for a minute but they got famous in the 2000s because a shitload of them containing subprime mortgage debt went belly up in 2008. This got a lot of publicity because a lot of sad looking rednecks got foreclosed on and were interviewed on CNBC. "OH!", the people cried. "Look at those big bad bankers buying up subprime loans! They caused this!". Wrong answer, America. The debt wasn't the problem. What a lot of people don't realize is that the real meat of the problem was not in regular way CDOs investing in bundles of shit mortgage debts in synthetic CDOs investing in CDS predicated on that debt. They're synthetic because they don't have a stake in the actual underlying debt; just the instruments riding on the coattails. The reason these are so popular (and remain so) is that smart structured attorneys and bankers like your faithful correspondent realized that an even more profitable and efficient way of building high yield products with limited downside was investing in instruments that profit from failure of debt and in instruments that rely on that debt and then hedging that exposure with other CDS instruments in paired trades, and on and on up the chain. The problem with doing this was that everyone wound up exposed to everybody else's books as a result, and when one went tits up, everybody did. Hence, recession, Basel III, etc. Thanks, Obama. Heavy investment in CDS can also have a warping effect on the price of debt (something else that happened during the pre-financial crisis years and is starting to happen again now). This happens in three different ways. (1) Investors who previously were long on the debt hedge their position by selling CDS protection on the underlying, putting downward pressure on the debt price. (2) Investors who previously shorted the debt switch to buying CDS protection because the relatively illiquid debt (partic. when its a bond) trades at a discount below par compared to the CDS. The resulting reduction in short selling puts upward pressure on the bond price. (3) The delta in price and actual value of the debt tempts some investors to become NBTs (neg basis traders) who long the debt and purchase CDS protection. If traders can't take leverage, nothing happens to the price of the debt. If basis traders can take leverage (which is nearly always the case because they're holding a hedged position), they can push up or depress the debt price, goosing swap premiums etc. Anyway. Enough technical details. I could keep going. This is a fascinating topic that is very poorly understood and explained, mainly because the people that caused it all still work on the street and use the same tactics today (it's also terribly taught at business schools because none of the teachers were actually around to see how this played out live). But it relates to the topic of today's lesson, so I thought I'd include it here. Work depending, I'll be back next week with a covenant breakdown. Most upvoted ticker gets the post. *EDIT 1\* In a total blowout, $PLAY won. So it's D&B time next week. Post will drop Monday at market open.
A Short Story that Describes Imaginary Events and People of Worldwide Calamities and the Aftermath (the 2nd Edition)
The following story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this post are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred. However, the LINKS to real-life events and inspiring sources are placed here and there throughout the story. -------- Truth is the Only Light -------- INTRO ☞ [As of 2019] there are plenty of reasons to think the Chinese system will implode spectacularly without Japanese feeling the need to do a thing. — Peter Zaihan, Disunited Nations (Mar 03, 2020) It's apparent that two nations have been engaged in a high-stakes military & economy arms race. The current US admin has been hitting China with waves of tariffs, but that was merely a small part of what's actually going on.         On Oct 11, 2019, when they reached a tentative agreement for the first phase of a trade deal, the fact that China made the concession actually made my jaw drop. From where I sit, it was a worrisome scene. Aren't people saying, when challenging situations are bottled up, they will just grow and mutate into another terrible complications? Admittedly I was not certain how they are going to adhere to the agreement: It left most of the US tariffs (on China's exports) in place, and at the same time, came with an additional USD $200 Billion burden for China over the next two years. This agreement might seem a bit insignificant, but now China would need to purchase almost twice the size of the US products & services they did before the trade war began. With their current economic climate? I murmured, "No way." While watching Trump brag and boast around with said agreement, I expected China would soon come out and fling some improvised excuses in order to delay the document-signing process. It wouldn't be their first time. More importantly, even if China does so, there wouldn't be many (real) counterattack options left for the Trump admin during this year, the US presidential election year. Then, on Jan 16, 2020, the world’s two largest economies actually signed a partial trade agreement aimed at putting the brakes on an 18-month trade war. China would almost surely not sit down but come back to bite, I thought. Enter the worldwide chaos following so called the COVID-19 outbreak. -------- BACKGROUND ☞ Globalists have been heavily investing in China's economy and its components overseas. • Here are a couple of well known names: the Great Old One; George Soros; Koos Bekker; and Bill Gates. • For the sake of convenience, from here on, let's call these globalists, who are foreign investors in China's top tier state-owned/sponsored/controlled enterprises, Team-Z. • Team-Z has adopted big time lackeys like Henry Kissinger or small time ones like Larry Summers, Stephen Hadley, or Bill Browder as matchmakers to court Team-Z for China's top tier enterprises. When Israel's highest echelons chimed in, it has been through Israeli IT companies and the BRI projects. • Naturally, multinational investment banks have also been employed; such as Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), UBS Group AG (formerly Union Bank of Switzerland), Blackstone Group, Canaccord Genuity, BlackRock, Hermitage, or Mirae Asset. ☞ Note: The Great Old One didn't use any matchmakers, something peasants would need. Because the Great Old One's power level is over 9000. • China's Shanghai clique used to keep the nation's state-sponsored enterprises under their firm grip: Enterprises such as Alibaba Group, Tencent, Baidu, Wanda Group, HNA Group, Anbang Group, Evergrande Group, CEFC Energy and Huawei, all of which Team-Z has massively invested in. • Here is how Shanghai clique and Team-Z, esp. Bill Gates, started to get together:[LINK] • However, in the name of anti-corruption campaign, Xi Jinping & his Princelings have been taking those businesses away from Shanghai clique's hand, and transforming those state-sponsored private enterprises into the state-owned enterprises, declaring the 國進民退 movement. • Slaying Shanghai clique's control =       • 國進民退 + Slaying Shanghai clique's control = [A] [B] [C] • Xi's reign didn't arrive today without challenges though: the BRI projects' poor outcome has frustrated Israel's great expectations. And since the US-China trade war has started, the problems of China's economic systems started to surface, not to mention China's economy has long been decaying. • Coupled with the US-China trade war, the current US admin has been trying to block Huawei from accessing the international financial systems that the US can influence, as well as the US banking systems. This is a good time to remind you again that Bill Gates has had a very close-knit relationship with Huawei. -------- TRADE WAR & INTERNET-BASED COMPANIES ☞ It's the trade war, but why were internet-based companies such as Tencent and Baidu suffering losses? Answer: The state-sponsored companies like Tencent, Baidu, or Huawei have heavily invested in international trade and commodity markets, which are easily influenced by aspects that IMF interest rates, the US sanctions, or trade war can create. Example: Let's say, Tencent invests in a Tehran-based ride-hailing company. Then, through said ride-hailing company, Tencent invests in Iran's petroleum industry. Now, China's most valuable IT company is in international petrochemical trade. The business is going to make great strides until the US imposes trade embargoes oand economic sanctions against Iran. -------- TL;DR China's economy going down = Team-Z losing an astronomical amount of money. ★ Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018 ★ "Gentlemen, you guys might want to do something before it's too bloody late, no? Hisspeechlast night was .... (sniggers) Mr. Gates, now is as good a time as any. Mr.Soros, hm, don't look at melikethat." ".... But," "Yes, Mr. Soros, yourHNAis going down, too. .... Ah,Schwarzmanxiansheng, we're very sorry to learn about Blackstone'sIran&SinopecChinasituation. So, we're guessing, you'd be happy to join Mr. Gates's operation, yes? Of course, We already contactedKissingerxiansheng. ....Okaythen,Gentlemen?" • Now you can take a guess why George Soros has recently been sending out confusing messages regarding Xi Jinping. • Wait, how about Wuhan Institute of Virology? Doesn't this story concern the COVID-19 outbreak? Is the Wuhan Institute also associated with Shanghai clique? Yes, indeed. Here's How Wuhan Institute of Virology and Shanghai Clique are related:[LINK] -------- EIGHT OBJECTIVES ☞ Calling for the tide to be turned, Team-Z and Shanghai clique started to devise the plan. The objectives are: ① By shutting down international trade, crashing world economy, and exploiting its aftermath, the plan should produce an outcome letting Team-Z earn back their loss from the trade war & the US sanctions, and collect additional profits from China's BRI projects & stock markets worldwide, including the US stock markets. • Don't forget this: This point number ① also concerns the developing nations on the BRI with the large deposits of natural resources that Team-Z has invested in through China. If everything comes together nicely, Team-Z will pick up trillions of dollars from those nations alone as if they are light as a feather. Ironically this will reinforce the BRI project governance and mitigate fraud & corruption risks inherent to the international development projects. ② By utilizing the aftermath in the US, a new US administration consisted of pro-Beijing personnels should be fostered at the 2020 election. In a worst-case scenario, the aftermath should be abused enough to make Robert Lighthizer to leave the admin. Mr. Mnuchin could stay. ③ Sometime next year, the phase one trade deal must be reassessed with the new US admin. The reassessment should help China take the upper-hand at the second phase trade talk. ④ The pandemic crisis should yield a situation which allows China to delay the payments for its state-firm offshore debts. With the point number ①, this will give China a breathing room to manage its steadily-fallen forex reserves. ⑤ Since their current turf (in China) is education industry & medical science industry, Shanghai clique will have no issue with earning hefty profits by managing China's export of medical equipments & health care products which can be supplied worldwide mainly by China. People in the west will bent the knees for the clique's support. ☞ Regarding Jiang Zemin's son and medical science industry in China [LINK] ⑥ The outcome should weaken Xi & his Princelings' political power considerably in favour of Shanghai clique & Team-Z. This will let Jiang's Shanghai clique (A) reclaim some of political status & business interest controls they have lost to Xi & his Princelings. • And once this point number ⑥, with the point number ② , is realized, it would be much easier for the clique to (B) recover their huge assets hidden overseas that the current US admin or Xi & his Princelings have frozen. ⑦ Combining good old bribery with sex, the outcome should support China to re-secure control over the US governors. Once the plan is executed successfully, those governors would desperately need solutions to local economic problems and unemployment. ⑧ Lastly, implementing an e-ID system in the US similar to Beijing's Alipay and WeChat could be the cherry on top of the operation's entire outcomes. Who's supporting such a system worldwide? None other than Microsoft and Rockefeller Foundation. ಠ_ಠ -------- OLD COMRADE BECOMES A NEW RECRUIT ☞ They were afraid more talents were needed. The main target was the world’s largest economy with the most powerful military capability, after all. They ended up asking Mr. Fridman to see Lord Putin about that. The old Vova was going through a lot nowadays, people said. It could be because his nation's energy business to Europeseems to be hitting wall after wall. He is said to have enough on his plate with no end in sight, so maybe he'll join. ★ Monday, Jan 15, 2018 ★ "(pours a drink for himself) I know, but. ... What would happen if Bashar falls? How long you think you can keep it up? .... Erdogan is many things (sniggers) but he's nevergentle. (sips his drink slowly) WhenBenji'sEastMed Pipeline starts to actively compete, then what? They got the Chinamoneynow. ....Vagitand his buddies will be very unhappy. You know that. Not great, Vova." "...." "Ah, you mean what are we going to do? Hm? Hm. I'll tell you what we're going to do. This time, we're going to bankrupt the US shale gas sector. Then, of course, we can maybe convince Benji to take their time with the pipeline. Perhaps for good. (sips his drink slowly) Don't worry, Vova, It'll work. You worry too much. We'll come out the other side stronger." "So, how long until they set it off? "Hahaa, yes. They'll soon put all things in place. While marching in place, they'll play the tune a couple of months before the next sochelnik." "Nearly 20 months to brace things here, then?" "(nod slowly in happiness) Hm. Оторви́сь там, оттопы́рься, Vova" -------- USEFUL IDIOTS ☞ When the directive came, these idiots answered claiming they would be gladly "on it." All in the name of rejuvenating China's economy without grasping the real objective prevailing throughout the entire operation. Thing is, they would never realize what they are to Team-Z & their Asian overlord until it’s too late. Who are they? It's A and B, not A or B: (A) the American corporations that are too big to fail and have suffered a considerable loss because of the US-China trade war. Among those corporations, (B) the ones that have been structured with massive interest-profit relationships in/with China. "We need China in order for the US as a nation to continue being prosper," they've been shouting. No surprise there, because they've enjoyed the strides of extraordinary profits over the years while the US middle class has continued to shrink. But, in 2019 when China's stock markets nosedived for the first time since 2015 and China's authorities in financial stability & resiliency fumbled their response; it wiped that smile off their face. Still, they'll keep behaving not to offend their Asian overlord, nonetheless. -------- PERFECT PLAN ☞ Many crucial components had to come into play all at once in order to cause World War I. If one of the components were missing or different, it is unlikely that the World War I as we know of could be produced. ① The US in 2019: Overbought bubbles + Over borrowed corporations ② The US in 2020: It's an Election Year. ③ Russia has been dumping US Treasuries for the past few years. ④ Russia has been hoarding golds as if they were recreating Inca Empire. ⑤ China in 2019: Immense & long term financial troubles has started to surface. ⑥ China in 2020: The phase-one deal has been signed; leaving most of tariffs on China intact and adding another $200 Billion burden for China. ⑦ Team-Z sets up a situation in the US where some event(s) would freeze the US supply chains & demand for the next three to ten months. • Just like the 9/11, the event will be initiated at the clique's own region. However, unlike in China, the US will report multiple epicentres simultaneously. • And the CDC and the US medical task force will carry on with a number of sabotage acts, to secure enough time for the infected yet untested in those US epicentres to spread plenty.    • Here's a feasible timeline of the operation. ⑧ Then, the BOOM: Team-Z (a) manipulates the markets to make sure MM will have liquidity concerns (b) when they need it most. The (c) bottomed out oil price will be an enforcement, which will also wreck the US energy sector as a kicker. The (d) WHO will also join as a disinformation campaign office. • Then a couple of big name investment managers will lead a movement that (will try to) bring back foreign money back to China.   • Meanwhile, in US, the disinformation campaign will continue to be pushed until the second wave of attack arrives. -------- MEASURABLE SHORT-TERM OUTCOME ☞ We're now going through World War III. The global structure laid down by World War II had been shaken by globalization and the rise of China. This pandemic event will shock the structure further. Human history will be divided into Before 2021 and After 2021. ① Outcome pt. 1: Immediate Aftermath [pt.1] [pt.2] ② Outcome pt. 2: The US economy goes deep dive along with world economy, and the only thing Team-Z has to do is to exploit the aftermath which has been thoroughly calculated and eagerly anticipated. — Favoured assessment: There won't be a V curve ever, unless drastic measures taken within the timeframe of four months. Unprecedented market crash, the rapid unemployment acceleration because of the supply-chain shut down, and the near-death security which in turn forces consumer confidence to plummet. We're looking at a super long L shape curve unless the US prepares fast for the second wave of their asymmetric warfare. ③ Outcome pt. 3: Arguably the most important outcome. — Because of the unprecedented shutdown of international trade, the nations heavily rely on exporting natural resources will face the extreme financial threats. What if some of those are emerging markets AND massively in debt to China? What do you think China would do to said nations while the aftermath is hitting the globe hard? [PDF] Something comparable to Latin American Debt Crisis will happen. ④ Outcome pt. 4: Not that significant compared to the others but still notable outcome. — The world will need Shanghai clique's help to get medical products and equipments. -------- WHAT'S NEXT? ☞ Several analysts have discussed off the record that next it'd be a proxy warfare not using armed conflicts but with spreading a galaxy of counterfeit-currency across every possible channels. Coincidently, on Dec 13, 2017, Business Insider reported in an article "A $100 counterfeit 'supernote' found in South Korea could have been made in North Korea" that:
"It was the first of a new kind of supernote ever found in the world," Lee Ho-Joong, head of KEB Hana Bank's anti-counterfeit centre told Agence France-Presse.
Reporting the same news, The Telegraph published an article on Dec 11, 2017:
"It seems that whoever printed these supernotes has the facilities and high level of technology matching that of a government", said Lee Ho-jung, a bank spokesman from KEB Hana Bank in South Korea. "They are made with special ink that changes colour depending on the angle, patterned paper and Intaglio printing that gives texture to the surface of a note".
I'm a new member of this MLM, looking for advice, opinions, warnings, experiences, etc.
(EDIT: This issue has been resolved, skip to the bottom of the post. IML seems to be a scam after all. I've left my OP intact for historical reference.) (OP begin:) Greetings. I'll get right to it so I don't waste your time. I'm a new member of the company known as iMarketsLive - specifically the UK branch. For those who aren't familiar, iMarketsLive is a company which deals with forex trading education, provides tools to assist members in predicting market conditions (and thus make more profitable trades) such as the Harmonic Scanner, and you must pay a membership fee in order to make use of the tools and education they provide. In return for recruiting people, and successfully assisting them with their trading ambitions, you get ever-increasing commissions with a ceiling of GBP500,000 a month. I'm pretty pleased with my experience so far, since everyone in my upline have been very patient and constructive people - they even run self development programs. After reading some of the posts here, however, it seems like some people have had a nightmarish time of it, dealing with leaders who are more akin to hardcore salesmen looking for cheap advertising labor, and little else. The man who seems to be at the pinnacle of my particular upline is a man named Vincent, who manages us pretty well and is the primary one that runs said self development programs unrelated to trading or even the MLM side of things. I'll leave it up to you to decide. I've decided to be brave and post here, since I'd like to have a clear view of this business in my mind before I decide to recruit people into my own downline. I'll have no problems exiting it if the arguments put forward are convincing enough. I'm an ex-JW, so if I have no issues leaving a cult, then I won't have any issues leaving a scam. I have a theory as to why our experiences may be different, however: I think it depends on the people in your upline, and what country you're in, since according to their downline managing software, you are ultimately in charge of who's in your downline, and how you treat them is up to you. This would explain the entirely different cultures we've seen within the same company - though, I suppose many large companies can be like this. TLDR: I'm happy with my forex results and community environment I'm in, and I know anyone I recruit personally will be treated well by myself and my upline, but that doesn't mean I have a clear picture of the company as a whole. Post opinions, advice, warnings, experiences, suggestions or any questions about my own experiences, before I make my mind up. If you want more information on myself personally, ask away and I'll post it here. (OP end.) EDIT: Please read the rules before commenting or voting. I'm following them, so should you. EDIT 2: I've moved Sneekpreview's links in the comments here since they're very much relevant to anyone researching IML in the future. They've actually been sued. https://www.cftc.gov/sites/default/files/2018-09/enfinternationalorder091418.pdfhttps://www.reddit.com/Forex/comments/9tvr3j/is_imarketslive_a_scam/https://www.reddit.com/Forex/comments/84shxs/six_days_with_imarketslive_and_what_i_think_of/https://www.institutionalinvestor.com/article/b19fcfsc2n7jw6/Is-This-Company-a-Forex-Trading-Pyramid-Scheme https://outline.com/qEjEdk https://ethanvanderbuilt.com/2016/06/01/imarketslive-warning/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_WOqiNmMNU https://www.fsma.be/en/warnings/fsma-warns-public-against-activities-international-markets-live-ltd-imarketslive
Introduction to investing as a U.S. citizen residing in Japan
[meta: I ask for help in making sure this information is accurate and correct. Please contribute as you see fit!] WARNING!! I am not a lawyer, accountant, or broker, nor do I have any experience or training in any of those fields. ALWAYS confirm with a professional before taking any advice you read on the internet. Foreward If you're old enough to pay taxes, you should start investing. The earlier, the better.
Here’s another example to illustrate the enormous benefit of getting an early start. At age 25, Eric Early invests $4,000 per year in a Roth IRA for 10 years and stops investing. His total investment is $40,000. Larry Lately makes yearly deposits of $4,000 in his Roth IRA starting at age 35 for 30 years. His total investment is $120,000. Assuming both portfolios earn an 8 percent average annual return, at age 65, Eric’s IRA will be worth $629,741, but Larry’s IRA will be worth only $489,383. By starting 10 years earlier and making one third of the investment, Eric ends up with 29 percent more.
- quote from "The Boglehead's Guide to Investing" Target audience This is an introduction for U.S. citizens with residency in Japan who want to do long-term investing in U.S. equity (stocks, bonds, etc.). Disclaimer This advice may not be accurate for citizens of countries other than the U.S. or for those U.S. citizens living in Japan who work for the military or are only temporarily living and working in Japan as affiliated with a U.S. company. This is also not advice for ForEx or day traders looking to make money. Nor is it advice for what to invest in. This is also not advice for investing in the Japanese stock market. This is just one way to invest in U.S. equity from Japan. There are other ways. Assumptions
You're a U.S. citizen
Your income is in JPY
You want to invest in U.S. equity (stock market, bond market, etc)
You have basic knowledge about taxes and tax-related terms
You have at least $10,000 USD to invest (or $3,000 USD if age 25 or younger)
Background I am an ordinary guy living in Japan. I have disposable income and, rather than pour all of it into my local izakaya and Philipino hookers (who hang out in front of Mister Donut at night and ask if I "want the massage?" (just kidding, really!)), I wanted to invest in my future by saving for retirement. I'm an early 30's-year-old guy and spent about a month reading up on investing and then set off trying to invest as a resident of Japan. My Story I moved to Japan 3 years ago after working in the U.S. I have an IRA leftover from my time in the U.S., but never contributed to it since moving to Japan (thankfully - find out why in a bit). I recently saw a post from /personalfinance (seriously, go read information in that sub if you want to have more money upon retirement or just get out of debt!) and decided to read the book "The Boglehead's Guide to Investing" based on recommendations there. After that, I started looking into my options for investing from Japan. Before I left the U.S. for Japan, I rolled over my 401k into an IRA using Vanguard (arguably the best broker available for U.S. citizens). Since moving to Japan, I had not contributed anything to my IRA. So, the first thing I wanted to do was start contributing to my IRA again, and use any remainder to invest in U.S. equity. Turns out this is not as easy as it sounds. I found out that in order to legally contribute to my IRA, I had to pay U.S. taxes on my income used to contribute to it. Well, if you're like me and don't make an awful lot of money, you're probably filing with Foreign Tax Credit/IRS Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. This stuff basically let's you deduct all your taxes in Japan, as it on Japanese income and you already paid glorious Nippon taxes on that income. For me, this basically meant that I owed the IRS absolutely nothing every year. Great! Right? Buuuuut since I didn't pay any U.S. tax on my income, I cannot use it to contribute to my IRA! Dammit! (But actually a blessing in disguise because if I had been contributing to my IRA, I would have been breaking U.S. tax law because I didn't pay taxes on it.) So, I started looking into other ways to invest: the U.S. stock market, bonds, etc. After reading The Boglehead's Guide, I knew I wanted to invest in Vanguard's mutual index funds. My first instinct was to open a brokerage account (which is different from your IRA account) with Vanguard. I started filling out the online form, but ran into issues. You have to specify a U.S. address. Also, you have to specify your U.S. employer. I had neither of these, so I called Vanguard (from Japan at a ridiculous call charge) and spoke with someone about doing this. They gave me the OK but said I'd have to submit a paper form through snail mail, and sent me a PDF to fill out and mail in. I mailed it (from Japan using EMS which was like $20..), and got a call about a week later. Surprise! Because I'm not working in Japan temporarily for a U.S. company or living on a U.S. military base (considered U.S. soil, I assume?), I actually can't open a brokerage account with them. Dammit again! What a waste of money calling them and mailing the form overseas. So, I started looking into other options. I read about a few other brokers and most people agreed that I should either use Fidelity or Interactive Brokers. I had never heard of Interactive Brokers and honestly they seemed scary at first, so I decided to go with Fidelity, who I had actually heard of and is a U.S. based firm. I created an account with Fidelity, but once again ran into roadblocks when trying to open a stock trading account. I didn't have a U.S. address or employer, and actually wasn't able to link my U.S. bank account with them either (for reasons unknown). Dammit once again! So, I started reading more about Interactive Brokers. Okay, it's still a little scary, but there are positive reports about using them online. I signed up for an account with minimal hassle, linked up my bank account, was able to transfer money over to them, and then successfully bought U.S. shares! Sweet success! Finally!
How to Invest
Part I: Contributing to your IRA If you do not have an IRA, you probably should, as they are your basic investment option and tax-friendly to boot. However, good luck setting one up as a resident in Japan! Vanguard will happily babysit an IRA you opened prior to leaving the U.S., but they will not let you open a new one with a foreign address. I don't know about other brokers such as Fidelity or Schwabb, but it's probably the same story there. If you are like me and happen to have an IRA leftover in the U.S., you CAN contribute to it, but in order to do so you must not deduct your Japanese tax on your IRS 1040 or file Form 1116, "Foreign Tax Credit". In other words, you must pay U.S. taxes on any income used to contribute to the IRA. Refer to your broker for how to actually get the money to them from Japan. Part II: Investing in U.S. Equity from Japan Using Interactive Brokers First, let me tell you a little bit about Interactive Brokers (IB). They are a service mostly used by regulaprofessional traders. The fees are very low and reasonable. However, they have a service charge of $10/month if your commission is equal to or less than $10 USD in that month. This is probably not a problem for people over 25 years old investing with $10,000+ USD, but for people 25 and under with an initial investment of $3000, it's possible you might not make the minimum commission per month. Beware of this fee. IB lets you fund the account from many different currencies, regardless of what market you are buying (this needs confirmation, but seems to be accurate). So, whether you have a U.S. bank account or a Japanese bank account, you can fund the IB account. You can even fund from both. IB does not let you invest in U.S. mutual funds. This sounds like a deal-breaker, but it's actually not. You can still invest in U.S. ETFs. This includes Vanguard's total stock market index ETF, total bond market index ETF, etc. IB has an iPhone app that is pretty good and probably an Android app too. Although, as someone doing long-term investing for retirement, you probably don't need this and don't want to be checking your account too much (refer to /personalfinance as to why). IB has multiple account types. You will probably see IBLLC and IBSJ. The differences are two-fold: First: an IBSJ is only used to trade Japan domestic equity. You don't want this because you want to trade U.S. equity. Instead, IBLLC is used to trade overseas (U.S. equity). Second: as of 2016, IBJS requires your My Number information, but IBLLC does not. Again, you don't want IBJS, so don't worry about the My Number information. Open a "Japan Resident Individual Account for IBLLC" account online. This is a lengthy process. Make sure you have the required information.
You will need to send info about your current address in Japan, your 在留カード (zairyuu/"gaijin" card), job information, bank account information, and so on. I got confused and sent my My Number card information as well, but this only caused a hiccup in their process and I was told to remove it. Don't submit your My Number information.
You need to choose your base currency. Your base currency determines what currency you trade in and receive dividends/money from selling in. I think you need to specify USD here, but not sure. I chose USD because U.S. stocks are in USD and I used my U.S. bank account to intially fund my account. It may not matter, but this needs confirmation.
You need to specify that you have trading experience. I forget the actual numbers you need to put into the form, but make sure you put enough experience that allows you to trade ETFs overseas. You can fiddle with the numbers right there in the form, and options open up as you change the numbers. Play with it until it's just right. This part is hazy, and just seems to be some safeguards for IB so that new investors can't sue/blame IB for their own trading stupidity when they lose all their money. If you really don't have any experience trading, IB offers virtual "fake" accounts you can use to play around with trading. I suggest you try it.
After about a week you should have your new account. The next step is funding it, or you may have selected to fund it up front when you created the account so it may already be done. Anyway, the easiest way is to have IB request the wire transfer from your bank. I did this. It was really annoying, but it took about another week or so to go through. Beware that you probably can't start buying right away and need to wait for the transfer to clear. Congratulations! You're ready to start buying now. Refer to /personalfinance in what to invest in. Remember that you are limited to buying ETFs and a few other things, and not mutual funds (but you can get their ETF equivalents). Using TBD... (anyone want to fill this out?) Part III: Taxes You need to declare and pay taxes on your dividends and any capital gains you make. Beware. TBD... (this is arguably the most important part, but I just don't have time to go into it now. Someone feel free to help!) TL;DR: Open an account with Interactive Brokers online and buy ETFs.
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