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As shown in the price difference charts above, however, the bid-ask spread as a percent of BTC-E price in these exchanges is negligible relative to the typical price difference, and thus does not likely impede arbitrage significantly.
Other fees, however, represent more substantial barriers. BTC-E, for example, charges a 0. These fees reduce the profits from arbitrage, and may explain the observed price differences. Bitcoin arbitrage opportunities across exchanges may also pose two risks: In fact, bitcoin prices are volatile; the intraday volatility of the bitcoin price on BTC-E often exceeds the average price difference between it and Bitfinex see chart below.
Therefore, delays in executing trades imply that the price difference can shrink or even revert before an arbitrageur can exploit it. The most significant delay is in the transfer of U. A trader wishing to execute this trade by transferring dollars to BTC-E faces significant risk of price changes over that period.
In order to deposit bitcoin for use on Bitstamp or Bitfinex, three network confirmations are required. Each confirmation takes ten minutes on average, so the delay between the purchase of bitcoin on BTC-E and its deposit on Bitstamp or Bitfinex is about thirty minutes. This shorter delay is avoidable by short selling, but shorting is only offered by Bitfinex and entails additional fees. Exchange failure or fraud is another source of risk.
Exchange failure is not merely a theoretical possibility in bitcoin markets—it occurs regularly. A study in reported that eighteen of the forty bitcoin exchanges analyzed—almost half—ultimately failed. Most notable among all bitcoin exchange failures is that of Mt. Counterparty risk could help explain the consistent discount realized on BTC-E. Unlike Bitfinex and Bitstamp , BTC-E does not publish the location of its operations, and little is known about its owners.
Implications for Bitcoin as a Payments Alternative. While inter-exchange price differences in the bitcoin market are interesting examples of deviations from the law of one price, they also have broader implications for the attractiveness of bitcoin relative to other payment alternatives primarily the traditional banking system. This price uncertainty, in turn, inhibits the use of bitcoin as a store of value. Thus, while bitcoin may continue to develop as an alternative means of payment, it competes with more traditional value-transfer methods on a familiar playing field—offering transfers with lower fees relative to transaction risk.
The views expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
The Law of One Bitcoin Price? Alexander Kroeger and Asani Sarkar. Written by Alexander Kroeger ,. Financial and Monetary Systems View all. Have central banks missed the exit train? Alberto Gallo 14 May It's time to ditch our obsession with trade deficits.
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