The Protocol: Using the Money Printer

SYNTHESIZING DOLLARS: Back in February, The Protocol wrote about the perceived risks around the crypto project Ethena, with its new USDe token – termed a “synthetic dollar” with eye-catching yields (currently 35%) from funding perpetual futures positions on derivatives exchanges. There are plenty of believers in the project, apparently, or at least plenty of speculators. On Tuesday, Ethena airdropped some 750 million ENA tokens, or roughly 5% of the overall supply – for a first-day circulating market capitalization of about $1.2 billion. (The fully diluted valuation, based on the overall supply, works out to about $12 billion.) The success of the airdrop might reflect the current appetite for risk-taking among crypto traders, and the unbowed willingness of crypto structured-finance alchemists to test the waters for products with ever-increasing complexity. Earlier this week, a separate project, the derivatives protocol Cega, unveiled “Gold Rush, a basket options strategy involving the Ethereum blockchain’s ether (ETH) token and Tether’s gold-backed XAUT tokens as underlying assets, alongside a safety component that protects users’ capital from a 30% drop in the assets’ prices,” as reported by CoinDesk’s Omkar Godbole. “The product offers an annualized percentage yield of up to 83% to investors who stake ETH, Lido’s staked ether (stETH), wrapped bitcoin (wBTC), or stablecoin USDC in the option strategy vault, Cega said. The yield is paid out in the form of the coins staked, so ETH stakers receive ETH in yield, providing an asymmetric upside in a bullish market.” The hope, of course, is to avoid any asymmetric downside.

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