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While You Were Working – May 2

Day 3 from the Milken Institute Global Conference

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Nouriel Roubini at the Milken Institute Global Conference

Dr. Doom lowered the boom at the Milken Institute Global Conference. (Milken Institute)

Day 3 of SmartBrief’s coverage from the Milken Institute Global Conference.

Dr. Doom lowered the boom

As the person who coined the phrase “Bitcoinitis,” I gotta say I wasn’t too excited for yet another panel about how cryptocurrencies are gonna change the world at this year’s Milken Global. But then I saw the list of speakers. And the name that jumped off the page at me wasn’t any of the crypto gurus, but rather Dr. Nouriel Roubini – aka Dr. Doom.

Roubini is well-known for predicting the financial crisis based on what he saw as a bubble is asset prices linked to real estate. As I alluded to this morning on Twitter, Dr. Doom’s history didn’t make it too hard to predict what he would say on the topic of cryptocurrencies.

Roubini’s fellow panelists, most of whom could be placed firmly in the pro-crypto camp, probably knew Dr. Doom wasn’t going to be delivering a kind outlook for crypto, but I doubt they expected the fireworks that ensued once the panel started. We are talking cuss words and everything.

Brent McIntosh, general counsel the Treasury Department, joked how he might have to regulate the panel, but for a moment it seemed like he might have to do some Mills Lane-type refereeing, rather than regulating.   

Despite all the zest, zeal and colorful language that is not the norm at Milken Global, neither side really moved the needle all that much. Roubini thinks cryptos are pure lunacy. Alex Mashinsky of Celsius Newtork and Bill Barhydt of Abra think cryptos are gonna change the world. They are all wrong.

Cryptocurrencies are just another asset class. They might be a particularly volatile asset class at this point in time, but they are an asset class that appeals to certain investors. The cryptocurrency landscape might still need to suss out the winners and losers, but the asset class isn’t going away anytime soon.

On the flip side, the rhetoric about how cryptocurrencies are going to change the world is also totally overblown. Cryptocurrencies are a niche asset class. And like so many other niche asset classes, that is where they will stay.

Special shout out to Bloomberg’s Matt Leising for coining my favorite term to describe this morning action: cryptobrawl. No one in the mainstream media seems to enjoy covering cryptocurrencies more than Matt, so I am sure he enjoyed all the action at Milken Global (but probably not as much as he enjoyed seeing his beloved Liverpool FC hang on in Rome to advance to the Champions League final!).

Greg Lippmann shouted from the rooftops

Amongst the Milken Global crowd, I would say the two economic risks most murmured about this week have been trade wars and corporate debt. I covered the trade war angle yesterday via Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Accenture North America boss Julie Sweet.

On the corporate debt front, Greg Lippmann (he of Big Short fame) joined the chorus of people today voicing their concerns about dangerous levels of corporate debt. The pain is coming. The only question is whether it is gonna be a full-blown crash? Or just an LA freeway-style fender bender?

More from the Milken Institute Global Conference

Beyond Milken Global

Bloomberg got a wee bit expensive

Bloomberg announced the new parameters of its new digital service offerings. The gargantuan change for consumers is that Bloomberg’s news site will now be metered. That means that after 10 free stories a month, readers will hit a paywall. The monthly subscriptions range from $34.99 per month to $39.99 per month and include access to a host of platforms from which users can consume news – including a functionality that allows users to listen to stories instead of read them.

I am obviously a big fan of Bloomberg and think they do a heckuva job covering news from all corners of the globe. I consume news for a living, so those subscription rates make sense and are pretty close to what competitors like the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times charge. But what about normal consumers who don’t rely on market news to make it through their day? I am not so sure those prices are appealing. Not everyone needs all the other bells and whistles (even I rarely use them).

Me thinks a web-only offering that allows users to just read the news that is published on Bloomberg’s site for about $15 per month would make sense. I guess we’ll see what the market says!