Global Blockchain B2B Volume Expected to Hit $4.4 Trillion by 2024

The value of Business-to-Business (B2B) cross-border payments carried out on a blockchain will exceed $4.4 trillion by 2024, after reaching $171 billion this year.
According to a press release published by Juniper Research on Nov. 5, the firm’s new report revealed that financial institutions will save $7 billion by 2024 thanks to the advantages of blockchain-based systems. 
More precisely, the report cites the lower cost, higher transparency, real-time settlement of blockchain transactions and automated Know Your Client checks based on self-sovereign identity. The author of the research, Morgane Kimmich, said:

“The implementation of blockchain is part of a wider strategy for financial institutions to digitally transform operations. Blockchain will enable stakeholders to reduce operational costs in a competitive market that is becoming increasingly commoditised.”

IBM: top blockchain solution vendor
The release also contains a ranking of the top five blockchain solution vendors based on experience in the sector, marketing efforts, customer deployments and their solutions themselves. 
Technology giant IBM comes first, followed by Indian corporation financial service subsidiary Infosys Finacle, software security firm Guardtime, and then enterprise blockchain companies R3 and Ripple.
IBM came first because of the diversity of its solutions and client base. On the other hand, Infosys Finacle is believed by Juniper researchers to be a leading blockchain provider for financial institutions with global partners and popular services.
Competition for blockchain payments
While IBM, Ripple and Visa are all attempting to implement blockchain in cross-border payments, the landscape is starting to mature. Ripple, for example, has led the market since 2012 and used its early-mover advantage to add over 200 financial institution partners this year.
Nevertheless, it’s now facing increasing competition from Visa B2B Connect and IBM Blockchain World Wire, the researchers note. IBM and Visa will seek to take advantage of their global presence, brand trust and partner networks to further scale their solutions.
As Cointelegraph reported in October, United Kingdom-based financial software firm Finastra has partnered with Ripple to join RippleNet.

China’s Central Bank Introduces Certification System for Fintech Products

China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), will use a new system to certify 11 types of fintech hardware and software products relating to digital payments. 
On Oct. 29, the PBoC alongside China’s market regulator, the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion for Mar­ket Reg­u­la­tion (SAMR), jointly released a set of documents for the new nationwide Certification of Fintech Products (CFP) system. The documents include definitions of fintech products that require certification as well as rules for its proceedings.
The listed products include em­bed­ded ap­pli­ca­tion soft­ware, cloud computing platforms, user front-end software, security carriers and chips, as well as point of sale terminals and ATMs.
In the document titled “Fintech Product Certification Rules,” the PBoC and SAMR stated that, in order to obtain a CFP certificate from the central bank, applicants will have to pass a prototype examination as well as on-site inspections.
The certificate is valid for 3 years and requires a renewal after the expiration date, the authorities noted. During the validity period, CFP bearers will have to pass random inspections at any stage of the production process, the document says.
Additionally, CFP carriers will be prohibited from using certification for advertising purposes, while incorporation of the certificate to their logo is authorized.
PBoC denies digital renminbi launch readiness 
The new announcement of China’s central bank comes just a month after the bank publicly denied reports that its central bank digital currency (CBDC), a digital renminbi, was about to launch. On Sept. 24, the PBoC claimed that the financial institution needs time for research, revealing that there is no specific timetable for the CBDC launch.
On Oct. 28, China recorded a sharp growth of interest in blockchain technology after President Xi Jinping called for faster adoption of blockchain tech. Earlier today, Cointelegraph reported that the Guangzhou government formed a new $140 million subsidy fund in order to encourage the development of blockchain initiatives.

Calibra Head David Marcus Touts Libra’s Money Laundering Standards

Calibra CEO David Marcus recently claimed that the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) standards of Libra — Facebook’s proposed stablecoin project — will be better than other payments networks.
Citing statements from Marcus’ speech at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas, finance publication Finextra reports on Oct. 29 that he explained the nuances of the project during an interview. He said, ”I want to say that the efficacy of sanction enforcing can be much higher on Libra than other payments networks.”
Marcus stated that the network’s underlying blockchain technology will allow regulators to better trace transactions and identify suspicious activities, adding:

“The open ledger – the blockchain – enables regulators to look at what is happening themselves and identify where the risk is without relying on reports. The onus is on us to do that work and now that we have the governance structure in place, we can now demonstrate this improvement.”

The CEO of Calibra — Libra’s corresponding wallet — added that any wallet could participate in the network, so long as it was compliant with AML and know-your-customer standards. Marcus said, “It was designed to be competitive, but we still need to earn people’s trust over time to use Calibra.”
A “truly global” payments network
Marcus went on to say that Libra will change the lives of millions of people for the better by providing a global payments network, saying, “People deserve much better than they have.”
United States congressmen grilled Marcus on the Libra project earlier this summer, expressing concern and — in some cases — outright derision for the project and its purported potential to facilitate money laundering and other illicit activities. 
Negative sentiment from regulators persisted when Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee earlier this month. 
Regarding the negative press and bruhaha among observers, Marcus said at Money 20/20, “The most meaningful innovations that have changed the lives of millions across the world in a profound way have always been met with damning headlines.”

Libra Might Become Unrecognizable by Navigating Regulatory Concerns

Amid the regulatory storm facing Libra, the project’s hierarchy is looking to change one important detail of the payment system: using fiat-pegged stablecoins rather than a token supported by a basket of national currencies. The Libra Association says such considerations are part of efforts to create a more agile payment platform.
Meanwhile, the furor over the controversial Libra has begun to take a more political undertone, both within and outside the United States. Arguments for and against the project now seem to include issues surrounding the trade war between the U.S. and China.
In Europe, China’s response to Facebook’s crypto project (the creation of yuan-pegged digital currency) and Libra itself, have sparked some commentators calling on the European Central Bank to adopt a digital currency for the EU. In some ways, it appears Libra has ignited a new currency war, one that might take place in the digital realm, with several counties floating their own central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).
For Libra, the regulatory hassle might constitute only part of its trouble, as the project could face stiff competition from payment giants, especially in China and other parts of Asia. Some of these payment companies are already identifying Libra as a potential competitor ahead of its launch.
Single Libra token or individual fiat-pegged stablecoins?
As previously reported by Cointelegraph, David Marcus, the co-creator of Libra and head of the Calibra wallet, said the project is open to using various fiat-pegged stablecoins rather than its original idea of creating a token. In its white paper, Libra proposed that its token would be supported by a basket of various national currencies. In a statement shared with Cointelegraph, Dante Disparte, the Libra Association’s head of policy and communications, remarked:

“The Libra Association is committed to pursuing responsible innovation in open collaboration with applicable regulators and stakeholders, to ensure the public interest is always protected and remains at the heart of this project. We have a long launch runway by design and are actively engaged with regulators and policymakers around the world.”

Such a move could change the nature of the project drastically, as Libra will be presenting itself as a payment gateway that utilizes digital versions of national fiat rather than a new currency supported by a basket of fiat deposits. For one, its original idea would likely have meant the existence of a private exchange rate mechanism that is firmly in the control of the Libra Association.
In a conversation with Cointelegraph, Randolf Zhao, vice president of operations at cryptocurrency derivatives trading platform BaseFEX, remarked that the move signals Libra’s intention to smoothen some of the regulatory wrinkles hampering the project:

“If you tie your stablecoin to USD, such as Tether, you are not undermining the dominance of USD because people still consider it as a virtual version of USD that is backed by USD reserves companies like Tether possess. But if your coin is backed by a basket of fiat currencies, you are introducing something whose percentage of USD dependency is much less than a USD-backed stablecoin, which is, in essence, challenging the dominance of USD.”

For Zhao, governments around the world will be hard-pressed to allow a project like Libra to operate, considering the vast userbase commanded by Facebook that counts more than 2 billion users across the globe.
Regulatory scrutiny and loss of banking relationships
Earlier in October, a couple of U.S. senators sent cautionary letters to Stripe, Mastercard, Visa, and other U.S.-based early backers of Libra. An excerpt from one of these letters reads:

“If you take this on [being a member of the Libra Association], you can expect a high level of scrutiny from regulators not only on Libra-related payment activities but on all payment activities.”

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, PayPal pulled out of the Libra Association at the start of October. Other early backers like Visa, eBay, Mastercard and Stripe have also announced their exit from the project. Meanwhile, none of the current Libra backers have yet made any financial commitment to the association.
Related: Libra Loses Key Members, Potentially Forked — Still Looks Confident
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent more than six hours on Oct. 23 responding to several questions from members of the U.S. Congress. The grilling was the latest in a series of appearances by Facebook and Libra before U.S. lawmakers concerning regulatory issues surrounding the project.
As reported by Cointelegraph, Facebook’s role within the Libra Association was one of the major talking points of the hearing. Amid the barrage of questions, Zuckerberg declared that Facebook would have to quit the Libra Association if it fails to secure the green light for the project from U.S. regulators.
Reaffirming its commitment to complying with regulatory provisions, Libra’s Disparte told Cointelegraph, “From the beginning, we’ve said we’re committed to taking the time to get this right,” and went on to say that the publication of a white paper was intended to kickstart a dialogue with the regulators and policymakers, adding that:

“As a member of the Libra Association, we will continue to be a part of this dialogue to ensure that this global financial infrastructure is governed in a way that is reflective of the people it serves. Facebook will not offer Libra through its Calibra wallet until the Association has fully addressed regulators’ concerns and received appropriate approvals.”

For Disparte, the Libra Association is working to ensure that the project adheres to global best practices in the payments industry. As part of the statement to Cointelegraph, Disparte said:

“Our goal is a digital payment system that replicates or exceeds current standards for consumer protection, financial stability, and the prevention of money laundering and illicit finance — while preserving national sovereignty over monetary policy.”

To this end, Disparte said the Libra Association will continue to liaise with regulatory agencies from around the world, adding, “We look forward to collaboration with applicable policymakers on a path forward that addresses their questions and concerns.”
Related: Zuck of the Hill: After 6-Hour Libra Grilling, Congress Unconvinced
Meanwhile, regulatory concerns might not be the only problem for Libra and its partners. According to Ralph Hamers, the head of Dutch global financial behemoth ING, Facebook might lose valuable banking relationships due to its involvement with Libra.
As reported by Cointelegraph, Hamers indicated that banks could consider cutting services to Facebook if it launches the Libra project. The ING chief remarked that banks may choose not to be associated with Facebook once Libra comes online due to money laundering concerns.
Potential for global Libra adoption
Even if Libra obtains regulatory approval, the project still has to contend with achieving widespread adoption in the electronic payment market. For Vikram R. Singh, managing director at enterprise blockchain firm Antier Solutions, Libra could claim a significant market share in the international remittance scene. In an email to Cointelegraph, Singh observed that the world is currently lacking a banking unicorn, adding that:

“All in all, it [Libra] will be a major disruption and the challenge to the status quo of the state’s authority over its money which will force them to redefine themselves by accepting the change. Consumers will win whichever way it goes; this is for sure.”

In major markets like China, Libra may find breaking into the payment market to be a daunting task due to Facebook’s involvement in the project. Zhao of BaseFEX, commenting on Libra’s prospects in China, remarked:

“Alipay and WeChat Pay both achieved wide adoption through their parent company’s massive promotion efforts and the pre-existent penetration of the corporate’s other services — for Alipay that’s Taobao and TMall, for WeChat Pay it is WeChat. So, unless Facebook can launch something in China and make it a killer app here prior to the launch of Libra, I really don’t see similar success coming for Libra.”

Zhao believes that Libra’s problem in China also has a lot to do with its association with Facebook. Commenting on the matter, the BaseFEX executive said: “Facebook has been out of the picture in China for a long while. Only China’s tech and internet industry talk about Facebook and for the 99.9% population, it is irrelevant.”
Several stakeholders within the banking sector have also come out to dismiss the Libra project. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon recently described Libra as a “neat idea that will never happen.”
Prelude to the CBDC wars?
Amid the ongoing talk surrounding the Libra project, the idea of governments creating their own digital currencies continues to be a recurring conversation. At the Oct. 23 hearing before Congress, Zuckerberg declared that China had stolen the lead from the U.S. in digital currency innovation. An excerpt from an official statement issued by Zuckerberg to Congress reads:

“China is moving quickly to launch a similar idea in the coming months. We can’t sit here and assume that because America is today the leader that it will always get to be the leader if we don’t innovate.”

Indeed, there have been reports that Beijing is looking to release its own CBDC — a yuan-pegged digital currency — with some commentators speculating that the move is part of the country’s efforts to block Libra. However, there have been conflicting statements regarding the level of work already completed on the project.
Related: Digital Yuan: Weapon in US Trade War or Attempt to Manipulate Bitcoin?
Oct. 24 did see a flurry of news from China, with the country’s president, Xi Jinping, calling for accelerated adoption of blockchain technology. China has also passed its first-ever “crypto law,” which will reportedly go into effect at the start of 2020. Some commentators, including Dovey Wan of Primitive Ventures, say these moves are part of the modalities for the emergence of China’s national digital currency. Zhao of BaseFEX told Cointelegraph that the proposed digital-yuan is still a work in progress:

“The main driving force at this moment is a working group inside the People’s Bank of China (PBoC). It is more like an internal think tank, within the Central Bank. What that group says represents only what they think, not what the entire People’s Bank of China thinks. But allowing this small working group to say things publicly on a regular basis does indicate PBoC’s favorable stance upon this China-crypto.”

However, Zhao maintained that it would take more than the recommendations of a PBoC working group to engineer something like a national digital currency in China. According to Zhao, the introduction of a national cryptocurrency would be a very big deal for the entire nation, and therefore the PBoC will by no means decide on such a move by itself. Zhao also added:

“People who don’t know how Chinese government departments function and work with each other tend to over-react to such news, which is unfortunately very much the case for the English-speaking crypto community.”

CBDCs for all, including Libra
Nevertheless, these reports seem to have been sufficient to spook some stakeholders within the EU. Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister, recently called on the European Central Bank to begin working on creating its own digital currency in response to China’s efforts.
Despite identifying the apparent threat of China’s CBDC efforts, Le Maire and other EU policy stakeholders aren’t keen on Libra, tagging the project as having severe implications for the monetary sovereignty of countries in the EU. Both France and Germany have expressed a desire to prevent Libra from operating in Europe.
For some members of the U.S. Congress, however, the fears surrounding China’s reported digital currency project is much ado about nothing. After the Oct. 23 Libra hearing, Rep. Maxine Waters, who is the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, dismissed Zuckerberg’s implication that the U.S. is lagging behind in terms of digital innovation.

Where to Spend Bitcoin: A Global Overview From Ljubljana to Zurich

There’s no easy way to buy, send or spend cryptocurrency in person — not even for a slice of pizza or a cup of coffee, or so it’s been said. Meanwhile, the number of physical merchant locations that accept crypto payments keeps growing.
As of late October 2019, 15,558 business venues worldwide were accepting Bitcoin (BTC) as a method of payment, up 18% from a year earlier, according to Coinmap.org. The crowdsourced heatmap, devised by Satoshi Labs in 2013, draws on input from consumers and merchants.

It also offers up some surprises. While Europe remains the hottest continent for in-person Bitcoin transactions, the most torrid city is now Ljubljana in Slovenia, with 314 venues. Last year, Prague held that distinction. As reported by Cointelegraph, more than 530 locations across Slovenia and Croatia are now accepting crypto on a daily basis, including hotels, shops and restaurants — a big increase from the 240 locations reported in January 2019. The list includes Tus, one of Slovenia’s biggest grocery chains. Ljubljana even has a shopping mall called “BTC City.”
The extent to which the Republic of Slovenia, with only 2 million citizens, is becoming a hub for crypto can be seen in the table below, which ranks Bitcoin-accepting businesses by city on a per capita basis. That is, the size of the population is being controlled, since it would be expected for a city like London with 8.2 million residents to have more Bitcoin-accepting venues than Ljubljana with only 275,000 residents, even though it doesn’t, London has a mere 103 businesses.

The table shows that Ljubljana has more than 10 times the number of Bitcoin-accepting locations as does San Francisco after controlling for population. St. Petersburg, Florida has more than 11 times as many places to spend crypto as New York per capita. Here are the top 10 cities in gross terms (i.e., not adjusted for population):

This table is dominated by European, North American and South American cities. Switzerland’s businesses have long been (relatively) receptive to crypto, and this is reflected in the larger size of its Bitcoin-accepting businesses. Zurich’s Dolder Grand, a luxury hotel, takes Bitcoin, as does the Kessel car dealership in Zug.
Related: Retailers Around the World That Accept Crypto, From Pizza to Travel
By comparison, a walk through midtown Manhattan in New York City, home to some of the most storied names in retailing, finds mostly smaller enterprises willing to be paid in BTC: Forefront Law Group, Gotham Cookies, Toggle Web Media Design, etc. Paris’ famous high-end Rue de Rivoli has virtually no businesses accepting Bitcoin.
In Prague, one can reportedly rent apartments and attend films paying in crypto. The Valmont, a party bar in the city center, invites visitors to “drink champagne and dance on the table” — and accepts Bitcoin. In economically distressed Venezuela, Traki, a big department store, is now taking crypto — at least according to one user who purchased clothing and school supplies with BTC.
Bitcoin-friendly businesses are to be found in Australia’s two largest cities, Sydney (55) and Melbourne (66), but there are relatively few in Asia given its size apart from Seoul (71), Hong Kong (39), Bangkok (52) and Tokyo (81), the continent’s leader. Africa remains almost “heat-free” on Coinmap’s heatmap. Cape Town, South Africa, the continental leader, has 31 businesses accepting Bitcoin. 
Why so disinterested?
There have been many reasons offered why crypto doesn’t work for everyday transactions. When online payments company Stripe, one of the first major infrastructure networks to support Bitcoin payments in 2014, exited that business last year, it cited among other reasons the transaction clearance times, which were averaging 60 minutes in mid-2018, and had sometimes dragged on for days. “By the time the transaction is confirmed, fluctuations in Bitcoin price mean that it’s for the ‘wrong’ amount,” the company said.
Some of the newer payment platforms, however, claim that crypto payments made in BTC and Ethereum (ETH), or other cryptos, can be almost immediately converted into a merchant’s local currency, eliminating exposure to sudden price movements.
Hupayx, a South Korean startup, for instance, offers a cryptocurrency point of sale payment solution through a partnership with KIS Information Technologies. It will soon be implemented at more than 400,000 locations in Seoul area alone, according to Aibek Amandanov, the head of global marketing. He told Cointelegraph that duty free shops will be among the first businesses, adding: 

“HUPAYX members can transfer crypto instantly among members; when transferring outside our ecosystem it takes longer. When paying at the counter at HPOS supported merchants, we only charge a 0.5% fee and it takes less than 6 seconds to transact.”

Changing scene?
Bitcoin transaction costs have dropped dramatically over the past two years — high fees were another reason cited by Stripe for leaving the business. The average Bitcoin transaction fee reached a high of $54.90 on Dec. 21, 2017, but on Oct. 22, 2019, it was less than one hundredth that amount: $0.53 per transaction.
There are other impediments, though, before in-person crypto payments become part of everyday life. In South Korea, it is prohibited to directly pay in crypto at any store or business location, Amandanov told Cointelegraph: “In response, we made our wallet so that the crypto (BTC, ETH, ETH-20 tokens) can be converted into points and can be paid with those.”
In the U.S., there can be tax issues because the IRS considers Bitcoin and other cryptos an asset, not a currency. Every time a sale takes place, it can be considered a tax event. How to deal with this? Casual Bitcoin users should consider using a reputable crypto wallet provider to help document all transactions, according to tax expert William Perez. Wild variations in crypto prices haven’t helped either. As a spokesperson for Chainalysis, a blockchain analysis firm, explained to Cointelegraph:

“One significant impediment is price volatility. That’s likely behind the rise in popularity of stablecoins, and trust in stablecoins could lead the way to increased commercial use… We think a lot of the benefits of using cryptocurrencies versus traditional payment methods are still to come because cryptocurrencies are more programmable.”

“There’s been definite technical progress in the past year, but no massive adoption on the retail level,” Nick Saponaro, co-founder and chief information officer of The Divi Project, a blockchain startup, told Cointelegraph. “People just aren’t willing to spend an asset with such upside potential.”
There is more in-person crypto spending in places like South America and Africa, Saponaro added. In Venezuela, ravaged by hyperinflation, the local currency is useless, and people are turning to cryptocurrencies to purchase groceries. In economically distressed parts of Africa, people use BTC to purchase vehicles, he said.
All told, a different popular psychology may have to take hold before people begin to spend cryptocurrencies on goods and services more substantial than a pizza slice or a cup of coffee, Saponaro suggested.
Consumers will have to see others purchasing durable goods like automobiles and home appliances with Bitcoin or Ether or other cryptos. When they do, some price stability may be achieved, and then more consumers might jump in and spend crypto, in a kind of virtuous cycle.

Bahamas to Release Fiat Digital Currency to Counter Cash Dependence

The Central Bank of the Bahamas (CBOB) is planning to release its own fiat digital currency in order to ensure economies’ resilience in the event of a natural disaster.
CBOB governor John Rolle made the statement during his speech at the Counsellors Limited’s Exuma Business Outlook at Sandals Emerald Bay, local news publication the Nassau Guardian reported on Oct. 25. According to Rolle, digital currency has the ability to free the country from dependency on cash — particularly useful after a natural disaster.
The Project Sand Dollar
The digital currency is being developed under the auspices of Project Sand Dollar and will be the Bahamas’ first digital fiat currency. The currency is expected to be accompanied by an associated digital wallet and a card that will contain identical information. Rolle explained:

“It would permit wireless restoration of payments connectively, avoiding the cash shipment and cash handling frustrations. It would permit electronic dispersing of aid and allow families to recapture personal dignity by restoring the flexibility to prioritize the elements of personal need that they prefer to satisfy post-disasters.”

Impact of natural disasters on the banking sector
Rolle noted that following the recent hurricane, the country’s banking sector saw significant damage to the physical structures of Abaco and Grand Bahamas, which led local banks to shut down operations.
Indeed, weeks and even months after a natural disaster like a hurricane, power grids in affected areas remain inoperative. More than 11 months after Hurricane Maria, some places in Puerto Rico were still without electricity.
Commenting on the potential impact of practical offline crypto transaction solutions, Richard Myers, a decentralized applications engineer at Global Mesh Labs and goTenna, told Cointelegraph:

“In many parts of the rural and developing world internet connectivity is both expensive and intermittent. More solutions tailored to these situations would certainly facilitate the use of cryptocurrencies in places where it is needed. Bitcoin transactions can be made over alternative low-bandwidth transport layers like mesh radios and SMS.”

Meanwhile, the Republic of the Marshall Islands is also developing its national digital currency as a way to eliminate the country’s dependence on the United States dollar, which it has been using for decades.

Tether Catching Up With BTC and ETH in Payments, Bloomberg Reports

Stablecoin Tether (USDT) is gaining popularity as a payment method, with some analysts seeing it catching up with Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH).
As Bloomberg reported on Oct. 25, cryptocurrency payments processor CoinPayments registered the rapid increasing of popularity of Tether — a stablecoin pegged 1:1 to a United States dollar — as a means of payment. On the site, which has a 2.4 million user base, Tether currently accounts for 30% of volume, which is 30 times more than a year ago.
Tether undermines Ether’s leadership?
Bitcoin application as a means of payment has seen a nearly 60% drop in volume from 80% last year, according to CoinPayments, while Tether has pushed Ether out of second place. Users purportedly choose Tether due to the stablecoin’s capability to avoid price fluctuations. Sean Mackay, operations lead at CoinPayments.net, said:

“Merchants used to accept Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and convert it into Tether in order to hedge against the volatility. Now we are seeing the payments just being done directly in Tether.”

Also, Tether has seen wider adoption among the types of merchants who have difficulty getting credit-card processing services or who are forced to pay high card processing fees.
Multimillion token mint and new offerings
In mid-September, Tether minted 300 million USDT as part of the swap from the Omni protocol to the Ethereum blockchain. However, no token burn on the Omni blockchain had taken place at the time. In July, Tether accidentally minted and subsequently burned 5 billion USDT tokens.
Also last month, Tether announced the launch of a new stablecoin tied to the offshore Chinese yuan dubbed CNHT. The new currency joins Tether’s other stablecoins backed by U.S. dollars (USDT) and euro (EURT).
As part of its further offerings expansion, Tether plans to release a version of the stablecoin backed by a basket of commodities such as gold, crude oil and rubber.