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Building Trust Takes Time: Limits to Arbitrage for Blockchain-Based Assets

Nikolaus Hautsch (), Christoph Scheuch and Stefan Voigt

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Abstract: A blockchain replaces central counterparties with time-consuming consensus protocols to record the transfer of ownership. This settlement latency slows cross-exchange trading, exposing arbitrageurs to price risk. Off-chain settlement, instead, exposes arbitrageurs to costly default risk. We show with Bitcoin network and order book data that cross-exchange price differences coincide with periods of high settlement latency, asset flows chase arbitrage opportunities, and price differences across exchanges with low default risk are smaller. Blockchain-based trading thus faces a dilemma: Reliable consensus protocols require time-consuming settlement latency, leading to arbitrage limits. Circumventing such arbitrage costs is possible only by reinstalling trusted intermediation, which mitigates default risk.

Date: 2018-12, Revised 2023-10
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-mst and nep-pay
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