Localbitcoins is the longest running and most popular peer to peer Bitcoin exchange in the world, with trading volume increasing from less than $100,000 per week in 2012 to over $50 million per week currently.
On Localbitcoins, buyers and sellers complete deals directly with each other, using the full spectrum of fiat payment methods, ranging from bank transfers to gift cards.
Here, we’ll discuss countries with rapidly increasing Localbitcoins trading volume. These are usually countries undergoing a fiat inflation crisis or countries which have enacted severe regulations on Bitcoin trading leaving peer to peer trading as the only option.
It is good to first look at Localbitcoins trading volume in the United States before identifying countries without of the ordinary volume trends. Bitcoin is legal in the United States, and the United States perhaps has the lowest fiat inflation rate in the world at 2-3 percent since the USD is the underpinning of the global fiat currency system. The trading volume on Localbitcoins in the United States gradually increased to $10 million per week during the peak of the December 2017 Bitcoin rally and has since then leveled off to $6 million per week.
Countries with relatively stable fiat currencies follow this trend of an all-time volume high during the peak of the 2017 Bitcoin rally, followed by a gradual decline during the 2018 bear market. This includes Australia, Canada, the European Union, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
South America Seeing Rapid Increase in Peer to Peer Bitcoin Trading
South American countries that where people use Localbitcoins are seeing rapidly increasing volume throughout 2018 despite the bear market, and this appears to be due to a continent-wide fiat inflation crisis.
In Argentina, Localbitcoins trading volume has rallied from ARS 1 million to ARS 9 million since the beginning of 2017. The Argentinian Peso (ARS) has simultaneously experienced 140 percent inflation relative to the USD. The hyperinflation of the ARS itself does not yield the 9X increase in Localbitcoins trading volume, so clearly, the actual amount of peer to peer Bitcoin trading in Argentina is also rapidly increasing thanks to fiat hyperinflation.
Venezuela is experiencing the most well-known hyperinflation crisis in the world right now, with the inflation rate in excess of 400,000 percent according to the Cafe Con Leche Index, and a total collapse of the Sovereign Bolivar (VES) seeming imminent.
Localbitcoins trading volume in Venezuela is exponentially increasing, from VES 8,000 at the beginning of 2017 to VES 3.8 billion currently. It is likely that a large part of this volume rally can be explained by cryptocurrency adoption proliferating across Venezuela, as its citizens move their money into cryptocurrency in order to protect themselves against catastrophic hyperinflationary conditions. The Localbitcoins trading volume in Venezuela in terms of Bitcoin confirms this, with volume increasing from 274 Bitcoins at the beginning of 2017 to 1,743 Bitcoins currently.
Chile is also seeing a steady rise in Localbitcoins trading volume in terms of the native fiat currency the Chilean Peso (CLP). During the peak of the 2017 Bitcoin rally volume reached CLP 213 million per week, and in November 2018 trading volume was as high as CLP 243 million. Since April 2018 the CLP has had 19 percent inflation relative to the USD. In 2016 and 2017, the CLP was actually strengthening relative to the USD, so the inflation trend in Chile is relatively new.
Colombia has seen Localbitcoins trading volume rapidly increase from COP 230 million at the beginning of 2017 to COP 8.13 billion per week in November 2018. Simultaneously, there has been 13 percent inflation of the Colombian Peso (COP) relative to the USD since the beginning of 2017.
Actual Bitcoin volume has surged from less than 100 Bitcoins per week at the beginning of 2018 to more than 650 currently. Since Colombia is the next-door neighbor of Venezuela, perhaps this surge in Localbitcoins volume has something to do with Venezuelans obtaining the Bitcoins they need in Colombia.
In Peru, Localbitcoins weekly trading volume has steadily increased from PEN 60,000 at the beginning of 2017 to as high as PEN 3.145 million in November 2018. Simultaneously, Bitcoin volume has surged from less than 20 Bitcoins per week to 236 Bitcoins. The Peruvian Sol (PEN) has seen 10 percent inflation relative to the USD during 2018.
Overall, it is clear that fiat inflation in South America is not confined to Venezuela. Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Peru are also experiencing fiat inflation and a major uptick in Bitcoin adoption. Thanks to this, it appears that South America will be a hotspot for cryptocurrency adoption in the coming years.
India Peer to Peer Bitcoin Trading Surges Due to Ban of Centralized Exchanges
The Indian Rupee (INR) has had 11 percent inflation relative to the USD since the beginning of 2018. The bigger story in India regarding Bitcoin is that the Reserve Bank of India has banned the use of bank accounts for Bitcoin activity, which has effectively banned centralized Bitcoin exchanges. This has caused a steady increase in peer to peer Bitcoin trading on Localbitcoins, which is still legal, from INR 48 million per week in May 2018 to as high as INR 122 million during November. There is some speculation that India will make Bitcoin completely illegal like its neighbor Pakistan.
Iran Sanctions Cause Peer to Peer Bitcoin Trading to Spike
Crippling international sanctions on Iran were announced in September 2018 and implemented by November in response to Iran breaking its nuclear treaty. The Iranian Rial (IRR) experienced 430 percent inflation relative to the USD, going from IRR 36,000 per USD at the beginning of 2018 to IRR 190,000 per USD by September. However, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered that everything must be done to strengthen the IRR, and the free market ended at that point. Currency traders have been executed, making the living ones scared to bid the IRR lower, and Bitcoin has been made illegal to prevent outflows of capital. Localbitcoins trading volume spiked during the September 2018 hyperinflation crisis but is currently falling quickly due to the risks associated with trading Bitcoin in Iran.
Russia and Kazakhstan Have Rising Bitcoin Trading as Fiats Experience Inflation
Russia certainly had a trading volume spike on Localbitcoins during the peak of the 2017 Bitcoin rally, but in general, volume is consistently rising from Russian Ruble (RUB) 750 million per week in April 2018 to RUB 1 billion per week currently. This coincides with 21 percent inflation of the RUB relative to the USD during the same period of time.
Russia’s neighbor to the south, and former part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Kazakhstan, is also seeing consistently high Localbitcoins trading volume during 2018. The Kazakhstani Tenge (KZT) has seen 17 percent inflation since April 2018 relative to the USD.
Localbitcoins trading volume data shows that peer to peer Bitcoin trading is increasing worldwide in several countries even during the 2018 Bitcoin bear market, and this is often associated with fiat hyperinflation.
In general, it is thought that if hyperinflation were to become a problem in the United States and the European Union, Bitcoin would have a chance to become the primary global currency. The hyperinflation crisis being observed in several countries worldwide provides a glimpse of what the transition from fiat to Bitcoin may look like. In some countries there is a ‘smooth’ transition, with Bitcoin volume rising as fiat collapses, while other countries experience a rough transition in which Bitcoin is made illegal, making it hard to measure Bitcoin adoption on the ground.