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Terra (LUNA), a public blockchain protocol that powers a number of non-collateralized stablecoins, will be long remembered for unleashing the crypto sphere's first "Lehman" moment as the whale-sized volatility quakes and the corresponding contagion emanating from TerraUSD (UST) losing its $1 peg spread to virtually every corner of the market, hammering Bitcoin and causing Tether to briefly lose its peg.
Before delving into the details of this crisis, let's go over a quick refresher course. Terra maintained UST's $1 peg by algorithmically adjusting the supply of UST and LUNA. If the price of UST fell below $1, the supply of UST was burnt by minting $1 worth of LUNA, entailing a swap fee that was paid in LUNA coin. This reduced UST's supply and allowed the peg to be restored. On the other hand, if the price of UST exceeded $1, LUNA was burnt to mint $1 worth of UST, entailing a swap fee paid in UST, thus increasing the stablecoin's supply and reducing its price. These swap fees played an important role in funding staking rewards. Moreover, the swap fee tolerance determined the amount of LUNA/UST that could be burnt or minted at a given time. Check out this Twitter thread for more details on this topic:
Update on Luna Tokenomics
How to predict when depeg will end.
Bringing back my “death spiraling Luna” model. Turns out it was accurate. All of those “Didn’t age well” jabs at it Didn’t Age Well.
— Pedro (@pedroexplore1) May 11, 2022
With this primer out of the way, let's go over what went wrong. Terra's algorithmic approach toward stablecoins worked relatively well during periods of low volatility. However, it has utterly failed in the face of heightened volatility. As documented in the thread below, the crisis began with an $85 million swap between UST and USD Coin (USDC).
What made $UST de-peg in the first place?
According to @mhonkasalo, everything started with an $85m UST -> USDC swap on Curve and resulted in $100s of millions being spent on-chain and on Binance to defend the peg -- which ultimately failed. https://t.co/tCfEaBeadh
— LI.FI - Powers any cross-chain strategy (🦎,🦎) (@lifiprotocol) May 12, 2022
From that point onward, Terra's LUNA coin slowly fell into a death spiral. About a week back, LUNA's price was hovering around $73. At that point, if you redeemed/burnt 1 UST, you would get 0.059 LUNA coins ($1 worth). However, as LUNA's price plunged to $0.1 on the 12th of May, burning 1 UST would get you 10 LUNA coins. This dynamic illustrates how the supply of the LUNA coin increased drastically over the past week, resulting in a hyperinflationary death spiral. Toward the start of this crisis, LUNA's supply was 386 million coins. At the time of writing, the supply is hovering at 6.53 trillion coins!
Of course, during the early phase of the crisis, Terra's LFG Council loaned Bitcoin worth $750 million to OTC traders in order to try to restore the peg. However, this attempt also failed. Perversely, the measure introduced additional volatility into Bitcoin's ecosystem, causing its price to plunge below December 2020 lows on Thursday. The volatility quake also briefly de-pegged Tether.
So, what happens next? Tether's Do Kwon is now championing a fork initiative under the Terra Ecosystem Revival Plan:
- Reset the network ownership to 1 billion tokens
- Of this new supply, 400 million tokens are to be given to previous holders of the LUNA coin
- Another 400 million tokens are to be given to UST holders on a pro-rata basis
- The residual 200 million tokens are to be divided between a community pool and those who tried to save LUNA during the terminal phase of the crisis
Of course, a lot of people believe that the Terra brand has become just too tarnished for a wholesome revival now:
Personal opinion. NFA.
This won't work.
- forking does not give the new fork any value. That's wishful thinking.
- one cannot void all transactions after an old snapshot, both on-chain and off-chain (exchanges).
Where is all the BTC that was supposed to be used as reserves? https://t.co/9pvLOTlCYf
— CZ 🔶 Binance (@cz_binance) May 14, 2022
Currently, Terra's UST is trading at around $0.20 price level, far below its $1 peg.
And LUNA is trading at $0.0004631, a price level reminiscent of meme coins such as Shiba Inu.
Finally, this crisis now poses grave implications for the entire stablecoin universe, with the regulatory hammer now much more likely to drop in the coming days.
1/ On algorithmic stablecoins & the UST collapse:
There’s no sugarcoating it, this is among the most painful weeks in crypto history & one we'll reckon with for a long time to come.
Some thoughts for policymakers as they consider the path forward for stablecoin regulation 🧵
— Jake Chervinsky (@jchervinsky) May 13, 2022
Do you think Terra's fall from grace will have a lasting impact on the entire crypto sphere? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.