Op-Ed: Bubbles, Riding Rockets & Falling Knives

 

Executive Brief

Last week saw Bitcoin cross the $4000 mark for the first time in a continuation of a long-term bull-run that has seen it rise from just under $1000 at the turn of this year. Naysayers are drawing comparisons to investment bubbles from years past that were succeeded by crashes: Great Tulip bubble, dot-com & housing, while advocates are pointing to the intrinsic properties of cryptocurrencies finally being reflected in their price.

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Those who invested in dot-com’s may recall what it looks like when excited investors are overly-eager to invest at any valuation for no other reason than the business using the internet. Right now there is an unprecedented amount of personal investment flowing into cryptocurrencies along with no shortage of organizations conjuring billions in market capitalization through ICOs, even though they have never made a profit—or even worse, never made any revenue or product at all. These dot-com rallies saw investment withdrawn from other stocks and into dot-coms, harming the market as a whole, and this has also been seen with many ICO tokens crowding out investment from other likely much more qualified ventures. Bitcoin itself similarly draws investment from other cryptos as it rises in price — being the majority intermediary between alt-currencies and fiat offramps currently, many people sell out of altcoins and into Bitcoin to protect against those ready to take profits from alt-markets.

While many believe Bitcoin is dot-com bubble 2.0, this presumes that people are only purchasing Bitcoin for its value as a medium of exchange, and that as an investment vehicle the only outcome is a bursting bubble. This narrative does not take into account Bitcoin’s ability to act as a store of value in a manner that today’s fiat money can not. Most Central Banks have interest rates set either very low, and in some cases negative so that no individual can offset inflation losses with interest from any savings account; bonds, equities, and real estate are all in bubbles - and precious metals like gold, which is down 25% in the last 5 years, aren’t much help either. Combined with citizens the world over enduring unstable economies and strict fiat capital controls, Bitcoin has become a vestige of safer and worthwhile market investment as a store of value.

Bubble or not, investors should be wary of trying to jump onto a moving rocket - it is easy to miss, and the smart money gets in before liftoff. Often when people are this bullish on any asset, those markets have been close to a short to medium term peak that may never be returned to, and that means that investors should be careful not to try to catch the “falling knife”, as buying in when there is a lot of downward momentum can be very risky. This time the market will decide how important the democratization of money amid a backdrop of universal fiat asset-class bubbles and low interest rates are to everyday money users. In my view Bitcoin still has a lot of room to move, but there are going to be many corrections along the way, and numerous alternatives going forward.

The views expressed by the authors on this site do not necessarily represent the views of DCEBrief or the management team.

Author: Timothy Goggin

Timothy Goggin is an economic analyst with an interest in the application of moral philosophy and decentralized systems. He studied economics at the Business School at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His area of research is the consequential and moral dimensions of implementing digital currencies and the resulting synergies for consumers in the trading environment.

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