1. Fear of missing out
While passionate retail investors powered bitcoin’s 2017 rally, public companies sparked the token’s latest climb. MicroStrategy started a chain reaction when it bought $425 million worth of bitcoin in August and September, Jimmy Nguyen, president of the bitcoin Association, told Insider. The move opened the door for other public companies to view bitcoin as a viable reserve asset.
Square followed in October with its own $50 million purchase. Still, it wasn’t until PayPal adopted bitcoin that prices began to rocket higher. The company announced on 21 October that it would allow its hundreds of millions of users to buy, sell, and hold bitcoin. The token leaped to its highest level since July 2019 as investors saw the adoption as a key step forward for bitcoin’s widespread use.
2. Demand for inflation hedges
Bitcoin may first seem completely disconnected from the coronavirus pandemic, but the health crisis’ fallout has played a critical role in supporting token prices. Governments around the world passed several trillion dollars worth of fiscal stimulus to pad against the pandemic’s economic damage.
The influx of fresh currency and easy monetary conditions boosted the case for bitcoin as a hedge against inflation, JPMorgan analyst Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou said in November. A limited supply of 21 million tokens and insulation from policy decisions saw the token serve as an alternative to gold and other hedge assets.
“That money printing has meant that everyone in the world has been searching for hard assets to invest in, something that isn’t going up in terms of supply,” Borthwick said.
3. Increase legitimacy
Companies and institutional investors warming up to bitcoin has given legitimacy to an asset recently known more for its murky uses than its investment potential. During the token’s 2017 rally, those less familiar with cryptocurrencies associated them with “nefarious activities,” Borthwick said.
PayPal’s adoption and the influx of institutional funds lend bitcoin new legitimacy and interest among retail investors, Borthwick added. And just yesterday, the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said national banks can use blockchain networks and stablecoins for payments, further legitimising digital currencies.
“The more big names get involved in the space and the more regulators start writing regulations about it, the more it becomes a mainstream asset,” Borthwick said.
Curiosity among everyday investors exploded through the end of last year. Global search interest for bitcoin more than tripled from early October to early January, according to Google Trends data. Celebrities ranging from actress Maisie Williams to rapper Meek Mill have tweeted about entering the cryptocurrency market. In a matter of months, the crowd pushing cash into bitcoin has evolved from fund managers and crypto-fanatics to practically everybody else, Borthwick said.
“There’s an absolute land rush to get invested in the crypto space,” he added. “It’s no longer friends and family and old friends from college.”
What’s ahead for the red-hot cryptocurrency
Bitcoin’s rapid doubling has naturally prompted some investors to deem the token a bubble. JPMorgan said Monday that the token’s rally moves it “into more challenging territory,” and that a continued climb at its current pace would likely “prove unsustainable.”
The market very well may be “prone to a sort of correction,” but it’s unlikely to resemble that seen three years ago, Nguyen said. Institutional investors are poised to maintain their bitcoin positions for fear of prematurely selling and missing out on additional returns.
Growing interest in blockchain and cryptocurrencies also protects prices from returning to the recent lows, Borthwick said
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