Bitcoin and other “cryptocurrencies” are big money, virtually as big as Goldman Sachs and Royal Bank of Scotland combined.
The price of a single bitcoin hit an all-time high of above $3,500 (2,699) this week, dragging up the value of hundreds of newer, smaller digital rivals in its wake. Now some investors fear a giant crypto-bubble may be about to burst.
It has been a year of unprecedented growth for the largely unregulated market, with dozens of new currencies appearing every month in “Initial Coin Offerings” or ICOs. They have achieved value almost instantly, drawing in those who are eager to get in and make a quick buck.
At the start of 2017, the total value – or market cap – of all cryptocurrencies in existence was about $17.5bn, with bitcoin making up almost 90 per cent of that, according to industry data firm CoinMarketCap.
It is now around $120bn – around the same value as Goldman and RBS together – and bitcoin makes up only 46 per cent.
Bitcoin Cash, a clone of bitcoin that was split off from the original last week by a rival group of developers, was valued at more than $12 billion less than 24 hours after it had started trading.
“It’s just created new value out of nowhere,” said Rob Moffat, a partner at Balderton Capital, a London-based venture capital firm who focuses on fintech. “There’s no fundamentals behind any of this – it’s all based on public perception, so you can start to see some really strange phenomena.”
Cryptocurrencies – so-called because cryptography is used to keep transactions secure – allow anonymous peer-to-peer transactions between individual users, without the need for banks or central banks. They use blockchain technology, a shared record-keeping and processing system that means digital money cannot be copied and spent more than once.
Billionaire US investor Howard Marks likens the market to the dotcom bubble of the turn of the century – whose demise he predicted. He said in a recent investor letter that digital currencies were an “unfounded fad … based on a willingness to ascribe value to something that has little or none beyond what people will pay for it”.
But advocates of cryptocurrencies say 2017 is just the beginning of bull run. They argue the finite nature of these currency units – there will never be more than 21 million bitcoin, for example – as well as the technological innovation that underpins them will ensure their enduring value.
“The idea of this thing being a bubble is silly. We’re in the bottom of the first innings,” said Miguel Vias of Ripple, the third-biggest cryptocurrency, who was previously global head of precious metals and metal options at CME Group.
Whichever way cryptocurrencies move, they are likely to move together because their values are highly correlated, feeding off each other and magnifying the market effect.
That’s partly down to investor sentiment, but also because the start-ups issuing new coins in ICOs generally collect money in a more liquid cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin or, more commonly, Ethereum’s ether – the second-biggest cryptocurrency in total value.
That has driven demand for ether, which has climbed over 3,000 per cent so far this year and now has a market cap of around $28bn.
Bitcoin, which was launched in 2009, was the first successful cryptocurrency and is still easily the biggest, with a market cap of over $54bn.
Its price has shot up around 225 per cent so this year, and performed better than any conventional, central-bank issued currency in every year since 2010 bar 2014.
The blockchain-based currencies that have been built since bitcoin – 842, at last count – vary hugely in terms of their credibility.
Sceptics say bitcoin and its rivals are not particularly useful as currencies, as they are still volatile and not accepted by most merchants. They are mostly just used for speculative trading purposes.
There are some signs of acceptance of the biggest players by the establishment, however; Ethereum has been piloted by the United Nations as a way to distribute funds to Syrian refugees. Ripple has been successfully used as a payment method between settlement systems in a Bank of England trial.
Some other, smaller cryptocurrencies such as Dash, Monero and Z-cash are seen as having real value by some users because they offer an even higher level of anonymity than the likes of bitcoin. Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks this week said it would accept Z-cash for online donations.
- Cryptocurrency Exchange Says It Can't Access $190 Million ... - February 5th, 2019
- What's the Best Cryptocurrency to Invest in Today? - January 9th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency Trading Easy tips to get started | AvaTrade - January 9th, 2019
- Thailand Issues 4 Cryptocurrency Licenses, Rejects 2 ... - January 9th, 2019
- NASDAQ, Fidelity Invest in New Cryptocurrency Exchange ... - January 9th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News | Cryptocurrency News | Blockchain ... - January 9th, 2019
- Differences Between Cryptocurrency Coins and Tokens - January 9th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency Charts - January 8th, 2019
- What is cryptocurrency? - cointelegraph.com - January 4th, 2019
- Blockchain Will Survive A Cryptocurrency Apocalypse - January 1st, 2019
- Cryptocurrency - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - December 25th, 2018
- Is Cryptocurrency Dead for Good? | Investopedia - December 6th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency scammers dupe Singaporeans out of $78,000 in ... - December 6th, 2018
- Invest in Cryptocurrency With Spare Change - Black Enterprise - November 28th, 2018
- What is Mining Cryptocurrency? What you need to know... - November 26th, 2018
- Saudi Arabia Will Launch Its Own Cryptocurrency in 2019 ... - November 23rd, 2018
- Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrency Prices Are Crashing Again ... - November 17th, 2018
- Homepage - Cryptocurrency Army - November 14th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency - Simple English Wikipedia, the free ... - November 14th, 2018
- How To Create Your Own Cryptocurrency - fastcompany.com - November 14th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency price plunge worse than bursting of dotcom ... - September 18th, 2018
- Iran, North Korea and Venezuela turning to cryptocurrency ... - September 12th, 2018
- SEC halts trading in two cryptocurrency products, citing ... - September 12th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News, ICO Reviews & Blockchain Updates ... - September 9th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency "miners," utilities look for ways to get along ... - August 29th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency: Virtual money, real power, and the fight ... - August 28th, 2018
- Pornhub Now Accepts PumaPay Cryptocurrency - August 27th, 2018
- NK hackers target Mac users with trojan cryptocurrency app ... - August 27th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency: The unlucky investors who got in at the wrong ... - August 26th, 2018
- cryptocurrency coins Archives - The Industry Spread - August 26th, 2018
- cryptocurrency Archives - Page 6 of 6 - The Industry Spread - August 26th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency investment in SMSF - hallandwilcox.com.au - August 26th, 2018
- How To Choose The Best Cryptocurrency Wallet - Crypto News AU - August 26th, 2018
- Courses | Cryptocurrency Australia - August 26th, 2018
- What Every Investor Should Know Before Buying Cryptocurrency ... - August 26th, 2018
- The biggest cryptocurrency hack in the history of blockchain - August 26th, 2018
- After the Bitcoin Boom: Hard Lessons for Cryptocurrency ... - August 21st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency Rankings | CryptoSlate - August 14th, 2018
- Bitcoin price falls after SEC postpones key ETF decision - August 12th, 2018
- Brokers Cryptocurrency Deals Are Focus of SEC Review ... - August 7th, 2018
- 7 Cryptocurrency Predictions for the Rest of 2018 - August 7th, 2018
- Have a Cryptocurrency Company? Bermuda, Malta or Gibraltar ... - July 31st, 2018
- Bitcoin price live: Latest updates as cryptocurrency ... - July 22nd, 2018
- 2018 Bahamas Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Conference - July 16th, 2018
- Best Cryptocurrency Trading Platform 2018 | Top Crypto ... - July 13th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency: Advantages And Disadvantages Explained - July 12th, 2018
- ATB Coin - The fastest and most secure payment system - June 19th, 2018
- An Illustrated Glossary of Cryptocurrency Slang (Infographic) - June 19th, 2018
- Apollo All-in-One Cryptocurrency - June 3rd, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News, ICO Database, Coin Rankings and ... - May 25th, 2018
- CoinLib - Cryptocurrency prices now - May 21st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency Market Capitalizations | CoinMarketCap - May 4th, 2018
- CryptoCurrency Market , Coin Prices & Charts, Crypto ... - April 28th, 2018
- Nasdaq open to cryptocurrency exchange in future, says CEO - April 27th, 2018
- The 4 Top Cryptocurrency Mining Stocks -- The Motley Fool - April 27th, 2018
- One in five financial institutions consider cryptocurrency ... - April 27th, 2018
- New hacks siphon private cryptocurrency keys from ... - April 27th, 2018
- What Is Cryptocurrency? - dummies - April 21st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency Market Surges to $365 Billion, Start of a ... - April 21st, 2018
- BTCMANAGER | Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency News - April 16th, 2018
- How to keep your cryptocurrency safe - CNET - April 11th, 2018
- How do I report Cryptocurrency Mining income? - TurboTax ... - April 4th, 2018
- When do you report Cryptocurrency investments? - TurboTax ... - April 4th, 2018
- Trading Cryptocurrency in 2018: The Definitive Guide - March 14th, 2018
- How would one operate a Cryptocurrency Mining Pool and ... - March 13th, 2018
- Coinbase cryptocurrency index fund - Business Insider - March 10th, 2018
- Cryptosomniac | Cryptocurrency Price Tracker - Bitcoin & Eth ... - February 24th, 2018
- Cryptocurrencies News & Prices | Markets Insider - February 22nd, 2018
- I started cryptocurrency mining at the end of 2017 and was ... - February 20th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News - Bitcoin, Ethereum, NEO, ICO startups - February 8th, 2018
- 7 Best Cryptocurrency Exchanges to Buy/Sell Any ... - February 8th, 2018
- Electroneum. The Mobile Cryptocurrency. - February 8th, 2018
- Cryptocurrencies trading | your guide in the world of trading ... - February 5th, 2018
- Robinhood trading app introduces cryptocurrency - money.cnn.com - January 28th, 2018
- Robinhood adds zero-fee cryptocurrency trading and tracking ... - January 28th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency Price Prediction, Comparison, Analysis - January 22nd, 2018
- South Korea's major cryptocurrency exchanges ... - reuters.com - January 13th, 2018
- Bitcoin-crazy South Korea may face a ban on cryptocurrency ... - January 13th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency - IC Markets - January 13th, 2018
- Kodak launches cryptocurrency, stock pops 125% - Jan. 9, 2018 - January 10th, 2018