Cryptocurrency bubble

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Bitcoin price bubbles in 2011, 2013 and 2017

Predictions of a collapse of a speculative bubble in cryptocurrencies have been made by numerous experts in economics and financial markets.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been identified as economic bubbles by at least eight laureates of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, including Paul Krugman,[1] Robert J. Shiller,[2] Joseph Stiglitz,[3] Richard Thaler,[4] James Heckman,[5] Thomas Sargent,[5] Angus Deaton,[5] and Oliver Hart.[5] Professor Nouriel Roubini of New York University has called Bitcoin the "mother of all bubbles".[6] Central bankers, including former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan,[7] financial and business executives such as Warren Buffett,[8][9] George Soros,[10] Jamie Dimon,[11][12] and Jack Ma[13] have stated similar views, as well as current South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon.[14]

In 2018, there was a large sell-off of cryptocurrencies. From January to February 2018, the price of Bitcoin fell 65 percent,[15] and by the end of the first quarter of 2018, the entire cryptocurrency market fell by 54 percent, with losses in the market topping $500 billion.[16] By September 2018, the MVIS CryptoCompare Digital Assets 10 Index had lost 80 percent of its value, making the decline of the cryptocurrency market, in percentage terms, larger than the bursting of the Dot-com bubble in 2002.[17] In November 2018, the total market capitalization for Bitcoin fell below $100 billion for the first time since October 2017,[18][19] and the Bitcoin price fell below $4,000, representing an 80 percent decline from its peak the previous January.[20]

Bitcoin[edit]

External video
Resolved:Bitcoin Is More Than a Bubble And Here To Stay, 1:39:01, Intelligence Squared[21][22]
Fluidity Summit: Will Cryptocurrency Flourish or Fail?, 46:57, Fluidity Summit[23]

Economists[edit]

In the 2005 edition of his book Irrational Exuberance, Nobel laureate Robert J. Shiller defines a bubble as

a situation in which news of price increases spurs investor enthusiasm, which spreads by psychological contagion from person to person, in the process amplifying stories that might justify the price increases, and bringing in a larger and larger class of investors who, despite doubts about the real value of an investment, are drawn to it partly by envy of others' successes and partly through a gamblers' excitement.[24]

As early as 2014 he clearly stated that bitcoin "exhibited many of the characteristics of a speculative bubble".[2] He has repeated this thesis many times and in 2017, Shiller wrote that bitcoin was the best current example of a speculative bubble.[24]

Economist John Quiggin in 2013 said "bitcoins are the most demonstrably valueless financial asset ever created".[25]

Researchers Neil Gandal, JT Hamrick, Tyler Moore, and Tali Oberman claimed that in late 2013, price manipulation by one person likely caused a price spike from USD$150 to more than USD$1000.[26]

Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz in 2017 said "It’s a bubble that’s going to give a lot of people a lot of exciting times as it rides up and then goes down." He emphasized its use by criminals, its lack of a socially useful purpose, and said that it should be outlawed.[3]

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman wrote in 2018 that bitcoin is "a bubble wrapped in techno-mysticism inside a cocoon of libertarian ideology". He criticized it as a very slow and expensive means of payment, used mostly to buy blackmarket goods, without a "tether to reality".[1]

Nobel laureate Richard Thaler emphasizes the irrationality in the bitcoin market that has led to the bubble, demonstrating the irrationality with the example of firms that have added the word "blockchain" to their names which have then had large increases in their stock price. The extremely high volatility in bitcoin's price also is due to irrationality according to Thaler.[4]

Four Nobel laureates, James Heckman, Thomas Sargent, Angus Deaton, and Oliver Hart, appearing at a joint press conference were asked about bitcoin, and all agreed that it is a bubble. Hart cited Christopher Sims's work showing no intrinsic value to bitcoin. Heckman compared bitcoin to the tulip bubble. Deaton pointed to bitcoin's use by criminals.[5]

Professor Nouriel Roubini of New York University has called Bitcoin the "mother of all bubbles". He believes that a revolution in financial technology (fintech) is now happening, but that it does not include the flawed blockchain used by bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin has failed, according to Roubini, as a unit of account, a means of payment, and as a store of value, the three attributes needed by any successful currency. "Scammers, swindlers, charlatans, and carnival barkers (all conflicted insiders) have tapped into clueless retail investors’ FOMO (“fear of missing out”), and taken them for a ride."[27][28]

Central bankers[edit]

Early claims that bitcoin was a bubble focused on the lack of any intrinsic value of bitcoin. These claims include that of former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan in 2013. He stated "You really have to stretch your imagination to infer what the intrinsic value of Bitcoin is. I haven't been able to do it."[7]

In 2017 Greenspan compared bitcoin to the Continental dollar, which ultimately collapsed. He said "Humans buy all sorts of things that aren't worth anything. People gamble in casinos when the odds are against them. It has never stopped anybody."[29]

Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke (in 2015) and outgoing Fed Chair Janet Yellen (in 2017) have both expressed concerns about the stability of bitcoin's price and its lack of use as a medium of transactions.[30][31]

The head of the Bank of International Settlements, Agustin Carstens said that bitcoin is a speculative bubble and that the general public should be protected from its effects. It is "a combination of a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster".[32]

David Andolfatto, a vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, stated, "Is bitcoin a bubble? Yes, if bubble is defined as a liquidity premium." According to Andolfatto, the price of bitcoin "consists purely of a bubble".[33]

Comparisons of bitcoin to the tulip mania of seventeenth-century Holland have been made by the vice-president of the European Central Bank, Vítor Constâncio[34] and by former president of the Dutch Central Bank, Nout Wellink.[35] In 2013, Wellink remarked, "This is worse than the tulip mania [...] At least then you got a tulip [at the end], now you get nothing."[35]

Investors and executives[edit]

American investor Warren Buffett warned investors about bitcoin in 2014, "Stay away from it. It's a mirage, basically."[8] He repeated the warning in 2018 calling bitcoin "probably rat poison squared". He believes that bitcoin is a non-productive asset. "When you're buying nonproductive assets, all you're counting on is the next person is going to pay you more because they're even more excited about another next person coming along."[36]

Buffett's close associate Charlie Munger is even more direct in his distain. Trading cryptocurrencies is "just dementia" according to Munger. Bitcoin is "worthless" and a "turd".[37]

John Bogle, the founder of The Vanguard Group, is also very direct "Avoid bitcoin like the plague. Did I make myself clear? .... There is nothing to support bitcoin except the hope that you will sell it to someone for more than you paid for it."[38]

George Soros, answering an audience question after a speech in Davos, Switzerland in 2018, said that cryptocurrencies are not a store of value but are an economic bubble. Nevertheless, they may not crash due to the rising influence of dictators trying to "build a nest egg abroad".[10]

James Chanos, known as the "dean of the short sellers", believes that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are a mania and useful only for tax avoidance or otherwise hiding income from the government. Bitcoin "is simply a security speculation game masquerading as a technological breakthrough in monetary policy".[39]

Two lead software developers of bitcoin, Gavin Andresen[40] and Mike Hearn,[41] have warned that bubbles may occur.

On 13 September 2017, Jamie Dimon referred to bitcoin to as a "fraud," comparing it to pyramid schemes, and stated that JPMorgan Chase would fire employees trading while the company released a report critical of the cryptocurrency.[42][11] However, in a January 2018 interview Jamie Dimon voiced regrets about his earlier Bitcoin remarks, and noted "The blockchain is real, You can have cryptodollars in yen and stuff like that. ICOs ... you got to look at everyone individually."[43][12]

On 29 Novemvber 2017, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon raised concerns that cryptocurrencies were corrupting the youth of South Korea, remarking “There are cases in which young Koreans including students are jumping in to make quick money and virtual currencies are used in illegal activities like drug dealing or multi-level marketing for frauds”.[44]

Alibaba chairman Jack Ma has different views on blockchain and bitcoin,. "There is no bubble for blockchain, but there's a bitcoin bubble."[45]

Altcoins[edit]

A January 2018 article by CBS cautioned about a cryptocurrency bubble and fraud, citing the case of BitConnect, a British company, which received a cease-and-desist order from the Texas State Securities Board. BitConnect had promised very high monthly returns but hadn't registered with state securities regulators or given their office address.[46]

Initial coin offerings[edit]

Wired noted in 2017 that the bubble in initial coin offerings (ICOs) was about to burst.[47] Some investors bought ICOs in hopes of participating in the financial gains similar to those enjoyed by early Bitcoin or Ethereum speculators.[48]

Binance has been one of the biggest winners in this boom as it surged to become the largest cryptocurrency trading platform by volume. It lists dozens of digital tokens on its exchange.[49]

In June 2018 Ella Zhang of Binance Labs, a division of the cryptocurrency exchange Binance, stated that she was hoping to see the bubble in ICOs collapse. She promised to help "fight scams and shit coins".[50]

2018 crash[edit]

The 2018 cryptocurrency crash[51][52][53][54][55] (also known as the Bitcoin crash[56] and the Great crypto crash[57]) is the sell-off of most cryptocurrencies from January 2018. After an unprecedented boom in 2017, the price of bitcoin fell by about 65 percent during the month from 6 January to 6 February 2018. Subsequently, nearly all other cryptocurrencies also peaked from December 2017 through January 2018, and then followed bitcoin. The cryptocurrencies' market capitalization lost at least 342 billion US dollars in the first quarter of 2018,[58] the largest loss in cryptocurrencies up to that date. By September 2018, cryptocurrencies collapsed 80% from their peak in January 2018, making the 2018 cryptocurrency crash worse than the Dot-com bubble's 78% collapse.[57] By 26 November, bitcoin also fell by over 80% from its peak, having lost almost one-third of its value in the previous week.[59]

Timeline of the crash[edit]

  • December 17, 2017: bitcoin's price briefly reaches its all time high of $19,783.06.[60]
  • December 22, 2017, bitcoin fell below $11,000, a fall of 45% from its peak.[61]
  • January 12, 2018, Amidst rumors that South Korea could be preparing to ban trading in cryptocurrency, the price of bitcoin depreciated by 12 percent.[62][63]
  • January 26, 2018, Coincheck, Japan's largest cryptocurrency OTC market, was hacked. 530 million US dollars of the NEM were stolen by the hacker, and the loss was the largest ever by an incident of theft, which caused Coincheck to indefinitely suspend trading.[64]
  • From 26 January to 6 February, the price of Bitcoin halved, and reached 6,000 US dollars.[citation needed] Additional negative news for the cryptocurrency market continued in the first quarter of 2018.[citation needed] The price remained low though the level slightly recovered in the first quarter of 2018.[citation needed]
  • March 7, 2018, Compromised Binance API keys were used to execute irregular trades.[citation needed]
  • Late March 2018, Facebook, Google, and Twitter banned advertisements for initial coin offerings (ICO) and token sales.[65]
  • November 15, 2018, Bitcoin's market capitalization fell below $100 billion for the first time since October 2017 and the price of Bitcoin fell to $5,500.[66][67]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]