“Bitcoin is now trading near $18,000, up almost 100% in six months,” notes Bloomberg columnist Lionel Laurent, “and it’s flirting with an all-time high reached in 2017 (which, given it was followed by an ugly crash, faithful Bitcoiners would rather forget)…” . But what exacty does that mean? He challenges the notion that Bitcoin is the new wealth-protecting investment like gold, asking “is this really being driven by people seeking protection from a more uncertain world…?” If anything, Bitcoin looks much more like the stock market on steroids than it does a digital version of gold, which has barely budged since the end of October as confidence about a Covid cure has gradually improved. You can see why hedge fund skeptics like Ray Dalio are dubious of Bitcoin’s charms. The cryptocurrency’s recent above-average correlation with equities is fine when everything’s going up, but not in times of stress: In mid-March, for example, a flight to safety triggered by Covid cut Bitcoin’s price in half. A recent Kansas City Fed study comparing bonds, gold and Bitcoin between 1995 and Feb. 2020 found Treasuries behaved “consistently” as a safe haven, gold “occasionally” and Bitcoin “never.” Behind the talk of digital gold is the reality of an erratic, still-speculative asset with the potential for big price swings… While digital payment firms such as PayPal Holdings Inc. and Square Inc. have launched Bitcoin applications, this price jump is not about people buying cappuccinos. Data from Chainalysis estimates merchants made up only about 1% of crypto activity in North America between mid-2019 and mid-2020, while exchanges accounted for almost 90%… Crypto is still a heady bet on life-changing wealth, not a disruptor of how normal people use money.
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