Major cryptocurrencies started the week with a sharp rally, with bitcoin (BTC) briefly trading at more than $7,000, although prices subsided as the week drew to a close.
Even so, most major digital currencies managed to finish Friday higher for the week. Analysts attribute the move up to a selloff in tether (USDT), a dollar-pegged stablecoin. Concerns about whether tether holds sufficient dollar reserves and its relationship with the Bitfinex exchange have rattled investors, even as the tether’s creators claim they hold enough greenbacks to back it. On Monday, the stablecoin fell to as low as 85 cents on some exchanges. When traders exit tether, they often exchange it for major cryptos such as bitcoin.
Friday afternoon at about 4 p.m. EDT bitcoin was up 3.0 percent for the week at $6,458.18 after hitting $7,044.61 on Monday, its highest price since early September. Ripple (XRP) was up 6.4 percent for the week at 46 cents. Ether (ETH) was up 3.7 percent to $203.93, and bitcoin cash (BCH) was down 0.2 percent for the week to $442.30.
A Wall Street Pledge of Support
Investors this week also had their eye on more encouraging news of Wall Street dipping into the digital currencies space. Investment firm Fidelity announced the launch of a new company, Fidelity Digital Asset Services, which will offer custody and trade execution services for digital assets. The company will target institutional investors such as “hedge funds, family offices and market intermediaries,” not retail investors.
The company will zero in on offering a “secure, compliant, and institutional-grade omnibus storage solution for bitcoin, ether and other digital assets,” Fidelity’s press release said. The move “opens up a new world of investment,” Jake Vartanian, founder of Native, tells ThirtyK. Meantime, earlier this month, reports circulated that Yale University, one of the country’s oldest institutions of higher education, has invested in two funds dedicated to cryptocurrencies.
Vartanian says one of the most important trends in the market is clarity around regulation of digital assets and what opportunities guidance from regulators may open up for sidelined pools of capital. The Yale news “is a major step forward in this direction,” he said.
That said, the market will likely continue to bounce around in its current, tight range for the foreseeable future. “It needs more time in this current range,” Vartanian said, “and we need some applications to start operating at a large scale before the next leg up.” Clarity in regulation in the U.S., especially, is crucial, with “light touch” regulation helpful for the market, he said, while overregulation could easily drive crypto prices down more.
A Deflating Bubble
Amid encouraging developments, the digital currencies market still has it doubters. Peter Schiff, Euro Pacific Capital CEO, for one, sees demand for cryptocurrencies collapsing. “We were in a bubble, and we’re headed much lower,” he tells ThirtyK. “The bubble has only started to deflate.” Bitcoin has peaked, Schiff said, and “now, it’s just a question of how long it takes for the rest of the air to come out of the bubble.”
Schiff is among investors who believe the digital currency market in its current state won’t survive. “Everyone is holding and hoping, but eventually, the demand is going to collapse,” he said. “Cryptos lack the main quality that money has to have. It needs to have value apart from its use as money. I don’t think it’s an asset class.”
Fiat currencies are also problematic, Schiff says, pointing to gold as tried and true. “Gold has worked as money for thousands of years,” he said. “Gold works. We could also have a crypto system based on gold.” Schiff said that if the price of gold continues to rise, “bitcoin could implode, and take the rest of cryptos with it.”
Schiff points to a drop in interest on Google Trends as one sign enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies may be waning. In late 2017, interest in bitcoin based on Google searches peaked at 100, according to Google Trends. Most recently it fell back to 6.
“You don’t have the growing interest,” said Schiff. As for Wall Street recently waking up to the space, Schiff says that ultimately, he sees firms scrapping plans to get into crypto. “Smart money just doesn’t come in at the end,” he said.