Major cryptocurrencies continued to drop this week as U.S. investors returned from the Thanksgiving holiday. Some modest buying during the week failed to coax the market out of the persistent funk it’s been in this autumn.
Digital currency prices this week plunged to new lows for the year, leaving bitcoin (BTC) down 45 percent over the past month and ether (ETH) down by 54 percent. The market has been on a steady downward trajectory since late last year, but sunk hard in mid-November. This week, bitcoin fell to less than $3,700 before recovering some of its losses.
“We’re not scared. Chicken Little is going around saying the sky is falling, but we think this is natural.”
Market participants have blamed, in part, a disagreement about the future of bitcoin cash (BCH) for November’s ugly price declines. The resulting “hard fork” split the cryptocurrency into two distinct digital tokens. Meantime, those in the financial world continue to weigh in on crypto, with many expressing doubts about its future. Thursday, UBS Global Wealth Management’s chief economist Paul Donovan was the latest voice, adding to the chorus of cryptocurrency skeptics.
“These things were never going to be currencies,” Donovan said on CNBC’s “Fast Money.” They’re not going to be currencies at any point in the future. They’re fatally flawed.”
Friday afternoon bitcoin was down 7.1 percent for the week at $4,017.54. Ripple’s XRP (XRP) was down 10.5 percent for the period at 36 cents, while ether was down 6.9 percent to $113.95. Bitcoin cash had fallen by 28.8 percent for the week to $174.51.
Despite the negativity surrounding the market, Lee Zuckerman, co-founder of CryptoCake, the world’s first 24/7 streaming TV channel devoted to crypto and blockchain news, and COO of Web Global Holdings, tells ThirtyK, “We’re not scared. Chicken Little is going around saying the sky is falling, but we think this is natural.”
Zuckerman notes that in the equities market, a price drop in the fall months is not uncommon as market participants take profits and pull out cash to spend during the holiday season. He’s not surprised to see pressure on cryptocurrencies this month.
The digital currencies market is going through some “growing pains,” he adds, and it needs to self-regulate to a certain extent in order for more investors to feel comfortable jumping in. “We need to move to a more legitimate and regulated system, but we don’t want to lose the momentum we’ve already built up,” he says. “It’s a fine line.”
Waiting for a Catalyst
Market participants are now eagerly awaiting a catalyst that might pull the market out of its slump. Many had hoped such a catalyst might come before the end of the year, giving the market a much-needed jolt into year’s end.
Some believed the Securities and Exchange Commission could provide a boost if it approved a much-anticipated bitcoin exchange-traded fund, which would effectively open up the market to a larger swath of investors.
Yet, this past week SEC Chairman Jay Clayton dashed hopes of the agency approving an ETF anytime soon. At the Consensus:Invest conference in Manhattan, Clayton pointed to a lack of investor protection as reason to be cautious about approving a bitcoin ETF.
“What investors expect is that the trading in that commodity that’s underlying the ETF is trading that makes sense, is free from the risk or significant risk of manipulation,” he told the conference in Manhattan, according to CNBC. “Those kinds of safeguards don’t exist in many of the markets where digital currencies trade.”
Clayton, however, didn’t rule out the possibility that an ETF will eventually be approved once concerns about a lack of market surveillance and other issues are hashed out. The SEC is currently weighing a bitcoin ETF proposal by New York-based VanEck and blockchain platform SolidX, though the deadline has been pushed out again with a decision now expected in late December.
Meantime, at the same conference, according to CNBC, Jeff Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, said, negative headlines about cryptocurrencies aside, digital assets do have a future in regulated markets. Intercontinental Exchange, parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, is backing a version of bitcoin futures through a startup, Bakkt. After several delays, the plan is for the exchange to go live in January.
Zuckerman prefers to focus on the potential for cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology to change lives for the better. For example, recently a sexual assault survivor used the crypto-powered payment processor Seed to anonymously crowdfund $500 after she was unable to work for several months. That’s opposed to a traditional crowdfunding site such as Kickstarter where her identity and story could have been discovered.
“The technology is transforming people’s lives,” Zuckerman says.
Then, there are companies like Overstock, which is going all-in on crypto. The company is planning to sell its retail business as soon as February, reports The Wall Street Journal, to invest in multiple blockchain startups through Medici Ventures, its fully owned subsidiary. “That’s going to take off,” says Zuckerman.
Zuckerman’s looking ahead to 2019 and expects big things for cryptocurrencies in the new year, including innovative projects, wider adoption and higher prices. He anticipates an economic catalyst will boost cryptocurrencies. “It’s only looking up from here,” he says.