Bitcoin has long been praised as a potential replacement for gold as a ‘store of value’ and thus investment. The argument goes that blockchain nature of the technology makes bitcoin faster to transact and cheaper to move and store.
Crucially, in our COVID induced recession, bitcoin has a fixed supply and, in theory, should provide a welcome alternative to the inflation seen in major economies caused by the printing of money. Certainly, last year’s growth figures make a compelling argument; Bitcoin appreciated by 270%, whilst Gold returned a comparatively modest 21%.
The reasons for this astronomical growth over 2020 are enlightening. Many hedge funds, asset managers and investment banks suddenly reversed their long-held scorn. Institutional confidence translates into confidence and buying power.
Great examples include the $631bn investment firm AllianceBernstein claiming “I have changed my mind about bitcoin”, and Chief Investment Officer of Blackrock, with $8tr under management, declaring bitcoin a “durable mechanism”.
There have been some enthusiastic predictions for bitcoin. A recent report, from Citibank, to its institutional clients, suggested via a comparison to gold in the 1970s, that they expect to see prices around $318,000 in 2021. JP Morgan, were also positive, similarly noting that bitcoin is already competing with gold, and thus postulated $146,000.
These sentiments have trickled down to the retail investor who are diversifying into bitcoin with increasing enthusiasm. The UK regulator, the FCA, reported last summer that the number of Brits buying crypto had doubled over a year – I see no reason for this rate of growth to stall.
Currently bitcoin massively outperforms gold; whilst volatility and immature market infrastructure have historically taken the shine off cryptocurrencies, as these barriers to entry fall bitcoin, the poster child of digital currency, is likely to triumph over traditional investments, including gold.