So, is bitcoin dead?
From a peak in November, 2021, of nearly US$70,000 for one unit, bitcoin’s value has been cut by more than half to about US$30,000 currently. The broader cryptocurrency market has similarly tanked.
Well, the answer to that question is that bitcoin dies often. It has fallen by 50 per cent or more at least seven other times.
Whether you like bitcoin or hate it, its fundamental qualities haven’t changed, and there’s no point in rehashing them. But in terms of price, chances are, like all the other times bitcoin died, like all the other times the stock market or oil crashed, this won’t be the last time the cryptocurrency dies – it will live again to die another day.
For the investor who believes in the fundamentals but in 2021 thought, “bitcoin is so high right now – I missed the boat,” now might be the time to revisit that idea. While this may or may not be a bottom for bitcoin prices, a lot of people sure are seeing buying opportunities.
The Canadian exchange Bitbuy tells me its data show heavy crypto buying during the recent turmoil. Usually, it’s about 50-50, but at one point in May, buy orders (not necessarily filled) on Bitbuy outstripped sell orders with a 65:35 ratio. (According to crypto price-tracking website CoinMarketCap, considered a reputable source for such numbers, total 24-hour trading volume is about $1.6-million.)
Investors have also been piling into crypto exchange-traded funds. And long-term bitcoin holders have been adding to their stacks, blockchain data show.
To be sure, this idea of buying the dip involves both going against the grain and a bit of behavioural psychology. To catch the price bottom before the rebound, you have to be buying when everyone else is full of foreboding and woe. Certainly, parts of the mainstream finance world are looking like that, amid rising interest rates and the pullback on risk assets. But, in crypto, if there are so many people still buying, then the buying-the-dip logic would imply that right now is probably not the time to enter.
Taking a wider look at the crypto markets, the answer is the same. As I’ve written before in The Globe, a good indicator of bitcoin prices is the so-called “halving,” a reduction of the rate at which new bitcoins are introduced into the system. And it’s not exactly flashing a big buy signal.
Every four years, the rate at which new bitcoins are created gets cut in half. When that happens, it’s a big blow to supply. About a year or so after each halving, bitcoin would rally to some unprecedented price and lift the wide crypto market – probably by too much, with hype overtaking fundamentals – and then prices start to fall. A year or so before the next halving, bitcoin reaches a bottom. And then the cycle repeats.
The next halving is set to happen at around March of 2024. Going by the halvings theory, that would mean that bitcoin would bottom out sometime late 2022, maybe even early 2023 – approaching, but not here yet.
The caveat to all of that: Even with all the indicators and calculations in the world, there is a lot about the markets we simply don’t know, especially for crypto, which has only been around for 13 years.
It is a good idea to keep in mind the general ideas of identifying buying opportunities and going against the grain, and the market cycles of crypto. But as with any asset, timing the market to precision, buying low and selling high, is not easy and a failed attempt often leaves retail investors badly burned.
Perhaps the answer as to whether now is a buying opportunity is to go at it more gingerly, in the way of the old dollar-cost-averaging tactic. That is, if you think bitcoin is a good buy at current prices, consider spreading out, over the next year, whatever amount you want to put into it – buying a little bit at regular intervals.
The idea would still be to try to buy low. It’s just that, instead of trying to pin the tail on the donkey at the specific point at which prices might be lowest, you’d be entering at the average price over a period during which bitcoin would likely hit its bottom – which is far safer.
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