For a brief period late Sunday and into early Monday, Bitcoin sat above the all-time high value of $3,000 in hard U.S. dollars. It was a proud moment, historic in being a full thousand dollars above the previous maximum value predicted by naysayers, but soon after this win bitcoin began to experience one of the most volatile days in its short history. As of Monday afternoon, the original cryptocurrency clocks in at just over $2,650, though history shows that could change enormously with very little warning.
Over 16 hours on Monday, the price of a bitcoin has fluctuated by almost $400, a whopping 14 percent or more of its peak all-time value. This includes rebounds that brought the price back up to $2,900, and down to $2600 once again. At once point, a single bitcoin lost more than $300 in a single hour, before gaining most of it back again.
Why Bitcoin Value Was So Volatile
The timing seems to coincide with this weekend’s minor crash among highly valued tech stocks, which hit companies like Apple and Amazon and Google for multiple percentage points of their overall value. Those drops came after a report from Goldman Sachs claiming these stocks had risen too quickly, and were likely to decline in value soon. Notice, the role that these sorts of analyses play in creating the futures they predict.
So, some feel that Monday’s bitcoin drama is an extension of that larger instability in the tech world. Certainly, the narrative has been that bitcoin’s value has also been ballooning at an unsustainable rate, but there’s no specific evidence that lost value in tech stocks led to withdrawals of bitcoin.
The bitcoin world did experience some notable events in the past couple of weeks, and though they’re certainly referenced as possible explanations, the reality is that they’re really not any better understood, themselves. For instance, it’s true that the largest bitcoin exchange, Coinbase, crashed due to excessive traffic throughout Monday’s volatility. It’s also true that major exchanges, most notably in China, recently undid long standing bans on their users withdrawing their money. It’s also true that bitcoin had received doomsday crash predictions of its own in recent weeks, perhaps leading to crash in the same way the Goldman Sachs report allegedly provoked this weekend’s crash in tech stocks.
None of these explanations is anything more than speculation, however. Analysts have been predicting a bitcoin crash since before it broke the $2000 mark, and now few predictions for a crash involve falling quite that far — to a previously unimaginably high level of value. The financial sector is clearly still in the process of figuring out how cryptocurrencies work, just as those currencies go through a period of massive change in terms of both the laws and the social movements behind them.
And yet, there’s a larger point too: If you just zoom out a bit, and look at the progress of bitcoin week over week, or even month over month, it’s still surging. Bitcoin has greater potential for short-term volatility than regular fiat currency, but its long-term volatility won’t necessarily follow suit. Regular stocks and currencies don’t lose 14 percent of their value in hours, it’s true, but as evidenced by Apple’s current stock price, they also don’t tend to gain their overwhelming losses right back, as bitcoin already has to an extent.
So, watch bitcoin’s price changes closely over the next few months — you’ll be in good company if you do. There will be a whole world of financial analysts frowning at the graphs, desperately trying to make some sense of it. It’s even possible that one of them might succeed, and derive the rules that make the cryptoeconomy predictable.
The question is, whether we’ll be lucky enough to have that secret come from a person who will choose to share it, once they find it.