Saturday, August 26, 2017

Why Bitcoin's bubble will burst (and what the financial impact will be)

Vala Afshar (Chief Digital Evangelist for Salesforce) had an interesting Tweet, about 15 major companies / technologies / products born in the last ten years:

I wrote a comment, indicating that of these 15, I predicted that at least two wouldn't be around by 2027:  Spotify and Bitcoin (and possibly Uber).

A Bitcoin user promptly wrote back to me, asking me why I thought the crypto-currency would disappear.

Here is my extended response:

1.  Like Spotify, Bitcoin faces many competitors, and there is a relatively low barrier to entry. Hard to see what would justify one crypto-currency having such a high price and large market share.

2. In essence, though, the main issue is that Bitcoin is currently undergoing a massive bubble, akin to the Tulip mania of the 1630s.  In fact, one analyst considers that the Bitcoin mania dwarfs the tulip mania:

Like tulips, Bitcoins have little if any intrinsic value, and the only thing driving up prices is speculation of further price increases.

3.  Bitcoin has reached a $ 71 billion market capitalization.  However, not far behind are other crypto-currencies, such as Ethereum, Ripple, Dash, among others (there are more than 800 crypto-currencies as of today).

4.  There is evidence of Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies being used for illegal transactions, including money-laundering, tax evasion, and even ransom payments. This could lead to regulatory / security interventions, even to the extent of banning certain uses or transactions.

5. As in other bubbles / manias, a single moment of loss of confidence could lead to catastrophic losses.  Bitcoin has increased in price 50,000 times since 2010 (see chart below).  

6.   Aside from the impact on those who have bought Bitcoin at lofty prices (which could represent losses of several billion dollars), the ripple effect on other asset classes could affect the stability of the financial markets (and will probably lead to a stock market correction, which is in any case overdue, as I have written).

7.  When the crash comes, it could be swift.  The tulip mania burst in two months.  As Adam Hartung wrote in Forbes, "When tulip bulb holders realized there was nobody guaranteeing the value of their tulip bulbs, everyone wanted to sell them as fast as possible, causing a complete loss of all value.  What people thought was stored value evaporated, leaving the tulip bulb holders with worthless bulbs."

I agree with Hartung that one should NOT speculate on things such as crypto-currencies.  I personally only invest in companies or ETFs that have an intrinsic, underlying value - which, as we have already seen, Bitcoin has none.

At least the Tulips were pretty.

Perhaps there is some way to make money from the coming collapse (see:  However, I personally would not want to make a profit out of the coming misery of Bitcoin-holders.

In any case, they can't say they weren't warned (there are currently 923,000 results when one Googles "Bitcoin + Bubble"


  1. Stock market should also start falling from 30 P/E ratio back to its median (16) any time now.

    Especially tech/Internet stocks like $AMZN $NFLX $TSLA $SNAP & $TWTR

  2. Bitcoin investors could lose all their money, warns UK financial regulator FCA

  3. Buffett on cryptocurrencies: 'I can say almost with certainty that they will come to a bad ending'

    Jamie Dimon:

    “You can’t have a business where people can invent a currency out of thin air and think that people who are buying it are really smart,” he said.

    Mr Dimon called bitcoin a “fraud” that was “worse than tulip bulbs”, referring to the Dutch “tulip mania” of the seventeenth century which is generally seen as the world’s first speculative bubble.

    The JPMorgan chairman, president and chief executive said he would fire “in a second” employees stupid enough to trade in bitcoin".

  4. Paul Krugman weighs in:

    Bubble, Bubble, Fraud and Trouble