As COVID-19 continues to sweep the globe, many are wondering how this pandemic is affecting the value of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. The U.S. economy is in a downturn with one of the all-time sharpest declines in March and it is important to look at how bitcoin and its ilk are faring.
According to SmartValor, Europe’s premier digital asset exchange, there was an intense shift in 24 hours, as “the overall crypto market dropped from a market size of $224 billion on Thursday, 3/12 to $126 billion on Friday, 3/13.” Bitcoin fell over $3000, about 50%, in those two days, marking the lowest it has been valued at in 2020 so far.
Luckily, cryptocurrencies have regained some of their value in the succeeding days faster than the other more traditional markets. However, this is not necessarily an indication of where it will go from here.
To give some background, Bitcoin was invented in 2008 during the global recession by an unidentified person or group calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto. Its open-source software code was released in January 2009 and contained a reference to the bank bailouts. In 2017, the University of Cambridge estimated that there was between 2.9 and 5.8 million unique users with cryptocurrency wallets and that most of them used Bitcoin.
Due to its digital nature and the shock of the swift downturn in physical currency, the coronavirus quarantines and shutdowns have triggered a surge in people’s interest in digital assets, says Forbes crypto and blockchain writer Billy Bambrough.
While the president of the European Central Bank and the president of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis say they are doing whatever needs to be done to protect the economy and stimulate it, many people are still very concerned.
In a confusing economy, some people are turning to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a potential hedge or alternative to centralized bank-controlled debt. Baidu, a Chinese search engine, has said that searches for bitcoin are up 183% over the last month, and Google has also reported that searches for bitcoin have spiked.
It’s important to be aware that Bitcoin is still relatively untested and has not regained all of the value it lost in mid-March. It’s not doing badly but it is also not necessarily the “ultimate safe haven asset” many hoped it would be.
Jill Carson, co-founder of Open Money Initiative, investor with Slow Ventures, and contributor at Coindesk, says “Bitcoin is, in many ways, the ultimate safe-haven asset. It can be self-custodied, so even when systems of trust and rule of law breaks down, it can be held. It is open and borderless, with relatively liquid markets in every country in the world. It is censorship-resistant, meaning no government nor institution can, practically speaking, prevent investment or transaction in bitcoin. Bitcoin has a fixed supply, much like gold.”
Many traditional investors are still comparing Bitcoin to traditional investments and believing it to be high risk and with its current fluctuations, they may not be too off-base – at least right now. But even “safe-have assets” like gold are plummeting. At the beginning of March, gold lost 10%.
One important factor to watch is how fast Bitcoin bounces back. While traditional markets are still down, when Bitcoin fell 50% over just two days in mid-March, it bounced back with a 50% increase just in the few days after and remains completely secure in transactions. While it is lower than usual, now is generally considered to be a good time to purchase Bitcoin and those in the financial industry expect it to continue modestly bouncing back. Like any investment, investor beware.