Market strategists and participants continue to debate the ultimate value of bitcoin. Is it a bubble that has begun to burst, and the floor is, literally, zero? Or is it a maturing asset that is finding a true value and the pullback from nearly $20,000 reflects a constructive, healthy process?
Strategists at Barclays speculate that demand, driven previously by fear of missing out, or FOMO, which pushed the value of bitcoin
and its ilk to all-time highs last year, has cooled—considerably.
Increasing awareness of digital assets has driven them from out of obscurity and into the mainstream and that also has quashed the FOMO verve, which some market participants believe will weigh on future gains.
“Combined with the results of our theoretical modeling, survey findings suggest that, unlike the peaks in Bitcoin prices in 2011 and 2013, the most recent peak may have been the ultimate top and that speculative interest could decrease from here,” writes Barclays in a research note dated Tuesday.
This reduction in speculative interest has left owners of bitcoin oversupplied, which is now dictating price moves, rather than pure supple-demand factors, the strategists said.
As the attached chart indicates, until 2015, demand (light blue) pushed prices higher, which was followed by a supply (dark blue) selloff. However, since 2015, those variables have moved in tandem, suggesting that speculative behavior is coming from the supply side.
The reduction in speculative buying has also been a result of the popularity of virtual assets.
— Bitcoin News (@BTCTN) January 24, 2018
By one measure, the overall awareness of bitcoin is 60% in the U.S., 90% in South Korea, 88% in Japan and 64% in Canada, so the room of speculative buying is shrinking and the likelihood of a push to the December 2017 highs is decreasing.
“Past peaks in Bitcoin in 2011, early 2013 and late 2013 were followed by collapses in price of 93%, 70% and 86%, respectively, before recovering and advancing to new highs. But in each of those cases, awareness was relatively low and the potential for new entrants consequently was high,” said Barclays.
“As a result, we believe the speculative froth phase of cryptocurrency investment—and perhaps peak prices—may have passed.”
Barclays estimates that the maximum possible value for all digital currencies is $660 billion to $780 billion, which is around 2.5x the current value. According to CoinMarketcap.com, the total value of the hundreds of digital assets it tracks hit a peak value of around $830 billion in early January, before collapsing.