Bitcoin Breaks $650, but Investors Should Tread Carefully

Jacob Harper  |

The end of May and beginning of June marked a sharp turnaround for bitcoin’s price, and by June 2 had broken up to $660 apiece. Explanations such as renewed Stateside optimism seem unlikely, as the majority of price movement in BTC can usually be traced to Chinese investment (and divestment.)

But there’s not much clear fundamental data in China or America to explain the recent pop, making the price rise most likely speculation-driven. And thus, investors should bear in mind that such a rise can be undone just as quickly.

The majority of bitcoin’s hills and valleys fall squarely at the feet of the Chinese, whether coming from a rush of capital from investors looking to pull out of China’s often untrustworthy stock market and shaky real estate industry (November 2013 price rise) or Beijing tightening the regulatory screws (following December price collapse). 

Since 2013’s dramatic price uptick and deflation, bitcoin had largely gone through periods of relative stability interrupted with price drops, to the point where in the first four months of the year BTC had lost half its value.

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Then, starting on May 20, BTC started rising up, moving from $444 to $660, nearly a 33 percent gain. We surmised this price movement was, once again coming from Chinese investors socking their wealth away in the digital storage vehicle.

So what’s to stop them from pulling out? In short, nothing. This isn’t a doom-and-gloom warning for BTC holders, that just because there’s been a 33 percent rise the price now must fall. Bitcoin’s price isn’t a ball thrown in the air.

But the reasons given by most BTC players for the pop seem to rely largely on very circumstantial evidence. The fact that DISH Network (DISH) is going to take bitcoin payments, for instance, is good PR for both DISH and the cryptocurrency. But it’s quite a stretch to assume that such an announcement could cause a $2 billion uptick in market value.

In bitcoinland, wealth is created and destroyed with alarming regularity. Regulatory developments in China have usually been the most plausible explanation of its major price movement. Since the 33 percent rise since May 20 lacks an identifiable driver, the strength of this “new normal” around $650 should be taken with a grain of salt.

BTC could certainly be back on a major upswing. But if there’s no clear reason why it’s going up, there doesn’t need to be a clear reason for it to go back down.

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