A visual representation of bitcoin.
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Bitcoin is back. The cryptocurrency last week passed the $18,000 level for the first time since its all-time peak in December 2017.
As the digital currency — which is up over 150% this year — moves closer than ever to its record high of almost $20,000, CNBC asked five crypto experts for their take on the latest rally.
Is bitcoin’s meteoric rise in value now different to the speculative frenzy of late 2017 and early 2018? And where does the price of bitcoin go from here? Here’s what they said:
What’s different this time round?
Many commentators in the industry say the crypto market has matured over the last three years.
“The main difference between now and the 2017 rally is that back then the market was driven by retail speculation and now it’s being driven by corporations and billionaires,” Mati Greenspan, portfolio manager and founder of Quantum Economics, told CNBC.
Wall Street incumbent Fidelity, for instance, set up a new unit to let its clients invest in digital assets, while PayPal recently started letting its U.S. users buy, hold and sell a range of virtual currencies.
Meanwhile, there are now big-name investors putting their money into bitcoin, including billionaire hedge fund managers Paul Tudor Jones and Stanley Druckenmiller.
“There was nothing conspicuous about their involvement,” Antoni Trenchev, managing partner of crypto lender Nexo, told CNBC. “They purchased in stealth mode but once bitcoin made it to their treasuries, they let the world know, similar to the gold bull market in the 1970s.”
Then there’s the coronavirus pandemic. Crypto fans have compared bitcoin to safe-haven assets like gold, which investors often flock to in times of economic turbulence. They claim that Covid-related stimulus measures have lessened the appeal of sovereign currencies like the U.S. dollar.
Meanwhile, bitcoin underwent a key technical event earlier this year called the “halving,” which saw the amount of bitcoins rewarded to the so-called “miners” who add bitcoin transactions to its public ledger get cut in half. Some analysts say that this event has also contributed to the asset’s climb in 2020.
Where does bitcoin go from here?
There are plenty of sky-high predictions for what price bitcoin could zoom to in the near-to-long term. But many crypto enthuasiasts agree bitcoin is likely to pass its all-time high soon.
“A new all-time high is not only possible but is largely anticipated by bitcoin believers to happen any day now,” said Greenspan.
Pascal Gauthier, CEO of crypto hardware wallet maker Ledger, said he thinks the latest bitcoin bull run will last for longer than the previous one.
“Bitcoin has reached market recognition and maturity, making it the one coin that is definitely here to stay,” he told CNBC. “2021 will be exciting and will still be about building great products and tech but this time with the wind blowing in the sails.”
Some crypto bulls have already given bold predictions for where the price of bitcoin could go next. Mike Novogratz, CEO of investment firm Galaxy Digital, thinks bitcoin could reach between $55,000 and $60,000 by the end of the year — though he also once said it could “easily” hit $40,000 by the end of 2018.
Words of caution?
But the cryptocurrency has a reputation for extreme volatility. It plummeted as low as $3,122 in 2018 after rallying to nearly $20,000 a year earlier. In the last week alone, bitcoin has added more than $2,000.
Soravis Srinawakoon, CEO and co-Founder of crypto software firm Band Protocol, said it “remains to be seen” whether bitcoin can reach new highs by the end of the year.
Lior Messika, founder and managing partner of venture capital firm Eden Block, told CNBC that bitcoin bitcoin is “plagued with volatility” as it has “neither an established narrative nor an ability to manipulate its proportionality in response to fluctuations in its underlying value.”
“As time goes on, the bitcoin narrative is strengthening, although the global belief in its usability is still negligible,” he added. “This has resulted in continuing volatility for the asset.”
Still, there is broad confidence about the digital asset’s prospects. Trenchev — who earlier this year predicted bitcoin could reach $50,000 by the end of 2020 — said there’s “increasing evidence of that upward trend.”
Srinawakoon said “all signals point strongly towards the next wave of adoption and new users in the near future.”