Bitcoin barges past $13,000

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Bitcoin barges past $13,000

The bitcoin party just won't stop with every day bringing a new ATH (all-time high), as the bitcoiners say. However, as all investors know, nothing goes up in a straight line forever, and when an asset appreciates at the speed that bitcoin does, it starts to get scary.

According to Coinmarketcap.com, the bitcoin price broke through the $13,000 today, up 10% in the past 24 hours.

Bitcoin's true believers are cheering the start of bitcoin futures trading, first on the CME on 18 December and then the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), with Nasdaq to follow.

It is difficult to say, but some commentators think we may be about to see a "buy the rumour sell the news" inflection point, in which the beginning of futures trading signals a near-term top.

Uncorroborated reports suggest that hedge funds are lining up to bet that the price of bitcoin will fall.

At any rate, that's the view of Craig Pirron, a professor at the University of Houston.

"Having this instrument that makes it easier to short might keep the bitcoin price a little closer to reality as the futures reduce the frictions of going short more than they do of going long, so it's probably net bearish," he told Bloomberg.

But another professor, Atulya Sarin of Santa Clara University, takes a contrary position, seeing the launch of futures (and options) trading as a welcomed step towards making prices more stable, improving "the quality of the market - broader investor participation, higher liquidity, and lower volatility is likely".

However, being a professor, all outcomes are considered.

He draws attention to what happened in the Tulip mania of 17th century Holland, considered to be the first speculative financial bubble in history and repeatedly invoked by those who think bitcoin has no intrinsic value.

Professor Sarin points to the fact that tulip mania ended when cash-settled futures were introduced. The CME futures contract is also cash-settled.

And very much in the doom and gloom camp is chairman and chief executive of Interactive Brokers Thomas Peterffy, who is convinced that a bitcoin futures market will bring no good.

He has repeated an earlier warning made in an open letter to the CME and featured in a full-page advert in the Wall Street Journal on 14 November, imploring the derivatives exchange to segregate bitcoin futures trading.

He went further on Monday 4 December: "My fear is in the unlikely event something like that happens, we'll have something like Lehman Brothers - or worse."

Both CME Group and CBOE Global Markets are hoping to guard against any problems by slapping a 35% margin requirement on trades.

Peterffy argues that huge price swings would push some brokers to default, in turn forcing clearinghouses to cover positions by calling in money from other market participants, which would require them to sell their bitcoin positions, leading to further falls in the bitcoin price.

"The issue is they're putting bitcoin in the same basket as US Treasuries, stock index futures, and all the really serious products," said Peterffy.

In other news, Internet of Things token IOTA is up 54% at $4.68, Monero the ultra-safe coin is 30% higher and EOS, the decentralized apps platform, trades at $4.76 a rise of 25%.

There's another mania ongoing worth keeping an eye on - bitcoin forking.

There are five upcoming hard forks: Super Bitcoin, Bitcoin Platinum, Bitcoin Uranium, Bitcoin Cash Plus and Bitcoin Silver.

The first three in that list are scheduled for December. And in case you missed it, Bitcoin Diamond officially forked last month, but is not available on most exchanges.

Bitcoin Diamond futures trade at $33. Those behind the forks hope to emulate the success of Bitcoin Cash which launched in August and trades at $1,470. Holders of bitcoin receive the forked coins for free.

There are fears that the proliferation of bitcoin clones will damage the market by spreading confusion.

Elsewhere, gold may be a casualty of the rocketing bitcoin price, hitting a four-month low. Interest in bitcoin could be impacting on gold attracting new buyers.

"Whether or not bitcoin ever achieves common use as money, the cryptocurrency plainly offers investors a hot speculation and not a safe haven right now," says Adrian Ash, director of research at BullionVault, the world's largest online bullion exchange.

This article is for information and discussion purposes only and does not form a recommendation to invest or otherwise. The value of an investment may fall. The investments referred to in this article may not be suitable for all investors, and if in doubt, an investor should seek advice from a qualified investment adviser.