Bitcoin is in a bear market. Let’s not beat about the bush, or try to spin it. The price is falling – it fell 10% just while I was asleep last night and it’s already almost 40% off its highs.
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. It’s a bear market.
So what happens next? How long does it go on for? Where does it fall to? And, most importantly, what do we do?
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Bitcoin is on the slide. But what do you do about it?
Bitcoin, as we know, is a highly speculative asset. It is not only a new technology, but a new technology that is money. A more “bubbly” asset has never been designed.
It thus evokes all the emotions that come with a speculative mania. In fact, it heightens them to the “nth” degree. Massive FOMO (fear of missing out) on the way up, as well as elation, exhilaration and delusion.
When it goes into a bear market, the opposite happens, with equal emotional intensity. I don’t know what the opposite to FOMO is – GMOOTT, maybe (get me out of this thing). There will be denial (hence all the arguing, especially with Elon Musk), fear, capitulation and despair.
Just as many lose perspective on the way up – “it’s going to a million dollars!” – so will many lose perspective on the way down – “it’s finished, bitcoin is over!”
Lots of bad decisions are going to get made. In fact, many bad decisions have already been made – buying near the top. Now it’s about damage limitation; do you sell now, take a loss and buy back lower? Easy to say, hard to do.
The particularly hard thing to do is the buying back lower bit. Bitcoin goes to $30,000. Do you buy now? “No, I think it’s going to $20,000”. It goes to $20,000. At this point pessimism is so pronounced that it is very, very difficult to persuade yourself to buy. So you don’t. Then bitcoin reverses and before you know it, it’s back above $40,000, and you’ve lost your position.
So do you “hodl”? This is the tried and tested practice of holding no matter what. It’s been the most effective bitcoin trading strategy since its inception 12 years ago; perhaps it will be again. Who knows? But hodling is very hard too. It takes extraordinary will power to hold through two years of bear market.
How much further could bitcoin fall? Here are the key technical levels
Just before I went to bed last night bitcoin was sitting around $43,500. It fell $5,000 in the time I was asleep – that’s over 10%.
Shortly before shuteye, I was posting on Twitter that if $42,000 doesn’t hold, then $30,000 comes into play. Technical analysis 101 says that’s the next line of support.
After $30,000, then $20,000 comes into play. $20,000 is the old high from 2017 – a monumental price point. It would be very typical of bitcoin to come back to that level, touch it and then resume normal business – to kiss $20,000 goodbye.
I’m not saying that will happen, because I don’t know. I’m just speculating (and with words, not money). Heck, I wouldn’t rule out going all the way back to $12,000. But bitcoin could just as easily turn up and rally from here. You know what it’s like.
The bull market was tired. Bear markets in bitcoin are normal. They are as vicious as the bull markets are epic, they are part of the territory and that is where we are now.
The Financial Times will be all over it, so will the BBC and The Economist. There’ll be stories about lost fortunes. Many of the scams will be exposed. There will be calls for greater government intervention and regulation. But all the while the tech will evolve and improve.
I would say we have moved on from the “denial” phase and are now in the “fear” stage. We still have “capitulation” and “despair” to go. That is also when we reach peak gloating from “nocoiners”.
This bull market hasn’t been quite as epic as previous bitcoin bull markets, so the corresponding bear market probably won’t see the usual 85%-90% correction (I think there have been five of these so far). But a bear market is still a bear market.
Bitcoin isn’t over. It will come back. But when it starts feeling like it’s over, that’s the time to be buying. Ultimately, if you are selling your bitcoin for fiat currency, you are exchanging a superior asset for an inferior one. It’s usually better to hold quality assets, even in bear markets.
This isn’t about Elon Musk – this is about the return of real assets
By the way, despite the fact that many will blame Elon Musk’s recent tweets for these falls in price, there is a bigger force at play here. Bitcoin is a new technology. It has been behaving like a tech stock. Bitcoin and the Nasdaq have been tracking each other for some time.
For some 13 years – since 2008 – tech stocks, digital assets in other words, have been dramatically outperforming commodities (real stuff). That is another bull market that is over. It has reversed. Real stuff is outperforming again, and I rather suspect it is going to do so for a good few years yet.
My goodness me, this is a reversal that is overdue. Tech trashed commodities from the late 1980s to 2000; between 2000 and 2002 commodities had their day; from 2002 to 2008 the two range-traded. Tech has led since 2008 and it will lead again. The scalability of digital is phenomenal.
But for now, real stuff is retracing some of the huge ground that has been lost. That should continue for a few years yet is my view. Here’s the ratio of the Nasdaq versus the CRB commodities index over the last five years. It has clearly turned up; Covid marked the bottom.
Bitcoin’s slide is part of that rotation from digital into real stuff.
For now the negative narratives are taking over. If the price continues to fall, they will get even more pronounced. A little bit of upward price action, however, and the overwhelming bullish bitcoin story will take over once again.
I’m hodling bitcoin. But I’m hodling lots of real stuff too.
Daylight Robbery – How Tax Shaped The Past And Will Change The Future is now out in paperback at Amazon and all good bookstores with the audiobook, read by Dominic, on Audible and elsewhere.
Dominic Frisby (“mercurially witty” – the Spectator) is the world’s only financial writer and comedian. He is MoneyWeek’s main commentator on gold, commodities, currencies and cryptocurrencies. He is the author of the books Bitcoin: the Future of Money? and Life After The State. He also co-wrote the documentary Four Horsemen, and presents the chat show, Stuff That Interests Me.
His show 2016 Let’s Talk About Tax was a huge hit at the Edinburgh Festival and Penguin Random House have since commissioned him to write a book on the subject – Daylight Robbery – the past, present and future of tax will be published later this year. His 2018 Edinburgh Festival show, Dominic Frisby's Financial Gameshow, won rave reviews. Dominic was educated at St Paul's School, Manchester University and the Webber-Douglas Academy Of Dramatic Art.
You can follow him on Twitter @dominicfrisby
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