Omicron variant takes a bite out of bitcoin

Far from being a modern safe haven against market crashes, bitcoin fell by more than 20% this week as the Omicron variant ran rampant.

Even bitcoin can’t escape Omicron. The digital currency plunged over the weekend, tumbling by more than a fifth to hit $41,967. Bitcoin reached an all-time high of $68,521 last month but has since lost momentum. Despite the latest pullback the digital currency is still up 75% since the start of the year. 

The “gut-wrenching fall” will have left “even some veteran crypto bulls feeling a touch queasy”, says Mark DeCambre on MarketWatch. Crypto’s fans argue that digital assets aren’t correlated with the prices of other assets such as stocks and bonds, providing invaluable portfolio diversification. The trouble is that “crypto has been trading more in step” with equity and bond markets recently, with the weekend plunge following a sell-off on the S&P 500.  

The past couple of weeks have shown that bitcoin is not a safe-haven when equity markets plunge, says Ipek Ozkardeskaya of Swissquote, an investment platform. “Bitcoin is a very high-risk asset, and it is not a proven hedge against inflation.” The case for crypto being an inflation hedge looks “flimsy” given the asset’s “huge volatility”, say Simon Duke and Ben Martin in The Times. Cryptocurrencies cannot be “stable stores of value when they have become a magnet for financial speculators.” The latest sell-off was compounded by leverage: some traders speculate on cryptocurrency with “as little as 5% of the size of their investment upfront”. Falls in bitcoin can then force exchanges to sell clients’ positions, fuelling price falls. 

Bitcoin’s growing popularity with Wall Street is part of the problem: the stockmarket’s recent falls may have forced hedge funds to sell their bitcoin holdings to raise cash. As a “growing army of institutional investors” move into crypto, bitcoin’s correlation with stocks will only increase.  

Recommended

Share tips of the week – 2 December
Share tips

Share tips of the week – 2 December

MoneyWeek’s comprehensive guide to the best of this week’s share tips from the rest of the UK's financial pages.
2 Dec 2022
Is it cheaper to leave the heating on low all day?
Personal finance

Is it cheaper to leave the heating on low all day?

The weather is getting colder and energy bills are rising, but is it really cheaper to leave the heating on low all day or should you only turn it on …
1 Dec 2022
The best offers for switching banks – get up to £200 free cash
Personal finance

The best offers for switching banks – get up to £200 free cash

Looking to move bank accounts? You can now bag as much as £200 for switching current accounts from two major banks
1 Dec 2022
UK stock market opening times: when will the stock market close for Christmas?
Stockmarkets

UK stock market opening times: when will the stock market close for Christmas?

Here is everything you need to know about UK stock market opening times during the Christmas period of 2022.
1 Dec 2022

Most Popular

Fan heater vs oil heater – which is cheaper?
Personal finance

Fan heater vs oil heater – which is cheaper?

Sales of portable heaters have soared, as households look to cut their energy costs. But which is better: a fan heater or an oil heater? We put them t…
21 Nov 2022
Best regular savings accounts – December 2022
Savings

Best regular savings accounts – December 2022

You can earn an attractive rate on the best regular savings accounts. We tell you the best on the market to take advantage of right now
1 Dec 2022
2 investment trusts with growing dividends: which one should you invest in?
Investment trusts

2 investment trusts with growing dividends: which one should you invest in?

They might not have spectacular yields but these two trusts have increased their dividend every year for 55 years.
24 Nov 2022