Bitcoin comes of age as a new inflation hedge

Bitcoin has risen by 370% since mid-March, with its ability to hedge against inflation a big part of its appeal.

“A fraud, a rip-off, a sucker’s bet.” But for all the invective heaped upon it, bitcoin continues to soar, says Edward Robinson on Bloomberg. The cryptocurrency eclipsed $20,000 last week and then charged on, briefly hitting $24,000. Bitcoin has risen by 370% since mid-March. 

But this is still a highly volatile asset that can plunge by 10% at the drop of the hat. Investors who bought in at the height of the last boom in 2017 found themselves enduring a long bear market. Bitcoin isn’t even this year’s best-performing digital currency: its 184% gain is overshadowed by the near 360% rise of Ether, another cryptocurrency, notes Paul Vigna in The Wall Street Journal. 

The big difference from 2017 is that professional investors are now jumping on board. British investment manager Ruffer recently disclosed that it “was holding about $744m of bitcoin”. The currency is increasingly regarded as a mainstream asset class and source of diversification, says Izabella Kaminska in the Financial Times. This year “bitcoin went institutional”. Perhaps the best argument in the currency’s favour is that it is “still standing”: after 12 years of scrutiny, hacks and speculative frenzy, bitcoin is resilient, “if not flourishing”.  

Its potential as an inflation hedge has long been part of its appeal, says Noelle Acheson on coindesk.com. Only 21 million bitcoins will ever be created. It is also increasingly regarded as protection against all the ills that can accompany an inflationary disaster: authoritarian governments and social instability. Bitcoin might seem weird, but then conventional politics and economics is also getting weird – witness the rising popularity of “modern monetary theory” (MMT). “More than a hedge against inflation,” its fans hope bitcoin is “a hedge against ‘crazy’.”

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