After surging more than 75% so far this year, bitcoin prices could finish 2016 even higher, according to a panel of experts polled by CoinDesk.
These market observers pointed to a range of factors when explaining their forecasts, including macroeconomic uncertainty, market dynamics and a currency war ignited by nations attempting to fix their exchange rates.
Strong year for bitcoin
Starting 2016 at roughly $430, the world's largest and most well-known digital currency has had a great year so far, breaking through $500 in May and then surpassing both $600 and $700 in June, according to the CoinDesk USD Bitcoin Price Index (BPI).
On 18th June, bitcoin prices reached $781.31, their highest price thus far in 2016, before falling back from this peak, additional BPI figures reveal. By the end of November, the digital currency was trading slightly north of $740, which represented a 72.5% year-to-date return for the first 11 months.
Bitcoin prices pushed higher during the first few weeks of December, reaching an annual high of $788.49 on the 13th of that month.
The digital currency's price has fluctuated between $700 and $800 since roughly mid-November, and it will likely finish the year in the upper half of this range, according to most analysts reached by CoinDesk.
Bullish market bets
Petar Zivkovski, director of operations for leveraged bitcoin trading platform Whaleclub, emphasized bullish market dynamics when explaining his forecast that bitcoin prices would be in the range of "$750-$780" by the end of 2016.
"We've seen a healthy dose of new money coming in to support price," he noted, and stressed that the markets have experienced a "lack of negative/bearish events" that would "trigger an aggressive selloff."
"Barring an unexpected bearish catalyst," bitcoin prices will finish the year within the expected range, he told CoinDesk.
Joe Lee, founder of Magnr, gave similar input when elaborating on his prediction that the digital currency would finish the year close to $800.
"Demand for bitcoin has been consistent throughout H2 2016 with macroeconomic uncertainty driving interest," he told CoinDesk, adding:
"As a non-correlated asset class, bitcoin is proving itself by standing the test of time. As a technology, it is maturing through the technology adoption lifecycle."
BTCC CEO Bobby Lee also provided an optimistic assessment, telling CoinDesk: "We like what we've been seeing from a fundamental as well as technical standpoint."
He also spoke to the lack of volatility the cryptocurrency has enjoyed as of late.
"Given bitcoin's price stability over the past few months, I think it will likely finish the year under $800." However, he added that there's a "small likelihood of an end-of-year price rally".
One factor that could increase the odds of such a year-end rally is speculative activity.
Traders have generally been bullish so far this year, and Whaleclub data shows that the market was 73% long during the first 11 months of 2016. 'Confidence', which measures how much larger than average a position's size was over a particular period, registered 77% over this timeframe.
Ryan Rabaglia, head trader for Octagon Strategies Limited, emphasized this key market factor when making his 2016 year-end forecast.
"As we've been bullish for quite some time, we're not going to stop now," he told CoinDesk. "Over the last two months there has been a fair amount of pushing and pulling from both the bulls and the bears, and with our retracement plays working out very well for us in 2016, we see a year close between 790 USD/BTC and 810 USD/BTC."
While Rabaglia pointed to market dynamics, Kong Gao, overseas marketing manager for bitcoin trader Richfund, emphasized the efforts nations are making to manipulate their currencies, telling CoinDesk that "the currency war is now full fledged".
While China has generated significant visibility for taking action to devalue the yuan relative to other countries, it is certainly not the only nation making an effort to either strengthen or weaken its native currency.
Because of this situation, Gao told CoinDesk "we predict (65% confidence level) that the [bitcoin] price will rise to about $900."
Providing an even more optimistic forecast, BitMEX co-founder and CEO Arthur Hayes believes bitcoin could enjoy even greater gains. He suggested that if the digital currency can breach $800, its "next big place of resistance" will be $1,000.
This "big figure number" is where bitcoin will finish 2016, predicted Hayes.
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