2016 has become a year of revival for the bitcoin price.
At a press time total of $640, the price of bitcoin is up nearly 50% from its opening on 1st January. While macroeconomic factors including uncertainty in China and Europe have arguably played a role, there may be no bigger influence than the upcoming halving, a rare network event that will occur this weekend.
While nobody knows for certain how the long-awaited reduction in rewards to miners will affect the network, market experts offered a range of predictions when speaking with CoinDesk on how it may impact the price of bitcoin.
Some forecasted the event would push prices higher, while others expected it to have a depressing effect or no impact at all on bitcoin prices. Market experts also offered a range of predictions for how the halving will affect bitcoin volatility.
For background, bitcoin miners use high-power computers to compete to add blocks of transaction data to the bitcoin blockchain. Every time a miner successfully completes a new block and provides a proof of work, that miner receives a reward. This reward, which was originally 50 BTC, is expected to drop to 12.5 BTC on or around 9th July.
Over time, this reward will continue to "halve", until the network creates 21 million bitcoins, the current cap on how many will be issued.
Market observers have been aware of the upcoming halving for years, a development recognized by Petar Zivkovski, director of operations for bitcoin trading platform Whaleclub.
In his words, anticipation for the event has been "building up over the past few months", which means investors betting on certain expectations will soon meet reality, and readjust positions accordingly.
Price rally predictions
Some market experts have predicted the digital currency will keep rising after the halving.
Among those is Joe Lee, founder of derivatives trading platform Magnr, who told CoinDesk he expects prices to move higher in the days following this event. However, he added that "in the short term", the halving will not impact price significantly.
Investor and entrepreneur Vinny Lingham also expects a price rally should the number of bitcoin owners willing to sell decline. Under these conditions, bitcoin prices should enjoy "slow but steady increases," he said.
In addition, a short squeeze could materialize as a result of some miners coming under pressure, forcing the price to move up rapidly.
Lee told CoinDesk he foresees some "short-term volatility led by speculative trading activity", but emphasized that this development will have "a limited effect on price".
Lingham, however, stressed that "bitcoin is always volatile", adding:
"The biggest mistake we can all make it is to believe that the price will always rise even when confronted with changes in the macro, political and technology landscapes."
Potential price declines
Lingham noted that while everything might be fine after the halving, the event could trigger a number of unforeseen possibilities, the impact of which is impossible to know in advance.
The event has "technical and economic repercussions" that market analysts have not incorporated into bitcoin's price, he contends.
Depending on how things turn out following the halving, Lingham projects bitcoin could enter a "longer term (3-6 month) consolidation phase" following halving day where it seeks "a new price floor with high volatility" that he guesses could be "in the $400-$500 range".
While Lingham identified unforeseen events as potentially driving bitcoin prices lower, Zivkovski noted that the excitement the market has built up for the halving won't last forever.
"We expect this buy pressure to subside in the weeks following the halving, culminating in large profit-taking events for early accumulators ($200-$300 buyers)," he said.
This profit taking will push bitcoin prices "down to historical support levels," he predicted. Though, he cautioned he lacks the data for this belief.
Rik Willard, founder and managing director of Agentic Group LLC, revealed that he also foresaw a decline in bitcoin prices, although he expected this drop to be temporary.
"I think that, like a stock split, we will see a natural initial devaluation per bitcoin," he told CoinDesk, adding:
"That said, I expect the price to rise almost to current levels rather more quickly than if it were an actual stock, based on extreme bullishness from the sector."
Based around this expectation, Willard indicated he did not anticipate significant volatility resulting from the halving event. Zivkovski provided a similar point of view, emphasizing that volatility "was not substantial" the last time a halving took place.
"We expect volatility to be relatively normal this time around as well, at and around the halving, because the event is already well-priced in," he said.
Maintaining the status quo
While the aforementioned experts spoke to rallies and declines, Arthur Hayes, co-founder and CEO of bitcoin leverage trading platform BitMEX, asserted that the halving will have no impact on the market.
"My baseline projection is that the halving will have zero effect on the bitcoin price," he told CoinDesk. "The reduction of bitcoin inflation is such a small amount compared with averaged daily trading volume that is a well hyped distraction."
He elaborated by stating that if bitcoin's price were still between $300 and $400, the "halving might have a significant impact on whether miners continued operations", but that at $600 to $700, he doesn't believe it will be a factor.
Daniel Masters, who runs the Global Advisors Bitcoin Investment Fund, told CoinDesk that he believes the halving won't have much impact on bitcoin prices, at least initially.
While some might look to halving events with anxiety, speculating that it may make it economically unfeasible for some miners to stay in business, Lee asserted that many in the bitcoin community take a different tack.
"The community views halving events as a sign of network maturity," he told CoinDesk, adding:
"The halving represents a huge milestone for the field of computer science as it represents the world's largest and most powerful (cryptographically secure) distributed computing project."
Charles L. Bovaird II is a financial writer and consultant with strong knowledge of securities markets and investing concepts.
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