Bitcoin has lagged gold this year as investors looked for hedges against inflation – especially with the Federal Reserve creating trillions of dollars of fresh money to offset the devastating economic and market toll of the coronavirus.
The oldest cryptocurrency jumped 13% on Wednesday, the most in six weeks, as Fed Chair Jerome Powell promised an "unlimited pot" of money to keep the U.S. economy from collapsing.
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Bitcoin is now trading at roughly $8,860, for a year-to-date gain of 24%.
Gold, a symbol of riches and monetary stability at least since the Sumerians civilized Mesopotamia, is up just 13% in 2020. And the Standard & Poor's 500 Index of U.S. stocks is still negative on the year, down 9%.
Over the span of April, bitcoin has succeeded in reclaiming its status as one of the world's best-performing assets, following a 94% return in 2019 that was three times the gains in the S&P 500.
Just the bragging rights alone might attract more bitcoin buyers, at a time when central bank money injections are already starting to attract the interest of a broader swath of investors.
"Investors for years were just kind of scratching the surface of bitcoin and crypto," Joe DiPasquale, CEO of cryptocurrency hedge fund BitBull Capital in San Francisco, said Wednesday in a phone interview. "Now there's been this seismic shift in the investor community, which is that they know what it is and increasingly understand the proposition of bitcoin as a deflationary asset, versus the dollar as an inflationary asset."
It would be hard to argue that the cryptocurrency's performance through the first four months of the year isn't remarkable, given the backdrop of the global pandemic and the fact that the digital asset was concocted by computer programmers just 11 years ago.
Wednesday's move up looked powerful, too: Bitcoin blew past price points that charting analysts had tagged as resistance levels, such as the 100-day and 200-day moving averages of the cryptocurrency's price.
Delphi Digital's Kevin Kelly noted in a report later in the day that bitcoin's volatility can be friend or foe: "We must be prepared to face its ugly twin eventually."
In the meantime, the year-to-date title puts bitcoin in a better position to capitalize on the marketing bonanza sure to come from the cryptocurrency's once-every-four-years "halving," now fewer than two weeks away.
The halving, in which the pace of new issuance of bitcoins gets cut in half, was hard-coded into the Bitcoin blockchain's original programming as a way of limiting inflation. Ultimately, no more than 21 million bitcoins can ever be minted.
Mark Warner, head of trading for London-based BCB Group, a financial firm focused on digital assets, said in an email that Wednesday's rally was likely fueled by enthusiasm over the halving.
"The jockeying for position ahead of the halving is now starting," Rich Rosenblum, a former Goldman Sachs managing director who now leads the markets group at the digital-asset trading firm GSR, wrote in an email.
For now, the digital gold, not the yellow metal, appears to be the favored horse.
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BTC: Price: $8,8783 (BPI) | 24-Hr High: $9,469 | 24-Hr Low: $8,111
Trend: Bitcoin has pulled back from two-month highs above $9,400 hit early on Thursday, confirming signs of buyer exhaustion on the intraday technical charts.
The hourly chart is now reporting a bearish divergence of the relative strength index (RSI), which occurs when an indicator forms a lower high, contradicting a higher high on price.
Further, the current four-hour candle is flashing red and validating the preceding spinning top candle – signaling a weakening of upward momentum.
As a result, the cryptocurrency may consolidate for the next day or so. That said, most analysts expect bitcoin to continue rising toward $10,000 ahead of the mining reward halving, scheduled to take effect on May 12.
"While bitcoin miners are choosing to hold, the number of actual participants in the market is hitting new highs amid the expectation that this halving event will play out like the last one and push the price up sharply," said Simon Peters, an analyst and crypto asset expert at investment platform eToro. "With these tailwinds in place, we think it is likely the price will go above $10,000 before the halving actually takes place."
From a technical standpoint, the probability of bitcoin testing five figures in the next 12 days would weaken if the spot price finds acceptance under the 200-day average at $8,000.
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