For the price of bitcoin, the summer was anything but smooth.
Markets boomed on news of ‘the Brexit‘, tapered off through the long-awaited halving and tumbled on the news yet another exchange had been hacked. Since then, the price has fluctuated between $550 and $600, returning to the “relative” calm observed earlier in the year.
But given bitcoin’s historical volatility, analysts are already beginning to question what may trigger bitcoin’s next big price swing.
As we head into the fall and winter months, a diverse set of theories are beginning to emerge about conditions that could either boost the price, or see it return to its 2015 lows.
Among the potential triggers cited by analysts, the emergence of a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF), an investment vehicle that generally tracks a basket of stocks or commodities, was perhaps the most often discussed.
Many market observers have been watching the status of two proposed ETFs with great interest, but for a while, there wasn’t any reason to hope for developments. However, excitement for a potential market first has grown in recent weeks following the July announcement of the SolidX Bitcoin Trust and amid new filings by the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust.
The approval of either could represent a milestone for the bitcoin community, analysts say, as the ETFs would enable authorized participants to issues shares tied to real bitcoin holdings, which could be a catalyst for new liquidity.
Daniel Masters, director of Global Advisors Bitcoin Investment Fund (GABI), noted recently that many commodities have enjoyed sharp increases in price and more robust trading activity once ETFs based on the underlying assets hit the market.
He wrote in an August blog post:
“From the early 2000s onward, there was a proliferation of ETFs covering all manner of commodity interests. In each and every case – for gold, silver, oil, natural gas, platinum, copper and even indices – the advent of the ETFs led to higher prices, more trading volume of futures and cash exchanges and higher levels of commodity futures open interest.”
Should either ETF receive approval, bitcoin could enjoy a notable increase in liquidity. It was this variable that Du Jun, co-founder of Chinese exchange Huobi, singled out as potentially driving the digital currency’s price higher.
“Bitcoin’s liquidity depends on the future of bitcoin’s value and investors’ expectation to a large extent,” Du said.
Yet another potential boost for the bitcoin price could come in the form of a long-awaited resolution to the “scaling” debate.
Currently, blocks of transactions on the bitcoin blockchain have a storage size of just 1MB. As this puts a limitation on the number of transactions the network can process (and therefore, some argue, adoption), there has been a sometimes messy and contentious drive in the community to change it.
But due to the tricky specifics of how a change to this hard-coded limit would need to be enacted, no consensus has yet been reached. Still, that doesn’t mean solutions aren’t on the way, the most notable of which is Segregated Witness (SegWit), an upgrade that recently saw a preliminary code release.
While promising for the network, though, analysts seemed less enthusiastic about SegWit’s potential impact on bitcoin prices.
Cryptocurrency investment fund manager Jacob Eliosoff, for example, said investors have likely already priced in the coming change as it was announced in December and originally expected to be deployed in April.
“SegWit’s release seems too gradual and widely expected (not to say overdue) to really bump the price,” Eliosoff said.
Tim Enneking, chairman of investment manager EAM, struck a similar tone, adding:
“I don’t think SegWit will have anything more than an incremental and marginal impact on BTC prices, at least in the short term.”
In one of the more unique claims, investor and entrepreneur Vinny Lingham singled out the halving of rewards on the bitcoin network as a potential influence.
The prediction may be surprising given that a planned technical change the reduced the mining reward from 25 BTC to 12.5 BTC took place earlier this summer, largely without fanfare.
But while bitcoin prices experienced little change this July, Lingham asserts its true impact has not yet been felt. In the next two-to-four weeks, forces resulting from the shift could cause the digital currency to surge, he said.
As detailed in a recent post, miners who aren’t turning enough profit, he contends, may soon be forced to buy bitcoin from exchanges, an event he said was likely to trigger a “short squeeze”, or a sharp increase in the price based on the lack of available supply.
He wrote in May:
“It’s the same as selling crops in the futures market and then being hit by a storm that wipes out half of your fields. The only way, technically, that this doesn’t happen, is if the price doubles on halving day (it won’t).”
Finally, some predicted bitcoin’s next major price event would be dependent on the stability of the global financial system.
Traders have repeatedly flocked to the digital currency in times of crisis, leading many market observers to label it a risk-off asset or even a “digital gold” that appeals during times of economic stress.
In the past, bitcoin has benefitted from situations such as the ‘Brexit’, as well as during periods of economic volatility in Greece and Cyprus.
It remains debatable how much of these increases is based on real capital flight, but there is still widespread belief that such events could come to be a powerful influencer going forward.
Huobi’s Du spoke to this matter, telling CoinDesk that when the global financial system experiences volatility, investors will “look for more safe-haven investments” like bitcoin.
Another variable remains government responses to the digital currency. If major countries accept bitcoin, analysts said, it will affect both the currency’s trading activity and value.
Pete Rizzo contributed reporting.
Seismograph image via Shutterstock
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