March 1, 2021

This isn't the $50,000 Bitcoin you're looking for

[] This isn’t the $50,000 Bitcoin we predicted | Fortune© 2020 Fortune Media IP Limited. All Rights Reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our u003ca href="https://fortune.com/terms-of-use/">Terms of Useu003c/a> and u003ca href="https://fortune.com/privacy-policy/">Privacy Policyu003c/a> | u003ca href="/california-privacy-policy/#notice">CA Notice at Collection and Privacy Noticeu003c/a> | u003ca href="https://fortune.com/right-to-opt-out/">Do Not Sell My Personal Informationu003c/a> | u003ca href="http://preferences-mgr.trustarc.com/?pid=fortunemedia01&aid=fortunemedia01_pub&type=fortunemedia">Ad Choices u003c/a>u003cbr />nFORTUNE is a trademark of Fortune Media IP Limited, registered in the U.S. and other countries. FORTUNE may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.u003cbr />nQuotes delayed at least 15 minutes. 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It’s a crucial psychological threshold and will, in the inimitable logic of bull markets (u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2021/01/02/is-bitcoin-a-bubble-will-it-crash-again-history/">or bubblesu003c/a>) spur the price even higher by the time you read this. But today’s $50,000 Bitcoin might not be quite the vindication longtime crypto advocates would like to think.u003c/p>u003cp>u003c!-- piano selector -->u003c/p>u003cdiv class="paywall"> u003cp>I say that even though $50,000 is a feather in the cap for myself and the Ledger team: to put it crudely, we knew this was going to happen. Robert Hackett explicitly called $50k in our u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2020/12/01/2021-predictions-economy-politics-technology-entertainment/">2021 Crystal Ballu003c/a>, but I’m personally fond of u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2014/02/18/could-there-be-a-50000-bitcoin/">this piece from 2014u003c/a>, when Stanford economist Susan Athey told me that Bitcoin hitting $50,000 was plausible. (The price at the time: $623 per BTC.)u003c/p> u003cp>It’s very tempting to be smug about this sort of thing, and believe me, I frequently give in to that temptation. But predictions are a dime a dozen, and everyone in the business gets more wrong than they get right. (For instance, I was positive Bitcoin would u003ca href="https://twitter.com/davidzmorris/status/1328680750103859200">top out at around $35,000u003c/a> this cycle.)u003c/p> u003cp>And if those of us who predicted this future were honest with ourselves, we’d admit that this time, we were right for the wrong reasons.u003c/p> u003cp>Susan Athey’s 2014 assessment of potential future Bitcoin prices shows this clearly. Our discussion centered on various scenarios for the adoption of Bitcoin for specific payments use cases, such as retail and international remittances. The demand for those uses, Athey and other bullish thinkers at the time argued, would motivate Bitcoin buying and, through the principle of supply and demand, drive the price up.u003c/p> u003cp>In case you haven’t noticed, that’s not how we got here. Largely thanks to practical technical barriers, Bitcoin has turned out to be pretty bad for retail payments. Use for remittances has shown steady growth, but it’s still not nearly enough to drive the prices we’re seeing now.u003c/p> u003cp>Instead, the basic driver of today’s Bitcoin price is speculation on a scale I don’t think anyone could have predicted in 2014. It was Tesla’s purchase of u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2021/02/08/tesla-buys-bitcoin-elon-musk-tsla-btc/">$1.5 billion worth of Bitcoinu003c/a> on February 8 – not its use by a u003ca href="https://www.coindesk.com/airtm-airdrop-venezuela-crypto-donation-results">few thousand Venezuelansu003c/a> – that triggered the final push across the $50,000 barrier.u003c/p> u003cp>Superficially, Tesla and other recent big-name investors are betting on the “store of value” thesis for Bitcoin demand, which started to dominate in roughly 2017. Bitcoin transactions may be too expensive to use it to pay for a cup of coffee, the argument goes, but they make a good bank account, especially since Bitcoin is (debatably) uncorrelated with other asset prices. (It’s also vital to acknowledge that the current runup was aided by loose fiscal and monetary policy, and u003ca href="https://davidzmorris.substack.com/p/gamestop-sandworms-into-the-future">a shortageu003c/a> of solid, non-speculative investment opportunities in the overall market.)u003c/p> u003cp>The problem is that this idea is functionally very hard to distinguish from a totally different way of thinking about Bitcoin’s price – the theory of the Greater Fool. Because while they won’t say it very loudly, every corporate treasury and investment fund currently buying Bitcoin is doing it at least in part on the assumption that demand for Bitcoin from new investors, not new users, will continue to push up the price, or at the very least keep it steady. RBC basically stated this outright in its recommendation that u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2021/02/08/tesla-bought-bitcoin-will-apple-be-next/">Apple buy Bitcoinu003c/a>. Tesla's investment is already up 20%, generating more gains in two weeks u003ca href="https://www.theverge.com/2020/7/22/21333954/tesla-q2-earnings-profit-model-y-revenue-elon-musk-covid-19">than the company makes producing carsu003c/a> in three months.u003c/p> u003cp>And when you look for the possible reason for expecting further price jumps, things get circular very quickly. At this point, the only thing that could reasonably drive Bitcoin higher in the near term is more large-scale buying, whether by institutions or individuals. What’s unclear is whether we can rightly consider these buyers ‘users’ when the explicit goal is simply to sit on the money.u003c/p> u003cp>To put a rosier tint on it, recent big buys reflect u003ca href="https://www.amazon.com/Bitcoin-Magic-Internet-Memetic-Warfare-ebook/dp/B07YXH973Y">faith in the idea of Bitcoin itselfu003c/a>. And if you think of Bitcoin as a currency, that broadening faith may be more important than investment-oriented ideas like supply and demand.u003c/p> u003cp>But nonetheless, it’s something all Bitcoin buyers should be thinking hard about: If nobody’s actually riding the merry-go-round, will it eventually stop?u003c/p> u003cp>u003cstrong>David Morrisu003c/strong>u003c/p> u003cp>u003ca href="https://twitter.com/davidzmorris">@davidzmorrisu003c/a>u003c/p> u003cp>u003ca href="mailto:david.morris@fortune.com">david.morris@fortune.comu003c/a>u003c/p> u003ch3>DECENTRALIZED NEWSu003c/h3>nu003cp>u003cstrong>Creditsu003c/strong>u003c/p>nu003cp>u003cstrong>Bitcoinu003c/strong> price u003ca href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/bitcoin-trades-above-50-000-for-first-time-11613479752">tops $50,000 for the first timeu003c/a> … u003cstrong>Mastercard u003c/strong>will u003ca href="https://www.coindesk.com/mastercard-accepts-crypto-payments">allow crypto payments on its networku003c/a> this year … u003cstrong>Blockchain.comu003c/strong> u003ca href="https://www.theblockcrypto.com/linked/95141/google-ventures-blockchain-raises-120m">raises $120mu003c/a> … u003cstrong>Alexei Navalnyu003c/strong> raises u003ca href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-politics-navalny-crypto-curren/bitcoin-donations-surge-to-jailed-kremlin-critic-navalnys-cause-data-idUSKBN2AB2GR">Bitcoin to fight Putinu003c/a> … u003cstrong>Amazon u003c/strong>moving towards u003ca href="https://www.coindesk.com/amazon-digital-currency-mexico">digital currency in Mexicou003c/a> … u003cstrong>Dogecoin u003c/strong>creator u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2021/02/11/dogecoin-price-rise-creator-market-cap/">baffled by its boomu003c/a> … Robinhood competitor u003ca href="https://www.businessinsider.com/fintech-publiccom-valued-at-about-12-billion-in-round-led-by-tiger-2021-2">Public.comu003c/a> u003ca href="https://www.businessinsider.com/fintech-publiccom-valued-at-about-12-billion-in-round-led-by-tiger-2021-2">valued at $1.2 Billionu003c/a> … u003cstrong>Bitcoin ETF u003c/strong>gains approval u003ca href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-12/purpose-investments-says-canadian-regulators-approve-bitcoin-etf">(in Canada)u003c/a> … The decline of cash is u003ca href="https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/12/cryptocurrency-dwindling-cash-use-is-pushing-central-banks.html">motivating central bank digitizationu003c/a> … u003cstrong>Zelleu003c/strong> becomes a haven from u003ca href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-11-11/zelle-has-turned-dollar-starved-venezuela-into-a-cashless-test-lab">Venezuelan hyperinflationu003c/a> … u003cstrong>IBMu003c/strong> bets big on u003ca href="https://www.protocol.com/fintech/ibm-fintech-cloud">the banking cloudu003c/a> … u003cstrong>MicroStrategyu003c/strong> wants to buy another u003ca href="https://www.coindesk.com/microstrategy-files-to-offer-600m-in-notes-in-order-to-buy-yet-more-bitcoin">$600m+ worth of Bitcoinu003c/a> … u003ca href="https://www.protocol.com/fintech/current-bank-cto-fintech">The unique tech stacku003c/a> behind u003cstrong>Currentu003c/strong> … u003cstrong>Christie’su003c/strong> to auction its first piece of u003ca href="https://decrypt.co/57869/christies-to-auction-ethereum-nft-by-crypto-artist-beeple">blockchain artu003c/a>.u003c/p>nu003cp>u003cstrong>Debitsu003c/strong>u003c/p>nu003cp>19 year old crypto investing genius was u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2021/02/14/crypto-fraud-virgil-capital-convicted/">actually running a Ponziu003c/a> (related: u003ca href="https://www.ipswichstar.co.uk/news/crime/man-bitten-by-dog-in-kesgrave-suffolk-7327622">Dog bites manu003c/a> in Ipswitch, U.K.) … u003cstrong>Robinhood u003c/strong>CEO u003ca href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-16/hiding-in-hotel-robinhood-ceo-prepares-for-political-face-off">hiding out in a hotelu003c/a> … u003cstrong>Verge u003c/strong>cryptocurrency suffers u003ca href="https://medium.com/vergecurrency/the-verge-re-org-attempt-7ad2ac986244">attempted ‘reorg’ attacku003c/a>, says u003ca href="https://medium.com/vergecurrency/the-verge-re-org-attempt-7ad2ac986244">user funds are secureu003c/a> … u003cstrong>China’su003c/strong> blockchain stocks are u003ca href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-15/china-s-cryptocurrency-stocks-left-behind-in-bitcoin-frenzy">missing out on the crypto boomu003c/a> … u003ca href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/joshuarhodes/2021/02/14/valentines-day-giving-the-texas-electric-grid-the-cold-shoulder/?sh=50397d3e740c">Thank deregulationu003c/a> foru003cstrong> Texas’u003c/strong> energy-pricing woes … u003cstrong>Tron u003c/strong>allegedly u003ca href="https://decrypt.co/57846/justin-sun-denies-paying-celebrities-to-promote-tron">paid celebs for secret promotionu003c/a>.u003c/p>nu003ch3>BUBBLE-O-METERu003c/h3>nu003cp style="text-align: center">415.4%u003c/p>nu003cp style="text-align: center">Bitcoin’s 12-month returns as of Wednesday February 17, 2021.u003c/p>nu003ch3>FOMO NO MOu003c/h3>nu003cp style="text-align: center">u003cem>“What would it take for them to be positive that it was an error?”u003c/em>u003c/p>nu003cp>Vinny Fratta, the third and final staffer to review and approve a $900 million wire transfer made by Citigroup on behalf of Revlon, in u003ca href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-11/citi-s-rush-to-recover-900-million-meant-hitting-phones-hard">chats presented as evidenceu003c/a> during the ensuing trial. That trial was necessary because the massive payment was sent by mistake: it was supposed to be u003ca href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/judge-lets-revlon-lenders-keep-citis-botched-500-million-payment-11613490508">an $8 million interest paymentu003c/a>. Some of the recipients u003ca href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-11/citi-s-rush-to-recover-900-million-meant-hitting-phones-hard">returned the fundsu003c/a> when notified of the error, but a judge u003ca href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-16/citigroup-loses-fight-to-get-back-millions-in-mistaken-transfer">ruled on Tuesdayu003c/a> that financial finality rules mean Citi can’t force the return of the $504 million still outstanding.u003c/p>nu003cp>Yet that’s barely scraping the surface of what may be the biggest fat finger in history. During the case, the hedge funds claiming the right to keep the money maintained that they believed it was an early payment in full for some of Revlon’s debt. That’s especially plausible because Revlon has struggled to get u003ca href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-01/revlon-lenders-allege-default-with-new-debt-deal-nearing-close">lender approval for a refinancing planu003c/a>, which might have been made easier by closing out some of the debt. The tranche in question didn’t come due until 2023, but lenders were happy to have it back early because of Revlon’s wider problems.u003c/p>nu003cp>An appeal in the case is very likely. But if that fails, Citi may or may not be able to get the payment amount back from Revlon. The cosmetics maker has previously said the money was Citi’s alone, a position Revlon will likely try to stick to: credit markets value the loan at u003ca href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-16/citigroup-loses-fight-to-get-back-millions-in-mistaken-transfer">less than half its face valueu003c/a>, so repayment in full is not necessarily in Revlon’s best interest.u003c/p>nu003ch3>THE LEDGER’S LATESTu003c/h3>nu003cp>u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2021/02/13/elon-musk-tesla-bitcoin-bet-1-5-billion-alex-pickard/">Former miner says Tesla’s Bitcoin bet is “crazy”u003c/a> u003cstrong>– Shawn Tullyu003c/strong>u003c/p>nu003cp>u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2021/02/12/gme-gamestop-federal-probe-reddit-stocks-doj-justice-department-wallstreetbets-market-manipulation-amc/">DOJ opens Federal probe into GameStop tradingu003c/a> u003cstrong>– Chris Morrisu003c/strong>u003c/p>nu003cp>u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2021/02/11/stonks-stock-market-gamestop-reddit-wallstreetbets-ai-hedge-funds-losses-gme-amc/">A.I. didn’t see meme stocks coming, eitheru003c/a> u003cstrong>– Jeremy Kahnu003c/strong>u003c/p>nu003cp>u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2021/02/11/racism-on-wall-street-diversity-racial-bias-emily-flitter-banking-financial-services/">Financial racism isn’t a thing of the pastu003c/a> u003cstrong>– McKenna Mooreu003c/strong>u003c/p>nu003cp>u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2021/02/15/chip-shortage-2021-cars-computers-auto-industry-technology-covid-19/">The great chip shortage of u003cdel>2020u003c/del> 2021u003c/a>u003cstrong> – Aaron Pressmanu003c/strong>u003c/p>nu003cp>u003ca href="https://fortune.com/2021/02/12/gamestop-stock-worth-value-reddit-wallstreetbets-gme-amc/">Even at $50, $GME madness isn’t over yetu003c/a> u003cstrong>– Geoff Colvinu003c/strong>u003c/p>nu003ch3>MEMES AND MUMBLESu003c/h3>nu003cp>u003ca href="https://content.fortune.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Lohan-Tron.jpg">u003cimg loading="lazy" class="size-full wp-image-2954259 aligncenter" src="https://content.fortune.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Lohan-Tron.jpg" alt="" width="757" height="150" />u003c/a>u003c/p>nu003cp style="text-align: center">Just an unremarkable bit of u003ca href="https://decrypt.co/57846/justin-sun-denies-paying-celebrities-to-promote-tron">entirely sincere enthusiasmu003c/a> that will certainly never become an u003ca href="https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/nov/29/floyd-mayweather-dj-khaled-cryptocurrency-sec-fines">exhibit in an SEC filingu003c/a>.u003c/p>nu003cp>u003cem>This edition of The Ledger was curated by David Z. Morris. Contact him at david.morris@fortune.comu003c/em>u003c/p>nu003c/div>n"},"children":[]}]}]},{"name":"dianomi","config":{"type":"footer"},"children":[]}]}]}]}},"componentData":{},"error":null,"loading":false,"player":{"currentTime":0,"duration":0,"loading":false,"playing":false,"seek":0,"src":"","visible":false,"volume":0.5},"route":{"status":200,"redirectTo":"","redirectStatus":0,"action":"PUSH","pathname":"/2021/02/17/this-isnt-the-50000-bitcoin-we-predicted/","search":"?","hash":""},"visible":{"search":false,"primaryNav":false,"freestar":false,"adminBar":false},"contactForm":{"submitting":false,"submitted":false,"failed":false,"validation":{},"redirect":""},"user":{"isLoggedIn":false,"accessLevel":null}}; ]]> Source

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