Cryptocurrency is a form of payment that can be exchanged online for goods and services. Many companies have issued their own currencies, often called tokens, and these can be traded specifically for the good or service that the company provides. Cryptocurrencies work using a technology called blockchain. Blockchain is a decentralized technology spread across many computers that manages and records transactions. A large part of the appeal of this digital technology is in its security.
Just recently, in the middle of April 2021, many cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, have hit their all-time peak trading price. The table below shows the 10 largest trading cryptocurrencies by market capitalization as tracked by CoinMarketCap, a cryptocurrency data and analytics provider.
It may be surprising for readers to learn there are currently over 6,700 different cryptocurrencies that are publicly traded, with a total market capitalization of over $2.2 trillion (CoinMarketCap). But the central question remains: why have cryptocurrencies continued to skyrocket in popularity and are they a good investment?
Studies have shown different reasons for the rise in cryptocurrency trading, but there are definite common denominators between the different sources. There’s the most popular reason; investors see this as the ‘currency of the future’, therefore they are buying now in anticipation of elevated future prices. Secondary reasons include a particular interest in crypto’s technology and security aspects (as previously mentioned), plus many investors cite them as being immune from inflation concerns, since there are no central bank regulations. Finally, crypto’s are attractive investments to swing sellers due to their relatively large and very rapid market price changes. For example, while Bitcoin traded at close to $20,000 in December 2017, its value then dropped to as low as about $3,200 a year later. By December 2020, it was trading at record levels again.
Finally, onto the golden question every market participant looks to make sense of: are cryptocurrencies a good investment at this time? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a straightforward yes or no. As with the lastly cited example of Bitcoin, you can make a lot of money in a short period of time, if you are entering and exiting the market at a wise time. However, it’s important to keep in mind that at this stage, these are purely speculative investments with no tangible assets to back them. Nonetheless, investors are looking for undervalued assets or securities but just like any other currency, cryptocurrencies generate no cash flow, so for you to profit, someone has to pay more for the currency than you did. This is specifically dubbed “the greater fool” theory of investment. Contrast that to a well-managed business, which increases its value over time by growing the profitability and cash flow of the operation. The latter is a far more stable, confident, long-term investment at, which is where cryptocurrencies are currently lacking; there seems to be a general consensus, especially amongst more passive longer-term investors, that cryptocurrencies have a very serious lack of predictability. No matter how interesting the concept is, for those who believe crypto’s like Bitcoin are the ‘currency of the future’, it has to be noted that a currency eventually needs to build a proven track record of stability to continue to enthuse new investors.