SAN FRANCISCO — Bitcoin was conceived more than a decade ago as “digital gold,” a long-term store of value that would resist broader economic trends and provide a hedge against inflation.
But Bitcoin’s crashing price over the last month shows that vision is a long way from reality. Instead, traders are increasingly treating the cryptocurrency like just another speculative tech investment.
Since the start of this year, Bitcoin’s price movement has closely mirrored that of the Nasdaq, a benchmark that’s heavily weighted toward technology stocks, according to an analysis by the data firm Arcane Research. That means that as Bitcoin’s price dropped more than 25 percent over the last month, to under $30,000 on Wednesday — less than half its November peak — the plunge came in near lock step with a broader collapse of tech stocks as investors grappled with higher interest rates and the war in Ukraine.
The growing correlation helps explain why those who bought the cryptocurrency last year, hoping it would grow more valuable, have seen their investment crater. And while Bitcoin has always been volatile, its increasing resemblance to risky tech stocks starkly shows that its promise as a transformative asset remains unfulfilled.
“It delegitimizes the argument that Bitcoin is like gold,” said Vetle Lunde, an analyst for Arcane. “Evidence points in favor of Bitcoin just being a risk asset.”
Arcane Research assigned a numeric score between 1 and -1 to capture the pricing correlation between Bitcoin and the Nasdaq. A score of 1 indicated an exact correlation, meaning the prices moved in tandem, and a score of -1 represented an exact divergence.
Since Jan. 1, the 30-day average of the Bitcoin-Nasdaq score has approached 1, reaching 0.82 this week, the closest it had ever been to an exact, one-to-one correlation. At the same time, Bitcoin’s price movement has diverged from fluctuations in the price of gold, the asset to which it has been most often compared.
Unlike the idealists who drove the initial enthusiasm for Bitcoin in the 2010s, these professional traders are treating the cryptocurrency as part of a larger portfolio of high-risk, high-reward tech investments. Some of them are under pressure to secure short-term returns for clients and are less ideologically committed to Bitcoin’s long-term potential. And when they lose faith in the tech industry more broadly, that affects their Bitcoin trades.
“Five years ago, people who were in crypto were crypto people,” said Mike Boroughs, a founder of the blockchain investment fund Fortis Digital. “Now you’ve got guys who are across the whole span of risk assets. So when they’re getting hit over there, it’s impacting their psychology.”
Worries in the stock market — affected by challenging economic trends, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the historic levels of inflation — have particularly manifested…
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