Technology 9 min read

The Bitcoin Bubble and Why Experts Believe it is Real

Financial figures from Warren Buffet to Severin Cabannes believe Bitcoin is a bubble because of its lack of physical manifestation--but Blockchain has fans.

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Experts predict that the Bitcoin bubble is nearing its bursting point and people in the financial technology world are having mixed reactions.

Earlier this month, billionaire investor Warren Buffet joined the ranks of other Wall Street influencers in calling Bitcoin a bubble. Just like JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Buffet believes that the said cryptocurrency has no value at all. But, what does Bitcoin bubble really means?

“You can’t value bitcoin because it’s not a value-producing asset . . . it’s a real bubble in that sort of thing.” -Warren Buffett

Investopedia defines a bubble as:

“An economic cycle characterized by rapid escalation of asset prices followed by a contraction. It is created by a surge in asset prices unwarranted by the fundamentals of the asset and driven by exuberant market behavior. When no more investors are willing to buy at the elevated price, a massive selloff occurs, causing the bubble to deflate.”

Simply put, a bubble is a rise in an asset’s price beyond its actual value due to a general belief that its price will continue to rise. If you want one good example of a bubble, just search for the DotCom bubble that occurred from 1997 to 2001.

The DotCom bubble was a period of massive growth in the adaptation of the Internet, and many internet-based companies were founded that time. However, from 2000 to 2002, the bubble exploded, leaving behind a trail of capital losses and businesses shutting down.

Some major companies today suffered a great deal of losses during the DotCom bubble period. For instance, Cisco’s stock declined by 86% as a result. Qualcomm, eBay, Amazon, and Google all lost huge market deals but were fortunate enough to recover in the following years.

Now, the question is, does the current price of Bitcoin already exceed its underlying value?

The Bitcoin Bubble: What Experts Think About it

Here’s another question that adds to the Bitcoin bubble confusion: if something only exists virtually, can it be perceived as real?

The traditional form of trading involves buying and selling of stocks, commodities like wheat and corn, and paper currencies. These things exist in the physical world. While most of them are now in electronic form, you can still physically deliver them.

Now, based on Buffet’s and other experts’ pronouncements, cryptocurrencies are not tangible investments. They argue that it’s impossible to put value in an alleged asset if it has no intrinsic or book value. To these figures, Bitcoin owners buy coins because they are betting that its value will surge–not to use the currency to invest in a project.

In essence, we can all speculate on traditional investments like precious metals and stocks. However, we can’t just assume Bitcoin to be anything or something. At one point, Paypal Co-Founder Peter Thiel referred to Bitcoin as something akin to gold.

“I’m skeptical of most of them (cryptocurrencies), I do think people are a little bit . . . underestimating bitcoin especially because . . . it’s like a reserve form of money, it’s like gold, and it’s just a store of value. You don’t need to use it to make payments,” Thiel was quoted as saying.

Again, implying that Bitcoin is like gold is unacceptable to many conventional investors since gold is a tangible asset while cryptocurrency is not. In that sense, a better definition of how to value a virtual denomination of wealth must be put in place.

However, Wall Street’s ‘dean of valuation,’ Aswath Damodaran argued that Bitcoin is classified as a currency. Therefore, there’s no valuation discussion around it. In an article he published on his website, Damodaran wrote:

“Bitcoin is not an asset, since it does not generate cash flows standing alone for those who hold it (until you sell it).  It is not a commodity, because it is not raw material that can be used in the production of something useful.”

The Bitcoin Bubble: Will it Burst?

There is no denying that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are getting all the hype today. The continuing rise in its value attracts the attention of people who are primarily interested in getting rich quick. This, in turn, strengthens the belief of experts about the Bitcoin bubble.

The rising demand for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is evident in the sudden rise of initial coin offerings these past years. ICOs gave companies, especially startups, the opportunity to expand and gain investments without the need for a formal stock market listing.

If you want to learn more about ICOs, read this article.

While ICO investors only get tokens or electronic coins in exchange for their monetary investments, the rapid increase of a virtual coin value is feeding the enthusiasm of people. As said earlier, people are buying coins not to use it in their everyday lives. They are keeping it in hopes that its price will surge in order to dump it for a huge return later. As what Bluford Putnam and Erik Norland of CME said:

“Wouldn’t you have regretted paying 20 Bitcoins for a $40,000 car in June 2017 only to see the same 20 Bitcoins valued at nearly $100,000 by October of the same year?”

Aside from price, other factors that attract people to Bitcoin, and seemingly inflates the Bitcoin bubble, include the anonymity it provides to its users and the lack of centralized control over it.

However, the anonymity that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies provide attracts not just the attention of ordinary investors, but of criminals as well. The advent of cryptocurrency gave organized criminal groups an effective way of conducting their illegal transactions without being traced by authorities. In fact, Bitcoin is considered as the primary currency of the Dark Web where all sorts of contraband are sold.

In an interview with Business Insider, famous economist Nouriel Roubini who called the Bitcoin price gain a gigantic speculative bubble, said:

“What’s more – it is also used by criminals, for their shady business. I think that more and more countries will start to make cryptocurrency exchanges illegal like China did. New regulations will be adopted. So, this will find its end.”

This brings us back to Buffet’s primary concern:

“It doesn’t make sense. This thing is not regulated. It’s not under control. It’s not under the supervision [of] any…United States Federal Reserve or any other central bank. I don’t believe in this whole thing at all. I think it’s going to implode.”

Governments are now putting regulatory pressure on ICOs and cryptocurrencies. While majority of countries are not banning Bitcoin, some have put strict regulations and warnings about its usage.

For instance, the Icelandic Foreign Exchange Act prohibits the Central Bank of Iceland from engaging in foreign exchange trading with the “electronic currency Bitcoin.” Bangladesh, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Ecuador, and Bolivia are some of the countries who banned Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

China has banned ICOs.

Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff believes that this regulatory pressure would eventually lead to the collapse of the Bitcoin bubble. In an article he wrote for The Guardian, Rogoff said:

“My best guess is that in the long run, the technology will thrive, but that the price of bitcoin will collapse.”

Experts deemed that the current boom in the value of Bitcoin puts the said cryptocurrency in a stage where swindles frequently happen. While this is not considered as a primary factor that could burst the bubble, it could eventually lead to panic selling of coins – a scenario that could result in a plunge in Bitcoin’s price.

Economist Bill Cornerly explained in an article he wrote for Forbes:

“In most cases, the cycle stops here with that one asset. Sometimes, however, there are wider impacts. Heavily leveraged firms that were lending to the bubble sector start to fail. They may include banks, brokerages, and traders. They try to meet their obligations by selling other assets, which causes other prices to fall, accentuating the downturn. This can turn into a vicious cycle.”

Joe Pindar, the Director of Product Strategy at Gemalto, a digital security firm, also thinks that the cryptocurrency (not just Bitcoin) is a ticking time bomb. He told Express.Co.Uk:

“With so many new cryptocurrencies being launched on almost a daily basis, there is no doubt that the cryptocurrency bubble is going to burst. But like all bubbles calling the exact time it will go pop is extremely hard. It reminds me a lot of the DotCom bubble in 1999, which companies like Amazon and Google survived and became essential to our daily lives.

Similarly the convenience and international nature of cryptocurrencies provide so many benefits, once the hype has been removed, we will be left with the serious players, and the true value will be established. My advice is not to jump in head first, but don’t expect cryptocurrencies just to be an overnight sensation.”

CEO of French banking giant Société GénéraleSeverin Cabannes, also believes in the Bitcoin bubble and directly told Bloomberg that they are interested in the blockchain technology and not Bitcoin per se. He was quoted as saying:

“We are very interested not in bitcoin, but in blockchain, and the underlying technology. It is fair to say that today bitcoin is, in my view, clearly in a bubble – very clearly. But we don’t know very well what are the market drivers behind this price evolution. We are not very keen to invest in bitcoin. But we are very keen to invest in the blockchain technology.”

As a final note, what we featured here are some of the opinions of influential investors, economists, and Wall Street personalities regarding the Bitcoin bubble. If we are going to look at falling asset prices as a determiner, one must remember that assets could still suffer decline in prices even if it was not in a bubble.

At this stage, no one knows for certain if Bitcoin is indeed a bubble or if it is, when would it pop.

Do you believe in the Bitcoin bubble? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Rechelle is an SEO content producer, technical writer, researcher, social media manager, and visual artist. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with family and friends.

Comments (7)
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  1. Reza Erfani November 17 at 10:56 am GMT

    Bubble = Present value exceeding reasonable estimate of future worth in today’s dollars with irrational enthusiasm in the market.

    Bitcoins intrinsic value lies in its ability to supply trust. This trust is structured into creating a valid ledger which provides an opportunity for storing and circulating wealth. It requires adoption.

    Yes, obviously BTC is in a bubble. it is currently 1/50 of all the gold in the world. It is not reasonable to assume Bitcoin will replace the Gold, USD, and the European. 1/200 of that, is pretty optimistic.

    Risks are in reaching this future level and include competition from other coins, government and regulations, technical and social evolution. Regarding social evolution, Bitcoin community will do some relearning on what greed and manipulation can do to a peer group.

    This is easy and obvious to see if you just calm down and think about it.

  2. Hal Taylor November 17 at 9:00 pm GMT

    What these bitcoin critics don’t realize is that the proof-of-work public ledger is a human innovation comparable to the invention of paper money. Never before in history has it been possible to computationally enforce honesty on un-trusted actors in business relationships. A value token like Bitcoin as a unit of account for this public ledger is integral to its function. In other words bitcoin is inseparable from the blockchain since all transactions must be paid for in Bitcoin. So the investor bitcoin demand we are seeing is more about buying a share of the bitcoin network which is a finite resource that they believe will be in great demand as the world economy begins using the blockchain as a settlement platform in place of brokers, lawyers, etc.

  3. John November 17 at 9:36 pm GMT

    Experts? This is uncharted territory, none of these people are experts by any stretch of the imagination. I’d be interested in hearing if any of them can even describe how a bitcoin transaction even works in detail.

  4. GloverX November 17 at 9:40 pm GMT

    Sceptics live in a commercial bubble. Bitcoin is a product you own, not invest into as if someone else owns it like shares/stocks. Taxes should not be made as profit-taxes for Bitcoin as gamble-assets, but VAT for a product (an internet-product with it’s own value, like how IRL-stamps had value similar as money back in the days when not getting ‘stamped’). Hyper-commercialism is on way out, replaced with communication and security that people rule and care about, and has more worth than the commercial bubble.

    • Hal Taylor November 17 at 10:25 pm GMT

      It IS like a stock since it gives its owner the rights to future recording capacity on the blockchain. It is like buying a share in the bitcoin network.

  5. maurice duis November 20 at 12:03 pm GMT

    Fiat currencies are bubbles too by this discription. So what a stupid piece of info this is. Every nations standard currencies are bubbles by this discription. Bitcoin is even less of a bubble then normal money because there is an actual limit at 21 million. All the will our governments and banks can just keep printing and devalueing money as they see fit.

  6. Samuel Rocha de Mello May 16 at 6:20 pm GMT

    I would like to enphasize Mr Buffet’s insight when he says bitcoins are not a value producing asset. Indeed. And the entire phase of producing assets is simply overlooked in the bitcoins modeling.
    There is no visible connection between blockchains/bitcoins and actual – real – production. Using the thought of philosophers, such as Michel Foucault, the configuration of thought used in the Cryptocurrencies models is classic (before 1775), and so, based on the thought of Adam Smith, and what Mr. Buffet says requires a thought like that of David Ricardo (after 1825). That philosophical missalignment also occurs today and now in large areas of production and not only in criptocurrencies. There is an example of a real production model philosophically aligned with David Ricardo ‘s way of thinking work: the Japanese Production System. A model organized on the structure of a sentence in a language.
    This model was on the conceptual basis that led Japan from defeated on WWII to second place in the ranking of the world’s largest economies and shows what is lacking in the current crypto models – according to Mr. Buffet’s thinking – so that they could be valued.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/96c98dba9397e8378b305ce0d9c42e301440eabc8a933a8bad3bd024e2c20760.jpg

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