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A year ago, cryptocurrency investors were looking forward to a triumphant holiday season. Bitcoin was trading at about $8,200, and heading north. There was no better time for gloating in the face of a naysaying uncle, or convincing a reluctant cousin to invest, than while gathered around a seasonally festooned fireplace.
Much has happened since, and little of it good for crypto investors who didn’t sell near the top. After cresting above $20,000 in December, bitcoin has been in a steady slide that sped up alarmingly in the past few weeks, falling 25% since Nov. 7 and giving up a year’s worth of gains. On Monday (Nov. 19), bitcoin fell below $5,000 for the first time since October 2017.
There’s no one reason for the sell-off, but a few factors have been working against bitcoin and its cousins like ether (ETH) and ripple (XRP). Fallout from the bitcoin cash fork—the crypto world’s equivalent of financial engineering—seems to be creating uncertainty across all cryptocurrencies, while recent SEC enforcement actions may be adding another layer of chill. The crypto markets may also be finally catching up with other asset classes that have stumbled over the past month. Investors who not long ago were waiting for the next surge in prices are now wondering if there is a bottom.
Just three weeks ago, Kevin Davitt, a senior instructor at The Options Institute at Cboe, noted how bitcoin futures appeared stable in light of stock market volatility. Bitcoin, the thinking went, was past its adolescent mood swings, and ready to settle down and get serious. Once predictable, cryptocurrencies could be trusted to become the digital cash their boosters have promised. World domination would soon follow.
But life comes at you fast in the crypto world. At this year’s holiday gatherings, uncles will have the “I told you so” smirk, cousins will be tossing blame across the honey-baked ham, and investors will try to change the conversation to something, anything, other than their crypto woes. —Oliver Staley
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Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, pizza made by humans, and fitness trackers with no strings attached to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day, or download our apps for iPhone and Android. Today’s Weekend Brief was edited by Steve Mollman and Kira Bindrim.