Bitcoin (CRYPTO: BTC) has shaken off its 5-day losing streak to post a 7% gain over the past 24 hours.
One Bitcoin is currently worth US$43,592 (AU$60,544). That’s still down 10% from 1 week ago, though.
Ethereum (CRYPTO: ETH) is having an even stronger run, up 10% in 24 hours to US$3,062. Ether also remains down 15% over the full week.
But it’s not just Bitcoin and Ether gaining today.
This once again highlights the strong link between cryptocurrency markets and global share markets. Share markets also posted strong gains yesterday, with more expected today.
Which brings us to a question posed to Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital.
Oliver, presenting at AMP Capital’s webinar yesterday, was asked whether investors should regard Bitcoin and the wider world of altcoins as an asset class?
(If you’re not familiar, an altcoin is really any digital token that’s not Bitcoin.)
Should investors regard Bitcoin as an asset class?
Oliver expressed some potential optimism on certain altcoins, including Ethereum.
But he was less than enthusiastic on the longer-term outlook for Bitcoin:
I’m a little bit sceptical. It’s hard to see Bitcoin becoming digital cash. It’s very expensive per transaction, about $30 per transaction. It’s very slow. And it’s extremely volatile.
Bitcoin bounces around all over the place in the short term, so I don’t quite know what it’s going to be worth at any point in time. Whereas the money sitting in my bank account, I know what it’s going to be worth.
Bitcoin is indeed extremely volatile. Remember that back in mid-April, the token was worth somewhat north of US$64,200. And on 20 July, it tumbled below US$29,650.
Oliver also pointed out that Bitcoin wasn’t a capital asset that generated rents or profits, making it impossible to value. That left it as “just something to speculate on”.
Then there’s the massive energy use required to run the oodles of computers used to verify blockchain transactions and mine new Bitcoins.
Describing the energy use as “comparable to the entire nation of Argentina”, Oliver said that wasn’t a good setup in today’s environmentally oriented world.
While he did see a future for digital money, Oliver said, “I think ultimately government will do it itself.” Like the essentially digital cash he already had on his phone, he said, which was easy and free to use.
What about Ethereum and other altcoins?
Oliver was moderately more optimistic on the outlook for Ether and other altcoins, and blockchain technology as a whole.
He said Ether and altcoins that could underpin global government moves to digital currencies and support decentralised finance might have a brighter future if they could be part of the DeFi revolution.
But not Bitcoin. Not even if the price went far higher than today, Oliver said, admitting he might take some flak from the token’s supporters for throwing out the term “Ponzi scheme”.
“I don’t see Bitcoin being the one going forward,” he said. “Just because Bitcoin goes up in price doesn’t prove it has a long-term future. But, of course, it could still go up a long way from here.”