In all of the recent market chaos, most of the major cryptocurrencies have held up comparatively well while maintaining most of their prior market values.
Bitcoin is still trading near the $7,000 handle against the U.S. dollar, and this level might now be viewed as a pivot point trading zone by those that are alternating between bullish and bearish stances in the market’s main crypto coin.
More than likely, this relatively stable activity in cryptocurrency trends has been surprising to analysts that may have expressed skepticism about the asset class in the past. Remember, it as just a short time ago that cryptocurrencies were being written-off as the “greatest scam in history” and there were even suggestions that bitcoin was “close to becoming worthless.”
However, recent market activity has clearly confirmed otherwise, as losses in BTC/USD have been largely similar in magnitude to those experienced within the S&P 500. In my view, what this really signifies is that another milestone has been reached in the growth evolution of cryptocurrency assets. So, is it too soon to say that crypto has officially grown up? Maybe not.
Since the middle of February, the market valuation of BTC/USD has fallen by about 39%. During the same period, the market value of the S&P 500 has fallen by about 34%. For investors, this is significant for several different reasons. Primarily, it shows that the generalized risk profile of the S&P 500 might actually be similar to that of bitcoin.
If this sounds like a horrifying prospect, don’t worry. This should sound daunting because cryptocurrencies can’t even generate earnings. Bitcoin has no “dream team” of corporate executives making strategic managerial discussions, or an operational history that extends as far back in history as most of the companies listed in the S&P 500 (or other equities benchmarks).
But that’s not all, because the pro-crypto investment thesis works even better in the other direction (i.e. actual returns). This raises some real questions about where investors should be putting their money, and which market stereotypes have likely become obsolete.
If the S&P 500 performs no better than bitcoin during the market’s most extreme moments, what does this level of risk say about the comparative reward associated with both investment types (the traditional and the digital)?
In 2019, investors with exposure to stocks had a great year. The S&P 500 posted gains of 29%, which was the best performance since 2013. Similar bull trends were visible in the NASDAQ Composite (which gained by 35%) and the Dow Jones Industrials (which gained by 22%).
Without a doubt, these are terrific returns for any one-year period. However, they pale in comparison to the gains that could have been captured with the right exposure to cryptocurrency assets. Bitcoin nearly doubled in value in 2019, and this presents a stark contrast to the traditional concepts of strategic portfolio protection and ratios of risk/reward. Ultimately, crypto is showing the ability to outperform in bullish market environments and in bearish market environments. Going forward, this means it will be interesting to see which asset class (stocks or cryptos) is able to complete the most sustainable recovery once broader volatility levels normalize throughout the market.
Richard Cox is a personal investor with more than two decades of experience in the financial markets. He is a syndicated writer, with works appearing on CNBC, NASDAQ, Economy Watch, Motley Fool, and Wired Magazine.
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