The cryptocurrency market has shed more than $600 billion from its peak – what exactly happened?


By Aaron Hankin, MarketWatch

The cryptocurrency market is in the midst of one of its biggest drawdowns ever, and even the staunchest crypto bulls have to be wondering when it’s going to end.

On Jan. 7, the total value of all cryptocurrencies reached an all-time high of $829 billion, according to data from CoinMarketCap. At the time, cryptocurrencies were bigger than Alphabet (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), Amazon (AMZN) and Facebook (FB)

Now, eight months after its peak, the crypto market cap has lost more than $600 billion, slipping below $200 billion for the first time since Nov. 12, 2017. The demise has seen each of the five biggest digital currencies lose more than half their value year-to-date with Ripple leading the way, down 88.6%. Bitcoin (BTCUSD) the world’s most famous cryptocurrency, has shed 57% since Jan. 1.


[post_ads]So where has it all gone wrong for cryptocurrencies in 2018?

Expectations were not tempered

Heading into 2018, cryptocurrencies were on a tear. The price of bitcoin had surged more than 1,000% in 2017 and it seemed if you weren’t trading bitcoin you were in the minority. “People were expecting great things heading into 2018,” said Charles Hayter, co-founder of CryptoCompare. “A lot of small-time investors were thinking if you can make money then why can’t I.”

The euphoria saw many analysts rush to stake their claim as the crypto-king with bold calls as to just how high bitcoin could go. Tom Lee, managing partner at Fundstrat Global Advisors, was one of the first to put his stake in the ground, calling for $25,000 by the end of the year.

Tim Draper of Draper Associates had one of the more bold claims when he said the price of a single bitcoin would reach $250,000 by 2022 and more recently, hedge fund manager Marc Lasry said bitcoin, with the help of mainstream adoption, could trade as high as $40,000.

And who could forget cybersecurity legend John McAfee who not only said the price of bitcoin would reach $1 million, but added a now infamous twist.

Regulation is not moving as fast as some would like

Lawmakers in Washington D.C. continue to tread carefully, a little too carefully for some, on the regulation of digital assets.

The biggest disappointment for proponents of the nascent technology is the non-approval of a bitcoin-related exchange-traded fund by the Securities and Exchange Commission. On July 26, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss had their second proposal for one such product declined and more recently, the SEC delayed its decision on a proposal from VanEck and SolidX until Sept. 30.

Or is it just another bear market?

This is not the first bear market bitcoin has faced and given its volatility, it won’t be the last.
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According to Anthony Pompliano, founder of Morgan Creek Digital Assets, since 2012, bitcoin has experienced 13 drops of more than 30%, and three times it has seen a slump of more than 50%.

One analyst thinks investors should take a step back as a selloff of this magnitude is nothing new. “I believe we’re just witnessing the continuation of the cryptocurrency bear market. This is not the first or last cyclical asset to behave this way,” said Clement Thibault, senior analyst at Investing.com.

“Looking ahead, I don’t think we’re at the end of the cycle just yet, and I can see bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies continuing to fall before a meaningful return back up.”

Aaron Hankin is a MarketWatch reporter in New York who covers cryptocurrency and financial markets.

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