It took bitcoin (BTC) 10 years in existence to reach the $20,000 mark, on Dec. 15. Then it took just 15 days to reach $29,000. It took the Dow Jones almost three years to make the same move.
Bitcoin started the year at $7,200. It’s ending the year close to $30,000, up 296%. (For comparison, the Nasdaq is up 43% in 2020, the S&P 500 up 16%, the Dow up 7%.)
The 2020 bitcoin bonanza can be chalked up to a convergence of many positive factors, as well as a convergence of narratives.
In the past, a common criticism of bitcoin from skeptics was that it isn’t useful as a real currency—you can’t spend it in most places. In 2020, investors decided they don’t care about that, and don’t want to spend their bitcoin anyway. Institutional firms flooded in, viewing cryptocurrencies as a legitimate asset to hold in their portfolio.
At the very least, the consensus now appears to be: Bitcoin isn’t going away. It has existed for 10 years and will continue to exist.
The same cannot be said with absolute certainty about any of the other multitude of cryptocurrencies (“altcoins”), except perhaps ether (ETH), the token of the Ethereum network. (XRP, the token developed by Ripple Labs, has been in the top four cryptocurrencies by market cap for years, but is now under fire after the SEC sued Ripple Labs, alleging it conducted a $1.3 billion unregistered securities offering.)
If the late 2017 bitcoin price surge was driven by crypto newbies buying in without doing their homework, the 2020 ride has been driven by institutional buying. While newcomer retail investors are again buying bitcoin, many individual Wall Street names and consumer-facing payments companies have also warmed to crypto. This has all happened against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, with central banks pumping out stimulus money—a scenario that has served as a reminder of bitcoin’s scarcity and its appeal as “digital gold,” a hedge against inflation.
Institutional investors rush in
Wall Street firms pumped $5.75 billion into digital asset funds in 2020, up 660% from 2019, according to the Dec. 21 crypto inflows report from CoinShares Research.
The spike has pushed Grayscale Investments, the largest crypto asset fund, to $15.3 billion in assets.
In Q2 of this year, more than a dozen well-known Wall Street firms, including ARK Invest, disclosed to the SEC new investments in GBTC, Grayscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust, a publicly traded fund pegged to the price of bitcoin, cited by JP Morgan strategists in November as a leading indicator of institutional sentiment.
“A failure by the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust to receive additional inflows over the coming weeks,” JPM strategists wrote, “would cast doubt to the idea that institutional investors such as family offices have…
Read more:Bitcoin keeps hitting new records, nears $30,000 in late 2020 price surge