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Is Bitcoin in a Bubble? The 5 clues from history

Financial history is filled with speculative episodes. What can we learn from those to help with the price of Bitcoin today?
  1. What is a Bubble? - See how a bubble is defined.
  2. Perspective - Review my perspective for potential biases.
  3. Commonalities - Discuss the 5 clues, or commonalities, of bubbles from history.
  4. Bitcoin Today - Cover Bitcoin price performance and trading history.
  5. Yes or No? - Walk through the 5 stages for a final opinion.
by Paul Alan Davis, CFA, Febraury 10, 2018
Updated: February 10, 2018
We like to get our work done here, and take an academic approach. We also like to have fun.

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Is Bitcoin in a Bubble? Yes or No?

Beginner

Introduction and Outline

Welcome, I'm Paul, this is Career Talk and today's question: Is Bitcoin in a Bubble? The 5 clues from history.

Here is how I'll tackle this timely and contentious topic. First, I'll define a bubble, then I'll cover my perspective. Third I will discuss the 5 clues or common characteristics of bubbles from history, then cover Bitcoin today, February 10th, 2018, and conclude with my potentially surprising view.

For those who haven't been involved in bubbles before, I will cover history from a noted author on the topic, and add some of my own experiences. So after this, you will be proficient at identifying financial bubbles in the future.

Okay, let's have some fun.

Career Talk in Video

Is Bitcoin in a Bubble? The 5 clues from history (37:45)

Videos can also be accessed from our Career Talk by FactorPad Playlist on YouTube.

Video Script

1. What is a Bubble?

Intrinsic Value

First off, a bubble occurs when an asset's value on the market far exceeds its intrinsic value, which is a financial term we will likely forget.

Just think of it as the value you believe the asset is worth. So, simply put, if the market price is greater than you think it is worth, then sell. If the market price is lower than you think it is worth, then buy.

  • if market > intrinsic then sell.
  • if market < intrinsic then buy.
Comparable assets

During non-speculative times intrinsic value can be derived with a high level of certainty, by comparing metrics to similar assets, like the price-to-earnings ratio for stocks. As I will show you, during speculative times, determining intrinsic value is like that saying about determining beauty, it's in the eye of the beholder.

Because bubbles often occur for new assets, new themes or some form of financial innovation, like tulip bulbs, the spice trade, government protected trade routes, Dot-com stocks and highly leveraged real estate a decade ago, it's often difficult to find comparable assets to derive intrinsic value. This partially explains where we are today with Bitcoin. Nobody really knows its intrinsic value.

Hindsight

Next, you can't be certain you are in a bubble until after the fact, so with the benefit of hindsight. At the height of speculation, when we are confused, it is hard to determine if pullbacks are opportunities to buy, or if they represent the end.

When you are involved in a bubble, the market price may have already toppled over before the final one or two clues surface and you can say with certainty, yes, that was a bubble.

Bubbles end

Fourth, euphoric times on the way up, are followed by market panics and crashes on the way down. So bubbles end and we get a chance to reflect on why we, as humans, continue to get caught up in financial bubbles.

Commonalities give us 5 clues

My bookcase is filled with literature on behavioral finance, including financial euphoria and the madness of crowds, and I will share those with you at the end.

One book in particular goes beyond simply regurgitating history and instead focuses on commonalities, so these 5 clues, that have occurred in all bubbles over history. It is through these we can take a step back and make a more educated guess as to whether Bitcoin is in a bubble, and if so, at what stage.

2. Perspective

Because it is wise to be leery of anyone with an opinion on financial topics, let me cover my perspective so you can evaulate my biases up front.

Target audience

I cover Finance and Tech and categorize some 220 videos and 270 text-based tutorials by difficulty level (see video for graphics). I've collected keywords associated with the education, job titles, skills and designations for my regular audience. The orange circle zeroes in on where I feel this topic fits. So content is geared for those aspiring to advance their programming skills and depth of analysis.

Preparation

At the outset, I will say my mind is open regarding Bitcoin, I'm neutral on cryptocurrencies, meaning I don't have a horse in the race. So I don't have a vested interest in whether the price goes up or down, or spinning the conversation for my own benefit. Again, my focus is on education.

As for preparation, like any security analyst would do, I read the white paper, immersed myself in the blockchain, the mining process, third-party research and reviewed comments from coders on Stack Exchange and Github on the Bitcoin open-source code.

The blockchain is a separate conversation

I will add that I see potential for use cases of blockchain as a distributed ledger system. In the near term, it could easily be used as a decentralized car service record or package shipping ledger. However, some use cases will require more time, like using the blockchain for records associated with medical history, DMV, social security, credit bureaus and voting. Two issues that need to be worked out, in my view, are cryptography and privacy. Because in the end, someone will fight to control all of this.

That said, while Bitcoin the currency uses blockchain, it isn't the same thing as blockchain. The concept of blockchain can advance with or without Bitcoin, so it is helpful to separate the conversations at the outset.

Our focus here

Also, this discussion is not about the merits of cryptocurrencies and whether I think they are here to stay, but instead about the human condition, the trade, the period we are currently in, that is undoubtedly speculative. That's the part that is fascinating and allows us to take away knowledge to the next euphoric period, because as evidenced by history, these recur every several years, and will always be a part of our lives. We are human after all.

If you are already forming a judgment of me, predicting my conclusion and finding defenses for your already-formed opinion of Bitcoin, that's great. It's normal, and we're going to cover that here too. As humans we are all well-equiped and well-experienced judging machines after all. We behave a certain way when we have a stake, or regret not having a stake, in an asset that is making some people rich.

3. The 5 Clues

Let's move on to the five clues, or commonalities, across market bubbles from history.

You can't devote your professional life to investments without reading many books on financial euphoria. Of all the books on the topic, the one I recommend, because it has the potential to change the way you think, is called A Short History of Financial Euphoria (1990), written by John Kenneth Galbraith.

In 130-pages, so a short plane ride, you can read Galbraith's review of speculative events from history and take away what he calls commonalities, or common denominators. Here we call them clues.

Clue #1 - Something new

Let's use early bubbles from recorded history to introduce our first clue — all bubbles start with a sense of something new in the world.

Most texts on the topic begin with the most bizarre episode — the import of a tulip flower to Europe from the East. To Europeans there was something new in the world, a flower they had never seen before.

The tulip bulb became a store of value, like a currency, and eventually a mania developed. We of course have the benefit of hindsight to look back to the year 1637 when the craze in Holland collapsed and question why people fell for this. The truth is, the power of price momentum, and other people getting rich, can make normally rational people lose their minds.

By some accounts, at its peak, a single and prized tulip bulb sold for an amount equal to 10 years of income for a skilled craftsman. In another transaction it was reported to sell for 10 acres of land. Yes, for a flower.

Around 1720, two bubbles were bursting, the first in France and the second in England. In both cases there was a strong sense of something new in the world. They each revolved around the potential for trade in the new and untapped world of America — a place most investors had only heard about. The first called Banque Royale, or the Mississippi Company, was a scheme concocted around gold mining in Louisiana, which didn't really exist.

Clue #2 - New Entrants

The asset in the second bubble ending in 1720 was a joint-stock company which is similar to the common stock trading vehicle we have today. What was new and exciting was the government-guaranteed monopoly for trading routes to America, but what brought new entrants to the marketplace — our second clue — was the ability for anyone to participate through this joint-ownership vehicle.

These new entrants felt left out from previous opportunities to get rich, because opportunities were normally reserved for those with political connections. Individuals now had an opportunity to participate, through publicly-traded shares. Money from these new entrants ensured further price increases, and that brought in more new entrants. This episode goes by the name, The South Sea Company.

The 1800s brought on episodes involving US banks and the new industrialization of the United States including a railroad boom and the California Gold Rush. New entrants found an opportunity to participate with newly established paper money, land grants and shares of railroad companies. Often the feeling that assets bought today will be worth more tomorrow in each case brought in new speculators.

As Galbraith puts it, "when the same or closely similar circumstances occur again, sometimes in only a few years, they are hailed by a new, often youthful, and always supremely self-confident generation as a brilliantly innovative discovery". As is often the case the small investor arrives late and misses the fun part of the party.

Please excuse me if this seems US-centric, I was born in a country that has, since its beginning, been a capitalist democracy. A big part of our history revolves around so called "financial innovation" and the resulting boom-and-bust cycles.

As we press on, see if you notice similarities with the current cryptocurrency rush, and note how the frequency of bubbles increases.

Clue #3 - Leverage

The greatest episode, the Roaring Twenties, is often known more for its aftermath, the Great Depression, than for the causes of the speculation.

It started in the early 1920s with a Florida real estate boom, where investors used leverage to magnify already impressive gains. Some prices were seen to double every few weeks. Novice buyers — the new entrants we just discussed — were too caught up in people getting rich to notice that property sold as 'beachfront' was actually 10 to 15 miles from the ocean, according to Galbraith.

The Roaring Twenties brought newfound economic prosperity and technologies for music, radio and film distributed to the mainstream. This introduced a whole new class, the middle class, to the idea that living wealthy was possible. That sense of wonder brought new entrants, much like when the web went worldwide, 75 years later. And possibly again with a new decentralized currency only 18 years after that.

Market watchers often focus on this third commonality — leverage — because they perceive it to be near the most insane part of the euphoria, near peaks in price. And if you can figure out when people are the most crazy, that's where you can make the most money.

The track record of market timing is less convincing however, but the chase will always be there.

It is difficult to see the insanity, especially if you are a part of it.

Speculation moved on to stocks and while the Federal Reserve was threatening to raise interest rates to stop the use of leverage — where have we've heard this before? — bankers stepped up their commitment to lend. With that, speculators were more than willing to borrow with 10-to-1 leverage on stocks, believing that immediate price gains would wipe out their debt within weeks.

To solidify how leverage works, see the next topic in Career Talk as we walk through the math. The lack of knowledge here is one reason so many people wreck their financial outlook with credit cards, student loans, real estate and the bubble of the day, whatever that may be.

The upswing in the stock market correlated highly with extravagent living around Manhattan and Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby (1925), captured the essence of the upswing. After the party was over, Galbraith's novel The Great Crash, 1929 (1955), cites our third clue, leverage, as a main cause. Stocks didn't recover until 25 years later, well after the Great Depression.

Clue #4 - Stampede out

Our fourth clue is the period where, in Galbraith's words, "the speculative episode ends not with a whimper but with a bang".

Here is where all speculators are motivated to sell at the same time.

Commodity shocks

Euphoria resumed in the 1970s and events like the OPEC oil shock put a bid under oil prices, precious metals and Texas real estate. Even Larry Hagman's career rode the wave. As J.R. Ewing in the TV series Dallas, he brought a view of how the privileged, even lucky, could live in luxury, to over 30 million American homes, including mine.

The selling stampede eventually came, commodity prices dropped, Texas real estate pulled back, and the demise of J.R. drifted from our memory.

LBOs and the S&L Crisis

The 1980s ushered in plenty of new material for Galbraith's book. The terms of the day included mergers & acquisitions, corporate raiders, leveraged buyouts and junk bonds. All hailed as innovative at the time, were just a new and clever way to pitch the use of — guess what? leverage — on smaller and smaller amounts of real assets. This led to the S&L Crisis and to illustrate the power of the stampede. In one-day, known as Black Monday, in October 1987 large stocks in the US fell by 25%. In one day! Investors subsequently stampeded out of highly leveraged real estate assets, particularly those in the financial capital of the world, Manhattan.

The timing couldn't be better for Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen, and the film Wall Street (1987), which quickly showed the dark side of capitalism that only years prior had been painted with a different brush.

Galbraith's book was released shortly thereafter, in 1990. He unsurprisingly wasn't a big fan of one important figure at the time, who used leverage with real estate excessively, Donald Trump, who, according to Galbraith "is said not to be broke; he was, however, described in recent news accounts as having a negative net worth."

You can't make this stuff up, it's so good. Oh, and I am apolitical (adj - not interested or involved in politics), so I can see the madness on both sides.

Shortly thereafter, I started managing other people's money, so future episodes became crystal clear as I had to talk investors off the ledge numerous times.

Dot-com bubble

In the 1997-2000 Dot-com bubble, silly as it seems in hindsight, management teams of public companies raced to their Board of Directors to convince them to approve the addition the .com extension to their official company name. The motivation was that some firms saw a 40% rise in share prices the next day.

The World Wide Web offered a new way to upset many established industries like publishing, brick-and-mortar retail, travel agencies, media and the online trading of stocks through discount brokers. All you needed was a modem and you could participate. New entrants from around the world raced to Pets.com, eToys.com, WebVan.com, Worldcom, and Flooz.com, an early attempt at a digital currency, that didn't make it.

The possibilities were limitless, so too were equity valuations. Instead of intrinsic value being determined by earnings or dividends, stocks were valued based on eyeballs and clicks.

At the height of the madness, the tech-heavy NASDAQ eclipsed 5,000, then the selling stampede came and the index lost 70% from its peak.

Quant Quake

The next episode affected a small group of investors called Quants. This bubble was, for the most part, not noticed in the mainstream.

The selling stampede lasted only 3 days in August 2007, but the pain for some was intense. The highest quality stocks, based on academically-tested fundamental factor exposures like price-to-book, earnings quality and momentum were dumped at the same time the lowest quality stocks were skyrocketing.

In a series of cascading margin calls several Quant hedge funds that used — guess what? leverage — were forced to cut exposures. So they covered the low quality stocks held short by buying them, and to keep their overall exposures in check they had to sell the high quality stocks.

Many funds didn't make it through the selling stampede. For those that used 3 or 4 times leverage on each side, losses reached 40% in 3 days for an equity market neutral fund that isn't statistically expected to move by more than, say 1% per day!

I remember during the early stages of the frenzy calling the trading floor to ask if they saw anything. The trader explained how some Quants were melting down. He said, "You know those Quants. They eat like birds, and poop like elephants."

For me, that factor exposure episode planted the seeds of this FactorPad educational endeavor, with the goal of helping people go beyond textbook learning.

Clue #5 - Find a Scapegoat

The last of Galbraith's commonalities arises after the dust settles and people search for someone to blame, a scapegoat.

Often those revered for their insight, superior intelligence and promotion of the speculative assets before the fall become the target of the collective anger after the bubble bursts.

As Galbraith puts it, "financial genius is before the fall".

Real Estate Bubble

Now with Galbraith's full cycle in view let's take one last whirl around it using a bubble that most living adults experienced first hand. This episode couldn't be contained within narrow confines like the Dot-com and Quant Quake episodes because the cooperation was so widespread.

  1. Something new
  2. New entrants
  3. Leverage
  4. Stampede out
  5. Find a scapegoat

Something new in the world was not real estate itself, but low interest rates, a willingness to lend to sub-prime borrowers and a way for bankers to package these loans into vehicles and sell them as though they were top-graded paper with a sign-off by rating agencies.

The new entrants, who were kept from participating in the 'American Dream' in previous cycles because of their credit score could now race into the leveraged asset making other people rich, real estate. Agents, lending officers and banks were all complicit in that they made it easy to get credit with "No-doc" and "liar loans", so the debt spigot was wide open.

The selling stampede not only hit real estate, but also stocks and almost every financial asset except the safest bonds and T-bills. Stock indexes lost between 50 and 70%, large companies went bankrupt and the worldwide financial system linking banks was on the brink of collapse.

In the final stage, the attempt to find a scapegoat, one image sticks in my mind. The one of eight bank CEOs being scolded by Congress for taking bailout money.

At times like these, the public, through the media, wants revenge and while publicly shaming bankers Blankfein, Dimon, Lewis, Pandit and Stumpf wasn't enough for many, it is one of the more lasting images from that crisis. Except for workers left only with one box of belongings in front Lehman Brothers, the last big bank the government let fail.

In the aftermath, the public and media have a strong desire to push the blame on an individual, when in this case, as with bubbles before it, the blame should have been spread to each individual who overextended him or herself to buy real estate, and to those who helped them. And because that isn't practical, we want a head. Centuries ago they literally did take a head. Now we just want a fall guy, as if it will magically make us feel better. Don't get me wrong, crooks should go to jail.

For an entertaining film on several institutional investors who figured it out, and capitalized before the party was over, I recommend The Big Short (2015). In it, they loop in all of the parties who should share the blame.

China

Shortly after that, something new was in the air, developing in China, causing its stock market and commodity prices globally to catch fire. We've been through the details enough to know how that ended, so instead we should take a moment to think about what happens between stages 5 and 1 of speculative events. Is it possible they are related?

Bitcoin?

So for Bitcoin, should we consider factors such as the seeds of mistrust in the financial system and its leaders, also increasingly polarized politics and a sense of things not being fair? On top of that, how countries deliberately devalued their own currencies. Could this have made the story about a decentralized currency, like Bitcoin, more appealing? And more sellable?

We will come back to this shortly.

4. Bitcoin Today

Okay, so now that we will never forget Galbraith's 5 clues, let's move on to Bitcoin today.

Watch out for mountain charts

Here is a mountain chart with monthly prices (see video), so the peak of nearly $20,000 in mid-December 2017 doesn't show up here.

I should mention, the mountain chart is a tool dreaded by institutional investors. Crafty people have been using these to extract money from novice investors for centuries. I wouldn't be surprised if mountain charts are etched into the walls of caves.

Young man, have you seen the price of ivory lately? If you leave the cave and take down that woolly mammoth, bring back the tusk and I'll help you carry it to the marketplace, we can split the bounty.

All joking aside, the mountain chart is flawed for several reasons. First, they generally look positive, or someone wouldn't show it to you.

Second, mountain charts hide shorter period returns. So to work around that, I added bars so monthly returns become clear. So in April 2011 the Bitcoin price return was 349% and in November 2013 it was 467%. So recent returns of between 40-70%, while still beyond belief, are dwarfed by earlier returns.

The third problem with mountain charts is that because of the scale of the y-axis at the end, it appears that earlier prices were not volatile. With the green bars we can see the opposite is true, pre-2014 prices were more volatile. Some will use a log scale, but I think that confuses non-mathematical folks who are accustomed to a decimal, or base 10, system.

Another issue with the mountain chart is the timeframe on the x-axis. Often the person looking to convince will select periods that make the data look most convincing. A workaround for this is to visualize returns for various shorter periods, or to use rolling-period returns.

Time on the x-axis is also tricky because all speculative episodes last for different lengths of time. I recall from the 2008 crisis, many people were calling for an end to the real estate bubble two years before it burst. Many were short homebuilders, a fabulous trade in the end, but they started the trade two years early, and had to capitulate by buying into the frenzy and covering their shorts near the top.

Look at sub-periods

Overall this chart, makes the late-2017 period look like what we might associate with euphoria, where people want to get in at any price. So what if Bitcoin already went through a bubble and we just can't see it? That would be nice to know.

So I carved out daily prices for a 6-month period around three timeframes. The first, from late 2013 which is when prices look parabolic, so up exponentially, and to me that sure looks like the buildup and collapse of a bubble.

This corresponded with liquidity and legal troubles at Mt. Gox, a Bitcoin exchange that was, according to a Wikipedia page, responsible for 70% of all Bitcoin transactions worldwide.

Prices eventually fell 85%, and while volatility declined relative to its historical patterns, monthly price declines of 30% can be found.

Let's have a look at the six month period ending September 2017, when Bitcoin posted an astounding 350% return. It doesn't have that parabolic look people often associate with latecomers paying dearly.

The six-month period ending January, 2018, so about a week ago, however, shows that parabolic pattern. Now is that it? Is that the sign of a bubble? Was that the peak?

Most investors respect Warren Buffet, someone who has been around Galbraith's cycle more times than he'd like to count. On January 14th he warned that cryptocurrencies, "will come to a bad ending."

Did he call the end of the party with Bitcoin 75% higher at 14,000 USD? Surely he didn't ride this 40% loss to where the price sits today, near 8,000 USD.

So where does that leave us? Let's walk through Gailbraith's clues and find a few fun quotes and anecdotes from the Web.

5. Is Bitcoin in a Bubble? Yes or No?

Okay, so back to the question of the day. Is Bitcoin in a Bubble? Yes or No?

Let's review those clues, and by now it should be painfully clear this is an exercise in education and is not investment advice.

Something new in the world

First, something new.

Undoubtedly, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies represent financial innovation. The blockchain has very interesting properties and potential. Perhaps people are mistakingly buying Bitcoin as a proxy for their confidence in the blockchain.

In my view, the market was ripe for a decentralized currency. Recent examples include multiple financial crises, flash crashes, bank runs, negative interest rates, countries intentionally devaluing their currencies, a financial crisis in Cyprus, another in Russia and stagflation in others. Add on top of that polarized political views and a lack of trust in central banks.

For this, in my opinion, does Bitcoin represent something new in the world? Yes.

New entrants to the market

Second, is there evidence that new entrants joined the marketplace?

With the launchpad set for a decentralized currency the only missing ingredient, as we have see from history, is some magical price appreciation.

It comes and with it a whole new set of entrants arrive. Some are drawn by the envy of those with wealth, some know it is a speculative event and are confident they can time the ride perfectly. Others, sadly, are convinced it will go up forever. Regardless, they throw their money into the pot, which ensures price appreciation for the next set of entrants.

The traditional news media rarely interviews unfamous speculators, but we can read what they are saying now on social media, so that's where I went.

You don't have to read between the lines to pick up an undertone of young versus old, when someone writes, "my parent's financial advisor said they shouldn't invest in Bitcoin. And he's a financial advisor."

Am I immune when I read comments like "Warren Buffett is old", "Warren's Elite. Elites are terrified of bitcoin. Go bulls!" and "No crypto for old men." Points for creativity aside, I am immune. I know this is part of the process. This is normal.

Galbraith too, became an old man after spending 60+ years his life studying speculative behavior, and stepping in to warn the small investor, knowing he would be the target of attacks.

How are speculators reacting to warnings and doubt? Are they behaving as Galbraith predicts and protecting the bubble by discrediting those willing to speak up?

He writes, "[t]he euphoric episode is protected and sustained by the will of those who are involved, in order to justify the circumstances that are making them rich. And it is equally protected by the will to ignore, exorcise, or condemn those who express doubts."

I know, someone will fast-forward past the whole part about the history of financial bubbles, to my arguments right here, and will likely find a clever way to discredit each one. That is one of the ingredients after all.

So, in my opinion, are there a sufficient number of new entrants in Bitcoin? Check.

Leverage

Next up is leverage. Are there signs that people are being sold the wonders of leverage with Bitcoin?

I wasn't motivated until now to measure the extent of leverage, but found two ways to estimate it.

So why don't we go through the first exercise together. In your browser, go to https://trends.google.com and in the search box type buy Bitcoin with credit card. As you can see, it peaked during the period December 17th to 23rd, one day after the peak price.

The next step actually bothered me. Hardcore speculators know they can find offerings greater than 1-times leverage on their credit card, which may cost between 15 and 20% per year, right? So I poked around the top results of a buy Bitcoin with leverage search at Google.com.

Here is what I found. One firm was willing to offer up to 100 times leverage, but you couldn't access it from the US without a Virtual Private Network, and I assume that's to pick an IP address from another country, and you'd basically have to fib and claim you lived in a different country. We saw how those "liar loans" worked out in 2008.

Another broker promised not to require ID verification at any time, but offered borrowing rates of between 2 and 8% daily! Try calculating the annual borrowing rate yourself. Maybe that's the peak of a bubble in the practice of gouging.

Others didn't offer the ability to cash out with a "fiat currency" which to them, refers to a government-sponsored currency like dollars, yen, euros and pounds, or currencies you can broadly use to pay rent and buy food.

Now I didn't open accounts myself and verify this. I just wanted to see if excess leverage was available, and in my opinion, the answer is yes.

Stampede out

Next, so has the crowd stampeded out? We are down about 60% from the highs. Is that a sign it's over? Will Bitcoin go away now?

To all of those I have to say no one knows for certain. That's the point. We won't know until after enough people are hurt and the topic fails to register with the news media, which is when people won't care any more. Recall, Bitcoin already went to the penalty box for 3 years after 2014.

An asset can certainly be involved in a price bubble multiple times, just look at real estate. I think the way people phrase the question "Is Bitcoin a bubble?" instead of "Is Bitcoin in a bubble?" unfairly implies the asset has one shot and then goes away.

Certain exceptions do apply, evidenced by millions of Beanie Babies sitting in American landfills. However, we shouldn't expect frustrated owners to stuff their Bitcoin into Dev Null, so it certainly will have a longer life than those poor little under-stuffed animals.

So, for this question, my opinion is no.

Find a Scapegoat

Next, as with all speculative episodes before it, is the public and media searching for a scapegoat?

  • Have enough people been hurt?
  • Is there a cry for help?
  • Is there a sense that it isn't fair?
  • Have enough people convinced the popular media and their representatives in government, to search for and punish perpetrators?
  • Is there a cry for regulators to set up rules to protect people from, in a sense, themselves?

Recall, part of the draw of cryptocurrencies is that they are decentralized. So buyers should know they aren't offered the same protections as their bank and brokerage accounts, for which regulations at least in the United States, have been in place since the 1930s.

That said, governments can't ignore illegal activities transacted with cryptocurrencies on their soil. Obvious predatory practices, money laundering, and likely taxation of capital gains are topics governments will take up.

I could spend a whole video just on this topic, but instead, I took a cursory review and noticed a pickup in activity towards the tail end of 2017. My hunch is that the pickup corresponds to recent price setbacks felt by a wider audience.

Law firms are advertising themselves to represent victims in class action lawsuits, but relative to history, I haven't seen enough to say definitively that the public and media are searching for someone to blame. So for this I will say, no.

And in the end, is Bitcoin in a Bubble? In my opinion, yes it is.

Open Questions and Takeaways

Okay, so with Bitcoin still in a bubble, there are so many questions left to answer. Short-term questions like:

  • At what point has the crowd finished stampeding out?
  • If there is someone to blame who will it be?
  • Where are we in the cycle?
  • Could the price go back to its highs?
  • How low could it go, and when?
  • What would regulation look like?
  • What is a better way to invest and support the future of blockchain?

In the long run, we can guess about a few things.

First, bubble trading behavior surrounding Bitcoin can go away. Increased adoption by merchants and consumers may not equate to Bitcoin price gains, but could result in price stability.

Large currencies routinely move by 10-20% per year, and companies, particularly public companies, like stability in revenue streams and a movement of 60% per month is more than most can stomach. So when and if it is used as a currency, like a store of value and a method of exchange, this will benefit Bitcoin more than the wild trading behavior that makes it seem like a casino.

That said, there are so many directions we could take this, so use YouTube to reach out to me, your feedback is very valuable. And I don't have to tell you how important subscriber numbers are on YouTube, so if you learned something please consider subscribing, and you will be alerted when new videos arrive.

I am a fan of people looking out for themselves instead of relying on governments and regulations, so forward this along to someone you think might benefit.

Currently, I spend most of my time creating free 5-15 minute educational tutorials on Linux, Python, Excel, HTML, JavaScript and investment modeling if those interest you.

Here are a few books I mentioned, and I will add more to the web page.

  • "A Short History of Financial Euphoria", by Galbraith
  • "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds", by Mackay
  • "The Crowd", by Le Bon
  • "The Quants", by Patterson

Also, I've listed a few other fun fads and speculative events you can read about on Wikipedia.

Takeaways

Let me close with those takeaways.

First, we will never forget the five clues from Galbraith, something new, new entrants, leverage, stampede out and find a scapegoat. Plus a few I've tacked on, including, you never know you're in a bubble until after the fact, bubbles last longer than you think, there is a difference between investing and speculating and institutions can differentiate between luck and skill.

Make sure you check out the next edition of Career Talk on leverage, which will involve a little HTML and JavaScript. I do have one idea for where to take the next video relating to Bitcoin so make sure you don't miss that.

This has been a long video, so thank you for your time. Have a nice day.


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