Like it or loathe it, the digital currency bitcoin is certainly causing a stir.
From its inception in 2009, there’s been hacking attacks, major thefts, bankruptcies, spin-offs, street protests, rants from Wall Street chief executives and a very, very peculiar car chase in Los Angeles.
That’s not even mentioning the gravity-defying price surge towards $20,000 this month.
I’m asked, with intrigue, by friends about how it works and whether they should invest in it.
Bitcoin fans resolutely defend it, but may secretly have nightmares about a major price correction. Bitcoin sceptics pour scorn on it, but privately must be kicking themselves for not buying some many years ago.
It’s a financial phenomenon that seems to have less and less practical use as the price ticks higher. And now, it’s gone mainstream.
The launch on Sunday of bitcoin’s Cboe futures exchange is a significant milestone.
It’s a major step towards legitimising the digital currency. It also shows that Wall Street is now taking note and will bring in a whole new type of investor to the market.
But above all, many analysts are expecting this wave of interest to help dampen and reduce the volatility of its price.
Therefore the wild price swings — it’s been known to move $2,000 in one day — could be over.
So it’s likely we’ll see a new aspect to bitcoin in the next few months — a sense of calm.
With traders quietly hedging their positions, the experts suggest it will bring an end to the violent fluctuations. It may even start to look like a proper currency. But before that, expect some teething problems.
There were two trading halts within hours of the launch Sunday night and it may take many weeks for the mechanics of the market to adjust to this new asset.
“What we are doing is using the sophisticated financial machinery that we have created over the last 15 years and fitting it to something that is highly questionable,” Salman Ahmed, chief investment strategist at Lombard Odier Investment Managers told CNBC on Monday. “I think that it may look fancy and interesting, but it is reckless,” he warned.
Buckle up, bitcoin's wild ride could be set for one last hurrah.
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