The goal was to bypass governments and banks when two individuals want to transact. No country, company, or institution controls the currency. But are Bitcoin and competing cryptocurrencies really currencies?
National Australia Bank Turns Back on Bitcoin, Closes Accounts
Even if cryptocurrencies qualify as currencies for niche purposes, their prospects seem dubious. The greatest threat is central banks, which have started to research Blockchain-based currencies and impose regulations on exchanges. Given the additional control and policy effectiveness that digital currencies could provide, central banks have good reason to adopt digital currencies in the coming decades. If the choice were between Bitcoin or a Blockchain-based dollar, which would you rather have in your digital wallet?
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The investment case for cryptocurrencies is weak. Unlike stocks and bonds, currencies generate no cash flows such as interest payments or dividends that can explain their prices. National currencies derive their value from the underlying economic activity of the countries that issue them. Cryptocurrency prices, on the other hand, are generally not based on economic fundamentals.
To date, their prices have depended more on speculation about their eventual adoption and use.
Westpac, ANZ and NAB aren't planning a bitcoin crackdown yet
The speculation creates volatility that, ironically, undermines their value as a currency. Nor are cryptocurrencies a chance to capitalise on Blockchain technology, which is the method most cryptocurrencies use to record network transactions and ensure their accuracy. Although cryptocurrencies are built using a Blockchain, they are not necessarily tied to the value of Blockchain applications that may improve the cost, speed, and security of executing transactions or contracts.
Bitcoin is an investment in blockchain in the same way that Pets. For investors, adding some exposure to Bitcoin would mean reducing their allocations to tried and true asset classes such as stocks, bonds, and cash—the building blocks for well-diversified portfolios that can help them meet their goals.
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With no cash flows and extreme volatility, the investment case for Bitcoin is hardly compelling. We are early in the development of Blockchain technology. As innovation quickens and competition increases, the majority of networks and their associated cryptocurrencies may be rendered obsolete, leaving many cryptocurrencies like tulip bulbs in 17th-century Holland—soaring to incredible heights before the speculative bubble pops.
Content first published in the financial newsletter cuffelinks. Top Stories Live: Authorities identify two clusters behind Queensland's latest outbreak.
Westpac, ANZ and NAB aren’t planning a bitcoin crackdown … yet
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