Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Bitcoin crosses $100 mark in latest surge

Bitcoin, the virtual currency on everyone's lips, surged through the $100 mark this week. 

Bitcoin is currently trading at $117.2 on Mt. Gox (click through for current quotes and market depth), one of the most liquid bitcoin exchanges. Having traded near $15 in early January, bitcoins are now up over 750 percent in US dollar terms year to date. 

Here's a chart of the bitcoin/Euro price, currently at 92.18 on Mt. Gox. Interest in the bitcoin market recently exploded across Europe as Cyprus' banking crisis led savers to wonder if their bank deposits would be seized to help bail out ailing banks. 

Bitcoin charts

As the New Yorker explains in their piece on, "The Bitcoin Boom": 

"...That a number of panicked Europeans appear to have reckoned the wildly volatile, vulnerable, and tiny bitcoin market a preferable alternative to their own banking system, even temporarily, signals a serious widening of the cracks between the northern and southern E.U. countries in the wake of the euro-zone debt crisis. 

It also illustrates the broader collapse of trust that is threatening the world of global banking and fiat money. The weakness in existing currencies stems from lack of faith in institutions—particularly central banks, which are often in league with commercial and investment banks. 

When a government bails out a failed bank or insurance company—in essence, by printing money—the net effect is that the currency as a whole is debased, in favor of a few and at the literal expense of everyone else, which amounts to a fair description of today’s global financial system. Hence the sudden appeal of bitcoins, which appear, for the moment, at least, to be immune to the machinations of inept or crooked bankers and politicians." 

I've been reading and tweeting about bitcoins and the future of virtual currencies quite a bit in recent months. Recent events seem to have sparked a great deal of interest in this area, even for those (like myself) who have yet to transact in the virtual currency market. 

We've seen a previous boom and bust cycle in Bitcoin prices, with a passing media frenzy ("it's a bubble!", "an unregulated ponzi scheme!") to match. The last peak in Google web search interest came in June 2011, amidst official alarm over the "untraceable peer-to-peer currency's" alleged role in online money laundering and the drug trade. 

Bitcoin Google Trends interest

Now that we're seeing a near-parabolic rise in bitcoin prices across the globe, we can probably expect another new peak and cyclical crash (or maybe a slightly calmer consolidation period) to follow soon.

However, if the decentralized issuance of bitcoins remains steady over time, we could see a flourishing market for virtual currencies develop longer-term. Whether it's Bitcoin or some other innovation that stands the test of time, we'll be watching this trend with interest. On that note, I'll leave with you with the following quotes.