Bitcoin reached a 15-month high this week, swiftly moving past $13,000 and now pushing up against $14,000 for the first time since January 2018, according to data compiled by CoinMarketCap.
While the broad crypto market is performing well this year, bitcoin stands out as the top performer. The first and still most popular digital currency has multiple winds at its back, including institutional interest in the currency, signs of burgeoning usability at retailers, a forthcoming blockchain reward halving and Facebook's (FB) - Get Report recent announcement about its own cryptocurrency.
Taken together, these factors are creating an indelibly positive sentiment about bitcoin's value.
The currency responded particularly well to Facebook's introduction of Libra, its cryptocurrency that targets the unbanked by striving to provide them with a fast and affordable way to execute transactions in the digital age. Libra won't compete directly with bitcoin, but it will bring Facebook's 2.5 billion users in direct contact with cryptocurrencies, which could create more demand for bitcoin.
However, despite the overwhelmingly positive sentiment surrounding bitcoin, it could soon retreat from its latest highs.
Institutional Investors Are Incredulous
In an interesting split, hedge funds and big institutional investors are betting against bitcoin while individual investors are significantly more bullish.
According to the most recent Commodity Futures Trading Commission report by CME, the largest U.S. exchange offering bitcoin futures contracts, money managers are 14% more bearish in their positions, and some investor classes are three times more likely to short bitcoin than to take a long position.
Of course, this data doesn't come without a caveat. Most notably, the report was issued on June 21st when Bitcoin was trading around $9,000, significantly lower than its current price.
"Traditional market participants may be more skeptical of [bitcoin] than millennial day traders," explains George Michalopoulos, a portfolio manager with Chicago-based fund manager, Typhon Capital Management LLC.
Indeed, small, individual investors continue to be bullish on the digital currency, something that signals a rift between institutional outlook and individual enthusiasm.
The broad positivity that's pushing bitcoin's price higher could continue to accelerate, but it's also possible that the currency is overbought, which could indicate a pullback on the horizon.
For instance, Bitcoin has traded outside the Keltner Channel, an investment strategy for measuring future price trends, and some analysts predict that this will result in lower prices by mid-July. Since 2014, similar metrics have resulted in price pullbacks on seven out of nine occurrences.
Making clear this metric's importance, economist Alex Krüger noted the implications of similar Bitcoin price movements in a recent tweet:
Moreover, if Bitcoin fails to maintain a valuation of around $11,400, it could be subject to a Fibonacci retracement that could push the price near $10,500.
Given bitcoin's history of extreme volatility, an interruption to an unencumbered bull market wouldn't be unprecedented.
To be sure, bitcoin markets are famously unpredictable, and momentum can have an outsized impact on its price. Institutional investors may be betting against the currency, but it has many factors that could continue to propel it forward.
Whether it's next year's planned halving of the rewards for crypto mining, or general enthusiasm surrounding the proliferation of cryptocurrencies, there are enough factors on both sides of the equation to make bitcoin's subsequent price movements something to keep watching.
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The author holds stock in investment holding company, Leucadia (Jeffries), and remains a partner in an emerging-technology fund. He holds no positions in cryptocurrencies nor in any companies that invest in them.