Why is cryptocurrency so volatile?
Unlike traditional currencies such as the Euro and Great British Pound, which tend to fluctuate between 0.5%-1% on any given day, cryptocurrencies show large fluctuations sometimes shifting from around 5-10% per day. This volatility is important as purchasing and selling currencies at the correct times can lead to big profits for traders. It’s not uncommon to see trading periods where a catalytic event can trigger price fluctuations around 50% and in some major cases all the way up to 200-300%. Why is this asset class more volatile than any other liquid asset in the market?
It is hard to pinpoint why cryptocurrencies are so volatile with one exact reason, but rather a few which have been explained below:
1. No intrinsic value
Most cryptocurrencies don’t sell a product, earn revenue or employ thousands of people. They generally don’t return dividends, and just a tiny amount of the total value of the currency goes into evolving it. Because of this, it is extremely difficult to value. How do we know if it is fundamentally overbought or oversold? When is it a good value or overpriced? Without any fundamentals to base this information off of, we can only rely on market sentiment, often dictated by the media that makes money on viewership.
2. Lack of regulation
The lack of regulation in the cryptocurrency space can play a factor in the volatility of the price. This low level of regulation allows for market manipulation. Often done by placing orders with the intent to cancel, whereas in a regulated market such as the foreign exchange placing fake orders is illegal. Creating these false orders can lead to a misrepresentation of market behaviour which can cause volatility with the false orders encouraging uncertainty.
3. Supply and demand
Another reason the price of crypto is so volatile comes down to simple Economics. When the demand for an asset increases quicker than the supply, the price is likely to rise. We saw this come into play with Bitcoin during the Christmas period of 2017. The demand for Bitcoin was widespread due to the profit being made by traders throughout the year and the supply could not keep up with the massive uptake, which led to the price reaching an all-time high of around $20,000.
4. Lack of institutional capital
While it is undeniable that some pretty impressive venture capital companies, hedge funds and high net-worth individuals are both fans of and investors in crypto, as a segment, most of the institutional capital is still on the sidelines.
At the moment there has been little to no movement on a Bitcoin ETF or Mutual Fund, which is predicted to introduce much needed institutional volume into the cryptocurrency markets.
5. Market size
The cryptocurrency market is only roughly 10 years old and still an emerging market. The total size of the cryptocurrency market is currently $250B. Although this is a huge amount, it is a small figure when compared to the foreign exchange market which totals around $5T per day. This is why the foreign exchange market is able to keep stability even when there are massive movements in the market. The same cannot be said about the cryptocurrency market. This allows a few big traders who hold a lot of currencies (referred to as whales) have the ability to shift the market by making huge transactions.
When will volatility decrease?
Over time, we can expect more regulation, a greater diversity of investors, and a more mature outlook on the crypto market. We can also expect higher utility value as merchants find more accessible ways of accepting cryptocurrency, and the technology behind transactions also improves. While volatility may decrease, we can also expect a gradual but steady surge in the value of the cryptocurrency market as a whole. Just as the stock market has given way to long-term holders, so too will the cryptocurrency markets. At the very least, it appears to be something that is going to be here for the long run.