That cousin who peddled bitcoin to you last Thanksgiving will have some explaining to do Thursday.
This time last year, recent adopters were bragging of their good fortunes at the dinner table as the cryptocurrency was in the middle of a bull run that would see it more than double to a record $19,511 just before Christmas. Analysts estimated that the popular retail exchange Coinbase added at least 300,000 users in the week after the holiday.
Instead of paeans to the virtues of digital money over turkey and pumpkin pie, any discussions this year around the slide that pushed bitcoin to as low as $4,051 Tuesday risk turning heated. On Twitter, aside from the usual FUD-blaming (fear, uncertainty and doubt), users are joking about having chicken nuggets for Thanksgiving, touting weed stocks and chatting about the weather instead of fielding questions from their grandfathers.
“Last year people were showing off how they own bitcoin,” said Andres Garcia-Amaya, chief executive officer of Zoe Financial Inc. in New York, who said he owns a bit of bitcoin. “My guess is no one is going to bring it up.”
The problem with crypto is that what starts as a flurry can turn into a blizzard. When prices tumble, miners sell coins to cover costs, institutions become less keen to enter and regulators find their skepticism vindicated. Before long, the FOMO (fear of missing out) factor that has fueled gains spirals into a stampede for the exit.
“I remember talking family into buying Bitcoin last Thanksgiving. Curious how dinner will go this year,” wrote Twitter user @mynameiscolton in a post Monday.
The negative feedback loop in the crypto world means prices will fall further before stabilizing, with more miners selling coins and possibly even unprofitable exchanges shutting down, said Lewis Fellas, chief investment officer at crypto fund Bletchley Park Asset Management in Jersey, Channel Islands.
“Right now, there is a huge capitulation,” Fellas said. “I don’t think the worst is over yet.”
While the figures have varied, most estimates for bitcoin mining’s breakeven rate are above $6,000, meaning that many miners, especially smaller ones, may have to sell their coins to cover costs. Of course, a self-stabilizing mechanism will also supposedly take hold as more miners drop out.
To crypto aficionados, all of this may seem like FUD that shouldn’t discourage fans from HODLing (holding). Fellas said he’s still optimistic about 2019 and doesn’t regret his decision to leave traditional asset management for a career in crypto.
“Where we struggled this year is that the market will be kind of stable but then we’ll have a very sharp idiosyncratic shock,” he said. “There’s the old trading saying of up the stairs, down the elevator.”
Forks (the bitcoin cash split, not the utensil) and Tether (the stablecoin) will take up much time at the dining table Thursday. But it could be worse.
“I’d rather make a joke about bitcoin than politics,” Garcia-Amaya said.
Lee writes for Bloomberg.