Is Bitcoin An Investment?

November 29, 2017, 4:30 pm EST

The adoration for Bitcoin has been growing by the day, though no one understands how to value it.

CNBC went on “watch” the other day for Bitcoin $10,000. Today it traded above $11,000 and then fell as much as 21% from the highs.

Here’s a look at the chart.

I heard someone today say, everyone should have a small portion of their net worth in Bitcoin. That sounds an awful lot like the mantra for gold. Gold has been sold all along as an inflation hedge. But unless you have Weimar Republic-like hyperinflation, you’re unlikely to get the inflation-hedge value out owning it.

Remember, gold went on a tear from sub-$700 to above $1,900 following the onset of global QE (led by the Fed). Gold ran up as high as 182%. That was pricing in 41% annualized inflation at one point (as a dollar for dollar hedge). Of course, inflation didn’t comply. Still, nine years after the Fed’s first round of QE and massive global responses, we’ve been able to muster just a little better than 1% annualized inflation. So gold is a speculative trade. It’s a fear trade. And it’s volatile.

If you bought gold at the top in 2011, the value of your “investment” was cut in half just four years later. That’s a lot of risk to take for the prospect of “hedging” against the loss of purchasing power in the paper money in your wallet.

Now, Bitcoin is becoming a pretty polarizing “asset class.” The gold bugs get very emotional if you argue against the value of owning gold. Those that own Bitcoin seem to have a similar reaction. But Bitcoin, like gold, is a tough one to value. You buy it because you hope someone is going to buy it from you at a higher price.

So is Bitcoin (cryptocurrencies) an investment? Sophisticated investors that are involved, likely see it as similar investment to a startup. It has traction. It has a lot of risks. It could go to zero. Or it could pay them multiples of what they pay for it. But they thrive on diversification. When they have a large portfolio of these types of bets, when a few payoff, they put up nice returns. Bitcoin may be one of the few, or it may not.