Wall Street's floors are littered with jaws.
Bitcoin, dismissed as geeky crime-bucks until a few months ago, has soared from around $1,000 at the beginning of the year to – at the time of writing – over $13,000. Those are the kinds of flabbergasting returns it takes normal assets decades to generate, with inflation gnawing away all the while. Bitcoin is a tulip, a South Sea Company, a Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, take your pick. It simply can't keep this up in defiance of all logic.
As long-time hodlers (sic) love to point out, though, naysaying n00bs (sic) don't bother to read up on their bitcoin history. Since its inception in 2009, the cryptocurrency has enjoyed a handful of major runups. We'll ignore the first, when it went from nothing to being worth a few pennies: Calculating that return requires dividing by zero. Compared to the other two, though, this bitcoin bull market is a tiddler.
From June 25, 2010 to June 7, 2011, bitcoin's closing price shot from $0.05 to $23.92, a 47,740% return. From Nov. 18, 2011 to Dec. 3, 2013, the price went from $2.05 to $1,068.67: a rise of 52,030%.
Compare those returns to the 6,262% bitcoin has returned since Jan. 17, 2015. Nothing to write home about, by bitcoin standards.
A few objections naturally arise. What about the bear markets? Sweet Satoshi Nakamoto have there been bear markets. The kinds of crashes that would cause instant recessions, if they were to happen in the S&P 500, come and go in a matter of hours in bitcoinland. And the real bears take a heavy toll: the one from June 8, 2011 to Nov. 17, 2011 ripped away 92% of bitcoin's value. The post-MtGox bear, from Dec. 4, 2013 to Jan. 16, 2015, saw the price drop 82%.
Past performance is no indication of future returns, but if it were, bitcoin would be flirting with $100,000 in a matter of months, then plummet to around $10,000 a few weeks after that, and anybody who'd bought at the beginning of 2017 would still have decupled their money. A few repetitions of that would turn the planet into an ASIC farm, so things will probably have to calm down soon.
Or perhaps the music will stop entirely.
Disclosure: the author owns bitcoin.