Bitcoin bulls have long claimed the cryptocurrency is an inflation hedge. But recent price swings have challenged that idea.
- Bitcoin bulls have long argued that the cryptocurrency is a hedge against inflation, particularly because of its fixed supply.
- But bitcoin tanked this past week after stronger-than-expected inflation data when it theoretically should've gained.
- We spoke to one bitcoin expert who isn't concerned about bitcoin's recent downward movement - and who said it's still undervalued as an
Fears of rising inflation came to a head on Wednesday when key data came in significantly higher than economists expected. Bitcoin, touted by some of its biggest supporters as an inflation hedge - because it has a finite supply, unlike the dollar - didn't rise in response. It instead slumped around 7% on the day.
Headline inflation data as measured by the Consumer Price Index rose 4.2% year-over-year in April, the fastest rate since 2008, while core inflation rose 0.9% in the largest monthly increase for the core index since 1982. The Dow shed nearly 700 points Wednesday.
Meanwhile, alleged inflation hedge bitcoin dropped below $50,000 to its lowest level in nearly three weeks.
The day that inflation fears hit a boiling point would have been bitcoin's time to shine as the hedge against devalued, government-backed money its supporters claim it to be. With its fixed supply of 21 million bitcoin, the cryptocurrency is meant to protect against reckless central bank policy and helicopter money distributed by governments during the pandemic.
But as inflation concerns built in the weeks leading to Wednesday's crescendo, bitcoin was unable to break out past new records. It has slumped 24% in the last month, and Elon Musk's tweet about its environmental impact following the inflation print didn't help.
The world's most popular cryptocurrency may not be the hedge it is claimed to be, and its sensitivities to everything from local restrictions on bitcoin mining to Elon Musk's latest tweets show that the coin is really treated by market participants as a risk asset and a vehicle for speculation.
Read more: A 29-year-old crypto billionaire who's perfected digital-currency arbitrage shares 2 tips for investors looking to get started in trading - and explains why ether is unlikely to surpass bitcoin
Still, some bull are steadfast that bitcoin will get its day in the sun as inflation rises.
Dan Held, head of growth at cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, doesn't think bitcoin's recent price movements indicate it's not a good inflation hedge, and said it's developed a floor at the current price of $45,000-$50,000.
"I don't think there was one singular catalyst that would either have pushed bitcoin up or down that's inflation related," he told Insider. "Bitcoin moved so intensely upwards earlier this year, this was sort of a bitcoin catching its breath before another big leg up."
Held said bitcoin is still undervalued as an inflation hedge, especially considering that at a $1 trillion market capitalization, its much smaller than other assets that are traditionally seen as inflation hedges like gold and real estate.
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