Don’t give in to the fear of missing out, conventional investing wisdom prescribes. But FOMO is hard to overcome when considering Bitcoin prices, which have soared from under $1,000 at the end of 2016 to over $10,267.90 as of 9:00 p.m. Tuesday.
The value of the cryptocurrency has risen over 900% year-to-date based on a weighted average, providing something of a windfall to investors willing to stomach Bitcoin’s notorious volatility. The surge comes despite uncertainty about the cryptocurrency’s legal standing, its identity, as well as skepticism from such financial heavyweights as J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who famously called bitcoin a “fraud.”
While Bitcoin’s rise this year has often been triggered by specific events, such as the Chicago Merchantile Exchange announcing plans to offer bitcoin futures, the crossing of the $10,000 mark appears to come from investors fearing that they’ll miss the boat.
“News from the weekend has been fairly limited, although Bitcoin has seen another frenzy of buying as the fear of missing out trade bites even harder,” wrote IG analyst Chris Weston in a note to clients Monday.
Some signs do point to an influx of new interest—and therefore new investors. As Bitcoin prices have surged, so has Google search interest in the asset (as the chart below reveals). Meanwhile, the number of users on the largest U.S.-based bitcoin exchange, Coinbase, jumped by at least 300,000 between Nov. 22 to Nov. 26., Bloomberg reports. Coinbase now has about 13.3 million users.
Bitcoin’s upward trajectory has also been accompanied by a surge in alternative cryptocurrencies as well. The market capitalization of some 1,324 cryptocurrencies as tracked by Cryptocurrency Market Capitalizations has grown from about $17.5 billion to over $316.9 billion Tuesday. Bitcoin Cash—spun off after a Bitcoin “hard fork” in August resulted in two separate ledgers and therefore cryptocurrencies—has gone from round $500 at launch to over $1,500.
So why buy Bitcoin? Well, there’s plenty of reason to be bullish on cryptocurrencies. Institutional investors have signaled increased acceptance in the asset. Beside the forthcoming Chicago futures, payments company Square says it will allow some users to buy and sell the cryptocurrency. Hedge fund billionaire Michael Novogratz, who once said the cryptocurrency boom had topped out around the time bitcoin prices hit $3,000, now suggests that the coin could reach $40,000 by the end of 2018.
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Still, Chris Burniske, a partner at Placeholder, thinks investors should still be careful about getting into bitcoin at a time when so many others are jumping in at once. “I definitely think people need to exercise caution in these markets. Over the last 24 hours we’ve traded over $6 billion in the bitcoin markets, which is about three times the average in the last 60 days.” Burniske said on Bloomberg on Nov. 27.
Others argue that Bitcoin prices will only rise as more major institutions begin to accept it. But how much farther Bitcoin climbs will also depend on how governments around the world decide to regulate it — or not. As Mark Cuban once said, if you’re thinking about jumping into bitcoin, you should “pretend you’ve already lost your money.”