With Bitcoin (BTC) capturing more attention, it could also garner further regulatory scrutiny, says Guy Hirsch, managing director for the U.S. at online-trading platform eToro. “Despite this meteoric rise, there are some storm clouds on the horizon,” he said, including the fallout from several last-minute actions by the outgoing Trump administration, among others.
Devotees believes that in some ways, the pandemic-ravaged year proved the perfect environment for the digital currency. Warnings of rampant money-printing by central banks all around the world – some of which began to reveal their own interests in digital assets – sparked fears of inflation, while interest rates dropped to rock-bottom lows. That’s thrust some investors to chase returns and hedge with cryptos, pushing its price past $28,000 from around $7,200 at the start of January.
Predicting where it will go is difficult. Many left the coin for dead after its 2017 rally resulted in a drop the following year, a stretch of time sometimes referred to as the “crypto winter.” But it’s soared more than 300% in 2020 and many investors say it could continue to gain next year. A Deutsche Bank survey found a majority see it ending 2021 higher, with 41% of participants projecting a goal between $20,000-$49,999 and 12% seeing it crossing above $100,000, according to Jim Reid, a strategist at the firm.
To Meltem Demirors, chief strategy officer at digital-asset manager CoinShares, there are some concerns about what the Joe Biden administration might mean for the crypto world.
“Generally, I think we have had challenges with the Dems — they prefer more regulation, more oversight,” Demirors said. “I am a bit worried about the direction things are trending,” especially around antitrust lawsuits and an erosion in internet privacy. Still, the market has some allies, said Demirors, like North Carolina’s Patrick McHenry and Ohio’s Warren Davidson, who she says have been advocates for the preservation of consumer financial privacy.
Going forward, many experts and investors say, the industry could face more scrutiny and tighter regulation with Biden in the White House.
A lot will depend on who fills key positions within the administration. Janet Yellen, who’s been nominated to serve as Treasury secretary in Biden’s administration, has in recent years cautioned investors over BTC, saying it was a “highly speculative asset” and “not a stable store of value.” A representative didn’t immediately return a request seeking comment.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reported that Gary Gensler could be nominated to replace Jay Clayton at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Clayton’s exit from the regulator is promising news for crypto world who saw him take a hard line over the years, suing to halt initial coin offerings (ICO), rejecting applications for Bitcoin exchange-traded funds and launching a last-minute lawsuit against Ripple Labs Inc. Gensler, who served as a Commodity Futures Trading Commission chairman during the Obama administration, is a senior advisor to the MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative and teaches about blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.
According to eToro’s Hirsch, there is uncertainty about how the Biden regulatory scrutiny will affect Bitcoin, but the appointments are notable “because Yellen is famously anti-crypto and Gensler is known for being pro-crypto.”
“Without knowing how authorities will seek to more robustly regulate crypto in the coming years, it is hard for the markets to continue growing at the same rate they are now, especially if, as some fear, regulations aimed at curbing innovation rather than fostering it are enacted,” said Hirsch. “Once again, clarity is the name of the game.”