Bitcoin price drops 16% as Janet Yellen raises the alarm

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bitcoin price and Janet Yellen

Bitcoin (BTC) price dropped further on Tuesday after U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen issued a warning about the cryptocurrency.

The flagship digital coin plunged 16% in the last 24 hours, sinking below $50,000 to trade as low as $45,389 at 4:10 a.m. ET, according to data from Coin Metrics. It is now trading at $47,870.

On Monday, Janet Yellen called bitcoin an “extremely inefficient way of conducting transactions” and warned about its use in illicit activity and its impact on the environment. The token’s wild rise has reminded some critics of the sheer level of electricity required to produce new coins.

Bitcoin isn’t controlled by any central authority. So-called miners run high-power computers that compete to solve complex math puzzles to make a transaction go through. Bitcoin’s network consumes more electricity than Pakistan country, according to an online tool from researchers at Cambridge University.

Yellen also warned about the risks of bitcoin investing to retail investors Monday.

“It is a highly speculative asset and you know I think people should be aware it can be extremely volatile and I do worry about potential losses that investors can suffer,” the former Federal Reserve chair told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at a New York Times DealBook conference.

Bitcoin is still up more than 60% since the beginning of the year, and price swings of more than 10% aren’t a rarity in crypto markets. Bitcoin once surged to almost $20,000 in 2017 before shedding 80% of its value the following year.

The digital coin hit $1 trillion in market value for the first time last week — though it’s now sunk below $900 billion, according to CoinDesk. It’s gotten a boost from news of Wall Street banks and large companies such as Tesla and Mastercard warming to cryptocurrencies.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, said over the weekend that the prices of bitcoin and rival token ether “seem high.” It comes after Tesla’s announcement earlier this month that it had purchased $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin. Tesla shares suffered their biggest fall since Sept. 23, 2020, on Monday.

Bitcoin has been getting traction from mainstream investors, in part because of the perception that it’s a store of value similar to gold. Bullish investors claim that crypto can act as a hedge against rising inflation.

But skeptics warn that bitcoin has no intrinsic value and is one of the biggest market bubbles in history. Analysts at JPMorgan last week said bitcoin was an “economic sideshow” and that crypto-assets rank as the “poorest hedge” against significant falls in stocks.

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