Bitcoin analysts compete for highest forecast as profile grows

New York - Even the skeptics can’t avoid weighing in on  bitcoin.

It seems like everyone is coming up with a price forecast these days, with some of the biggest banks including Goldman Sachs jumping into the action, while speculators to long-time investors are also making their bets.

The consensus is that the biggest cryptocurrency will face some resistance around $4 500 to $4 800 and correct, to then continue rallying. How high? Pantera Capital Management’s Paul Veradittakit, Tom Lee at Fundstrat Global Advisors and John Spallanzani at GFI Group Inc. see it going to $6 000 by year-end, while Ronnie Moas at Standpoint Research says it will keep rising to $7 500 in 2018.

Bitcoin has been on a tear this year, more than tripling in value as it crossed the $4 000 mark and touched a record $4 477 last week.

READ: Bitcoin surges past $4 000 for the 1st time amid speed breakthrough

It’s since retreated about 7% from the high as investors took profit and assessed whether the rally had gone too far. Growing adoption and institutional investor interest, agreement on a mechanism to speed up transactions and regulatory steps that will help the asset broaden its reach are some of the reasons that explain the gains.

“We’re in a very healthy position right now,” said Veradittakit, vice president of Pantera Capital, which has invested in bitcoin since 2014. “There’s a lot of interest from traders and mainstream finance on the rise of all these new crytpo currencies, but when they first get exposure into the space, they’ll go into bitcoin. It has the most liquidity and biggest brand name.”

Veradittakit said bitcoin will hover around current levels and rally further once the underlying technology is upgraded in November, when the block size in the bitcoin blockchain is set to double to two megabytes, increasing transaction speed. He’s also encouraged by reports from the local exchanges Pantera invests in that cross-border transactions are increasing.

But the road ahead might get rocky. Goldman Sachs technical analyst Sheba Jafari wrote in a note to clients August 13 that bitcoin could erase around 40% of its value after reaching $4 827. On a separate note, Goldman Sachs analysts said the space is getting big enough at over $100bn in market capitalisation that it warrants watching.

Spallanzani, chief macro strategist at GFI Group, also predicts a sizeable fall to as low as $3 000 unless it manages to break the $4 500 level it tested last week. But then it should rebound and climb to as high as $10 000 in 2018, he said.

“It will have to retrace a bit more before we have enough power to break through,” Spallanzani said. He recommends buying bitcoin when it’s above $3 800 and selling when its below that level.

Some analysts have steered clear of making price predictions, while still dipping their toes in bitcoin waters.

Tom Price, a Morgan Stanley equity strategist, said bitcoin compares to gold in that both offer similar benefits as a store of value, such as being fungible, durable, portable, divisible and scarce. Still, a lot of time and trust-building will be needed before it becomes clear whether bitcoin will also undermine demand for the metal, he said.

Cryptocurrencies including bitcoin are still very volatile and thus not particularly safe, but that could change as their value rises and liquidity increases, wrote Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategists Martin Mauro, Cheryl Rowan and Matthew Trapp earlier this month.

They score well when it comes to diversification, as their correlation to equities, bonds, commodities, currencies or selected measures of risk is near zero, the strategists said.

More longer term, bitcoin will climb to $25 000 by 2022, Fundstrat’s Lee said, as recent regulatory approval for options trading and settlement implies a “significant rise in institutional holdings” of bitcoin, while he estimates user accounts are likely to rise 50% and usage per account to climb 30%.

Moas of Standpoint Research said in an August 14 report that bitcoin could rise to $50 000 by 2027 as he expects cryptocurrency users will grow to as high as 100 million users from 10 million today in the next couple of years.

“It looks to me as though we are at the same point in the adoption curve as we were in 1995” with the Internet, Moas wrote. “Cryptocurrency is becoming more widely accepted by the day.”

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