The emotions in the crypto community are in the range from mild boredom on the positive side to apathy and depression on the other extreme. Despite the gloomy background, I believe 2020 will be one of the best years in the history of crypto assets bringing record highs.
Here are the reasons why…
The broader economy
We live in extraordinary times. Central banks are determined to avoid a recession at all costs by providing liquidity and cutting rates which creates a speculative investment environment. The low interest rate are pumping the valuations of almost any asset class and are also making money managers climb up the risk ladder in search of a meaningful return. Since government bonds don’t yield anything, investors need to buy corporate debt, the ones who previously bought corporate bonds are now into stocks, the stocks loving investors have moved capital to private equity and venture capital etc.
The FED balance sheet jumped $370 billion since September in a new program which is “not QE”. They also cut the rates 3 times this year fighting against a falling stock market and a “potential global slowdown” due to the trade wars and Brexit. As a result we have fresh all time highs in all major US stock indices.
Germany is hovering around a recession, avoiding it technically with a dismal 0.1% growth in the 3rd quarter of 2019. At the same time the DAX index was only 1.3% short of making a new all time high this month.
Even Greece that was on the verge of dropping out of the eurozone four years ago, managed to issue government debt at a negative rate this year.
The cost for avoiding a recession creates a distortion in the valuation of all assets. How do you value anything when interest rates are negative? For great insights on the topic read Howard Marks’ memo on the “mysterious” negative interest rates.
This search for return will drive more people towards riskier asset classes like growth stocks, venture capital and eventually the luring asymmetric bet of crypto assets. "Risk on" state of mind is what crypto needs as the whole asset class (even bitcoin) is perceived as very risky.
US election year
Trump will do anything to keep the stock market and the economy going in 2020. The argument is short but compelling.
He has been very vocal about the new highs and didn’t miss the chance to praise himself for the huge 2019 stock returns. He will likely not do anything that will blow the positive investor sentiment.
This is another tail wind for risk prone investor behaviour in 2020 which will favour crypto assets.
The halving narrative
Bitcoin’s block reward halving is scheduled to occur in mid May 2020. It will bring the daily production from 1800 down to 900 coins per day. This will also cut its annual inflation in half to less than 1.8%. While being twice less powerful than the previous having in 2016, this production cut is still going to influence the price. As a self fulfilling prophecy or a supply-demand result, both previous halvings were followed by an upward price spiral that resulted in a bubble and a blow off top. This is relationship is difficult to ignore and if there is a favourable "risk on” environment in 2020 there is a good chance it will happen again. It may also come faster as investors will try to front run it.
Also, this time we have halving events in the two major forks of bitcoin which did not exist back in 2016 – BCH and BSV. Despite being controversial, they are still among the top 10 largest crypto asset. Their supply cut and potential price rise may help feed the whole “bitcoin halving” narrative and create an upward price spiral for the whole sector.
The latest example of a halving was in litecoin this year and it had a very distinct price effect.
It’s been a while since the last bubble
It’s been exactly 2 years after the top of the previous bubble. Most alts are over 90% down from their all time highs. That is a lot of damage for the speculative investor who came in 2017 and 2018.
Also the lows in most coins were set one year ago and have not been broken down despite prevalent pessimism. This has been a painful environment for anybody looking for a quick buck.
There is also a widespread apathy and pessimism among the crypto community with even hardcore believers changing their forecasts to mediocre 2020.
After 2 years and lots of assets down more than 90% from ATH it seems that most of the coins are held by very strong hands. Therefore downward pressure is limited and if it occurs it would be mainly driven by short term speculators.
The hot word of 2016 was “blockchain”. The whole world got excited about it in 2017. 2019 is the year of DeFi.
In case bitcoin gets close to $20 000 again the “late" money will flood once again to smaller crypto assets seeking higher returns. If/when bitcoin’s blocks get full and transactions become expensive the old narrative of “bitcoin doesn’t scale” would become valid again and this would spread money to BCH, BSV, ETH and others.
Another potential narrative that exists today is the “decentralised finance” – exchanges, derivatives, stablecoins, borrowing, lending all that infrastructure got far more sophisticated since the last bubble. Apart from DeFi projects tokens, Ethereum is also poised to be one of the top beneficiaries of this trend as it hosts most of the DeFI activities. However the "Ethereum doesn’t scale" narrative is also valid so a lot of money could spill over to the competition in the smart contract space.
It’s been more than 2 years since the scaling problems became obvious and a lot of projects that specialised in that domain are up and running. Others are at the final stages of being launched. What would be a better test than a real world influx of new users and apps that will try to fill the capacity. The process of finding a proper scaling pathway will be pushed forward in case of another bubble.
That scenario will change in case of a global recession that brings the “risk off” attitude. Then assets will fall into a negative price spiral and investors will be looking to preserve their capital by fleeing to “safer” assets. Although such a recession is inevitable at some point, it seems that central banks have been very good at avoiding it by kicking the can down the road. If they succeed again in 2020, get ready for an explosive crypto year. However, do not assume this run will be the same as 2017. It depends much on the global economy and investors’ risk appetite and it may be cut off earlier and not result in a full blown bubble like the one from 2017. The sensible investor needs to be cautious and plan for the short run in this environment.