Bitcoin’s (BTC) price jumped the most in two weeks Monday, surging alongside U.S. stocks amid speculation the Federal Reserve and other central banks will support markets as the coronavirus spreads.
The largest cryptocurrency by market value rose 4.1 percent to $8,874 as of 17:53 UTC (12:53 p.m. ET). The move followed last week’s 14 percent sell-off, the harshest in three months.
Despite a belief among some investors that bitcoin should trade as a safe-haven asset akin to gold or U.S. Treasury bonds, the cryptocurrency had tumbled recently along with riskier assets like stocks. The sell-off reversed as global authorities, including the Fed, Bank of Japan, International Monetary Fund and World Bank, pledged to act if needed to help offset any lasting economic damage from widespread travel cancellations, quarantines and factory disruptions.
“Investors are dipping their toes back in the water after last week they jumped out of the pool,” said John Todaro, director of currency research at the crypto-focused firm TradeBlock in New York. “This easy monetary policy across central banks should continue to support markets in general, especially in risk-on areas like equity markets, and that should bleed into other asset classes like digital currencies, including bitcoin.”
Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Friday in a statement the central bank would “use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy.”
Trading in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s market for futures contracts on the Fed’s benchmark interest rate shows that investors now see a 100 percent chance of a 0.5 percentage point cut at the central bank’s next regular monetary-policy decision, scheduled for March 18. The rate is currently set in a range between 1.5 percent and 1.75 percent.
Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said Monday the central bank would “strive to stabilize markets and offer sufficient liquidity via market operations and asset purchases,” Reuters reported.
The heads of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank said Monday their institutions stood ready to provide “emergency financing, policy advice and technical assistance,” with special attention to “poor countries where health systems are the weakest and people are most vulnerable.”
The global number of infections is approaching 90,000, according to the New York Times. The first two deaths from the outbreak have now occurred in the U.S., with new cases officially reported in New York, Rhode Island and Florida.
Economists with the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development said Monday in an assessment that the contagion likely will shave 0.5 percentage point off of projected 2020 global growth, from an “already weak” 2.9 percent.
“The adverse impact on confidence, financial markets, the travel sector and disruption to supply chains contributes to the downward revisions,” — the organization said.
The rebound in bitcoin left prices up 24 percent so far this year — markedly better than the performance in the S&P 500, which was still down 6.8 percent in 2020.
Some investors say bitcoin should serve as a hedge against economic turmoil, partly because it’s perceived as immune to the cycles that have emerged in traditional markets, where central banks are expected to come to the rescue in the face of a sell-off. The idea is that money-printing will stoke inflation, reducing the purchasing power of government-issued currencies like the U.S. dollar.
The issuance of new bitcoins is dictated by the 11-year-old blockchain network’s original programming, and cryptocurrency speculators have pegged their hopes to the upcoming “halving” expected in May — a once-every-four-years, 50 percent reduction in the pace of new supplies.
Analysts for the German bank BayernLB predicted last year that the halving could send bitcoin’s price to $90,000.
But traders in the nascent market for bitcoin options are split on whether prices will rise above current levels over the next six months. According to Skew, a cryptocurrency-derivatives research firm, pricing in the options market suggests it’s a coin toss whether bitcoin will trade above the $8,000 mark at the end of September.