In the past year, bitcoin – a digital cryptocurrency with no physical backing that can be sent electronically from one user to another – has risen in value more than 1,400%.
Elliott Prechter, Head of Computer Analysis at Elliott Wave International, recommended bitcoin to subscribers when it was at 6 cents. If you were lucky to get in on bitcoin then, you might be sitting on a gain of more than 200,000 times.
“We provided the first financial publication in the world that discussed bitcoin when it traded at 6 cents in 2010,” says Prechter, whose fascination with technology led him to attend MIT in 2002 and ultimately to join Microsoft in 2006.
“Amidst obscurity, skepticism and disinterest, we explained the currency and said it had great potential,” says Prechter, who left Seattle and Microsoft in early 2011 to help start an algorithmic hedge fund in Las Vegas. In late 2012, he joined Elliott Wave International, where he now serves as head of computer analysis, developing the EWAVES artificial intelligence system for Elliott Wave Analysis.
Today, however, he says if you aren’t already in the game when it comes to bitcoin, you might be better off sitting this one out.
“Bitcoin had great potential in 2010, but not in 2018. With today’s elevated prices, manic psychology and weak fundamentals, I wouldn’t touch it. The risk that it could collapse is too great.”
Prechter says bitcoin could prove to be as fragile as a flower, or more specifically a tulip, comparing the bitcoin phenomena to the 1600s tulip mania in the Netherlands.
During a short stretch in the 1630s, speculators in the country bought up all the tulips they could find, driving the price up substantially on the bulbs that produce the flower. According to the Museum of the Netherlands, Dutch citizens were putting their houses up as collateral to get in on the tulip craze, which eventually collapsed, leaving investors with nothing but a nice-looking garden.
However, not everyone is as wary about the controversial digital currency.
A U.S. banking regulator recently said that bitcoin does not currently pose a threat to the country’s banking system and that there is “space” for innovative financial technology firms to operate in the traditional lending business, Reuters reported.
The marketplace is watching closely to see how Joseph Otting, who was sworn in as Comptroller of the Currency last month, will address a slew of issues including virtual currencies, fintech, and President Trump’s pledge to roll back rules introduced following the 2008 financial crisis.
Speaking during his first formal press briefing, Otting played down concerns over risks posed by bitcoin, which raced to new highs of $19,666 on Sunday, saying a recent informal OCC poll of banks showed they had little exposure to the virtual currency.
“Mostly the banks have stayed away from the currency ... it doesn’t seem to have come into the banking system,” he said, adding that the OCC feels the currency does not currently pose a threat to the safety and soundness of the banking system.
“But everybody’s watching it very closely,” he told reporters.
Otting, the first former banker to lead the OCC in decades, said he also saw a future for a charter for fintech firms, first proposed by his predecessor Thomas Curry, but that he needed time to study the concept.
“I‘m not sure what it looks like and how it’s funded, but I do think there’s a space there that a technology solution can solve. Then the question is what is the requirement on that fintech to get that charter.”
He said that fintech firms were pouring into the small-dollar lending business to fill a void after regulators had “forced banks out of that space” with burdensome regulations and that he hoped banks would re-enter the business with their own fintech solutions.
“But I also am open to other entities coming in and providing those services if they’re not being fulfilled by the banking industry,” he added.
Otting spent more than 30 years as a banker with stints at U.S. Bank and Union Bank, and was most recently chief executive officer of OneWest, the California lender started by Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin after the 2008 housing crisis.
Echoing other bankers as well as many Republicans, Otting said he believed capital rules had become too complicated for smaller banks and that reviewing these requirements was one of his priorities.
He added that he would also like to see regulators and lawmakers review anti-money laundering rules that are making life tough for small banks.
“I think this area of small, consumer lending in the banking business probably needs to be thought through,” he said.
(Newsmax wire services contributed to this report).
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