The price of bitcoin digital currency, which more than doubled in 2015, is poised to surge even higher next year as investors have regained confidence in its stability after the collapse of the Mt. Gox exchange in 2014.
Bitcoin is trading for about $443, an increase from its $200 level during the beginning of the year. That's better than the 12-month forecast of $400 Wedbush Securities made in July (the firm has since raised its forecast to $600). According to Adamant Research, bitcoin's price has surged more than 900 percent since it began trading 2010.
Opinions vary about how high bitcoin will rise in 2016. An unscientific poll by CoinDesk, which follows the market, found 37 percent of respondents thought prices would hit between $500 and $1,000. Another 26 percent thought it might top $1,000 as demand continues to climb.
But experts such as Michael Sonnenshein, director sales and business development for Grayscale Investments, which sponsors the Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC), were reluctant to provide a forecast. "I am not concerned about a bubble," said Sonnenshein in an interview. "If you go back and look at the bitcoin price chart, it's a series of bubbles and busts."
Bitcoin hit its stride in 2015. Prices surged 80 percent during the last six months and are up 90 percent over the past three. Venture capital investments in the sector hit are running at over $900 million to date, according to Adamant Research. Among the big-named investors that have taken a shine to the online currency are venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who was an early backer of Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR), and PayPal (PYPL) co-founder Peter Thiel.
"In the traditional markets we are seeing increased volatility and insecurity," said Tuur Demeester, Adamant's editor-in-chief and a bitcoin investor, in an interview. "Bitcoin's fundamentals are stronger than ever."
The digital currency is designed to be scarce. About 15 million of the 21 million bitcoins that are planned to be minted and circulated have already been created. Supplies will be further tightened this summer during what industry insiders call a "halving event." That happens every four years, when the number of coins that bitcoin "miners" mint is cut by half.
"The last time this happened, there was considerable movement in the bitcoin price," Grayscale's Sonnenshein said. "It will be very interesting to see how the market digests the halving event."
Expectations for the sector are surging. By 2025, Wedbush expects bitcoin to account for 10 percent of the $5.9 trillion online payments market and 20 percent of the $744 billion remittance market.
Wall Street is also keeping a close eye on the growing interest in "blockchain," the underlying technology used in bitcoin among the financial services sector. Spending on the technology is expected to hit $400 million in 2014, up from $75 million this year, according to consulting firm Aite. And SETL, a U.K.-based blockchain startup, on Wednesday announced the appointment of former Barclay's chairman as its chairman.
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