Cryptocurrencies, led by Bitcoin and Ethereum, fell as part of the broader tech selloff, confirming their reputation among investors as hazardous investments that can be quickly dumped in times of market stress.
The drops were driven by Federal Reserve minutes that revealed officials are planning to raise interest rates more quickly this year. As interest rates climb, maintaining unpredictable investments that generate little income becomes less appealing when compared to government bonds.
Bitcoin has dropped around 6% since the release of the December Fed minutes on Wednesday, and it is currently trading at $42,989.72. Ether, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, has dropped approximately 9% since the announcement. This puts bitcoin around its lowest 5 p.m. ET level since late September and well below November highs.
Cryptocurrencies, like other speculative assets such as tech stocks, have performed well in a low-interest-rate environment over the last two years.
Last November, the dollar value of bitcoin approached $70,000 as global markets rose and traders bet that the first U.S. exchange-traded fund connected to the cryptocurrency would attract new investors, pushing the price of bitcoin even higher. Since then, bitcoin’s surge has slowed, with the price slipping lower near the close of last year.
“It has been range bound and seemed to be waiting for a spark one way or another,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at trading firm Oanda.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are famously volatile, frequently spiking in response to news of their acceptance in mainstream economic sectors, rumours, or announcements from celebrities.
Bitcoin’s price rose last year as a result of Tesla Inc.’s purchase of bitcoin and the stock-market debut of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global Inc.