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Bitcoin is acting like a real currency now: it suffers shocks but doesn’t collapse

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The latest news from the Bitcoin world involves more allegations of theft and skullduggery, but this time there’s a twist: investors aren’t sending the virtual currency into a Justin Bieber-style free fall. Instead, Bitcoin is behaving more like an emerging market currency in the face of bad news.

In case you missed it, the price of Bitcoin suffered a jolt on Thursday night after a popular exchange stopped processing transactions. This comes on the heels of a string of other negative news: Apple(s aapl) booted the last Bitcoin app from its iTunes store; another money laundering arrest; and Russia’s decision to ban the currency outright. Oh, and Coinbase — the most mainstream Bitcoin service — confirmed that someone is robbing its customers’ wallets.

So what the outcome of all this? After trading at around $800 for over a month, the currency finally took a small swoon last night and, as of Friday afternoon ET, one bitcoin is selling for about $740 on Coinbase:

bc screenshot

The overall drop is over 10 percent in 24 hours, a significant amount to be sure. But the drop is nothing compared to Bitcoin’s usual wild swings. As the Washington Post noted this week, the currency has gone through at least four spectacular bubbles and crashes, in which its value plummeted more than 80* percent — but this isn’t happening anymore. Indeed, this week’s drop is just a hiccup in comparison.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin wasn’t only currency to stumble this month. Here’s what happened to the peso in Argentine, where President Cristina Kirchner has badly mismanaged the economy:

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 3.08.38 PM

And, if you want to discuss volatility, here’s what the Turkish lira has been doing in the last few weeks of a corruption scandal:


These charts show that while Bitcoin has troubles, so too do conventional fiat currencies that have been around for much longer. And while hackers and charlatans can damage Bitcoin’s reputation, they may be no worse for the money than corrupt and incompetent leaders who meddle with central banks for political purposes.

It’s too soon to say, of course, that Bitcoin has overcome its historical volatility — or even that it won’t blow away all together. But for now, it’s significant that the currency’s value is holding relatively stable in the face of a wave of bad news.

*An earlier version of this story stated that previous Bitcoin crashes amounted to 100 to 500 percent. This has been corrected as per comments below.

7 Responses to “Bitcoin is acting like a real currency now: it suffers shocks but doesn’t collapse”

  1. fredhstein

    SevenCoin makes a good point about the overall increase in Bitcoin.

    But, Investopedia provides a good definition of Speculative Bubble; And when it ends, the asset returns to its “normal” value, not to zero.

  2. SevenCoin

    Using the term “bubble” is incorrect. A bubble describes an asset that crashes to nothing when the bubble pops. That has not happened to Bitcoin. Each time the market falls it levels off far higher than each previous period of stability. The pattern has repeated several times and the overall value is steadily higher over time.

  3. Angel Leon

    everyone is oveanalizing this. mtgox fucked up and a lot of people had their coins there.
    mtgox is not bitcoin, it’s just a big player, once everyone has their coins out, people will move on to other exchanges, price will be up.

    buy while it’s cheap and while the atm networks are still being built. once they’re here, common people won’t need to use the exchanges, it will get more professional, and decentralized (a lot coming on decentralized crypto exchanges, they won’t be about fiat, just digital assets)

  4. Danielle Eber

    Um, something can’t fall 500 percent. That would make the price negative four times the original price. The 2011 crash was on the order of 80-90%, depending on exactly how you measure the peak and bottom.