Is the bitcoin boom over? Since I last covered the topic of cryptocurrencies on December 26, the price of bitcoin jumped to $17,135 before falling back again, continuing its decline from the peak of $19,343 printed on December 16. At the time of writing, the price of the cryptocurrency is $13,957.
After surging in price by more than 240% between mid-October and mid-December, bitcoin has fallen by around 28% since its peak. Does this mean that your chance to get rich from digital assets has now disappeared?
Run out of room?
As I covered in my last article, bitcoin's potential is enormous. In fact, all cryptocurrencies could help transform the world over time. The appeal of these assets is that they are decentralised with no single institution controling the bitcoin network; it's also entirely anonymous and completely transparent.
There's also the security aspect to consider, as I wrote last time, "bitcoin stores details of every single transaction that ever happened in the network in a large version of a general ledger called the blockchain -- a technology that many banks, tech groups, and even city councils are testing around the world." This technology could transform the way we process transactions all over the world and the more we use these networks, the higher the demand for cryptocurrencies, which should lead to higher prices.
However, one problem that has emerged with bitcoin's level of privacy and decentralised nature is that it has become the go-to asset for criminals looking to circumnavigate strict money laundering and other regulations banks have in place. As a result, governments are starting to crack down on cryptocurrencies. Indeed, yesterday it was reported that South Korea, one of the largest crypto markets in the world, may ban trading in them. At the same time, the nation's police and tax authorities raided local exchanges to investigate allegations of tax evasion.
Struggling to adapt
Governments are not the only ones cracking down. Earlier this month Visa banned several cryptocurrency-backed debit cards from its network because the "issuer in Europe violated their operating regulations."
To add insult to injury, last week a the North American bitcoin Conference to be held in Miami announced that it would no longer be exchanging tickets for any cryptocurrency because of difficulties in processing payments.
These developments have hit bitcoin's reputation and hampered its drive to become a widely accepted alternative to traditional currency.
Until these issues are ironed out, it's unlikely cryptocurrencies will ever live up to their full potential and I believe this will weigh on prices. That being said, as a speculative asset, the price of bitcoin could still increase, but this is a trade for only the most risk-tolerant investors who know the subject. If governments decide to crack down, you could be left with nothing.
So, if you want to invest in this asset, the best way might be via companies that are helping to develop the technology. This reduced-risk approach will allow you to profit from this potentially transformative technology without the risk of losing all of your cash if things don't go to plan.
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Rupert Hargreaves owns no share mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.