Bitcoin’s Gunning for a Record and No One’s Talking About It

Three years ago, Bitcoin’s historic surge dominated Thanksgiving dinner conversations. This year, the cryptocurrency is in the midst of another notable rally and yet almost no one’s talking about it.

How fevered has Bitcoin’s latest leg higher been? With the coin trading around $16,800, it’s been more expensive in only five other instances in the past decade, Bloomberg data show. All of those came during the 1,375% surge in 2017 that saw it reach close to $20,000 before a spectacular plunge wiped out 70% over the next year. A cross above $17,000 would mark its fifth-highest closing price ever.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency by market value has been through a boom and bust and a second boom since its frenzied heydays in 2017. A lot has changed in the years since, and crypto enthusiasts argue digital coins have gone through a maturing process. But the mania that surrounded digital currencies back then is largely absent, despite Bitcoin being about 14% shy of its vaunted record highs.

“The fascination with it has worn off. You have the hardcore ‘I’m a cryptocurrency investor’ group but it hasn’t really expanded because it’s been so volatile, there have been so many questions around security and what regulations might do,” said Kathy Jones, chief fixed income strategist for Schwab Center for Financial Research. “The number of questions I get on it now is a fraction of what I got a couple of years ago when it was really hot.”

By all accounts, Bitcoin has had a great year, despite a crash at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that saw it lose 25% in March. It’s more than doubled since December and many fans are once again eyeing the $20,000 level as the next barrier to breach.

Developments in recent months have helped fuel this year’s rally. Fidelity Investments launched a Bitcoin fund, adding its star power and legacy brand to the space. Some prominent Wall Street names bought in. Public companies Square Inc. and MicroStrategy Inc. recently invested in the coin. And one of the most notable events for fans was PayPal Holding Inc.’s October decision to allow customers to access cryptocurrencies.

But market watchers say more pressing issues have grabbed this month’s headlines.

“It’s kind of in the shadows right now,” said Bryce Doty, portfolio manager at Sit Fixed Income Advisors. “Bitcoin gets attention when it looks like the world is coming to an end, it’s the anti-vaccine trade. As stocks and everything else have done better and people have forgotten about trade wars and things have been eclipsed by the pandemic, Bitcoin has taken a back seat to all of that.”