Necessity – according to the old saying – is the ‘mother of invention’. That’s why the ‘need’ prompted by the current coronavirus might well be the catalyst for change in a number of aspects of our lives in 2020. It’s also why some people are able to capitalise on a time of crisis to make money. Take a look, for example, at The Big Short (one of IG’s top trading books) to see how some people profited from the last economic crisis.
So, what about cryptocurrencies? Could this be a make or break year? Will this sector emerge a ‘winner’ with a more prominent role?
There were certainly those that saw the writing on the wall when the recent crisis first took hold. CNBC highlighted, for example, how cryptocurrencies had $93.5 billion wiped off their value on March 12 alone with bitcoin’s price crashing by 48%. Yet, while crypto critics rushed to point out that bitcoin wasn’t being seen as a ‘safe haven’, those early dips can largely be explained as being a result of the sort of volatility felt across all sectors, including the likes of forex. The month of April saw prices trend upwards, reaching the same levels seen in January 2020 and showing every sign of recovering the ground lost in March.
There are actually two big signs that this year could present an opportunity for cryptocurrencies to be further entrenched in the mainstream.
The first is the fact that this this crisis is, once again, shining a light on the weakness of the world’s monetary system. People may forget that cryptocurrencies rose to prominence, in part at least, thanks to the frustrations felt after the 2007/08 crisis. If this sews further discord in that system, it might serve to reinforce the reason for their existence. Depending on how badly things end up – and no-one can be sure of this yet – dissatisfaction with the status quo might well bubble up enough to force the financial revolution being threatened by cryptocurrencies.
But that’s not all.
There’s actually been a significant shift in the way policymakers have looked at cryptocurrencies. This is being driven by the new global standards being established by the Financial Actions Task Force (FATF), which are establishing a framework that cryptocurrencies previously lacked.
- A French court ruling that a bitcoin loan counts as a consumer loan – therefore placing this on the same footing as currencies.
- Amendments to legislation in places as varied as Abu Dhabi, Germany and South Korea to include cryptocurrencies.
- India and Zimbabwe reversed previous bans on cryptocurrencies.
Writing for The Conversation, Iwa Salami highlighted these changes and their significance and explained: “It almost certainly means that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will probably not be killed off by the COVID-19 crisis or indeed any other market event. With the growing market in crypto lending, these services look pivotally positioned to replace traditional banking services in the coming years. If more countries make similar moves to the ones I’ve highlighted above, crypto-assets could even become entrenched in the financial mainstream very soon.”
Cryptocurrencies were born in a crisis – it might well be that they come of age in one too. If they do though, it won’t just be that the coronavirus has acted to create a necessity, it’ll also be thanks to the way in which legislators are starting to recognise and protect digital currencies.
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