By Peter Switzer
Once upon a time, the most asked questions I would get were, firstly, when will interest rates rise and should I fix now? Secondly, do I think there will be a house price collapse? But now all I get is bitcoin questions and it reminds me of that old line: “When the shoeshine boys talk stocks, it’s time to get out of the market.”
Legend has it that JFK’s dad, Joseph Kennedy, exited the stock market in 1929 because he didn’t want to invest with shoeshine boys and bellhops!
When it came to bitcoin and whether I wanted to punt on it, I went to the TAB website and checked out the Futures section to see what Winx’s price was for next year’s Cox Plate. For those who like long-run punts, it’s 3/1 and Rekindling is 21/1 for the Cup!
The current bitcoin price is over $US11,000, and was $US10,000 yesterday, and while I suspect cryptocurrencies are like most things modern and seemingly illegal, think Uber, Airbnb, etc. (which seemingly break laws that incumbent rivals have to adhere to) they will be here to stay. But the bigger question is: at what price?
To buy bitcoin now is a punt and you could do OK but I’m more an expert on investment and that’s why I won’t invest in bitcoin at these prices.
Arguably, the greatest investor of all time is Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway and one of his foundation rules of investing is “Never invest in a business you cannot understand." He has not watered down his stock and it’s now worth $285,080 this morning. Buffett made his fortune backing businesses he suspected would resonate with Americans, such as McDonald’s, American Express and Gillette.
He also told us "Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested is when no one else is. You can't buy what is popular and do well."
Right now, governments and central banks are at sixes and sevens about how to handle bitcoin. The CEO of JPMorgan, Jamie Dimon, says people who buy bitcoin are “stupid” and was criticised by experts on the cryptocurrency for not understanding it. However, to date, a lot of ‘stupid’ people have made money out of their punt. Be clear on this: at $11,000 bitcoin looks like a punt and not an investment.
Someone who is not stupid is Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, who says it should be “outlawed” as it “doesn’t serve any socially useful function.”
I was asked to explain bitcoin on my 6:45 am spot on the Talking Lifestyle radio programme today and I understand the basics of bitcoin but there are grey areas that worry me.
A Bloomberg piece out today tells us: “Bitcoin has risen by about 75 per cent since October alone, after developers agreed to cancel a technology update that threatened to split the digital currency.”
What? Those ‘investing’ in bitcoin are in the hands of “developers”! Who in the hell are they? I can handle having my investments in the hands of central banks but I worry about investing in oil because of that rag tag mob called OPEC and the non-OPEC countries spearheaded by the likes of Russia, Sudan, Oman and Azerbaijan.
Sure, I’ll invest in oil when the price gets silly and low but as it climbs, I worry about those who control the price.
I know madness could push the price of bitcoin higher and that could make me look like a luddite, scaredy cat, who has no idea but that’s the problem, I don’t have an idea about “developers”, who apparently can split the currency!
I say good on those who have taken a punt on bitcoin and own it big time but, in good faith, I can’t say this is a buy here at $11,000 but here’s another point made in the Bloomberg story: “There's no agreed authority for the price of bitcoin and quotes can vary significantly across exchanges.”
It’s the bubble price that sounds off alarms for me and that’s my job to look for flashing sirens and red flags.
"This is going to be the biggest bubble of our lifetimes," hedge fund manager Mike Novogratz said at a cryptocurrency conference Tuesday in New York.
Novogratz, who says he began investing in bitcoin when it was at $US90, told Bloomberg he is starting a $US500 million fund because of the potential for the technology to eventually transform financial markets.
Bitcoin looks like it’s here to stay but I don’t think its current price is.
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