EDITOR NOTE: Despite the stunning surge of Bitcoin’s market value, reaching $1 trillion last week, we can somewhat see why JP Morgan calls it a mere “sideshow.” Volatility, whether positive or negative, certainly has shock value. Yet most robust transformations often take the slower and more inconspicuous path, like a current that subtly sways direction. The critical outcome amid the pandemic-driven economy is Fintech innovation itself. The arena has changed significantly--from non-bank financial services to digital fiat currencies competing with traditional banks. For regular Americans, it’s also a battle between digital and physical assets; the temptation for efficiency over financial privacy and control. JPM analysts say that bitcoin prices are unsustainable at current levels. In our view, privately-issued digital currencies with no tangible commodity backing are ultimately unsustainable. Fiat-based digital currencies are ultimately unsustainable due to the actions of the very institutions (central banks) that issue them. History has come to show that any “virtual” currency, whether paper or any other material “money substitute,” always comes back to the issue of intrinsic value. But it usually takes a systemic collapse for societies to learn, over and over, that gold and silver remain the final disruptors.
Analysts at the bank said that despite bitcoin’s monster rally, the cryptocurrency is still beset by a number of issues that may prevent it from becoming a mainstream asset.
“But fintech innovation and increased demand for digital services are the real Covid-19 story with the rise of online start-ups and expansion of digital platforms into credit and payments.”
Bitcoin has gained traction with major Wall Street banks and Fortune 500 companies, a development which has boosted its price and saw it hit $1 trillion in market value last week.
Investors have drawn comparisons between bitcoin and gold, viewing the former as a new digital store of value thanks to its limited supply — the total number of bitcoins that will ever exist is capped at 21 million.
Still, skeptics remain unconvinced. Economists like Nouriel Roubini say that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have no intrinsic value. And a recent Deutsche Bank survey said investors view bitcoin as the most extreme bubble in financial markets.
JPMorgan’s strategists said current bitcoin prices appear to be “unsustainable” unless the cryptocurrency becomes less volatile. They added their $146,000 price target hinged on bitcoin’s volatility “converging to that of gold,” which would likely take years to happen.
Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies have “questionable diversification benefits” and rank as the “poorest hedge” against significant drops in stock prices, JPMorgan’s analysts said.
The bank has been making a push into blockchain technology with its own cryptocurrency called JPM Coin and a new business unit called Onyx.
The rise of digital finance and demand for fintech alternatives is the “real financial transformation story of the Covid-19 era,” according to JPMorgan.
“Competition between banks and fintech is intensifying, with Big Tech possessing the most potent digital platforms due to their access to customer data,” the bank said.
″‘Co-opetition’ between ‘Fin’ and ‘Tech’ players lies ahead, with banks stepping up investment to narrow the technology gap, and the battle between US banks and non-bank fintech is also playing out on the regulatory front.”
Major tech companies like Apple and Google have shown increased interest in financial services lately. Apple launched its own credit card in partnership with Goldman Sachs, while Google is letting its users open checking accounts following a tie-up with Citigroup.
“Traditional banks could emerge as endgame winners in the digital age of banking due to their advantage from deposit franchise, risk management and regulation,” JPMorgan said.
Digital banking has boomed in the coronavirus era, with large lenders and fintechs alike seeing a surge in adoption as people are spending more time at home due to public health restrictions.
Originally posted on CNBC