Bitcoin giving recent South African investors the blues

Web_photo_bitcoin logo_28feb2014

A bitcoin logo is seen during the opening ceremony of the first bitcoin retail shop in Hong Kong on February 28, 2014.

JOHANNESBURG - Bitcoin surged in value during 2017, rising from around R13,500 for a Bitcoin on 1 January to just under R255,000 on 17 December.

This represented a rise of almost 1,900 percent in rand terms. But South Africans who invested in the crypto-currency on 17 December, at the height of its value, have suffered a sharp loss in value, with the currency dropping below R97,500 on 2 February, 2018, a drop of over 60 percent.

The dollar price of Bitcoin was similarly volatile, with the crypto-currency hitting $1,000 on 1 January 2017 and rising to around $19,400 on 17 December, before declining more than 60 percent to around $8,100 on 2 February.

The rapid seesaws in value have added emphasis to financial analysts&39; warnings that the crypto-currency is a highly speculative bet.

READ: 2017: The year the bitcoin craze reached Wall Street

The growth of Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies during 2017 led to large retailers beginning to accept payment in the virtual medium.

When CME, the world&39;s largest futures exchange, launched Bitcoin futures in December, the crypto-currency surged to new heights, having risen from $5,767 on 17 November to its $19,400 peak on 17 December, a 336 percent increase in just one month.

But CME&39;s decision proved to be one very positive bit of good news in the midst of a number of bad news stories for crypto-currencies.

On 6 December 2017 the digital distribution platform Steam announced that it was ceasing to accept Bitcoin payments for its products because of slow transactions speeds, unstable prices and the high fees charged for transactions.

Online payment firm Stripe announced that declining demand had led it to the decision to terminate its support for Bitcoin payments, ending its service in April 2018.

Also in January, South Korea banned anonymous trading in the currency.

Other factors that have negatively impacted the crypto-currencies have been the enormous amount of energy required by computers to generate the virtual coins, with its implications on global warming and the slow speed at which transactions are completed when there is a run on the currency.

While Bitcoin has suffered from excessive volatility since its inception but has bounced back on each occasion, the marketplace remains divided whether it will reverse its declining trend on this occasion.