(Bloomberg) — Bitcoin slid Tuesday after a bout of volatility highlighted lingering doubts about the durability of the token’s mesmerizing rally.
The cryptocurrency fell as much as 12.5% to $48,071 and was trading below $50,000 as of 8:16 a.m. in London. At one point Monday it plunged 17% before paring the slide. Bitcoin is still up some 390% in the past year.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates were the latest to weigh into a debate over the digital coin. Gates cautioned about how investors can be swept up in manias, while Yellen said Bitcoin is a very “inefficient” way of conducting transactions.
In the background are jitters that the global economic recovery from the pandemic will eventually prompt central banks to dial back easy-money policies that helped propel Bitcoin higher. At a technical level the digital currency looks stretched, according to Miller Tabak + Co.
A monthly relative-strength index for Bitcoin is “extremely overbought,” the company’s chief market strategist Matt Maley wrote in a weekend note.
Gates and Yellen muscled in on a discussion that of late had been dominated by Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk. He’s tweeted that Bitcoin prices “seem high” but also that the token is a “less dumb” version of cash.
Tesla this month disclosed a $1.5 billion investment in Bitcoin, while MicroStrategy Inc. boosted a sale of convertible bonds to $900 million to buy even more of the token.
Bitcoin faithful argue the digital currency is a hedge for risks such as faster inflation and is winning more attention from corporate treasurers and long-term investors. Others see echoes of the digital coin’s 2017 boom and bust.
“It’s a pure speculative asset,” said Nader Naeimi, head of dynamic markets at AMP Capital Investors in Sydney.
A pullback in Bitcoin shouldn’t be surprising “given the current overleveraged long positions on mainstream coins,” said Annabelle Huang, a partner at Amber Group, a crypto financial-services firm.
The Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index, which spans Bitcoin, Ether and three other digital tokens, declined as much as 13%.
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