Cryptocurrency update: Bitcoin breaks $61,000, Tesla & BTC, and NFTs, NFTs, NFTs

Another week, another BTC high, which looks like good news for Elon Musk and Tesla. Elsewhere, NFT fever sweeps across cryptos, but will that affect prices?

Cryptocurrency update

Bitcoin new record high

Bitcoin spiked on Saturday 13th March, crossing the $60,000 barrier for the first time, and reaching above $61,500 before pulling back.

At the time of writing, Bitcoin futures were trading back around $55,000.

So, what was behind this fresh Bitcoin rocket ride? It’s our old friend institutional support. Chinese software firm Meitu is the latest in a long line of companies snapping up digital tokens for their treasuries and putting support on BTC prices.

Meitu has picked up $17.9m in Bitcoin but also bought $22m of Ether in the same transaction, which is fairly interesting – most probably because Ether is cheaper per-unit than Bitcoin, but still has a lot of institutional interest.

JPMorgan has also stated it’s launching a structured investment product featuring indirect exposure to cryptocurrency markets for its clients by the end of March. The investment bank’s structured debt product will maintain stock holdings in companies that have their own exposure to BTC. Retail and institutional investors would then have the opportunity to buy into the debt issuance with a minimum investment of $1,000 without direct BTC exposure.

There’s a long, long list of supporters of BTC has it continues to shift from outsider alternative currency to mainstream token. JPMorgan and Meitu are the latest names to join it, while Deutsche Bank and others have been there for a couple of months now.

Another factor that could be playing into a new BTC rally is Joe Biden’s mega stimulus package. $1.9 trillion in extra stimulus is coming to the US economy with $1,400 going to US citizens. Could some of that be pumped into retail cryptocurrency investment?

At its highest, Bitcoin’s market cap reached $1.14 trillion – more than the entire GDP of Indonesia or Mexico. Volatility is the fundamental characteristic of Bitcoin, however. After its most recent rally, when it smashed through the $50,000 barrier, BTC retracted down to $33,000 before rising again. It’s a heady rollercoaster ride, but one that encourages shorting. Some sort of stability would be nice.

While institutions are jumping aboard the Bitcoin/crypto train, regulatory reform is in the break car, desperately trying to put a slowdown on the market before investors go off the tracks. India, for instance, is proposing a strict cryptocurrency ban, wanting to prohibit “possession, issuance, mining, trading and transferring crypto-assets”, according to Reuters.

This regulatory tug of war will be ongoing, but it doesn’t really seem like it’s going to slow BTC volatility in the short-term.

Tesla makes big BTC profit

The shadow of Elon Musk looms large over the cryptocurrency world. The man with the itchy Twitter finger’s influence on price movements and crypto legitimacy has been seemingly all pervasive in recent months. When news came his carmaker Tesla had sunk $1.5bn in BTC in its last financial update at the start of February, it caused a stir. Is that a smart move for a EV manufacturer to be exploring? Apparently so.

With BTC breaking over $61,000, Tesla’s move to fill its coffers with digital coinage looked like a good one.  At that high, Tesla was up $1.2bn on its BTC trade.

Companies storing spare cash in securities like Treasury bills is nothing new. But Treasury bills are usually nowhere near as volatile as cryptocurrencies. It’s hard to argue with the results, but there are some lingering questions.

The $1.2bn crypto profit is more than Tesla has made from selling cars across the last decade, nominally the core mission of Tesla as a company. Of course, launching a new car marque into a congest marketplace takes massive overheads. You’ve got spend money to make money (and cars), but the ratio of investment to profit from digital tokens Tesla just showed versus its central business function is an interesting one.

Will Tesla move more of its capital into digital currencies? How will this affect its core business? What will the market think?

Tesla’s shares dropped by 20% after its BTC play was revealed, falling from $863 per share to around $694 at current levels, suggesting it doesn’t think too kindly on Tesla doing this. Musk has essentially tied Tesla and BTC together at the hip with such a move, which may have caused investors to question Tesla’s ongoing growth strategy.

In the short-term, it has paid off, but is it really sustainable for Tesla to pour money into BTC – especially with rivals like Lucid Motors gaining traction, and legacy car manufacturers making in roads into the EV segment. It’s one to watch for the future.

Could NFT upswing lead to higher crypto prices?

NFTs are getting more headlines recently, following a $69m purchase of a digital graphic from Designer Mike Winkleman, aka Beeple, by the pseudonymous founder of NFT-fund MetaPurse MetaKovan.

An NFT is a non-fungible token, a not-so-sexy name for assets sold on blockchains. This includes artwork, music, digital collectibles, virtual items for video games like weapons or skins, and even tokenised real-world assets like designer trainers, cars and property.

Everyone is getting in the act with Kings of Leon releasing their latest album via NFTs and Elon Musk’s (who else?) Wife Grimes selling $6m worth of artworks on blockchains via NFTs.

Non-fungible tokens are bought with cryptocurrency. For instance, MetaKovan picked up Beeple’s “Everdays” with $69m worth of ETH.

NFTs are valuable because they prove an artwork’s scarcity. “Everdays” is a one-off, thus its value was huge – although that is partly tied into a broader discussion on the value of art, which we won’t dive into here.

Depending on the type of NFT sold, the purchaser would become the sole owner. So, using “Everdays” as an example, MetaKovan is that artwork’s sole owner.

In the case of the Kings of Leon release, buying it as an NFT would mean you own a digital copy of the album, like you would if you were to buy it off iTunes or pick up a physical copy.