Dow Today – Bitcoin price Swings Roil Markets
Wall Street and corporate America have finally bought into Bitcoin, just in time for one of the ugly crashes the cryptocurrency regularly experiences.
Stocks slumped for a third day this week as a bust in the world of crypto — until recently considered a side show to actual financial activity — bled into the broader markets and hammered shares closely linked to the difficult-to-define digital assets.
Markets were also roiled by the release of the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting, which showed that some of the central bank’s officials are considering starting to talk about pulling back on support for the economy. Concern that the Fed might begin to do this — in part as inflation picks up — has been a big driver of volatility in stock markets lately.
A move by the central bank to raise interest rates or take other measures to cool growth isn’t likely to come anytime soon, but the mention of a willingness to discuss it was enough to trigger a swoon in financial markets. Yields on government bonds jumped and the S&P 500 — which was already lower — fell further soon after the minutes were released.
But stocks recovered. The S&P 500 ended down 0.3 percent on Wednesday, bringing its losses for the week to 1.4 percent. Yields on 10-year Treasury notes rose to 1.68 percent.
The decline in the stock markets was a faint echo of the crash in the market for cryptocurrencies in recent days.
Bitcoin was down nearly 8 percent on Wednesday after recovering from an even steeper drop. Ethereum, another cryptocurrency, was down 20 percent. The tumble came after an announcement from the People’s Bank of China that seemed to effectively ban Chinese financial institutions or payment companies from offering services that touch cryptocurrencies.
As the world of cryptocurrencies has exploded over the past year, so has its impact on actual companies and therefore financial markets. Some on Wall Street have been increasingly focused on potential risks the growth of cryptocurrency could pose.
Analysts at JPMorgan recently noted that the market value of cryptocurrencies, as a share of the economy, are larger than the total outstanding amount of subprime real estate debt before the financial crisis.
A research note published this week by Bank of America Merrill saw the plurality of the nearly 200 money managers it surveyed spotlight bets that Bitcoin’s prices will rise as the most crowded trade in the markets. Crowded trades are often seen as potential signs that a downturn is coming.
Tesla tumbled 2.5 percent. The company had once positioned itself as a prominent supporter of cryptocurrencies, and in March, it announced that it would accept Bitcoin in exchange for cars, helping to set off a surge in the asset.
Last week, Elon Musk, the company’s chief executive, reversed that decision, citing concerns about the energy consumption needed used by cryptocurrencies.
The hard-drive maker Seagate Technology — which has a stake in the cryptocurrency company Ripple, the creator of the XRP currency — fell 1.6 percent. Shares of Seagate and Western Digital, another maker of hard drives, had been on a tear in recent days, as analysts spotlighted surging demand for its computer products, in part, from cryptocurrency miners. Western Digital closed down 2.7 percent.
Bitcoin wasn’t the only element moving the markets. American crude oil tumbled 3.3 percent on lingering concerns that the still-spreading coronavirus in India, as well as Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan, could prompt new restrictions that could curtail economic activity.
Stock markets in Europe and Asia ended the day mainly lower. The Stoxx Europe 600 index was 1.5 percent lower, the FTSE 100 in Britain was down 1.2 percent, and the Nikkei in Japan dropped 1.3 percent.