Predicting what will happen to Bitcoin’s price is difficult. The token traded at almost £50,000 in November 2021 and today it’s valued at £21,118.
As volatile as BTC prices are, they’re driven by four main factors: supply, demand, competition and sentiment. Here, we’ve taken a look at how each might play out in the foreseeable future – plus some additional pressures and expert opinions - to predict what might be next for bitcoin prices.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned repeatedly that anyone investing in crypto should be prepared to lose everything.
The more scarce an asset becomes, the more valuable it tends to get. The total amount of bitcoin that will ever be available is capped at 21,000,000, which means supply is limited.
New bitcoins are minted when a new block of verified transactions is added to the blockchain by a bitcoin miner (read more here). As a reward, they’re gifted an amount of newly-minted bitcoin.
More than 19,000,000 BTC have already been minted over the last 12 years, leaving around 2,000,000 more to be mined. However, while the unmined supply of BTC represents over 10% of the total supply of BTC, it doesn’t mean the 21,000,000 limit will be reached in 14 months’ (10% of 12 years) time.
This is because the minting of new bitcoins is set at a fixed rate which slows over time. When bitcoin began, the reward given to miners for adding a block of transactions to the blockchain was 50BTC. Four years later, it was halved to 25 and the reward continues to halve every four years.
It’s expected the reward will be 3.125BTC by the end of 2024, which means it’ll be decades before all 21,000,000 bitcoins are minted. So, in the medium term, bitcoin will not be in short supply.
However, the halving mechanism effectively puts a constraint on supply that could push up prices if demand increases in future. We’re now less than a year out from the next halving in April 2024, and anticipation could cause prices to rise.
Verdict on supply: With 10 months to go until the next bitcoin halving, prices could slowly increase.
Growing demand for a finite resource should increase its value. As we know, bitcoin is a finite resource that is going to become scarcer over time.
The greater the demand for bitcoin – that is, the number of people buying it – the more transactions there will be. Daily bitcoin transactions peaked on May 10 2023 at more than 670,000. Yesterday, on 7 June 2023, there were more than 443,000 transactions - down from around 526,00 last month.
Google trends data appears to show that fewer people are searching for bitcoin today than they were a few years ago, with searches peaking in December 2017. Searches in 2023 are trending downwards.
Another worthwhile indication of demand is the number of active bitcoin addresses, since you need an active address to buy bitcoin.
At the time of writing, there were around 1,000,000 active addresses, according to Glassnode data. That’s significantly up from last month’s 566,000 and not far from its 1.25m peak in April last year.
Finally, the next bitcoin halving is due to take place in the spring of 2024, and demand could increase before that time in anticipation of the supply squeeze it theoretically brings.
Verdict on demand: Transaction numbers and active addresses tell a contradictory story. Prices could fall, hold or rise.
The emergence of cheaper altcoins with faster transaction speeds has not cost bitcoin its crown as the king of cryptocurrencies. It’s still the biggest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation and has even been adopted as a state currency in El Salvador - something that no altcoin can boast.
Detractors have argued that some altcoins have more potential than bitcoin because, while the latter is a system for payments alone, Ethereum, Cardano and Ripple feature programmable blockchains that can host smart contracts and decentralised apps (dApps).
Supporters might argue that bitcoin cannot be directly compared to such altcoins.
It’s interesting to note that the crypto crash that began in May 2022 and took more than 50% off bitcoin’s value also affected its competition. Ethereum (ETH) and Cardano (ADA) both fell by similar amounts, meaning bitcoin’s losses weren’t its competitors’ gains.
Even stablecoins that were created as a less volatile alternative to traditional crypto assets have been negatively affected by global economic factors.
The other big change in (relatively) recent months is the Ethereum merge, which saw Ethereum switch from a Proof of Work consensus mechanism to a Proof of Stake consensus mechanism. While better for the environment, the change doesn’t appear to have boosted bitcoin’s main rival significantly in terms of value.
Verdict on competition: With no particular pressure on competition, prices may remain flat.
Bitcoin prices can be affected by people’s attitudes towards it.
A fear and greed index is a tool used by investors to gauge sentiment in a market. Fear reflects a market in which investors sell their assets because they’re concerned prices will fall. Greed reflects a market where investors are buying because they expect prices will rise.
According to the widely cited Crypto Fear & Greed Index at alternative.me, which tracks crypto trends, the market is currently in a Neutral state - meaning crypto holders in generalaren’t anticipating gains or losses. This status is unchanged for the last few months.
Critics of fear and greed indices say they can be useful as a barometer of sentiment, but they don’t work well for predicting price movements.
Another good indicator of sentiment is the levels of bitcoin outflow from crypto exchanges: in other words, the more bitcoin is being transferred out of crypto exchanges and into wallets, the more investors are holding their bitcoin in anticipation it’ll go up in value.
Cryptoquant data shows withdrawals are broadly flat, albeit up slightly on last month.
Verdict on sentiment: Sentiment might indicate that prices are about to increase.