At around £24,000, current Bitcoin (BTC) prices are down by around 28% since the start of 2022. However, prices fell to similar levels in late January before bouncing back to around £35,000 at the end of March, leaving many to speculate what could be next for the cryptocurrency.
BTC prices are primarily driven by four key factors: supply, demand, competition and sentiment. Here, we’ve taken a look at how each factor might play out in the foreseeable future, plus some additional pressures and expert opinions, to predict what might be next for bitcoin prices.
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 halves every four years.
It’s expected the reward will be 1.56BTC 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.
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 in May 2021 at around 440,000. On 5 June, there were a little over 200,000 transactions, potentially reflecting a marked decrease in demand.
Google trends data also appears to show that fewer people are searching for Bitcoin today than they were a few years ago, with searches peaking in December 2017. Today the number of people searching for Bitcoin is at its lowest levels since October/November 2020.
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 1.1 million active addresses, which is the highest figure since November last year and not far off its December 2017 peak of 1.26 million, according to Glassnode data.
A recent crash in bitcoin prices may have increased demand as speculators look to ‘buy the dip’ - assuming they’ll make a profit when prices recover. On the other hand, the crash and its illustration of crypto’s volatility may have had the opposite effect, cooling off demand.
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.
The emergence of cheaper, faster altcoins 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 May 2022 crash that took around 20% off Bitcoin’s value also affected its competition. Ethereum (ETH) and Cardano (ADA) both fell by more than 20%, 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.
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 state of Extreme Fear - meaning crypto holders in general are selling their assets for fear of future losses. However, critics of fear and greed indices say they can be useful as a barometer of sentiment, 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 less bitcoin is being transferred out of crypto exchanges, the more investors are holding their bitcoin in anticipation it’ll go up in value.
Coinmetrics data shows an uplift in bitcoin withdrawals from major exchanges from May this year, suggesting investors might be anticipating that prices could fall further.
However, while around 18,000 bitcoins were withdrawn on 6 June, withdrawals were around five times higher a week earlier, only slightly higher 30 days ago and more than three times higher this time last year. In context, this could mean holders are less eager to sell because they expect prices to increase.
ES Money asked leading figures in the crypto arena for their thoughts on bitcoin’s prospects.
Martin Škorjanc of cryptocurrency mining platform NiceHash thinks bitcoin prices will rise.
He said: “Bitcoin fundamentals are still strong, and despite the gloom in most of the media, the price has held firm. I think we are more likely to see an upturn in Bitcoin price over the summer. The only thing that could maybe dampen this would be if another altcoin implodes that might keep the market sentiment down.”
Jeremy Cheah, Associate Professor of Decentralised Finance at Nottingham Business School disagrees.
He said: “Bitcoin prices will continue to be highly volatile but overall heading downward because of looming recession and a hike in interest rates.”
Sam Onigbanjo, Founding Partner of Capital Markets Academy UK thinks bitcoin prices will remain stable or fall.
He said: “For bitcoin bulls to succeed in the market this summer, a lot of investment and confidence has to be placed in the instrument. That said, it will likely stay the same or fall over the next few months.”
Richard Rauser of NFT music marketplace TokenTraxx predicts prices could fall.
He said: “The probability is high that Bitcoin’s price has further to fall. The macro environment of high inflation, rising interest rates, quantitative tightening and geopolitical tension has already proven damaging to crypto prices, and is set to endure.”
Dr. Raullen Chai of blockchain network IoTeX says prices may fall.
He said: “Nobody currently can predict where BTC is headed. The best predictions say it goes down as well as it could go up. However, the overall outlook is that it could still face further drops before it starts a bullish trend towards the Q4 of this year.”