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Bitcoin's wild volatility could soon start shaping other markets

Akin Oyedele
  • Despite bitcoin's wild price moves, it's still not considered a risk to the financial system.
  • But it could start to matter a lot more to the coal market, according to Jordan Rochester, an FX strategist at Nomura.
  • China is the world's largest producer and consumer of coal, and it hosts more than half of the world's bitcoin-mining pools.


On a normal day, bitcoin can shed or gain several thousand dollars of its value with double-digit percentage moves.

While experts debate bitcoin's role in a world still dominated by fiat currencies, the real risk is how the cryptocurrency starts to affect other markets, according to Jordan Rochester, a foreign-exchange strategist at Nomura.

In a note on Monday, Rochester forecast that bitcoin would have a growing impact on energy markets, particularly coal.

Uncovering new bitcoins for use, a process known as mining, requires a lot of electricity. And China, the world's largest coal producer and consumer, hosts about 71% of the cryptocurrency's mining pools, Rochester said.

"Estimates were made in March 2016 expecting Bitcoin's energy consumption to match that of Denmark by 2020," Rochester said.

"Today bitcoin already has matched that, three years ahead of schedule. So if it's not risk-off inspired price action from bitcoin that moves other markets how about higher energy costs?"

Bitcoin's energy consumption stems partly from the fact that it's a proof-of-work cryptocurrency, meaning miners are rewarded for solving mathematical puzzles on the blockchain and for helping to prevent attacks on the bitcoin network. As the calculations get more complicated, more energy is required.

"For as long as POW is the most common form of cryptocurrency, this could start to have an economic and environmental cost," said Rochester, who disclosed that he "holds a personal interest in bitcoin and ethereum."

Bitcoin, with a market value of nearly $300 billion, already affects other asset classes. Chipmakers like Nvidia and AMD have been supported by demand for their products to mine bitcoin. In more baffling moves, some stocks have surged right after the companies announced they were adding the word "blockchain" to their names.

"It may be too early for Bitcoin to have a global impact on other asset markets at this stage," Rochester said.

"Instead, we need to look where investors are most exposed on a regional basis for where this cross-market correlation could bite. With Japan accounting for nearly half of global trade in bitcoin compared with just 25% in the US, it could be in Asia where Mrs. Watanabe pulls back."

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