Bitcoin: 2021 in 12 charts
Bitcoin (BTC-USD) joined traditional markets by starting 2021 in a stagnant and shell-shocked state, reeling from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic.
At the beginning of the year, institutional finance was piecing together a roadmap to recovery after being plunged into uncertainty by the surprise pathogen that made the jump from animal to human in the previous year.
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However, bitcoin has an intimate relationship with global financial shocks and not necessarily one that correlates with traditional assets. The world's preeminent cryptocurrency was born amid the 2008 financial crisis. Anonymous founder Satoshi Nakamoto referenced the bailout of global banking in the first block in the bitcoin blockchain, now called 'the Genesis Block'. Within the code of the Genesis Block is a secret message that reads, "the Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks."
The fall-out from subsequent coronavirus pandemic lockdowns would see bitcoin make gains for most of 2021, except for a major Elon Musk related dip in early June, a prolonged July trough and an early December flash crash.
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The financial topography at the start of 2021 looked grim, with more stimulus packages planned and supply chain woes beginning to affect global trade. But, overall, the world's preeminent cryptocurrency has risen in value by 94.29% from the start of January to the present.
If 2017 was the year for retail investors to tread into the uncharted waters of cryptocurrency markets, then 2021 was the year when institutional players stepped on stage. With bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) now available and the creation of the FTSE 400 crypto index listings, crypto was maturing and starting to gain the interest of financial institutions.
Financial centres across the globe were beginning to take seriously the promises of digital tokenisation and distributed ledger technology.
The following charts illustrate the significant peaks and troughs of bitcoin’s journey throughout 2021.
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The first signs of a determined rise in the bitcoin price in 2021 happened in late January.
Bitcoin's trajectory soared for the next few months until it reached an all-time high of $63,729 (£47,539) on 3 April 2021.
The price then nosedived after Twitter (TWTR) action by Elon Musk in early June. On Friday, 4 June the cryptocurrency market revealed how sensitive it was to the Tesla (TSLA) CEO's whims after he tweeted the word bitcoin alongside a broken heart emoji.
Cryptocurrency aficionados reacted with fury. The tweet by Musk was quickly responded to by Changpeng Zhao, the Binance CEO, who took to Twitter to state, “tweets that hurt other people’s finances are not funny, and irresponsible".
In early June president Nayib Bukele of El Salvador announced his nation would be making bitcoin legal tender. The announcement had little effect on the price of the world's preeminent cryptocurrency, and throughout July 2021 bitcoin sulked in a month-long trough.
The market only began to lift on the lead up to El Salvador's bitcoin law going to effect on 7 September. Investors were buying in, speculating this monetary precedent would start a domino effect across the world and making bitcoin a highly sought after asset.
The bull run did not last, there was a crash soon after bitcoin become officially legal tender in El Salvador.
Cryptocurrency markets began to lift in early October. Institutional investment began to become increasingly locked into the system, such as the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) which now gives investors "exposure to bitcoin returns" through bitcoin futures contracts.
The mid-November turning point in the bitcoin price caused a downward trajectory to early December.
On 5 December, cryptocurrency markets suffered a flash crash.
In mid-December, charts warned of continued bearish momentum with many suggesting that if bulls fail to hold BTC at $47,000, a return to the $30,000s was almost inevitable.
The world's preeminent cryptocurrency managed to wrangle its way out of spiralling into a bearish cycle to touch $50,000 as of the time of writing.
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*Correction: This article has been amended on 13 January to say ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) gives "exposure to bitcoin returns" through bitcoin futures contracts. The ETF doesn't "manage more than $1.4bn worth of the cryptocurrency", as was previously stated.