Morgan Stanley Says Investors Shouldn’t Buy Bitcoin. They Should Spend It

Jul 12, 2017

Just hours before two audience members urged viewers to "Buy Bitcoin" during Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's testimony Wednesday, banking giant Morgan Stanley released a decidedly less glowing recommendation of the cryptocurrency.

The skinny of the Morgan Skinny's analysis: Rather than buying bitcoin, owners need to be spending it.

"Bitcoin acceptance is virtually zero and shrinking," the team of Morgan Stanley analysts led by James Faucette wrote.

The bank notes that while five online merchants out of the top 500 tracked by e-commerce analytics site Internet Retailer accepted Bitcoin last year, that figure has now shrunk to three.

Part of the problem?

"Bitcoin owners are reluctant to use the cryptocurrency given its rate of appreciation," they wrote.

Still, it's understandable why investors have been so hesitant about spending the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin has been on a winning streak for the majority of this year. And it is hard to spend something when it has the potential to add $200 in a day or go from say $25 dollars to $22 million over the course of seven years.

"The [Bitcoin] ecosystem has focused more on value speculation rather than the foot leather-eating work of increasing acceptance," the team wrote. That focus, they added, has made it "way easier to trade speculatively than convince new merchants to accept the cryptocurrency."

As of now, Bitcoin is facing several challenges in its path toward mainstream usage. In the U.S., for example, the regulatory infrastructure for dealing with the currency is still bare.

Still, for at least one retailer that accepts Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency is still flowing. Online furniture retailer Overstock.com said earlier this year that it now handles about 100,000 Bitcoin transactions a week, up from 30,000 a year earlier. And while it's not being used by the major retailers noted by Morgan Stanley, it is increasingly accepted by marijuana dispensaries.

Morgan Stanley's note comes at a time when investors from BlackRock to Mark Cuban are crying "bubble" on the cryptocurrency, which has breached several all-time highs this year.

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