Bitcoin dipped as low as $5,787 Sunday afternoon, marking the cryptocurrency’s lowest price so far in 2018.
Bitcoin’s low had previously been set at $5,947 on February 6th, according to Coindesk’s price index, in the midst of a sharp dip. But the current bear trend, a slower grind driven by global regulatory scrutiny, allegations of market manipulation, and battered investor sentiment, may prove more sustained — despite a bounce that followed the new low.
Sunday’s low marked a more than 70% decline in the value of Bitcoin since December of 2017, when the digital token’s value stopped just short of $20,000. Fortune and other observers were quick to call a bubble in the months and weeks leading up to that peak, as retail investors new to digital assets class piled in, afraid to miss out on a boom.
But recent research suggests the bubble was fueled by more than mass mania. A study released earlier this month found evidence that market manipulation helped drive last year’s price runup, in part through large purchases of Bitcoin at moments of price weakness. Even more pointedly, the study speculated that the manipulation might have benefited the issuers of Tether, a reputedly dollar-backed cryptocurrency that has itself been the target of widespread scrutiny for many months.
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Other substantive factors have likely contributed to the continued decline of Bitcoin. On Friday, for instance, Japan imposed new restrictions on cryptocurrency exchanges in that country, potentially constraining investment there.
But a wave of skepticism around cryptocurrency is likely a more important factor in Bitcoin’s price slump than even national regulatory actions. In addition to continued worries about Tether, Bitcoin’s once-utopian community has been roiled by escalating factional conflicts and growing awareness that 2017’s boom in Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) was driven by a substantial portion of shaky projects and outright scams. The SEC has begun aggressively cracking down on crypto scams, but they’ve clearly helped take the wind out of investors’ sails.
Bitcoin’s decline has also been followed in near-lockstep by the hundreds derivative cryptocurrencies and blockchain tokens, including Ethereum and Litecoin. That uniformity of market movement, with individual technical or business accomplishments failing to decouple blockchain projects’ token prices, is another sign of just how nascent the market is.
All that being said, it’s worth remembering that an investment in Bitcoin made one year ago — when the currency was worth about $2,700 — would still have produced an impressive 117% annual return as of its lowest point today.