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Deutsche Bank Economist Says a Bitcoin Crash Would Endanger Global Markets

A Bitcoin cryptocurrency souvenir coin.A Bitcoin cryptocurrency souvenir coin.
A Bitcoin cryptocurrency souvenir coin.Vyacheslav ProkofyevTASS via Getty Images

An economist at Deutsche Bank thinks a crash in the price of bitcoin will be among the top risks to broader markets in 2018.

Torsten Slok, Deutsche’s Bank’s Chief International Economist, recently sent clients a list of 30 market risks which could impact growth next year. The list, shared with outlets including Bloomberg, ranks a bitcoin crash as the 13th-highest risk, behind various central banking challenges and overvaluation of U.S. equities.

It’s not hard to argue bitcoin is in a hype-fueled bubble, but Deutsche’s concern that it could impact the global economy still seems at least slightly overblown. According to Coinmarketcap, the total market value of all cryptocurrencies — including not just bitcoin, but Ethereum, Litecoin, and all the rest — is now swinging around $400 billion. For comparison, the total value of the U.S. housing market, which lay at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis, was estimated at $29.6 trillion in 2016 — or more than 70 times higher than cryptocurrencies’ current total value.

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That doesn’t mean a bitcoin bust couldn’t contribute to a broader meltdown, but it’s hard to see it as a systemic risk in itself. Aside from pure size considerations, bitcoin owners are spread across the entire globe, which would also spread any crash’s impact.

Despite that, Slok’s list ranks a bitcoin crash above both Robert Mueller’s investigation of Donald Trump, which could result in the impeachment or even indictment of a sitting U.S. President, and North Korea, whose missile testing could spark a full-blown war. The bitcoin bubble, it seems, isn’t just in its price, but in outsized assessments of its broader economic significance.