Tether. USD Coin. Gemini Dollar. Basis (RIP).
If 2018 was the year of the so-called stablecoin, or price-pegged cryptocurrency, then what will the new year bring? While it’s impossible to predict the future with absolute certainty, here are five hypotheses based on The Ledger’s own expert tasseomancy. (Okay, we’ll admit we got this one wrong.)
Below are our 5 predictions for 2019. (This is not investment advice, yada, yada.)
1. Tether loses traction. For years questions have swirled about the solvency of Tether, historically one of the most popular stablecoin projects. Expect rival stablecoins from the likes of Circle, Coinbase, Gemini, and others to eat away at the monopoly Tether once enjoyed. Even if Tether doesn’t go the way of Basis, which shuttered at the tail end of 2018, its prominence will likely wane as investors flock to surer vaults.
2. Facebook mints WhatsApp coin. Facebook has been interested in payments at least since it poached David Marcus from PayPal in 2014. Formerly head of messaging products, Marcus spearheaded the media giant’s secretive blockchain initiative last year. Recent chatter suggests he is gearing up to release a WhatsApp-based remittances product in India. After a rough 2018, the company could use a win right about now.
3. Regulators slap a big kahuna. The Securities and Exchange Commission will take swings at bigger targets this year. Perhaps it will deem XRP, the world’s second-most valuable cryptocurrency by market capitalization, to be an unregistered security, in which case it will surely whack Ripple, the coin’s purveyor, with fines. Or maybe the SEC will bring down the hammer on a cryptocurrency exchange for failing to adhere to anti-money laundering and know your customer laws. We’ll bet there are penalties in store for more celebrities who pumped “initial coin offerings” too. #BlessUp
4. Bitcoin ETF wins approval. As the industry matures, conditions are ripening for a Bitcoin-based exchange traded fund, or ETF. Cooler heads are prevailing among retail investors, post-bubble. Bakkt, a financial firm brought to you by the folks behind the New York Stock Exchange, is preparing for the debut of a physically settled Bitcoin futures market, improving liquidity. At least one SEC commissioner, Hester Pierce, has agitated to green-light a Bitcoin ETF. Speaking of which, keep an eye on next month’s decision regarding VanEck’s application.
5. The hangover will last. Cryptocurrency prices will not reclaim their 2017 highs anytime soon. Global geopolitical tensions, volatile equity markets, and talk of a looming economic recession dampen the investment prospects for such a risky asset class, at least in the near-term. It’s worth noting that there is disagreement within The Ledger’s ranks here. My colleague Jeff Roberts thinks the price could rebound sooner. I believe we haven’t seen the bottom yet.
How are you placing your bets in the new year? Do you agree with our hunches? Disagree? Send us your thoughts, opinions, predictions. We will highlight the best submissions in a newsletter to come.
A version of this column first appeared in Fortune’s The Ledger, a newsletter covering the leading edge of finance and technology. Subscribe here.