UBS: Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are ‘the bubble to end all bubbles’

Key Points
  • UBS Wealth Management is skeptical that bitcoin can be used as a currency.
  • "The bubble to end all bubbles continues," UBS Wealth Management global chief economist Paul Donovan writes.
UBS calls cryptocurrencies ‘the bubble to end all bubbles’

UBS Wealth Management is not a believer in bitcoin becoming a legitimate currency even as the launch of futures lead some investors to believe the cryptocurrency will become a more stable market.

"The bubble to end all bubbles continues. Cryptocurrencies only have value if accepted as currencies. However, they cannot be used for the most important transaction in an economy, and cryptocurrency supply can only rise and never fall (making them a poor store of value)," global chief economist Paul Donovan wrote in a post Monday. "To date, using cryptocurrencies requires (effectively) a simultaneous asset sale and purchase of goods or services."

The economist said in an October report that bitcoin's extreme price volatility detracted from its ability to be a "store of value," which is an essential feature of being a currency.

"A twenty-fold increase in bitcoin prices in just two years, and an absence of any fundamental economic backing, cryptocurrency prices are almost certainly a bubble," he wrote in that report.

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In similar fashion, Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio in September questioned bitcoin's ability to be a unit of exchange.

"Bitcoin today you can't make much transactions in it. You can't spend it very easily," Dalio said. "It's not an effective storehold of wealth because it has volatility to it, unlike gold. … It's a shame, it could be a currency. It could work conceptually, but the amount of speculation that is going on and the lack of transactions [hurts it]."

One Wall Street veteran believes bitcoin can continue surging higher even if it is a "bubble."

"I think this [crypto] is going to be the biggest bubble of our lifetimes by a longshot," former Fortress hedge fund manager Michael Novogratz said at the CoinDesk Consensus: Invest conference in New York on Nov. 28.

"Bitcoin could be at $40,000 at the end of 2018. It easily could," he said on CNBC's "Fast Money" last month. "There's a big wave of money coming, not just here but all around the world."

Bitcoin year to date

Source: CoinDesk

The price of bitcoin rose 9 percent to $16,453 Monday, according to CoinDesk's bitcoin price index. Bitcoin futures launched the previous evening on the Cboe Futures Exchange and were last about 15 percent higher.

CNBC's Michael Bloom contributed to this story.

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