Bitcoin may now be the biggest financial bubble of all time

  • Birinyi Associates studied 10 market bubbles, and bitcoin surpassed them all. Last week, it had been the third largest behind the Mississippi bubble and Qualcomm.
  • Other bubbles Birinyi studied include the the tech bubble, beanie babies, the Dow in 1929 and the silver bubble of the late 1970s.
  • Birinyi didn't include tulip mania of the 17th century in its chart because it said there were no reliable metrics to judge it. But analysts estimate bitcoin is bigger.

Bitcoin is now sizing up to be what could be the biggest market bubble of all time.

According to Birinyi Associates, bitcoin now looks to be bigger than any of the 10 other market bubbles it studied including the the tech bubble, beanie babies, the Dow in 1929 and the silver bubble of the late 1970s.

Bitcoin was trading at about $16,235 Thursday morning, rising from $1,000 at the start of the year, and $11,000 at the beginning of last week.

Just last week, bitcoin was the third largest of the 10 events Birinyi studied. It was third behind an 18th-century French financing scheme around the development of the Mississippi Valley, known as the Mississippi bubble, and the one-day 31 percent surge in Qualcomm in December 1999. According to Birinyi Associates, it was a Wall Street analyst's call for a $1,000 target that set Qualcomm shares on fire.

The cryptocurrency market goes beyond bitcoin, but none has appealed to the broader, general public in quite the same way.

Wall Street has been late in catching up to the individual investors and cryptocurrency traders who expect bitcoin to keep surging. Three exchanges have rushed to launch bitcoin products. Futures started trading Sunday on the Cboe, with a separate contract expected to launch at the CME this weekend. Nasdaq also plans to offer futures next year.

Bitcoin and past financial bubbles

Source: Birinyi Associates

While many view bitcoin as bubbly, riding a parabolic wave, others believe it can go sharply higher.

Michael Novogratz, formerly a macro hedge fund manager at Fortress Investment Group, said Tuesday on CNBC's "Fast Money" that he would sell litecoin in favor of bitcoin because of its rapid run-up. Litecoin briefly climbed 59.5 percent that day to a record high of $341.72.

Novogratz has said he expects bitcoin to hit $40,000 within a few months. Novogratz, now CEO of Galaxy Investment Partners, said his firm is launching its cryptocurrency fund this week.

In its chart of past bubbles, Birinyi didn't include tulip mania of the 17th century because it said there were no reliable metrics to judge it. But analysts at Convoy Investments said they believed bitcoin is now bigger than tulip fever.

According to Reuters, the Convoy analysts said bitcoin's prices have "gone up over 17 times this year, 64 times over the last three years and superseded that of the Dutch tulip's climb over the same time frame."

Birinyi said the end point it used for each bubble was its peak, and when available, it brought the data back 22 months to match bitcoin in January 2016.

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