In the race to the bottom, the Russian ruble has finally surpassed oil as a worse-performing asset.

Over the year, the ruble has tumbled 46% while WTI, the price measure of North American oil, has fallen 42%. Most likely, each will end the year even lower.

But the claimant to the title of the Worst Performing Asset of the Year is neither oil nor the ruble. Bitcoin, which the public has seemingly forgotten about, has taken that title with a precipitous plunge in value of 57% from $732 to $316.


Chart from by

In comparison, the Argentine peso is down 24% on the year despite the Argentine government defaulting on its debts a few months ago.

For Bitcoin, 2014 was simply not a good year. In fact, the bad market news started in early December, when Bitcoin tumbled from nearly $1200 to just above $500 in a few days after BTC China, China’s largest bitcoin exchange, announced it would no longer accept Chinese yuan deposits. Bitcoin managed to climb back above $900 in early January, but come early February any hope of restoring bitcoin’s value was lost.

On Feb. 7 the largest bitcoin exchange in the world, Mt. Gox, halted all bitcoin withdrawals, citing difficulties with “currency processes.” Withdrawals remained barred as Mt. Gox and CEO Mark Karpelès continued to deal with unspecified “security concerns” up through the suspension of all trading on Feb. 24, which was followed by the Mt. Gox website going offline the same day. At the time Mt. Gox was handling 70% of all bitcoin transactions. On Feb. 28, Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy. (Timeline of bankruptcy here).

After announcing its bankruptcy, Mt. Gox admitted to losing 750,000 bitcoins belonging to customers and 100,000 of its own, which accounted for 7% of all bitcoins in existence at the time. In total, Mt. Gox lost about $473 million. It turns out these bitcoins were stolen by hackers, but that’s another story.

Despite this Mt. Gox debacle, a brief recovery ensued; bitcoin prices rose 80%, but by the end of June they were falling again, cleaving the price from nearly $700 to its current $316 level. Clearly, since February and the respite in April-June, confidence in bitcoin as a safe, legitimate asset has eroded, as investigators have partitioned blame for the Mt. Gox failure both to Mt. Gox and to the Bitcoin protocol (computer code).

But by now, exchanges have improved their security and bugs in the protocol have been addressed, so what explains the non-recovery in prices?  Due to the fact that bitcoin supply is self-regulated per its protocol, bitcoin price is mostly a function of demand, and indeed, the death knell for bitcoin this latter-half of the year has simply been the fall-off in interest.

Google Trends reveals the drop-off in people searching for "bitcoin."

Google Trends reveals the drop-off in people searching for “bitcoin.”

Last year bitcoin took the nation by storm. Media outlets, and not just the financial ones, had a field-day after field-day with the topic. Reporters spoke every week of new companies adopting bitcoin as a payment method, and pundits debated the crypto-currency’s legitimacy, legality, and investment-grade worthiness.

Compare this to the past few months: who has even spoken of bitcoin? Sure, nearly every day there have been reports about it, but most are mundane. On Thursday the big news concerned New York’s announcement of amended bitcoin regulations as part of the state’s attempt to create a BitLicense for exchange operators.

While this is actually important news—because the whole point of Bitcoin is that it allows buyers and sellers to skirt around state and regulatory control—it’s not the news that will keep mainstream media, or anyone outside of the core of bitcoin aficionados, interested for very long.

There is some hope for bitcoin bulls. Microsoft recently announced it is accepting bitcoins as an online payment, and bitcoin exchanges are reporting huge growth in transactions involving rubles for bitcoins, an indication that Russia’s elite, or the tech savvy, trust bitcoin even more than their home currency.

A rally to close out the year might provide a catalyst to propel prices upwards once again, but there is no telling what else might lie in store for bitcoin.

The author of this article does not own any bitcoins. This article is not meant to be any form of investment advice.


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