Many investors hold Bitcoin (BTC) as a hedge against the global financial system. However, as the numbers show, Bitcoin has not been spared from the recent COVID-19 financial crisis.
This article will analyze the movement of global financial markets and its correlation with Bitcoin during the COVID-19 crisis. We’ll consider the following sources as price measures for the following.
- Bitcoin’s price from CoinMarketCap.
- Bond prices from Vanguard Total Bond Market Index.
- Stock prices from the S&P 500.
- Gold from the price of gold futures traded on COMEX.
- Real Estate from the Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate Index.
- Oil as the price of crude oil futures from Oilprice.
The recent crash has really challenged Bitcoin’s claim as “digital gold” and puts its assertion as a financial “safe haven” to the test.
A 21-day rolling correlation graph shows that Bitcoin has recently become increasingly correlated with other global financial assets.
This statistic should be worrisome for cryptocurrency investors trying to find a respite in the midst of all the financial chaos.
Has gold fared any better?
Before we give “digital gold” such a hard time, we should note that physical gold hasn’t sheltered investors from this financial storm either.
Correlations between gold and other financial assets have also soared during this time, signaling that the world’s financial markets are more interconnected than ever before.
The importance of low, or negative, correlation
Harry Markowitz, the father of the modern portfolio theory, postulated that the most important aspect of risk to consider is an asset’s contribution to the overall risk of the portfolio, rather than the risk of the asset in isolation.
Therefore, a portfolio is not riskier if it contains Bitcoin, which is a more volatile asset, and it is uncorrelated or negatively correlated with the other holdings in the portfolio.
Uncorrelated assets are the envy of portfolio managers because they can reduce volatility and improve risk-adjusted returns. Many portfolio managers keep Bitcoin as an alternative asset in their portfolio for this reason alone.
If Bitcoin does not remain uncorrelated with the rest of the financial market, then it may be viewed as a significantly less desirable, risky asset by asset managers and the institutional market. A decrease in institutional interest could mean large sell-offs and fewer fiat inflows into the market.
So far, this is not the case
Despite a recent uptick in its correlation, a portfolio comprising 80% stocks and 20% Bitcoin would have outperformed a portfolio of 100% stocks from a risk-adjusted return perspective within the last three months and also within the last year.
However, if we were to just look at the last month, Bitcoin would have been better off avoided.
It is true that Bitcoin has remained a relatively detached and uncorrelated asset in times of economic prosperity. But that is not enough. For it to be considered a true financial safe haven, it must be robust against shocks reverberating through other financial markets. Especially in times of turmoil, the asset’s performance should be placed under heavy scrutiny.
Hopeful for a rally
Nevertheless, Bitcoin’s recent price rally has shown signs of promise. This may provide hope to cryptocurrency holders — especially if other assets continue to tank.
Do cryptocurrency indices provide better diversification?
The HODL30 index, a portfolio comprising the top 30 cryptocurrencies by market cap, was less correlated to the overall financial market than Bitcoin. The correlation between the index and American stocks was significantly lower than the correlation between Bitcoin and U.S. stocks.
If cryptocurrency investors want to shield themselves from global market fluctuations, indices may become increasingly relevant.
Time will tell whether Bitcoin or any cryptocurrency will live up investors’ lofty expectations as a financial safe haven. In a tight-knit, interconnected financial system, such a thing may prove impossible.
Perhaps the culling of fickle cryptocurrency investors during a time of crisis will leave only the strong and sturdy, dampening future volatility. Or, this price crash will set a precedent for investors to scramble for cash whenever the next financial crisis brews because Bitcoin can no longer be trusted to shelter them.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Anthony Xie is the founder of HodlBot, a trading tool that enables cryptocurrency investors to automate their trading strategies.