When we predicted last September that bitcoin, which then was trading at $230, would be the biggest winner from unprecedented Chinese buying to avoid heightened capital controls, something which even Bloomberg confirms is taking place flip-flopping on its previous "explanation" that BTC is rising due to some Russian pyramid scheme, not even we anticipated a move quite like this: 9 months later bitcoin is over 200% higher, and moments ago soared above $700, hitting $710 earlier today for the first time since early 2014, when it was sliding from its all time high above $1000.
As we wrote over the weekend, the catalyst has been another unprecedented bout of Chinese buying, which started on Saturday evening ET (Sunday morning Chinese time). This is again confirmed by looking at the action in the primary Chinese bitcoin exchange, OKCoin, where the buying, and volume, has been relentless, both on Saturday and Sunday, when the BIS appears to be away from the "emergency intervention" desk.
While regular readers know the story, here is Bloomberg's with its "new" narrative: China.
Bitcoin’s rebound is coinciding with weakness in the yuan, which fell the most in two months on Monday in Shanghai. Losses have accelerated in recent weeks as the dollar strengthened and China’s economic outlook deteriorated. Data Monday showed industrial output rose 6 percent in May from a year earlier, while fixed-asset investment increased 9.6 percent in the first five months of 2016, missing all 38 economist forecasts.
"What we’ve seen over the weekend is more of the same: Chinese fear of a slowing economy and the yuan potentially looking to make another move lower," said Ryan Rabaglia, head of wholesale product management at ANX International in Hong Kong. "Each time we see yuan weakening we tend to see a triggering of capital outflows out of China, and bitcoin has been on the winning end of that."
The yuan is trading near the five-year low it touched in January, while the Shanghai Composite Index is this year’s worst performer among 93 global stock measures. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. warned this month that the yuan weakness may trigger capital outflows and increase bets on a one-off devaluation.
Recall what we said in September:
We would not be surprised to see another push higher in the value of bitcoin: it was earlier this summer when the digital currency, which can bypass capital controls and national borders with the click of a button, surged on Grexit concerns and fears a Drachma return would crush the savings of an entire nation. Since then, BTC has dropped (in no small part as a result of the previously documented "forking" with Bitcoin XT), however if a few hundred million Chinese decide that the time has come to use bitcoin as the capital controls bypassing currency of choice, and decide to invest even a tiny fraction of the $22 trillion in Chinese deposits in bitcoin (whose total market cap at last check was just over $3 billion), sit back and watch as we witness the second coming of the bitcoin bubble, one which could make the previous all time highs in the digital currency, seems like a low print.
And just in case China, with its $30 trillion in troubled deposits and soaring capital flight is not enough, another, far less relevant catalyst, is the so called "halving" set to be unveiled in bitcoin in under a month. As a result, profits from mining bitcoins will be reduced in July, a process that’s written into the code to limit supply, according to Chinese exchanges OKCoin and Huobi.
"The halving of the supply of Bitcoin is attracting many retail investors," Liu said. "More broadly, we continue to see follow-through from the blockchain hype cycle translating to interest in bitcoin the asset."
But the real story here remains the momentum: it is well-known that habitual Chinese gamblers like nothing more than buying high any asset that has upside momentum (most recently observed in the "rebar" bubble of April), the reality is that nobody knows how far BTC can rise from this point on. The math is favorable: bitcoin still has a market cap of only $10 billion compared to total Chinese financial deposits of over $22 trillion.
Bottom line: it could go much higher. That said, anyone who bought last September when the digital currency was trading at $230 may be advised to take some profits, and at least make sure their cost basis is zero going forward.