Crypto craze fuels Dogecoin rise from joke to $50bn

Dogecoin, boosted by the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Cuban, rallied roughly 180 per cent Friday

The Nordic region is home to many mining companies looking to take advantage of excess green power available in the region. Reuters 
The Nordic region is home to many mining companies looking to take advantage of excess green power available in the region. Reuters 

While Coinbase Global captured the headlines with its market debut, the frenzy around digital tokens is taking its zaniest turn yet in the price of a token created as a joke.

Dogecoin, boosted by the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Cuban, rallied roughly 180 per cent Friday, according to CoinMarketCap.com, reaching a market value of more than $48 billion.

It’s now up 18,000 per cent from a year ago, when it traded for $0.002 and was worth about $250 million.

Doge’s surge is part of a rise in altcoins, a term for all the digital tokens that have sprang up in imitation of Bitcoin. Like most of them, its use case is limited, making it a tool for speculators and raising concern that a bubble is inflating in a crypto world now worth more than $2.25 trillion.

“This reminds me of the dot-com days. We knew something big was going on, a lot of investors were chasing it hard. That led to a bubble,” Scott Knapp, chief market strategist at CUNA Mutual Group, said. “For every Amazon.com there were 10 pets.com that went bankrupt. Is Dogecoin the pets.com of the cryptocurrency era?”

Interest in crypto is on the rise again after companies from PayPal to Square started enabling transactions in Bitcoin on their systems, and Wall Street firms like Morgan Stanley began providing access to the tokens to some of the wealthiest clients.

All along, crypto diehards who say the blockchain technology will rewire the financial community have been plugging crypto, becoming rich in the process.

The Shiba-Inu themed Dogecoin was created as a joke by software engineers Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer in 2013. Mr Musk sparked a rally in it earlier this year when he posted a photo of a faux magazine Dogue featuring a dog in a red sweater.

But Michael Novogratz, chief executive of Galaxy Digital Holdings, isn’t buying the hype, since Dogecoin “doesn’t really have a purpose".

“It’s reminiscent of GameStop,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV, referring to the meme stock mania that gripped markets in February. “I would be very, very worried if one of my friends was investing in Dogecoin at these prices.”

With little to back up the case for buying cryptocurrencies, the likelihood of them cratering remains high, leaving novice traders who jumped in on the hype vulnerable to steep losses.

“The government has pumped so much monetary and fiscal stimulus into the economy now, even worthless assets are being bid up,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading.

Yet altcoin popularity is hard to ignore. While Bitcoin is worth more than $1tn, the total market cap of the token universe now exceeds $2.25tn, according to CoinGecko.com, which tracks more than 6,700 coins.

Bitcoin’s dominance in the crypto world has declined 28 per cent since the beginning of the year, according to OKEX Insights Analyst Robbie Liu, citing data from Tradingview. The waning influence started to accelerate this month and Bitcoin now accounts for less than 54 per cent of the crypto market capitalisation – the lowest level in about two years.

“On the altcoins front, we continue to see strong momentum,” said Pankaj Balani, chief executive of Delta Exchange, a leading crypto derivatives exchange. He noted Ether’s recent record and increased activity in decentralised finance, or DeFi, and added that “decentralised exchange coins will be in focus in the next few days, given that the market has validated Coinbase at a $100 billion valuation".

Other tokens with shaky to no fundamentals are also rising. Cardano and Polkadot, both in the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market cap, have surged this week.

“Polkadot and Cardano have very few ‘users’," said Shashwat Gupta, founder of Altcoinbuzz.io, though he added that there’s a substantial amount of development being built on them.

And it looks like Coinbase chief executive Brian Armstrong may have been on to something when he said after the listing that it marks a “shift in legitimacy” for crypto.

The Coinbase listing “ultimately will deliver more ‘use cases’ for cryptos and should keep the crypto market growing,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst for North America at Oanda Corp.

Published: April 17, 2021 04:45 AM

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