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Get Ready for Most Digital Currencies to Hit Zero

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s global head of investment research is of the opinion that most digital currencies are unlikely to survive in their current form, and investors should prepare for coins to lose all their value as they are replaced by a small set
The recent cryptocurrency sell-off came after huge price rises for many coins last year.The recent cryptocurrency sell-off came after huge price rises for many coins last year.
Today’s digital coins lack long-term staying power because of slow transaction times, security challenges and high maintenance costs

The tumble in cryptocurrencies that erased nearly $500 billion of market value over the past month could get a lot worse, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s global head of investment research.

Most digital currencies are unlikely to survive in their current form, and investors should prepare for coins to lose all their value as they are replaced by a small set of future competitors, Goldman’s Steve Strongin said in a report.

While he did not posit a timeframe for losses in existing coins, he said recent price swings indicated a bubble and that the tendency for different tokens to move in lockstep was not rational for a “few-winners-take-most” market, Bloomberg reported.

“The high correlation between the different cryptocurrencies worries me,” Strongin said. “Because of the lack of intrinsic value, the currencies that don’t survive will most likely trade to zero.”

Today’s digital coins lack long-term staying power because of slow transaction times, security challenges and high maintenance costs, according to Strongin. He said the introduction of regulated Bitcoin futures has not addressed those concerns and he dismissed the idea of a first-mover advantage -- noting that few of Internet bubble’s high fliers survived after the late 1990s.

“Are any of today’s cryptocurrencies going to be an Amazon or a Google, or will they end up like many of the now-defunct search engines? Just because we are in a speculative bubble does not mean current prices cannot increase for a handful of survivors,” Strongin said. “At the same time, it probably does mean that most, if not all, will never see their recent peaks again.”

Strongin was more upbeat about the blockchain technology that underlies digital currencies, saying it could help improve financial ledgers. But even there he sounded a note of caution, arguing that current technology does not yet offer the speed required for market transactions.

>Opposing Narrative

Following a recent violent sell-off across digital coins, experts told CNBC that cryptocurrencies could go on a bull run greater than last year and pass the trillion-dollar mark.

Bitcoin has seen a huge fall in recent days, dropping below $6,000 for the first time since mid-November. On Wednesday, it was trading above the $7,000 level as the cryptocurrency market stabilized.

At its lowest point on Tuesday, the total cryptocurrency market saw over $550 billion wiped off its value. But industry insiders see another rally ahead.

"Increasing regulatory recognition of cryptocurrency exchanges, the entrance of institutional capital and major technology developments will contribute to the market's rebound and push cryptocurrency prices to all new highs this year," Thomas Glucksmann, head of APAC business development at cryptocurrency exchange Gatecoin, told CNBC by email on Tuesday.

"There is no reason why we couldn't see bitcoin pushing $50,000 by December."

The technology advancements Glucksmann referenced include bitcoin's so-called Lightning Network, which would boost the very slow transaction speeds using the cryptocurrency.

"One possible appetizer for the bulls, or the catalyst for the recovery, will be the release of another cryptocurrency backed instrument listed on a major exchange. There are several candidates in the pipeline, it's only a matter of time until we have a cryptocurrency backed ETF (exchange-traded fund)."

Last year, the CME and CBOE both released bitcoin futures products that people could trade. And Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman told CNBC in a recent interview that the exchange was "continuing to investigate" cryptocurrency futures.

There is still not a bitcoin ETF or exchange-traded fund on the market. An ETF tracks the price of an asset and would allow people to trade bitcoin without having to buy the digital currency on an exchange. Noted cryptocurrency investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the brothers who founded the Gemini Trust digital currency exchange, had an ETF application rejected last year.

The recent cryptocurrency sell-off came after huge price rises for many coins last year. Bitcoin was up nearly 1,300%, while ethereum rose over 8,000% and ripple surged over 32,000%.

Even though the price rises were massive, some experts think that this year could be even bigger.

"We believe after February the market will likely go on a bull run comparative if not greater than last year potentially reaching the trillion-dollar mark before a proper crypto winter sets in where the market becomes more focused on proper market fundamentals," Jamie Burke, CEO at Outlier Ventures, a venture capital firm that focuses on blockchain investments has been quoted as saying.

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