While I believe the overall trend for bitcoin is upwards, trading this currency comes with considerable risk. Bitcoin prices are highly impacted by public sentiment about the currency.
It will continue to fluctuate as companies and financial institutions make decisions of how to incorporate (or not incorporate) it into their businesses and workflow. It’s also highly sensitive to regulatory changes, as I will get to in a minute.
To give an example, in early June 2017, Bitcoin was trading at $2,983, before losing 30% of its value a month later in July—crashing to $1,992. Then it climbed up to $4,764 in September, posting an impressive 139% gain.
Then as I sit here and write this on September 3rd, 2017, the Chinese government announced a few hours ago that they are banning all organizations and individuals from raising funds through Initial Coin Offering (ICO).
They barred all banks and financial institutions from doing business related to ICO trading. This is significant news, although not a surprise to many people, as representatives from the People’s Bank of China and China Securities Regulatory Commission had previously criticized ICOs as an unauthorized fundraising tool that may open the door to financial scams. (I will explain ICOs in the last section).
The news of the ICO ban in China had bitcoin trading down 12%, Ethereum down 23% and Litecoin down as much as 32%, as shown below. So don’t go throwing your entire savings account into Litecoin just yet, and being bullish long-term doesn’t mean it will get there smoothly.
There is also risk inherent to the exchange itself. Just like the cash in your wallet, the safety of your bitcoins or other currencies depend on your own diligence. While your bitcoins cannot disappear, the transactions are permanent and can only be refunded by the recipient. This means you should only do business with people and organizations you know and trust, or who have an established reputation.
Remember, bitcoin transactions are stored publicly and permanently on a network, which means that anyone can see the balance and transactions of any bitcoin address. However, only the bitcoin exchanges and/or the parties involved in the transaction can attach the addresses to a real person. So for the most part, the transactions are anonymous.
Here are some great websites to bookmark for bitcoin news and discussion boards. The combined content here could keep you busy for at least a year.
Brave New Coin
If you’re on Twitter, I also created a list of bitcoin influencers that you can subscribe to and read their content. I find this to be the most efficient way of consuming information quickly before making trades.