Mar 14, 2024 - Economy

Bitcoin's weird 2024 high

Illustration of a digital coin rising from the horizon with beams of light around it

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

The all-time high for bitcoin price should not have hit yet, according to an eerily consistent time analysis of its three prior cycles.

The big picture: It's an article of faith among certain bitcoiners that the coin's cycle runs in four-year intervals, triggered primarily by Bitcoin's regularly scheduled halving.

Catch up fast: The pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto made Bitcoin to express a preference for a predictable form of money with a fixed supply, so there will only ever be 21 million bitcoins (19.6 million are in the market today).

  • A few get released every time a block of transactions gets stamped onto the blockchain — every 10 minutes — and go to the miner that solved that block.
  • That subsidy is 6.25 new bitcoin (BTC) per block, valued today at over $400,000. With the next halving, sometime in April, that will drop all at once to 3.125 BTC.
  • Four years later, it will be halved again, and again four years after that, until eventually there's no new BTC (but we will all be dead by then).
Data: CoinGecko and CoinMarketCap; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: CoinGecko and CoinMarketCap; Chart: Axios Visuals

Follow the money: The first halving hit in November 2012, when BTC was $12.20, then, 366 days later, the first all-time high to make the news hit: $1,127 (a more than 90X gain).

  • If you look at the table above, you can see: After each high, BTC price has eventually fallen to a bottom well below the high. That lowest-low (the nadir) marks a turnaround.

The intrigue: Then there's this crazy consistency for the next two halvings. Twice, from nadir to all-time high it's about 1,065 days (1,062 and 1,068).

  • From halving to all-time high it's been about 535 days (525 and 548).
  • From last nadir to April 20, btw? 528 days. If past is prologue, that would suggest a late September, early October peak.
  • Bitcoin's never before broken a prior peak before a halving.

But this time it did.

March 8 was an all-time high, something like 40 days before April's halving. If BTC price follows the pattern of its three prior cycles, it's not the all-time high for this one.

  • Maybe the peak will hit something like 580 days from now, and we will know that order remains in the cosmos.

Reality check: This cycle has included new variables that made BTC price carve out a new calendar.

  • The BTC ETF was the x-factor this time. The long price rise all through 2023 still squares with bitcoiner orthodoxy, suggesting it would have gotten here eventually. But it looks like the ETF bounce accelerated the timeline.

💭 Brady's thought bubble: I still expect this cycle's peak to hit well, well out from today.

💭 Crystal's thought bubble: ETF cycles tell a story too. Wall Street tends to put things in an ETF wrapper after the biggest performance gains have already been had, playing right into investors' foibles.

  • Sure, BTC could hit a big round number, but I'm gonna bet percentage gains won't be as impressive from here on out.

What we're watching: Because the halving is a big event, there's likely to be a sell-off after ("sell the news").

  • It fell to a low 80% below the halving price in 2012. It only lost 20% after 2016's, but the 2020 halving marked the start of the rise — no drop.

Go deeper: Get daily coverage of how cryptocurrency and blockchain are upending markets with the Axios Crypto newsletter.

Go deeper