The cryptocurrency market is off to a strong start in 2024, led by Bitcoin’s climb back above $45,000 for the first time since April 2022. Bitcoin gained over 150% in 2023, marking its best annual performance since 2020. Analysts say bitcoin’s resurgence is driven by growing optimism that the long wait for a spot bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) may finally end in early 2024.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has rejected numerous proposals for a spot bitcoin ETF over the years, arguing the crypto market is too susceptible to manipulation. But the SEC appears to be warming up to the idea amid maturing crypto regulation and infrastructure. The approval of a spot bitcoin ETF would allow mainstream brokerages to offer crypto exposure to millions of investors for the first time.
Ethereum, the native cryptocurrency of the ethereum blockchain, also rallied to start the year. It gained over 90% in 2023 despite volatility that whipsawed the crypto market. Ethereum has benefited from upgrades to the ethereum network as it transitions to a more energy-efficient proof-of-stake consensus model.
Other layer-1 blockchain tokens like Solana’s SOL, Polygon’s MATIC and Polkadot’s DOT saw steep gains in 2023 as well. The growth of decentralized finance and Web3 applications continues to drive interest in Ethereum rivals.
The upbeat momentum in crypto has also lifted shares of companies with significant digital asset exposure. Crypto exchange Coinbase saw its stock jump in early trading, along with bitcoin holding firm MicroStrategy.
Mining companies like Riot Blockchain and Bit Digital were up sharply as higher bitcoin prices improve profitability for crypto miners. Even crypto-adjacent equities like Tesla, which holds bitcoin on its balance sheet, have outperformed the broader stock market recently.
Macroeconomic trends are also providing tailwinds for the crypto market after a brutal 2022 bear market. The collapse of the Terra/Luna ecosystem, bankruptcies of key industry players like Celsius Network and FTX, and meltdown of algorithmic stablecoins wiped over $2 trillion from the crypto market cap at its lowest point.
But expectations that the Federal Reserve and other central banks could start cutting interest rates in 2024 have renewed appetite for risk assets. Lower rates tend to benefit high-growth, speculative investments. The crypto market meltdown also flushed out excess leverage and speculative frenzy.
With crypto giants like FTX and Alameda Research gone, attention is returning to building and expanding the underlying utility of blockchain networks. The growth of decentralized applications and services like decentralized finance (DeFi), non-fungible tokens (NFTs), metaverse virtual worlds and Web3 remain long-term tailwinds for crypto adoption.
Some analysts predict the crypto market could get an added boost in 2024 from the U.S. presidential elections. Bitcoin’s four-year reward halving schedule has coincided with recent election year performance. If the crypto bull market resumes as 2024 dawns, analysts say the next Bitcoin halving could fuel further growth.
While risks like regulation and security breaches remain, the crypto industry has weathered previous downturns. With fundamentals still favorable for broader blockchain adoption, the crypto market appears ready to leave its 2022 woes behind as it charges into the new year.