2022 was a rough year for crypto. More than $1.3 trillion was wiped off the value of the market. And bitcoin, the world’s largest digital coin, saw its price slump more than 60%.
Investors were caught off guard by a wave of collapses in the industry from stablecoin project terraUSD to crypto exchange FTX, as well as a worsening macroeconomic climate. Those who made predictions about bitcoin’s price in the past year really missed the mark.
But with 2023 now here, some market players have stuck their neck out with price calls for what could be another volatile year.
Interest rates around the world are on the rise, and that’s weighing on risk assets like stocks and bitcoin. Investors are also watching how the FTX saga, which resulted in the arrest of the company’s founder Sam Bankman-Fried in the Bahamas, will develop.
CNBC rounds up some of the boldest price calls for bitcoin in 2023.
Bitcoin bull Tim Draper had one of the most optimistic calls on bitcoin of 2022, predicting the token would be worth $250,000 by the end of the year.
In November, the billionaire venture capitalist said he’s extending the timeline for that prediction until mid-2023. Even after the collapse of FTX, he’s convinced the coin will hit the quarter-of-a-million milestone.
“My assumption is that since women control 80% of retail spending, and only 1 in 7 bitcoin wallets are currently held by women that the dam is about to break,” Draper told CNBC via email.
Bitcoin would need to rally 1,400% in order for it to trade at that level.
Despite the depressed prices and trading volumes drying up, there could be reason to suspect the market has found a bottom, according to Draper.
“I suspect that the halvening in 2024 will have a positive run,” he said.
The halvening, or halving, is an event that happens every four years in which bitcoin rewards to miners are cut in half. This is viewed by some investors as positive for bitcoin’s price, as it squeezes supply. The next halving is slated to happen sometime in 2024.
Bitcoin miners, who use power-intensive machines to verify transactions and mint new tokens, are being squeezed by the slump in prices and rising energy costs.
These actors accumulate massive piles of digital currency, making them some of the biggest sellers in the market. With miners offloading their holdings to pay off debts, that should remove most of the remaining selling pressure on bitcoin.
That’s historically a good sign for bitcoin, said Vijay Ayyar, vice president of corporate development at crypto exchange Luno.
“In prior down markets, miner capitulation has usually indicated major bottoms,” Ayyar told CNBC. “Their cost to produce becomes greater than the value of bitcoin, hence you have a number of miners either switching off their machines … or they need to sell more bitcoin to keep their business afloat.”
“If the market reaches a point where it’s absorbing this miner sell pressure sufficiently, one can assume that we’re seeing a bottoming period.”
For some market participants, the worst is yet to come.
In a Dec. 5 research note, Standard Chartered said bitcoin may sink as low as $5,000. The prediction, one of the bank’s list of “surprises” that are being “under-priced” by markets, would represent a 70% plunge from current prices.
“Yields plunge along with technology shares” in Standard Chartered’s nightmare 2023 scenario, “and while the Bitcoin sell-off decelerates, the damage has been done,” said Eric Robertsen, the bank’s global head of research.
“More and more crypto firms and exchanges find themselves with insufficient liquidity, leading to further bankruptcies and a collapse in investor confidence in digital assets,” he added.
Robertsen said the scenario has a “non-zero probability of occurring in the year ahead” and falls “materially outside of the market consensus or our own baseline views.”
Veteran investor Mark Mobius had a relatively successful 2022 in terms of his price call. In May, he forecast bitcoin would drop to $20,000 when it was trading above $28,000.
He said bitcoin would fall to $10,000 in 2022. That did not happen. However, Mobius told CNBC that he is sticking for his $10,000 price call in 2023.
The investor, who made his name at Franklin Templeton Investments, told CNBC that his bear case for bitcoin stemmed from rising interest rates and general tighter monetary policy from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
“With higher interest rates, the attraction of holding or buying Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies becomes less attractive since just holding the coin does not pay interest,” Mobius said via email.
Carol Alexander, professor of finance at Sussex University, wasn’t far off the mark with her prediction that bitcoin would slip to $10,000 in 2022.
Now, she thinks the cryptocurrency could be set for gains — but not for reasons you might expect.
The catalyst would be more dominos from the FTX fallout tipping over, Alexander said. If this happens, she expects the price of bitcoin will top $30,000 in the first quarter, and then $50,000 by quarters three or four.
“There will be a managed bull market in 2023, not a bubble — so we won’t see the price overshooting as before,” she told CNBC.
“We’ll see a month or two of stable trending prices interspersed with range-bounded periods and probably a couple of short-lived crashes.”
Alexander’s reasoning is that, with trading volumes evaporating with traders on edge, large holders known as “whales” will likely step in to prop up the market. The wealthiest 97 bitcoin wallet addresses account for 14.15% of the total supply, according to fintech firm River Financial.
Some investors have given up trying to predict the price of bitcoin. For Antoni Trenchev, CEO of crypto lending platform Nexo, the recent events are a sobering moment.
Bitcoin was on a “positive path” earlier in 2022, with institutional adoption rising, but “a few major forces interfered,” he said.
Trenchev once predicted bitcoin surging to a peak of $100,000 by early 2023. Now, he’s done trying to predict the price.
Laith Khalaf, financial analyst at AJ Bell, suggested attempts to forecast bitcoin’s price are futile.
“We could be sitting here talking this time next year and it could be at $5,000 or 50,000 it just wouldn’t surprise me because the market is so heavily driven by sentiment,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”