Elon Musk’s surprise reversal on accepting bitcoin payments for Tesla cars has triggered a sharp plunge in the cryptocurrency — spelling trouble for other coins that have notched shocking returns in recent months.
What’s happening: Bitcoin prices have plummeted about 12 per cent to less than US$50,000 in the last 24 hours, according to Coindesk. The decline comes after Musk, Tesla’s CEO and a vocal bitcoin advocate, said his company was suspending plans to accept the cryptocurrency as payment for electric vehicles, citing its “high environmental cost.”
“We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel,” Musk said in a note posted on Twitter Wednesday. “Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment.”
The announcement is rippling through crypto markets. Bitcoin’s massive bull run earlier this year fed enthusiasm among investors for all kinds of coins — even those based on memes with no practical use.
But if bitcoin prices have peaked for now, it could spark an exodus of speculators who were trying to make money off the frenzy.
“When bitcoin tops out and the bubble bursts, all those glory hunters will move away to another market,” Michaël van de Poppe, a crypto analyst and trader based in Amsterdam, told me.
While it’s hard to time such events, the big unwind could be underway.
Ethereum, which has gained popularity alongside the rise of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, is off 14 per cent in the past 24 hours, according to CoinMarketCap. After hitting a record of US$4,385 earlier this week, it’s now trading around US$3,700.
Dogecoin, a joke coin inspired by a dog meme and another Musk favorite, reached an all-time high of almost 74 cents earlier this month. It’s dropped 19% in the past day and is now trading at roughly 40 cents.
Shiba Inu, a blatant doge spinoff, has seen its price plunge 40% in the past 24 hours. “Dogelon Mars” — about as pure a meme token as you can find — is off 68%.
In a note published earlier this week, Vanda Research analysts Ben Onatibia and Giacomo Pierantoni warned that the “meteoric rise in cryptocurrencies has a whiff of deja vu,” reminding clients that investors similarly rotated into smaller coins when the bitcoin rally started to look tired in 2017. But ripple and ethereum ultimately struggled too “as retail investors rushed to the exit.”
What comes next: If crypto prices crash further — either imminently or some time in the future — Onatibia and Pierantoni predict retail investors will start to favor stocks again, as some Robinhood favorites now look cheap compared to their February highs.
Then what they call a game of “hot potato” can start all over again.
CLIMATE PRESSURE FROM INVESTORS IS GROWING, BP VOTE SHOWS
BP defeated a proposal at its annual meeting that would have forced the oil giant to adopt stricter emission reduction targets — but growing support from investors shows the pressure on oil companies to take bolder steps.
The latest: On Wednesday, 20.7% of investors voted in favor of a resolution from the Dutch group Follow This, which wanted BP to issue short-, medium-, and long-term targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
That may not sound high, but it amounts to something of a rebellion, given BP’s advice to vote against the measure. In 2019, Follow This’ climate resolution won just 8.4% support.
“This discontent stands out compared to the other 12 resolutions where up to 99% of shareholders obeyed board advice,” Follow This said in a statement after the results were posted.
On the radar: CalPERS, California’s influential pension system, has received pushback from activists after voting against the referendum despite its work to hold companies accountable on climate.
“We have a very small window of opportunity to make the change needed,” Lucie Pinson, founder of the group Reclaim Finance, told CNN Business.
CalPERS said it believed the proposal was “duplicative,” noting that BP “already made a commitment to shareholders to continue to develop its climate strategy in line with the goals of the Paris agreement.”
“We recognize that this is a complex and challenging journey and as long-term investors work collaboratively with companies that are making efforts towards net zero targets,” CalPERS spokesperson Megan White said. She added that it in “no way” was a “blanket endorsement” of actions by BP.
Coming up: A similar vote is scheduled at Shell’s annual meeting next week. The company’s board also recommends voting against the measure.
DID YOU BUY STOCK IN BANKRUPT HERTZ? IT MAY PAY OFF
Last year, investors using apps like Robinhood piled into the stocks of bankrupt companies, sparking a string of warnings about the risks of betting on distressed firms.
But those who backed Hertz may get the last laugh.
On Wednesday, the rental car company announced it had accepted an offer from Knighthead Capital Management, Certares Opportunities and Apollo Capital Management to provide the capital needed for it to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Investor insight: Hertz shares rallied 55% on Wednesday to close at $5.72.
News outlets like the Wall Street Journal are reporting that the offer includes an estimated distribution of about $8 a share to stockholders, citing people familiar with the matter.
That’s not a bad return for those who bought in at the 2020 low of 40 cents a pop. Investing in bankrupt companies is undoubtedly a gamble — but this one appears to have paid off.