Bitcoin is not causing a "mass exodus" from gold, Goldman Sachs says

 
Courtney Goldsmith
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Bitcoin taking demand from gold? Not a chance, Goldman says (Source: Getty)

Bitcoin's meteoric rise this year has not stifled demand for gold, Goldman Sachs has argued.

Commodities investors have feared bitcoin's rocketing value would take the shine off gold, but Goldman said investors in gold and bitcoin had key differences.

For one, gold investors who use exchange-traded funds (ETFs), futures or commodities indices are automatically covered by anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulations, which are already "baked in" to processes in these markets.

Read more: People are mortgaging their homes to buy bitcoin

Goldman analyst Jeffrey Currie said there is still "very little clarity" on how trading in cryptocurrencies could be made to comply with these regulations. "This creates huge regulatory hurdles for professional investors wishing to enter these markets," he said.

He added that there had been no evidence of a "mass exodus" from gold, with total known gold ETF holdings even recently reaching their highest level since mid-2013.

Also, market characteristics of gold and cryptocurrencies are "vastly different", Currie said. He explained:

While bitcoin has a mathematically certain total supply, and gold has a finite (but less certain) supply in the earth's crust, even cursory examination shows very different market dynamics.

We believe the composition of demand between bitcoin and gold is the key difference in the recent price action. In our view bitcoin is attracting more speculative inflows relative to gold.

Bitcoin has demonstrated much higher volatility and lower liquidity compared to gold. Its market capitalisation is around $245bn (£183bn) versus gold at $8.3 trillion.

"While the lack of liquidity and increased volatility may keep bitcoin interesting, it is unlikely to convince investors looking for the kind of diversification and hedging benefits which gold has proven to possess over its long history," he said.

Plus, another hurdle for bitcoin is establishing whether it is a commodity, fund or security. "We firmly believe it is a commodity, as bitcoin has no liability that all securities have by definition," Currie said.

Cryptocurrency exchange outages

There's no denying exchanges are under pressure due to high levels of trading, though.

Major exchanges Coinbase and Bitfinex reported partial outages today.

Coinbase said it was experiencing "minor" service outage while Bitfinex said in a tweet that it was under "heavy" distributed denial of service and its programming interface was down.

Read more: Bitcoin is in serious danger of becoming very boring

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