Analyzing Monthly Returns For Cryptocurrency Prices In 2017

Yesterday I wrote a post about San Francisco-based investment firm Bitwise Asset Management’s first research report about cryptocurrencies for Investopedia. The report, which is a case for diversification of holdings within the cryptocurrency ecosystem, tracked monthly returns for the top 10 cryptocurrency holdings in their HOLD10 index in the last year.

Given the tumultuous volatility of cryptocurrency markets, it is not surprising that there was “massive variability” (their words, not mine) in returns between the top- and bottom-performing cryptocurrencies. The average difference was 300.1%. In December, a month during which cryptocurrency prices skyrocketed, that difference hit 748.9%. Bitcoin almost touched $20,000 that month.

But Ripple’s XRP was the top performer that month with a gain of 818.7%. In fact, Ripple, its counterpart Stellar, and NEO gave the most returns to investors in nine out of the 12 months tracked by the report. This development occurred despite the fact that bitcoin garnered the media’s maximum attention.

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“What should investors make of this?” I asked Matt Hougan, vice president of research at Bitwise. According to him, the markets have a more sophisticated understanding of cryptocurrencies as compared to individual investors. But I am still not sure about the constituents of Hougan’s markets. Based on numerous reports, anecdotal and factual, cryptocurrency markets have thin liquidity. This is generally a characteristic of markets dominated by individual investors. It also makes them susceptible to wild price swings.

The other interesting thing about the report was the performance of cryptocurrencies during September of last year. All coins tanked during that month. If you thought that January was a bad month for cryptocurrencies, then you should see September’s returns. NEO, which was the best performing cryptocurrency that month eked out gains of 2.9% that month. The rest of the top 10 cryptocurrencies were all in the red. That was the month in which governments around the world began cracking down on cryptocurrency exchanges. China initiated it and other countries followed. In comparison, returns for the first two months, again a period of slump in cryptocurrency markets, have been decent. The top performer in January was NEO, which had returns of 91%. Litecoin, whose price moves in spurts, was the top performer in February with returns of 24.1%. Possibly, this might be a sign of maturing of cryptocurrency markets.