The cryptocurrency market has been on the move this month, seeing its total valuation of roughly $2.5 trillion — triple the $800 billion it began at in 2020 — paring back by as much as 40 percent before it began edging up once more this week. Through it all, Fox Business Network’s Susan Li has been at the center of the action.
That market volatility has been fed, in part, by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who contributed to new market heights with February’s announcement that his company had purchased $1.5 billion in bitcoin, and would accept it for new vehicle purchases. But Tesla quickly sold a small amount of its supply— $272 million, at a price of about $55,000, for an estimated profit of $100 million — before the currency surged to an all-time high of more than $65,000. And by May, Musk had evidently seen enough, writing on Twitter that he was concerned about bitcoin’s environmental impact. Bitcoin’s price crashed to $32,000 before Musk wrote a new message indicating that he had spoken with “North American Bitcoin Miners” about their energy usage and believed in the currency once again — though he did not indicate the identity of the “North American Bitcoin Miners” he referenced. As of Wednesday, Musk’s new position seemed to inspire the currency’s price to increase by more than 20 percent to hover at a level around $40,000.
Musk wasn’t the only factor undermining the market this month. China announced it banned financial institutions from facilitating cryptocurrency transactions, with three industry bodies saying market volatility was “infringing on the safety of people’s property.” Authorities in the country have also taken numerous steps to crack down on miners, who account for about 70 percent of the global cryptocurrency supply.
Mediaite checked in with Li — who worked as a journalist for Bloomberg Television and CNBC in Asia, London, and New York before she joined FBN as a reporter in 2018 — to probe her thoughts on the latest market developments.
This interview has been edited and condensed for content and clarity.
Mediaite: Let’s start with the elephant in the room. What’s behind this month’s dip in the market?
Li: I think a lot of things. One is probably China, the fact that they reiterated that banks and even online payment companies can’t accept payments in cryptocurrency. That was just an underscore of a rule that they’ve implemented for the last few years. So I think was kind of a sentiment hit. And then, of course, the fact that people are just taking profits. You saw that after bitcoin hit $65,000, and you saw that for quite awhile.
When the market declines, you have some people who are liquidated. In other words, they sell their holdings at a loss, while other — probably more experienced — participants in the market profit. Do you think significant declines like this have the potential to change the market’s behavior as that money moves to new hands? And in that vein, do you think we can expect to see it behave differently over the next several months compared to the last few?
No, I don’t think so. To me, the great thing about cryptocurrency is it’s such a community, right? And everybody wants to get in. And it’s the little guys that get to understand the market and talk about the market, not always the big guys that dominate, which I think is such a wonderful thing. So today I would say what you said, that also a lot of the crypto trading is driven by what I would say, probably more retail than actual institutional investors. Yes, whales have built up position, but I like the fact that you can go on Reddit and you can go on some of these Telegrams and everybody is just, you know, adding their opinion. Here’s what I’m saying, here’s what I’m hearing. To me, it’s probably the most democratic, layman, average Joe kind of asset class you can trade right now.
— Susan Li (@SusanLiTV) May 24, 2021
That leads to a related issue. In the traditional markets, you have a lot of rules designed to keep normal people out. One example is with day trading, where you’re not allowed to do it unless you have at least $25,000 invested. In some sense, you aren’t allowed to make money unless you already have money. And now there is a lot of talk by regulators about bringing some of those rules into the cryptocurrency market. Are we going to see some of those rules coming out from the Biden administration in the near future? Do you think those rules in the traditional markets are right for the cryptocurrency market?
Well, I think there will be some oversight at some point, especially with all these new coins being launched. You know, Carole Baskin has a coin now. That’s not a store of value. It’s for her fans. But, you know, a lot of these can just raise money — like $70 million — overnight. Who are these people who are giving them the money? You have to wonder whether they understand what they’re investing in here, or where this money is going. I think at some point there should be more government oversight.
Speaking of concerns with the market, regulators and many of our colleagues in the media propagate a lot of disinformation about cryptocurrency. One of your former employers — Bloomberg — was a chief culprit this month, when they published a story that said Colonial Pipeline paid hackers in “untraceable” cryptocurrency. That might have been somewhat true if they had paid in Monero, but a few days later, it emerged that they actually paid in bitcoin, which is perfectly traceable. You can actually look at a URL online to see where it went, which makes it more traceable than cash. (Editor’s Note: Here’s one URL associated with the hackers, which has been holding 107 bitcoin since May 13.) Bloomberg then stealth-edited their story to say it was a “difficult-to-trace cryptocurrency.” Unfortunately, Bloomberg isn’t the only publication that consistently makes mistakes along these lines. It also trickles up to regulators like Janet Yellen, who said bitcoin was something that could be used to “launder” money. Why do you think that characterizing these issues accurately poses such a challenge for the media and for some regulators? If you want to talk about “untraceable” currency, at least say you’re talking about Monero!
Well, I work in television, and of course, we have to use terms that people understand. So if I said “Monero,” people might just tune out.
A lot of big institutional investors are still negative on cryptocurrency. For example, Berkshire Hathaway’s Charles Munger said he thought bitcoin was “disgusting and contrary to the interests of civilization.” Where does that negativity stem from?
I think it’s just people who are frustrated and don’t understand the trends. Things are different in 2021 than they were in the 1960s or 50s. Every day, I get questions as to why someone would want to put money into bitcoin, asking, “Where’s the intrinsic value?” I would have to tell them, look, it’s like a dollar, like a digital dollar, except, you know, it’s not tied to any government policy. It isn’t tied to the U.S. Federal Reserve or the Chinese central bank. It’s, you know, just not the way it was done in their time.
In terms of advice for people looking to take advantage of the market dip, what kind of attributes would you recommend people look for in projects they want to invest in?
I would say look at the technology behind it, the type of blockchain. One that I think has some intrinsic value is Internet Computer. It has a well-known backer. And I think Ethereum. They utilize blockchain maybe partly as a store of value, but more as a way to build services. Whereas bitcoin is more just a store of value, right?
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