CME Bitcoin futures are now available for trading. Learn why traders use futures, how to trade futures, and what steps you should take to get started. Insightful and thought-provoking content bitcoin difficulty rises up to today’s emerging financial technology. What is most striking about the economics of bitcoin is the juxtaposition of the certainty of supply and the uncertainty of demand.
The rate at which bitcoin is mined has been highly predictable and, unlike almost any other asset, currency or commodity, its ultimate supply is a known quantity, fixed in advance. In this report we analyze the economics of the bitcoin marketplace by finding parallels in the world of commodities to understand what it means to have an inelastic supply. Then, we move to the relatively more difficult task of demand analysis to complete the bitcoin economics picture. The supply inelasticity explains in large part why bitcoin is so volatile. Items with inelastic supply show a greater response to demand shifts than items with elastic supply.
The same is true of demand: the more inelastic the demand, the greater the price changes in response to small fluctuations in either supply or demand. Take as an illustration the case of natural gas. Natural gas is a classic example of a market with highly inelastic supply and demand. Natural gas demand is therefore highly inelastic. The same is true of natural gas supply. If prices double, which for natural gas is not all that uncharacteristic, producers will likely not be able to supply a great deal more of it in the short term.
Similar relationships hold for crude oil, although are less dramatic. Meanwhile, consumers will find ways to use them more efficiently in response to higher prices. Bitcoin’s limited and highly inelastic supply is also a major factor driving its price appreciation, a rise so spectacular that it can only be appreciated when seen on a log scale. In bitcoin’s first four years, supply grew by roughly 2. Even then prices were rising as the user community grew.
Since then supply has continued to grow but the pace has slowed substantially while demand has occasionally dipped, even on a year-on-year basis. Bitcoin’s limited supply and soaring price make it difficult to be used as a medium of exchange outside of the crypto currency space. Imagine one’s regret if one uses bitcoin to purchase a mundane item such as a cup of coffee only to find that the bitcoin spent on a cup of coffee would have been worth millions of dollars a few years later. One often asked question is: will bitcoin replace fiat currencies such as the U. We think that the answer is a resounding no.
Bitcoin’s transaction costs are too high and too variable for it to be used as a medium of exchange. That loss of value is precisely what makes them useful. Without the fear of inflation, holders of currency tend to hoard rather than spend it. In exchange for solving the problems, miners receive bitcoin. Those math problems grow in difficulty over time, increasing the required computational power required to solve them. This in turn drives up the equipment and especially the electricity cost of producing bitcoins. One needs more and more computers and to make them run at peak speeds, they must be kept cool.
This makes the economic analysis of bitcoin a bit like energy and metals. For example, as of late 2017, the swing producers of crude oil in the U. Above that price, there are incentives to add to production. Below that price, the incentives are to curtail production.