Though they’re soaring Wednesday, the world’s largest cryptocurrencies are still far from their peaks earlier this year as a result of heightened regulatory scrutiny in China and bearish comments from Tesla chief Elon Musk—here’s when every top 10 cryptocurrency (save for Tether and USD Coin, whose values are meant to float near $1) peaked this year.
Anticipation over crypto-brokerage Coinbase’s public-market debut helped lift bitcoin to new highs in April, but after the occasion—hailed as a watershed moment for institutional adoption—failed to meet high expectations, the world’s largest cryptocurrency struggled to hold on to its meteoric gains.
Amid crypto-mining bans in China and criticism over the coin’s massive carbon footprint, bitcoin prices have plummeted nearly 47% from their all-time high on April 14, the day Coinbase debuted on the Nasdaq exchange.
Though Ripple’s XRP hasn’t surpassed its high from the crypto-trading frenzy four years ago, the volatile token’s peak this year also occured on April 14—buoyed by both Coinbase’s listing and a judge’s favorable ruling in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ongoing Ripple investigation—but its price has plummeted a staggering 65% since.
As investors sold off their bitcoin holdings in the weeks after its peak, many plowed into other top cryptocurrencies, lifting the likes of ether, polkadot, uniswap and binance coin to new highs in early May, as big banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley started revving up operations in the space.
Some cryptocurrencies also got a boost from billionaire Elon Musk—including his unabashed favorite, “joke” token dogecoin, which surged to a new high on May 8, the day of Musk’s highly anticipated Saturday Night Live debut, but has plunged nearly 70% since the self-proclaimed “dogefather” used his airtime to call the digital asset a “hustle.”
After days of surging while the broader crypto market started crashing over environmental concerns, Cardano’s ada token, which claims to have a much less carbon-intensive mining process than bitcoin, peaked on May 15 and has fallen nearly 45% since, much like the rest of the crypto-market.
Bitcoin and the broader cryptocurrency market soared during the pandemic in light of inflationary concerns and soaring institutional adoption, but prices have plummeted since April, when Tesla—one of bitcoin’s biggest corporate investors—disclosed it sold a large chunk of its holdings. Musk, who cheered on the crypto market during its massive rally earlier this year, helped intensify crypto’s crash last month by tweeting out that Tesla would no longer accept bitcoin because of its hefty environmental cost—a single development that wiped out more than $300 billion in crypto market value in just hours. Markets have failed to recover since then amid an intensifying regulatory crackdown in China, and the value of the world’s cryptocurrencies—at less than $1.4 trillion Wednesday—is roughly half of the nearly $2.6 trillion at its peak on May 12.
“The fall that has taken place since [Musk first soured on crypto] shows just how wild an instrument bitcoin is, how overbought it has become and how influential the Tesla CEO now is in the space,” Oanda Senior Market Analyst Craig Erlam said in a recent note. “I’m not sure any of that is a good thing.”
What To Watch For
Regulation. Experts have long warned that heightened government intervention could stunt the crypto market’s massive rally, and the recent mining crackdown in China has proven that. Still, the last time regulatory concerns crashed the market—by more than 80% in 2018—prices managed to bounce back. The market is still up about 50% from its early 2018 peak.