Crypto Bubbles Explained: Identifying Market Volatility

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Last updated Jul 09, 2024 | 10:19 AM UTC

Have you ever heard the term ‘the crypto bubble is about to burst’? It’s a common term used in the growing crypto community, which often invites speculation. Whenever a token surges to unprecedented prices, we hear the echoing statements that the bubble is about to burst.

But what does it mean, actually? What are crypto bubbles? And how should investors prepare themselves? Let’s discuss.

Key takeaways 

  • Crypto bubbles occur when cryptocurrency prices surge dramatically due to speculation, exceeding their intrinsic value.
  • Lifecycle of a bubble includes the stealth phase, awareness phase, mania phase, and blow-off phase.
  • Past examples include Bitcoin's 2017 surge, the 2017/18 ICO craze, and Dogecoin's 2021 rally.
  • Preparation strategies include conducting research, diversifying portfolios, setting realistic expectations, using stop-loss orders, staying informed, avoiding emotional trading, understanding market sentiment, learning from history, using fundamental analysis, and seeking professional advice.
  • Identifying a bubble burst involves watching for excessive media hype, parabolic price increases, high market speculation, widespread public participation, divergence from fundamentals, regulatory warnings, and extreme market sentiment.

What is a crypto bubble?

A crypto bubble occurs when the price of a cryptocurrency surges dramatically within a short period, far exceeding its intrinsic value. This surge is usually driven by speculation rather than fundamental factors. A bubble is characterized by a rapid escalation in asset prices followed by a sharp decline.

Crypto bubbles mirror traditional financial bubbles where asset prices become inflated beyond their real worth. Investor enthusiasm, media hype, and speculative trading drive this unsustainable growth. Eventually, the bubble bursts, causing prices to plummet and investors to suffer substantial losses.

How do crypto bubbles work?

Crypto bubbles follow a distinct lifecycle. Understanding this cycle can help investors recognize and respond to potential bubbles.

1. Stealth phase
During the stealth phase, early adopters and insiders begin investing in a cryptocurrency. At this stage, the general public remains unaware, and prices rise gradually without attracting significant attention.
2. Awareness phase
The awareness phase kicks in as the media starts covering the cryptocurrency. Positive news and speculation attract more investors, causing prices to rise more rapidly. This phase is marked by growing public interest and initial signs of speculative trading.
3. Mania phase
In the mania phase, hype and euphoria reach their peak. The fear of missing out (FOMO) drives a massive influx of new investors. Prices soar to unprecedented levels, often accompanied by wild predictions of future growth. This is the most dangerous phase, as the market becomes overheated.
4. Blow-off phase
The blow-off phase occurs when reality sets in, and prices begin to fall. Panic selling ensues as investors rush to exit their positions. The bubble bursts, leading to a rapid and steep decline in prices. Many latecomers suffer significant losses.

Crypto bubble example

Examples of crypto bubbles in the past

Bitcoin's 2017 surge

One of the most famous crypto bubbles occurred in 2017 with Bitcoin. Prices skyrocketed from around $1,000 at the beginning of the year to nearly $20,000 in December. The media frenzy and investor enthusiasm were unprecedented. However, by early 2018, the bubble had burst, and Bitcoin's price plummeted, losing more than 80% of its value by the end of the year.

The ICO craze of 2017/18

The Initial Coin Offering (ICO) boom of 2017 and 2018 was another classic example. Startups raised billions by issuing new cryptocurrencies to investors. Many of these projects were speculative and lacked viable business models. As the hype faded, most ICO tokens lost their value, leading to significant financial losses for investors.

Dogecoin's 2021 rally

Dogecoin, originally created as a joke, experienced a massive bubble in 2021. Thanks to celebrity endorsements and social media hype, Dogecoin's price soared from less than a cent to over $0.70 in a matter of months. However, the bubble burst quickly, and Dogecoin's value dropped by more than 70%, leaving many investors in the red.

How to prepare for crypto bubbles

While crypto bubbles can be difficult to predict, there are strategies investors can use to prepare and protect their investments.

1. Conduct thorough research

Investors should conduct thorough research before investing in any cryptocurrency. Understanding the technology, use case, and team behind the project can provide insights into its long-term potential. Avoiding hype and focusing on fundamentals is key.

2. Diversify your portfolio

Diversification can mitigate risk. By spreading investments across multiple cryptocurrencies and other asset classes, investors can reduce their exposure to any single bubble. This strategy helps balance potential losses with gains from other investments.

3. Set realistic expectations

Setting realistic expectations is crucial. Investors should be wary of promises of quick riches and astronomical returns. Recognizing that cryptocurrency markets are highly volatile can help maintain a level-headed approach.

4. Use stop-loss orders

Stop-loss orders are a practical tool to limit losses. By setting a predetermined sell price, investors can automatically exit a position if the price falls to a certain level. This strategy helps prevent emotional decision-making during market downturns.

5. Stay informed

Staying informed about market trends, news, and regulatory developments is essential. Regularly following reputable sources and expert analysis can provide valuable insights and early warnings of potential bubbles.

6. Avoid emotional trading

Emotional trading is a common pitfall. Fear and greed can cloud judgment and lead to impulsive decisions. Sticking to a well-defined investment strategy and avoiding emotional reactions can improve long-term outcomes.

7. Understand market sentiment

Monitoring market sentiment can provide clues about potential bubbles. Excessive optimism and widespread media coverage often precede bubbles. Conversely, extreme pessimism can signal the end of a bubble.

8. Learn from history

Studying past crypto bubbles can offer valuable lessons. Understanding the patterns and behaviors associated with previous bubbles can help investors identify similar signs in the future. Historical knowledge can also foster a more disciplined approach to investing.

9. Use fundamental analysis

Fundamental analysis involves evaluating the intrinsic value of a cryptocurrency. Assessing factors such as technology, adoption, team, and market potential can help determine whether an asset is overvalued or undervalued.

10. Consider professional advice

Seeking advice from financial professionals can be beneficial. Experts with experience in cryptocurrency markets can provide personalized guidance based on individual risk tolerance and investment goals.

Recognizing when the crypto bubble will burst

If you decide to invest in a token experiencing an unprecedented rally, you’ll need to take your profits before the bubble bursts. 

Identifying when a crypto bubble will burst can be challenging, but there are several indicators that can help investors anticipate a market downturn:

  • Excessive media hype: When mainstream media excessively covers a cryptocurrency, promoting it as the next big thing, it often signals that a bubble is forming. Look for overly optimistic news and celebrity endorsements.
  • Parabolic price increases: A rapid and steep increase in prices without corresponding fundamental improvements is a classic sign of a bubble. When prices rise exponentially, it’s often unsustainable.
  • High market speculation: If a significant portion of the market activity is driven by speculative trading rather than genuine use or investment, it’s a red flag. Watch for increased volumes of trading on speculative platforms.
  • Widespread public participation: When people with little to no investment experience start buying cryptocurrencies, often driven by fear of missing out (FOMO), it indicates a mature bubble. Retail investor frenzy is a key warning sign.
  • Divergence from fundamentals: When the price of a cryptocurrency deviates significantly from its intrinsic value or utility, it suggests speculative excess. Assess the project’s technology, adoption rate, and real-world applications.
  • Regulatory warnings and actions: Regulatory scrutiny and warnings from financial authorities can precede the bursting of a bubble. Pay attention to government statements and potential regulatory actions that could impact the market.
  • Market sentiment: Extreme optimism and bullish sentiment can signal a nearing peak. Conversely, growing pessimism among experienced investors can indicate an impending correction.

Conclusion

Crypto bubbles are a recurring phenomenon in the volatile world of cryptocurrencies. While they offer the allure of high returns, they also come with significant risks. By understanding the lifecycle of bubbles, learning from past examples, and employing prudent investment strategies, investors can navigate the crypto market more effectively. 

Staying informed, conducting thorough research, and maintaining a disciplined approach are essential for mitigating the impact of crypto bubbles and making informed investment decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the risks of investing in a crypto bubble?

Investing in a crypto bubble poses significant risks, including the potential for severe financial loss when the bubble bursts. Prices can plummet rapidly, leading to a substantial devaluation of investments. Additionally, market volatility and lack of regulatory protection can exacerbate these risks.
 

Is Bitcoin a bubble?

Bitcoin has experienced bubbles in the past, notably in 2017. Whether it is in a bubble depends on market conditions, investor behavior, and underlying fundamentals. Continuous evaluation of these factors is necessary to make an informed judgment. Currently, Bitcoin has experienced significant institutional adoption, including ETF approvals. So, Bitcoin’s price movement is not considered as a traditional crypto bubble.
 

How to identify a crypto bubble?

Identify a crypto bubble by looking for signs such as excessive media hype, parabolic price increases, high market speculation, widespread public participation, divergence from fundamental value, regulatory warnings, and extreme market sentiment. These indicators suggest unsustainable market conditions.

Written by

Mohammad is an experienced crypto writer with a specialisation in cybersecurity. He covers a wide variety of topics spanning everything from blockchain and Web3 to the retail crypto space. He has also worked for several start-ups and ICOs, gaining insight into the mindset and motivation of the founders behind the projects.