Digital currencies have experienced massive price gains during the pandemic, leading many investors to speculate they could supplant gold as a hedge against inflation.
“They look like bubbles, they act like bubbles, they smell like bubbles,” Bristow told FOX Business in reference to cryptocurrencies.
Speculators have driven prices to record highs this year and last as Congress has doled out billions of dollars through stimulus checks and as the Federal Reserve cut rates to near zero and pledged to buy an unlimited amount of assets to support the U.S. economy through the COVID-19-induced downturn, the sharpest of the post-World War II era.
The belief that all of that money sloshing around in the system will lead to inflation has resulted in investors pushing the price of bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, up by as much as 116% this year to a high of $63,500 per coin. Other digital tokens, including ethereum and dogecoin, have seen their values rise by as much as 276% and 7,045% this year. Surging crypto prices lifted the total value of all cryptocurrencies to $2.2 trillion earlier this year.
The explosion in the price of cryptocurrencies and other assets caused Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to warn at his press conference on Wednesday that those markets were extended and that monetary policy was partially to blame.
For Bristow, his biggest problem with bitcoin is that the main reason people use the cryptocurrency is to “circumvent U.S. regulations around dollar transactions.” He noted central banks and global economies have no reason to allow the use of unregulated cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin enthusiasts, meanwhile, argue the point of cryptocurrencies is to have a decentralized network that avoids government detection.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have in recent months been gaining somewhat wider acceptance by corporate America. Mastercard Inc. and Visa Inc. unveiled plans to bring cryptocurrencies to their own networks, although they are converted into U.S. dollars and other fiat currencies when they are received.
Tesla Inc. is one of the few exceptions, announcing in February that it would allow customers to buy electric vehicles with bitcoin that would then be held on the company’s balance sheet.
On Tesla’s quarterly earnings call held on Wednesday, CFO Zachary Kirkhorn said the company believes in bitcoin’s value over the long term.
Talk like that has Bristow and other bitcoin skeptics reminding investors about the value in gold.
Anyone investing in bitcoins “better own a whole pot of gold to hedge the risk,” Bristow said.