In the stock market, there are many signs of a market top. A bull market that endures eight “distribution days” (a loss of at least 0.2 percent by a major index) while volume is increasing is a classic technical indicator that a correction is inevitable.
But there are anecdotal signs as well, and those apply to any market—stocks, real estate, Beanie Babies and without a doubt, cryptocurrency. When investment stories top the evening news, be worried. But it’s also those casual acquaintances that turn toward investment conversations. The always-broke uncle who is suddenly an expert on Zcash, the taxi driver who asks about Monero, the barber who touts the next hot ICO.
There’s a whiff of elitism to such market top signs—how dare these deplorables offer an opinion?—but there’s definitely some truth to the psychology as well. When an investment starts attracting attention from people who presumably don’t have a ton of extra capital, it means that the supply of easy money has been exhausted. If the easy money’s gone, the quick rises in price are gone as well.
This morning, I checked out of my hotel in Washington, D.C., and the fellow helping us put our bags into the car noticed the “Ripple” on my jacket and the distinctive triskelion logo that is supposed to represent the interconnectedness of everything but mostly just looks like a fidget spinner. Rochdi Founti asked me if I’m involved with Ripple. “I’m a big fan!” Rochdi told me. When I told him I’m on Ripple’s board of directors, his eyes lit up.
We talked a bit about crypto and he revealed to me that he’s been investing for a few months. I went to give him a tip—U.S. money, not advice—and then asked if he’d rather have it in Ripple. Five minutes later, he’d sent me an email with his r-number and soon had 25 more XRP in his wallet. Rochdi emailed back, “Thank you very much and can you tell what other crypto currency that you recommend?”
This is not the end but it is the end of the beginning. I have no idea whether the XRP I sent Rochdi this morning will be more or less valuable tomorrow. I am fearful that hard-working people are investing money they cannot afford to lose in these very volatile instruments. I remain 100 percent convinced that the fact that I can send something valuable to anyone in the world, practically for free and unencumbered by borders or exchange rates or high-fee middlemen, really does signal a meaningful revolution. I just hope guys like Rochdi don’t get hurt in the meantime.