Bitesize: How volatile is Bitcoin?
Giulio Malberti and Thom Adcock
In late 2017, Bitcoin was in the spotlight for its extraordinary return. But how volatile is it?
To consider Bitcoin volatility, we look at 10-day returns (capital standards typically estimate market risk over a 10-day period) since 19 July 2010, when Bloomberg’s Bitcoin data start. We compare Bitcoin with assets in three categories – currency pairs, commodities and equities – and for each we have picked one low-volatility asset and one more volatile asset. For currency pairs and commodities, we chose the most and least volatile ones (in terms of standard deviation of 10-day returns) out of the most liquid in each category. And we chose the most and least volatile FTSE 100 equities (again, in terms of standard deviation of 10-day returns).
For stable assets we expect a peaked distribution with short tails, as returns cluster near 0%. Figure 1 shows that Bitcoin has been more volatile than any other asset in our sample.
But people are often interested in the downside risk of assets. We therefore consider how Bitcoin’s Value at Risk (VaR) compares to other assets. VaR is the maximum loss over a given time interval under normal market conditions at a given confidence interval (eg 99%). A 10-day 99% VaR of -10% tells you that 99% of the time your 10-day return on the asset would be no worse than a 10% loss.
Figure 2 shows Bitcoin’s VaR is high, but the VaR of the other most liquid crypto-assets is higher. TRON’s VaR to date (-84%) is almost twice Bitcoin’s (-44%).
Giulio Malberti and Thom Adcock work in the Bank’s Banking Policy Division.
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