- Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are too volatile to replace the dollar, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Monday.
- Bitcoin has surged in price as companies including Tesla and Square invest in the token.
- The Fed is still exploring use cases for a digital currency issued by the central bank, Powell said.
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Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Monday that, while the central bank is still exploring the potential for a central bank digital currency, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin can’t serve as an effective replacement to the US dollar.
Bitcoin has enjoyed new fame over the past year as large companies’ adoption of cryptocurrencies has sent prices surging. Companies including Tesla, MicroStrategy, and Square have all invested in the token. Meanwhile, players in the financial sector are warming to cryptocurrencies’ use as an alternative asset.
The positive developments helped bitcoin surge as high as $US61,742 ($79,727) earlier this month as more investors looked to profit on the token’s growing popularity.
Powell has his doubts about cryptocurrencies and their supposed use cases. The tokens might be a substitute for gold, but their wild price swings make them unfit to replace the dollar, the central bank chief said during a teleconference hosted by the Bank of International Settlements.
“Crypto assets are highly volatile – see bitcoin – and therefore not really useful as a store of value,” Powell said, according to MarketWatch. “They’re not backed by anything. They’re more of an asset for speculation.”
Bitcoin fell slightly through the day following Powell’s remarks. The cryptocurrency traded just above $US57,000 ($73,604) as of 2:30 p.m. ET, up roughly 98% year-to-date.
While cryptocurrencies aren’t likely to gain the Fed’s favor, the central bank has considered creating a digital currency of its own. The Fed partnered with MIT researchers in August to build and test a central bank digital currency. Officials sought to gain a better understanding of digital currencies and their potential implementation through the tests, Fed Governor Lael Brainard said at the time. Still, the token included in the study was merely “hypothetical,” she added.
Powell reiterated that, though the bank is still studying the potential for a digital dollar, serious vetting is necessary before such a currency is implemented.
“To move forward on this, we would need buy-in from Congress, from the administration, from broad elements of the public, and we haven’t really begun the job of that public engagement,” the Fed chair said. “Because we’re the world’s principal reserve currency, we don’t need to rush this project. We don’t [need] to be first to market.”
Somewhere between a central bank digital currency and cryptocurrencies exist stable coins. These tokens counter the volatility seen with cryptocurrencies by tying their value to more stable assets like government-issued currencies.
Stable coins are “an improvement” over cryptocurrencies and “may have a role to play” in digitizing the dollar, but they’re unlikely to form the foundation for a global payment system, Powell said. Any candidate for a global currency controlled by a private company deserves “the highest level of regulatory expectations,” he added.