Political tensions between the US and Iran continue to increase following a recent drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani. Shortly after news of the attack broke, the price of Bitcoin suddenly increased, leading some industry commentators to draw the conclusion that Iranians had flocked to Bitcoin as a safe haven asset. However, data from exchanges like LocalBitcoins shows otherwise.
Data taken from peer-to-peer exchange volume tracking service UsefulTulips.org suggests that this convenient explanation for the increase is flawed. According to the figures presented, interest in Bitcoin in Iran is actually declining.
Muh narrative. pic.twitter.com/HuOnomYPiW
— Steven (@Dogetoshi) January 6, 2020
No Spike in Interest on LocalBitcoins
If the narrative peddled by those most optimistic for Bitcoin’s adoption as a hedge against political instability was true, you would expect to see a sudden spike in interest on LocalBitcoins, the planet’s largest peer-to-peer Bitcoin exchange. However, with just US$708 worth of the digital currency changing hands over the last week, clearly, the reality isn’t matching up to the expectations of some.
In fact, data suggests that interest in buying Bitcoin has actually been dwindling in Iran since the price spike last summer. Rather than buying the asset as a store of value during uncertain times, it appears that the few Iranian investors that were allocating capital to the cryptocurrency were doing so purely for speculative purposes.
BeInCrypto recently reported on the likelihood that the sudden increase in Bitcoin buying was the result of investors hedging against the performance of their own national currency at times of uncertainty. The report cites numerous commentators who believe that those looking for a safe haven have moved capital into gold or crude oil, whereas those buying Bitcoin are doing so purely in anticipation of an influx of “safe haven” investors.
Gold and Oil Pumped, Not Bitcoin
Analyst and economist Alex Krüger drew attention to the timing of the recent price pump, compared with the assets mentioned above. Gold and oil increased almost immediately. Bitcoin, on the other hand, shed value on the news before it pumped hours later.
It's happening. People all over talking about bitcoin as a safe haven. Seems they didn't learn from the failed China narrative. Zoom in intraday. $BTC moved up 3.30 hours after the Iran news, after first dropping 1.5%. Gold and crude instead pumped right away. pic.twitter.com/IMJwj7OWt6
— Alex Krüger (@krugermacro) January 3, 2020
Of course, given the gravity of the situation in the middle east and many commentators suggesting that Trump’s actions seem likely to prompt a conflict potentially involving nations other than the US and Iran, there could still be some truth in the “safe haven” narrative. However, if individuals are buying Bitcoin as a hedge against potential instability, it’s clear that they are not based in Iran.
If they were, you would expect even a marginal increase in buying coming from Iran. The fact that the peer-to-peer exchange in Iran has seen $100,000+ weeks during periods of optimism in the market, last week’s sub-$1,000 LocalBitcoins volume suggests that Bitcoin buying is actually close to an all-time low in the nation.