The next Bitcoin halving is less than a year away, and Litecoin’s block rewards are expected to fall within two months. These events are likely to restrict the supply of both cryptocurrencies, leading some speculators to count on the reduced supply for another bull run. In fact, given the recent run-up in price to a 12-month high of $128 at the time of writing, Litecoin halving fever already seems to have struck the market.
But, as we’ll see, those returns may not be as inevitable as some traders think.
Why Do Mining Rewards Fall?
The rate that new coins are created is cut in half every four years, effectively reducing inflation rates and cutting supply in the digital currency. Bitcoin’s current inflation rate is just over 4%, and will become 1.8% after the halving. In comparison, the U.S. Federal Reserve targets a 2% inflation rate each year.
Bitcoin has followed the same emission schedule since the genesis block, except for one slip-up: an inflation bug (CVE-2010-5139) created 184 billion bitcoins on August 15, 2010 at block height 74638.
What will happen to the price of Bitcoin?
It’s risky to use previous halvings to draw a conclusion for the future, because it’s such a small sample size. However, we do know that inflation (and therefore supply) will decrease. ECON101 tells us that a supply decrease coupled with stagnant demand leads to a price increase, and we’ve predicted positive results for the halving before.
On the day of the first halving, November 28, 2012, the price of BTC was $12.35, and reached $127 just 150 days later. One year after the halving it was $205. 150 days prior to the halving the price was $5.24.
So, the first halving was clearly a good time to buy BTC. If you had bought five months before the halving and sold it one year afterwards, your investment would have returned forty-fold returns.
The second halving was less dramatic, but still profitable. On July 9th, the day of the 2016 halving, the price of BTC was $650.63 and reached $758.81 just 150 days later. One year after the halving it was $2350. 150 days prior to the halving the price was $405. So, during that halving there was nearly a sixfold investment opportunity.
Again, the sample size is small, but the relationship is clear – buying before the halving and holding for a long time afterwards has been very profitable.
What About Litecoin?
The impending Bitcoin halving has been well covered, but what does this mean for Litecoin – the silver to Bitcoin’s gold? Litecoin was launched as a fork of Bitcoin, which would be “four times as fast with four times the supply.”
Litecoin, like Bitcoin, still halves every four years. But its halving schedule has seemingly slipped under the radar.
To date, Litecoin has only had one halving, which was on August 26th, 2015, and the next halving is only two months away. This time the sample size is even smaller, since this event has only happened once in history. But the results are interesting given that they don’t really mimic Bitcoin’s.
The best metric to use on Litecoin is its price relative to BTC.
On the day of the halving LTC was worth 0.01272 BTC. 150 days later the price actually decreased by 35% to 0.008189 BTC. One year after the halving the price was nearly 50% lower at 0.006595 BTC.
Looking at the graph below, it’s clear that the price of LTC peaked approximately 6 weeks prior to the halving, as if traders anticipated similar results to the Bitcoin halving but were disappointed.
In the last halving, purchasing 8 weeks prior to the halving would have returned less than a 5% profit to the date of the halving.
As of June 6th, we are exactly 8 weeks away from the LTC halving date, but this one may not be easy money. Based on an (admittedly tiny) sample size, history shows that LTC is unlikely to hold its run against Bitcoin.