A bitcoin renaissance could see the digital currency rise by as much as 84 per cent by the end of 2019, according to a panel of experts polled by Finder.com.au.
After peaking at US$20,000 ($28,982) in December 2017 off the back of a global cryptocurrency mania, bitcoin lost 71 per cent of its value and spent most of last year hovering around the US$4000 mark. At the time of writing, bitcoin was trading at just under US$3500.
Of the six fintech experts who offered their predictions, Digital Capital Management chief operating officer Ben Ritchie was the most bullish, tipping a year-end price of US$9500. The average price prediction was just under US$7000.
"Two things to look out for in 2019 will be whether we will see decoupling of the cryptocurrencies, as to date they have trended in a relatively similar manner," Richie said in the report, forecasting a "slow and steady rise in 2019".
"The second is the impact of the traditional markets on cryptocurrencies. Will bitcoin rise if the S&P drops? On-ramp and off-ramps to purchasing cryptocurrencies will improve in 2019 with Bakkt and Fidelity Group entering the market. However, I do not believe we will see many institutional investors enter for some time yet."
It comes as a poll by the comparison website found millennials have been the biggest adopters, with 12 per cent of respondents aged 24 to 38 saying they invest in cryptocurrency, which would equate to 661,000 young Australians.
Bitcoin, the original digital currency, was the most in-demand, followed by ethereum and ripple. Overall some 6 per cent of adults, or an estimated 1.1 million Australians, said they invest in cryptocurrency, up from 5 per cent a year ago.
"Millennials are particularly open to embracing crypto in order to accumulate wealth for themselves," said Finder.com.au and HiveEx.com co-founder Fred Schebesta. "They've grown up with digital technology, so it's little wonder they want to get involved in digital currency. They are looking at investing very differently to their parents."
Schebesta said lack understanding was one of the bigger barriers to entry, with 11 per cent of respondents saying it was too complicated to trade in cryptocurrency. Older Australians were particularly sceptical, with only 1 per cent of Baby Boomers getting involved.