Since their introduction in 2009, cryptocurrencies have evolved into a global phenomenon, becoming a topic of intrigue for individual and institutional investors alike. PIMCO has been applying its time-tested investment research process to examining cryptocurrencies, an approach that has included analyzing current trends, polling the firm’s employees for views, and actively seeking out opinions of both passionate believers and ardent skeptics. Here, we address some key questions.

Q: Is cryptocurrency a currency, an asset class, or something else entirely?

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The Author

Emmanuel S. Sharef

Portfolio Manager, Asset Allocation and Multi Real Asset

Allison Boxer




All investments contain risk and may lose value. Cryptocurrencies (also referred to as “virtual currencies” and “digital currencies”) are digital assets designed to act as a medium of exchange. Cryptocurrency is an emerging asset class. There are thousands of cryptocurrencies, the most well-known of which is bitcoin. Cryptocurrency generally operates without central authority (such as a bank) and is not backed by any government. Cryptocurrency is not legal tender. Federal, state and/or foreign governments may restrict the use and exchange of cryptocurrency, and regulation in the United States is still developing. The market price of bitcoin has been subject to extreme fluctuations. Similar to fiat currencies (i.e., a currency that is backed by a central bank or a national, supra-national or quasi-national organization), cryptocurrencies are susceptible to theft, loss and destruction. Cryptocurrency networks are susceptible to hacks, latent errors on code and other cybersecurity threats. Cryptocurrency exchanges and other trading venues on which cryptocurrencies trade are relatively new and, in most cases, largely unregulated and may therefore be more exposed to fraud and failure than established, regulated exchanges for securities, derivatives and other currencies. Cryptocurrency exchanges have in the past, and may in the future, stop operating or permanently shut down due to fraud, cybersecurity issues, manipulation, technical glitches, hackers or malware.

Statements concerning financial market trends or portfolio strategies are based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate. There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions or are appropriate for all investors and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest for the long term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. Investors should consult their investment professional prior to making an investment decision. Outlook and strategies are subject to change without notice.

PIMCO as a general matter provides services to qualified institutions, financial intermediaries and institutional investors. Individual investors should contact their own financial professional to determine the most appropriate investment options for their financial situation. This material contains the opinions of the manager and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material has been distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. PIMCO is a trademark of Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. in the United States and throughout the world. ©2021, PIMCO.