A "financial market" is a term that describes any marketplace where traders buy and sell financial assets.
Popular financial markets include crypto, stock, forex, and derivatives markets. Available assets are usually accessible via trades on regulated exchange platforms or over-the-counter (OTC) options.
Stocks and cryptocurrencies are two of the most popularly traded assets in today’s financial market. Every day, people exchange money for stocks and hold them hoping for some profit if their value increases. The cryptocurrency market is no different, as many people use digital assets as a medium of exchange and a store of value.
What Is Cryptocurrency?
A cryptocurrency is a digital currency that only exists on a blockchain and uses cryptographic methods to encrypt and process transactions. Cryptocurrencies typically do not have central regulatory authorities that issue or control transactions or assets. In most cases, cryptocurrencies are decentralized assets operated on public ledgers operated by thousands of nodes worldwide. Cryptocurrency trading takes place on exchange platforms like Binance and Coinbase. Popular examples of cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH).
What Is Stock?
A stock is an asset that comprises a company or corporation’s shares. Purchasing stock enables the holder to receive a fraction of ownership in a company. While stocks are a broader term, units purchased by individual or corporate owners are called shares.
Like cryptocurrencies, stocks are mostly traded on exchanges. Anyone interested in owning a part of a listed company can buy shares on exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or the NASDAQ. The number of shares owned may give shareholders some leverage depending on the company’s rules and policies regarding shareholders. However, prospective shareholders should note that while stocks provide shareholders with voting rights and access to dividends, ownership does not directly translate to control.
Critical Differences Between Crypto and Stocks
While cryptocurrencies and stocks have some similarities, both financial assets are significantly different. The following are some of the primary differences between crypto and stocks.
Owning cryptocurrencies is considerably easier than purchasing stock. To buy any asset traded on a crypto exchange, the intending buyer only needs to provide enough information required to satisfy the exchange’s KYC requirement. On the other hand, purchasing a company’s shares may not always be as straightforward. Stock exchanges usually require more details than crypto exchanges demand.
Crypto regulation is undefined in many parts of the world. The differences in national policies vary significantly between countries, sometimes causing crypto exchanges to suspend activities in certain regions. Most of the cryptocurrency market is unregulated — a major source of concern for crypto exchanges, service providers, and retail players alike. The stock market is more regulated. Nearly every country has a securities exchange commission or an equivalent agency that regulates the market to protect user funds and regulate company listed on exchanges.
The stock and cryptocurrency markets are very volatile. Owing to several reasons, including economic factors such as supply and demand, the prices of assets in these markets can swing significantly. However, the cryptocurrency market is very notorious for its sudden and significant changes in value. For instance, BTC started 2021 trading near $29,000. By mid-March, it climbed to $59,000 and crashed to $31,000 in June.
Scams and Security Risks
The crypto market is rife with scams. Several fake coin projects have swindled unsuspecting users who eventually lose hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Centralized crypto exchanges are also very prone to hacks. However, people are much less likely to be hacked while trading in the stock market.
Pros and Cons
Regardless of their differences, both markets have particular merits and demerits, including the following:
Pros of Investing in Cryptocurrency
- Available Options: The cryptocurrency market currently has several thousand cryptocurrencies constantly traded every day. This provides people with various options depending on personal preferences and interests.
- Hedge Against Fiat Inflation: In very few cases, the cryptocurrency market may mirror price movements in the traditional market. However, crypto assets provide a hedge for traders due to their decentralized nature. Since no authority can print and cause inflation on a whim, cryptocurrencies usually maintain some scarcity.
- Potentially Bigger Returns: The inherent volatility in crypto markets allows players to enjoy more significant returns in a bull market. Many people have made hefty sums of money simply by buying and holding.
- Privacy: Crypto transactions are powered by blockchain technology and are therefore pseudonymous. Although crypto wallets and amount details are publicly available for most cryptocurrencies, third parties can't trace amounts to specific individuals if there is no prior information linking the wallet address to the owner.
Cons of Investing in Cryptocurrency
- Extreme Volatility: The price swings recorded in the cryptocurrency market could easily be the difference between gains and losses. When prices drop, holders may risk losing nearly the entire value of their initial investment. In some cases, there is little to no hope that fortunes are recoverable.
- Intrinsic Value: One of the major criticisms against cryptocurrencies is a lack or inadequacy in intrinsic value. To many people, cryptocurrencies have no inherent value and don't carry as much weight or importance as stocks do.
- Regulation: Cryptocurrency regulation is ambiguous in many jurisdictions. This regulation may also change with little to no notice. Government regulations against cryptocurrency could easily change the market and cause prices to plunge.
Pros of Investing in Stocks
- Verifiable History: The stock market has a long and verifiable track record of success. Although stocks are also volatile, many are reliable and able to maintain their prices and general value in the long term.
- Regulatory Oversight: Government regulation makes the stock market a safer way to invest funds. Several financial institutions serve as watchdogs that adequately curb companies. Regulatory oversight also makes it difficult for stakeholders to engage in insider trading.
- Provable Intrinsic Value: Trusting the stock market is much easier because shares represent some ownership in known and functioning companies. Investors can buy shares and rest assured that they have contributed to a successful and long-standing company instead of the uncertainty around the cryptocurrency market.
Cons of Investing in Stocks
- Lower Returns: Investors may find it difficult to make noteworthy income from investing in the stock market. An index like the S&P 500 may take several years before investors can receive 10% returns. In the crypto market, some traders can make more than 10% in a few hours.
- Risk: The stock market is risky and volatile. Anyone can lose money to lousy company decisions, government regulations, or macroeconomic factors.
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