SOL

1 Top Cryptocurrency to Buy Now (Hint: It's Not Bitcoin)

Just about everyone agrees that the no-brainer cryptocurrency to buy right now is Bitcoin (CRYPTO: BTC). Not only is Bitcoin getting a huge lift from the recent introduction of the new spot Bitcoin ETFs, there's also the halving, which is generally viewed as a very bullish catalyst. Combined, these two factors should continue to send Bitcoin higher this year.

But don't sleep on the rest of the crypto market. Previous Bitcoin halving cycles have led to huge, once-in-a-lifetime gains for top altcoins as well. With that in mind, the one altcoin on my radar right now is Solana (CRYPTO: SOL).

The next Ethereum?

The core investment thesis for Solana is that it has the potential to become the next Ethereum (CRYPTO: ETH). Both are smart contract blockchain networks, which makes them the core building blocks for everything that happens in the blockchain world. While Ethereum has been the undisputed market leader in this category for nearly a decade, Solana has already acquired the label of an "Ethereum-killer."

In terms of market cap, of course, Ethereum still dwarfs Solana. Ethereum has a market cap of $369 billion, while Solana has a market cap of $64 billion. But just one year ago, Solana's market cap was only $9 billion, so the gap is rapidly narrowing. A lot of that has to do with how fast Solana is growing across every major blockchain category. If this growth trajectory continues, Solana might one day overtake Ethereum.

And it's not just me saying this. Some of the smartest people on Wall Street are saying this. Cathie Wood of Ark Invest, for example, has called Solana a faster, cheaper, and more efficient version of Ethereum. Basically, anything that Ethereum can do, Solana can do better. As that message gets out to a wider audience, I think we're going to see a migration of users and developers from the Ethereum blockchain ecosystem to the Solana blockchain ecosystem.

Stack of gold cryptocurrency coins.

Image source: Getty Images.

If you look at institutional inflows and outflows of specific cryptocurrencies, the picture becomes even more compelling for Solana. According to CoinShares, which tracks these institutional inflows and outflows, Solana saw inflows throughout 2023, while Ethereum was seeing outflows. As they say, always follow the money. The smart money seems to be going to Solana.

How much higher can Solana go?

My primary concern about Solana is that it seems to have cooled off considerably from the pace it set last year. In 2023, Solana soared more than 900%, making it easily one of the top-performing cryptos. This year, Solana is "only" up 45%. Of potentially greater concern, it is actually down 22% over the past 30 days.

That being said, Solana is currently trading 44% below its all-time high of $260, so there could be more upside potential ahead. If you buy into the concept of a rising tide lifting all boats, then the Bitcoin halving might be enough to help Solana regain its all-time high sooner than anyone expected.

One clue as to how much higher Solana might go in this Bitcoin halving cycle actually comes from Ethereum. During the previous Bitcoin halving cycle in 2020, Ethereum turned in an absolutely heroic performance. It was the altcoin to own if you wanted to see truly life-changing gains in your portfolio. On May 11, 2020 (the date of the third Bitcoin halving), Ethereum was trading for $185. One year later, it was trading for $3,720. That's an incredible 20x return on your investment in just 12 months!

Potential red flags for Solana

That's not to say that Solana is going to 20x in value after this Bitcoin halving, but it does give you an idea of just how much of an effect the halving can have on specific altcoins. Too many investors assume that the Bitcoin halving only benefits Bitcoin, but nothing could be further from the truth.

But there are some potential red flags for Solana. For example, the blockchain still has occasional outages that can last for hours at a time. While Solana says it is working on this, this is an issue that has persisted for nearly two years. The other red flag is that much of the growth at Solana appears to be driven by speculative meme coin mania. Over the long term, that's not sustainable.

If you are thinking about investing in Solana, the one question to ask yourself is: Can Solana really become the next Ethereum? If the answer is "Yes," then this is absolutely the one cryptocurrency that you should be buying right now.

Should you invest $1,000 in Solana right now?

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Dominic Basulto has positions in Bitcoin and Ethereum. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Solana. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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