On the 28th of November, the reward for solving a Bitcoin block dropped from 50 Bitcoins to 25 as the first of several programmed Bitcoin inflation controls kicked in. There was rampant speculation on what the immediate repercussions would be at the time of the halving, with some expecting an immediate jump in the exchange rate, and others thinking that miners all over would begin turning off their rigs.
Neither of those predictions came to pass on the 28th, but they might have been correct after all.
Over the last two weeks, the exchange rate has indeed climbed, from about $12.25 USD to $13.50 today. Additionally, the network hash rate has begun to drop off, with the first decrease seen in more than six months. The current difficulty is 3,370,182, and the next could very well be south of 3,000,000, as predicted by the algorithms at BitcoinX at the time of this posting.
The question is, what happens next? My opinion is that we should continue looking to outside influences to determine how the next chapter will play out. Evidently, Bitcoin's popularity is beginning to grow rapidly, which will eventually take the exchange rate, and the difficulty, to new highs in the very new future. What we're seeing today is Bitcoin taking a short breather before the next ramp up, so hang on!