First Mover: Cryptocurrency Euphoria Hits Breaking Point as Miners Lose Nerve

First Mover: Cryptocurrency Euphoria Hits Breaking Point as Miners Lose Nerve
Cryptocurrency markets have suddenly deflated after the euphoria of the year's first week.
(Creative Commons, modified by CoinDesk)

The recent euphoria in cryptocurrencies , as bitcoin prices dove 12% on Monday, which would be the most for a single calendar day since March.

Prices for the largest cryptocurrency had soared last week to an all-time high of $41,962, and that level was apparently sufficient to . Declines were broad-based across digital-asset markets, with ether (), XRP (), litecoin () and cardano () suffering declines in the double-digit percentages. 

“Time to take some money off the table,” Scott Minerd, chief investment officer of the Wall Street firm Guggenheim, . In December, Minerd . “Bitcoin’s parabolic rise is unsustainable in the near term.”

, head of trading at Wirex, told First Mover in emailed comments that he “would expect a period of very high volatility.”

The retreat in cryptocurrencies came as investors in , amid speculation over how the  might play out. Asian and European shares slid and U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower open. The U.S. dollar rose against major currencies and gold strengthened 0.1% to $1,850 an ounce. 

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The long arm of U.S. regulation and law enforcement might have limited reach when it comes to global cryptocurrency markets. 

That could be one takeaway from the recent trading action in the digital token XRP, which until recently was the third-biggest virtual asset after bitcoin and Ethereum’s ether.

Prices for XRP  after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission  of violating federal laws when selling $1.3 billion of the tokens over a seven-year period.  

Yet some traders apparently believe that the , reports CoinDesk’s Muyao Shen. On Sunday, they changed hands at about 28 cents, up some 30% year-to-date. 

Simons Chen, a crypto trader based in Hong Kong, told Shen he bought XRP as prices bottomed out in December, seeing a great opportunity to “buy the dip,” in Wall Street parlance.

The SEC’s suit has prompted cryptocurrency exchanges including Coinbase, Bitstamp, OKCoin and Bittrex to delist or . 

But far from entering a death spiral, the XRP market has shown surprising resilience, especially since three of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges – Binance, Huobi and OKEx, all with roots in China – have continued to maintain pairings with the digital asset, Shen reported. There’s been significant traffic in trades between XRP and the Korean won, as well as with tether (USDT), a dollar-linked stablecoin that’s popular with Chinese traders.   

“Unlike Coinbase or other ‘regulated’ exchanges, Korean and [other] Asian exchanges do not need to care that much of what the SEC does, and investors in Asia are less sensitive about the news,” said Sinhae Lee, partner at Shanghai-based blockchain consulting firm Block72.

The total market capitalization of XRP tokens currently stands at about . That’s a little shy of the automaker  stock-market value and a little more than the U.S. bank and money manager .   

“No one really knows what’s going to happen to it,” Denis Vinokourov, head of research for the crypto prime broker Bequant, said last week in interview. “It’s still holding onto a decent market cap for a company that’s supposed to be on its knees.” 

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Bitcoin fell sharply early on Monday, after failing to establish a foothold above $40,000 over the weekend.

Over the past 24 hours, the cryptocurrency declined by more than $8,000 to $32,400, a drop of more than 20% from levels above $40,800 late Sunday.

“Hefty spot selling against an over-levered market caused the price drop,” trader and analyst Alex Kruger told CoinDesk, adding that it is unclear whether it was miner selling or macro traders liquidating positions. 

Data provided by South Korea-based analytics firm CryptoQuant suggests miner selling did contribute to the price drop.

The 30-day average of  – a gauge of how rapidly bitcoin miners are moving to liquidate inventories on cryptocurrency exchanges – rose to 2.20 on Sunday, the highest level since July 2019. A reading above 2.00 indicates miners are selling.

The index “looks enough to make a local top,” CryptoQuant’s CEO  Sunday. “They’re selling bitcoin.”

– Omkar Godbole

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