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Will The Merge Be A Genuine Catalyst For Ethereum?

Published 13/09/2022, 06:10 pm
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Rising as a talking point in social media and among Pepperstone’s crypto trading clients is The Merge – a union between Ethereum and Beacon Chain that takes place on Thursday (Google has a countdown clock).

Essentially, this long-awaited move sees ETH move from a “proof of work” to a “proof of stake” system – the two systems are vastly different in their approach, but at their heart sits a belief that this change will provide the more effective platform for innovation, scale, and greater adoption, mainly due to the far lower carbon footprint.

If the Ethereum project is to grow and WEB3 evolves longer-term, most believe ETH truly needs the “proof of stake” platform – innovation will take this further. Still, it needs to pass the ethical filter to attract real institutional capital.

What Will The Merge Mean For Traders?

An interesting debate has surfaced – whether the confirmation of The Merge compels crypto traders to push prices above the August highs of $2k and potentially into a bull trend. While others float the idea of a ‘buy the rumor, sell the fact scenario’ playing out.

The evidence for me says neither is that likely, and ETH will move in alignment with market forces – sentiment, liquidity, and flow.ETH daily chart.

Firstly, if we look at the ETH/BTC ratio, we did see outperformance from ETH in mid-July, and we could argue ETH priced some degree of goodwill towards “The Merge.”

However, in the weeks leading into "The Merge," there has been no real preference in the choice of crypto as a trading vehicle. We see a similar feel in the US500/ETH ratio, where the two instruments have held a tight correlation for weeks.

One could argue that if there is to be a “buy the rumor, sell the fact,” it will be modest at best.Overlapping ETH to Fed's balance sheet chart.

Overlapping ETH to reserve liabilities (these are liabilities on the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet), we can see a tight relationship for over a year. So while we live in the future as traders, crypto and equity markets are following reserves released weekly.

We assume that if this relationship holds, we could easily argue that ETH faces a strong downside – why? Well, as the Fed increases its balance sheet reduction plans by not reinvesting $95b of maturing Treasuries and mortgages each month, we must see its liabilities fall – it feels that reserves are the most likely to fall.

The St Louis Fed website is a wealth of information for more reading on reserves. Rightly or wrongly, the market sees reserves as liquidity – if reserves fall, they sell risky assets.

The opposite was confirmed throughout 2020/21 when the Fed bought $4.5t of bonds, and the market saw crypto as a clear beneficiary of this system liquidity.

For now, it seems The Merge benefits long-term ETH holders, as it is an integral part of the journey – but it will not have an initial effect on lower transaction times and fees.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary will be the validators – the barrier to entry in this space already seems high, but under a "proof of stake," the stronger will get strong far faster.

We watch the countdown to The Merge – it seems unlikely (in my opinion), but we can’t rule out a buy the rumor sell the fact playing out, which would see short ETH/long BTC working as a pairs trade.

But while this is a crucial milestone for the long-term, from a short-term trading perspective, it feels like the weight of evidence is that traders are far better off watching variables such as liquidity and sentiment over the switch to “proof of stake.”

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