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Cryptoverse: Is the end of the bitcoin winter nigh?

Stock Markets May 25, 2022 08:00
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of bitcoin is pictured on a door in an illustration picture taken at La Maison du Bitcoin in Paris July 11, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo 2/2

By Medha Singh and Lisa Pauline Mattackal

(Reuters) - The crypto winter is into its ninth week and bitcoin can't shake the chills.

From technicals to turnover, market indicators are flashing red or amber for the biggest cryptocurrency, which has lost a third of its value in just two months.

So what now?

Bitcoin's limited history isn't much of a guide on crypto winters, which we're defining as prolonged bearishness for a month or more.

There have been five since 2017 and three since 2021. Last year's two crashes lasted 14 and 10 weeks and caused bitcoin to lose 45% to 47%. If they were typical, bitcoin's latest drop - 36% shed in eight weeks - has road left to run.

"Bitcoin is just not attractive to retail investors right now. Nobody really sees that potential for bitcoin to give out 10 times (return)," said Joseph Edwards, head of financial strategy at fund management firm Solrise Finance.

Indeed the macro background is far from supportive for an asset class now firmly seen as volatile, risky - plus vulnerable in the face of inflation. As worries over rising global rates and geopolitics bring U.S. stocks close to confirming a bear market, cryptocurrencies aren't on anyone's shopping list.

Yet even in the icy wilderness, there are some signs that the crypto king is plotting its comeback.

Bitcoin is drawing strength from the rest of the crypto market, for example, its relative stature providing some comfort for investors fleeing altcoins such as stablecoins deemed ultra-risky after the collapse of TerraUSD in early May.

Bitcoin dominance, a measure of the ratio between its market cap to the rest of cryptocurrency markets, has jumped to a seven-month high of over 44% even as its price has decreased.

"Institutional investors particularly are fleeing to safety, to a certain extent, to bitcoin, which has the most institutional adoption," said Marcus Sotiriou, analyst at UK-based asset broker GlobalBlock.

Last week, bitcoin futures saw their largest net long position since the contract was launched in 2018, CFTC data showed, indicating traders are increasing positioning for a rise in the price of the cryptocurrency.

Graphic: Crypto winters - https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/akpezrmbgvr/Pasted%20image%201653292753399.png

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FEAR AND GREED

Scary times, though.

Bitcoin has lost half its value since a Nov. 10 peak of $69,000. This week, it is flirting with $30,000, after touching a 17-month low of $25,401 on May 12. It remains the largest digital asset by market cap, but the market value of all cryptocurrencies now stands at $1.3 trillion, less than half the $3 trillion peak in November.

Data platform Coinglass's bitcoin Fear & Greed index of market sentiment - where 0 indicates extreme fear and 100 extreme greed - is hovering at 13.

Ether, the No. 2 token by market value, has hovered near the $2,000 mark, and is down about 60% from a peak of $4,868 on Nov. 10.

Bilal Hafeez, CEO at research firm Macro Hive, pointed to $2,300 and $2,500 as key levels and warned that failure to hold above either of those marks in the near term would be a bearish signal.

The crypto market is cowed.

Total spot market volume for all cryptocurrencies at major exchanges had fallen to $18.4 billion as of Monday - less than half of the $48.2 billion seen on May 14, which was the highest volume for 2022, according to news and research site The Block.

Blockchain analytics firm Glassnode said on May 9 that bitcoin at $33,600 puts 40% of investors underwater on their holdings.

"Many folks are left wondering what they should do with their coins – keep holding on for dear life or book losses and move on?" said Lindsey Bell, chief markets and money strategist at Ally Invest.

"It's a good reminder that crypto probably shouldn't be more than, say, 1-2% of your portfolio."

Cryptoverse: Is the end of the bitcoin winter nigh?
 

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