After buyers snapped up $7.8m worth of bitcoins that were selling for $300 each on exchange Bitstamp on Monday, bitcoin's price appears to have found a hard floor in what has been a largely unpredictable trading period recently.
On Sunday, bitcoin's price dropped through the 18-month average purchase price of $337.60, signalling uncertainty to many traders in the market. Then, in the early hours of the Asian morning on Monday, a sell order of 26,000 BTC at $300 that was placed on exchange Bitstamp brought a temporary halt to the volatile price and narrowed bid-ask spreads between the four exchanges in CoinDesk's Bitcoin Price Index (BPI).
By the time of the European morning however, buyers had snapped up the entire order and the BPI jumped up into the low-to-mid-$320s.
"When the sell order for 26,000 BTC came onto Bitstamp, the price dropped from $317 to $300 in two seconds. I've just bought back in now that block has been lifted," said Adam O'Brien, CEO of BTC Solutions, a Canada-based provider of ATM exchanges and leveraged trading services for bitcoin.
O'Brien said that Monday's unprecedented BTC offer on Bitstamp was most likely a single investor looking to artificially move the price lower and buy back bitcoin later at a reduced price, probably in the low $200 range.
Instead, buyers swarmed the offer. For market participants, the recent volatility has presented a welcome opportunity to make big sums of money trading bitcoin in large volumes, mostly through the practice of arbitrage trading or by taking fees for providing trading enhancements such as BTC Solutions' leveraged product offering.
With this offering, and for a cost of 0.3% per day, buyers and sellers can obtain immediate execution on trades for as much as eight times their nominal investment. In the one-week period, as prices have fluctuated from a high of $384 to a low of $290.83 on the BPI while exchange volumes have cooled off, traders have positioned themselves in over-the-counter (OTC) markets among various regional counterparties with different supply and demand preferences. This enables them to capture the impacts of the see-sawing drop in bitcoin's market capitalisation.
"The increase in OTC volumes particularly on Sunday gels with a lot of the activity we are seeing over here too," said Ron Hose, CEO of Coins.ph, an exchange and wallet service in the Philippines, which has just opened a sister service in Thailand.
Bitcoin for remittance
Hose explained that, for the many Asians who work overseas and send money back home, bitcoin is increasing in popularity since individuals have until now had to fork out large sums for services such as Western Union to transfer money between borders. Bitcoin makes these costs obsolete, Hose explained.
Due to the lack of available financial services providers open over the weekend periods in their home markets, OTC services can be appealing to these investors, said Hose. As the price has continued to decline, exchange-traded volumes have dropped as many buyers and sellers have instead chosen to enter into OTC transactions with buyers or on a peer-to-peer basis.
In the previous seven-day period, volumes averaged around 30,000 BTC per day, according to data supplied by Bitcoinity, which relies on exchanges to report their own numbers. That amounts to just half the amount of volume they have received on their best days over the past month and indicates a return to the volumes of trading seen over the summer period.
Update: A previous version of this article included references to an OTC trader. These have been removed pending further research.
Disclaimer: Readers ought to be aware that all OTC traders report their own trade volumes, and that dealing with OTC traders, while potentially more profitable, carries an additional level of risk.
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