After weeks of elevated activity, trading volumes on spot bitcoin exchanges have subsided, boding well for some traders if not the venues themselves.
Prices for bitcoin (BTC) climbed less than a percent Tuesday, retracing gains lost the day before when it hit a one-week low, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI). The price of the bellwether cryptocurrency is above the 10-day moving average on hourly charts, a bullish signal as bitcoin tries to climb back to $7,000 levels.
Bitcoin has been gaining price momentum since 12:00 UTC (8 a.m. EDT), jumping from the $6,800 area, closely touching the $7,000 level, but currently changing hands around $6,900.
This rise comes a day after large, futures liquidation-based sell-offs of $29 million caused prices to slump in early hours trading around 00:00 UTC Monday.
“Yesterday’s drop seemed pretty manipulated but, as we’ve said before, these moves are more likely now as the liquidity has dried up significantly,” said Jack Tan, founding partner at Taiwan crypto trading firm Kronos Research.
Indeed, bitcoin volumes on USD/BTC exchanges such as Coinbase and Bitstamp have subsided to February levels after enjoying elevated volume in March when a massive sell-off occurred because of coronavirus-related fears. At one point, the price for 1 BTC dipped below $4,000 briefly during heavy trading action on March 12.
Depending on trading strategies, this lower-volume environment can prove beneficial for some market participants. Lower volume means thinner liquidity and can cause prices to swing more often.
“Our options strategies have been outperforming significantly given the crazy vol[atility] environment,” said Darius Sit, managing partner at QCP Capital. The options market is sending bearish signals ahead of bitcoin’s upcoming halving, giving traders like QCP clear indication how to trade in a lower volume spot market.
Despite exchanges reporting interest in bitcoin is increasing, volumes certainly are not, said Vishal Shah, an options trader building a new crypto derivatives exchange called Alpha5.
“Outside anecdotal claims by certain on-ramps that they’re seeing great inbound interest, the trade volume isn’t indicating it, and I don’t necessarily expect this to change on the other side of the halving, without any additional catalysts,” said Shah.
Of course, it’s possible new users are holding their bitcoin rather than actively trading it, or they are buying from exchanges and then trading on a peer-to-peer basis. And to the degree these converts are individuals rather than hedge funds or the like, their trades are less likely to move the needle on exchange volumes.
Major digital assets are mixed on CoinDesk’s board for the day. Ether (ETH) jumped 2 percent.
Other big gainers include lisk (LSK) flashing green at 4 percent, monero (XMR), up 2 percent and ethereum classic (ETC) up 1 percent. Losers include dogecoin (DOGE) in the red 1 percent and XRP (XRP) down a percent. All price changes are from 20:45 UTC (4:45 PM EDT in New York) Tuesday.
Elsewhere, gold, the precious metal crypto traders follow closely, maintained its classic haven asset status through tumultuous times, currently trading up less than 1 percent. It’s been trading above its 10-day moving average since April 9, a long bullish trend for the yellow metal.
“Gold finally broke the $1,700 resistance point. We’re seeing sustained demand due to the continued rise of the number of COVID-19 cases globally,” said Nemo Qin, analyst at multi-asset brokerage eToro. “Consumer spending and gold production begins to resume in China, which will support gold prices in the short term.”
Gold’s consistent price gain is how cryptocurrency enthusiasts were expecting bitcoin to behave but that’s not happening, and pessimistic views abound on bitcoin’s halving in May.
“Most people want to believe the halving will create a big upward move, but still feels like bears or a few big whales are going to squeeze us lower first,” said Chris Thomas, head of digital assets at Swissquote Bank.
In traditional markets, the Nikkei 225 climbed by 3 percent as analysts said a massive short squeeze pushed the Tokyo-based markets higher. The FTSE 100 European index ended the day up less than 1 percent, coming on the heels of Britain’s Office for Budget Responsibility indicating the U.K. economy could contract by 35 percent.
The S&P 500 index of large U.S. stocks gained 3 percent after both President Trump and several state governors said at separate briefings the coronavirus mitigation efforts appear to be working to flatten the rate people are hospitalized.
“Super surprised that the U.S market is so strong just now. I’ve been buying Dow puts as I think we’ll be a lot lower again soon,” Thomas said.
But stocks’ recent gains are not as steep as the losses they incurred in past weeks, “so it shouldn’t translate over into BTC,” he added.