Bitcoin (BTC) topped out at nearly $69,000 in November 2021, setting off the last display of fireworks for the 2020-2021 bull market. Since then, bitcoin’s price has trended downward, with no bottom in sight. But surely there’s a bottom somewhere during this bear market, leading many to ask: Is there a way to tell what the bottom price is?
Many traders and investors are lured by the quest of timing the bottom. Since it marks the lowest price in a given cycle, any price action that follows the bottom is a net positive. But trying to time the bottom may be a fool’s errand. As pseudonymous crypto trader and educator Cred tells CoinDesk, “The bottom is usually only obvious in hindsight. Just like the top.”
CoinDesk asked seasoned traders and investors for signs of the bitcoin bottom, whether the bottom matters and what alternatives retail investors and traders can look out for.
Bitcoin’s price correlation to U.S. equities is at an all-time high. The world’s largest cryptocurrency trades pretty much like a Nasdaq-listed big tech stock, and so analyzing bitcoin’s price action needs to take into account macro conditions underpinning the real-world economy.
“A major bitcoin bottom signal for me is when we see data showing us that inflation is convincingly inflecting down,” Marcus Sotiriou, an analyst at digital asset broker GlobalBlock, told CoinDesk. “I would be cautious until inflation starts to come down, as we have learnt that the Federal Reserve is king when it comes to risk assets like crypto, and the pain of quantitative tightening could drag on for many more months.”
Considering that much of bitcoin’s price action is tightly related to macro conditions, it’s more sensible to watch out for a macro bottom.
But timing the macro bottom is no easy feat, either.
“I do not think we can be convinced of a macro bottom until the Federal Reserve slows down their rate hikes,” Sotiriou said. If the Federal Reserve makes a U-turn on its stance, however, the market will gain confidence. “The point at which we see this happen may be when bitcoin has made a significant move off of the lows,” he said.
There are some common features across bitcoin price bottoms.
“The 2015 price bottom came after being held within a tight price range for a year, and the 2019 bottom came after a three-month period of low volatility,” Josh Olszewicz, head of research at crypto fund manager Valkyrie Investments, told CoinDesk.
“Bottoms typically take time to form because the volume of buyers and sellers eventually comes to an equilibrium until demand overtakes supply,” he said. In technical terms, those extended periods are referred to as “accumulation.”
Cryptocurrency markets are often volatile with extreme price moves. But sometimes they become dull and trade sideways: You wake up, check the price, and it’s only a 0.1% change. Olszewicz said that bitcoin price bottoms have historically followed “extended periods of low volatility and unexciting price movements.”
Signs of accumulation include “multiple touches of the 200-week moving average, as well as holding below the realized bitcoin price, or aggregate average price of all coins moved on-chain,” Olszewicz explained. “Rather than perfectly trying to time the bottom, savvy investors often look to previous bear markets for these technical signs and begin to dollar cost average when similar conditions are met.”
A period of undervaluation
Instead of envisioning the bottom as a single price point, perhaps it’s more helpful to think in terms of price ranges.
“Many traders try to time exact bottoms or exact tops, and often fail at doing so,” pseudonymous trader ChimpZoo told CoinDesk. “Rather, they should look for periods of overvaluation and undervaluation and trade accordingly.”
Periods of undervaluation are historically marked by large sell-offs of bitcoin, such as the crash at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic or in November 2018. “Whether you bought at $3,200 or $3,800 in 2018, or whether you bought at $5,200 or $6,200 in 2020 ultimately made no difference,” he said.
During the mid-2022 crash, overleveraged crypto trading firms or lenders had to capitulate, indicating “a potential level of key undervaluation,” he said, adding that “when we pump out of this range in the next week, or in three months is hard to judge, but ultimately these cheap prices will be viewed as a gift in due time.”
The bottom isn’t the same as a new uptrend
The bottom isn’t a trampoline. Once the market hits the bottom, it doesn’t immediately jump from it. It may take a while for a new uptrend to begin.
“Even if price bottoms, the market can continue to suck if it’s followed by a period of low volatility, illiquidity and so on,” Cred said. He describes the bottom as where “the pain stops” and the new uptrend as “where the serious wealth is made.” And there can be a long time gap between the two.
Look for an uptrend instead of a bottom
“Sure, you may be a little late, but you won’t be sweating because you bought a dip that then dipped another 50% or that price has been at your entry for five months.”
Palate cleanser, anyone?
The mid-2022 crash has been marked by a series of unsavory events, such as the gigantic collapse of algorithmic stablecoin UST and failure of several high-profile crypto companies.
For the bottom to form, time needs to heal the anxious market sentiment.
“The bottom is as much a product of time as it is price, in most cases,” Cred said. “Bad memories need to fade from the public consciousness, reputation risk must subside, enthusiasm from survivors, builders and other incumbents must return, and cynicism must abate to make way for optimism.”
And that might take a while.
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