All was quiet in the bitcoin markets this week, with price and trading volume both remaining relatively flat.
The bitcoin price opened the week at $375.24 and climbed just under $2 to close the week at $377.09, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index.
Bitcoins traded across all exchanges tracked by Bitcoinity fell slightly by 2.4%. The number of coins that changed hands for the week ending 30th November stood at 3.59 million, while the previous week saw 3.68 million bitcoins traded.
Despite that total figure, however, the drop on most major exchanges was more pronounced. Bitstamp and BTC-e, for example, recorded 20% and 17% drops in volume, respectively. Bucking the trend were ANXBTC and Huobi, which both reported increases in traded volume of 12%.
Commodity markets crash
While Citi’s chief economist, Willem Buiter, might think bitcoin is a special kind of commodity that is closest to gold, the wider commodity markets weren’t having as tranquil a week as the cryptocurrency.
Gold itself slid to a five-year low after voters in the Swiss referendum Buiter was commenting on rejected a bid to boost the central bank’s reserves of the precious metal.
Market watchers had been expecting a spike in gold prices if the Swiss national bank was forced to take on gold hoarding measures. Instead, the gold price fell by a further 2% on the news of the scuppered referendum.
Metal prices are simply obeying the market’s law of gravity, of course, because the price of oil – the world’s key commodity – has plummeted. Last Thursday the world’s major oil producing nations made the surprise decision to maintain production levels, which has pushed the price of Brent crude further downward to $68.
The slide in oil prices has been so steep that analysts are predicting a world where oil costs $40 a barrel – a fall of nearly 40% so far this year.
Declining ruble boosting bitcoin?
The steep declines in the wider commodity markets may be contributing to upward pressure on the bitcoin price.
The peer-to-peer marketplace known as LocalBitcoins, popular among traders who wish to preserve their privacy, has enjoyed an increase in reported trading volume of late.
One LocalBitcoins currency pair has caught the eye of Jon Matonis, former head of the Bitcoin Foundation, who pointed out that trading volume in BTC-Rubles on the site has been on a steady upward trend.
— Jon Matonis (@jonmatonis) November 28, 2014
BTC-Rubles traded on LocalBitcoins has risen steadily on the one-year chart, with a sharper rise from around July onwards. A quick glance at the ruble’s major currency pairs shows why: the ruble has lost some 30% of its value against the euro and the dollar over the past year. The oil shock will likely hasten the currency’s slide.
According to Bloomberg, oil and gas make up 68% of Russia’s exports and half its federal budget, so the drop in the price of oil will put further pressure on the nation’s economy and currency. So far, $90bn of Russia’s currency reserves have already been used to prop up the price of the ruble this year.
A major LocalBitcoins trader has observed another trend on the peer-to-peer marketplace. According to the trader, who goes by ‘OscarjamesBTC’, the British pound used to be the most traded currency in on the market. Not anymore. Now US dollar trading has claimed the top spot on the site, he said.
A look at the one-year charts for both currencies shows that US-dollar trading began to climb above trading in pounds sometime in March. The last two quarters have seen US-dollar trading on LocalBitcoins climb steadily, with a pronounced rise in September that has continued to sustain itself.
OscarjamesBTC said that trading volumes in the pound market have been flat, as major buyers and miners stay away, awaiting the next bull run. Volume from small buyers has remained consistent, he said. It’s worth noting that the UK has 7,511 traders while the US has 29,329 traders, according to LocalBitcoins statistics.
Latest Bitcoin volatility trend line, for those keeping score at home. pic.twitter.com/60akVnF6Xa
— Eli Dourado (@elidourado) November 26, 2014
Amidst news of crashing oil and metals prices comes a report of another falling gauge. According to Eli Dourado of the Mercatus Centre, who maintains the Bitcoin Volatility Index, the digital currency is shedding its volatility over time. His measure shows that bitcoin volatility has been on a steadily declining trend since 2010.
Featured image via Sergio Russo / Flickr