Markets Weekly: Price Crosses $300 Following Coinbase News

While the bitcoin price may have taken a beating recently, it appears to be bouncing back, having crossed the $250 and $300 mark in quick succession.

Jan 26, 2015
CoinDesk Insights

The price of bitcoin has rocketed over the past week, gaining 19% over the seven days to break the $250 mark.

Just before 08:00 (GMT), the price pushed beyond $300, and it was still hovering around that level at press time.

The bitcoin price opened the week at $209.93 and closed seven days later at $254.51, gaining a whopping $40 over that period, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index.

BPI chart for Jan 19-25.

Buying on the news

Two bullish announcements – both involving the bitcoin services juggernaut Coinbase – coincided with the price spike last week. This doesn't even account for a third notice from Coinbase, that it's opening its own exchange, that came yesterday, as the week closed.

Early in the week, Coinbase revealed that it had sewn up a massive fund-raising round worth $75m, the largest amount of capital raised by a bitcoin company to date. However, the round was significant not only because of the amount of money committed, but because of the investors involved.

The Coinbase round counted institutions and notables who are rooted in the world of mainstream finance, including the Spanish megabank BBVA, the New York Stock Exchange and former Citi chief Vikram Pandit.

The exercise also roped in Japanese telco DoCoMo, which holds out the promise of mass adoption through mobile devices and a broadening of Coinbase's reach, which has been confined to North America and parts of Europe so far.

While the first announcement suggested Coinbase had both the means and the backers to get consumers on board its "on ramp" to bitcoin, the second played to a different audience.

Braintree, the payments platform owned by PayPal, announced mid-week that Coinbase was now available on its software development kit. This meant that merchants who use Braintree to enable digital payments could now accept bitcoin payments, but only through Coinbase.

Braintree's merchant base includes some of the hottest names in the Internet economy, with the likes of Uber and Airbnb using its software tools. Now, in theory, Coinbase had access to this merchant base, giving the 2.2 million wallets that its users had generated somewhere to spend their bitcoins.

Both announcements were tightly contained, with nary a rumour finding its way to Reddit. This left bitcoiners to buy on the news, for once, instead of the more common practice of buying on the rumour and selling on the news.

Other good news

A smattering of other bullish news events surfaced in the past week as well. The point-of-sale giant Ingenico added a bitcoin payment option to its terminals, again broadening the merchant base for the cryptocurrency.

And the Winklevoss twins, rumoured to be close to finally launching their bitcoin ETF, unveiled plans for an exchange of their own, promising a "fully regulated" platform for trading coins.

The BitMEX trading newsletter suggests that shorts and day-traders may be in for leaner times. It's a market that looks ripe for old-fashioned bitcoin buyers who want to hold their digital currency long term.

"For long-term holders of bitcoin, I argue that now is a perfect time to jump back in the water," newsletter author and BitMEX chief executive Arthur Hayes writes.

Volume issues

A note about volume data. This column uses Bitcoinity as the source of volume data across exchanges. Bitcoinity's aggregation function appears to under-counting volume data in the hours immediately after a given period. Therefore, the weekly volume data period has been shifted back by a day to account for this lag.

I am in touch with Bitcoinity's Kacper Ciesla about this issue and he is looking into it.

Another potential issue readers may wish to note is ANXBTC's volume data. Its 10 currency pairs show nearly identical trading volumes. The same data is shown on both on Bitcoinity and other sources, like Bitcoin Charts. This suggests the exchange is reporting these numbers through its API.

Both these data issues were brought up by Kraken's director of content, Brian Bowman, who wrote in about last week's column, which named Kraken among the top exchanges by volume after pushing out LocalBitcoins.

Bowman told CoinDesk Kraken's data is higher than shown on Bitcoinity because some trading pairs aren't accounted for and Bitcoinity's aggregation feature may not be functioning correctly.

New challengers

Now, on to the volume data itself. After a big week, exchange volumes have fallen sharply. The US dollar exchanges seemed to be hit hardest, with Bitstamp leading the way with a 64% drop in volume, followed by Bitfinex at 56%.

Among Chinese exchanges, BTC China appears to be attracting the punters. It has claimed top spot in three of the last four weeks, beating rivals OKCoin and Huobi. OKCoin is never too far behind, although Huobi appears to have fallen off the pace somewhat.

With the Winklevoss exchange, aptly named Gemini, in the works and the latest news that Coinbase is abandoning its brokerage model in favour of operating a full-blown exchange itself, expect to see serious fluctuations in how trading volume is distributed in the coming months.

US-dollar platforms that don't offer advanced features like leverage or derivatives may find themselves facing the Coinbase machine head-on.


UPDATE (2nd February 2015): ANX has clarified that it operates a "blended" order book that shows the total volume done for all currency pairs. As a result of the way Bitcoinity handles ANX data, it has over-stated the total amount of volume done by ANX.

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