Markets Weekly is a weekly column analyzing price movements in the global digital currency markets, and the technology's use case as an asset class
Bitcoin prices fluctuated largely within a tight range between $415 and $425 during the seven days ending 15th April, while the value of ether, the native token on the Ethereum blockchain, declined sharply after weeks of advances.
Bitcoin's lack of volatility largely mirrored the last several weeks, when the digital currency was stable across international markets.
This stability again took place amid modest volume, as market participants traded just over 11m BTC during the seven days through 9:45 EST on 15th April, according to figures from Bitcoinity.
Transaction volume was similar during the week through 8th April, far below the robust trading activity that had existed in preceding weeks.
While bitcoin has seen range-bound prices, ether plunged more than 56% during the week ending 15th April at 12:00 UTC, according to Poloniex figures.
George Samman, blockchain advisor and consultant, described the development as one that had been foreshadowed by changes in market fundamentals.
"Ether has fallen back to earth for sure," Samman told CoinDesk. "Its technicals were deteriorating for a while and finally price fell with them."
Christopher Burniske, analyst and blockchain products lead at investment management firm ARK Invest, spoke to the currency’s selloff, noting that exchange data signaled a shift was forthcoming as well.
"The sell order book on [digital currency exchange] Poloniex has consistently been 30-50% deeper than the buy order book," he told CoinDesk.
But while ether has been suffering sharp price volatility, it has also been experiencing robust transaction activity.
The currency’s daily trades neared 35,000 on 14th April and remained above 30,000 during the several days prior. Since mid-March, these daily transactions have almost always stayed above 30,000.
In comparison, the digital currency did not consistently exceed 10,000 trades per day before December 2015.
Ether has also been enjoying a steadily rising hashrate, as this measure of processing power reached 2,000 GH/s on 14th April, compared to 1,232 GH/s a month before, Etherscan.io figures reveal. The figures indicate that interest in rewards for transaction processing on the network is increasing.
As for what ether prices will do going forward, experts provided varying forecasts. Samman offered a bearish prediction, speaking to technical analysis performed on the digital currency.
"I expect more downside follow through in the coming weeks and $6.50 area is pretty major support," he stated. "On the upside, $8.80 to $9.00, which was support is now resistance. It should continue to be volatile as traders look for new levels."
Burniske offered a different point of view, choosing to focus on basic market variables.
"As fundamental transaction use continues to build over time, ether could enjoy a sustained rise," he stated, adding:
On the bitcoin side, some experts have emphasized that at least for now, the digital currency is stuck in a holding pattern.
"In bitcoin, volume and volatility continue to drop," said Samman. "At this point as it sits range-bound and I've been saying this for a few weeks, it’s a broken record. It’s still ‘sit on your hands’ and wait time."
However, Arthur Hayes, co-founder and CEO of BitMEX, sees a light at the end of the tunnel. Geopolitical turmoil in Europe will push bitcoin prices higher over the coming months, he predicted.
Such a development could provide bitcoin with headwinds, as market observers have repeatedly observed that in times of market turmoil, the digital currency can act like a safe haven similar to gold.
Aside from the challenges affecting Greece, another development in Europe that could push bitcoin prices higher is the chance the UK might exit or "Brexit" the European Union. Markets will enter a risk-off phase amid concerns the EU is over, and this development will place upward pressure on bitcoin prices, Hayes told CoinDesk.
However, he predicted that if Greek politicians back down from their demands, bitcoin prices could fall.
Charles L. Bovaird II is a financial writer and consultant with strong knowledge of securities markets and investing concepts. He did not own positions in bitcoin or ether at the time of this report.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.