The first quarter of 2019 was a breath of fresh air for the cryptocurrency market, having recorded its first quarterly increase in overall network valuations since the fourth quarter of 2017.
Interestingly, however, bitcoin is among the least significant price gainers so far this year while still flashing a noteworthy Q1 increase of 10 percent. What this means is that a sizable portion of the market’s recent growth came from the many other cryptocurrencies trading on exchanges today.
In fact, data from analytics provider Messari reveals that 118 cryptos increased more in price on a year-to-date basis than bitcoin, with several boasting triple-digit percent increases during that period.
As a result, the total network value of all cryptocurrencies – excluding bitcoin – came within 1 percent of suprassing that of bitcoin’s in March.
With Q1 of 2019 now in the history books, let's dive into some of the more notable individual performances by way of breaking down their respective asset size classes and market sectors.
Performances by asset size
There is a wide spectrum of assets, in the cryptocurrency market. These range from some of the biggest, like ethereum (close to $15 billion), to the smallest, like dancoin (DAN), which is worth just over $3 million. Hundreds of networks fall in between.
The table below depicts how Messari segments crypto-asset sizes into the four groups (large cap, medium cap, small cap and micro cap), as well their respective best and worst performers for the Q1 period.
While the highest-ranked cryptocurrencies in terms of asset size tend to be the most well-known coins in the industry (they trade with the most volume), data shows they are not always the strongest performers.
As can be seen, the top performers in both the medium and small-cap segments saw significantly better Q1 performances than the leader of the large-cap segment, binance coin (BNB), the price of which nearly tripled during that period.
Ravencoin's (RVN) performance surpassed all other medium cap cryptos, boasting a 386 percent increase in Q1, almost all of which was achieved in the month of March when its price jumped from the monthly open of $0.013 to its close of $0.061, according to data from Binance.
Pchain (PAI) was the best performer in the small-cap segment as well as the single strongest performer in the entire cryptocurrency market. PAI recorded a Q1 price increase of roughly 781 percent, Messari data reveals.
While many cryptocurrencies boasted double and even triple-digit gains in Q1, not all outperformed bitcoin or even finished the quarter with gains.
Bitcoin SV's (BSV) 26 percent loss and NEM's (XEM) 13 percent loss was enough to establish them as the worst performers in the large and medium cap segments, respectively, while the worst performer of the broader market was the small-cap crypto Grin (GRIN), which lost 70 percent of its value since its main-net launch on January 15.
It should be noted that market cap as a metric for valuing crypto-assets does have limitations not observed when used in traditional finance for valuing a publicly traded company. For example, lost bitcoins are technically accounted for in bitcoin's market capitalization, even though they are no longer part of the "circulating" supply and can never be spent.
This is not an issue when determining the market cap of a company since only outstanding and liquid shares are taken into account, leading cryptocurrency researchers to come up with alternative network valuation models like "realized cap", first proposed by Coinmetrics in 2018, that aims to account for such limitations.
Performances by sector
Another way to segment the cryptocurrency market is by sector, which describes the key parts of the crypto-economy.
Messari provides a number of different market sector classifications, the Q1 average and median performance of which are shown in the table below, and were calculated by taking the performance of the top 5 coins by market cap in each sector into account.
As can be seen, the "Miscellaneous" sector was the best performing sector in Q1 on average, but this was largely due to the fact the best and near 800 percent quarterly gainer Pchain (PAI) is included in the category.
Since PAI's growth significantly skews the average performance of the sector, the median which describes the true middle value of a given sector's quarterly performances, perhaps most honestly describes the sector with a more modest 52 percent median price increase.
The strongest sector in terms of median performance in Q1 were the coins intended to act as bridges between cryptocurrencies, making those networks interoperable. That list is comprised of names like Ontology (ONT), Chainlink (LINK) and Aion (AION). The sector finished Q1 with a 78 percent increase as the median performance.
In all, the top five cryptocurrencies by market cap in each sector averaged no worse than a 20 percent price increase.
Emergence above a key moving average
It’s one accomplishment to have a strong quarter. It’s another feat entirely for an asset to trade above its 200-day moving average.
Generally regarded to as the dividing line between a strong market and one that is not, the 200-day moving average is a technical hurdle that several top-ranked cryptocurrencies were able to climb above for the first time this quarter in nearly a year.
The last time CoinDesk conducted the same analysis on March 13, just four of the top 20 cryptocurrencies had both of its BTC and USD pairs trading above the 200 day moving average as signs of life in the market were just beginning to re-emerge.
Since then, however, four more cryptocurrencies joined the list, including Ontology (ONT), Tezos (XTZ), Cardano (ADA), and EOS (EOS) all of which now are trading with both pairs above the moving average. This indicates that a shift from bearish to bullish trends is on the rise.
Still lagging behind with neither trading pair above the MA are the first and third largest cryptocurrencies in the world by market cap, bitcoin (BTC) and XRP (XRP), as well as six others (not including USDT and Bitcoin SV, the latter of which has less than 200 days of trading history).
Indeed, Q1 was an impressive stretch for the cryptocurrency market, which has seemingly renewed optimism among some of its market participants.
On March 22, CoinDesk Markets conducted a Twitter poll to gauge the public's longer term outlook on the market leader bitcoin by asking what price it will trade closest to on the date of its next supply production halving event in May of 2020.
Interestingly, the most popular option was a value closest to $15,000, accumulating 47 percent of the 6,450 votes.
Currently priced around $4,000, that would mean the majority of those polled believe bitcoin will increase at least 275 percent or nearly quadruple its value in less than 14 months.
Disclosure: The author holds several cryptocurrencies, please see Sam’s author profile here for more information.
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.