Record Bitcoin Price Volatility Fails to Unnerve HODLers

Bitcoin’s price volatility has surged to record highs but long-term HODLers don't seem to be deterred.

AccessTimeIconMar 17, 2020 at 5:05 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:20 a.m. UTC
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Bitcoin’s (BTC) price volatility has surged to record highs but the long-term investors popularly known as “HODLers” don't seem to be deterred. 

The cryptocurrency’s three-month implied volatility rose to a lifetime high of 6.8 percent on a daily basis (equal to 130 percent annualized) on March 13, according to crypto derivatives research firm Skew.

BTC/USD Implied Volatility
BTC/USD Implied Volatility

The implied daily volatility stood at 3.5 percent (66.9 percent annualized) a week ago. Going further back, the gauge had dropped to a 12-month low of 3.2 percent (61.2 percent annualized) on Feb. 23, when bitcoin was trading near $10,000. 

Bitcoin’s ATM volatility on one-month options, which measures the calculated or implied mid-rate volatility for an at-the-money (ATM) option, also hit a record high of 184 percent on an annualized basis on Monday. 

The unprecedented implied volatility – the option market's opinion of bitcoin’s potential moves – could be associated with the recent sell-off. Bitcoin topped out at $10,500 in mid-February and fell to 12-month lows below $4,000 last week. That's a solid 63 percent drop in just four weeks. 

The cryptocurrency shed nearly 39 percent of its value in just a single day on March 12. 

Many observers say extreme bouts of price volatility will hinder bitcoin’s global mass adoption. Even so, the long-term investors appear to be unperturbed.

Bitcoin Ownership by Time Held
Bitcoin Ownership by Time Held

While bitcoin’s price is down 40 percent on a month-to-date basis, the number of HODLers, or addresses holding coins for over a year, remains near the record high of 18.68 million reached in February. 

As of March 16, there were 18.21 million addresses holding bitcoins for more than 12 months, according to data provided by the blockchain intelligence firm IntoTheBlock. 

The data indicate bitcoin’s investor community may believe bitcoin could become an integral part of the financial system in the future. “They see any drop in price as a mere speed bump on the road leading to where BTC’s value both in utility and price is substantially larger than what has been seen to date,” Justin Gillespie, CEO of Titus Investment Advisors and a bitcoin trader, told CoinDesk.

George McDonaugh, managing director and co-founder of London-based digital asset investment company KR1 plc, says long-term holders are believers in the technology and are immune to price volatility.  He added that they could continue to pick up cheap bitcoins in the interim because the cryptocurrency is still viewed among many as a hedge against the current global macro environment. 

The coronavirus outbreak has forced the U.S., Italy and a few other nations to put entire cities into lockdown. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has responded by cutting the benchmark fed funds rates to near 0.0 percent and launching a quantitative easing program worth $700 billion per month. Other major central banks have also delivered rate cuts over the past week or so. 

“When banks are shut, bitcoin is open; when ATMs are closed, bitcoin is cash; when governments print unfathomable sums of cash, bitcoin cannot be debased,” McDonaugh told CoinDesk. 

Mike Alfred, CEO of Digital Assets Data, echoed similar sentiments while stressing the HOLDers are, for the most part, not macro traders but are ordinary retail investors with a very long-term perspective.

“The macro backdrop has never been more bullish for bitcoin with a magical combination of synchronized global liquidity and declining trust in central banks and centralized authority,” Alfred told CoinDesk. 

So far, however, bitcoin has not worked as a haven asset during the recent market turmoil and instead has moved in tandem with the equity markets. The cryptocurrency’s 40 percent drop in value has coincided with a 17 percent fall in the  S&P 500 index since the start of the month. 

HODling ahead of halving?

Bitcoin is set to undergo mining reward halving sometime in May 2020. As the name suggests, the rewards per block mined will be halved from current 12.5 BTC to 6.25 BTC. The process is repeated every four years and is aimed at curbing inflation in the cryptocurrency.

Many long-time market participants say bitcoin will pick up a strong bid after halving. “While the cryptocurrency may not have found a floor yet, the supply reduction due to the halving event will eventually drive the price up,” Olga Kochmar, CEO of mining farm operator Zionodes told CoinDesk. 

The bullish narrative related to halving could also be the reason behind investors holding onto their coins despite the recent price crash. 

Adoption demand at all-time highs? One caveat

Record number of addresses holding bitcoin for more than a year does not imply actual demand for adoption, as a single person can hold multiple addresses. 

“Bitcoin addresses are pseudonymous, which allows a single user or wallet to create a near-infinite amount of addresses that all belong to the same user. As a simplistic comparison, think of Bitcoin addresses as cash. A person can have multiple $20 bills in their wallet, but they all belong to the same wallet and user,” said Wayne Chen, CEO of Interlapse Technologies and founder of Coincurve.


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