Market Wrap: Oil in Turmoil, Bitcoin Gains Slightly to $6.9K

While oil futures continue to collapse, bitcoin holds steady, even making gains as the U.S. market closes lower.

AccessTimeIconApr 21, 2020 at 9:32 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:31 a.m. UTC

Crude’s turmoil continues to shake global markets. Prices on West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil futures for expiring June sank 43 percent to $12 per barrel on Tuesday. This comes one day after May WTI contract prices plunged into negative territory - as low as -$40 per barrel at one point - for the first time ever. It closed the trading day at $11.57 per barrel.

Contracts-for-difference on WTI crude oil since April 17. Source: TradingView
Contracts-for-difference on WTI crude oil since April 17. Source: TradingView

European stocks felt the impact first, with the FTSE Eurotop 100 index closing down 3.6 percent. Energy companies such as BP and Shell, as well as mining stocks dragged down market performance.

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a promise to bail out oil companies with stimulus. Nonetheless, the S&P 500 index slipped 3.1 percent by the end of the trading day. 

“In the coming weeks, the WTI future price will continue to be under pressure until global economic activity picks up again, particularly in the major oil consuming countries of the U.S. and China, or OPEC+ eases production cuts,” said Nemo Qin, senior analyst at multi-asset brokerage eToro. 

Analysts are predicting numerous possibilities as a result of the oil market’s chaos. It seems to some that crypto, at least for the time being, is acting steadier than crude oil. 

“Today BTC and some cryptocurrencies look like better stores of value than oil,” said Piers Ridyard, CEO of Radix, a decentralized ledger software for asset-backed tokens. “The BTC price today is virtually flat compared to the start of the year and has lost 30% of its value since its 2020 peak in early February. In comparison WTI Oil has lost 457 percent of its value versus 2020 peaks.” 

A $10,000 investment in bitcoin, gold, S&P 500 and oil since 1/1/19.
A $10,000 investment in bitcoin, gold, S&P 500 and oil since 1/1/19.

Crypto markets

The price of bitcoin climbed by less than 1 percent over the past 24 hours, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index as of 21:00 UTC (5:00 p.m. EDT) Tuesday.

Bitcoin began its trading day at midnight UTC April 21 around $6,800. By 12:00 UTC (8 a.m. EDT), the price for one BTC was slightly lower at about  $6,700. However, a large amount of buying on spot exchanges like Coinbase took place to hours later, pushing bitcoin into $6,900 territory.

Bitcoin trading on Coinbase since April 19.
Bitcoin trading on Coinbase since April 19.

The global health crisis continues to factor into digital asset prices. Concern over the coronavirus is causing bitcoin mining troubles, says Adam Vettese, U.K. market analyst at multi-asset brokerage eToro. 

“COVID-19 is having varying impacts on mining projects around the world, with operations in Canada having been deemed ‘essential’ and permitted to continue, yet in places like Argentina they have been shut down,” he noted. “It comes as the space as a whole is being squeezed by the upcoming halving event, with many operations relying on a price spike to assist with paying off big hardware bills.”

Profit margins for miners, of course, depend on bitcoin prices. After those prices collapsed on March 12 with $700 million in liquidations on derivatives exchange BitMEX, the hash rate dropped to as low as 94 million terahashes per second. That was roughly where it was inDecember 2019. The hash rate is a measure of operations done by all the mining machines in the Bitcoin network. 

One-year chart of total bitcoin hash rate by terahashes per second.
One-year chart of total bitcoin hash rate by terahashes per second.

Bitcoin’s mining hashrate has been climbing back since mid-March, yet still hasn’t reached the 123 million terahash per second high prior to the crypto price collapse. Hashrate will continue to be something to watch in the cryptocurrency markets as the halving approaches in mid-May, reducing the reward for miners for successfully mining a block by 50 percent. 

“There needs to be an elevator pitch for why the halving actually increases the value of bitcoin,” said Henrik Kugelberg, a Sweden based over-the-counter (OTC) trader. “What if gold mining was halved globally and we discovered that all the gold is almost mined? What if no more oil fields were discovered?”

Other digital assets are mixed on CoinDesk’s big board for the day, mostly down or flat. Ether climbed less than a percent. The biggest loser is lisk (LSK), in the red 2.5 percent. On the other side, stellar (XLM) is up 1.5 percent and eos (EOS) is in the green 1.2 percent. All price changes are as of 21:00 UTC (5:00 p.m. EDT) Tuesday.

Other markets

Gold saw a modest decline Tuesday, falling a little under 1 percent to $1,679 over the course of the past 24 hours, though at one point it traded as low as $1,659.90 during New York’s morning trading.

Contracts-for-difference on gold since April 17. Source: TradingView
Contracts-for-difference on gold since April 17. Source: TradingView

Asia’s Nikkei 225 dropped 1.9 percent as concerns about the health of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un after surgery was the topic of the day during Tokyo trading hours. 

U.S. Treasury bonds continue to see a rally as money flees to safety. Yields, which move opposite to price, on the 30-year, 10-year and two-year bond all fell on Tuesday. The yield on the two-year Treasury was down to 0.2 percent at market close.


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