Market Wrap: Bitcoin Spot Volumes Are Weak While Options and DeFi Strengthen

Lower bitcoin spot volumes and flatter-than-usual price action doesn’t mean crypto traders have zero opportunities to capitalize.

AccessTimeIconJun 19, 2020 at 8:44 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:54 a.m. UTC
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Bitcoin spot volume may have been low this week, but the real action in crypto has been in the options market and decentralized finance. 

Bitcoin (BTC) was trading around $9,274 as of 20:00 UTC (4 p.m. ET), slipping 1% over the previous 24 hours. 

At 00:00 UTC on Friday (8:00 p.m. Thursday ET), bitcoin was changing hands around $9,368 on spot exchanges such as Coinbase. It slogged around a tight range between $9,280 and $9,428 during the preceding 19 hours. Its price is now below its 10-day and 50-day moving averages - a bearish signal for market technicians who study charts.


Bitcoin trading on Coinbase since June 17
Bitcoin trading on Coinbase since June 17

“Since the halving mid-May, bitcoin has gone nowhere, basically stuck in a range of $8,500 to $10,200,” said David Lifchitz, chief investment officer for quantitative trading firm ExoAlpha. 

Trading has dipped on spot exchanges like Coinbase, with its three-month average daily volume at $171 million. Over the past week, its seven-day average has been $82 million, more than 50% lower. 

USD/BTC volume on Coinbase the past three months
USD/BTC volume on Coinbase the past three months

Next week, on June 26, approximately $1 billion in bitcoin options will expire, and traders expect price movements that could be violent as a result. “Price action is like a spring,” said Lifchitz. “The longer it remains stuck in a narrow range, the more any breakout on the upside or the downside will be violent, just like a spring expands the more violently the more it is compressed.”

The majority of bitcoin options expiring are bullish bets on the price going up, wrote Singapore-based quantitative trading firm QCP Capital in an investor note Friday. “The end-June open interest is concentrated in calls with strikes around $10,000-$15,000, and likely a function of institutional interest as a good portion of the calls were executed on CME.”

CME options open interest has hit new highs in June
CME options open interest has hit new highs in June

This may suggest the smart money is betting on a better bitcoin price. CME is a venue professional commodities traders use for different futures and options strategies. The growing bitcoin options open interest there, including a record $372 million in open interest June 10, shows increased crypto interest by sophisticated investors.  

“We've now had a long period of sideways consolidation since the beginning of May, out of which will come a sharp move higher or lower,” said Rupert Douglas, head of institutional sales for London-based brokerage Koine. “As long as the market can hold above $9,000, I still favor the upside, which could see bitcoin testing above $12,000.” 

Compound token creating opportunities for some traders

Excitement around COMP, the governance token of the Ethereum-based Compound lending network, has certainly given some traders new ideas on how to profit from the growing interest in decentralized finance, or DeFi. Ether (ETH), the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization powering the Ethereum network, was trading around $228 and slipped 1% in 24 hours as of 20:00 UTC (4:00 p.m. ET). 

One quantitative firm has seen traders use Ethereum-based stablecoin arbitrage as part of a strategy to make gains on COMP’s growth. “We saw traders using USDC to borrow USDT and other stablecoins on Compound to earn COMP, then use Curve to swap the USDT back to USDC and repeat the process,” said Peter Chen, a trader at Hong Kong-based OneBit Quant. 

Curve is a decentralized exchange, or DEX, that launched earlier this year. Many well-capitalized traders say DEXes are slow and have low liquidity, making it difficult to execute large trades. However, the growth of stablecoin-heavy Curve and other DEXes as an alternative to the centralized spot and derivative crypto exchanges may allow many traders, over the long-term, to develop exciting new DeFi-based strategies.

Curve (blue) and Uniswap (pink) have over 65% of tDEX volume Friday
Curve (blue) and Uniswap (pink) have over 65% of tDEX volume Friday

Curve is dominating the DEX market Friday, with its $24.7 million volume in the past 24 hours outpacing second-place Uniswap, at $16.2 million in volume, according to aggregator Dune Analytics. 

Other markets

Digital assets on CoinDesk’s big board are almost all in the red Friday. Significant losers include dash (DASH) in the red 2.2%, zcash (ZEC) dipping 2.1% and monero (XMR) slipping 2%. The lone cryptocurrency winner on the day is ethereum classic (ETC) up 3.4%. All price changes were as of 20:00 UTC (4:00 p.m. ET).

In commodities, oil jumped 1.6% Friday, with a barrel of crude priced at $39.58 at press time.

Contracts-for-difference on oil since June 17.
Contracts-for-difference on oil since June 17.

Gold is up 1.2%, trading around $1,742 for the day. 

The Nikkei 225 of publicly traded companies in Japan ended trading up 0.55% Friday and in the green 0.78% for the week as the government lifted travel restrictions

The FTSE 100 index in Europe climbed 0.81% and closed the week up 3% on optimism government actions are having a positive impact on the economy there

The U.S. S&P 500 index gained 0.56%, up 2% for the week, as a roller-coaster ride Friday was fueled by concerns of the coronavirus continuing to wreak havoc on the economy.

U.S. Treasury bonds all slipped Friday. Yields, which move in the opposite direction as price, were down most on the two-year bond, in the red 15%.

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