Market Wrap: Bitcoin Tests $19.5K; Ether Options Interest in Doldrums

Bitcoin continues to appreciate in price as ether options interest wanes after a hot November.

AccessTimeIconDec 15, 2020 at 9:22 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 10:43 a.m. UTC
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Bitcoin has been able to hold above $19,000 as it has for the past several days. Meanwhile, the ether options market on Deribit has dipped in December although a block trade strategy in the $600-$800 price range has developed.

  • Bitcoin (BTC) trading around $19,510 as of 21:00 UTC (4 p.m. ET). Gaining 1.6% over the previous 24 hours.
  • Bitcoin’s 24-hour range: $19,053-$19,555 (CoinDesk 20)
  • BTC above its 10-hour and 50-hour moving averages on the hourly chart, a bullish signal for market technicians.
Bitcoin trading on Bitstamp since Dec. 12.
Bitcoin trading on Bitstamp since Dec. 12.

Bitcoin’s price continues to climb for the fourth consecutive day, going as high as $19,555 as of press time and breaking out of a $19,200-$19,400 range for the second time in the past 24 hours.

However, some resistance in the form of sell orders around the $20,000 price level may limit the amount of upside in December. 

“It is an interesting picture: From one side it's clear ‘buy the dip’ mood, from the other side we have $20,000 as a big resistance,” said Misha Alefirenko, co-founder of VelvetFormula, a digital asset liquidity provider. “It feels very bullish on charts.” 

According to CoinDesk 20 data, bitcoin has kept above the $19,000 price point since Dec. 13.

Historical bitcoin spot price the past week.
Historical bitcoin spot price the past week.

While bitcoin seems to be hitting bull mode after dipping below $17,800 this past Friday, Jason Lau, chief operating officer of San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange OKCoin, expects some selling to cap a fervent 2020 for the crypto markets.  

“The run-up in BTC since March has been extraordinary, so investors and portfolio managers may be seeking to take profits and offload their BTC before end of year for tax purposes,” said Lau. 

Lau noted concern the upcoming distribution of long-awaited bitcoin from defunct exchange Mt. Gox might introduce some sell-side dynamics at some point, but he nonetheless remains positive. “Mt. Gox's upcoming 140,000 BTC distribution is an overhang on the horizon," he said, "but the fundamentals are still strong as ever.” 

In the bitcoin futures market, open interest cracked $7.4 billion once again, the first time since Nov. 24 and a sign sophisticated investors are increasingly hedging positions by using crypto derivatives.

Bitcoin futures open interest on major venues the past year.
Bitcoin futures open interest on major venues the past year.

“After an almost uninterrupted bull run in just two months, the path of least resistance for bitcoin is on the downside, or at least bouncing in the $18,000-$20,000 range for a while,” said David Lifchitz, chief investment officer of quant firm ExoAlpha. Over the past nine weeks, bitcoin has appreciated over 70%, according to historical spot pricing on bellwether exchange Bitstamp.

Bitcoin’s historical spot price on Bitstamp since Oct. 15.
Bitcoin’s historical spot price on Bitstamp since Oct. 15.

Another analyst also sees the $20,000 mark as tough to surpass. “Bulls need a new catalyst to strongly overcome the $20,000 resistance level, else the selling pressure at that level will keep it down,” added ExoAlpha’s Lifchitz. 

That catalyst may not arrive until next year, according to Michael Gord, chief executive officer of trading firm Global Digital Assets. “Once we start 2021, when the budgets for many institutional investors and enterprises reopen I expect to see a surge of new participation in bitcoin and of demand in companies having a strategy to implement digital assets,” Gord told CoinDesk. 

Ether options action subsides in December

The second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, ether (ETH) was up Tuesday trading around $591 and climbing 0.80% in 24 hours as of 21:00 UTC (4:00 p.m. ET).

The ether options market on top venue Deribit is in a December slump when compared to late November’s premium volume, according to data aggregator Genesis Volatility.

Historical ether options premium volume on Deribit the past month.
Historical ether options premium volume on Deribit the past month.

Of note for Tuesday is that a larger-than-normal block trade for ether options popped up, according to Greg Magadini, chief executive officer of Genesis Volatility. 

“Although the overall dollar value of options traded is still lower than November, we saw a nice pickup in block volumes today,” Magadini told CoinDesk. He sees Genesis’ data indicating that an options strategy is developing where traders buy $600 calls while simultaneously selling $800 call options. A call option gives purchasers the right, but not obligation, to buy the underlying instrument (in this case, 1 ETH).  “A big notable block trade we've seen today is a March $600-$800 call spread. If ETH is above $800 by March expiration, this position would be worth $350,000.”

Other markets

Digital assets on the CoinDesk 20 are mostly green Tuesday. Notable winners as of 21:00 UTC (4:00 p.m. ET):

Notable losers:



  • Oil was up 1.2%. Price per barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude: $47.55.
  • Gold was in the green 1.5% and at $1,854 as of press time.


  • The 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yield climbed Tuesday jumping to 0.910 and in the green 1.5%.
The CoinDesk 20: The Assets That Matter Most to the Market
The CoinDesk 20: The Assets That Matter Most to the Market


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