XRP’s double-digit gains could be the result of a bold bet by retail investors, especially those in Asia, that the cryptocurrency’s price could follow the broader crypto bull run. The latest rally surprised many because it is happening not long after XRP crashed on the news the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a lawsuit against Ripple Inc., claiming the company sold the token as a security.
That said, it seems as if some market participants are undeterred by the regulator's action.
“Traders often trade products on a relative value basis,” Chris Thomas, head of digital assets at Swissquote Bank, told CoinDesk on Jan.7. “XRP felt cheap a few days ago. Today it feels normal again, in my opinion.”
Simons Chen, a crypto trader based in Hong Kong, told CoinDesk he bought XRP when the price went to nearly its bottom point at the end of December with the belief that it would rebound soon, following bitcoin’s trend.
Chen said that when bitcoin and other alternative cryptocurrencies (altcoins) were going up, XRPs price went the opposite way because of the SEC news. That movement, to him, meant a great opportunity to “buy the dip.”
CoinDesk Research collected XRP trading volume data since Dec. 1, 2020, from six exchanges that saw noticeable activity and broke down the data by quote currency. Significant volumes came from the XRP/USDT and XRP/KRW ) pairings, yet volumes on XRP/bitcoin and XRP/ether pairings were relatively small.
Tether, a dollar-pegged stablecoin, is frequently used by traders and investors in Asia, especially in China, to buy cryptocurrencies. Due to regulations in South Korea, people there often buy cryptocurrencies directly from fiat on Korea-based exchanges. The data indicates the markets in Asia have been the main driver of the price rally.
Even though multiple exchanges, especially those that have a presence in the U.S., have announced suspension or delisting of XRP on their platforms, XRP pairings are still available on many other exchanges, including the so-called “Big Three” – Binance, Huobi, and OKEx – all of which first started in China.
“Unlike Coinbase or other 'regulated' exchanges, Korean and [other] Asian exchanges do not need to care that much of what the SEC does, and investors in Asia are less sensitive about the news,” said Sinhae Lee, partner at Shanghai-based blockchain consulting firm Block72. “With the current major altcoins' price appreciation, investors bought XRP as its price went down a lot.”
The lack of institutional investors, particularly those based in the U.S., is evidence that non-U.S. retail investors are most likely the reason for XRP’s rebound, according to Lingxiao Yang, chief operating officer at crypto quant firm Trade Terminal. Yang said large digital asset managersincluding Grayscale have dropped XRP from their funds, “a death penalty” for XRP’s market in the U.S. [Grayscale is owned by DCG, CoinDesk's parent company.]
If retail investors’ increasing appetite is the only driver of XRP’s price, it is hard to tell whether the price will remain healthy in the long term. A key factor will be what happens between Ripple and the SEC. Just Wednesday, the company’s CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, said his company “tried” to settle charges of conducting unregistered securities transactions with the SEC.
“If the SEC rejected [Ripple’s] proposal [to settle] and there seems nothing more than a court case, then the token is now over-valued, in my opinion.” Swissquote’s Thomas said. “As an 18-month court case it will weigh heavily on the asset.”
At the press time, XRP traded at $0.31, down 8.95% in the past 24 hours but up 14.2% from the December low of around $0.17.
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