Prices for the largest cryptocurrency had soared last week to an all-time high of $41,962, and that level was apparently sufficient to prompt some cryptocurrency miners to take profits. Declines were broad-based across digital-asset markets, with ether (ETH), XRP (XRP), litecoin (LTC) and cardano (ADA) suffering declines in the double-digit percentages.
Yves Renno, head of trading at Wirex, told First Mover in emailed comments that he "would expect a period of very high volatility."
The retreat in cryptocurrencies came as investors in traditional markets also turned more cautious, amid speculation over how the final days of U.S. President Donald Trump's tumultuous four-year term might play out. Asian and European shares slid and U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower open. The U.S. dollar rose against major currencies and gold strengthened 0.1% to $1,850 an ounce.
The long arm of U.S. regulation and law enforcement might have limited reach when it comes to global cryptocurrency markets.
That could be one takeaway from the recent trading action in the digital token XRP, which until recently was the third-biggest virtual asset after bitcoin and Ethereum's ether.
Prices for XRP plunged 67% in December after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused the San Francisco-based payment-technology company Ripple Labs of violating federal laws when selling $1.3 billion of the tokens over a seven-year period.
Yet, some traders apparently believe the XRP tokens now represent an attractive value, reports CoinDesk's Muyao Shen. On Sunday, they changed hands at about 28 cents, up some 30% year to date.
Simons Chen, a crypto trader based in Hong Kong, told Shen he bought XRP as prices bottomed out in December, seeing a great opportunity to “buy the dip,” in Wall Street parlance.
The SEC's suit has prompted cryptocurrency exchanges including Coinbase, Bitstamp, OKCoin and Bittrex to delist or suspend trading in XRP.
But far from entering a death spiral, the XRP market has shown surprising resilience, especially when three of the world's biggest cryptocurrency exchanges – Binance, Huobi and OKEx, all with roots in China – have continued to maintain pairings with the digital asset, Shen reported. There's been significant traffic in trades between XRP and the Korean won, as well as with tether (USDT), a dollar-linked stablecoin that's popular with Chinese traders.
“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.
"No one really knows what's going to happen to it," Denis Vinokourov, head of research for the crypto prime broker Bequant, said last week in interview. "It's still holding onto a decent market cap for a company that's supposed to be on its knees."
Bitcoin fell sharply early on Monday, after failing to establish a foothold above $40,000 over the weekend.
Over the past 24 hours, the cryptocurrency declined by more than $8,000 to $32,400, a drop of more than 20% from levels above $40,800 late Sunday.
“Hefty spot selling against an over-levered market caused the price drop,” trader and analyst Alex Kruger told CoinDesk, adding that it is unclear whether it was miner selling or macro traders liquidating positions.
Data provided by South Korea-based analytics firm CryptoQuant suggests miner selling did contribute to the price drop.
The 30-day average of Miners' Position Index – a gauge of how rapidly bitcoin miners are moving to liquidate inventories on cryptocurrency exchanges – rose to 2.20 on Sunday, the highest level since July 2019. A reading above 2.00 indicates miners are selling.
The index "looks enough to make a local top," CryptoQuant’s CEO Ki Young Ju tweeted Sunday. "They’re selling bitcoin.”
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