Bitcoin's Implied Volatility Suggests Recovery Set to Continue

"Short-term implied volatility exceeding long-term implied volatility indicates a likelihood of market reversal," one observer said.

AccessTimeIconFeb 25, 2022 at 11:21 a.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 5:27 p.m. UTC
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Bitcoin's swift recovery from one-month lows has some investors saying the rebound is likely to continue. The activity in the options market suggests they may be right.

Data provided by derivatives research firm Skew show bitcoin's one-week implied volatility jumped to an annualized 75% on Thursday, topping the one-, three- and six-month gauges, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine saw investors dump risky assets in favor of gold and fiat currency havens.

"Bitcoin's short-term implied volatility exceeding long-term implied volatility indicates a likelihood of market reversal," Robbie Liu, a researcher at crypto financial services provider Babel Finance, told CoinDesk in an email. "A similar trend was observed after the May 2021 crash."

Implied volatility refers to investors' expectations for price turbulence over a specific period. While the metric is forward-looking, it doesn't say anything about the direction of the impending price volatility.

The metric is mainly determined by the demand for options, which are hedging tools. As such, a pop in implied volatility is taken to represent uncertainty and an inverted structure, in which short-term implied volatility is greater than the longer-term gauges, signals panic.

Historically, the inverted structure has marked a price bottom.

Bitcoin's one-week, one-, three-, and six-month implied volatility (December-January)
Bitcoin's one-week, one-, three-, and six-month implied volatility (December-January)

The one-week implied volatility last topped the longer-term gauges on Jan. 24 when bitcoin fell to a six-month low under $33,000. The cryptocurrency picked up a bid on the following day and hit highs above $45,000 early this month. Bitcoin's early December sell-off ran out of steam with the one-week gauge rising well above the six-month metric.

Bitcoin's one-week, one-, three-, and six-month implied volatility (May-September)
Bitcoin's one-week, one-, three-, and six-month implied volatility (May-September)

Bitcoin's late September 2021 bottom and May-June 2021 bottom coincided with short-term volatility expectations signaling panic.

If history is a guide, bitcoin may build on Thursday's rebound from lows under $34,500. That said, the cryptocurrency remains vulnerable to renewed risk aversion in stocks. "This is only a short-term resurge and does not mean that BTC won't drop below $34,000 in the mid-term," Liu said.

At press time, bitcoin was trading near $38,600, representing a 0.6% gain on the day. Futures tied to the S&P 500 traded 0.5% lower, according to investing.com.

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CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Omkar Godbole

Omkar Godbole is a Co-Managing Editor on CoinDesk's Markets team.


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