Bitcoin Is Leading Indicator for S&P 500, Past Data Shows

The cryptocurrency tends to bottom out weeks ahead of the S&P 500, research by Delphi Digital shows.

AccessTimeIconDec 22, 2022 at 7:35 a.m. UTC
Updated Dec 22, 2022 at 3:57 p.m. UTC

Traditional market investors looking for hints of a potential bearish-to-bullish trend change in U.S. stocks should keep a close eye on bitcoin.

The leading cryptocurrency by market value tends to lead major stock market bottoms by at least six weeks, analysis of past data by Delphi Digital shows.

"History shows that, on average, BTC has topped ~48 days and bottomed ~10 days before the SPX [S&P 500]," Delphi's strategists, led by Kevin Kelly, wrote in a 2023 preview sent to clients on Wednesday. "Over the past five years, all major price reversals in BTC have preceded those in major equity indices."

It shows bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, in general, are looked upon by investors as more risky assets than stocks. As Brookings Institutions' Eswar Prasad noted last year, bitcoin has become a speculative investment.

While corporate fundamentals and macroeconomic factors directly impact stocks, the crypto market is yet to develop strong links with the global economy. Digital assets, until now, have proved to be narrative-driven, with valuations almost entirely dependent on the pace of expansion in fiat currency supply, mainly the U.S. dollar and factors like inflation rate that influence the Federal Reserve policy.

"The crypto market is one of the purest bets on global liquidity expansion and currency debasement. Not only is it influenced by macro factors, but when market conditions change, it’s often the first to react," Delphi's strategists noted.

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Bitcoin has evolved as a leading indicator for Wall Street. (Delphi Digital, TradingView) (Delphi Digital, TradingView)

Bitcoin peaked at $69,000 on Nov. 11, 2021, or 55 days before the S&P 500 topped out at 4,818 on Jan. 4. The index's early 2018 top came 42 days after BTC's bull run ran out of steam near $20,000.

The cryptocurrency bottomed out 11 days and eight days before the S&P 500 did on March 23, 2020, and Dec. 24, 2018, respectively.


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

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