Buyers From Coinbase Powered Bitcoin Higher, or Did They?

As bitcoin looks north, indicators paint a mixed picture of the major source of bullish pressures for the cryptocurrency.

AccessTimeIconJan 17, 2023 at 10:11 a.m. UTC
Updated Jan 17, 2023 at 4:47 p.m. UTC

The price of bitcoin (BTC) has gained nearly 28% this month, hitting its highest since early November. The popular narrative on Crypto Twitter is that traders from Coinbase (COIN) have powered the cryptocurrency higher. However, the Nasdaq-listed exchange hasn't been the only source of bullish pressures for the cryptocurrency.

The Coinbase premium index, which measures the spread between Coinbase's BTC/U.S. dollar (USD) pair and Binance's BTC/USDT pair involving the tether stablecoin, turned positive last week and rose to 0.039 over the weekend, the highest since late October, per data sourced from blockchain analytics firm CryptoQuant.

In other words, the indicator suggests the buying pressure on Coinbase has been relatively stronger.

"The price premium between Bitcoins traded on Coinbase vis-a-vis those traded on Binance (Coinbase-Binance premium) continued to be positive throughout the week, which is indicative of increased buying interest from institutional investors vis-a-vis retail investors," Andre Dragosch, head of Deutsche Digital Assets, wrote in a note to clients.

Bitcoin traded at a premium on Coinbase relative to Binance. (CryptoQuant)
Bitcoin traded at a premium on Coinbase relative to Binance. (CryptoQuant)

Institutions prefer publicly traded and regulated Coinbase over offshore entities like Binance, which are considered a proxy for retail investor participation. Binance is now taking steps to establish itself as an institutional-focused platform.

However, another indicator called the cumulative volume delta (CVD), which measures the net capital inflows into the market, suggests the rally began with Binance-based entities bidding for bitcoin with BUSD, a fiat-backed stablecoin issued by Binance and Paxos, in the perpetual futures market. And buyers from Coinbase and other exchanges joined the fray later.

A rising CVD means more buyers are in action, while a negative-sloping line implies there are more sellers.

The chart sourced from and tweeted by pseudonymous analyst exitpump (@exitpumpBTC) compares the cumulative volume delta (CVD) for BTC/BUSD pair listed on Binance (yellow line) with the CVD BTC/USD and BTC/USDT pairs listed on other exchanges and Binance.

The yellow line has been trending upwards since Jan. 11, while the green line began rising three days later. In other words, bitcoin's initial increase from $17,000 was mainly fueled by solid bidding in Binance's BTC/BUSD market while buyers from other exchanges, including Coinbase, stepped in later.

"From my observations, it was mostly one entity [from Binance] bidding and absorbing sell pressure and trying to make a breakout market buying and constantly eating the sell walls with no signs of exhaustion, which lead to short squeezes pumping the price," exitpump tweeted.

Meanwhile, other metrics, like the average trade size, suggest an absence of clear leadership and an across-the-board uptick in whale activity.

"Regarding the average trade size, there has been a notable increase on Bitstamp, Kraken, Bitfinex and LMAX Digital and a slight increase on most other exchanges, including Binance, which suggest more whale-driven price action," Clara Medalie, research director at Paris-based crypto data provider Kaiko, told CoinDesk in an email.

The uptick indicates renewed whale participation. (Kaiko)
The uptick indicates renewed whale participation. (Kaiko)

The average trade size on Binance has increased from $700 to $1,100 since Jan. 8.

Bitcoin changed hands at around $21,150 at press time, having risen nearly 22% last week. The rally stemmed from the belief that worse macroeconomic risks may be behind us.

"It's not just the acceptance that peak inflation is behind us and that rates probably don't have that much further to rise. It's also that most sellers have been flushed out of the market," Noelle Acheson, author of the popular "Crypto Is Macro Now" newsletter, said in the weekend's edition of the newsletter, explaining the price rally.


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Omkar Godbole

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

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