First Mover Asia: Traders Focused on Liquidity, FOMC as Asia Opens Its Business Day

Crypto prices remain flat ahead of the FOMC's rate decision.

AccessTimeIconMar 22, 2023 at 2:36 a.m. UTC
Updated Mar 22, 2023 at 8:40 p.m. UTC

Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:

Prices: Crypto prices continue to remain flat as traders a traders await the FOMC's decision on interest rates.

Insights: Monetary liquidity expectations are one driver moving crypto markets these days, though not in the way many think – even if easing is around the corner, liquidity is tight, argues CoinDesk columnist Noelle Acheson.

Prices

1,209
+19.0 1.6%
$28,111
+228.3 0.8%
$1,793
+42.7 2.4%
S&P 500
4,002.87
+51.3 1.3%
Gold
$1,949
−30.6 1.5%
Nikkei 225
26,945.67
−388.1 1.4%
BTC/ETH prices per CoinDesk Indices, as of 7 a.m. ET (11 a.m. UTC)

Good morning Asia.

Crypto markets are once again fairly flat as traders await the next release from the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

Bitcoin is up 0.1% in the last 24 hours to $28,163 while ether is up 1.5% to $1,794.

Meanwhile, dogecoin is one of the market’s fastest-moving tokens, up 4% in the last 24 hours.

The U.S. Dollar Index (DXY) is coming close to a five-week low at 103.19.

One observation that’s been made is how the biggest stackers of sats appear to be the mini-whales, with wallets that hold greater than 10 bitcoins. This cohort is growing faster than the mega-whales, or those with a bitcoin balance greater than 10,000 bitcoins.

(Glassnode)
(Glassnode)

This suggests that there’s a new level of conviction forming for crypto, in light of macroeconomic events.

Overall trading volume continues to be flat across the market as traders await the FOMC’s next announcement on interest rates. Stocks are also flat ahead of the Fed’s policy decision.

Prediction markets are pricing in an 85% chance of a 25 bps increase after the March meeting, while survey results from CME’s FedWatch put that number at 89%, up from 69% a week ago.

A CNBC survey shows that traders now have mixed opinions about Federal Reserve rate hikes with only 52% saying that the Fed should hike rates.

It remains to be seen how this new group of sats stackers will react if the Fed slows interest rates as the year progresses.

Biggest Gainers

Asset Ticker Returns DACS Sector
XRP XRP +22.7% Currency
Cardano ADA +11.8% Smart Contract Platform
Stellar XLM +9.6% Smart Contract Platform

Biggest Losers

Asset Ticker Returns DACS Sector
Gala GALA −1.2% Entertainment
Solana SOL −0.7% Smart Contract Platform

Insights

Bitcoin and the Liquidity Question: More Complex Than It Seems

By Noelle Acheson

Three years ago this past weekend, markets were reeling from a particularly bad week. The S&P 500 had lost almost 17% of its value, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had suffered its worst one-day drop on record, and bitcoin (BTC) had plummeted over 50% to just below $4,000 before recovering slightly. The number of COVID-19 cases was rocketing up around the world; New York City was closing all bars, restaurants and schools; in Spain, we were several days into lockdown. Things were looking bad.

The financial machine was springing into action. On March 15, 2020, the U.S. Federal Reserve slashed its benchmark interest rate by 100 basis points to almost zero and committed to boosting its bond holdings by at least $700 billion. The message was one of “we’ll do whatever it takes,” and it worked. The global economy staggered and then limped, but markets soared.

That week made history on so many levels. It also unleashed a wave of armchair virologists on Twitter to keep us up to date with every minutia of the COVID threat. We didn’t know it then but that wave set us up for what we’re living through today.

If you’ve spent any time on Twitter over the past week, you’ll have noticed a new breed of liquidity experts telling us that the Fed’s actions over the past few days mark a reversion to quantitative easing (QE) and/or a pivot. In 2020, more of us got into the habit of getting our news from Twitter, regardless of the quality. Fast forward three years and we have a similar mindset: New liquidity pontificators are trying to teach bona fide experts, and disinformation blends with nuance to create an uncomfortable mix of hope, distrust and confusion.

Superficial social media analysis aside, the events of three years ago also set us up for what we’re going through today on a more serious level. The liquidity that the Fed would inject into the economy in 2020-2021 created an easy money environment that pushed up asset values, flooded startups with eager venture capital funding and loaded bank balance sheets with low-yielding government bonds as well as some riskier securities. It also ended up fuelling the steepest increase in consumer prices in over four decades.

This, in turn, triggered the fastest interest rate hiking cycle since the 1980s, which decimated asset prices and destabilized the equilibrium between bank assets and liabilities. The crisis that began in 2020 as the pandemic introduced unprecedented stimulus entered a new phase three years later almost to the day, with the closure of three U.S. financial institutions in the space of a week and the disappearance of a 166-year-old global systemically important bank (Credit Suisse) as a separate organization.

As it tends to do when faced with banking system strain, the Fed has again jumped into action. To make more funds available to meet withdrawals, two Sundays ago it announced the opening of a new financing facility called the Bank Term Funding Program (BTFP). This enables banks to deposit government debt as collateral in exchange for a loan of 100% of its face value, even if the collateral market value is much lower.

Here is where the crypto market started to get excited. From a local low of $19,700 on Friday, March 10, BTC went on to soar 42% to over $28,000 nine days later. (Stock and bond markets also rallied, but by insignificant amounts in comparison.) Crypto Twitter celebrated the end of monetary tightening, the onset of a new QE and the dawn of a new bull run.


Important events

3:00 p.m. HKT/SGT(7:00 UTC) England Consumer Price Index (YoY/Feb)

2:00 a.m. HKT/SGT(18:00 UTC) United States Fed Interest Rate Decision

CoinDesk TV

In case you missed it, here is the most recent episode of "First Mover" on CoinDesk TV:

Bitcoin (BTC) has been bouncing around $28,000 as investors await the U.S. central bank's next interest rate decision on Wednesday. This came as the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in its first-ever crypto-related case later today. CoinRoutes CEO and co-founder Dave Weisberger along with BitMEX Acting CEO and Group Chief Financial Officer Stephan Lutz joined the conversation. Plus, Molly Mackinlay from Protocol Labs discussed the future of decentralized storage.

Headlines

Coinbase Argues an Arbitration Case in U.S. Supreme Court as Crypto Makes Its Debut: The first cryptocurrency matter to come up at the high court isn’t directly about digital assets but is a dispute over how courts should handle scuffles over arbitration.

Magic Eden Embraces Ordinals, Releases Bitcoin NFT Marketplace: The popular NFT marketplace is integrating support for bitcoin wallets Hiro and Xverse to help traders list, purchase and sell Ordinal NFTs.

Sushi DAO, Key Contributor Served With SEC Subpoena: The sushi token dropped 5.5% on the news.

Coinbase Expands in Brazil, Allows Crypto Purchases With Brazilian Reals: Previously, the exchange's users in Brazil could purchase crypto only with a credit card.

Crypto Users Bridge Millions to zkSync Blockchain in Hopes of Token Airdrop: Over $8 million worth of tokens has been bridged to the network in the past week in anticipation of an airdrop, one that hasn't been confirmed.

Disclosure

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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.

Noelle Acheson

Noelle Acheson is the former head of research at CoinDesk and Genesis Trading. This article is excerpted from her Crypto Is Macro Now newsletter, which focuses on the overlap between the shifting crypto and macro landscapes. These opinions are hers, and nothing she writes should be taken as investment advice.