Bitcoin Options Market Signals Weakness over 6 Months Amid Debt Ceiling Drama

The renewed bias for bitcoin puts is consistent with the increased demand for downside protection seen in the options market tied to S&P 500.

AccessTimeIconMay 25, 2023 at 11:42 a.m. UTC
Updated May 25, 2023 at 12:48 p.m. UTC

Bitcoin's (BTC) options market is showing bias for weakness over six months for the first time since early March as the U.S. debt ceiling drama continues.

The six-month call-put skew, which measures the difference between what investors are willing to pay for bullish calls and bearish puts expiring in 180 days, has declined to -1, the lowest since March 13, according to data from leading crypto options exchange Deribit, tracked by Amberdata.

Puts refer to a type of option that increases in value as prices of the underlying asset fall. This gives their holder the right, but not the obligation, to sell an asset at a predetermined date at a specific price, effectively allowing them to bet against whichever asset that put option tracks.

The one-week, one- and three-month skews also show bias for puts. The development is consistent with the recent flows in the S&P 500 market that show traders paying up for put volatility.

Perhaps traders in crypto and traditional markets are starting to hedge against the U.S. debt ceiling risks, considering Congress is struggling to raise the $31.4 trillion borrowing limit with less than a week until the government runs out of money to meet obligations.

The escalating uncertainty over debt ceiling negotiations has also hit the bond market, where the one-month yield has risen to a record high above 6%, data from charting platform TradingView shows. Rating agency Fitch has put U.S. on credit watch for a possible downgrade amid the debt ceiling impasse.

The 10-year yield has jumped by over 30 basis points to 3.76% this month, reaching the highest in over two months. The U.S. dollar has picked up a haven bid, pushing the dollar index above 104.00, a 10% monthly appreciation. Bitcoin has dropped 10% to $26,260 this month.

The minutes of Federal Reserve's early May meeting released Wednesday have firmed up expectations for another interest rate hike next month, according to ING.

"Macro still dominates," Markus Thielen, head of research and strategy at crypto services provider Matrixport, said in a note to clients on Thursday.

Per Thielen, crypto investors should closely track the 10-year Treasury yield.

"On May 15, 2023, the 10-year treasury yields climbed back above 3.5% and since then, bitcoin prices have declined by 1,000 points. Investors should now patiently wait until the yields are losing their upside momentum before they buy crypto again," Thielen said.

(12:25 UTC): Adds a line in the sixth para about rating agency Fitch's decision to put U.S. on watch for possible downgrade.

Edited by Shaurya Malwa.


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Omkar Godbole

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