Crypto Price Whipsaw Triggers $256M in Liquidation Losses

Liquidations are likely to have less impact on spot prices thanks to declining open interest, FalconX's head of research noted.

AccessTimeIconSep 12, 2023 at 5:19 p.m. UTC

This week’s quick plunge and rebound in cryptocurrency prices has burned traders, triggering $256 million in liquidation losses over the last two days, according to Coinglass data.

The first wave of liquidations occurred on Monday as the market tanked on fears about FTX potentially selling its crypto holdings. Bitcoin (BTC) tumbled from the $26,000 area to below $25,000 for the first time since mid-June and ether (ETH) slumped to its lowest price in six months. Other major cryptos saw 5%-10% declines.

The price action spurred $167 million of liquidations that day, according to Coinglass, with 90% of those being leveraged long positions. It was the largest leverage flush-out in a day since the panicky action on August 17, when bitcoin plunged from around $29,000 to below $25,000 in a manner of hours.

Following Monday’s selloff, traders piled into short positions in anticipation of further declines, but a sudden short squeeze beginning Monday night lifted digital asset prices, propelling bitcoin more than 4% and back above $26,000 by early Tuesday. The advance wiped out another $89 million worth of leveraged positions, this time predominantly shorts.

Large liquidation events often mark a local bottom or top in prices as the swift price swing forces derivatives traders to unwind their directional bets. Liquidations happen when an exchange closes a leveraged position due to partial or total loss of a trader’s initial money down – "margin" – as the trader fails to meet the requirement for adding enough funds to keep the position open.

Open interest – the total amount of open options and futures contracts held by market participants – has significantly decreased following past large liquidation events, David Lawant, head of research at institutional exchange FalconX, wrote in a market update. The open interest for BTC and ETH derivatives on major exchanges has dropped roughly 38% from this year’s high and is now near at the levels seen in March, the report noted.

BTC and ETH open interest (FalconX)
BTC and ETH open interest (FalconX)

“The strong open interest washout over the past six months suggests that liquidations should play a less pronounced role in spot price action,” Lawant said.

Edited by Stephen Alpher.


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Krisztian  Sandor

Krisztian Sandor is a reporter on the U.S. markets team focusing on stablecoins and institutional investment. He holds BTC and ETH.