Bitcoin Bears Running Out of Gas, According to Price Manipulation Theory

A group of researchers at The Crypto Fam have linked price manipulation to bitcoin’s bear market, suggesting that the arrival of institutional trading allowed investors to dump oversized holdings of digital currency.

Bitcoin Price Manipulation?

According to a new theory, it is no coincidence that bitcoin’s long unwind began on Dec. 17, the same day that bitcoin futures were launched. Over the next several months, the bitcoin-dollar exchange rate would fall from a high near $20,000 to a low of $5,980.

The rapid decline was aided by futures trading, which allows traders to short assets much more easily. As we’ve written before, shorting bitcoin was practically impossible prior to the launch of futures.

The theory posits that institutional money was stocking up on bitcoin well before Dec. 17, likely in anticipation of the CBOE/CME futures contracts. The bear market that ensued consisted of three major down moves, with the third leg beginning earlier this month.

Each down move follows a similar pattern: (1) a fake-out dump, (2) a failed rally and (3) a major dump. Each leg down is driven by lower selling volume with each drop less severe than the previous.

The compelling study was presented this week in a series of tweets by The Crypto Fam, which describes itself as “a community of crypto enthusiasts bridging the gaps.” The group’s stated goal, according to its website, is to “make crypto not so cryptic.”

In describing the pattern, the researchers concluded that “the bear market is running out of gas” because their supply of bitcoin has declined since the pump culminated on Dec. 17.

“This is a very simplified explanation of how markets work. A great deal of the total BTC supply is not traded. Some is lost forever in idle or forgotten wallets. Other Bitcoin is hodled by strong hands who never sell. This gives [market makers] greater power with their share of BTC.”

End of the Downtrend?

With the bears and market makers running low on supplies, the researchers concluded that the end of the downtrend is near. Bounces are more shallow than before while bottoms aren’t nearly as low.

Bitcoin prices fell below $7,300 earlier this week but have since recovered to the $7,500 range. Since bottoming below $6,000, prices have failed to test new lows. On the opposite side of the ledger, rallies have also been limited to $12,000 and $10,000, respectively.

Institutional adoption is widely viewed as a positive development in the evolution of cryptocurrency trading, though the latest study sheds light on the downside risks of derivatives trading. A similar conclusion was drawn earlier this month by the San Francisco Fed, which compared the launch of bitcoin futures to innovations in securitization in the mortgage market. However, this model has been criticized heavily for mistaking correlation with causation.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Chief Editor to and Contributor to, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi