Crypto Psycho:  Crazy Price Action

Say what you will about the cryptocurrency bubble of 2017 not making sense, what about the action lately?  Prices are acting terribly. Professor John Griffin claims last year’s bitcoin rally was manufactured by Bitfinex. Economist Nouriel Roubini proclaims bitcoin is going to zero. The founder of Crypto Asset Management says about bitcoin: “We are shorting it like maniacs at the moment.”  If that is not enough, technical indicators keep barking downtrend.

Over the past week already depressed prices have fallen further with things like bitcoin down 14%+, Ethereum 17% and XRP 21%.  Yes, there were those stories about the CFTC digging into price manipulation and demanding more data from Coinbase and other exchanges. And then there was the hack on that small exchange in South Korea.  But nobody could reasonably pin the blame of this week’s performance on these two factors.

MarketWatch quoted Matt Hougan, head of global trading at Bitwise Asset Management: “The big story to me is the absence of positive news”.  There is some truth to this but that is only part of the story. As we pointed out in a recent article, most serious investors in crypto don’t pretend to understand what is causing the mess.  

When bitcoin evangelist Alistair Milne published a survey of his Twitter followers, 81% of them had nary a clue.  Interestingly enough though, almost half of these respondents checked the box “Crypto iz ded”.

What exactly to conclude from this is open to interpretation but one thing is clear.  It is a big part of the problem long term investors face today. Crypto psychology sucks, the worst it has been since the Mt. Gox hack of 2010.

Good News Being Ignored

One of the barriers to progress in the crypto wars was the issue of regulatory clarification. Are cryptocurrencies simply digital assets or a class of securities that fall under the regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission?

That question has now been answered.  On Thursday, the SEC’s announced that both bitcoin and Ethereum were not securities but digital assets.  However, the good news does not end here.

William Himman, representing the SEC, clarified the position of Initial Coin Offerings.  In cases where the ICO does not convey equity ownership of an enterprise and where the digital asset is sold only to be used to purchase a good or service available through the network on which it was created, it does not qualify as a security.

This represents one huge step forward in clarifying the regulatory environment and yet the markets response was brief and uninspiring as the full week’s performance unfortunately demonstrates. Honestly, this is a bit bizarre.

Other Good News Being Ignored

Crypto Asset Management may be short selling lots of currencies, but they are not alone.  According to  margin interest in bitcoin and Ethereum is in excess of $1.2 billion.  While this is down from around $2 billion last December it still represents a sizable pool of future buyers.

It’s In The Mind

For digital asset prices reflect not only investor sentiment but also those who represent ultimate users.  For a digital currency to represent a storehouse of value, it must have public trust. Right now that appears to be at a low.

According to the British publication London Loves Business, the story is pretty clear. Headlines state “71% of the UK public think the value of Bitcoin will either decrease or collapse over the next six months.”  According to LLB,  this represents a 10% fall in investor confidence since the same question was last asked in April’s 2018 poll and a 24% fall in investor confidence from November’s 2017 poll figures.  In other words, the price of bitcoin holds the same implication for investors as it does for potential users.

This Too Shall Pass

Mob psychology often proves wrong and this negative mindset appears to be feeding off of itself right now.  Even one of crypto’s biggest critics Warren Buffett would agree that betting against the mob has been a big part of his investment strategy. At some point the mob will once again be proven wrong when short sellers get spooked and forced to cover positions or value investors will filter over from an overpriced U.S. equity market.  Either way, there is value in the crypto market that has not existed for quite some time. In the end, 71% of the Brits surveyed will be proven wrong also.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

James Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.