Week in Review: Carnage Engulfs Cryptocurrencies and Stocks; Bitcoin Mining Difficulty Plunges 24%

From a risk-on perspective, the global financial markets took a beating this week. Digital assets like bitcoin, EOS and bitcoin cash plunged anew while equity prices slid back into the abyss following a strong end to November. Seasonal influences that normally accompany the holiday season have thus far eluded the market, leaving investors with a considerable loss. Market participants with exposure to cryptocurrencies, stocks and ETFs have likely seen their holdings wither away as a result of the bearish trends taking shape.

Crypto Crash Intensifies

The carnage that has engulfed the cryptocurrencies since mid-November intensified on Friday, as bitcoin and the leading altcoins plunged to new yearly lows. The combined value of all cryptoassets bottomed at $106 billion earlier this morning, according to CoinMarketCap. Over the past four weeks, the market cap has lost more than $100 billion.

Since last Friday, losses among the top-ten cryptocurrencies have ranged between 7% and a staggering 40%. Bitcoin cash occupied the latter, as prices fell below $100 for the first time in its history. Bitcoin SV and Tether’s USDT stablecoin were the only two cryptocurrencies to emerge from the weekly rout unscathed. This led bitcoin SV to briefly overtake bitcoin cash and Tether as the world’s fifth-largest blockchain.

Bitcoin Mining Difficulty Falls

Bitcoin on Friday fell below $3,400 for the first time since September 2017, with price action and trading volume signaling that a bigger pullback toward $3,000 is likely. At this rate, mining bitcoin is a money-bleeding endeavor that offers little return on investment. Bitcoin’s mining difficulty peaked in mid-October but has since fallen by a whopping 24%, according to Blockchain.com. The following chart highlights how drastically mining difficulty has fallen in recent months.

The price collapse since mid-November has reportedly caused hundreds of thousands of bitcoin miners to halt operations temporarily. As Hacked previously reported, most mining operations depend on a bitcoin price of around $6,000-$7,000 just to break even.

The month-long crash began on the eve of the bitcoin cash hard fork, accelerated during the ABC/SV hash war and then somewhat stabilized following the official chain split. The selloff re-emerged on Friday as short-sellers continued to strangle the market.

U.S.-China Tensions Rattle Stocks

U.S. stocks on Tuesday experienced one of their worst drops of the year, as trade tensions between the United States and China resurfaced. The major indexes were on track for another brutal decline on Thursday after it came to light that a senior Chinese executive of Huawei Technologies Co was arrested in Canada following a lengthy investigation by U.S. authorities.

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the China-based tech giant, was apprehended in Vancouver Dec. 1. According to various news outlets, she risks extradition to the United States amid allegations of money laundering and sanctions violations.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 800 points on Tuesday. It was on track for a more than 500-point drop on Thursday before paring losses in the final hour of trading. U.S. stock markets were closed on Wednesday to mourn the death of former President George H.W. Bush.

OPEC and Russia Come to Terms

On Friday, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) secured an agreement with Russia to slash crude production by 1.2 million barrels per day. According to Bloomberg, the 15-member cartel will shoulder 800,000 barrels of the burden and its partners will be responsible for the remaining balance.

The cuts follow marathon negotiations between OPEC, Russia and their allies on how to best distribute the cuts following two months of bear-market conditions. Oil prices are down more than a third since early October.

U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized OPEC’s production policies and has called on Saudi Arabia and its allies to refrain from manipulating prices. The United States could be well on its way to becoming a stable net exporter of crude by the end of the president’s first term. As Hacked recently reported, the world’s largest economy became a net exporter last week for the first time in 75 years.

The Week Ahead

It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where bitcoin and cryptocurrencies stage a meaningful recovery this month. The digital asset class is expected to remain under pressure for the foreseeable future as short-sellers continue to dominate market flows. That being said, investors can expect an upward consolidation over the next seven days before profit-taking knocks prices back a couple of notches.

Against this backdrop, it’s important to remember that the fundamental picture on bitcoin has not changed as drastically as the price suggests. If anything, market developments have been overwhelmingly positive now that derivatives and custody solutions have taken center stage. 2019 is shaping up to be a big year for bitcoin; new futures products, regulated exchanges and the push for the first U.S.-based ETF product will likely shape the outlook moving forward.

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 Hacked.com and Contributor to CCN.com, 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