Week in Review: Ripple Outpaces Crypto Peers; Santa Claus Rally Eludes U.S. Stocks

It was a big week for Ripple XRP, as the so-called bankers’ token overtook Ethereum to become the world’s No. 2 cryptocurrency by market capitalization. At the same time, bitcoin stabilized in the mid $14,000 range following another major correction.

On Wall Street, the Santa Claus rally failed to deliver holiday gains as U.S. equities traded lower for the week. Meanwhile, a weaker dollar helped gold prices rise above $1,300 a troy ounce, and also provided the catalyst for U.S. crude’s jump above $60 a barrel.

Ripple Hits $2.00

Ripple (XRP/USD) was the week’s biggest development as far as cryptocurrencies are concerned. The XRP token surged more than 53% on Friday to reach a new all-time high of $1.93. The gain gives Ripple  a market cap of more than $80 billion, enough for the no. 2 spot on the crypto market leader board. By comparison, Ethereum’s native ether token is worth nearly $73 billion.

Cryptocurrency NEM (XEM/USD) also rose to new highs this week, with prices climbing nearly 17% on Friday to $1.05, according to CoinMarketCap. NEM is now a top-ten cryptocurrency, ahead of Dash and Monero.

It was another week of ups and downs for bitcoin (BTC/USD), with values ranging from the mid-$13,000 to the mid-$16,000. At the time of writing, bitcoin was up nearly 4% at $14,413, paring its weekly drop to around 3%.

The total market cap for all cryptocurrencies is $613 billion, which is a huge improvement over last week’s levels. A total of 35 cryptocurrencies are valued at $1 billion or more and 21 of them are worth at least $2 billion. Bitcoin accounts for roughly 43% of the total market share, which is less than half of what it was at the start of the year.

Seasonality Fails to Lift Stocks

The long-awaited Santa Claus rally failed to materialize after Christmas, as U.S. stocks fell for the first time in six weeks. The large-cap S&P 500 Index declined 0.5% on Friday to close at 2,673.61. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 118.29 points, or 0.5%, to close at 24,719.22. Meanwhile, the technology-driven Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.7% to 6,903.39.

Implied volatility, as measured by the CBOE VIX, rose to its highest level in nearly a month, a sign that the Trump-inspired equities rally was losing steam. The VIX closed at 11.04, which is still well below the historic average.

Even with the weekly decline, U.S. stocks closed out a stellar year, with the major indexes returning between 19% and 28%.

Commodities Rally

It was another solid week for the commodity markets. Oil prices rose to their highest level in two-and-a-half years on news of strong global demand and a bigger than expected drop in U.S. crude inventories. A report from Baker Hughes Inc. on Friday also showed the number of active oil and gas rigs declined this week, bringing the total number to 929.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for February delivery climbed 58 cents, or 1%, to $60.42 a barrel on Friday, its highest level since mid-2015. The U.S. futures benchmark added 12.5% for the year, and was up more than 41% from the yearly low. ICE Brent futures gained 71 cents, or 1.1%, to $66.87 a barrel. The international benchmark ended the year with a gain of 17%.

Gold also ended the year on a high note, with the February contract rising nearly 1% Friday to reach $1,309.30 a troy ounce. The yellow metal has gained in ten of the last 11 sessions, and is now trading at its highest since mid-October.

Commodities were partially supported by a weaker U.S. dollar, which declined on Friday to its lowest levels since September. The dollar index (DXY) retreated 1.3% during the week and nearly 10% for the year, rounding out its worst annual performance since 2003.

The Week Ahead

With the new year upon us, market participants are evaluating whether 2018 will be a continuation of the previous 12 months or whether it will present new challenges for cryptocurrencies and equities. Those questions won’t be answered in the first week of the year, as investors return from holiday and zero in on a steady stream of economic data.

Economists at the U.S. Department of Labor will issue their closely watched nonfarm payrolls report next Friday. The data series is expected to show another solid month of job creation for the world’s largest economy.

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