Week in Review: The Two Tales of Volatility
When it comes to volatility, stocks and cryptocurrencies diverged wildly this week. On the equities front, major selloffs in China and Wall Street were followed by equally large single-day rallies, as investors bought on the dip. For cryptocurrencies, the picture was largely unchanged for most of the week, as bitcoin and the broader market hovered near break-even.
Despite experiencing a minor dip on Friday, cryptocurrency prices have held within a remarkably narrow range over the past five days. The cryptocurrency market capitalization, which accounts for all digital assets including bitcoin, has hovered around $210-$212 billion for much of the week. On Friday, the market dipped to around $207 billion as bitcoin fell below $6,500.
Tether on Monday induced heavy volatility in the market as traders cut ties to the controversial stablecoin. The value of USDT not only lost its peg to the dollar, it briefly fell below $0.90. A collapsing USDT triggered a sharp spike in the value of bitcoin, with major exchanges like Bitfinex reporting a large premium on BTC. That’s because Bitfinex, among others, processes a much larger volume of BTC/USDT trades.
Bitcoin’s volatility index, which tracks daily fluctuations in the digital currency’s opening price, is hovering below 1.9% over the last 30 days. Bitcoin’s average fluctuations over the last 120 days are 2.91%, according to bitvol.info.
China Takes the Plunge
Chinese equities resumed their massive selloff this week, as a U.S.-led trade war continued to roil mainland markets. An attempt by the People’s Bank of China to ease capital controls was also met by skepticism by investors who remain critical of the country’s long-term growth outlook.
As of Thursday, China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index was down a staggering 12% for the month of October. The index rebounded sharply on Friday, gaining 2.6%, as government officials offered soothing comments about the health of the economy.
The Chinese yuan fell to nearly two-year lows this week after the U.S. Treasury refrained from labelling the country a “currency” manipulator in its biannual report. The Trump administration has called out China for undercutting the yuan as a means of gaining unfair trading advantage over its peers.
Pressure on Saudi Builds
Saudi Arabia is in the hot seat after a known dissident journalist was reportedly drugged, tortured and killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist in question, was last seen entering the consulate on Oct. 2.
U.S. President Donald Trump has moved closer to acknowledging Riyadh’s role in the disappearance of Khashoggi amid new evidence indicting Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. A source familiar with the investigation has told CNN that Saudi Arabia’s first secretary was involved in planning the attack.
The Saudis have denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance but are prepared to admit that he was killed in the consulate. Earlier this week, Riyadh implicitly threatened to use oil as a weapon should Western powers pursue sanctions against it.
The Week Ahead
The crypto bulls failed to show up after Monday’s sudden accumulation, a sign that bear-market conditions are likely to persist for a while longer. A lack of trading catalysts, combined with negative sentiment already present in the market, are clear signals that prices will remain subdued as we head into the final week of October.
The outlook on equities is much more mixed, as investors weigh a new batch of corporate earnings against a backdrop of political and trade-related concerns. It also remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will take decisive action against the Saudis should conclusive evidence link the government to Khashoggi’s disappearance.
On the data front, the U.S. government will release preliminary third-quarter GDP data next Friday. The world’s largest economy is said to have expanded 3.9% between July and September, according to the latest Atlanta Fed GDP Tracker.
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.
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