Research: Why Are Cryptocurrency Prices So Volatile?

Research: Why Are Cryptocurrency Prices So Volatile?
Kevin O'Brien

New research carried out by Daniele Bianchi and Alexander Dickerson at the University of Warwick suggest well-informed traders with information asymmetries are driving big price swings by timing markets in a manner where others follow in their footsteps.

The information was revealed in the latest draft of a research paper entitled Trading Volume In Cryptocurrency Markets", compiled by Assistant Professor of Finance Daniele Bianchi and Alexander Dickerson, a Ph.D. student, both of the Warwick Business School.

The duo looked at intraday price and volume data from CryptoCompare to assert “that the interaction between past volume and returns positively and significantly predicts future returns," according to a release by the Warwick Business School.

Traders Drive Price Swings

The release noted how the findings remain consistent with exisiting models:

“consistent with existing theoretical models which postulate that informed traders who speculate on their private information are key drivers of the observed price changes.”

Bianchi wrote how “the cryptocurrency market is the perfect environment to exploit asymmetric information,” since its opaque nature gives those with information the ability to “time the market, make money, and drive the prices.”

The authors of the research tracked 26 cryptocurrencies across 150 exchanges to gather information about markets. The cryptoassets were tracked between January 1st, 2017 to May 10th, 2018, covering the boom and bust of the 2017 bull market.

Patterns With Other Asset Classes?

In the conclusion of the report, Bianchi and Dickerson wrote how their empirical evidence helps give more insights into the crypto market by offering comparisons with traditional ones like FX.

They explained how the evolving cryptoasset class “may not necessarily be different from long-established and more mature markets.”

However, previous research by Bianchi found no crypto trading correlations ‘with any economic indicators that investors would base decisions on or with commodities.’

In a working paper called Cryptocurrencies as an Asset Class: An Empirical Assessment, the professor explained how crypto pricing was influenced by previous returns and the emotions and moods of investors.

New Report Highlights Large Variance Between Crypto Exchange Standards

New Report Highlights Large Variance Between Crypto Exchange Standards
Colin Muller
  • Only 32% of top exchanges have strong cold wallet storage
  • Majority of volume from small-state-registered exchanges

Standards of security, cold wallet storage, and know-your-customer (KYC) implementation are subject to a wide variance across centralized cryptoasset exchanges, a new report from data provider CryptoCompare has concluded. CryptoCompare surveyed the top 100 exchanges by trading volume, in order to glean broad trends among exchanges.

 

Cold Wallets

A key finding of the report is the low overall prevalence of cold wallet usage - cold wallets being disconnected from the Internet when their funds are not being actively traded. Only 32% of the top 100 exchanges claim to store the vast majority of users’ funds - at least 90% - in cold wallets, with a further twelve percent claiming to store a majority - at least 50% - in cold wallets, and nine percent claiming less than 50%.

 

An alarming 47% of the top exchanges do not detail their storage conventions, according to CryptoCompare. Since the usage of cold storage wallets is a major selling point for users trading on a centralized exchange, which no exchange should hesitate to advertise, it is not unreasonable to fear the worst for these 47% - half of the top 100 - not reporting any cold wallet usage.

 

coldWallets.png

 

The report revealed little correlation between exchanges’ cold wallet usage, and the jurisdiction of their legal registrations.

 

For example, the six exchanges with the highest reported percentage of cold wallet storage, itBit, Coinroom, Coinfloor, Bitfinex, Huobi Pro, and Coinbase, were registered in the U.S., Poland, the U.K., the British Virgin Islands, the Seychelles islands, and again the U.S., respectively. Almost none of the exchanges listed as having high cold wallet usage, with the exception of Bitfinex, were among the highest trading volume exchanges.

 

A helpful cross-reference for this observation is the New York Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) recent audit of cryptoasset exchanges, which found only a small variance of cold-wallet standards among eight U.S.-registered exchanges that it surveyed, namely a high standard with “most participating platforms purport[ing] to keep a high percentage of the virtual currency in their possession in so-called ‘cold storage.’” These figures could perhaps suggest a somewhat higher standard of storage for U.S.-based exchanges.

 

Underlining the importance of cold wallets, eleven percent of top 100 exchanges have been hacked in the past. CryptoCompare reported that nearly 75% of exchanges require at least some KYC information from customers, while fully a quarter require no KYC.

 

Trade volumes

With respect to trading volume, CryptoCompare found that an inordinate amount of the trading volume goes through Malta-, Hong Kong- and South Korea-registered exchanges - in the case of Hong Kong, not even a completely sovereign nation but a “Special Administrative Region” of China. By far the most trading volume comes from Binance and OKEx, both registered in the small Mediterranean island nation of Malta, a member of the European Union and within the Schengen border zone.

 

The jurisdictions hosting the highest number of exchanges, the U.S. and U.K. both registering eight, see strikingly minimal amounts of trading volume pass through their borders. CryptoCompare calculated $366 and $137 million cumulative average daily trading volume, on all the exchanges in their respective countries - a total of $503 million on sixteen exchanges - versus $1.38 billion daily on just two Malta-registered exchanges.

 

The OAG report is again helpful in this case, as the single largest exchange examined by CryptoCompare, Malta-based Binance, declined the New York law enforcement office’s request to furnish information regarding its practices and standards. Two out of four of the highest-volume jurisdictions are small island nations with liberal cryptoasset regulations, and one is the city-state Hong Kong.

 

exchangeVol.png

 

A clear preference for fast-moving, liberal, and “creative” regulatory regimes is evident for the high-volume exchanges. Given, as the OAG has noted, exchanges’ propensities to “[move] their operations with little or no warning,” a competitive atmosphere could be fostered to offer the most flexible and accommodating regulatory regimes, to cryptoasset exchanges searching for their next home.