As Bitcoin Price Keeps Surging, We Examine Potential Catalysts

Siamak Masnavi

According to CryptoCompare, at 07:30 UTC on Sunday (May 12), the Bitcoin (BTC) price surged past $7,500 to reach $7,536 half an hour later, a level last seen on 2 August 2018. We take a closer look at Bitcoin's recent price action, and discuss several potential reasons that could (at least in part) explain it.

BTC - 12 Month CC Chart - 12 May 2019.png

And it is not just Bitcoin that is enjoying a tremendous bull run, as all of the major altcoins in the top 10 seem to have now joined the party.

Here are the 24-hour price charts for Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (), Litecoin (LTC), and Cardano (ADA):

ETH - 24 Hour CC Chart - 12 May 2019.png

BCH - 24 Hour CC Chart - 12 May 2019.png

LTC - 24 Hour CC Chart - 12 May 2019.png

ADA - 24 Hour CC Chart - 12 May 2019.png

Before we examine some potential reasons for why the crypto markets are enjoying a very nice bull run at the moment, let's take a closer at what has been happening this weekend.

Here are a few tweets from prominent members of the crypto community that might give you a better idea of what the mood is like:

Vinny Lingham, CEO at Civic:

 Dovey Wan, Co-Founder of Primitive Ventures:

Arthur Hayes, Co-Founcer and CEO of BitMEX:

We can't be sure if we are firmly in the bull territory or if we are, how long this crypto price rally will continue, but we can speculate as to the reasons behind it. The most popular and pluasible explanations (in no particular order) seem to be as follows:

  • Improving technicals, such as last month's double break out of Bitcoin price upon the "Golden Cross";
  • Traders exiting their Tether (USDT) positions and getting into Bitcoin and the major altcoins, especially after the office of the New York Attorney General (NYAG) announced that it was investigating Bitfinex and Tether (and the resulting revelation that Tether was only 74% backed by cash and cash equivalents). 
  • Tether (USDT) managing to maintain its peg to the dollar despite all the drama surrounding Bifinex and Tether (unlike what happened in October 2018, when USDT fell to as low as $0.86).
  • The countdown to Bitcoin's next block reward halving event, which is estimated to take place on 23 May 2020.
  • Bloomberg reporting on May 6 that Fidelity Investments "will buy and sell the world’s most popular digital asset for institutional customers within a few weeks."
  • Reports that came out towards the end of last month about two of the biggest brokerages in the U.S., E*Trade Financial and TD Ameritrade, preparing to launch Bitcoin trading on their platforms.
  • The Wall Street Journal's article (published on May 2) about Facebook's crypto-based payments system.
  • Diar Research reporting on May 6 that for Bitcoin the number of transactions on-chain is "just shy of the all-time-high of December 2017."
  • The realization by many that "we must be in a bull market" after the attack on Binance on May 7 since it seemingly had no negative impact on the price of Bitcoin.
  • U.S. Congressman Bradley Sherman (D-CA) asking his colleagues to introduce "a bill to outlaw cryptocurrency purchases by Americans" being taken as a bullish sign by many fans of crypto, such as Anthony Pompliano (aka "Pomp), who said on May 10 that Congressman Sherman's remarks only served as an ad for crypto and helped to confirm its validity.
  • New York City Blockchain Week.
  • The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

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Bullish Bitcoin Investors Are Ignoring Institutional Bears

Neil Dennis

Bitcoin investors remained positive this week, despite data showing that bearish bets on the futures market had increased during the previous week.

Positioning data on CME Bitcoin futures showed that institutional managers held 14% more short positions in the seven days to Friday, June 21, than in the week before, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

Futures trade allows investors to back an asset's losses as well as gains: short positioning means backing an asset to fall in price over a defined period.  The increase in the CFTC short position data on CME Bitcoin futures, therefore, would indicate growing bearishness by the larger institutional players.

Playing it by the Charts

They may have been playing it by the charts. The previous two tops occured in mid-May when the price of Bitcoin reached a high of $8,352 before falling back nearly $1,000, and then at the very end of May reaching $9,066 before falling back to $7,807.

Bitcoin's price performnace

The chart shows that in the week to June 21, when shorts on CME Bitcoin futures grew, Bitcoin pushed up above $10,000, in a chart pattern that might have led many to believe another pullback was imminent.

This drop, predicted by many institutional investors, never came, however, and private investors continued to back the Bitcoin rally. Indeed, the CFTC report showed that smaller investors continued to hold more long positions - backing the continued rally: investors with fewer than 25 Bitcoin futures contracts showed four times as many long positions than shorts.

Short Covering

This may help explain how the rally of the last couple of weeks gained momentum, as those on the institutional side joined the buying to cover their short positions.

Tanya Abrosimova, analyst for FXStreet, said:

Many experts believe that at this stage Bitcoin is driven by FOMO (fear of missing out), while the market repeats the situation of late 2017.

It is also likely that Facebook's announcement about the lauch of its Libra cryptocurrency caught the institutional shorts on the wrong side of the market. Since the Libra announcement on Tuesday, June 18, Bitcoin has gained more than 30%.

Abrosimova added:

Looking technically, Bitcoin has been growing strongly for eight days in succession, which is the longest period of uninterrupted growth since December 2017. As BTC/USD is trying to take out a new barrier at $12,500. Once it is out of the way, the next bullish target of $13,000 will quickly come into view.