Bitcoin shed a fifth of its value on Saturday as a combination of profit-taking and macro-economic concerns triggered nearly a billion dollars worth of selling across cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin was 12 percent down at 9:20 GMT at $47,495 (roughly Rs. 35.76 lakhs). It fell as low as $41,967.5 (roughly Rs. 31.60 lakhs) during the session, taking total losses for the day to 22 percent.
The broad selloff in cryptocurrencies also saw ether, the coin linked to the Ethereum blockchain network, plunge more than 10 percent.
Based on cryptocurrency data platform Coingecko, the market capitalisation of the 11,392 coins it tracks dropped nearly 15 percent to $2.34 trillion. That value had briefly crossed $3 trillion last month, when bitcoin hit a record $69,000 (roughly Rs. 51.96 lakhs).
The plunge follows a volatile week for financial markets. Global equities and benchmark US bond yields tumbled on Friday after data showed US job growth slowed in November and the Omicron variant of the coronavirus kept investors on edge.
Justin d’Anethan, Hong Kong-based head of exchange sales at cryptocurrency exchange EQONEX, said he had been watching the increase in leverage ratios across the cryptocurrency markets as well how large holders had been moving their coins from wallets to exchanges. The latter is usually a sign of intent to sell.
“Whales in the crypto space seem to have transferred coins to trading venue, taken advantage of a bullish bias and leverage from retail traders, to then push prices down,” he said.
The selloff also comes ahead of testimony by executives from eight major cryptocurrency firms, including Coinbase Global CFO Alesia Haas and FTX Trading CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, before the US House Financial Services Committee on December 8.
The hearing marks the first time major players in the crypto markets will testify before US lawmakers, as policymakers grapple with the implications of cryptocurrencies and how to best regulate them.
Last week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected a second spot-bitcoin exchange-traded fund proposal from WisdomTree.
Data from another platform Coinglass showed nearly $1 billion worth of cryptocurrencies had been liquidated over the past 24 hours, with the bulk being on digital exchange Bitfinex.
“If anything, this is the opportunity to buy the dip for many investors who might have previously felt like they missed the boat. We can see tether bought at a premium, suggesting people are getting cash ready, within the crypto space, to do just that,” D’Anethan said, referring to the biggest stablecoin in the cryptocurrency world.
A plunge in bitcoin funding rates — the cost of holding bitcoin via perpetual futures which peaked at 0.06 percent in October — also showed traders had turned bearish.
The funding rate on cryptocurrency trading platform BitMEX fell to a negative 0.18% from levels of 0.01 percent for most of November.
IMF Warns El Salvador to Consider Risks of Bitcoin as Legal Tender
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recommended that El Salvador stop using Bitcoin as legal tender, pointing to financial and consumer risks associated with the cryptocurrency, soon after the country’s President Nayib Bukele announced plans for the world’s first Bitcoin city, powered by a volcano and financed by cryptocurrency bonds. El Salvador, a country that has used the US dollar as its primary fiat for over two decades, legalised Bitcoin as an official tender in September, and has been able to reap profits out of the move too.
In a statement, the IMF acknowledged that Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies in general, can facilitate efficient payments, but allowing them as legal tender will likely pose problems for financial stability. “Given Bitcoin’s high price volatility, its use as a legal tender entails significant risks to consumer protection, financial integrity, and financial stability. Its use also gives rise to fiscal contingent liabilities. Because of those risks, bitcoin should not be used as a legal tender. Staff recommends narrowing the scope of the bitcoin law and urges strengthening the regulation and supervision of the new payment ecosystem,” stated the IMF in a statement.
The global agency also called on El Salvador to narrow the scope of its Bitcoin law and strengthen the regulation and supervision of the new payment ecosystem.
El Salvador plans to build the world’s first “Bitcoin City”, funded initially by Bitcoin-backed bonds, President Nayib Bukele said over the weekend, doubling down on his bet to harness the cryptocurrency to fuel investment in the Central American country.
Speaking at an event closing a week-long promotion of Bitcoin in El Salvador, Bukele said the city planned in the eastern region of La Union would get geothermal power from a volcano and not levy any taxes except for value-added tax (VAT).
The IMF regularly undertakes Article IV missions to member countries to consult with government officials before they request to use IMF resources. “The plans to issue sovereign bonds and use the proceeds to buy Bitcoin and fund infrastructure plans announced on November 20, occurred after the technical work of the mission concluded, and were not discussed with the authorities,” the IMF clarified.
This isn’t the first time the IMF has warned the Latin American country for being Bitcoin-forward. Earlier this year, when El Salvador had just passed its historic Bitcoin Law, the IMF had a predictable reaction of opposing its prospects. Yet, despite its multiple warnings against the risks of a Bitcoin-legalised financial system, El Salvador had powered through with its plan. The country has launched its Bitcoin-powered Chivo Wallet app as well as established multiple ATMs to facilitate daily transactions and remittance transfer in Bitcoin.