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Why stocks may have more room to fall than crypto this year, according to one analyst

Hello! Welcome back to Distributed Ledger. This is Frances Yue, crypto reporter at MarketWatch. Bitcoin has been trading in a range between $23,500 and $25,000 for the past week, as U.S. regulators heighten their oversight of the industry, while Hong Kong is setting up a task force to achieve its goal of becoming a crypto


Hello! Welcome back to Distributed Ledger. This is Frances Yue, crypto reporter at MarketWatch.

Bitcoin has been trading in a range between $23,500 and $25,000 for the past week, as U.S. regulators heighten their oversight of the industry, while Hong Kong is setting up a task force to achieve its goal of becoming a crypto hub.

I caught up with Martin Leinweber, digital assets product strategist at MarketVector Indexes, who said he expects more downside in the U.S. equity market than in crypto this year amid macroeconomic uncertainty.

As usual, find me on Twitter at @FrancesYue_ to share any thoughts on crypto, this newsletter or your personal stories with digital assets.

Crypto vs. stocks

“I think the crypto market has digested a lot more negative headlines than the equity market,” MarketVector’s Leinweber said. 

As the Federal Reserve aggressively raised interest rates, bitcoin lost more than 65% in 2022, and ether declined almost 70%, according to CoinDesk data. Some smaller tokens lost 90% of their value or more. In contrast, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.33% dropped roughly 9% in 2022, the S&P 500 SPX, +0.53% closed the year 19% lower, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.72% went down about 33%, according to FactSet data.

So far this year, bitcoin rallied more than 45%, while the Dow was roughly flat and the S&P 500 remained up around 4.6%. The Nasdaq has gained around 10%.

“From looking what is happening now in the crypto space — like all the transactions, price behavior, the sector’s stickiness and even the relative strength against equities, I think they show a bullish sign,” Leinweber told Distributed Ledger in a call.

Hong Kong’s crypto push?

Earlier this week, Hong Kong outlined a plan to let individual investors trade cryptocurrencies with larger market capitalizations. The city will also set up a task force to provide recommendations on development of the digital asset industry, according to several media reports

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Tokens with strong China links soared during the past week, logging double or even triple-digit gains. Cryptocurrency Conflux surged 204% during the past seven days. Filecoin advanced 43% and Neo gained over 40% during the same period. 

Meanwhile, during the crypto rally last week, most trading activity happened in the Asian and European trading hours, noted James Lavish, managing partner and portfolio manager at the Bitcoin Opportunity Fund. “It was clearly not U.S. activity,” according to Lavish.

The Shanghai upgrade

Ethereum’s Shanghai upgrade, which would allow validators of the blockchain to withdraw their staked ether, is scheduled for March. Staking allows crypto holders to obtain rewards while using their existing holdings to secure the underlying blockchain.

Some are worried that the Shanghai upgrade would bring short-term volatility to ether as investors might withdraw their staked coins. However, Leinweber said he thinks the upgrade is bullish for the crypto in the long term, as increased liquidity may attract more people to stake their ether.

To be sure, regulatory uncertainties around staking remain in the U.S.. Earlier this month, crypto exchange Kraken ended its staking program in the country, after the Securities and Exchange Commission charged the company with failing to register the program as security.

Bullish signs from the options market

The crypto derivatives markets have also sent some bullish signals, according to Greg Magadini, director of derivatives at Amberdata.

The six-month bitcoin options have been pricing in more upside volatility than downside volatility, meaning that traders are expecting more upside surprises for the next few months, noted Magadini. The trend is vastly different from the bitcoin options dynamic in 2022, Magadini said in a call.

Crypto in a snap

Bitcoin lost 1.1% in the past week and was trading at around $23,919 on Thursday, according to CoinDesk data. Ether dipped 2% in the same period to around $1,660.

Biggest Gainers Price %7-day return
Conflux $0.28 204%
Stacks $0.85 149%
Amp $0.009 73.9%
WEMIX $2.5 72.5%
Filecoin $7.82 42.5%
Source: CoinGecko as of Feb. 23
Biggest Decliners Price %7-day return
Mina Protocol $0.99 -17.4%
ImmutableX $1.04 -16%
Aptos $13.48 -15.5%
Fantom $0.50 -13.4%
Bitget Token $0.39 -12.6%
Source: CoinGecko as of Feb. 23
Crypto companies, funds

Shares of Coinbase Global Inc. COIN, +1.93% lost 5.4% for the week to around $62.22. MicroStrategy Inc. MSTR, -1.05% declined 5.5% thus far on the week, to $268.35.

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Crypto mining company Riot Blockchain Inc. RIOT, +0.31% edged up 0.6%, to $6.40 as of Thursday. Shares of rival Marathon Digital Holdings Inc. MARA, +1.25% were up 1% to $7.30 over the past week. Ebang International Holdings Inc. EBON, -2.72% plunged 10.6% over the past week and was trading at $7.59. Inc. shares OSTK, +0.78% declined 6.7% to $20.34 over the week.

Shares of Block Inc. SQ, +1.70%, formerly known as Square, tumbled 6.5% to $73.50 for the week thus far. Tesla Inc. TSLA, +0.60% shares dipped 0.2% to $201.43.

PayPal Holdings Inc.’s PYPL, -0.38% stock slid 2.3% over the week to trade at around $74.95. Nvidia Corp. shares NVDA, +14.02% rallied 7.6% to $236.74 for the past week.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. AMD, +4.10% shares went down 0.4% to $79.77 for the week.

Among crypto funds, ProShares Bitcoin Strategy BITO, +0.61% declined 1.8% over the week to $14.96 Thursday, while counterpart Short Bitcoin Strategy ETF BITI, -0.63% went up 1.6% to $26.57. Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF BTF, +0.57% declined 1.6% over the past week to $9.51, while VanEck Bitcoin Strategy ETF XBTF, +1.04% dropped 2% to $24.21.

Grayscale Bitcoin Trust GBTC, +2.29% lowered 1.7% over the past five days to $11.82 on Thursday.

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