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Bitcoin Blast-Off Theories: $100 Million ‘Mystery’ Buyer, Asian Algos and April Fools

Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:43 PM
Gerelyn Terzo
Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:43 PM

Now that the bitcoin price is out of the doldrums, every mainstream financial media outlet has come out of the woodwork and back to crypto.

With a few exceptions,  much of the coverage has been reasonable. News outlets are searching for reasons behind the sudden spike in the bitcoin price. There’s no shortage of explanations, chief among which point to a whale’s big buy and computer-powered algorithmic hedge fund trading strategies. Of course, if you ask Blockstream’s Samson Mow, the rally may just be a result of good old fashioned supply and demand.

So what’s really behind the bitcoin price’s meteoric 20% rise to cross the $5,000 threshold in a day, sending BTC to its best levels since November? Let’s take a look.

Big Whale

While the 2017 crypto rally was fueled by individual investors, it was reportedly small hedge funds and other crypto firms that triggered the selling in last year’s bear market. Before you write them off, however, consider that it may have been a single order the magnitude of $100 million that was a springboard to yesterday’s buying. According to Reuters  citing BCB Group’s Oliver von Landsberg-Sadie, the orders were placed across a trio of crypto exchanges — Coinbase, Kraken, and Bitstamp. Von Landsberg-Sadie explained:

“There has been a single order that has been algorithmically-managed across these three venues, of around 20,000 BTC. If you look at the volumes on each of those three exchanges – there were in-concert, synchronized, units of volume of around 7,000 BTC in an hour.”

eToro Senior Analyst Mati Greenspan pointed out in today’s note that the anonymous nature of crypto makes the mystery order “impossible to prove,” adding:

“The theory is that a single buyer spread a buy order of 20,000 BTC across three major exchanges, thus taking out all of their order books simultaneously. If true, the mystery buyer certainly knew what he was doing. The order buildup above $4,200 that we’ve been talking about would have certainly spurred on the price reaction of his order.”

While a plausible theory, the catalyst behind the sudden buy order remains unclear.

Hedge Fund Traders

A further explanation of the possible catalyst involves algorithmic hedge funds, which have been launching in earnest over the past six months or so. These computer-fueled trading strategies are blamed for “exaggerating price moves and volatility” in stocks, according to a Bloomberg report . Now algorithmic traders have been flocking to the crypto space, which hitherto was led by retail investors.

Source: Bloomberg

Of the crypto hedge funds that have launched since September, nearly half of them are quantitative funds. Similar to the Reuters reports, Bloomberg cites BCB Group’s von Landsberg-Sadie, who said an “automated software set” for the $100 million trade order was likely behind the bitcoin price surge. Incidentally, BCB Group facilitates big algorithmic trades for investors.

“Some people are in the camp where algorithmic trading is a manipulative device, and others are of the view that they are a way to make markets more efficient. I am definitely of the second view,” said von Landsberg-Sadie.

Crypto Spring

While the bitcoin rally can be chalked up to many things, what’s important to note is that it created a shift in sentiment.

Not only did the bitcoin price rise, but altcoins experienced double-digit percentage gains, too. eToro’s Greenspan explained that “bitcoin is in the driving seat,” as altcoins tend to trade in correlated fashion to their larger peer. Meanwhile, solid trading volume accompanied those gains.

Greenspan stated in his note:

“The volume across the top ten crypto exchanges, as tracked by Messari , is up to about $1.3 billion, which is about $1 billion more than usual.”

Bitcoin’s trading volume alone hovers at $20 billion in the last 24-hour period, which is yet another sign that Crypto Spring is here.