Bitcoin started the month on a positive note, jumping more than 8% to about $49,000 after a price plunge last week that was the biggest since the coronavirus wrecked markets early last year.
The gains came amid fresh signs of adoption of digital-asset technologies. Citigroup, one of the biggest U.S. banks, wrote that bitcoin was at a “tipping point” as more institutions adopt the cryptocurrency. Google Finance added a data tab on cryptocurrencies. And Michael Saylor’s MicroStrategy, which has been a big bitcoin buyer via its corporate treasury, added another 328 BTC (worth $15 million), bringing the company’s hoard to 90,859.
The cryptocurrency’s price fell 21% in the seven days through Sunday, the biggest weekly drop since March 2020. Investors fretted that rising U.S. government-bond yields might signal heightened prospects for inflation, which could theoretically lead to an early unwinding of monetary stimulus by the Federal Reserve. Central-bank stimulus has fueled concerns of inflation over the past year, and many big investors say that bitcoin might serve as a hedge against rising consumer prices.
The top cryptocurrency still managed to gain 36% in February, the fifth straight monthly gain. That’s the longest such winning streak since June 2019, according to CoinDesk 20 data.
The February gain could have been much higher had the cryptocurrency stayed resilient to last week’s instability in traditional markets.
Bitcoin fell from record highs above $58,000 to as low as $43,000 in the seven days to Feb. 28, as the U.S. 10-year yield jumped to 12-month highs, above 1.6%, sending stock markets lower.
More importantly, the Fed funds futures – financial contracts that represent the market opinion of where the daily official federal funds rate will be at various expiries – brought forward the timing of the first interest rate hike to the end of 2022 from 2024, diluting the appeal of so-called store-of-value assets such as bitcoin and gold.
According to Citi analysts, markets are now pricing in an 80% chance of a Fed 25 basis point rate hike to 0.25% by December 2022. Meanwhile, as per the French bank Societé Generale, markets are now foreseeing interest rates at 2% in five years, while most Fed members expect rates to be unchanged from current levels at the end of 2023, according to projections released in January.
Even so, bitcoin has bounced to $48,400 today, representing a 7% gain on the day. Some analysts say the cryptocurrency’s pullback may not be over yet.
“We think there’s still room for more weakness ahead and would caution against expectations that the bottom is in,” Joel Kruger, currency strategist at LMAX Digital, told CoinDesk. “At the moment, the biggest risk to bitcoin is the short-term risk associated with a downturn in U.S. and global equities.”
Trader and analyst Alex Kruger said the cryptocurrency’s pullback has ended for now, and prices could rise this week; however, a fresh drop can be seen later if the Fed fails to keep yields under control.
With President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package on track to get approval from Congress, both yields and odds of an early rate hike could continue to rise weakening demand for bitcoin and gold, more so, if Friday’s U.S. jobs report for the month of February shows substantial growth.
“Signs that the central banks are winding down their support might lead to more interest from institutional investors in re-allocating their capital back to the traditional equity and bond markets in the expectation of more volatility and investment opportunity. Dampening institutional enthusiasm would remove a key source of support to Bitcoin and potentially the broader cryptocurrency ecosystem, thus pushing it back to its more speculative roots,” Citi analysts said in their recently published 108-page report “Bitcoin – At The Tipping Point”.