First Mover Asia: China Equities Woes, Tensions With US Have Barely Touched Bitcoin; Cryptos Climb

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng market has suffered through some of its worst days in more than a decade but have not seemed to affect bitcoin’s price much; cryptos rose slightly as investors waited for the U.S. central bank’s decision on an interest rate hike.

Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:

Prices: Bitcoin and other major cryptos rose a day before the U.S. central bank announces its decision on an interest rate hike.

Insights: China stocks’ hard times do not seem to have affected bitcoin’s price.

Technician’s take: A volatile breakout or breakdown in BTC is likely this week.

Catch the latest episodes of CoinDesk TV for insightful interviews with crypto industry leaders and analysis. And sign up for First Mover, our daily newsletter putting the latest moves in crypto markets in context.

Prices

Bitcoin (BTC): $39,466 +1%

Ether (ETH): $2,622 +2.2%

Top Gainers

Asset Ticker Returns Sector
Solana SOL +5.1% Smart Contract Platform
Chainlink LINK +4.9% Computing
Cosmos ATOM +4.3% Smart Contract Platform

Top Losers

Asset Ticker Returns Sector
Filecoin FIL −1.1% Computing

Cryptos rise as investors await Fed decision

Most major cryptos rose slightly a day before the U.S. central bank was scheduled to announce its decision on a possible interest rate hike, and despite Russia’s continued attacks on Ukraine and a COVID-related lockdown in Shenzhen, a China tech hub.

Bitcoin’s price rose to over $39,000 early Tuesday and was up over 1% over the previous 24 hours. Ether was circling above $2,600 and was up about 2% over the same period. Most major cryptos were in the green. Bitcoin trading remained light as investors continued to process the volatile macroeconomic climate.

“We expect that a lot of people are saying, ‘maybe we should take a wait-and-see approach,” Michael Safai, managing partner at quantitative trading firm Dexterity Capital, told CoinDesk TV’s First Mover program.

Crypto prices dovetailed with major equities markets. The tech-focused Nasdaq was up 2.8%, while the S&P 500 rose more than 2%.

CoinDesk Senior Markets Reporter Omkar Godbole wrote that $1.2 billion in bitcoin had left the exchange Coinbase (COIN), which seemed to reflect institutional investors interest in the asset. “While bitcoin’s four-month bearish price action appears to have scared away retail leverage traders, institutions focused on longer-term horizons seem unperturbed,” Godbole wrote.

Russia continued to pound the Ukraine capital Kyiv and other major cities, which faced humanitarian crises the likes of which have not been seen in Europe for decades. On Tuesday, the U.K. removed Russia from its most favored trade status. Most favored trade status, a principle established by the World Trade Organization, guarantees equal tariff and regulatory treatment among members of the group. Russia now faces a 35% increase above the usual tariffs on goods. On Monday, an employee of Russia’s state TV ran onto a live newscast holding a poster protesting the war. Her whereabouts are currently unknown.

The U.S. Federal Reserve is widely expected to increase interest rates by 25 basis points in its effort to reign in inflation that is likely to worsen with the continuation of the conflict in Ukraine. The price of Brent crude fell below $100 a barrel a week after rising to $130, but still remains higher than a year ago.

But Safai said that “the Fed markets rate isn’t something that crypto” would respond to “because they usually price it in at the beginning.”

“We’ve known this rate was coming for a long time,” he said. “Crypto traders are smart.” He added: “I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of changes in crypto markets.”

Markets

S&P 500: 4,262 +2.1%

DJIA: 33,554 +1.8%

Nasdaq: 12,948 +2.8%

Gold: $1,917 -1.8%

Insights

China’s stocks fall amid global tensions

The global economy is potentially on the precipice of disaster.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, a European breadbasket, is likely to cause spikes in food prices due to interrupted harvests while a rise in COVID-19 cases has already led to lockdowns in China’s electronics manufacturing hub of Shenzhen, potentially disrupting production. High oil prices could cripple consumer spending.

In addition, U.S. regulators have continued to press American-listed Chinese firms for audits with the threat of delisting if they don’t comply. Chinese firms maintain the information sought are confidential state secrets and can’t be disclosed.

“Wall Street and Chinese-American funds are familiar with [Securities and Exchange Commission] rules, and they vigorously cooperate to sell short, and Chinese stocks naturally plummet,” Tony Ling, a Hangzhou-based partner at Bizantine Capital, told CoinDesk.

Ling pointed to JPMorgan’s downgrades of 28 Chinese stocks listed in the U.S. and Hong Kong, as well as the bank’s comments that Chinese tech stocks are “uninvestable” for six to 12 months as fuel for the industry-wide sell-off in those shares.

“The recent industry-wide sell-off is likely to continue in the absence of valuation support,” he said.

All this has hurt Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index, which is a hub for China-listed shares that are accessible to the outside world. Investors have priced in the threat of delisting and accelerating hostilities – and Hong Kong’s own out-of-control COVID-19 situation to top things off – giving the market its worst days since 2008.

Yet, bitcoin has marched on. It has been a fairly boring week for the world’s largest digital asset because it has been bouncing around plus or minus 2% all week. Yes, in some ways this is what it is designed to do by acting as a safe haven for capital. However, we’ve seen in recent months that bitcoin has begun to trade like a risk asset rather than an inflation hedge, making bitcoin’s absence in this market skirmish curious.

Is it because capital is headed back to the U.S. where it sees opportunity and is not necessarily fleeing? Or could it be a planned de-coupling? “The plummeting of Chinese concept stocks is no longer the normal operation of stocks but something that incites Western funds to decouple from Chinese concept stocks, causing chaos in the Chinese economy,” Bizantine’s Ling said.

More likely the only thing on crypto’s mind now is the Federal Reserve meeting and the announcement expected afterwards. Inflation and interest rates are on the top of the agenda, and crypto is certainly going to once again come up on the minutes.

It might be that the crypto market is still “centralized” around the Fed as the preeminent driver of macroeconomic policy, making it not much different than TradFi.

The minutes for the latest Fed Meeting are expected to be released soon. Unless U.S.-China equities spills over and Hong Kong’s market contagion spreads, which doesn’t look very likely, it will once again be the Fed that drives crypto prices.

Is that a case for further decentralization?

Technician’s take

Bitcoin Approaching $40K Resistance Zone; Support at $37K

Bitcoin four-hour chart shows support/resistance (Damanick Dantes/CoinDesk, TradingView)

Bitcoin (BTC) is recovering after multiple setbacks from the $40,000 resistance zone. Technical indicators are mostly neutral and trading volume is low, suggesting a breakout or breakdown is likely this week.

So far, buyers have maintained a strong support base around $37,000, which could limit pullbacks over the short term. The significant loss of downside momentum on the weekly chart could also encourage buying activity, especially if a breakout above $40,000 occurs.

On the monthly chart, however, momentum signals are negative, which means upside could be limited toward the $46,700 resistance level.

On the monthly chart, however, momentum signals are negative, which means upside could be limited toward the $46,700 resistance level.

Important events

South by Southwest (SXSX)

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky address to U.S. Congress

9:30 a.m. HKT/SGT(1:30 a.m. UTC): China house price index (Feb.)

12:30 a.m. HKT/SGT(4:30 a.m. UTC): Japan industrial production (Jan. MoM/YoY)

CoinDesk TV

In case you missed it, here is the most recent episode of “First Mover” on CoinDesk TV:

Everstake Exec on Partnering With Ukraine, FTX to Launch New Crypto Donation Website

Everstake Chief Operating Officer Bohdan Opryshko joined “First Mover” to share details of the new crypto donation site “Aid for Ukraine” in partnership with FTX and the Ukrainian government. The Federal Reserve is poised to raise interest rates this week. Dexterity Capital Managing Partner Michael Safai shared his crypto markets analysis. Robbie Ferguson of Immutable shared the company’s plan to bring blockchain gaming to the masses after raising $200 million in its latest funding round.

Headlines

Shanghai Police Bust $16M Crypto Pyramid Scheme: The scheme was Shanghai’s first cracked case of an online pyramid scheme using cryptocurrencies, according to the police.

Bitcoin Worth $1.2B Leaves Coinbase in a Sign of Persistent Institutional Adoption: Coinbase outflows represent continued institutional adoption of bitcoin as a macro asset, analytics firm Glassnode said.

FTX Europe Becomes First Exchange to Receive Crypto License in Dubai: The exchange will also set up a regional headquarters in Dubai.

Kazakhstan Crackdown Forces 106 More Crypto Mines to Close: Notable political and business figures were said to be behind some of the mines, including the brother of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Binance Granted a Crypto Asset Service Provider License From Bahrain’s Central Bank: The oil-rich kingdom has been making moves to strengthen its domestic crypto industry.

Longer reads

The First NFT Monopoly: With Bored Apes and CryptoPunks under the same corporate roof, the NFT market barrels toward further centralization.

Today’s crypto explainer: How to Buy a Tom Brady NFT

Other voices: Opinion: Ukraine is a big moment for cryptocurrency, but not for the reasons its promoters think (Washington Post)

Said and heard

“But, for perhaps the first time in [Block CEO Jack] Dorsey’s years-long flirtation with bitcoin (crypto, not so much), there’s a significant disconnect between his plans and crypto long-timers’ preferences.” (CoinDesk columnist David Z. Morris) … “But the surge in oil prices over the past month, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gives rise to an unsettling question: is the global economy now seeing a 1970s-style oil shock on top of a late 1940s-style supply crunch?” (The Economist)

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