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Wall Street Aims to Make Sense of Confounding Bitcoin Swings

Cryptos have suffered a range of blows in recent days, from Elon Musk’s criticism of Bitcoin’s energy use and about face on accepting it for payments, to heightened regulatory rhetoric from China.

(Bloomberg) -- Wall Street strategists face an almost impossible task in trying to analyze the outlook for Bitcoin and other tokens after a volatile rout. Even so, they are still trying, and some see the risk of more trouble ahead.

At JPMorgan Chase & Co., a team led by Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou reckons it’s premature to call the end of the Bitcoin selloff. Meanwhile, in a wide-ranging report, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. signaled that extreme swings hamper crypto’s appeal for institutional investors. And Medley Global Advisors LLC warned of the threat of spillovers if Bitcoin drops well below $20,000.

“It is too early to call the end of the recent Bitcoin downtrend,” the JPMorgan strategists wrote Friday, citing in part momentum signals and a lack of buying in Bitcoin funds and regulated futures.

The largest cryptocurrency rebounded on Monday, climbing 9% to $36,800 as of 8:42 a.m. in London after another weekend of big gyrations. Bitcoin’s drop of more than 40% from a mid-April record headlines a cryptocurrency crash that’s become emblematic of waning speculative zeal.

Cryptos have suffered a range of blows in recent days, from Elon Musk’s criticism of Bitcoin’s energy use and about face on accepting it for payments, to heightened regulatory rhetoric from China.

High-profile figures like Mark Cuban have also flagged the risk that some leveraged investors have to unwind their positions, something he described on Twitter as the “Great Unwind.”

I think this is the "Great Unwind". Traders borrow to buy Eth, used eth to borrow alt/stable coin, used that to LP a high APY Pair, took the SLPs and staked them to maxout yield. The minute Eth drops to their Tragic Number, they had to Unwind. Unstake, Remove Liqudity, Repay.

— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) May 23, 2021

In a multi-part report, Goldman Sachs authors including Allison Nathan, Jeffrey Currie, Zach Pandl and Christian Mueller-Glissmann flagged a variety of trends. That included Ether’s potential to overtake Bitcoin as a store of value and crypto volatility that may pose a challenge for institutional buyers.

Mathew McDermott, global head of digital assets at Goldman Sachs, also wrote that the company is looking at crypto-related offerings, such as “fund or structured note-like products.”

Aside from the sheer scale of the slump in virtual currencies last week -- the Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index fell almost 40%, the most since the pandemic turmoil in March last year -- massive intraday price swings have also captivated investor attention.

Risk-Adjusted Returns

Still, RBC derivatives strategist Amy Wu Silverman argued in a note Sunday that based on a measure of risk-adjusted returns known as the Sharpe ratio, Bitcoin has done better than shares in Tesla Inc., the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust or Invesco QQQ Trust Series 1.

Bitcoin, Ether and meme virtual currencies like Dogecoin are still sitting on major gains over longer time-frames, such as the past year -- about 12,000%, in the case of Dogecoin.

For Ben Emons, managing director of global macro strategy at Medley Global Advisors in New York, Bitcoin is “firming its grip on markets through volatility, liquidity and correlation.”

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