Trading action in the bitcoin market slowed Tuesday while ether’s price broke new ground.
The price of bitcoin stayed in a fairly tight range Tuesday, spending most of U.S. trading hours between $36,200 and $37,200. At around 15:00 UTC (11 a.m. ET), the price spiked to as high as $37,876 before dropping and was at $36,483 as of press time.
“Interesting yesterday that bitcoin held its price in a quiet U.S. market with the [Martin Luther King Day] holiday,” noted Chris Thomas, head of digital assets for Swissquote Bank. “This also suggests that U.S. clients, both retail and institutional, are quite important.”
“We had two failed attempts to break and stay above $40,000, but we saw that at $20,000 and $30,000 as well,” said Thomas. “I suspect we’ll get through $40,000 in the next day or two.”
In the meantime, as prices stay less volatile than before, traders appear to be adding on more risk.
“Looks like while bitcoin is being squeezed between a tightening $34,000-$38,000 range in the past week, the market is going more leveraged long,” noted Cindy Leow, portfolio manager for multi-strategy trading firm 256 Capital partners.
According to data aggregator Skew, leveraged funding on major venues remains high. Kraken in particular has shown a high degree of volatility in funding rates, but as of Tuesday is offering the most for crypto holders to provide liquidity to leverage up long, at 0.0471%.
“We see this as short-term bearish, indicating too many market participants are eager for an upside breakout,” Leow added. “Adding on to that, sellers seem exhausted, and the market is very short on dollars with frothy USD/stablecoin lending rates.”
According to DeFi Pulse, lending on the decentralized finance, or DeFi, market has passed $12 billion, with the stablecoin Maker dai (DAI) taking up over 39% of that share. Dai currently makes up $4.7 billion of the DeFi lending market, up over 11% Tuesday.
Some of this DeFi spike is also coming from a rising price in ether, which saw a breakout Tuesday to fresh highs whereas bitcoin has stayed relatively quiet. “Ether is looking really strong and I think we’re now entering a race between a $2,000 ETH and $50,000 BTC,” said Swissquote’s Thomas.
“We see ETH likely facing some resistance at its all-time-high, similar to how BTC was initially rejected in November 2020 at its previous $19,000 high before resuming an uptrend,” said 256 Capital’s Leow.
Ether (ETH), the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, was up Tuesday, trading around $1,384 and climbing 12.7% in 24 hours as of 21:00 UTC (4:00 p.m. ET).
The spot price of ether hit an all-time high Tuesday, going up to $1,439 and just edging out its previous high from $1,432.88 set Jan. 13, 2018.
George Clayton, managing partner of crypto fund Cryptanalysis Capital, questions the fundamentals behind ether’s rise while bitcoin seems uncorrelated with ETH’s rise. “Interesting price action,” Clayton told CoinDesk.
He noted that average fees on the network usually spike with these price runs, which actually hurts usability. Ethereum’s DeFi projects get more expensive to use during price runs because processing fees, or “gas” in increments of ether, are required for its use.
“With fees at such astronomical levels, Ethereum is becoming sclerotic and exclusive,” Clayton added. “Have to hope that ETH 1.5 and rollups relieve some pressure.”
Digital assets on the CoinDesk 20 are mostly green Tuesday. Notable winners as of 21:00 UTC (4:00 p.m. ET):