Bitcoin price broke to the upside, but where are all the leveraged long traders?

Bitcoin price broke to the upside, but where are all the leveraged long traders?


This week’s Bitcoin (BTC) chart leaves little doubt that the symmetrical triangle pattern is breaking to the upside after constricting the price for nearly 20 days. However, derivatives metrics tell a completely different story because professional traders are unwilling to add leveraged positions and are overcharging for downside protection.

BTC-USD 12-hour price at Kraken. Source: TradingView

Will BTC reverse course even as macroeconomic conditions crumble?

Whether BTC turns the $30,000 to $31,000 level into support depends to some degree on how global markets perform.

The last time U.S. stock markets faced a seven-week consecutive downtrend was over a decade ago. New home sales in the U.S. declined for the fourth straight month, which is also the longest streak since October 2010.

China saw a whopping 20% year-on-year decline for its on-demand services, the worst change on record. According to government data released on May 30, consumer spending for internet services from January to April stood at $17.7 billion.

The value of stock offerings in Europe also hit the worst level in 19 years after rising interest rates, inflation and macroeconomic uncertainties caused investors to seek shelter in cash positions. According to Bloomberg, initial public offerings and follow-on transactions raised a mere $30 billion throughout 2022.

All of the above make it easier to understand the discrepancy between the recent Bitcoin price recovery to $32,300 and weak derivatives data because investors are pricing higher odds of a downturn, primarily driven by worsening global macroeconomic conditions.

Derivatives metrics are neutral-to-bearish

Retail traders usually avoid quarterly futures due to their price difference from spot markets, but they are professional traders’ preferred instrument because they avoid the perpetual contracts fluctuating funding rate.

These fixed-month contracts usually trade at a slight premium to spot markets because investors demand more money to withhold the settlement. This situation is not exclusive to crypto markets. Consequently, futures should trade at a 5% to 12% annualized premium in healthy markets.

Bitcoin 3-month futures’ annualized premium. Source: Laevitas

According to data from Laevitas, Bitcoin’s futures premium has been below 4% since April 12. This reading is typical of bearish markets and it’s worrisome that the metric failed to break above the 5% neutral threshold even as the price moved toward $32,000.

To exclude externalities specific to the futures instrument, traders must also analyze the Bitcoin options markets. The 25% delta skew is optimal as it shows when Bitcoin market makers and arbitrage desks are overcharging for upside or downside protection.

During bearish markets, options investors give higher odds for a price crash, causing the skew indicator to move above 12%. On the other hand, a bull markets’ generalized excitement induces a negative 12% or lower skew.

Bitcoin 30-day options 25% delta skew: Source: Laevitas

The 30-day delta skew peaked at 25.4% on May 14, the highest-ever record and typical of extremely bearish markets. However, the situation improved on May 30 and 31 as the indicator stabilized at 14%, but it prices in higher odds of a price crash. Still, it shows a moderate sentiment improvement from derivatives traders.

The risks of a global economic slowdown are probably the main reason why Bitcoin options markets are stressed and why the futures premium is still low. The 30-day correlation of BTC versus the S&P 500 index is at 89%, meaning traders have fewer incentives to place bullish bets on cryptocurrencies.

Some metrics suggest that the stock market may have bottomed last week, especially since it’s trading 8.5% above the May 20 intraday low, but weak economic numbers are weighing on investor sentiment. This drives the risk-averse momentum and has a negative impact on cryptocurrency markets.

Until there’s a better definition for traditional finance and the world’s biggest economies, Bitcoin traders should continue to avoid building leveraged long positions and maintain a bearish stance, a feature that is currently reflected in options markets.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.


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