But some traders say the halving won't be the bullish catalyst many expect: They say it doesn’t matter. Rather, they are focused on other macroeconomic catalysts, including unprecedented central bank monetary policies, that may drive bitcoin’s price in the coming months and years.
Most people are just “spinning their wheels” debating the bullish halving thesis, Matthew Kaye, managing partner at Blockhead Capital, told CoinDesk. Some market data suggests traders “may see increased demand in the form of diverted mining resources in addition to the reduction in new supply” after the halving, he said.
Bitcoin halving events occur every four years when block rewards paid to bitcoin miners are cut by 50 percent. The current block reward of 12.5 BTC will fall to 6.25 BTC in May.
“The supply shock of the halving is negligible compared to the regular trading volumes of exchanges,” said Francis Pouliot, CEO of Canadian over-the-counter bitcoin exchange Bull Bitcoin. In the long term, however, a “loss of confidence in other assets” makes him “insanely bullish” on bitcoin, said Pouliot.
The “marketing impact” of the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing efforts is “incomparably higher than the very predictable, thus boring, halving,” Pouliot said.
Queries about the May halving have already eclipsed searches for “bitcoin halving” that took place ahead of bitcoin’s second halving in 2016. Search interest is expected to acutely increase over the coming weeks, according to Google’s data.
Bitcoin options markets reflect a similar hesitation to view the halving as a bullish event. The put-call open interest ratio has climbed steadily through the month of April, according to data from Skew, which suggests the market is more focused on hedging against bitcoin’s downside risk as the halving approaches.
“There’s usually an unexpected pullback after the halving,” said Zoran Scekic, managing partner at Zorax Capital.
Call options give the holder the right, though not the obligation, to buy the underlying asset at a set price on or before a specific date. Put options give the right to sell.
“Most fundamental-based bull cases on the having have little merit, but the halving is a good marketing event,” said Ryan Watkins, bitcoin analyst at Messari. “I’m not confident bitcoin will be able to decouple from other asset classes while macro uncertainty overhangs, at least in the short term and around the halving,” said Watkins.
Other recent halving events can help set expectations for bitcoin’s third halving, according to some investors. Litecoin and bitcoin cash already experienced similar halving events in August 2019 and April 2020, respectively.
“Bitcoin cash now trades lower against bitcoin, having gone down from 0.035 pre-halving to about 0.032 today,” said Max Boonen, founder of B2C2, a prominent over-the-counter liquidity provider. “To argue that bitcoin will rally where its cousin bitcoin cash didn't is similar to saying that the bitcoin market is less efficient. That seems hard to me,” said Boonen.
Bitcoin closed its sixth consecutive weekly gain on Sunday, according to Bitstamp. Bitcoin has not closed more than two consecutive weekly gains since May 2019 when the price rallied from $5,000 to $9,000.
April 29, 2020 (15:00 UTC): This piece originally overstated the price of BCH relative to bitcoin by a factor of 10. It has since been corrected.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.
Learn more about Consensus 2023, CoinDesk’s longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to consensus.coindesk.com to register and buy your pass now.