First Mover Asia: Fed Fears and Pelosi Taiwan Trip Reverse Bitcoin's Recent Gains

The mood in crypto markets had turned sunnier last week, but now any bright hopes for a strong rally are fading. PLUS: The NFT market just isn't what it used to be.

AccessTimeIconAug 2, 2022 at 10:59 p.m. UTC
Updated Aug 3, 2022 at 3:22 p.m. UTC

Helene is a U.S. markets reporter at CoinDesk, covering the US economy, the Fed, and bitcoin. She is a recent graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

Bradley Keoun is the managing editor of CoinDesk's Markets team. He owns less than $1,000 each of several cryptocurrencies.

Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:

Prices: The U.S. Federal Reserve is nowhere near finished in its fight against inflation, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan puts a damper on investor sentiment. Suddenly, the market for risky assets from bitcoin to stocks is under pressure again.

Insights: Sam Reynolds takes stock of the once-thriving market for non-fungible tokens, now apparently suffering through its own soft patch.

Prices

Bitcoin (BTC): $23,117 +0.2%

Ether (ETH): $1,650 +1.6%

S&P 500 daily close: 4,091.19 −0.7%

Gold: $1,775 per troy ounce +0.3%

Ten-year Treasury yield daily close: 2.74% +0.1


Bitcoin, ether and gold prices are taken at approximately 4pm New York time. Bitcoin is the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (XBX); Ether is the CoinDesk Ether Price Index (ETX); Gold is the COMEX spot price. Information about CoinDesk Indices can be found at coindesk.com/indices.

Bitcoin Trades Lower on Renewed Macro Fears; Ether Gets Little Relief From Merge Optimism

By Helene Braun

U.S. Federal Reserve officials on Tuesday reiterated plans to keep ratcheting interest rates higher to tamp down soaring inflation. The comments proved enough to push prices for bitcoin and other risky assets lower.

Bitcoin (BTC) slid below $23,000, dropping for a fifth straight day, diminishing hopes embraced as recently as last week that a fresh rally might be in the offing.

The decline in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies mimicked similar movements in global markets.

Speculation was mounting last week that the Fed would ease off its inflation-fighting campaign after a report showing the U.S. economy had contracted for a second straight quarter, viewed by many traders as a sign of a recession (even though that’s not actually the definition).

Also Tuesday, there was further evidence of that weakness: The U.S. Labor Department published its Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), a report closely watched by Fed officials, showing that job openings fell by 605,000 in June, the largest monthly decline since April 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic hit businesses.

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U.S. openings have rolled over, in a fresh sign of economic weakness. (Labor Department)

However, the jobs markets remained strong, and there were still 1.8 jobs for every unemployed person in June, suggesting the labor market is still at full employment – ostensibly giving the Fed the green light for another rate hike in September.

Mary Daly, president of the Federal Reserve’s San Francisco branch, said Tuesday the U.S. central bank is “nowhere near” finished with its efforts to combat inflation, according to a Bloomberg News report. Just like that, downward pressure was back on prices for risky assets.

Another factor in the bitcoin market was the reported visit by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Taiwan on Tuesday. Some traders were fearful that the trip by this high-ranking official could ratchet up tensions between China and the U.S. and have negative effects on global markets.

“This is going to bring some some tension in the market but I don't believe that the market itself is gonna react too strong,” Daniel Muvdi, head of markets at Quantfury, said Tuesday on CoinDesk television’s "First Mover" program.

Ether (ETH) traded slightly higher during afternoon hours, up 2.19%, but the second-largest cryptocurrency by market value after bitcoin continues to search for direction after the Ethereum “shadow fork” went into effect one week ago.

“The Merge narrative on [Ethereum] has been getting a little cloudier,” said Joshua Lim, head of derivatives at Genesis Trading. “The complications around a proof-of-work fork could create some market dislocations and the geopolitics of Pelosi's Taiwan visit are weighing on price." (Genesis is owned by Digital Currency Group, which also owns CoinDesk.)

Biggest Gainers

Asset Ticker Returns DACS Sector
Ethereum ETH +1.6% Smart Contract Platform
Polygon MATIC +0.1% Smart Contract Platform
Bitcoin BTC +0.1% Currency

Biggest Losers

Asset Ticker Returns DACS Sector
Gala GALA −4.1% Entertainment
Chainlink LINK −3.3% Computing
Decentraland MANA −2.7% Entertainment

Insights

At What Point Can We Declare 'NFT winter'?

By Sam Reynolds

Non-fungible tokens (NFT) had quite the dreary July as data from crypto aggregators show that most NFT exchanges had a sharp downtrend in active traders and dollar volume.

According to DappRadar, OpenSea lost 35% of its dollar volume and 15% of its traders during the month of July. Overall, the world’s largest NFT exchange by volume posted $517 million in volume during the last 30 days.

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NFT exchange volume (DappRadar)

Nansen, another digital asset tracking service, reports that overall NFT volume on the month is down 17% to 448,000 ETH (or around $704 million).

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Nansen NFT market overview (Nansen)

Removing wash trading, where a trader buys and sells an asset to feed misleading information to the market (a practice infamous for inflating the NFT market) from the equation – thanks to Nansen’s wash trading filter – and the 30-day volume shoots up over 2.5 times.

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Nansen NFT market overview without its washtrading filter (Nansen)

“It’s not just the [U.S. dollar] volume traded that has fallen. This is also the case for the number of buyers and sellers as well as the number of sales. These decreases come mainly from collectibles that have lost interest since the beginning of the year except for the 'blue chip' collections,” wrote NonFungible, an NFT analytics firm, in a recent report.

NonFungible believes that there’s a “centralization of the market” taking place around CryptoPunks, Meebits and Bored Ape Yacht Club, all owned by Yuga Labs.

The one exception appears to be Ethereum Name Service (ENS), which issues .eth domains for crypto wallets. As CoinDesk previously reported, there seems to be a mini-boom happening with tens of thousands of ENS registrations per day as opposed to thousands in May and June. Some analysts point to a mini gold rush for .eth domains the way there were for .com domains in the late 1990s and 2000s.

Hard to support a market for $1M JPEGs

Despite claims otherwise from the NFT community, the market is having a tough time supporting valuations that made headlines at the height of the bull market.

When trying to value Three Arrows Capital’s “Starry Night” wallet, which was targeting a $100 million NFT collection, CoinDesk reported there wasn’t a universally accepted way to get a number for its current valuation. Results came back across the spectrum from $19.7 million to $1.6 million. If a portfolio of assets could have such a variance in pricing, or drop so precipitously, is it possible to expect investor interest to be maintained?

Where are GameFi’s wings?

One observation in the NFT market in the last month has been the floundering of art NFTs while high-profile utility NFTs like ENS has found legs.

Surely GameFi NFTs must have momentum?

While Axie Infinity has seen an uptick in volume, per DappRadar’s data, another data point looks to throw some shade on the market.

According to a survey of 2,400 GameFi investors conducted by ChainPlay, there’s still some hesitation in the market; most have lost money.

According to the survey, 89% of crypto investors worldwide saw their GameFi profits decrease in the last six months. Some 62% of respondents lost more than 50% of their profits from GameFi.

More concerning for stakeholders, perhaps, is that ChainPlay’s survey shows 73% of the respondents shy away from GameFi investments because they are afraid of rug pulls and Ponzi schemes.

Stats like these help explain why investor sentiment in NFTs is waning.

CoinDesk TV

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

Headlines

This edition of First Mover Asia was edited and produced by Bradley Keoun.

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Helene is a U.S. markets reporter at CoinDesk, covering the US economy, the Fed, and bitcoin. She is a recent graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Bradley Keoun is the managing editor of CoinDesk's Markets team. He owns less than $1,000 each of several cryptocurrencies.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Helene is a U.S. markets reporter at CoinDesk, covering the US economy, the Fed, and bitcoin. She is a recent graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Bradley Keoun is the managing editor of CoinDesk's Markets team. He owns less than $1,000 each of several cryptocurrencies.

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