- Bitcoin has increased for eight straight days, now up 9.2% on the year
- Period of low volatility in the crypto markets paired with softer inflation data has sent prices upward
- Latest CPI report is out Thursday which will trigger volatility and is vitally important for the market following increased optimism over last month or so
- Altcoins could move violently on the report, while Bitcoin will likely shake off its $18,000 mark if data comes in below or above expectation
Bitcoin has banked eight straight days of price rises, as the new year has kicked off assiduously for cryptocurrency investors.
Whereas 2022 brought nothing but pain and freefalling prices, 2023 has thus far been the exact opposite. Bitcoin is up above $18,000 and Ethereum close to $1,400, good for rises of 9.2% and 16.4% respectively year-to-date. Many altcoins are up even more.
Volatility has reduced in the crypto markets
The macro climate is pushing prices upward. I wrote a piece analysing the softer climate last week, but optimism has crept into the market that inflation may have peaked and that the possibility of a pivot from the Federal Reserve off its policy of heightened interest rates may be coming soon than previously anticipated.
It should be noted that while this is a nice rally, it is hardly a violent breakout. Cryptocurrencies are notoriously volatile and there has actually been an unusual serenity that has washed over markets over the past couple of weeks.
A quick glance at the chart for the daily returns of Ethereum illustrates that there has been a perceptible fall in volatility.
Inflation data to be released Thursday
I write this on Thursday morning, with the all-important US inflation data to be released this afternoon. If we know anything by now, it is that inflation numbers rule the world. If there is anything in the current climate that will produce volatility, it is the CPI report.
As mentioned above, this relief rally has largely been predicated on softer inflation leading to the hope that the Federal Reserve will pivot off its high-interest-rate policy sooner than anticipated. Another positive inflation number would give further impetus to crypto prices. It is not hard to imagine Bitcoin pushing up towards $20,000 and Ethereum to $1,500 if the number comes in cooler than anticipated.
On the flip side, of course, is the potential for the number to disappoint investors. Following two straight months of positive inflation, a step back this afternoon would be a body blow for crypto, and it would not be a surprise to see it drop sharply as all the optimism of the last month gets released in an instant.
The inflation number is expected at 6.5%. This would be a decline from the prior month of 7.1%. Should the number come in at 6.7% or higher, this would represent a major disappointment and crypto will likely freefall. Do not be surprised to see Bitcoin down at $16,500 in this scenario.
The data will be released at 1:30 PM GMT (8:30 AM ET), and it is the last CPI report before the Federal Reserve’s February 1st interest rate decision.
Altcoins showing signs of life
However bad things have been for Bitcoin and Ethereum, the landscape has been a hell of a lot worse for altcoins. Below are the percentage returns in 2022 from the top 10 coins as of 1st January 2022.
As is standard, these coins are significantly more volatile, and trade like leveraged bets on Bitcoin. It follows that this year, the jumps have also been stronger than the number 1 crypto.
Looking at the top 10 coins from Jan 1st this year, some of the returns have been seismic, albeit from a significantly lower base. Remember, a 90% drop followed by a 50% rise is still the same as an 85% drop from the original starting point. A simple math problem that many investors do not understand. Hence, the past couple of weeks have been positive, but this is still a space that has been absolutely ravaged by the bloodbath that was 2022, and it will take a very long time to recover from.
This is a pivotal week for the markets and it will be a true gauge of how far the battle against inflation has come. Central banks have been adamant that inflation is the number one priority, and the consequent interest rate policy has crushed risk assets over the last year.
Things are tough in the markets, but with a third straight month of OK inflation data, it could point toward a light at the end of the tunnel. Then again, the world is teetering on the edge of a recession as it is, and if inflation takes a step back, it will be a double whammy of high rates and still-persistent inflation. As always, risk assets will feel the pain.
Crypto investors will just have to hope that the pivotal CPI number doesn’t dare tick up beyond 6.5%.