The mania that drove crypto assets to records as Coinbase Global Inc. went public last week turned on itself on the weekend, sending Bitcoin tumbling the most since February.
The world’s biggest cryptocurrency plunged as much as 15% on Sunday, just days after reaching a record of $64,869. It subsequently pared some of the losses and was trading at about $56,440 at around 8:25 a.m. in Tokyo Monday.
Ether, the second-biggest token, dropped as much as 18% to below $2,000 before also paring losses. The volatility buffeted Binance Coin, XRP and Cardano too. Dogecoin — the token started as a joke — bucked the trend and is up 7% over 24 hours, according to CoinGecko.
The weekend carnage came after a heady period for the industry that saw the value of all coins surge past $2.25 trillion amid a frenzy of demand for all things crypto in the runup to Coinbase’s direct listing on Wednesday. The largest U.S. crypto exchange ended the week valued at $68 billion, more than the owner of the New York Stock Exchange.
“With hindsight it was inevitable,” Galaxy Digital founder Michael Novogratz said in a tweet Sunday. “Markets got too excited around $Coin direct listing. Basis blowing out, coins like $BSV, $XRP and $DOGE pumping. All were signs that the market got too one way.”
Dogecoin, which has limited use and no fundamentals, rallied last week to be worth about $50 billion at one point before stumbling Saturday. Demand was so brisk for the token that investors trying to trade it on Robinhood crashed the site a few times Friday, the online exchange said in a blog post.
There was also speculation Sunday in several online reports that the crypto plunge was related to concerns the U.S. Treasury may crack down on money laundering carried out through digital assets. The Treasury declined to comment, and its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) said in an emailed response on Sunday that it “does not comment on potential investigations, including on whether or not one exists.”
‘Price to Pay’
“The crypto world is waking up with a bit of a sore head today,” said Antoni Trenchev, co-founder of crypto lender Nexo. “Dogecoin’s 100% Friday rally was ‘peak party,’ after the Bitcoin record and Coinbase listing earlier in the week. Euphoria was in the air. And usually in the crypto world, there’s a price to pay when that happens.”
Besides the “unsubstantiated” report of a U.S. Treasury crackdown, Trenchev said factors for the declines may have included “excess leverage, Coinbase insiders dumping equity after the direct listing and a mass outage in China’s Xinjiang province hitting Bitcoin miners.”
Growing mainstream acceptance of cryptocurrencies has spurred Bitcoin’s rally, as well as lifting other tokens to record highs. Bitcoin’s most ardent proponents see it as a modern-day store of value and inflation hedge, while others fear a speculative bubble is building.
Interest in crypto went on the rise again after companies from PayPal to Square started enabling transactions in Bitcoin on their systems, and Wall Street firms like Morgan Stanley moved toward providing access to the tokens to some of the wealthiest clients.
That’s despite lingering concerns over their volatility and usefulness as a method of payment. Moreover, governments are inspecting risks around the sector more closely as the investor base widens.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell last week said Bitcoin “is a little bit like gold” in that it’s more a vehicle for speculation than making payments. European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde in January took aim at Bitcoin’s role in facilitating criminal activity, saying the cryptocurrency has been enabling “funny business.”
Turkey’s central bank banned the use of cryptocurrencies as a form of payment from April 30, saying the level of anonymity behind the digital tokens brings the risk of “non-recoverable” losses.