Bitcoin (BTC) starts a new week in a price range that frustrates traders and leaves little to the imagination — what next?
After precious little activity over the weekend, the largest cryptocurrency lacks direction, and even macroeconomic triggers have failed to shift the status quo.
At around 10% below the $30,000 mark, BTC/USD is treading water, and despite calls for a further correction, market participants are dealing with a tiny active trading range.
Liquidity is there to be taken above and below, but so far, only a tease of a liquidity sweep has materialized.
The coming days have some potential macro surprises in store, but analysts agree it will take a significant shift in the data to crack a stubborn Bitcoin.
Elsewhere, on-chain signals are also characteristic of a consolidation period following the rapid gains seen in Q1.
Cointelegraph looks at the landscape regarding BTC price action to see what could disrupt the trend — or lack of it — this week.
Where’s the liquidity?
Bitcoin spot price performance is giving traders a headache — not because of volatility, but the lack of it.
In what feels like an unusual state of events, BTC/USD is acting within a range of only a few hundred dollars, with nothing that has been able to change the mood.
Even last week’s remarks from Jerome Powell, chair of the United States Federal Reserve, were not enough to send Bitcoin definitively higher or lower.
Traders are thus increasingly on the sidelines waiting for cues.
“If we lose $26,600 and close on a 4 hour candle closure i will look to short. Bears took us to support, but can they now take us and close below,” Crypto Tony summarized to Twitter followers on the day.
The small range just below $27,000 has been Bitcoin’s home since May 13. Outside, both long and short liquidity lies in wait.
According to data from trading suite DecenTrader, a move to $25,800 is all it would take to spark some form of cascade.
“Dips keeping being aggressively longed on Binance, as shown by the Long/Short ratio,” it revealed.
“Typically we see this kind of price action flush out a lot of these traders as prices chops about. The long Liquidity starts at $25,800.”
Others eyed historical patterns, with Stockmoney Lizards drawing comparisons to Bitcoin’s behavior after the 2015 bear market.
post bear market similarities pic.twitter.com/vWseKsPlki
— Stockmoney Lizards (@StockmoneyL) May 22, 2023
“This year is the boring year,” Michaël van de Poppe, founder and CEO of trading firm Eight, continued in part of his own thoughts on Bitcoin in 2023.
“No price acceleration, no fundamental growth, while the preparations for the next bull cycle are made during this year.”
Short-timeframe analysis over the weekend highlighted $27,200 as a level to break through in order for “sustained momentum” to return.
Classic choppy pattern on #Bitcoin.
Rejects at $27,200 and consolidates, as CME gap is also around $26,900.#Bitcoin needs to break and flip $27,200 if we want to see any sustained momentum.
Beneath us, at around $26,000-26,500 -> 200-Week MA. pic.twitter.com/4rvuHLyjxe
— Michaël van de Poppe (@CryptoMichNL) May 21, 2023
As Cointelegraph reported, some still believe the current price action is a prelude to a deeper correction toward $24,000.
In terms of volatility, however, Bitcoin is now at its quietest since the start of the year, data from monitoring resource CoinGlass shows.
PCE data forms week’s macro highlight
Macro triggers are set to increase somewhat this week, as May 26 sees a slew of economic data, including the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Index.
This is a key component for the Fed regarding interest rate policy, and its readings can instantly reshape market expectations for rate changes.
That was the case during Powell’s speech last week, with the odds of a rate hike pause increasing from 60% to 80%.
As of May 22, those odds remain high at around 86%, according to CME Group’s FedWatch Tool, with the next decision on policy not due for another three weeks.
The disparity between market expectations and the conservative language of the Fed thus remains a key phenomenon, one which Powell himself addressed last week.
The phenomenon, he said, “appears to reflect simply a different forecast, one in which inflation comes down much more quickly,” adding that there was no such guarantee of this.
“While we do not have a report on PCE inflation for April yet, another inflation measure, the core component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), showed little further improvement in April,” comments from Fed board member Philip Jefferson at the 2023 International Insurance Forum in Washington, D.C. on May 18 stated in a similarly risk-off tone.
Beyond that, May 24 will see the release of the minutes from this month’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, at which the most recent rate hike was decided. Markets will scrutinize the exact language employed by Fed members during that event.
A separate debate concerns the U.S. debt ceiling debacle, with talks remaining deadlocked last week.
Short-term BTC holder profits trend toward reset
It’s consolidation time for the BTC supply, with on-chain data showing a lack of movement compared to recent months.
According to the figures from on-chain analytics firm Glassnode, the portion of the supply last active within the previous three to six months is now at three-month lows.
Corresponding to the period from December 2022 to February 2023, this suggests hodlers sitting on their hands as last year’s bear market fizzled to produce the start of Bitcoin’s 70% Q1 gains.
Contrasting that is the supply last active one to three months ago, now at three-month highs and covering the portion of price action, which includes the $31,000 local highs from April.
At the same time, the effects of the subsequent comedown can be seen in hodlers’ unrealized profit, now at its lowest levels in a month.
That latter figure could yet preclude a reset in expectations of Bitcoin speculators, classified as short-term holders (STHs) with positions three months old or less. Drifting downward, BTC/USD is slowly approaching their current average cost basis.
Earlier in May, Glassnode noted that such a “reset” in profitability tends to offer significant price support.
Research into the STH market value to realized value (MVRV) metric, then at 1.15, nonetheless warned a reset might require a dip below $25,000.
“Should a deeper market correction develop, a price of $24.4K level would bring a STH-MVRV back to a break-even value of 1.0, which has shown to be a point of support in up-trending markets,” it stated.
STH-MVRV measured 1.047 as of May 21, the latest date for which data is currently available.
Whale BTC price influence “lessening”
Probing the May correction, on-chain analytics platform CryptoQuant drew some specific conclusions about the forces driving markets.
In one of its Quicktake market updates on May 17, researchers flagged profit-taking and whale activity as key phenomena pertaining to recent BTC price action.
“The latest Bitcoin price dip followed Long-Term Holders (LTHs) capitalizing on the year’s highest profit ratio, over 34%. Furthermore, on a broader scale, all market players managed to realize profits exceeding 7% on average,” it commented on market participants as a whole.
On whales, CryptoQuant referenced the exchange whale ratio metric, which tracks the size ratio of the top ten exchange inflow transactions relative to the total.
“This downturn is also influenced by whales taking the lead in depositing Bitcoin into exchanges, as evidenced by the early May surge in the Exchange Whale Ratio. Without a doubt, Bitcoin transactions by these whales escalated to fairly high levels, with transfers involving more than 40% of the coins,” it continued.
In terms of support, the research nonetheless acknowledged that whales’ overall impact on the market is “lessening” as time goes by.
STHs, on the other hand, were responsible for protecting the $26,500, which was subsequently held as support over the weekend.
“Investors who have held Bitcoin for 1 to 3 months show a significant support level in their cost basis ($26.5K), indicating that this was a key point during the recent price correction,” it added.
Crypto market fear on the up
Aside from on-chain data, social signals suggest that the average crypto market participant is becoming afraid.
Related: These four altcoins could be ready for an up-move if Bitcoin rallies above $27,500
The Crypto Fear & Greed Index matched two-month lows at the end of last week, now below the 50 midpoint and markedly unlike its composition at April’s $31,000 local BTC price highs.
Expectations thus seem skewed toward conditions worsening for markets; and while broadly “neutral,” Fear & Greed is not the only source showing traders’ doom and gloom.
“With Bitcoin revisiting the $26k level, traders are showing increased worries of prices falling back to the $20k to $25k range,” research firm Santiment added on May 19.
“$BTC social dominance has jumped high again, typically a sign of fear. Fear signals increase the probability of a rebound.”
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This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.