Bitcoin price holds $26K as derivatives data hints at end of volatility spike

In the past few months, Bitcoin traders had grown used to less volatility, but historically, it’s not uncommon for the cryptocurrency to see price swings of 10% in just two or three days. The recent 11.4% correction from $29,340 to $25,980 between Aug. 15 and Aug. 18 took many by surprise and led to the largest liquidation since the FTX collapse in November 2022. But the question remains: Was this correction significant in terms of the market structure?

Certain experts point to reduced liquidity as the reason for the recent spikes in volatility, but is this truly the case?

As indicated by the Kaiko Data chart, the decline of 2% in the Bitcoin (BTC) order book depth has mirrored the decrease in volatility. It’s possible that market makers adjusted their algorithms to align with the prevailing market conditions.

Hence, delving into the derivatives market to assess the impact of the drop to $26,000 seems reasonable. This examination aims to determine whether whales and market makers have become bearish or if they’re demanding higher premiums for protective hedge positions.

To begin, traders should identify similar instances in the recent past, and two events stand out:

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Bitcoin/USD price index, 2023. Source: TradingView

The first decline took place from March 8 to March 10, causing Bitcoin to plummet by 11.4% to $19,600, marking its lowest point in over seven weeks at that time. This correction followed the liquidation of Silvergate Bank, a crucial operational partner for multiple cryptocurrency firms.

The subsequent significant move occurred between April 19 and April 21, resulting in a 10.4% drop in Bitcoin’s price. It revisited the $27,250 level for the first time in more than three weeks after Gary Gensler, the chair of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, addressed the House Financial Services Committee. Gensler’s statements provided little reassurance that the agency’s enforcement-driven regulatory efforts would cease.

Not every 10% Bitcoin price crash is the same

Bitcoin quarterly futures generally tend to trade with a slight premium when compared to spot markets. This reflects sellers’ inclination to receive additional compensation in return for delaying the settlement. Healthy markets usually see BTC futures contracts being traded with an annualized premium ranging from 5 to 10%. This situation, termed “contango,” is not unique to the cryptocurrency domain.

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Bitcoin 3-month futures premium, March/April 2023. Source: Laevitas

Leading up to the crash on March 8, Bitcoin’s futures premium was at 3.5%, indicating a moderate level of comfort. However, when Bitcoin’s price dipped below $20,000, there was an intensified sense of pessimism, causing the indicator to shift to a discount of 3.5%. This phenomenon, referred to as “backwardation,” is typical of bearish market conditions.

Conversely, the correction on April 19 had minimal impact on Bitcoin’s futures main metric, with the premium remaining around 3.5% as the BTC price revisited $27,250. This could imply that professional traders were either highly confident in the soundness of the market structure or were well-prepared for the 10.4% correction.

The 11.4% BTC crash between Aug. 15 and Aug. 18, reveals distinct dissimilarities from previous instances. The starting point for Bitcoin’s futures premium was higher, surpassing the 5% neutral threshold.

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Bitcoin 3-month futures premium, August 2023. Source: Laevitas

Notice how rapidly the derivatives market absorbed the shock on Aug. 18. The BTC futures premium swiftly returned to a 6% neutral-to-bullish position. This suggests that the decline to $26,000 did not significantly dampen the optimism of whales and market makers regarding the cryptocurrency.

Options markets confirm lack of bearish momentum

Traders should also analyze options markets to understand whether the recent correction has caused pro traders to become more risk-averse. In short, if traders anticipate a Bitcoin price drop, the delta skew metric will rise above 7%, and phases of excitement tend to have a -7% skew.

Related: Why is the crypto market down today?

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Bitcoin 30-day options 25% delta skew. Source: Laevitas

Data indicate excessive demand for call (buy) BTC options ahead of the Aug. 15 crash, with the indicator at -11%. This trend changed over the subsequent five days, though the metric remained within the neutral range and was unable to breach the 7% threshold.

Ultimately, both Bitcoin options and futures metrics reveal no signs of professional traders adopting a bearish stance. While this doesn’t necessarily guarantee a swift return of BTC to the $29,000 support level, it does reduce the likelihood of an extended price correction.