20 Jul 2022– Have We Bottomed Out?
Bad news: The worst may have yet to come
Let me tell you two short stories: The longest and toughest part of the 2018 bear market, and the start of the bullish reversal.
#1 The Longest Crypto Bear Market Thus Far
2018 to 2020 marked the longest crypto bear market.
It was my first bear market, and I have been averaging in ETH from $800 to $100. For the most parts, ETH hovered around $200, while BTC held around $5k. There was hardly any interest in crypto or its application, and only the die-hard "fans" were still excited about the latest developments.
In fact, it was so bad, it didn't matter if there was any bullish news – the markets hardly moved. By that, I meant a possible 10% to 20 % increase. And to that possible gain, there was a big risk of 20% to 30% crash if there was any bad news. Just poor risk-reward ratios for trading, but pretty alright and depressed for long-term accumulation. BTC and ETH traded in a narrow range. During that period, most altcoins included ETH have corrected over 90% from their ATH (all-time high) while BTC was down around 75%.
The lack of general interest, the lack of price movement (or even volatility, relatively) was what made it the harshest crypto winter. This is not to say that all bear markets will be like that, but simply pointing out a fact that, we're not at the worst.
#2 The Start Of A Market Reversal
Writing and reflecting on the crypto markets kept me interested in the space. Particularly, there was one article about the signs that prelude the next crypto bubble. In it, I suggested that we need three ingredients for a reversal:
BTC Halving + ETH2.0
Widespread acceptance and adoption of crypto
Staking on Binance and of other stable coins
Although I did not capture the essence perfectly, the sequence of events rhymed pretty well.
We had the BTC halving. ETH2.0 was delayed.
What I didn't expect was the time lag of several months between the halving and the subsequent bullish momentum.
We saw increased adoption in the form of DeFi and NFTs. But these remain a niche market, and possibly a temporary hype rather than regulated day-to-day usage, or a regulated Spot ETF launch.
Staking and yield farming was really what got it all going. Lock up part of the supply, and the remainder smaller supply becomes more susceptible to volatile price movements.
What I didn't expect was the extent to which leverage created a massive bull market, and also its subsequent downfall spearheaded by Luna and 3AC.
On top of these, there was MicroStrategy, and El Salvador who continually added BTC to their holdings. Tesla adding BTC to their balance sheet, allowing BTC payment (and then stopping it) along with the CoinBase IPO, were other factors that contributed to the insane run.
Fundamentals aside, I recall the final call on the bottom vividly.
It was March 2020 and I was abroad. BTC dipped below $4k briefly and ETH below $100. I was jumping with exhilaration at yet another capitulation but struggled to catch the bottom with the poor data connection and high buying volume. By the end of the day, BTC had already gained 20% and traded around $4.6k while ETH was around $130.
I still had firepower sitting around, but wait I shall. After all, it's been so many months of accumulation around this price range. I shall wait for BTC to hit $4k again and ETH to hit sub-$100 again. It never came, and I never deployed the last of my firepower.
As the market rallied upwards, and the sequence of events above unfolded (halving, then DeFi and yield farming, then Tesla and CoinBase), I went from happy to disbelief. In fact, I took profit on a substantial amount of ETH at $1k. I even wrote an article about how the bull run will not sustain, saying that it'll be crazy for ETH to rally to $2.5k and BTC to $100k.
How wrong I was!! BTC rallied fell short at $69k, but ETH went on to hit $4.8k. The point is, never underestimate the power of a bull run. When there is disbelief, the market will go on to prove us wrong.
What Has That Got To Do With Present Day?
They say that history never repeats, but it rhymes.
Today the bear market is hitting really bad, especially for those who've bought in during 2020 and 2021. Yet, it's not the worst. We've not been in a period of absolute no market interest. If anything, the market might have over-reacted in the sell-off, but there is still a lot of interest in cryptocurrencies as a whole.
This is not to say that we will capitulate further. Awareness has grown, utilities has grown, ETH2.0 is stipulated for a Q4 release. Naturally, this commands a price premium compared to four years ago. But it's not a good enough rally to say that we've bottomed out.
Let's not forget that the macroeconomic factors are looking really bad. Inflation is rising. The yield curve has inverted. And the on-chain metrics are not yet bullish. On-chain metrics has proven to be a reliable indicator (although it takes some understanding) since 2019 and 2020.
To round it up, it just means that there isn't enough signs to suggest that we've bottomed out. If anything, this might be more of a relief rally or retest of market strength, which can cause a further low or at best a consolidation.
Having learnt from my past mistake of being in disbelief at a bullish turn, I also recognise that if and when the bullish turn comes, I must be ready to change my stance rather than scoff at the possibility of $100k BTC and $10k ETH. For now, it just isn't here yet.
What Would It Take For A Bullish Turn This Time?
If I have to be really honest, I think we already have the right ingredients lined up for a bullish reversal.
ETH 2.0 – With this, ETH becomes deflationary. It also becomes 99% more energy efficient, which is a huge narrative that the media can spin upon and paint it like it is the tech of the future (when it's been sitting in plain sight this whole time).
BTC Spot ETF (Regulated Crypto Investments) – Kevin O'Leary has been super vocal about it, proclaiming that many hedge funds are waiting for the regulatory green light to jump onboard. With the right people lobbying for it, it might just be a flick of the switch. Or it can also be a hard-no and/or clampdown, which can send prices capitulating.
NFTs – If DeFi was finance applications on the blockchain, then NFTs are social applications on the blockchain. While finance applications interest a smaller subset of audience, NFTs can possibly onboard a wider demographics of audience.
Although these are already here and can pretty much unfold over the next few months, there is just too much uncertainty to call a bull run in the next few months. Firstly, just as BTC halving had a delay, the impact of ETH2.0 will likely have a time lag. As for regulations, it's really out of our call. And NFTs? It's amazing, but the onboarding curve is steep – it will be faster than the rate of Internet adoption, but it will take time.
If anything, I reckon 2024 to be a more probable timeframe for the next bull run. Considering that that will be the next BTC halving, we might see sharding on ETH2.0 then, plus the macroeconomic factors might take a turn then. This is not a prediction, but more of an expectation that the current momentum in ETH may be short-lived.
Meanwhile, hang in there!