The last week has seen dramatic upwards price action in the bitcoin markets, driven by a series of macro and micro events across the globe. The fallout from Silk Road’s closure turned out to be but a blip in bitcoin’s price history, with significant gains since then. Turmoil in global financial markets and recent news of leading global websites accepting bitcoin may have bolstered enthusiasm for digital currency, but most interesting may be CNY’s definitive recent price leadership.
Compared with prices before the brief Silk Road drop, bitcoin exchange rates have climbed 14% in the last two weeks. At $145/BTC on Bitstamp, bitcoin has reached a level not seen since late April, and the only time that level has been reached on more than three consecutive days was from April 3-11 during the bubble.
Notably, the market has been significantly less volatile leading up to this level recently, compared with April. The 3DMA volatility leading into this level previously was between 13% and 22%, compared with just 4% currently.
A number of factors may be driving the latest climb. For one, bitcoin price increases are known to often coincide with media coverage. Accordingly, even the Silk Road closure which highlighted bitcoin’s use for illicit purposes may have helped drive new participants into the market as a result of the exposure gained. The recent Money 2020 conference in Las Vegas may have similarly driven interest from a number of established financial players.
The global macroeconomic environment may be playing a role as well. As we’ve noted previously, bitcoin shares a generally inverse relationship with USD, an asset that has been negatively impacted in recent weeks as a result of the US debt ceiling impasse.
Perhaps most important was the activity out of China. The Chinese government has recently been more vocal in its ongoing campaign to see the dollar removed from global reserve status. While such calls for an international reserve note are generally assumed to refer to Special Drawing Rights issued by the IMF, it may have bolstered enthusiasm for bitcoin’s apolitical nature. Also out of China was news that Baidu, the world’s fifth largest website, is now accepting bitcoin for certain services.
Perhaps not incidentally, CNY price movement has been a notable leader in the latest rally. Overlaying CNY/BTC and USD/BTC trading history, it becomes clear that USD/BTC trading has been largely responsive to the Chinese markets. The graph below shows bitcoin trading in CNY markets, as well as USD/BTC levels converted to CNY for comparison. Overlaid on top of them is the differential between their prices at any given time. The differential tends to normalize around 2-3% and spikes/sinks periodically with price movement. In reviewing this chart, a consistent pattern becomes clear: CNY price movement occurs first, increasing the differential, with USD catching up much later and eventually sending the differential back down towards 3%.