Bitcoin Market Is Deleveraging—Here's What's Going On

Notional Bitcoin futures have fallen by $5.2 billion over the past week.

By André Beganski

3 min read

Bitcoin’s fall to $61,000 over the past week has flushed out its fair share of leverage.

Look no further than Bitcoin’s futures market, where the total value of futures contracts traded on major exchanges has plummeted by $5.2 billion during that span, according to Coinglass. As of this writing, open interest for Bitcoin futures contracts stood at $28.3 billion on Wednesday.

“This absolutely is a deleveraging event,” Amberdata’s Director of Derivatives Greg Magadini told Decrypt in an interview, adding that growing geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and stronger-than-expected economic data in the U.S. have recently thrown crypto off-kilter.

After setting a new all-time high of $73,000 last month, Bitcoin has since fallen 16% to its lowest price since February. Open interest for Bitcoin futures swelled as high as $36 billion in March as traders placed bets that the cryptocurrency’s price would mostly rise. “Fundamentals for Bitcoin have never been stronger,” Magadini said.

Futures contracts—an agreement to buy or sell an asset at a specific price at a later date—allow traders to speculate on movements in an asset's price. And based on the difference between payments in futures contract markets and Bitcoin’s spot price, Magadini said that “leveraged long positioning was kind of at extremes last week.”

As the cost of holding a leveraged long position in the Bitcoin futures market ballooned, funding costs for Bitcoin futures rose to 25% on an annualized basis, Magadini said. Following a turbulent week in markets, however, funding costs for Bitcoin futures have fallen to 8%.

Meanwhile, $90 million worth of Bitcoin liquidations had taken place over the past day, according to Coinglass, with a lion’s share of liquidations taking place on the exchange OKX at $31 million and Binance at $27 million. Yet liquidations on Thursday of Friday of last week were much more severe. Combined, the two days accounted for $1.8 billion worth of positions closed.

“Everyone was already leaning the same way, so it doesn't matter if the fundamentals are great,” Magadini said. “If the marginal buyer is no longer around, and everyone's got the same position on, the second any sort of selling happens, we get sort of this cascading effect.”

Before the liquidations occurred, Magadini feared that Bitcoin’s halving—expected later this week—could lead to cascading pullbacks if traders opt to sell the news. But the ruckus this weekend may have cleared out any potentially precarious leverage.

“Everyone's already long, so people had to sell, but we got the clearing before for different reasons,” Magadini said. “Instead of ‘sell the news,’ we've got sort of this macro event to cause the cascade.”

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