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Is a retail frenzy causing the Bitcoin futures markets’ excessive leverage?

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Bitcoin (BTC) breached the $50,000 level on Feb. 16. But while failing to cleanly break the psychological barrier, it undoubtedly displayed the potential for even higher valuations.

Meanwhile, futures and options indicators are misaligned, signaling excessive buyers’ leverage, while options markets remain calm. After analyzing both markets, one might theorize what has caused this apparent incongruence.

Options skew remained neutral-to-positive

When analyzing options, the 25% delta skew is the single-most relevant gauge. This indicator compares similar call (buy) and put (sell) options side by side.

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It will turn negative when the put options premium is higher than similar-risk call options. A negative skew translates to a higher cost of downside protection, indicating bullishness.

The opposite holds when market makers are bearish, causing the 25% delta skew indicator to gain positive ground.

Deribit 30-day BTC options 25% delta skew. Source: laevitas.ch

A skew indicator between -10% (slightly bullish) and +10% (somewhat bearish) is considered normal. Over the past three months, there hasn’t been a single occurrence of a 10% or higher 30-day skew, which is usually considered a bearish event.

This data is very encouraging, considering that Bitcoin saw a 24% correction on Jan. 11, in addition to a 19% sell-off 10 days later. Yet, there is no evidence that options traders demanded more significant premiums for downside protection.

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Futures premium held excessive-optimistic levels

By measuring the expense gap between futures and the regular spot market, a trader can gauge the level of bullishness in the market.

The three-month futures usually trade with a 6% to 20% annualized premium (basis) versus regular spot exchanges. Whenever this indicator fades or turns negative, this is an alarming red flag. This situation is known as “backwardation” and indicates that the market is turning bearish.

On the other hand, a sustainable basis above 20% signals excessive leverage from buyers, creating the potential for massive liquidations and eventual market crashes.

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March 2021 BTC futures premium. Source: NYDIG Digital Assets Data

The above chart shows that the indicator bottomed at 1.5% on Jan. 27 but later reverted to 4.5% and higher as Bitcoin rebounded above $35,000. Even during its darkest periods, the futures premium held above 10% annualized rate, indicating optimism from professional traders.

Meanwhile, the current 5.5% level, equivalent to a 50% annualized rate, indicates excessive buyers’ leverage. Perpetual futures (inverse swaps) could be the root of this issue, and retail traders more widely use those contracts.

Weekly BTC perpetual futures funding rate. Source: NYDIG Digital Assets Data

Take notice as the funding rate has exceeded 2.5% per week, thus more than compensating the 50% annualized premium of the March contracts.

Therefore, arbitrage desks and market makers are likely happy to pay such a hefty premium on fixed-month contracts while simultaneously shorting the perpetual future and profit from the rate difference.

To conclude, this movement perfectly explains why options markets are relatively neutral while futures markets show excessive buyers’ leverage. While institutional clients and whales dominate options volumes, retail traders seem to be the root of such a mismatch.

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The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.

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JPMorgan CEO says Bitcoin price could rise 10x but still won’t buy it

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In an online interview with Times of India, Jamie Dimon, CEO of investment banking behemoth JPMorgan Chase, slandered Bitcoin’s popular appeal, despite stating that the leading digital asset could increase 10x in a matter of five years. 

A historically staunch critic of Bitcoin (BTC), Dimon called it a fraud back in 2017 and cited the reported capability for criminals to evade capture from authorities by operating their financial transactions in BTC rather than U.S. dollars.

When Times of India asked the CEO whether Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency assets should be banned or regulated, Dimon responded:

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“I don’t really care about Bitcoin. I think people waste too much time and breath on it. But it is going to be regulated. […] And that will constrain it to some extent. But whether it eliminates it, I have no idea and I don’t personally care. I am not a buyer of Bitcoin. That does not mean it can’t go 10 times in price in the next five years.”

Despite this, JPMorgan has over the past year expressed a growing interest in the development and implementation of crypto and blockchain initiatives.

In January, the firm purchased a 10% stake in ultra-bullish business intelligence firm MicroStrategy, whose CEO, Michael Saylor, is one of Bitcoin’s most renowned investors and holders.

In July, the firm created multiple worldwide job postings for blockchain developers, engineers and marketers to work for its crypto-centric Onyx division — responsible for launching the bank’s stablecoin asset, JPM Coin, in Octo 2020.

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According to a recent report, JPMorgan subsidiary Counterpoint Global is considering offering cryptocurrency investments to wealthy clientele. With assets under management topping $150 billion, this would represent a sizable stamp of approval for the rest of the banking industry. 

Dimon has received notable criticism for his dismissive views on digital assets, and no more so than from Wall Street veteran Max Keiser in an interview with Cointelegraph in late 2020. Keiser shared a biological analogy to express his discontent with the banking magnate:

“Bitcoin came into existence as a spontaneous life form that grew out of our global, collective consciousness as a defense mechanism to fight predatory central banks. Jamie Dimon is a parasite, like a tapeworm, and our species had no defense. So with God’s help, we collectively willed Bitcoin into existence to fight fiat money, fractional reserve banking and Keynesian debt-money propaganda.”

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Bitcoin Taps $44K: DeFi Tokens Explode Amid Chinese Regulatory Uncertainty (Market Watch)

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The cryptocurrency market cap is up by $150 billion in a day as numerous DeFi coins have exploded by double-digits. Bitcoin stands near $44,000.

After dumping below $41,000, bitcoin initiated an impressive leg up, resulting in tapping $44,000. Tokens from the decentralized finance space have charted even more notable gains in the past 24 hours, including a massive 30% surge from Uniswap.

Bitcoin Gained $3K in Hours

Unlike the previous weekends, this one wasn’t uneventful for BTC’s price. The cryptocurrency had just come off a bearish Friday in which it dropped by $4,000 in minutes following the latest FUD statement from China.

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Bitcoin spent the Saturday aiming to recover most losses, but the bulls drove it as high as $43,000. Sunday, though, started with enhanced volatility once again.

BTC slumped by a few thousand dollars and dropped below $41,000 for the second time in two days. However, as the bears were preparing to take it further south to $40,000, the situation changed.

In just a matter of minutes, bitcoin spiked by roughly $3,000 and neared $44,000. In the following several hours, the asset went further and briefly exceeded the $44,000 mark. As of now, it has retraced slightly and stands just below it.

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Bitcoin’s market capitalization has gone over $800 billion, while the dominance over the alts has declined to just above 42%.

BTCUSD. Source: TradingView
BTCUSD. Source: TradingView

DeFi Tokens Surge

Most larger-cap altcoins have mimicked BTC’s performance since late last week. Ethereum dumped hard yesterday again to below $2,800, but an 11% increase has driven it back to around $3,100.

Binance Coin (8%), Ripple (6%), Solana (9%), Polkadot (7%), Dogecoin (4.5%), Avalanche (8.5%), and Luna (6%) are well in the green. Interestingly, Cardano has gained just a modest 2.5% in a day, despite the multiple new partnerships coming from the project’s summit during the weekend.

The most substantial increases are coming from tokens related to the decentralized finance space. Uniswap leads the way with a massive 34% surge in a day. As a result, UNI has neared $25.

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PancakeSwap (14%), Aave (16%), The Graph (14%), Compound (17%), SushiSwap (30%), and more follow. This could be related to the latest activities coming from China, as reports suggested that locals are now turning to DeFi products since the country banned cryptocurrency trading – once again.

Cryptocurrency Market Overview. Source: Quantify Crypto
Cryptocurrency Market Overview. Source: Quantify Crypto

Ultimately, the cryptocurrency market capitalization has increased by more than $150 billion since yesterday’s low, but it’s still beneath $2 trillion.

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Bitcoin (BTC) Lightning Network Capacity Tops 2,900 BTC, Twitter Can Boost Further

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While Bitcoin (BTC) has remained volatile for most of September 2021, the developments taking place with the Bitcoin Lightning network are going strong.

As we know, the Bitcoin Lightning Network is a “layer 2” payments protocol designed atop the Bitcoin blockchain network. There’s an exponential growth in the Bitcoin Lightning Network capacity which has now surged past 2,9000 BTC, as per data on Glassnode.

Courtesy: Glassnode

This year of 2021, in particular, has been very strong considering the Bitcoin Lightning Network growth. Since the beginning of 2021, the Lightning Network capacity has surged by 160%, while the number of active nodes and the number of channels have grown nearly by 100%.

As of press time, the number of active nodes on the BTC Lightning Network is 15,697 while the number of active channels has shot past 73,000. On the other hand, some big companies like Twitter are looking forward to taking benefit of these developments.

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Twitter Can Boost Lightning Network Use

Last week, Twitter announced the Bitcoin tipping feature making it one of the biggest BTC adoption news by a tech giant. Interestingly, Twitter will be leveraging the Bitcoin Lightning Network to facilitate payments and BTC tipping.

To facilitate its Bitcoin tipping feature, Twitter has partnered with payments application Strike built atop the Bitcoin Lightning Network. The Twitter announcement read:

“People can now seamlessly tip with Bitcoin using Strike – a payments application built on the Bitcoin Lightning Network that allows people to send and receive Bitcoin.

People in the eligible markets will have to sign up for a Strike account and add their Strike username to receive Bitcoin tips over the Lightning Network. You can use any Bitcoin Lightning wallet to send tips to someone’s Strike account”.

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As Bitcoin adoption continues to increase, the Bitcoin Lightning network will play a crucial role in increasing the Bitcoin utility. The participation of such big players will further boost the adoption curve.

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